Giants should be embarrassed by their effort vs. Panthers

The New York Giants owe their fans an apology after the horrendous effort they gave today in their 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Despite having their playoff hopes on the line and the fact that they were playing their final game at Giants Stadium, New York couldn’t have cared less. Their effort was pathetic on both sides of the ball and it was clear from the start that their players wanted nothing to do with football today.

This is a loss where somebody losses their job. It won’t be Tom Coughlin, but I can’t see any scenario in which defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan is retained for next season. The Panthers were without DeAngelo Williams, yet the Giants allowed Jonathan Stewart to rush for 206 yards and a touchdown, and for Matt Moore to throw for three scores. I realize Stewart is a fine back and Moore is gaining confidence week to week, but there’s no excuse for a team with playoff aspirations to allow 416 total yards and 41 points at home. None.

Sheridan has to go; New York has to hire someone that understands that the team’s best attribute defensively is its defensive line. That said, his players should be embarrassed with the way they played today. They didn’t tackle, they didn’t play disciplined and they played with zero emotion.

The Giants didn’t deserve to go to the playoffs this year and maybe this was a fitting end to their season.

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2009 fantasy football is coming soon—a look back at 2008 RBs

So you still want to draft a running back with your number one pick after we crunched the numbers to find that quarterbacks have become equally or more valuable in fantasy football? Well, I can’t blame anyone that goes the traditional route here, especially with guys like Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson looking like legitimate #1 picks. Here are last season’s Top 10 running backs in fantasy points, keeping in mind that this is based on my league, and stats vary from league to league:

1. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers—I know some players take a few years to develop, but I live in Tennessee and saw Williams play on TV a lot when he was with Memphis. I drafted him in 2006 because I knew what not everyone knew—his upside was tremendous. Of course, he had 501 yards and a TD that year. But once DeShaun Foster was gone, Williams exploded, and last year racked up 1639 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. Potential realized, and there’s more where that came from despite Jonathan Stewart sharing the load.

2. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons—Turner “The Burner” finally got out from under LT’s shadow in San Diego and showed with his new team that he can be a #1 RB—in a big, big way. In fact, Turner out-rushed LT by almost 600 yards. Take that, AJ Smith.

3. Thomas Jones, New York Jets—Jones had a big year, with 1519 total yards and 15 scores. But something tells me to expect a substantial drop-off this year. I mean, this is the same guy who scored 1 rushing TD in 2007.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears—A rookie in 2008, Forte was a pleasant surprise and was basically the Bears’ entire offense. Now they have Jay Cutler at QB, which could mean just a bit less focus on the running game. Still, it’s the Bears, and plus Forte is just as valuable a receiver as he is a runner. Don’t expect a re-run of 2008 (1715 yards and 12 total touchdowns) but don’t expect a crappy season either.

5. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings—He may be frequently injured but AP is about as explosive as any player in the NFL. In fact, he may be what everyone expected Reggie Bush to be. Who? Yeah, I know. Anyway, Peterson had 1885 all-purpose yards but only 10 TDs. This season, I’m looking for 2400 yards from scrimmage and 15-20 scores. I can feel it.

6. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles—Off-season surgery is either going to hamper Westbrook or make him better. I’ll still take a Brian Westbrook at 70% than, say, a Willis McGahee at 100%. When Westbook is on the field (1338 total yards, 54 catches, 14 total TDs in ‘08), he’s fantasy money.

7. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants—Jacobs seemed to perform best when he shared carries with Derrick Ward, who is now in Tampa. Jacobs will still share carries, but with Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs had his second straight 1000-yard season (Ward also topped 1000 yards) with 15 touchdowns, and there is no reason to believe he’ll fall short of that in ’09. Well, unless the injury bug bites again.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers—I’m still sick about drafting LT #1 last season in my league. I know that having the top pick doesn’t happen too often, and this guy just killed my season and probably everyone else’s that picked him first or second.
I mean, 1536 yards from scrimmage and 12 scores is not bad, but consider LT’s 2006 season—2323 overall yards and 31 TDs. Last year, LT was more like Thomas Jones in a good year.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars—Streaky yes, but a solid player who can run and catch passes effectively. MJD had 824 rushing yards, and 62 receptions for 565 with 14 total touchdowns. With Fred Taylor in New England, expect those numbers to jump this season.

10. LenDale White, Tennessee Titans—This guy was the touchdown bogart for Chris Johnson, with only 773 yards but 15 scores. Should we expect an encore? It’s hard to say, but Jeff Fisher is definitely a creature of habit.

NFL Divisional Round Preview

Before I get to my Divisional Round Preview, I’d like to send all of the losers from Wild Card Weekend off the only way I know how: By jabbing them one final time.

Atlanta Falcons: Hey Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey, his name is Jerious Norwood. He’s #32 and he’s one of the best playmakers on your offense. Might want to think about using him more the next time an opposing defense figures out how to shut down Michael Turner.

Indianapolis Colts: Seven trips to the postseason in the last seven years and you only manage one Super Bowl appearance with a three-time MVP at quarterback? Dear Barbara…

Miami Dolphins: Chad, I love you man and I love your story this season. But you can’t force passes down field into double coverage and expect good things. You should have kept doing what you did all season and what you did in your first possession of the game – hit the high-percentage passes and let your receivers get the yardage.

Minnesota Vikings: Did anyone else scratch their head when Brad Childress declined a holding penalty on third down early in the first quarter that would have moved the Eagles on the edge of field goal range? Instead, it brought up forth down and David Akers drilled a 43-yarder to give Philly a 3-0 lead. Childress basically said, “I’m not sure if my defense can hold the Eagles on 3rd and 14 – better give up the field goal so we don’t give up a potential touchdown instead.” You never give your opponents points in the playoffs. Never. Not even a field goal. Force them back, force them to make a play and force them to earn the points.

Myself: I went 1-3 with my Wild Card Predictions last week. Seriously? You went with the Colts in the playoffs? A rookie in Matt Ryan? The Vikings over everyone’s sleeper team in the Eagles? You’re a freaking bum. (Ironically I went 3-1 in a family football pool because I came to my senses and picked San Diego and Philly.)

Moving on…

Chris JohnsonBaltimore Ravens (11-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3)
Saturday, January 10, 4:30PM ET
Opening Odds: Titans –3
Over/Under: 34.5
Game Outlook:
No disrespect to the Giants and Eagles or any other team playing this weekend, but this is easily the best matchup on the divisional playoff schedule. Did you see what Ed Reed and the Ravens did to Chad Pennington and the Dolphins last week? They held them to only 276 total yards, forced five turnovers and surrendered only 52 rushing yards. And although they used a lot of gadget formations throughout the season, it’s not like Miami’s offense was a dud this year. Granted, the Titans have the seventh best rushing attack in the league and rookie Chris Johnson brings an added dimension to the field, but Mike Heimerdinger has his hands full this week trying to come up with a game plan to move the ball against a Baltimore defense allowing just over 15 points a game this season. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how rookie quarterback Joe Flacco does against the seventh best defense in the NFL. Flacco passed with flying colors last week while playing mistake-free and running for the game-clinching score in the fourth quarter. But he’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than complete 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards against a Tennessee defense that could have DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch back on their defensive line. If both players are in the lineup Saturday, Flacco is going to feel the heat up the middle and from the edges so he better get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Overall, this is the best defensive matchup of the year and this game will probably come down to who doesn’t turn the ball over.
X-Factor: Chris Johnson, Titans RB
The only time the Dolphins found success last week was when they used the Ravens’ aggressive style against them and slipped backs out in the flats. Pennington was able to hit Patrick Cobbs and company for seven to 10 yard gains and the Titans could employ the same method. Johnson is a homerun threat and more than capable of taking one to the house every play. Tennessee has to get the ball in this kid’s hands and force the Ravens to miss tackles in the open field, which they have the penchant for doing at times.
Prediction: Titans 16, Ravens 13.
I’m not going to bite on this potential upset. The Ravens’ defense is absolutely nasty, but Flacco worries me against a ball-hawking Tennessee secondary and I think the Titans are going to shut down Baltimore’s running game. This game comes down to which team makes fewer mistakes and I’ll take a veteran in Kerry Collins over the rook Flacco. (Word to the wise though, Kerry – stay away from Ed Reed’s side if you can.)


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The Panthers are heating up at the right time

DeAngelo WilliamsNFL purists always say that teams with momentum heading into the postseason are always the most dangerous. Well after two impressive wins, their latest being a 30-10 victory over the Broncos on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers might be the most dangerous team in the NFC right now.

With all due respect to the New York Giants, Carolina has been the most impressive team in the NFC the last three weeks. In their last three games, the Panthers came back multiple times in a thrilling victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field, absolutely ran over the Buccaneers last Monday night and then handled Denver in convincing fashion on Sunday.

What has been the most impressive thing about Carolina the past three weeks is the way they’ve run the ball. Quarterback Jake Delhomme hasn’t necessarily been that impressive (Steve Smith has one again made Delhomme look better than he is), but he hasn’t needed to be because the running duo of DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart has been so good. Plus, the Panthers’ defense has really tightened things up again, just in time for the playoffs.

The Panthers still have a tough road ahead of them because they have to travel to the Giants and Saints the next two weeks. But they also have a two-game lead over the Bucs and Falcons in the NFC South, meaning they have to win just one of their two remaining games to clinch the division. It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers can not only can claim the NFC South crown, but also win out and achieve home field advantage throughout the postseason.

LenDale White produces quote of the month

The Titans’ LenDale White is a bit peeved that the Carolina Panthers’ backfield tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart might have stolen a nickname that White came up with to describe he and teammate Chris Johnson’s running style.

Apparently, LenDale White of the Titans crafted the term “Smash and Dash” for himself and Chris Johnson a few weeks ago. And then Monday night on ESPN, there were signs rooting for “Smash and Dash,” referring to the Panthers’ tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. From ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky:

“If they want a nickname, I can nickname them: ‘Identity and Theft,'” said White, who’s successfully paired with the speedy rookie Chris Johnson this season. “I was upset because I made that phrase up myself. I mean I made it up. I don’t know about NFL Network and all those other guys. I heard somebody say, ‘Batman and Robin,’ that’s like cute, that’s for them. If they want that name they can have it. The ‘Smash and Dash’ is something I made up.”

“Identity and Theft”? That is freaking hilarious! Between that and Terrell Owens’ “Dumb and Dumber” comment about Emmitt Smith and Keyshawn Johnson, there have been some outstanding athlete quotes this week.

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