Monday’s 7 Casual Contemplations

Steve nash

It’s Monday and the past weekend has filled me with some contemplations of a casual nature. I know it’s been a while but I want to start your work week off right. Without further ado, let’s get to this week’s 7 somewhat thought out points from the week that was.

Hangover Cure anyone?

For those of you who don’t believe in the Super Bowl hangover, you might want to rethink that. The New York Giants are a prime example of a team that is clearly hung over. When it comes to the Giants, it is pretty much expected that when their backs are up against the wall, the switch will suddenly turn on. They have done it so much that we assumed another typical clutch performance would come from the Giants against the reeling Ravens yesterday.

The Giants decided not to follow the script.

Instead, they gave a hapless performance and the New York Giants looked like dwarves against a Baltimore Ravens team that has been brutal on both sides of the ball in recent weeks. For a game that they almost had to have, the lack of motivation and intensity shouldn’t be all that surprising. That’s what a hangover will do to a team.

New York is still not out of the playoffs but they might as well be because this hangover thing isn’t going away anytime soon. A big performance in week 17 can’t change that.

No Doubt

The Seattle Seahawks sent a message that was louder than the fans at Century Link Field on Sunday. They are for real and are not going anywhere. Crushing Arizona and Buffalo was one thing but smoking a San Francisco team fresh off its very own statement win against New England is quite another. Along with Jim Harbaugh and Greg Schiano, Pete Carroll is squashing the notion that college coaches can’t make the transition to the NFL.

This obviously isn’t news to anyone that the Seahawks are a real threat out of the NFC. Nevertheless, the evolution of their team throughout the season has been incredibly impressive. Marshawn Lynch no longer has to carry this football team as Russell Wilson has gone from game manager to game changer in the span of less than a season. The Seahawks may lack the game breaker on the outside but that defence combined with an ever maturing offence is scary for anyone that may have to face the Seahawks in January.

If Qwest Field was still the name of the Seahawks home field, I would probably have made some lame pun about them being on a quest for a Super Bowl…but I won’t do that.

Quarterback Controversy?

Speaking of game changers, Colin Kaepernick hasn’t lost that part of his game. It is an aspect that Alex Smith will never add to his repertoire. Smith was ever so close to leading the 49ers to a the championship game last year but it’s still game changers that win Super Bowls.

Just don’t tell Trent Dilfer.

Jim Harbaugh is going with Colin Kaepernick and rightly so. The 49ers had already reached the point of no return before this week’s debacle in Seattle. Kaepernick is the starter for the foreseeable future and his performance in Seattle sure as hell didn’t change that. There is no quarterback controversy no matter what the media says, so don’t go on increasing ESPN’s page views to express your opinion on the issue. It’s a non-issue, deal with it.

Kid Canada

Following Steve Nash’s heroic return to the lineup on Saturday, the Knicks-Lakers game on the 25th is now as marquee as a matchup gets. However, the result on Christmas day still won’t be a true indicator of how realistic the Lakers championship aspirations are.

As bad as the Lakers have been, it doesn’t mean a thing without Steve Nash in the lineup and now they’re going to need a lot more time to figure it out with Nash. Their defence is still going to be a big problem as we saw in their comeback win against the Warriors but offensively the Lakers will resemble something much closer to a well-oiled machine with Nash back running the point.

Their showdown with the Knicks tomorrow is no doubt intriguing but another destruction at the hands of New York’s superior team should not be too concerning for Los Angeles.

M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!

Turn out the lights because the party is over.

Peyton Manning is the National Football League’s most valuable player and comeback player of the year. While Manning shredded the Cleveland Browns, Adrian Peterson was busy mustering out 86 very hard fought yards against the Houston Texans and Tom Brady was struggling his way through the Jaguars vaunted defense.

Peyton Manning was already the odds on favourite heading into week 16 and his performance sealed the deal.

It should be noted that as amazing as all-day Adrian Peterson has been this year, he was not the reason the Minnesota Vikings got off to their hot start in September. Remember when we thought Christian Ponder might actually be good?

The MVP has to go to Peyton Manning and Week 17 won’t change anything.

Shame Bowl

Jacksonville will be fighting the Kansas City Chiefs for the coveted 1st overall pick in April’s draft in week 17. While both teams could use a franchise quarterback, this year’s class might not be as enticing as the 2012 class that included Andrew Luck and RGIII.

Matt Barkley’s stock has fallen substantially and Geno Smith would be a stretch to take at number 1. Unfortunately for these two teams, RGIII’s and Andrew Luck’s aren’t a part of every single draft class and they’re just going to have to make do with the less than stellar quarterback class of 2013.

All hail Brady Quinn…I guess.

5 Consecutive Baby!

Canada’s team, the Toronto Raptors, are heading into the Christmas Break with a 5 game winning streak after starting the season 5-19.

I smell a championship. Book it.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

The Mild Mild West

Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks are in prime position to take the NFC West

By: Chris Ross

The first four weeks of the 2010-11 NFL season has left fans with feelings of confusion and wonder. There is still no clear-cut number one team, team’s hoping to move forward have been left stuck in the mud, and quarterback controversies have been front and center. Despite not being known as one of the best divisions in Football, the NFC West has no doubt disappointed with its sub-par play amongst each of the four teams. However, with the divisional structure of the NFL, one team is going to have to come out on top, so who’s it going to be?

In Sports Illustrated writer Don Banks’ most recent power rankings, not one of the 4 teams from the NFC West, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, or Arizona is ranked higher than #24. Pathetic really. In fact, in probably the most unlikely scenario prior to the season, Banks has the St. Louis Rams ranked at #24, higher than the rest of the teams in its respective division.

As great a Cinderella story as it would be if rookie quarterback Sam Bradford could lead the previously 1-15 Rams to a post-season berth, I don’t see it happening, even in the terrible NFC west. Sam Bradford has looked very solid for a rookie quarterback on a weak team. What is most impressive in my opinion is his poise in the pocket. Bradford doesn’t seem jumpy or antsy back there to get rid of the ball; instead he stays calm and collected while going through his reads. Not typical for a rookie quarterback.

The problem I see for the Rams is not Bradford; it is the weapons that surround Bradford. The Rams offense includes mostly young, unproven talent. The only receiver with any considerable experience is wideout Mark Clayton, who throughout his career has been solid but not spectacular. Guys like 2nd year man Danny Amendola and rookie Mardy Gilyard could prove to be high-impact players in the future, but as of right now their impact is not going to be enough. Add to that, the fact that Steven Jackson can’t stay on the field for a significant portion of time, and there really isn’t much for Sam Bradford and Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to work with.

Moreover, the Rams defence is nothing to look in awe at. They rank 23rd in total team defence, while allowing 347 yards a game a quarter of the way into the season. A defence that can’t make up for a lack of offense is not the recipe for success.

Is Max Hall really Kurt Warner version 2.0?

I think it goes without saying that the Arizona Cardinals have some issues. Prior to the season their quarterback of the future, Matt Leinart, was cut, which forced them to put in the onetime fluke pro-bowler Derek Anderson behind center, who played as expected. Anderson, who has had noted problems with his accuracy, threw for a 51.8 completion percentage, 644 yards, 3 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, which accumulated a 59.5 passer rating in 4 games as the Cardinals starter. This has led Coach Ken Wisenhunt to announce undrafted rookie Max Hall, aka Kurt Warner 2.0 as Peter King has dubbed him, the starter for Week 5’s game. Even though Hall will have some legitimate weapons to throw to, including Larry Fitzgerald, there is no doubt going to be some sort of transition period for him to get accustomed to the much faster NFL game. Although there is much hype and potential surrounding this undrafted free agent, I can’t see this guy leading the Arizona offense to a playoff berth.

The Cardinals are the team that I would put in 4th spot by season’s end not just because of their quarterback situation. Their defence has more holes in it than a 4 pound block of Swiss cheese (how original). The Arizona defence is in the bottom of nearly every category. They have allowed 29.5 points a game (31st in NFL), 154.8 rush yards a game (30th), and 388 total yards per game, which is good for 29th in the league. Not a good omen for the inevitable struggle on offense in the coming weeks.

All the hopes and dreams of 49er fans entering this season were dashed as fast as you could say Mike Singletary. Alex Smith once again not showing any significant improvement, a defence that has not lived up to what you would hope for from a Mike Singletary led team, and utter disorganization among the coaching staff has led to a 0-4 start. The record could easily be 2-2, but 2 of their four losses have been embarrassing. They have already fired their offensive coordinator, and Mike Singletary is on the hot-seat only four games into the season.

Alex Smith and Frank Gore have not combined to form the offense that 49er fans had hoped for

Making the mistake to draft a quarterback who would not have been even close to a bonafide top pick in many NFL drafts is continuing to haunt the 49ers. Alex Smith has played decently at times, but costly mistakes have killed his team. He has thrown only 3 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions and with weapons of tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree only combining for 348 yards in 4 games, the optimism surrounding a comeback from a 0-4 start seems improbable. Furthermore, Frank Gore has not produced at the rate the 49ers would like him too. He is averaging 3.7 yards a carry compared to his career average of 4.7 a carry.

As I mentioned, the 49ers were spanked in two of their four losses by a couple of offenses that at times during their season have looked awful. The defence led by Patrick Willis, one of the best linebackers in the game, has fallen far short of expectations. They rank 25th in points allowed (25.8) and 21st in total yards allowed (335.8). Not too hot for a hard-nosed, defensive minded Mike Singletary team.

Speaking of Mike Singletary, there are also questions surrounding his ability to coach or lack thereof. Experts talk about the potential of Singletary in a few years being able to strategize with the best of them, but as of now he is not at the level needed for a quality NFL coach. I think the 49ers still have a fighting chance in the division because of how weak it is, but second or third place finish is most likely for this lacklustre team.

That leaves just one team that I feel should come out on top in the “wild” NFC West, which is the Pacific Northwest’s own Seattle Seahawks.

Yeah, they have a quarterback who is past his prime and doesn’t look to be finding it anytime soon and a defence that can’t stop the pass if their lives depended on it, but there are some serious positives when you look at this team.

First of all, their offense, regardless of Matt Hasselbeck’s mediocrity, has some real playmakers. Kick returner/backup runner Leon Washington has already proved his worth, having returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns in a game against the Chargers in Week 2. Golden Tate, the rookie out of Notre Dame, has been a nice addition to the passing game and as a punt returner. Add in wide receivers Deion Branch, Mike Williams, as well as tight end Jesse Carlson, and the newly acquired Marshawn Lynch, and there seem to be enough quality players to make this offense somewhat successful.

The two sides of the Seattle defence are virtual polar opposites. The defence is ranked 29th in the league allowing 302.8 pass yards a game, but on the other hand they allow a meagre 72.8 rush yards a game that puts them 3rd in the NFL in that category. Under the new Seattle coaching regime, 2009 first round pick Aaron Curry is starting to thrive, while controversial 2010 pick, safety Earl Thomas out of Texas has established himself as a true defensive playmaker. Thomas already has 3 picks and is making Pete Carroll look like a genius for taking him over former USC Trojan Taylor Mays.

One thing that Seattle also has over their foes in the NFC West is Qwest Field advantage. The Seahawk’s have one of the loudest, if not the loudest stadium in the league, which appears to give them a serious edge against visiting opponents. Last season the 5-11 Seahawks were a solid 4-4 at home, while ending up an abysmal 1-7 on the road. That success at Qwest Field has carried over to this season so far as they have gone 2-0 at home but naturally are 0-2 on the road. A couple of key divisional games at home against the Cardinals and Rams could end up being the key for this team in their stranglehold over the division.

The NFC West champion may end up being as deserving of a playoff spot as a cheer for Lebron James when he returns to Cleveland, but nevertheless someone has to come out on top. It is apparent that none of these teams can make a legitimate playoff run, but for teams of their calibre I’m sure they won’t mind the playoff spot as a consolation prize.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

Subscribe to my blog as well and you can get the latest posts such as Moss to the Vikings? Say it ain’t so!

Also check out howiGit’s blog.

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