There has been a big to-do made about comments LeRon McClain and Ray Lewis have made as of late about how the New York Jets won’t have any excuses on Monday night and how the media (and the Jets players and coaches) have crowned themselves Super Bowl Champions already, and I don’t see where the big deal comes from. Yea, it might bother me if the Jets had been quiet this offseason, but they have been jawing and yapping from the moment the season ended. I know they are a talented team, but one with major questions and with more self-imposed preseason hype than any other squad in recent memory. This isn’t one player saying it is a Super Bowl or Bust season, it is the entire team. Their bravado deserves at least a response from the Ravens, and it surprises me that more players haven’t come out and made statements about the organizational arrogance coming out of New Jersey. Either way, there are too many other stories in the world of sports, so let’s line up for the kick…
OSU-Miami Highlights Impressive Slate of College Football Matchups
After Boise State-Virginia Tech took center stage last week, it appears that fans will have more than a few options for top 25 matchups. As much as it pains me to say this as a Michigan fan, I am impressed every year with how Ohio State isn’t afraid to schedule a truly challenging out of conference opponent every year, be it Texas, USC, or matchups in future years versus Cal, Oklahoma, and even Virginia Tech. This week they are taking on Jacory Harris and a Miami squad that is more than accustomed to taking on tough opponents early on, having battled ranked opponents Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma to open last season. I don’t see Miami being able to handle OSU’s defensive front, and expect them to be shut down the way Va Tech shut them down last season en route to the 31-7 disaster for Miami. As with any Buckeye win prediction, I hope I am dead wrong.
However, on the opposite side of the Big Ten, Michigan is heading to Notre Dame in a game that might be receiving a bit too much hype for a battle of who gets to enter the polls at #24 next week. Both of these teams have gaping weaknesses, particularly defensively (the Michigan secondary has been aptly described as a “smoking crater”), but after ND coach described Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as “just a running back”, the Wolverines might have a bit more to prove. With the Irish passing game, they might not get that chance. If you like shootouts, this is the place to go- but I would give it to Michigan, who didn’t have to show much of their playbook against UConn last week.
The other top games? I don’t trust Penn State freshman Robert Bolden, starting QB-by-default, against the Alabama D, Georgia will handle a chronically overrated South Carolina squad, and Florida State will fall to Oklahoma as people realize that FSU hasn’t been that good for a long time.
NFL Finally Gets Underway
Wow, at long last, the NFL season has finally started (no, that doesn’t mean I am going to stop talking about the Orioles) and it began last night with a performance by Brett Favre reminiscent of his later years in Green Bay. When the guy is rusty, those darts over the middle just misfire terribly- he was always throwing into coverage and doing so inaccurately en route to a dismal second half performance. I am not so much of an expert that I can say that it didn’t also have to do with a better-than-expected Saints secondary, but Brett Favre wasn’t courted and begged to come back to turn in average performances- he was brought back to do the impossible every week. The Saints weren’t particularly sharp either, but the Vikings will have to shake off the rust quickly after that Week 1 debacle.
And that is the trouble with Week 1. We are so eager for football to start that we analyze and splice out our 5 or 6 data points into a road map for the season that so rarely takes off that way. I am certain that the Vikings team we saw last night will be nothing like the Vikings team we see in Week 17, though that could be good or bad for Minnesota. However, there are a few bellwether games this week that will give us a glimpse into whether the preseason hype (that seems to see 20 different teams in the playoffs) is deserved.
The Eagles are breaking in new QB Kevin Kolb in much the same way the Packers broke in Aaron Rodgers- a so-called “system” quarterback who sat behind an established starter for 3 years before finally being given the reigns, and I expect the Eagles to play a lot like that Packer team. They will score a lot and be scored upon. The Phili-Green Bay should be great to watch. In addition to the obvious Houston-Indianapolis AFC South showdown, I will be intrigued to see how Cincinnati-New England goes. These are two teams coming off division-winning seasons, but neither team is expected to win its division this year despite New England not losing any key players and Cincinnati attempting to upgrade its attack with Terrell Owens and Jermaine Gresham. I am worried about either of these teams getting to ride through the season with lowered expectations but just as talented a roster. Which team comes out of the gate strong could show fans which team they were wrong to sleep on in the offseason.