Sunday, 22 September 2013

3-0 or is it 0-3 ?

So, this is the week in which I’m beginning to look silly with my pre-season predictions. Hmm, let’s proceed.
I may as well start with announcing that this week’s Team focus is the Kansas City Chiefs.  They certainly will have more than the total amount of touchdowns last season that Peyton threw in week one, plus one more. Ok, that’s the last time I’ll mention it, I promise. Perhaps just one more, with this victory over the Eagles, in which they forced five turnovers… No, I’ll leave it, but you know where I was going with it.

With that said, the 3-0 Chiefs, [Yeah you read that right], have promised much, and surprisingly have looked accomplished. They destroyed the Eagles, who after dominating against the Skins in Week One, have for the large part, failed to live up to that early promise, and made a mug of many so far. (I am one of them). Though it is still possible the Eagles can live up to the dark horse tag I had them being, they need to stop the rookie like mistakes, and quit calling timeouts whilst on Defence.
(True, that would have left them unable to mount a possible comeback as time wound down, a Timeout would likely have been called against them, and the Field Goal still scored, but who am I to argue?)
Moving on, (which is something the Steelers need to do) as do I with my obsession to take a cheap shot on them, and others… [Despite me pegging them to have a .500 Season]

With the Chiefs spoken about, I’m going to move onto the NFC. The Buccaneers. With this week’s trip to Foxborough, it is important that they exploit the weaknesses within Tom Brady’s gang, to ensure that they do not go back home to fight against the Cardinals at a 0-3 clip. What can they learn from their narrow opening week defeat to The Jets (Really?) and last week’s 2 point defeat to the Saints. Their rush game is strong, so they must continue to exploit that, and take heart that without experience in the receiving end for TFB and co, that they will always have extra opportunities to force turnovers. This game will likely see a defeat to one of the teams, and the other will roll on out of town. Ok, you forced it out of me, I reckon that the Patriots will squeak out a Win, but it won't be by more than 3 or 4 points (again). Or perhaps the Bucs will finally get over the line. Either way, I can say that I predicted it, and it's in print. 

With both divisions focussed on this week, there’s not really anything left to do.
I’d like to take this moment to remind you all that the next blog will be up on Tuesday, reflecting on Aston Villa’s away game to Norwich. As it’s an away game, it will likely have a happier tone to it than if it were being reported on a home match. I do wish it were different, but as it is, I gotta ride it out.

Thanks again for reading, and I apologise for the slightly shorter version of this week’s blog, I’ve been under the weather. It will be back to regular length next week.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Not so glorious Return

Boy. That was not worth the wait.

I can’t even remember the first half, and I was there for it, apparently. I may have blacked out through boredom. What I do remember is Air Belgium via Chicago. What that means is a lot of balls were played long and high from Goalkeeper Guzan to forward Benteke, with little else going on. There were little spells in the first half in which they promised much, but nothing really of note, and I struggle to remember a single shot in the first half. Anyway, Newcastle scored mid-way through the first, when Villa failed to deal with a low cross and the initial shot was parried by Guzan and the follow up dispatched. It was 1-0 at half time much to the relief of probably everyone. It was good that it finished and would give a chance to regroup and come out fighting in the second half. Well not fighting, but with fight in them. They at this point looked like a team who had three weeks off, and that it was a pre-season friendly they were taking part in.

Suddenly, the fans got really loud, and you’ll not be surprised to hear, that a former Villa player was riding around the perimeter of the pitch to promote his recent charity bike ride, one Steve Staunton. This passed and the players returned from their half time roasting, I would presume.
The second half began and Villa, apparently decided that to play football, meant playing the ball along the ground, and looked really dangerous in doing so. They created a few half chances, and 2 chances, which should have been converted, and had that happened, it would have been a rout. Eventually, an equaliser! A well won corner, crossed in from Westwood, converted by the Belgian Tank beast, Christian Benteke. 1-1 ! (Obviously, you all knew that).

Suddenly Villa though, let’s go over the top again, with the oh so familiar tactic, called by everyone sitting around me, before it was happening, Guzan to Benteke aerial passes. It would be fine had it been an NFL game, as I doubt anyone could out jump Benteke, but it isn’t so Benteke was able to win the headers, but there was nobody near him for the link up, so wasteful play. Also, very shortly after the equaliser, Newcastle scored again, after some suspect defending. 2-1 to the visitors, and literally, change after change happened, with the new signing Kozak coming on just before the equaliser, and with 3 minutes to go , Tonev, the promising , creative winger. Why PL waited until there were only 3 minutes left, is beyond me, as I feel that had he made that change, when Villa were dominating shortly before equalising, it would have helped to open the game up more, and would have seen Villa take all 3 points, there is no question in my mind about that.

If you unleash a dangerous Tonev down the left, the pace of Agbonlahor down the right (which is where he should be, not down the middle, as he tended to drift for the majority of the game) with Weimann anonymous, largely by part of the tendency to go through the air. If I was given the opportunity to pick the next starting lineup which would be against Norwich City away, I would have it look like this :
Guzan, Vlaar, Clark (As Okore picked up a knock), [It has since emerged that Okore is likely to miss 9 months and will need surgery to repair the ACL]. Luna, Lowton, Sylla, Westwood, Delph, Tonev , Helenius  and Kozak in a 4-4-2 . I feel this would keep things fresh, and would give a look to a formation that should be utilised at home as playing counter attacking football is fine, but is more useful on the road. Personally, if all teams are now targeting Benteke and marking him 2 or 3 men at a time, it would probably confuse them if Benteke isn’t starting and would prove that the team isn’t one dimensional.
I do believe in the football Lambert wants the team to play, and it is certainly (for the most part) better to watch then under Alex McLeish. Although at times I am baffled as to what is going on out there, for the most part, I’m at least enjoying being part of the Holte End. I can’t do it forever though, so I’ll savour the moments in which I can do it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

2013 NFL Season - Week One

So, what did we learn in week one?
We learned what we already knew. We learned that anything can happen when the players cross the white lines. This is what makes it so exciting! Or angry, depending on what game it was you happened to watch. We also learned that gut feelings are to be trusted, so if you have a thought about a game, definitely go with it.

Which is something I didn’t do last week, and I apologise, in the section about the AFC Shock team, I was initially going to write about the Patriots, and how I believe they’ll struggle this year, and judging on week ones evidence, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that would be the case. However, I’m also aware that it is only week two now, with just one game played, things can quickly change. I do honestly believe, the Patriots won’t be anywhere near the Super Bowl for the next 6 years, Brady and Bellicheck will be gone in 3. It’s sad to see, but the signs are there, although it’s not totally on these two, although with no capable WRs, No Steven Ridley, it may as well be just those on the field. All in all, Patriots will probably sneak into the playoffs, but not due to performance of themselves, more under performance of their peers around them. Predicted record, an un-impressive 9-7. Wouldn’t usually make the playoffs, but in their division are the Dolphins, Jets and Bills, this should see them win their division. I still love you TFB. 

Another story coming out of week one of the NFL is that Peyton Manning in one game threw one less TD than the Kansas City Chiefs did all last season. Think about that for a second, while I tell you that don’t expect Peyton to do that EVERY week. Now, has that shocking stat sunk in yet? Good, because we’ll never talk about it again. Unless I use it in the week I talk about the Kansas City Chiefs. Which isn’t now, despite the mention. Sorry KC, your time is coming. (on the blog, not in terms of getting to the post season)
This weeks’ NFC shock team is Arizona Cardinals. Similar to the Eagles I like their draft class of 2013, Solid, but nobody really stands out as the guy that will make the difference to this team in the next 3- 4 seasons. With their narrow defeat to the Rams last week, they will look to make the difference against Detroit, and this is a game in which Arizona could easily win, although the Lions are on a high after dispatching the Vikings last week. While this season isn’t likely to be a winning season for the Cardinals, it won’t be as bad as many people may think, and how they finish, will definitely impact on peoples predictions for next season. They could win 5 or 6 games, but they definitely won’t beat the Falcons (Week 8) , or the 49ers (Week 6 &17 ) The others will be back and forth affairs, in which they will be competitive, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can pull out the W. 2013 Final record 6-10 , but is probably 4 or 5 more than people think. They will of course, definitely miss the playoffs though.

*It should be noted, some of this is written before the first game of the week on Thursday, but since that game, happened to feature the Patriots, there’s one thing I can take from it, and that’s this…

I’m glad that’s over. It was brutal to watch, some of the play calling from the Jets was incredibly ridiculous, and the display from the Pats was lukewarm, at best. Awful game, I wanted to bleach my eyes out, but a W is a W, especially for a team that isn’t going to do well in the offseason, or, as what could be said, great teams find a way to win when they aren’t playing at their best. Which is the case for the Patriots? Join me all season long to find out, as well as the trials of the other teams in the NFL. (I still think they'll barely get past the Wild Card round, but we'll see) 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

NFL . 2013 Season Predictions

Hi, you know me from my Barclay’s Premier League review, in which I follow my Team Aston Villa, throughout all 38 league games with an analysis of what happened, what could have been better and how I see the next game going.

I don’t claim to be an expert in NFL, but as a fan, I feel that I can give an educated insight into how I see the 2013 NFL Football season unfolding.

Let me start with the team that won it all last time, the Baltimore Ravens.
Now, considering they got demolished this past Thursday, it’s not all bad for the Baltimore fans. Sure losing a few members of the championship winning side will hurt a bit, but under Joe Flacco and his mighty arm, they should remain competitive, especially as they won’t be facing an inspired Payton manning every week. I believe their overall record will end up at 9-7 and should see them in contention for at least a Wild Card place.

Now, last season’s losing Super bowl finalists, San Francisco 49ers. Usually, the team that lost in the Super bowl the season before, really struggle to make in impact the season after, but I think this season will be different, and the 49ers are in excellent shape to go one better and win it all. I believe their overall record will be 12 – 4. This will see them in excellent shape to pull it off, and I think they are the prime candidate to be the Super bowl representative for the NFC.

I am not going to work my way through all the teams this week, though I will try to reflect on all teams at least once throughout the season. Each week, following this article, I will focus on one team per division, so one NFC, and one AFC team. I will also rate the team of the week out of 10 per performance and also grade A-F for an underperforming team, or a team I feel should have performed better for the matchup.
A couple of teams to keep your eyes on, who I feel will surprise a lot of people.

From the NFC, Philadelphia Eagles.
While a lot of people I’ve spoken to, don’t like the background of the QB Michael Vick, while I don’t agree with it either, you can’t argue that he is the best QB the Eagles have for now.
Though TE James Casey, will be a definite upgrade, and LB Trent Cole will be a huge part of their defensive prowess. Also upgraded is their Head Coach which saw Andy Reid let go, and later he signed to the Chiefs (KC). The Eagles have an innovative new Head Coach in Chip Kelly, and his offensive schemes will suit the Eagles O line better than before. Their D left a lot to be desired and with the hot temper of CB Cary Williams, this is something which at times might need some patience, and although they won’t get at best past the Wild Card, next season they could be in prime position to make inroads into the post season glories. Their 2013 Draft Class hit all the key areas and in the coming years, Eagles could shock the world and lift the Vince Lombardi trophy by 2017. Yes it will take a while, and The Eagles need to stick with Chip Kelly to achieve this, but all things are positive for the Eagle nation. By mid-2015 some of the draft class of 2013 should be integrated within the team, and the change will benefit all parties. 2013 record 8-8.

From within the AFC, The Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to rebound after last season’s .500 season at 8-8. They have all the pieces needed to make this happen, but it won’t be by much. They will certainly be looking forward to celebrating a winning season but it will only likely see a swing of 1 game from last year, to go 9-7. This won’t be enough for a play-off berth, but it is putting them back in the right direction. Roethlisberger will be a bigger part than ever and with Jerricho Cotchery at WR, in the final year of his 2 year deal signed in 2012, will look to make a bigger impact then he did last time out. Having only started in 2 games, he did appear in most of the 16 games, he will be in better shape to average more than 12.1 yards per reception, which was his lowest since 2005, on a team which was a perennial loser. On the flip side, his career high in carries came in 2007 when he totalled 1,130 yards at an average of 13.8 per reception. A figure, more like 500 yards at an average of 12 per reception should be considered a good season for Jerricho. He will be looked at as a veteran to help the younger members of the roster, and hopefully, will see them back amongst the top teams in the next few years. To repeat, 2013 record = 9-7. That will not be enough to make the playoffs, but will be a good stepping stone.

To quickly mention my usual blog, in which I follow Aston Villa, there will be no release there on the 10th, but normal service should resume on the 17th due to the next game being held on the 14th.
Thank you for reading, and expect the next instalment of the NFL season on the 15th September 2013.