Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bouncing Into It

With the NBA season nearing the mid point, LynchyRightNow is implied to launch in. What better way to do it than a Live Blog?!? The last two NBA Champions meeting for the first time in 2010 on Sunday afternoon, it's Celtics vs. Lakers . . .

Let's Get After It!

3:37 Mike Breen and Mark Jackson have just begun the assault on stating the obvious. "Having knee surgery this late in his career can take a toll on Kevin Garnett."

3:39 Artest & Pierce get into it before the tip, Ron Artest folks a.k.a. Captain Crazy.

3:42 Don't like all the whistles early, not a good sign for Kendrick Perkins, not a good sign at all. However, Rajon Rondo definitely taking the next step this year is more than willing to take the shot. Over/Under on minutes before we're in the bonus? Pierce has two fouls before first bathroom break.

3:45 Not buying into Jeff Van Gundy and his theory that Phil is making Kobe play with the broken finger, guessing that's all Kobe 2.0; I'm not forgetting Eagle, Colorado either Kobe!

3:50 I know he may not need to be, but Andrew Bynum should be better than 15 points and 8 boards a game, he's playing with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Furthermore he's got zero argument that he should be an All-Star, I don't care what Van Gundy is trying to convince us of.

3:52 Perkins (2), Artest (2), and Pierce (2) the fouls are getting a little out of control. Reign it in zebras.

3:55 Tough to defend against that one, Kobe drills a three pointer with a man in his face. Can we get an independent medical expert to take a look at that "broken-finger?" Don't know if I'd be getting in the face of Rasheed Wallace, Pau the man just doesn't seem to care and that's a bad sign in the crazy department.

4:02 That's an interesting story, upon visiting The White House, Kobe's daughter asked the president to buy girl scout cookies? Doesn't she know he's on a spending freeze? Typical Laker fan.

4:05 End of the first quarter. Celtics have turned the ball over seven times; hence the 11 point Laker lead heading into the second quarter.

End Of Quarter One: 30-19 Lakers

Sidenote: Don't know why Glen Davis would want to lose his nickname "Big Baby." You think "Jelly Bean" Bryant liked the nickname of a delicious Easter time treat? Of course not, but people remember you if you've got a nickname no matter how ridiculous it is.

4:10 Sideline interview just went down an awkward path. In response to Andrew Bynums good first quarter play, Phil Jackson retorted "he's done good" then abruptly walked away. Must be the zen, back to you in the booth.

4:16 With Kobe on the bench, Celtics on a run here and down only six. The fouls aren't taking as much of a toll, Tony Allen playing with a ton of energy off the bench. Pau Gasol and Rasheed Wallace just had a little conversation about whose beard grows in worst and looks creepier. I'm going with Pau's.

4:24 I know I'm about one of the best arm chair coaches around; So I feel pretty safe saying this. Why do big men at every level feel the need to bring the ball down, slam the ball onto the hardwood and then go up? Your bigger than everyone on the court, leave the ball in the air and finish! Biggest hoops pet peeve, BY FAR!

4:30 Back from 13 down, the Celtics have tied it up at 40. Wait, now up by 3. Big comebacks can't be a staple of this team in 2010, I can't stress that enough. When your forced to comeback you use so much more energy. With Pierce, Allen, Garnett, and Wallace, all of who have serious miles on their legs, are on the same court, you've got to finish teams early and let them rest.

4:32 Jeff Van Gundy is lambasting a fan whose face is painted two colors and is rocking a huge green Afro. Can't blame Van Gundy, you deserve whatever you get when your over 25 and wearing that getup.

4:34 A 12-0 run for the Celtics. These old dogs have fight left in them.

4:37 While my Celtics bias is clearly showing, I have a ton of respect for Kobe and the Lakers. Has Kobe ever been part of a team that suffers a horrible losing season? He really is amazing and much respect. Paul Pierce for THREEEEEEEEEE! Bias coming through again.

4:40 Rajon Rondo really is filthy. Mark Jackson just brought up a great point, "If this was Steve Nash, we'd be raving about him" he's right and at this point I'd rather have Rondo.

Halftime: 52-47 Celtics

5:05 Is that how the Grizzlies sell their meeting with L.A.? Pau Gasol v. his brother! If his brother was Shaq then that might work, might. I can't get all fired up for Pau v. Marc Gasol, sorry not buying those tickets.

5:10 Going to look up how old Derek Fisher is, I swear the guy has been in the league for at least 15 years. . . close, only 13 years for the 35-year old point guard. Can shoot, probably a good locker room guy, and pretty clutch.

5:11 Perkins (3), Garnet (3), and Artest (3) So I'm guessing the fouls are really going to play a big part down the stretch.

5:15 Rajon Rondo has owned this game. Go ahead, make an opposing argument. He's controlling the game, pushing the ball up the floor, and playing great defense. If the Celtics are going anywhere this season, Rajon Rondo may have to carry them like he is this afternoon.

5:22 Back and forth third quarter, Celtics are up by 7, playing really aggressive and getting into a good defense each time down the floor. Paul Pierce is playing injured, but still coming up nicely.

5:30 Rondo has 21 points and 11 assists with a quarter remaining.

End Of Quarter Three: 73-66 Celtics

5:34 Eddie House drilling a three-poiter to kick off the fourth quarter, very impressive. Hold the Lakers down for 11 minuets and it's yours.

5:38 Alright, all things are going right for the Celtics now. First they tip a ball out of bounds and the ref makes a horrible call and gives it to Boston. Then Ray dribbles the ball off his foot and saves it to Eddie House for another three.

5:43 Celtics really haven't given the Lakers many easy shots. Within five, L.A. is struggling to get off easy shots, at some point they are going to have to let Kobe take over.

5:50 Two-point game, strange how the Celtics have been in control and this game still remains very close. This game can't go into overtime if you ask me, energy will be a huge problem.

5:54 Rough traveling call from Rondo, flawless game till now. Within minutes this is getting too close for my liking.

5:56 137,490th advertisement for the premier of Lost and it's final season. Don't care, never have. Used to watch Gilligan's Island as a kid, same thing more dramatic.

6:01 That missed free throw from Perkins is going to haunt these guys.

6:04 7 seconds remaining with Ray Allen pressed close to him, Kobe Bryant rips off a jumper and game over. Lakers have a one point lead with just seconds remaining, going to take a huge shot for this one to fall the Celtics way.

6:09 Game ends on a missed three pointer from Ray Allen. Shot too deep.

The Celtics had several games here to turn things around and regain control in the East and heading into the All-Star break. Unfortunately, their three game losing streak against Orlando, Atlanta, and the Lakers today, caps a 3-7 stretch over the last ten games. If any team needed a break it's Boston, if any team looks stronger than L.A., I can't name them!

For more follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eye On Five

There is more than one face you've seen before. From Peyton Manning and Drew Brees to Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Wayne. However on Super Bowl Sunday these are the players you'll have to pay attention to.

My Eye On Five:

Jonathan Vilma, LB New Orleans Saints As a captain of the Saint defense, linebacker Jonathan Vilma led the team with 110 tackles this season. In just his second season in the bayou, Vilma had career highs in both sacks and interceptions while trolling the middle of the defense. In 2009, under the guidance of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Jonathan Vilma has transformed into a dominating leader on defense. Come Super Bowl time, Vilma will be on center stage and he'll play a monster role. As one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets, tight end Dallas Clark has abused opposing linebackers all season long. See Houston Texans rookie linebacker Brian Cushing, who watched Clark snag 14 catches for 119 yards in a week nine loss to the Colts. This is the type of potent offensive weapon Jonathan Vilma will have to take seriously if he wants to bring a championship back to New Orleans. Having the unfortunate job of staring down Peyton Manning and attempting to limit the most high powered offense in the game, Jonathan Vilma will have to be up for the challenge.

Reggie Bush, RB/PR New Orleans Saints As much as the Saints game breaker propelled them to victory in the divisional round, his muffed punt return in the conference championship almost sent them home for the season. Reggie Bush is always going to be an (x) factor in this league, his talent can't be ignored. One of the more versatile weapons on the Saints offense, Reggie is going to have to take advantage of his touches, just as he did against Arizona. As part of a backfield that was virtually non-existent against Minnesota, Reggie Bush must improve on his teams 3-yards per carry average. What that backfield can do will determine how effective their passing game can be, and we've seen them be out of this world. Furthermore, the return game is extremely important for New Orleans in the Super Bowl, giving Peyton Manning a short field is about as good of an idea as leaving your cell phone unlocked (cough, cough, Tiger). That's where Reggie Bush can really make an impact, his breakaway speed, ability to stop on a dime and make tacklers miss will set up Drew Brees with an offense that can put points on the board quick.

Joseph Addai, RB Indianapolis Colts In the most high powered passing offense why would a running back be important? Because the Saints defensive backs are very good and in two games this postseason, their defense also gave up well over 200 rushing yards combined. Both Addai and rookie Donald Brown are going to have to take advantage on the ground. Now Joseph Addai isn't your typical 100 yard rusher, he's a grinder and that's exactly what the Colt offense calls for. Addai has the ability to control the game by keeping Drew Brees off the field, by grinding it out. Addai touches the ball 15-20 times a game, but it's the play which he doesn't touch the ball that torches the defense. The play action from Manning is only sold when the defense respects the rush of Joseph Addai and the Colt ground game. In last week's statement AFC Championship win, Addai flew under the radar eating up the clock and averaging five yards per carry on 16 carries and put up 80 yards. It should as no surprise to anyone that Peyton Manning was able to cut up the best defense in the league with ease, because they couldn't sit back and play just the pass. If Addai can attack the 'Nawlins defense like he did the Jets, it's game over the Saints dream season.

Jabari Greer, CB New Orleans Saints Before being injured in week 9, Jabari Greer was having a fantastic season in coverage on the Saints secondary. In just the past three weeks since coming back from injury, Greer has recorded 16 tackles from his cornerback spot, including 8 in the NFC Championship game. Between Greer and pro bowl safety Darren Sharper, the Saints secondary have the toughest task of anyone headed to South Florida. As Peyton Manning attempts to dissect every move they make, it'll be up to Greer and Sharper to keep those receivers in check. The fast and physical corner plays Gregg Williams defense better than most, in the face of wide outs, he'll force Peyton to go to other options giving his defense a huge challenge. If Jabari Greer has a big day, you could see Peyton Manning struggle for one of the very few times this season. We're all about to meet the former Tennessee Volunteer turned Pro Bowl corner.

Clint Session, LB Clint Session Who?!? Clint Session is the linebacker you don't know. The Indianapolis Colts leading tackler (103) is having a hell of a third season in the league. We know the names like Gary Brackett, Antoine Bethea, and of course Dwight Freeney, but Clint Session has a huge impact on the outcome of this game. Session is a fierce linebacker with the ability to play sideline to sideline, if this is the guy following after Reggie Bush, they'll be in business. He's the linebacker who seems to be everywhere at the right time. A key interception returned for a touchdown in the Colts 35-27 road win at Houston during the regular season. Seven tackles helped propel Indianapolis in their AFC Championship win. At least six times this season, Clint Session has recorded nine sacks or more, impressive for anyone. On the big stage is where your going to get to see him play, a defense that was once just known for it's lighting is beginning to bring it's thunder, Clint Session is an enormous part of that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stage Set

It has been almost three years since the NFL witnessed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning raise the Lombardi Trophy. That night Peyton extinguished any remaining doubt that he was in fact among the greats in league history. On Sunday afternoon, he and the Colts punched their ticket back to the Super Bowl in typical Colt fashion. Down 17-6 with just minutes remaining in the first half, the Colt offense went to work. A drive consisting of four plays, eighty yards in 58-seconds capped off by a 16-yard Austin Collie touchdown. Into the half down 17-13 and back in business. . . .

The opening drive lasted five minutes and twenty-five seconds. Ten plays, eighty yards, followed by a 19-yard Adrian Peterson touchdown. The Viking offense pounded the football, quieted the 'Bayou faithful, went out and took the lead. The next four quarters Minnesota would do more of the same, out rushing New Orleans by 97 yards, out passing them by 113 yards. On a day where Brett Favre went for over 300 yards in the air and Adrian Peterson rushes for well over 100 while hitting the endzone three times, but the Vikings lost?!?!? And with that, the New Orleans Saints are headed to Miami after a wild NFC Championship . . .

South Florida welcomes the two most consistent teams throughout the NFL season, the top seeds in each conference, and gives us the matchup we've all been waiting for (don't kid yourself). However, before we get to the biggest of dances, these are our final thoughts from championship weekend:

1) Peyton Manning is a butcher. Carving up the New York Jets with mind boggling ease. In a sure fire statement game, Peyton Manning flexed his Hall Of Fame credentials. 377 yards passing, three touchdowns, and 26 completions, Manning attacked the Jets defense with something they hadn't seen in months. With 19 passing first downs on the afternoon, the 12-year veteran went a long way to ensuring his team a trip back to the Super Bowl. As said countless times before this, his biggest accomplishment could be the players he's transformed into weapons around him. Sunday afternoon was like every other this season. Second year receiver Pierre Garcon set an AFC Championship game record with 11 receptions, and recorded 151 yards in the process. The virtually unknown a year ago Austin Collie grabbed seven balls from Manning and averaged 17.6 yards per catch. Peyton Manning has turned unknowns into household names and has ensured himself a spot in Canton. This being his 4th MVP season of his 12-year career, one could make the argument that Peyton Manning is the premier American sports icon and you'd hear little to say otherwise.

2) You can't cough the ball up and expect to win. While Minnesota played the game they wanted to play, tee time is at noon on Monday afternoon. The Vikings ran the ball, passed the ball, and unfortunately coughed the ball up just as often. Blame Brett for poor decision making on that final drive, but don't blame him for that loss. Tied 14-14 just before the half, Saints punt returner Reggie Bush muffed a punt inside his own ten-yard line. How did the Vikings capitalize? With a fumble off their own just plays later and went into the half missing a golden opportunity. That was the kind of afternoon it was for the Minnesota Vikings, and that's why they aren't headed to South Florida. Not a 300-yard passing game or 100+ yard rushing game can overcome five turnovers, it just doesn't happen at this level. Give New Orleans their due however, they managed to recover fumbles and intercept balls, they were the opportunistic team on Sunday evening. The pressure they put on Brett in the first half, the hard hits throughout the game, we shouldn't act like they didn't get into the Vikings head early and often. Of all the obvious statements thrown out of the mouths of NFL announcers, none is more poignant than "he who wins the turnover battle, usually wins the game."

3) Darren Sharper doesn't get talked about enough. World, your about to meet 'Nawlins Saints safety, Darren Sharper. The Saints safety slammed Favre to the turf time after time just after he got rid of the ball, he was the hawk defensive coordinator Gregg Williams cued up yesterday afternoon. 71 tackles and nine interceptions this season, Sharper remained quietly the leagues most game changing defensive back. In the postseason, he blew up. Yesterday afternoon he blitzed Brett Favre relentlessly, he made eleven tackles, and ultimately changed the game. The Saints defense may be the most underrated thing headed into the Super Bowl and Darren Sharper is a big reason why they'll surprise some people. When Sharper was one of the more highly sought after free agents this offseason, it was New Orleans who reigned him in. The active NFL leader in interceptions, Darren Sharper is creating quite a legacy for himself. The 9x Pro Bowler will head to Miami with Super Bowl thoughts and you can bet if anyone can find a chink in Peyton's armour, it's Darren Sharper.

4) Tip of the cap to Jets rookie signal caller, Mark Sanchez. I give Mark Sanchez a ton of credit. Sanchez embraces playing in the biggest media market in the country, he's under the largest microscope, and seems to let it slide right off of him. Throughout his three postseason appearances in 2009, Sanchez threw just two interceptions in nearly 70 attempts. Now before you tell me to hold up, the kid is just a rookie who can't lead an offense just yet but the pieces are in place. Sanchez is just as successful in his first season as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, he kept his team in it just as long as either of them. Furthermore, here's a kid who wasn't asked to do much after his hiccup in mid-season. On the other hand, he's 23 and mentally seems to be able to put it together. Let's face it, this league has very few quarterbacks who can handle the big stage, and Mark Sanchez is officially one of them. New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put Sanchez in the right spot to win, and he did. Till they got roughed up by Peyton Manning, Sanchez was putting up the kind of numbers you should ask for from a rookie quarterback. Pete Carroll was wrong, he is ready for the NFL.


5) 'The Gunslinger' I've got to comment on Brett Favre, if that was the last game he's ever played, I'd be remissed if I didn't. For all the "hating" I do on Favre, the guy is pretty amazing. At 40 years old he's still taking mind numbing hits, dropping tear drop 40-yard passes, and leading a division champion to he conference championship with a chance to win in the final minutes. My dad is about to turn 50 this Spring, 10-years ago he wouldn't get off a pass without getting dropped, granted he's a baker but you get my point. In his 19th season Favre proved he was this league. Throwing for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, Brett Favre was amazing. The 'Gunslinger' took a run oriented offense and converted them making the entire team around him better. In possibly the last three games of Favre's career, he made a huge impact on at the very last one person. Wide receiver, Sidey Rice. The 3rd year receiver from South Carolina recorded 6 touchdowns in the last three Viking games. There is no doubt hype and sometimes undeserved hype has followed Favres career, but it shouldn't take away from the fact he is doing what no 40-year old on this planet could. Big ups to Brett Favre.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LRN Power Rankings: Championship Weekend

The Super Bowl is coming faster and faster; With three of the top four seeds moving on this weekend, it's about to get very exciting. As Peyton and the Colts will take on the surprising Jets, the Saints and Vikings will give us the game we've wanted to see since week 10.

The LRN Power Rankings are out . .

1. Minnesota Vikings (4) The Vikings made a serious statement in ther 34-3 rout of the NFC East Champion Cowboys. The defense flashed the glimpses of brilliance that helped them win 10 of their first 11 games. If Jared Allen and Minnesota can dial up the defense for a second straight week, they'll make New Orleans look very average.

2. New Orleans Saints (5) New Orleans really put it on Arizona. But that was a defense that doesn't strike fear in anyone and finished the playoffs giving up 90 points. As I mentioned on Monday, for the Saints to turn home field advantage into a victory they'll need to get the same if not more from Reggie Bush. Can Drew Brees out duel Brett Favre as he did Kurt Warner?

3. Indianapolis Colts (3) Peyton Manning is the heir to Tiger Woods as the planets most marketable athlete. As the Colts approach another Super Bowl, their quarterback is reaching another stratosphere. They mashed up what once was a Rex Ryan defense last weekend, now they get the real Rex Ryan defense this week. Garcon comes up huge.

4. New York Jets (8) What?!?! How?!?! When!?!? The Jets are in the AFC Championship and will play for a trip to the Super Bowl on Sunday. They had to beat a couple of backups to get into the postseason, but beating Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers once in, is really impressive. Shonn Greene has turned the Jets into a overpowering rushing offense and paired with that defense, they are dangerous.

Monday, January 18, 2010

0-4; Rough Weekend

After looking for the road underdog all weekend, we suddenly found it on Sunday evening. Unfortunately for us, that road dog was the only one we didn't expect to advance. Heading toward Championship Sunday with two of leagues premier quarterbacks, the best defense in football, and one 40-year old gunslinger, it's bound to provide great theater.

As for this past weekend . . .

What did New Orleans prove? After their blowout (45-14) win over Arizona, Drew Brees said it best "We all see the team that won 13 games in a row, not the team that struggled against the Cowboys and let one get away from us against Tampa . . ." With that, the Saints are back. You can't break down Saturday's divisional round victory without first mentioning factor back Reggie Bush. It wasn't just the 83-yard fourth quarter punt return, it was the way Bush ran that impressed me. Attacking the second level, running down hill, and more importantly showing the league what made him a top pick four seasons ago. 217 All-purpose yards, including both the punt return for a score and a 46 yard run for another touchdown. When Sean Payton said Reggie was too explosive a player not to be successful in this league he was right, and on Saturday we all got a glimpse of just how successful he can be. Final Thought: Twelve more first downs than Arizona and New Orleans was in business. If you leave Drew Brees & Co. on the field long enough, they'll bury you there.

Indianapolis is poised, and has been. Peyton Manning completed 30 passes to seven different targets. The Colts defense held Raven running back Ray Rice to just 67 yards and forced three fumbles to go along with their two interceptions. A 20-3 victory later and Indianapolis is hosting the AFC Championship game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Defining the Colts season was receiver Pierre Garcon. In a heads up play, Garcon turned into a defender after an early third quarter interception by Raven safety Ed Reed. Garcon would chase down Reed for some 30 yards and punch the football out of Reed's arms giving the ball right back to the Colts. Smart and precise football play from Indianapolis is exactly what we've come to expct, and no one does it better than the 2009-2010 Colts. Final Thought: From the head coach down, every Colt looks toward #18. Peyton Manning doesn't just run the offense, he is the offense. As Manning has turned Garcon & Collie into household names, he's looking to add yet another Super Bowl to his mantle and nothing is getting in his way.

Statement Made. The Minnesota Vikings made a statement as they handled the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. The now 9-0 inside the Metrodome Vikings, are traveling to New Orleans, and look very sharp. The Vikings forced Romo on the sidelines and made it tough for the Dallas defense to get off the field. The statement should be loud and clear to New Orleans, they figured out how to stop a good offense and break an excellent defense. The Viking defensive line dominated the Cowboy offensive line and gave quarterback Tony Romo very little time to throw the ball down field, which is exactly what they need to do in New Orleans. Brett Favre completed just 15 passes and four of his 15 were for touchdowns, including 3 to Sidney Rice who had a career day. The 3rd year receiver from South Carolina hauled in six balls for 141 yards becoming Favres favorite target on Sunday afternoon. Final Thought: The Saints could be in for a tough afternoon if Minnesota can duplicate their divisional round performance. The Vikings did to Dallas what not many thought they could do, and not many will think they can do that to New Orleans.

Crashing The Party. With three of the top four seeds into the next round, no one thought San Diego wouldn't be one of them. Except New York Jets brash head coach, Rex Ryan. The New York Jets do a few things extraordinarily well, run the ball and play defense, San Diego figured this out the hard way. For the second straight week rookie running back Shonn Greene mashed up a division winning defense for well over 100 yards. A 128-yard performance against San Diego would lead the Jets offense to 170 yards on the ground. The Jets defense would come out and force to interceptions. While they allowed Vincent Jackson to make his plays and Philip Rivers to do what he does, they don't allow anyone to stop them from their gameplan. Final Thought: The Jets don't shoot themselves in the foot. While San Diego racked up 10 penalties for over 80 yards, and the Jets only made Sanchez throw the ball twenty times, it is no surprise the outcome. The Jets maintain what they do well and that's how you win in the postseason.

Just weeks remaining before we crown another Super Bowl Champion and the surprises keep coming. Power Rankings out tomorrow . . .

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lane, next rounds on me!

The same coach who felt no fear filling the shoes of one Phillip Fulmer in Knoxville shows the same stepping into those of So Cal legend, Pete Carroll. Fourteen months after replacing a National Championship winning head coach at Tennessee, the 34-year old Lane Kiffin replaces a 2x National Champion at Southern California and I couldn't be more excited.

For these (10) Ten Reasons Lane, next rounds on me!

10. He's as bad as he wants to be. Not only does Lane Kiffin make noise in a conference that fears no one (SEC) but he takes on the best in said conference. From Nick Saban and Urban Meyer to Steve Spurrier, Lane Kiffin refused to "kiss the ring." This is why he is lured by the most prominent program in collegiate athletics. This is the reason why he is in Southern California and not in Knoxville.

9. Lane Kiffin can recruit. The most important thing you can say of any Division 1 collegiate football coach, you can say about Lane Kiffin. The clip they continually show on The World Wide Leader, is one of Kiffin welcoming players into his office. This isn't old Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden, this is a coach who makes the half handshake/hug look legit.

8. Being 34 is a good thing. When a college football coach attempts luring you with stories of 1956 Heisman winner Paul Hornung, I'm not buying it. Yet when he recites stories of Reggie Bush running wild on the PAC-10 in 2005, I'm a tad more invested. Well, Lane Kiffin knows of Reggie Bush and could care less of Paul Hornung.

7. Front & Center. You can bet the Trojans are football program #1 on his mind. After getting a great gig in Tennessee, it takes a special person to jet for So. Cal under two years later. This is THE job to him. Mentioned more than once in his introduction speech, Lane Kiffin assured Trojan Nation, this is the prominent job in college athletics, and I can't disagree.

6. Maybe his sole year in the SEC wasn't great, but it was entertaining. Yes, you get credit for that. When some coaches are getting axed for being uptight and taking it out on players, Lane Kiffin just gets other coaches all anxious and on edge. The PAC-10 could use that with Jim Harbaugh in Palo Alto, you can bet some sweat is going into work with Kiffin now in conference.

5. Monte. Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber here's a coach who demanded the best and got it at the highest level. Lane's father, Monte Kiffin, was a long time defensive mastermind in the NFL before helping his son in Knoxville. Do we have any doubt that the new defensive coordinator at USC will be able to put these kids into the professional ranks as more than prepared?

4. If Barkely is ready, so is Southern Cal. You can assure yourself that both Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin like the same type of athletes. This is exactly why USC true Sophomore quarterback, Matt Barkely is the best fit for Kiffin. In the coming year you'll see a quaterback who fits better in a program than you've ever seen. Lane gets him to where he needs to be.

3. Southern Cal couldn't go forward with peace. The Trojans needed a coach who was just as comfortable with the position as Pete Carroll was. Carroll felt no problems with being on Late Night, he felt no problem with being the biggest football personality in California, this is what Southern Cal. needed. This is what Lane Kiffin is.

2. Ain't Notre Dame. We don't need the championship rings, we don't need the pedigree, we don't need the headlines. What Southern California requires is greater than all that. Cheeks in the seats. Brian Kelly doesn't insite ticket sales, but Lane Kiffin does. At some point a university has to realize that. Southern Cal just did.

1. Because he's Hollywood. Find the guy who argues against it? I can't. Lane Kiffin is the next coach of USC and I have no contest. We've watched this young an get jobs he doesn't earn, but maybe that's him. His gorgeous wife, his gorgeous children, his famed career. Maybe Lane Kiffin is just bigger than all that. That's why he's the newest Trojan head coach and we love it! Lane Kiffin, next round is on me!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For The Masses

I'm helping you out. With only a few more weeks of pro football to lay your money down, you'll need me. Patriot fans, come on what else are you going to do? The Jets or Colts will win the AFC then what? Get After The Picks!

(Lines taken on Wednesday morning; 7:00 AM)

Arizona Cardinals +7 @ New Orleans Saints I like Arizona getting the points. On offense, the Arizona Cardinals present more challenges than the majority of remaining playoff teams. Rookie running back Beanie Wells gashed the Green Bay Packer defense for 6.5 yards a carry proving this offense does more than just throw the ball. On the New Orleans front, they haven't put together four good quarters of football since their blowout win against New England back on November 30th. Chris Redman (Atlanta backup) threw for 303 yards on them. Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay rookie) threw for 271 yards and completed 21 passes on their defense. Jason Campbell (embattled Redskin quarterback) completed 30 passes for 367 yards and 3 TD's in their late season meeting. This isn't a list of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and that is exactly what Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner is. Arizona Cardinals +7.

Baltimore Ravens +6 @ Indianapolis Colts The first time these two locked up this season was in Baltimore. The Colts recorded their 10th win on the season to remain undefeated in a very close (17-15) football game. Indianapolis held Raven running back Ray Rice to 3.6 yards a carry and contained him finishing with just 71 yards on the day. However, in that same game Baltimore would force Peyton Manning into two interceptions. Why is this important? Because to beat the Ravens in the postseason or much less anytime your going to have to slug it out. Baltimore finished the regular season with 7 losses, 5 of them were by 6 points or less, and none by more than 13 points. Indianapolis didn't blow teams out this season, they played tight games and usually came out on the winning end because of who they have under center. Keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands, and your in business. Baltimore Ravens +6

Dallas Cowboys +2.5 @ Minnesota Vikings Dallas will beat Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. The Vikings offensive line has broken down over the final weeks of the regular season and in that same stretch the Cowboys defensive line has come on strong. Cowboys veteran linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking are all over the field and defensive backs Gerald Sensabaugh and Mike Jenkins are causing havoc in the secondary, credit that to DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer, the Cowboy defensive line that has been dominating. The first defensive unit to crack Drew Brees, is coming into their own right before our eyes. The pass happy Vikings will need to run the ball to have success against Dallas, in their consecutive wins against Philadelphia, the Eagles turned to the passing game and saw very little success and forced their defense back on the field again and again. If Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson are kept on the sidelines as Tony Romo picks apart the Viking defense there is only one result. Dallas Cowboys +2.5

New York Jets +7 @ San Diego Chargers There's a secret they aren't telling anyone. No one took advantage of late undefeated runs by Indianapolis and New Orleans like Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. After a 2-3 start, San Diego ripped off an 11-game win streak, first round bye, and home field advantage in Round 2. Going into the postseason on the heels of a 4,000-yard season and 28 touchdown passes, no one is playing better than the Chargers quarterback, and he'll be the deciding factor on Sunday evening. He's won close games against tough defenses, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Cincinnati. He's won big time blow games at Denver (32-3), at Tennessee (42-17), and also hitting season highs at Cleveland (373 yards) in early December. All things aside, they haven't played Rex Ryan and his New York Jets this season. The famed Jets defense leads the league in fewest pass yards allowed per game, fewest yards allowed all season, and most shut down corners (one), the legend that has become Darrelle Revis. No doubt Revis is an amazing corner, possibly even the best since Deion, however Charger receiver Vincent Jackson is half a foot taller than him and that will make a difference. San Diego Chargers -7

Check back tommorow for Keep It Real Friday and a brand new Podcast! As always, follow us on twitter . .

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

LRN Power Rankings: Divisional Round

Oh yes! We're power ranking the remaining playoff teams, one through eight. However, today we are giving you a curveball starting last to first. With the Jets and Ravens stealing round 1 road playoff wins, things got very interesting very quick.

Get After It!

8. New York Jets (9) Flying high off their first round road win, the Jets are off to San Diego in round two. Fueling the Jets offense was rookie running back Shonn Greene who racked up 135 yards on the ground. My immediate reaction to the Jets win was, "I thought that would happen." The Bengals didn't look good the week before, they were missing injured playmaking linebacker Rey Mauluga, and that performance from Carson Palmer (18 of 36) left something to be desired. You may win one or two games by not making mistakes, but at some point you can't hide Mark Sanchez by allowing him to throw just 15 passes and have him hand it off 41 times.

7. Baltimore Ravens (11) It was over very quick. Ray Rice opened the game with an 83-yard scamper to get an early lead on New England and that's all she wrote. The Raven defense did what they had to do creating turnovers, being opportunistic, and making big plays. Patriot quarterback Tom Brady was forced to throw the ball 42 times, his most since week 10, and it resulted in three interceptions with just 154 yards passing. Next up, Indianapolis. If your a Raven fan know this: It means something that the Colt defense allows 126 yards per game on the ground. Between Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le'Ron McClain, they just gashed New England for 220+ yards, which was a defense that was allowing just 110 yards per game prior to their round one match up.

6. Arizona Cardinals (10) The Cardinals v. Packers game was simply video gamesque. Kurt Warner put up 5 TD's, nearly 400 yards passing, and stayed interception free. The Arizona ground game lead by rookie Beanie Wells averaged 6.8 yards per carry. All that without star receiver Anquan Boldin. The Cardinals have an offense that can hang with New Orleans, their second round opponent. In 2009 they were 6-2 on the road, going into the Bayou shouldn't be an issue. Here's the key with Arizona, both 3rd & 4th receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet proved they are better than "fill-ins" for Boldin. In the Wild Card round, Breaston snagged seven balls for 125 yards and Doucet scored two touchdowns on six catches for 77 yards. 'Nawlins has their hands full.

5. New Orleans Saints (6) We didn't realize it at the time, but at some point during their week 12 blowout of New England, they peaked. Since that victory, the Saints have scored 30+ just once. Since that victory, the Saints are 2-3 with both wins coming by only 3 points. By the time New Orleans kicks off on Saturday afternoon, Drew Brees won't have taken a snap in 19 days, close to three whole weeks. No one thinks that will be a factor at all? It's no secret that New Orleans has a defense which struggles against the rush (21st), and Arizona has a tendency to exploit opposing defenses for their weaknesses. Woah hold up, it isn't all bad. Brees & New Orleans have pretty much seen their playoff destiny for over a month now, they've showed several times the ability to get up for monster games, and seem to have a home field advantage second to none remaining in the NFL postseason.

4. Minnesota Vikings (5) Ah, the Vikes. Probably the toughest task of any home team this weekend, stopping Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and anyone else Dallas will be throwing at Brett Favre. By the way, when is the last time superback Adrian Peterson went over the century mark? November 15th, against Detroit of all teams. The Vikings should have been a run first offense from jump street. Explain how you possess the biggest backfield advantage since Barry Sanders and you turn to the passing game? His name is Brett Favre. In his 19th season (first in Minnesota) Brett Favre turned in his best statistical passing year of his career. In doing so, the Pro Bowler brought Viking fans out of the woodwork and into the loud and hyped up Metrodome. The 8-0 at home Vikings are getting ready to flex their muscles after a rough end to the season. All eyes should be on the Viking offensive line, if they can keep Favre upright, it'll be tough for Minnesota to lose this one.

3. Indianapolis Colts (2) Peyton had to think he'd be hosting the New York Jets. That was before Ray Rice threw a curveball at the New England Patriots. Almost two months ago now, the Colts rolled into Charm City before escaping with a two-point win on the toe of kicker Matt Stover. Now they get a Raven team coming off their biggest win off the season in New England. But these are the Colts right? The wise and all knowing Indianapolis Colts lead by their fearless signal caller, Peyton Manning. There is a reason why they call him the MVP year after year, because he is. The man that turned 2nd year receiver, Pierre Garcon from little known Mount Union into a playmaking NFL wide out. The same man which made former BYU standout Austin Collie into a 60-catch third option on the high powered Colts offense. No matter which Baltimore Raven team shows up in Indianapolis, you can bet Peyton will bring every one of his weapons, and use 'em.

2. Dallas Cowboys (3) Monkey removed. Curse lifted. Call it what you'd like to, the Dallas Cowboys have won a playoff game and show little signs of stopping for the first time in 13 years. Since their loss to San Diego, they've flat out bullied teams. Outscoring opponents 99-31 over their four game winning streak, the Dallas Cowboys have flexed their muscles. Tony Romo looking fantastic, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett mixing up the offense, Miles Austin doing what he's done all season long. Then there is the defense, the defense that is putting more and more pressure on the quarterback every week. Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, and Anthony Spencer are raising havoc while letting cornerback Mike Jenkins and safety Gerald Sensabaugh do the same in the secondary. They've laid it out for the rest of the NFC, this is what we are and your going to have to stop it or get out of the way. The questions are being answered in Dallas, finally the team littered with the most talent is beginning to play like it when it counts.

1. San Diego Chargers (1) Norv Turner and Phil Rivers will have to answer the call. Against a very confident New York Jet football team, the Chargers are going to have to do what they've done for 11 weeks, win. The bad news was landed after Baltimore upset New England. The Jets boast one of the NFL's best rushing games and the Chargers are ranked 20th against the run during the regular season. The health of Shawn Merriman has been a problem this season and last, yet they'll need him to come up big for them to continue. As for Phil Rivers, he's had a fantastic year and more than once answered the bell. Till someone knocks off San Diego, they're the team to beat and no one finished the season better.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Early Vacation

Hold up, you don't exit that easy. As Brady, Palmer, McNabb, and Rodgers grab the nine iron we're sending them off right. Just grit your teeth and take it in . .

All good things come to an end. As indicative as it was of their 2009 season, the Patriots were throttled at home and were knocked out of the postseason as quickly as they got in. From the eyebrow raising trade of Richard Seymour to kick the season off to the eyebrow raising now infamous 4th down call in Indianapolis, the New England Patriots just never had that look. It's possible that New England is just turning over their defense and attempting to get bye on their past success as an offense, but it seems like more than that. Who does New England have that shows the upside of a Ray Rice? What would make you believe they are willing to pay Vince Wilfork? A 28-year old Vince Wilfork at that. Both Brady and the incomparable Wes Welker are going to be returning from serious injuries, questions do surround the play of Randy Moss, and folks, Kevin Faulk isn't getting any younger (11-year veteran). The Vikings showcase a young Percy Harvin and of course Adrian Peterson, the Cowboys have game breakers Miles Austin and Felix Jones, we mentioned Ray Rice, but what about Steve Breaston and Chris Wells in Arizona. The Patriots are getting older all around and are going to have to snag one of these top draft picks rather than hoping the value is still around in the next round with more picks. New England will always contend with Bill Belichick, but when does contending get old for a team who is expected to do much more.

The comeback of Cedric Benson, a 6-0 divisional record, things aren't that bad for the Cincinnati Bengals heading into the offseason after getting beat up at home on Saturday afternoon. The Bengals finally put together a season to be proud of, a season which saw them win the AFC North and surprise some people. Embattled running back Cedric Benson finished 8th in rushing with 1,251 yards and went a long way in restoring his career and image, much like the Bengals did. Playing through the death of a teammate, these Bengals seemed to be an entirely different group than what we've grown accustomed to watching in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the 4th ranked defense in the NFL was just outplayed on Saturday. The Bengal defense allowed 173 yards on the ground in the absence of standout rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga who had 63 tackles prior to breaking his ankle in week 16. Playing in a division with notoriously tough Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals have gone a long way in proving themselves in 2009.

Overpowered, flat out. The Philadelphia Eagles suffered their 3rd loss this season to the division rival Cowboys, and are left with the usual questions. Can Andy Reid coach you to a championship? Can Donovan McNabb lead you there? The answer is NO. Reid and the Eagles had a week to prepare for a team they'd just been embarrassed by, and what happened? The same exact thing. From McNabb's cocky and borderline arrogant display prior to kickoff to his 19 of 37 performance, the Eagles are exactly what they've always been, not good enough. Outscored by 48-points in their three meetings, the Dallas Cowboys owned Philadelphia this season, yet two days after their playoff loss they announce Donovan will return as their quarterback next season. Aren't you sick of the same show? Sure he can get you to the NFC Championship and even the Super Bowl, but can they win with this group? No one thinks that Michael Vick could do the same if not better with DeSean Jackson and the rest of their young core? I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Eagles make the postseason, then get bounced after setting up their fans for another exit after high hopes.

You don't get into a shootout with the Arizona Cardinals, you just don't do it. However, the Green Bay Packers looked to be the team that could hang with the NFL's most high powered offense, then they didn't. Green Bay has to go into next season with high hopes. Aaron Rodgers isn't just the heir to Brett Favre, he's flat out filthy. 30 Touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and over 4,000 yards passing, still have questions about him? The Packer defense made huge strides this season. A top five defense for the majority of the season, and that first round draft pick with NFL pedigree, Clay Matthews, well he's just as good as any. Matthews signature play was the strip of Adrian Peterson and resulting touchdown. The Packers have a ton to look forward to, a last second loss to Pittsburgh on the road kept them from winning their final eight games of the season. The shootout in Arizona almost fell their way after they refused to quit and kept scoring at will. Of any team which fell this weekend, the Packers are the only which really had a shot after the first half and pushed an overpowering Cardinal offense to the brink. If the Packers continue to take the chances they do and show that same fight, it'll only be a matter of time till Aaron Rodgers takes the center stage.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

South Risen

The Alabama Crimson Tide winning their first National Championship since 1992 cemented a well known fact; Having a piece of five of the last seven National Championships has left no doubt, the present Southeastern Conference is bar none the most dominant conference college football has ever seen. From the National Championship winning coaches to the Heisman Trophy winning players, the SEC has had college football on lockdown for four straight years.

A brief look back . . .

The Legacy of Tim Tebow. He'll go down as one of the two or three top collegiate athletes of all time. A national figure, Tim Tebow broke onto the scene in 2006 and immediately made noise. While splitting time with fellow Gator Chris Leak, Tebow had eight rushing touchdowns from under center and during the Gators first National Championship win, he took the stage with 40 yards rushing on 10 carries and both a rushing and passing touchdown. That was just the beginning. His Sophomore campaign would earn him a Heisman Trophy (32 Passing TD's, 23 Rushing) and set off a string of sophomore Heisman Trophy winners, he being the first in the history of the award. Not to be outdone, the famed Gator quarterback would again be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy each of the next two seasons. When Tebow was sidelined with a concussion earlier this season, the nation waited to see what would happen. Tebow roared into the Bayou and thumped the LSU Tigers. No matter what Colt McCoy & Sam Bradford were doing in the Big 12, or what the Trojans and Ducks were rustling up in the PAC 10, for the last four seasons all eyes were on one player in one conference, Tim Tebow in the SEC.

Nick Saban Returns To The SEC With his second career National Championship and with his second program, Nick Saban should earn a ton of respect. Leaving LSU for the NFL and then jetting back to the college ranks just as quick, gave Saban a certain reputation. However, Nick Saban is not only a premier coach in college football he may just be THE premier coach in college football. After a slow start in his first season in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban has won 26 of his last 28 games. Not only has Saban brought a National Championship back to Alabama, he also successfully recruited and coached a Heisman Trophy winner to the Tide for the first time in the programs storied history. The SEC had some pretty good coaches to keep up it's winning ways when Saban jolted for the NFL the first time, but with the now 2x National Champion back in the conference there's no stopping its success. First his title winning season in Baton Rouge in 2003, now his title winning season for the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban is more than just an elite coach.

Urban Meyer Pumps Life Into Gainesville Till Meyer's health issues came to the surface, Urban Meyer looked about as tough to stop as his teams did. Since taking over in 2005, Meyer has flat out stormed the college football scene. A 57-10 record in five seasons in Gainesville, Meyer has brought in two National Championships and the most recent Sugar Bowl win as well. The Gators have become a household name across the country, they are faster and play better defense year after year as any team in the country. Meyer has turned the Gators into what the Seminoles were in the 90's and what the 'Canes were in the 80's, following a long tradition of outstanding state of Florida college football. Now that Meyer has decided to remain with the Gators and just take a break, we can assure you that their winning ways will continue. A success with Bowling Green and Utah before coming to Florida, Urban Meyer is the most sought after football coach in the country. When Notre Dame came calling for Urban Meyer years ago and he split for the SEC instead, you knew something special was brewing in the Southeastern Conference. Urban Meyer has built a stronghold in the football rich state of Florida, and has made it a cornerstone of SEC success nationally.

The Bayou Bengals Show Teeth The LSU Tigers may have slipped a little in the last two seasons, but National Championships in 2003 and 2007 have made these Bengals feared. First with Nick Saban, then with Les Miles, LSU has twice been claimed the best team in all the land, and it's the defense and tough play that has done it. 40-13 over the last four seasons, LSU is tearing up the SEC with as much firepower as 'Bama and Florida. Not many conferences go three deep with National Championship power, but in the SEC, they do. Like the previsouly mentioned teams LSU has overpowered opponents and done it on a national stage. Back in 2007, the Tigers played a rough and tumble Ohio State team looking to win a National Championship. Unfortunately for Buckeye nation, the Tigers had other plans. A 21-point second quarter lead to a 24-10 halftime lead and all but sealed the win for Les Miles and his Bayou Bengals. Baton Rouge has always been a tough place to play, yet now that LSU is winning titles and running wild, it's downright scary.

With Ole' Miss beating Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, Georgia destroying Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl, the SEC is making noise in other college towns as well. Heading into 2010 you can bet the future is just as bright as its been recently for SEC football and their National Title winning ways!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LRN Power Rankings: Wild Card Weekend

Only 12 teams remaining in the mix. With the top seeds in stumbling to the finish of the regular season, it's leaving room for some unusual suspects to lay claim. Starters will be rested and playing this weekend, you can bet on that; It's the LRN Power Rankings: Wild Card Weekend!

Get After It!

1. San Diego Chargers (1) The Chargers have to be putting fear into opponents minds at this point. They haven't lost since October 19th. They finished 7-1 on the road, only losing in Denver over three months ago. Philip Rivers threw 28 touchdown passes to just 9 interceptions including just 3 in last eight games. Their wide receivers are primed for playoff play and don't think they can't beat Peyton & Co. if it comes down to it.

2. Indianapolis Colts (2) Quiet all the doubters please. The Colts lost two games this season, two games they didn't even try to win in order to stay healthy. Patriot receiver Wes Welker going down should have validated what the Colts fears were when they emptied their bench over the past two weeks. The Colts have a little more pressure from us now, but they'll be alright.

3. Dallas Cowboys (6) If this was any other franchise, a franchise who hasn't won a playoff game for over 13 years, we'd be saying something different after their 24-0 NFC East clinching victory over Philadelphia. Instead we say, I'll believe it when I see it. I'm in that same boat, they've got to win a playoff game for me to get on board with the Cowboys and a possible Super Bowl run.

4. Green Bay Packers (7) Green Bay clearly wanted to make a statement in their finale against Arizona, and that is exactly what they did. The Packers are playing just as well as any NFC playoff team, hence the 7-1 finish to end at 11-5. They'll have an opportunity to really show people how far they've come with a victory in Arizona for the second time in two weeks.

5. Minnesota Vikings (8) Stop acting like their 44-7 beatdown of the Giants to close out the season put them back on track. The two losses they took to both Arizona and Carolina are more indicative of what this team is. In the postseason they'll meet teams like Carolina, tough defense and monster running games. In the postseason they'll have to stop big play receivers, they've got to prove they can do that at some point.

6. New Orleans Saints (4) I don't think Drew Brees sat because they wanted him to get rest, he sat because New Orleans knew they weren't beating that Carolina team. The Saints are going into the postseason after losing three straight games and then taking a week off with the bye. If a passing game runs on timing, are they really going to bounce back and get back what they had against New England earlier in the season?

7. New England Patriots (5) The Patriots had nothing to gain by beating Houston this week, but they clearly disagreed. Now with Wes Welker out, New England will have to come up with another way to cause problems for the Baltimore defense. As much as I admire Wes Welker, he only catches what Brady throws him and Julian Edelman catching 10 balls for 103 yards really gave confidence to both he and Brady.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (3) The Eagles had an extremely difficult time with the Cowboy defense on Sunday. McNabb began to throw behind receivers and rush passes, this is one defense that can stifle Philly and their young talent all over the field. On the other hand, they are a team with a very short memory. If this game isn't already in the past, to them it'll be in the past by game time.

9. New York Jets (12) Fact. They're over confident. Fact. Mark Sanchez on the road is a problem. Fact. Jets running back Thomas Jones quietly put together a 1,400 yard season. Rex Ryan has this team believing everything he spews and this may propel a Jets team that runs on trash talking.

10. Arizona Cardinals (10) Who knows? They didn't show their hand to Green Bay this past week and it showed in the result (33-7 loss). The Cardinals have the unfortunate task of trying to stop an extremely hot Packer team who is growing confidence week by week, if any team can turn it on and turn it off at will, it's the defending NFC Champs at home.

11. Baltimore Ravens (13) The Ravens didn't look great against Oakland in their regular season finale. On a more positive note, 7-year veteran running back Willis McGahee had a throwback 167-yard game. Baltimore could be the great question mark of the postseason, Ray Rice has become one of the more dominant weapons in the AFC yet Joe Flacco does lack the needed consistency to put together road playoff wins.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (9) The Bengals couldn't be going in on a worse note. Potential pre-game warmup knee injury to receiver Chad Ochocinco and a 37-0 beat down by the same Jets team they'll see in the first round of the postseason. Since their big November 22nd victory at Pittsburgh, the Bengals are just 3-4 with their only victories coming against Cleveland, Detroit, and Kansas City.

- - - - - -

We're putting together another episode of TheRightNowPodcast after a two week lay-off so keep checking for the new episode. As always, for some daily updates follow us on Twitter.

Thanks for reading LynchyRightNow!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Honorable Mention

We could come back in the New Year and wax poetic about the Dallas Cowboys, rip New England for puting Wes Welker on the field, or maybe even say "I Told You So" regarding what Indy did a week ago, but we won't. As a special treat to the others in the NFL, not in the postseason, we're giving out some honors.

Get After It!

Jimmy Clausen or Ndamukong Suh? I've really got to tip my cap to the St. Louis Rams. While Eric Mangini and the Browns were busy closing the season out with four straight wins, the Rams put it in cruise control and locked up the #1 overall pick in this years NFL Draft. The leagues worst 1-15 record, St. Louis lost eight straight to finish the season and in the process were outscored 128-36 in the final four. The prize for St. Louis' bang up job in 2009, the number one selection in this years draft. This pick isn't the no brainer everyone is saying it is: (1) Yes, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh is the consensus top eligible player available this year. However, the Rams need a franchise quarterback about as badly as Tiger Woods needed an alibi. (2) Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is good, his skills are better than that of one Mark Sanchez, the current Jet quarterback which both lead his team to the postseason this year and had major question marks around him last year at this time. (3) Either way, you won't be much better a year later. Neither Clausen or Suh makes the Rams viable in 2010, but one of them will certainly become the face of the franchise much like their last #1 pick overall in 1997, Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace. And you thought the Colts were tanking a couple games to gain an advantage down the road.

Finishing strong, saving jobs. Unlike in Seattle & Washington, the Carolina Panthers played the last month of the season to save head coach Jon Fox's job and in turn earned a ton of respect. The once 5-8 Panthers closed out the season with three straight victories against the Vikings, Giants, and Saints, now that is impressive. Their vaunted rushing attack suffered an important injury to 1,000 yard rusher DeAngelo Williams, but that wasn't enough to stop them. In the final two games with Williams on the mend, Panther running back Jonathan Stewart ripped off 331 yards rushing and hit the endzone twice. Despite their out of this world ground game, the Panthers should be pleasantly surprised with their replacement quarterback, Matt Moore. The 3rd-year quarterback out of Oregon State wasn't just their to manage the game after the season ending injury to Jake Delhomme. Moore came out and played well, the final five games of the season he turned the ball over just once and racked up eight touchdown passes. As a starter he finished the season 4-1 and completed 62.8% of his passes, not bad for a kid who could have been pumping your gas a month ago and we wouldn't have known the difference. Not many teams show up when they're are eliminated, the Panthers did just that and made some noise in the process.

Newest 2,000 yard man, among other things. Chris Johnson is the best back in the NFL, I feel very comfortable saying that. 623 yards more than Vikings earth crushing running back Adrian Peterson. Nearly six yards per carry, 14 touchdowns, 12 100+ yard rushing games, and one 2,000 rushing yard season. Joining the company of O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, Jamal Lewis, Eric Dickerson, and Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson has made his impact on the game in just his second season in the NFL. When Johnson claimed he deserved the 2008 NFL Rookie of the Year over Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, we thought he was crazy, whose crazy now? The best part of Johnson's breakout season isn't the 2,006 yards, it's the 8-2 finish he carried his Tennessee Titans to after they started out a very humbling 0-6. It's no secret that Chris Johnson can be directly linked the Titans late season run, 11-straight 100+ yard rushing games does that. Breakaway speed, bruising hits, Chris Johnson lays thunder & lighting to opposing defenses and cemented himself as the games elite running back heading into the offseason, it's only a shame we won't get to see him on center stage in the postseason.

What's 44-seasons? Ryan, Smith, Blank celebrate! It has been a long season for the Atlanta Falcons. Returning from their 11-5 2008 season with the newly acquired future Hall Of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons had big plans for 2009. Unfortunately, one of the toughest schedules in the NFL was too difficult for a young Falcons team which couldn't stay healthy. After a slow start, pro bowl running back Michael Turner suffered late season injuries which kept him out of five games. After an interception riddled start, 2nd year quarterback Matt Ryan was injured early in week twelve and sat the remainder of that game and the next two weeks, which the Falcons would drop both games. At 6-7 heading into the final three weeks of the season, watching their final goal of finishing with a winning record for the second consecutive year, the first time that would happen in the 44 year history of the Falcons, Atlanta needed wins. Well yesterday, they completed a three game stretch where they won all three and delivered owner Arthur Blank his consecutive winning seasons he so desperately wanted. Our hats at LynchyRightNow come off for Blank. A guy who was let down in the worst way by one Michael Vick, finally has redemption. The Colts and Saints may rest starters once their in the postseason, but Atlanta still had something to work for and delivered to their fans and their owner. Congrats!

Follow us on Twitter . . . RightNowPodcast . . .and look out for the LRN Power Rankings: Wild Card Weekend, thanks for reading!