The Randy Moss saga

Many opinions have been formed about Randy Moss over the past few days. But why should it surprise anyone? Moss’ temperament has been well documented throughout his career. Why else would he have fallen to the Vikings at number 21 in the 1998 draft? Lou Holtz has reiterated his thoughts on Moss calling him the greatest high school football player he’s ever seen. And while the stud receiver is not in his prime anymore, he is still elite.

Moss was his happiest in Minnesota when he had a mentor, Chris Carter. Which is why a few years after Carter’s retirement, Moss was dealt to the hopeless Raiders. Randy Moss is the type of player that has to play on a team with great leadership from a player (i.e. Carter) or coach (Bill Belichick). It’s no secret that Moss plays when he wants to. At the end of his first stint with Minnesota he literally walked around the field on called running plays. In a road game at Washington he again trotted off the field with less than a minute left in a one-possession game.

The media seems to think Moss was swiftly cut from the Vikings this week because of his tirade on a food catering service. This could not be further from truth. While the act itself was immature, you don’t release a hall of fame player because of it. If this was the case Moss would have been cut immediately after he virtually ran over a parking attendant in 2004.

Instead Moss’ comments regarding his “love” for the Patriots seemed to be the telling factor that he wasn’t happy in Minnesota. Randy could not have been in a better situation than he was at New England. He had the perfect coach, a star quarterback, and the team was winning. The biggest mistake wasn’t the Vikings releasing Moss, but Moss himself finding his way out of a Patriot uniform.

Minnesota should’ve known what they were going to get with Moss. Yes it’s nice to have safeties at an absurd 15-20 yards off the line of scrimmage to open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson. But to virtually use Moss as a decoy was brainless by Brad Childress. Can you really blame Moss for being unhappy back in purple?

I don’t know how Randy Moss will perform at Tennessee. I have no clue. What I do know is that Titan coach Jeff Fisher will keep him in line. The downside is Moss doesn’t have a capable quarterback to throw him the ball. Belichick and New England once again look like geniuses for stealing a third round pick from Minnesota. Now, the Vikings are reeling and head coach Brad Childress’ job looks in question.

Crucial conference games highlight weekend

LSU may need a "heisman-like" performance from star Patrick Peterson to defeat Alabama

Last week’s slate of games featuring top 5 teams were a bit one sided. Iowa obliterated Michigan St. at home. Oregon continued their offensive clinic by running through USC. Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. ran for a Husker record 307 yards. And Auburn’s Cam Newton showed his versatility by catching a pass for a touchdown.

This Saturday’s schedule should prove to be one of the better ones of the year, really though…

Alabama at LSU

Outside of a potential SEC West deciding title game between Alabama-Auburn, this is the most intriguing matchup of the SEC season. Tiger fans still haven’t forgotten about the Nick Saban debacle. Unlike two years ago where I felt Alabama was far better than LSU (that game went into OT in Death Valley), this year’s game should be close again. But why? LSU could easily have three losses, and many analysts still feel Alabama is the best team in the nation. Yes the LSU offense is sub-par averaging only 139 yards a game through the air (113th in NCAA). But the defense has NFL potential all over it, which will keep them in the game. If you’ve read me before you know how much I like Tiger corner Patrick Peterson. Some scouts say he is the best cornerback to come out of college football since Charles Woodson. And believe me he is that good. Drake Nevis anchors a defensive front which has dominated every game with the exception of Auburn, but then again who has played well against them. The LSU defense is giving up less than 16 points a game and it wouldn’t surprise me if they continued that trend on Saturday. Which means it will be up to the offense to generate some big plays, or perhaps Peterson on special teams.

Alabama will be happy to be coming off a bye week going into Tiger Stadium. And as good as the LSU defense is the Crimson Tide’s unit is just as strong. Alabama will look to pound the ball with the duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Receiver Julio Jones had his best outing as a Crimson Tide player against Tennessee going for 221 yards on 12 catches. Look for a low-scoring game as it was two years ago. Whichever quarterback makes the fewest mistakes will be the deciding factor. And we all know LSU has instability at the postion…

The pick… Alabama … 20 LSU … 17

TCU at Utah

LSU can make a statement knocking off what many people think is the best one-loss team in the nation. TCU can make an even bigger one by winning on the road at a very good Utah team.

First off, this game features two outstanding coaches in Gary Patterson of TCU and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. TCU is 0-3 playing in Salt Lake City and will be looking to avenge a 13-10 loss in 2008, one that propelled Utah to a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. The Horned Frog defense is allowing less than nine points a game which is tops in the nation. Considering they lost Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington to the NFL, this is an impressive stat. What I like even more about TCU is they are led by 5th year senior Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dalton rarely makes mistakes and can beat you with his legs as well as his accurate arm. They also run the ball very well and have one of the more unknown playmakers in the country in receiver/returner Jeremy Kerley.

Utah is led by the nation’s 6th best defense in terms of points allowed. However, the play of sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynne has vaulted the Utes into the top 5. The running attack is balanced by Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata who complement each other very well. Both these teams have convincing wins over Big 12 foes. With the season Baylor is having, TCU’s 45-10 thrashing of the Bears is looking more and more impressive. And Utah absolutely clobbered Iowa State on the road putting up 68 points. Both of these teams are top 10 in the nation in scoring offense and defense. Something’s got to give right?

The pick … Utah … 31 TCU … 27

Arizona at Stanford

This is an intriguing matchup because both teams are still in the running for the Pac-10 title. Arizona actually controls its own destiny in the conference because they’ve yet to play Oregon, while Stanford needs a win and a bit of help.

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles should be healthy enough to play in this game which is a huge positive. The Wildcat offense likes to stretch the field vertically with play-making receiver Juron Criner. The junior is averaging better than 16 yards a catch and helps lead a passing attack that musters over 300 yards a game. In a league known for its scoring, I love Arizona’s defense which yields less than 14 points a game. Cornerback Trevin Wade has the ability to lock down one half of the field. However, putting pressure on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be a must.

The household name of the Cardinal is quarterback Andrew Luck. The potential top pick in the upcoming draft can make every throw. His savvy and poise in the pocket reminds me of a Drew Brees, only with better size. Don’t sleep on Stanford’s running game though which is averaging over 223 yards a game. And while Luck can easily beat you through the air, he is capable of tucking the ball and running. After a loss at Oregon (which Stanford led big early on) this team is clicking on all cylinders. And with Stanford only allowing three sacks in eight games, Luck should have all day to throw. With that being said…

The pick … Stanford … 34 Arizona … 24

Will top teams fall on Halloween weekend?

Will Cam Newton and Auburn be the next no. 1 to stumble?

Going into the last weekend of October, four top 10 teams face stiff challenges away from home. If this week follows the trend of the last few, in which no. 1 has fallen, Halloween will be a nightmare for the top undefeated teams. With that being said, here goes my “attempt” to prove why Auburn, Oregon, Michigan St. and Missouri could all drop their first game.

Missouri at Nebraska
If Missouri can pull off the upset (they are eight point underdogs) they should be undefeated going into the Big 12 Championship. The Tiger defense is allowing only a shade over 13 points a game, but faces its toughest offense to date in Nebraska who is averaging over 38 a game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is a big reason why the Huskers offense has been so potent. In week 6 at Kansas St. he ran wild the tune of 241 yards, a record for a Nebraska quarterback. And that’s saying something considering they’ve had guys like Tommy Frazier and Eric Crouch who perfected the option attack. Missouri is coming off an impressive win over then no. 1 Oklahoma, but playing on the road in Lincoln is a different platform. By the way, Missouri hasn’t beaten a ranked team on the road in over eight years.

The pick: Nebraska 35 … Missouri … 27

Michigan St. at Iowa

After narrowly escaping defeat against Northwestern last week, the Spartans may need a few more trick plays to get past a stingy Iowa team. Their most impressive win is at Michigan who have fallen off after an impressive start. It took a fake field goal in overtime to edge a bad Notre Dame team. Sparty does have an outstanding quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but Iowa’s defense should take away the run and make things one-dimensional for Michigan St. Is there a reason Hawkeye gunslinger Ricky Stanzi isn’t a Heisman candidate. Many people have Boise State’s Kellen Moore in their top 3. Comparing their stats, Stanzi is just a shade behind Moore in completion percentage and touchdown tosses. The other factor? Oh yea, Iowa plays in the third best conference in the nation as opposed to the WAC.

The pick: Iowa … 27 Michigan St. … 21

Oregon at USC

This is a “tricky” one to pick. You know what you’re going to get with Oregon. A fast paced offense with multiple threats. USC has the talent on defense to keep up with Oregon, or at least contain them. Duck running back LaMichael James is averaging a ridiculous 7.2 yards per carry. It appears as though losing Jeremiah Masoli (who I’ll get to later) hasn’t slowed down this offense one bit. USC quarterback Matt Barkley is having a very solid sophomore season. The Trojan offense is balanced and should be able to score on Oregon. The question is will it be enough? I just don’t see anyone slowing this Oregon machine down. USC has been too inconsistent this year. They’ll have to be hitting on all cylinders to pull off the upset.

The pick: Oregon … 38 USC … 31

Auburn at Ole Miss

The last time a no.1 ranked team came to Oxford was LSU in 2007. That Tiger team handled the Rebels with ease. Ole Miss historically plays Auburn close at home, but I’m not sure if a player of Cam Newton’s caliber has ever played at Vaught-Hemingway stadium in the past decade. Maybe Tim Tebow in 2007 was better. Either way the Rebels’ defense will have their hands full with an Auburn offense that rushed for over 400 yards a week ago against LSU. Who by the way were giving up less than 100 yards on the ground before Auburn dismantled them. Meanwhile the Ole Miss defense hasn’t exactly been spectacular giving up 32 points a game. Not quite the recipe for an upset. Or is it? You’d be hard pressed to find a no. 1 ranked team this late into the season only favored by seven to a 3-4 opponent. For Ole Miss to win Jeremiah Masoli will have to match Cameron Newton. Outside of defensive lineman Nick Fairley the Auburn defense is average at best. So the Rebels should be able to generate points. And while their defense has been porous at times, they have shown glimpses of being stout versus Kentucky for three quarters and at Alabama. The key for Ole Miss will be to avoid giving up the big play. Houston Nutt always seems to win a game his teams shouldn’t and after a long day in the grove (5 p.m. kickoff) the fans should be ready to go.

The pick: Ole Miss … 34 Auburn … 31

What the Randy Moss trade means

Randy Moss returns to Minnesota where he was drafted in 1998.

The city of Minneapolis should and will be excited for the return of one of the greatest to ever wear the purple and gold. A certain city one state away will have mixed feelings. Not only did Minnesota acquire arguably the Packers most legendary player in Brett Favre, but the arrival of Randy Moss means Green Bay will have to square off twice this year against a man who has historically thrashed their secondary.

There may be no happier man in the league today than Brett Favre. In his final years at Green Bay Favre continually lobbied for Moss to be a part of his team. And now, as they both wind down their careers, the two future Hall of Fame players unite in the Twin Cities.

From a tactical standpoint, this is a great move for Minnesota. Anyone who argues otherwise is foolish. Moss’ ability to stretch the field vertically will open up the middle for guys like Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. Not to mention Adrian Peterson should see more gaping running lanes because of safeties playing 15-20 yards from the line of scrimmage. The return of Sidney Rice in mid-season will easily give the Vikings the best receiving core in the NFL. The bottom line is this offense can be scary good by the time the playoffs role around.

On the flip side, Green Bay has to be feeling a bit down this morning. Their defense hasn’t progressed the way fans thought it would. And while Aaron Rogers is a skillful qb, he has yet to win a big game and has a knack for costly turnovers. Their offense has faltered in recent weeks as well after losing running back Ryan Grant for the season.

For New England, you would have to think they’re targeting another receiver to fill Moss’ downfield threat. Vincent Jackson makes a lot of sense in this scenario. The unhappy receiver from San Diego has been looking for a new home of late, and Bill Belichick is the perfect figure to handle a disgruntled player (see Randy Moss in 2007).

If the Patriots elect not to bring in another receiver I’m not sure Wes Welker will have the same success he has seen since Moss arrived in New England. It’s likely Welker will draw more double teams than ever with no apparent deep threat on the roster.

The move overall does not hurt the Patriots as much as it boosts the Vikings. In his best game thus far this year against the Jets, Moss’ team came up shorthanded.

Lost in all of this is how well the Vikings defense is playing this year giving up less than 13 points a game. Think some of the Minnesota players may be upset at the arrival of Moss? Think again. When Jay Glazer of Fox Sports first broke the story yesterday, Vikings players were dialing him up asking if the rumors of Randy’s return were real. Glazer responded with a firm yes, and the Vikings locker room came alive.

In terms of the deal itself, all Minnesota surrendered was a third round pick, which was less than what the Chargers were asking for Vincent Jackson. Circle October 31 on your calendar (no not because of Halloween). This is the date Moss returns to New England to face his old team. My guess is he will want to terrorize the Pats secondary.

NFL thoughts thus far

Unlike college football, in the NFL you typically know which teams are “for real” and which teams are just pretenders after a few weeks of play. However, four weeks into the NFL season many teams are still unproven. To me, the most shocking bit of news isn’t that Kansas City is unbeaten, but that they are the only undefeated team left in the league.

The Chiefs are 3-0, but they’ve really only beaten one playoff-caliber team in San Diego. If you look back at my NFL predictions, I have to take credit for projecting the Chiefs to be a sleeper pick. I love their young talent and speed on offense with Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster. However, the one problem I have with them thus far is that they are in the bottom third in time of possession. We’ll know if they are contenders after consecutive road trips at Indy and Houston.

Personally, I never thought Michael Vick would ever be an NFL starting quarterback again in this league. Through four weeks he’s proving me and many others wrong. It was easy to see why Andy Reid chose Vick to start over Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia. When Vick went out in the first quarter with a rib injury, the Eagle offense was stagnant the rest of the way.

It’s starting to make sense now why Vick can be so potent in Philly. Think of it this way; when he scrambles around in the pocket looking to throw (or take off downfield), what better duo can you have at receiver than that of Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Both of those guys are speedsters and perfect for a scrambling qb because of the separation they can get from opposing defenders. Toss in an all-purpose back like Lesean McCoy and a pro-bowl tight end in Brent Celek and that offense is now a bit more scary with Vick.

Contrary to Vick’s early success with the Eagles, it makes no sense to me why Minnesota didn’t make more of an effort to acquire receiver Vincent Jackson from the Chargers. The achilles heel thus far for the Vikes has been their inability to throw the ball downfield with Sidney Rice out until mid-season. The rumor was that San Diego was asking too much for the highly athletic receiver. If you’re Minnesota though you had to make more of a push for Jackson. It appears the Vikings offense is mediocre with an ailing Percy Harvin and without a legitimate number 1 target.

After serving four-game bans, Brian Cushing, Ben Roethlisberger, and Santonio Holmes return to help their respective teams. All three of which sit at 3-1.

The Texans desperately need Cushing to play at the same level he did a year ago as they are dead last in total defense through four games. The Houston offense should win them some games. However, as we saw against Dallas, if the offense stalls, then the defense will have to play better. Kareem Jackson has to improve at corner.
For Pittsburgh, 3-1 is a dream start. With the return of Roethlisberger they acquire a guy who knows how to win. That characteristic may be the biggest asset of any in this league. Rashard Mendenhall looks to be having a breakout season, and with Mike Wallace’s speed on the outside, the Steelers offense has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL. Toss in an all-world defense and you have the formula for the best team in the league.

Although Michael Vick has surprised many people with his play so far, the biggest shock of all has to be Arian Foster of the Texans. The guy leads the league in rushing by more than 100 yards and is averaging a college-like 6.3 yards per carry. Now, my guess is Foster will not end up winning the league rushing title and his average will drop to somewhere around 5. With that being said though, the Texans don’t beat the Colts, and probably lose to either the Redskins or Raiders without the second year guy from Tennessee.

A big part of the Jets’ 3-1 start has been the play of Mark Sanchez. The success of this team will not depend on the play of their defense, but will fall on the shoulders of the young qb from SoCal. Through four games he has yet to throw an interception. A stat that is a huge leap from the 20 he threw as a rookie. Getting Santonio Holmes the rest of the season will boost this offense even more. Oh yea, has anyone seen the revive of Ladanian Tomlinson? This team can be scary good by season’s end.

I’m starting to like the trend certain AFC teams are going with. In particular I’m talking about the Steelers, Ravens, and Jets. They all have good quarterback play (the Steelers have a perennial pro-bowler in Roethlisberger). All have extremely stingy defenses. At the other skill positions on offense there isn’t all-world talent, but it’s well enough considering the play of the aforementioned positions. The bottom line is, with an excellent defense and a quarterback who can sling the ball around efficiently you don’t necessarily need all-pro receivers and running backs.

Other Notes

While there isn’t a clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl, Buffalo is clearly the worst team in the league.

The Bears are a very overrated 3-1. No quarterback will survive the season in Chicago if their O-line keeps playing the way it has.

Don’t sleep on the Chargers. They lead the league in total defense and have so much talent on offense.

If Dallas runs the ball more effectively they will be impossible to stop.

In terms of quality, the AFC is ahead of the NFC. It’s hard to find many title contenders in the NFC. The AFC is littered with them.

Special Note: Due to my busier schedule, I will be looking for people who would like to write about various topics. In particular a weekly college football column from various conferences etc. If interested shoot me a message on facebook.

The evolution of the NFL

The cliche “defense wins championships” is fading faster than MLB ratings in the summer. Take a look at the last two decades of Super Bowl winners. The guys commanding their teams include names like Aikman, Favre, Elway, Warner, Brady, Manning, etc. With the exception of Baltimore in 2000 and Tampa Bay in 2002, the NFL title game has been decided because of superior play at the quarterback position.

A lot of experts are picking Baltimore to reach the Super Bowl this year. The reason isn’t because of their stingy defense. It’s because their offense upgraded enormously with the additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Not to mention they have one of the most versatile backs in the league with Ray Rice and a future all-pro protecting Joe Flacco, Michael Oher.

In examining last year’s qb ratings, the only team to make the postseason with sub-par qb play was the Jets. And they qualified for the playoffs based on the Colts resting their starters late in the regular season. People want to see offense.

Last night’s game between the Ravens and Jets was abysmal from an offensive standpoint. Yes New York has arguably the best defense in the league, but they will go nowhere if they can only manage six first downs a game, which was all they acquired in their season opener.

The Saints last year finished 26th in total defense in the NFL. Their opponent in the Super Bowl: Indianapolis, 18th. Again, defense doesn’t always win championships. There’s a reason Minnesota desperately persuaded no. 4 into returning for yet another year. Without him, the Vikes are a mediocre team. And with him, well I think we all saw last year how dangerous of a team they can be.

If you asked every single GM in the league if they’d rather have a pro-bowl quarterback or any pro-bowl player on defense, I guarantee they would take the former. It’s not rocket science to figure out why the two highest paid positions in the NFL are the quarterback and the man who protects him, left tackle.

The three-year period when the Rams were the most explosive offense in the league wasn’t because of Isaac Bruce or Marshall Faulk; but because of Kurt Warner. Larry Fitzgerald and Andquan Boldin weren’t the reason Arizona made a miraculous run to the Super Bowl. It was once again the play of the aforementioned Warner. The Giants’ heroics from 2007 were because Eli Manning played out of his mind in the post season.

Teams like the Lions, Browns, Raiders, and Bills have been terrible for the last seven years because of pathetic quarterback play.

Adrian Peterson may be the biggest freak in the league, but guys like Brady and Manning are worth double what he is because the shelf life of a quarterback is much longer than that of any other player in the league. Why do you think people are picking the Steelers to miss the playoffs this year? It’s not because their defense has fallen off. It’s because their star qb is missing for a few games.

I’m not saying a great defense can’t win you a ring. But without a star quarterback in this league your chances are slim to none.

Thoughts from week 2

Alabama and Ohio St.

In college football you need two weeks to figure out who’s good and who isn’t. The Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes are a notch above the rest of the nation. Both beat top 15 teams handily on Saturday, and if Ohio St. had a better coverage team their win over Miami would’ve been even more lopsided. In Tuscaloosa it’s not a stretch to say that the Tide have the two best running backs in the country with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Side note on Richardson: This off-season he put up a whopping 465 pounds on the bench press. That’s as far as the coaches would let him go.

The weak ACC

What has happened to the ACC? The league started the season with 5 teams ranked in the top 25. Now, no. 17 Miami is the only team left of that group. This past weekend Florida St. was embarrassed at Oklahoma. Georgia Tech lost to a Kansas team who was upset by North Dakota St. in week 1. Miami was outmatched by a more skillful Ohio St. squad. And who can forget about the potential upset of the year, James Madison knocking off 13th ranked Virginia Tech (which makes Ole Miss fans feel a little better I guess). It appears as if the ACC which is typically the fourth best conference in America will now fall behind the upstart Pac-10 in the BCS conference rankings.

Darkhorse for Heisman

Denard Robinson is really, really good. The sophomore QB from Michigan may be the best athlete at the position since Michael Vick. He absolutely shredded Notre Dame’s defense on Saturday throwing for 244 yards and rushing for another 258. Think he couldn’t run like that against SEC defenses? There’s a reason why he burned Notre Dame on an 87-yard td run. The kid has been clocked as fast as 10.28 in the 100-meter dash (a florida high school record). And by the way he leads the nation in rushing, as a quarterback. Not to mention he has yet to throw an interception. He’s also a very humble kid which makes it even easier to pull for him.

Other rants…

Florida has played only one half of decent football.

After putting up over 300 total yards against Tulane, Jeremiah Masoli is now in charge of the Ole Miss offense.

With USC narrowly escaping Virginia at home, Oregon has to be considered the class of the Pac-10 after the 48-13 shellacking it put on Tennessee.

After rushing for 182 yards and two touchdowns vs. Georgia, Marcus Lattimore is the top freshman in the country thus far.

Although Alabama is top-notch, there isn’t another elite team in the SEC (until Florida proves otherwise).

Boise State’s strength of schedule took a big hit with Virginia Tech losing. At season’s end, the Broncos schedule may not feature a team left in the top 25.

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