Friday, July 25, 2008

Olympic Mens Hoops

Football will arrive not a moment too soon. The Olympics will offer a nice bridge from now and until then when they open on 8/8/08 over in China. Simply put, after tonights 55 point demolition of Canada in an exhibition game in Las Vegas, I'm forced to conclude that there is absolutely no foreseeable way that we (TEAM USA-the new dream team) lose over there. Not happening. The "Dream On" team of 2004 on paper, should have still won the Gold but they had no chemistry, nor did they really have much time to get in sync having been thrown together for a couple of weeks before playing some exhibition games in preparing for Athens. This team, more or less has been getting together now, each of the previous two summers plus this summer. This team will be without a true center, but won't need one. Oh, and tonight, LeBRon sat out with a sore ankle. ANd we won by 55. And it's not like Canada can't beat some of the teams in the field. All I know, and already knew for that matter, is that there is no way this team loses. It will be an upset if any of the games are closer than twenty points. Now I've been wrong before but I'll put myself out there on this one. Easily the best group assembled since the '96 games in Atlanta. I totally expect to be saying (along with the vast majority of my fellow Americans) "Now that's more like it".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My take on the Brett Favre thing

The selfish side of me would rather see the Cowboys face Aaron Rodgers up in Green Bay in the third game of the season. The Cowboys stand a MUCH better chance of winning up there against Rodgers than they would Brett Favre. Favre turns 39 in October, which means he's just two years older than I am and still playing at a high level. People can play at a higher level in their late thirties more than ever today than in the 1970s and 1980's. And Favre has YET to miss a start since 1992. I think that Aaron Rodgers must've been in about third grade at that time, when the sreak started. Just like Cal Ripken's streak began in May 1982, shortly before I turned eleven, and lasted until he voluntarily removed himself from the lineup, in the summer of 1998, when I turned 27. The only thing I fault Favre in was when he announced too early, as it turns out, in March, his "retirement". I was shocked considering that the team had been rebuilt around him and he still was their best chance to win, as he proved last year when he turned 38. I know it may not seem fair to Aaron Rodgers but we're talking about Brett Favre. I think that at age 24, on one hand, you could say he's not going anywhere anytime soon. On the other hand, I wouldn't blame him for wanting to be traded either. I think that Favre gives this team the best chance to win this year still and that he needs to announce his retirement, when he really IS retiring, in June or July, instead of March. I am not suprised at any of this, except for the part of him "retiring" in March, coming off his best year since he first hit the big THREE OH. And it was shocking considering that this was the Packer's best team since they got denied their second consecutive Super Bowl win by Denver in January 1998. Many people make a big deal out of what Aaron Rodgers did when Favre was knocked out against Dallas last Novemeber in what on paper was the two Titans of the NFC clashing. The Cowboys defense was as ferocious as they ever were at any time in '07 in that first quarter and a half. Favre was under seige and was knocked out with a bruised elbow. The Cowboys offense rang up 27 in the first 20 minutes of the game, and up 27-10 when in comes Rodgers, who looked unheralded and petrified. The look that he first had when walking onto the field and stepping behind center was of "OH ---- this is the last thing I expected to have happen tonight" And then it seemed as though the Cowboys D backed off as if there was no way this could be a game. The Cowboys Offense also took their foot off the gas pedal as well and left at least ten points on the field in the third quarter. I saw the game, it was obvious. And Rodgers got into a groove and there was no heat from the Cowboys whatsoever until Green Bay was back in it at 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter. Then, finally when the Pack got the ball down only three with a chance to go down and either tie or take the lead in a game that they had been getting blown out in, finally came some heat from the defense, Rodgers looked somewhat like a rookie again and the Cowboys outscored the Pack 10-3 over the final half of the fourth quarter to hold on 37-27. So there was Rodgers out there playing what seemed real well, although even Packer backers would have to be skeptical. I mean over a whole season, what happens? He kind of snuck up on the Cowboys, who I think sort of let the Pack back in it, obviously thinking that it was over when they had sent Favre to the sideline for one of the FEW times in his career. I will repeat what I said at the beginning. As a Cowboys fan, I'd rather be facing Aaron Rodgers on September 21 up at Lambeau Field instead of Favre. I'm being totally honest there. In other words, the Pack would be foolish not to take back #4. He can still play. We all know that.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How the Cowboys start the 2008 campaign

Now we aren't looking too far ahead here but I'm talking about he initial two weeks.
The Cowboys will open up at Cleveland of the AFC Central. The Browns made some strides last year, missing the playoffs despite tying divisional winner Pittsburgh for the same record. The Browns were awful in losing big to the Steelers in their opener at home. But after that they scraped themselves up off the deck to win a shootout over Cincinati(the Bengals' season of high expectations took a turn for the worse after that game) and proceeded to play real well with Andersen at QB with their top pick, QB BRady Quinn, suprisingly not get out there when everyone expected him to win the job by midseason. The Browns then were at Pittsburgh around midseason and ahead throughout before being nipped at the end. They would finish at 10-6 and lose out to the Steelers on a tiebreaker. There were simply too many good teams in the AFC. And the Browns look to take a step further this season. Question is can they avoid listening to all of those talks about high expectations? Sounds like the Cowboys, albeit they have loftier expectations. This match could be a shootout and in this type of a game, that would probably favor the Cowboys. But on the other hand, the only way that the Browns have a CHANCE for an upset is for it to be a shootout, a shootout that they probably don't win. The Browns I think could make this interesting nonetheless. Bottom line: The Cowboys have to win if they're a Super Bowl team. Period. The Browns come in at least based on last year, a solid team but not a Super Bowl team. Remember the 2006 opener? They lost at Jacksonville(a solid team but not Super Bowl contending team) and I believe it set the tone for the underachieving year in Big D. That game right there was the beginning of ROMO talks. The loss at Philly in the fourth game to fall to 2-2 that year, was the beginning of the end for Drew Bledsoe. No there isn't anyone looking over Romo's shoulder for sure. That's a non-issue. It's just that if the Cowboys were to lose the opener at Cleveland, then here comes Philly to Dallas the following Monday night. The Eagles are a mediorcre team and have been. Go back to Super Bowl 39 in Feb. 2005. Since that narrow loss to the Patriots, Philly is 25-25 including the two playoff games of 2006 with McNabb sidelined and Jeff Garcia at the helm. But somehow the Cowboys and Eagles have split the six meetings since then. On Paper, Dallas should win that game too especially at home. IF they're a Super Bowl team, absolutely. But the Eagles, despite not having the swagger from the first half of this decade, are still a division rival and will go in believing that they can pull off an upset, when they have no business doing so ON PAPER. McNabb is not what he formerly was, slowed by injuries over the past few years and not with anywhere near the supporting cast he once had. SO just starting with the two games to open up the season, if they are a SUPER BOWL team, Dallas should win them both. But not to look too far ahead, I'm starting with the first two.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Super Bowl or Bust

Anything less than at least representing the NFC in the Super Bowl will be a dissappointment for the Dallas Cowboys. Their final year in Texas Stadium before they relocate a few miles to the west in nearby Arlington to a new bigger version of Texas Stadium should at least end with a pair of wins in January. But let's put this thing in proper perspective. Tony Romo has been magnificent overall in the regular season and should already have at least two wins(Seattle in 2006) and the Giants AT HOME this past season, in the playoffs. But still zero playoff wins for Romo yet, and zero playoff wins for this storied franchise since a 40-15 romp over Minnesota in the 1996 playoffs. There are a few instances where Dallas should have won in the playoffs since then but didn't. Their previous divisional championship to 2007, back in 1998, had the Cowboys hosting a playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, a very playoff STARVED franchise. And much like this past year against the hated Giants, the Cardinals, still an NFC East Divisional foe at the time in '98, came into Dallas as a significant underdog, and had lost twice to the Cowboys in the regular season. And the Cowboys barely bothered to show up. The loss last season to the Giants is the most dissappointing in Cowboys playoff history, but the 1998 loss at home to the Cardinals was the most embarrassing playoff defeat. There is no excuse for losing a playoff game to the Cardinals. None whatsover. The Arizona Cardinals are the Clippers of the NFL historically speaking. That label belonged to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the longest time but now it's the Arizona Cardinals, although they aren't like the Clippers have been as far as being the butt of Leno's or Letterman's or Conan Obrien's jokes. There were two playoff losses to the Carolina Panthers both on the road, once in 1996, and the other in 2003. The Cowboys have otherwise OWNED the Panthers in the regular season series, winning 7 of 8 (losing only a 1997 reg season game) In the 1996 game at Carolina (a 26-17 setback)HOF to be receiver Michael Irvin broke his collarbone on the initial series, the Cowboys only got one TD in five trips to the red zone, settling for three field goals. And also Emmitt Smith was maybe 60 percent. It turned out that he was already inching past his prime. The 2003 game was Bill Parcells first season with the Cowboys and he had coaxed a 10-6 record and a wildcard berth out of a mediocre cast that had gone 5-11 the previous year. One of the season's highlights had been an emotional 24-20 win in Dallas over the Carolina Panthers the sunday before Thanksgiving. Now just a little over a month later, the two teams squared off again, this time down in Charlotte(since the panthers had won their division and the Cowboys didn't win theirs) and the Cowboys were listless in a dreary 29-10 loss. And ofcourse, the Cowboys lost several close games in 2005, while winning several close ones as well, in just missing the playoffs at 9-7 (a lot of it came down to kicking woes-where was Nick Folk then for crying out loud????????) And ofcourse the loss at Seattle on the botched hold by Romo(but give Tony credit, he's turned THAT page at least in his mind)

The Cowboys are the favorites to at least represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It's going to be hard to beat the 13-3 mark of last year but this IS still at least a 12-4 club not only on paper but on the field in spite of a bit tougher schedule. Plus they don't see the Giants at all until the second half of the season. As recent history shows, the records aside, it's still a parity sticken NFL. Or wide open I should say. You have the Steelers go from being on the brink of missing the playoffs in 2005 to winning it all. The 2006 Colts were playing some lackluster football heading into the playoffs despite finishing at 12-4 (after starting 9-0)and looked offensively lethargic in wins at home against Kansas City and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. But thanks to the Patriots, they didn't have to go to San Diego for the AFC Championship game(the Chargers of 2006 were similar in a lot of ways to the 2007 Cowboys when they went 14-2 and choked in their first playoff game to New England)Then the Colts came back from dead in the water to beat the Patriots and then soundly defeat the Bears in the SuperBowl. In 2007 we have the classic case of someone coming out of nowhere when mentioning the Giants. Twice losers to Dallas during the regular season and an abysmal 3-5 record at HOME! Yet they lost ONCE all year on the road! The opener at Dallas. There were times when they should've lost on the road but somehow didn't. The bottom line is: Each season here comes some team OUT OF NOWHERE that has no business doing any kind of damage whatsoever in the playoffs. The Cowboys need to just concentrate on the regular season first, and take care of business. They're not going 16-0, NO. But matching last years record is not unlikely. And they need to be relatively healthy and playing the kind of ball they're capable of in December and January. Their record over the previous three years is 31-17 (bolstered mainly by last year's gaudy 13-3) BUT in December of those three seasons, bad news: 6-8. THAT has to change. It has a LOT to do with how they're playing HEADING into the playoffs. Last year, the Cowboys were rolling at 12-1 and what happened next, is still hard to figure out.