Football Frenzy begins
By Brian Fischer
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Anything can happen in the National Football League, (NFL) and through three weeks of action thus far, the league has proven just that.
There have been shockers, disappointments, and triumphs.
The biggest shocker of the year, so far, is the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at 3 and 0. In the second of two opening Monday Night Football games this season, the Chiefs stunned the San Diego Chargers winning 21 – 14, featuring a team-record 94-yard punt return touchdown from rookie sensation, Dexter McCluster.
The four-time defending AFC (American Football Conference) West Champions currently lead the NFL in total offense averaging 461 yards per game. However, the Chargers must improve their special teams, eliminate mistakes, and turn on the jets soon instead of their usual end-of-year surge.
Offensive yards alone don’t win football games.
Defense wins football games, and in Pittsburgh, defense wins championships.
Despite the return of the run game, a successful rotation of all three backup quarterbacks, and with Aaron Smith back on the defensive line, there is still only five syllables needed to sum up the Steelers’ success: Troy Polamalu.
Previous seasons show that with Polamalu the Steelers make the playoffs, and without him they do not.
With his start at strong safety in 2004, the Steelers went 15-1 before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. In 2005, he played every game and the Steelers won the Super Bowl. He missed three games in 2006, and Pittsburgh didn’t make the playoffs.
When playing only 11 games in 2007, the team lost in the playoffs. The Steelers made history in 2008 by winning their sixth Super Bowl; Polamalu started every game that season. Last year, he only played five games before suffering two knee injuries, and Pittsburgh again didn’t make the playoffs.
If Pittsburgh’s defense can continue to cause turnovers, the run game continues to excel, and Ben revamps the passing attack when he returns, the Steelers could be looking at a seventh Super Bowl.
Senior graphic design student Andrew Graham gave his prediction for the season. He said, ”I know that this may sound like a Pittsburgher speaking, but I think that the Steelers will go to the big dance this year. Show me a better defense in the NFL. Defenses win championships. End of story.“
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3 – 0.
Some may argue that the Steelers haven’t played any real teams yet. That all changes in week four, however, when the Baltimore Ravens come to town.
After losing to the Indianapolis Colts 20 – 3 in an AFC Divisional Round last year, the Ravens were busy in the offseason, adding to their passing attack.
Signing wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth in the offseason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the beginning of the year, the Ravens look to upgrade their one weak link: their passing offense.
While being overshadowed by wide receiver star Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, Boldin has already made an impact in Baltimore. He already has 20 receptions on the season, 287 yards, and three touchdowns.
With running back Ray Rice, a stiff defense, and now an aggressive passing attack, the Ravens could be a strong contender for the championship this year.
Playing in a weak division, the San Francisco 49ers were picked to shine. The team went 8 – 8 last year, just missing the playoffs. This year, the team was predicted to win the NFC (National Football Conference) West Divisional Title and produce a strong effort in the playoffs.
Former USC college football coach Pete Carroll returns to the NFL this season as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. After Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner retired last season, Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback confusion ended with the release of Matt Leinhart, and the decision to start former Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Derek Anderson. The 2010 first-round draft pick Sam Bradford, quarterback out of Oklahoma University, begins his NFL career with the worst team in professional football, the St. Louis Rams.
In the midst of new coaches and new quarterbacks, the 49ers were almost a sure bet to easily take the NFC West this year.
They are 0 – 3.
Following the team’s 31 – 10 loss in Kansas City, head coach Mike Singletary stayed up most of that night to review game film.
”I need to make a change,“ Singletary stated at a press conference.
He did just that by releasing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and promoting quarterback coach Mike Johnson to the position.
Perhaps the most surprising stories of the season thus far reside in the NFC East.
Many picked the Dallas Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl this year, and play it in their new Cowboys Stadium, which cost an estimated $1.3 billion to construct. It is the home of the world’s largest high-definition television screen, measuring 160 feet wide and 72 feet tall.
Someone may want to inform Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that just because you look good, doesn’t mean you play good.
The team started out 0 – 2.
It does not come to a surprise to everyone.
Last year was the first time in 13 years that the Cowboys were able to win a playoff game. Now Jones wants the team to win the Super Bowl? Really?
Essentially, quarterback Tony Romo came out of nowhere to be called one of Dallas’s stars. He hasn’t done enough to be called an elite quarterback in most people’s eyes, and he may retain the overrated title until he wins a Super Bowl in Dallas. The team has great young talent, a brand new stadium, and an excited owner.
But is that enough to win the big one?
Quarterbacks create controversy, and this time, it isn’t all about 40-year-old Bret Favre, who again waited to make his decision to come back to the Vikings during the pre-season. Wow, what a surprise?
No, this is about trading quarterbacks within the division, and what some may call disrespectful.
The biggest trade of the 2010 offseason came in the NFC East when Eagle’s quarterback Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins after eleven seasons.
McNabb says he’s not bitter about it, but something has to give.
Trading a key player like a quarterback within a division means Andy Reid, Eagle’s head coach, doesn’t see McNabb has a threat. That should be all the motivation the new Redskins’ quarterback needs to be successful.
McNabb knows the Eagle’s playbook. That will be a challenge for the Eagles to overcome in week four, when McNabb faces his old team for the first time.
Reid admitted to a difficult decision when he traded McNabb, but the decision is final, and it’s time to play football.
”Well, listen, I think the world of Donovan,“ Reid said. ”And the legacy that he left here will be just that, a legacy that lasts forever. He did phenomenal things for this organization, and that’s not forgotten. But at the same time, he wants to beat the Eagles, and we want to beat the Redskins, so there’s that side of it that you have to deal with.“
Opting to go with fourth-year quarterback Kevin Kolb over McNabb, Reid changed quarterbacks again, deciding to start ex-convict Michael Vick in week two against the Detroit Lions.
After serving 21 months in prison and two months in home confinement because of involvement in illegal dog-fighting, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick in 2009 as a third-string quarterback.
Now, supposed to be the backup of future Eagle’s quarterback Kolb, Vick came into the first game of the season when Kolb suffered a concussion and impressed the Eagles’ organization.
Starting the next two weeks, Vick helped the Eagles beat the Lions 35 – 32 and the Jacksonville Jaguars 28 – 3.
Thus far, Vick has thrown for 750 yards, including six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown against the Jaguars.
The Eagles are currently one game ahead of every team in the NFC East.