1. Welcome into Week 4 of the critically acclaimed Numbers Game. This is the first edition of 2012, and to celebrate the dawning of a new year, Oregon gave us the greatest helmets known to mankind, the NFL finalized its 12-team playoff field, and the bowl challenge against my father has already crowned its winner with four games left. I think it is time we kick things off with a little speech I have prepared for you all at home.
2. First off I would like to thank the Academy and my parents for giving me the opportunity to earn this award. It took a lot of time and effort and just a little bit of luck, but I stand before you humbly accepted the award as champion of the 1st Annual Father vs. Son Bowl Challenge. But seriously, it wasn’t even close. While there are still four games remaining, I have already clinched the championship with a stunning record of 23-8, giving me 26 points. My father currently sits at 13-18, giving him 14 points. It was a very fun and spirited competition and definitely made some of these bowl games much more entertaining to watch. But this proves once and for all that picking winners on mascots only works in March Madness. Better luck next year Pops.
3. Week 17 concluded the NFL regular season and what a bizarre one in turned out to be. Just like every season, close to half of the teams in the postseason are different from the season before, (this year it’s DET, SF, HOU, CIN, NYG, DEN). While Houston will play in its first playoff game in franchise history, Detroit will play in its first postseason matchup since 1999 when they travel to New Orleans Saturday night. Wild Card weekend generally provides the biggest upsets of the playoffs, like last year’s NFC West Champions Seattle knocking off New Orleans at home, a week after they were awarded the first division winner to ever finish below .500. Any given day a team can be defeated in professional sports, but when you look at the two conferences, both have three teams that have much greater odds of making it to Indianapolis than the others.
4. If I were a gambling man I would gladly take the Saints 8-1 odds of making it to Super Bowl 46. Jimmy Graham is a physical nightmare for defenses because he is a huge mismatch when you line up a safety on him. His 7 route against the Giants earlier this season where he attracted two safeties with him across the middle, only to reverse field and find the front pylon of the end zone was one of the most athletic moves I’ve ever seen a tight end make. To make things worse for defensive coodinators, Darren Sproles may be the best thing that could have happened for Drew Brees and that offense. Even though rookie sensation Mark Ingram is out for the season with a toe injury, Sproles can beat you with his feet and with his hands. He is deadly when he runs that option route out of the backfield, and if you try to get into a foot race with Sproles you better have Usain Bolt waiting in your secondary or else he is gone.
5. Lastly, Drew Brees would win the MVP in any other year had it not been for what Aaron Rodgers did this season. By the way, we will discuss that in just a few. The way Brees is able to orchestrate that offense so beautifully is something I believe a lot of fans don’t truly understand. For only being 6 feet tall, he plays very big in the pocket and uses the whole field with his eyes and his arm. The way he knows where each and every person is supposed to be and what their role is on that certain play, to even how he prepares so meticulously throughout the week in the film room and on the practice field. The professional nature that he goes about his business is a reason why it’s impossible not to love and respect a guy like Drew Brees and why so many players would love to come play for him any day. I know he is hungry to bring the city of New Orleans another Lombardi trophy, and I love their chances of being able to represent the NFC in Indy February 5th.
6. A tough Sunday night for Cowboys fans has left the DFW wondering how to approach this team in the offseason. Listening to the sports talk shows give the overall conclusion that Jerry Jones the owner needs the fire Jerry Jones the general manager, and that alone would solve everything. I think people need to realize that will never, ever happen. What’s tough for Cowboy fans to take it seeing men like Bill Polian, longtime executive of the Indianapolis Colts who drafted Peyton Manning and helped lead them to a Super Bowl in 2006, get fired days after their 2-14 campaign minus Manning, because they decided that the team needed a new direction. For an organization considered to be one of two consistent franchises of the last decade to bring in new leadership after one very lousy season without your marquee quarterback is quite surprising to say the least, but the NFL is a business with a “what have you done for me now” attitude, and the Colts decided the best way to get back to winning the quickest would be to bring in a new group at the top. Overall, I believe it shows a dedication to winning and doing what it takes to win. Meanwhile in Dallas, Jones doesn’t want to bring in a GM because it would “disturb” the decision-making process and complicate things. This is so true, because in the last fifteen years things have be running so smoothly down in Valley Ranch. You know, where the pictures hang on the walls from all their recent playoff victories and Super Bowl celebrations. Oh wait.
7. While I will always have a problem with the nature of some of the fans in this town, the Cowboys do have a huge legion of highly dedicated fans that need the Cowboys to win on Sundays to be able to enjoy the other six days of the week. All they want is results back. They need interior lineman. They need secondary help. Terrance Newman proved that he should be invited the every Summer Olympics purely to be used as a hurdle in the 100 meters. And please, quarterback is the least of your problems. It also wouldn’t help to keep Dez out of local malls and to buy him a belt. But there are no simple answers to solve the mess that has become the Dallas Cowboys. If there were we would be talking about a team preparing to host Atlanta on Sunday. It starts with hitting on players in the draft. You must be able to find solid starts in the first two rounds, solid contributors in the middle rounds, and hopefully strike gold in the later rounds. Tyron Smith will be an elite left tackle in a year or two, Sean Lee will be a Pro Bowl linebacker in the same time frame, and Dan Bailey has officially solved the Boys kicking issues for the time-being. Don’t let Romo, Witten, and Ware leave their prime without a legit chance at a championship. They have a lot of work to do this offseason, which should make for some great discussions down the line.
8. West Virginia just scored another touchdown.
9. The MVP race. Brees? Brady? Rodgers? Oh my, but who to choose? I like Rodgers in the debate. 4,643 yards. 45 passing touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. Yes, Matt Flynn has suddenly stirred up this conversation that Rodgers is a system quarterback because of what Flynn was able to do Sunday against the Lions throwing for six touchdowns. In the words of ESPN, C’mon Man! The things Rodgers was able to accomplish on the field this season were spectacular. His two play drive to lead the Pack past the Giants in New York. The 122.5 quarterback rating that set the all-time record in NFL history. Lastly, the way he handled the pursuit of perfection immediately following a Super Bowl win was quite impressive. A lot of times there are things called Super Bowl hangovers than team’s experience. There was not one this year. And I don’t like to do this when considering awards like this, but Rodgers did outduel Brees on Opening night, even though the Saints were a yard away from victory. All three are very, very deserving of the title, and I wouldn’t be surprised at whoever won the award. My vote would go to Rodgers though.
10. I know it is way to early to be talking about the Draft, but I can’t believe people are saying they would pass on Andrew Luck for three more years with Peyton Manning. Then I am hearing they should just take RG3 and let him sit behind Manning for three years and learn the ropes from a future Hall of Famer. Wow. Listen, I love me some RG3 and I totally believe that he will be a great professional quarterback with some time on the sidelines. But from watching about 6 games of Luck this season and examining how he is able to run an offense and make decisions and calls at the line of scrimmage, eerily similar to a certain number 18, I can’t believe you would pass that up. It is a business, or at least that is what I am told every time by players and coaches when they are fired or leave a team for money. So if I’m Indy, I thank Peyton for everything he has done, promise him a statue when he retires and his number hung up in the rafters at Lucas Oil, buy him a plane ticket, and welcome in Mr. Luck. This team has many mores holes to fill besides quarterback to be truly competitive, but rebuild around Luck and you will be set for the next 10-12 years and not just 3 with Manning.
11. I commented on Oregon’s uniforms last week. After watching the game, I realized that I might have witnessed the greatest design of a helmet I will ever see in my life. Seriously Nike, I can’t wait to see what you do with the NFL next season.
12. And why is ESPN trying to stir up controversy before the Rose Bowl involving the helmets? You really think Nike would spend the millions of dollars it took to design all those without first approving with the NCAA? Or even if they didn’t, you think when the NCAA saw them unveiled a week ago that they would have allowed the whole week to pass by, let them play the game, then come out and say that they were illegal. C’mon Man! See, the saying is annoying right? Stop it!
13. Ha, I used another one. Now you can see why I think their pregame shows are a joke.
14. Wait, what is that? Ah, West Virginia just scored again. This is getting out of control.
15. Non-Sports Thought of the Week: In the spirit of a dawning of a New Year, I would like to share my Resolution with all of you here today. My 2012 Resolution is pretty simple: I want to become a much better sports writer. I love doing this presentation every week and allowing myself to give my opinions on all kinds of sports issues from the past week. I have always been one to be opinionated, and what is a more enjoyable topic to debate than the world of sports. I really am passionate about what I am talking about and only have the desire to get better and better at it with each passing week. I would like to start expanding my work out to more and more people in an effort to get some conversation going in the comments section or through my Twitter feed. So in conclusion, I’m going all-in in 2012 and I hope to see you there along the way.
16. I went 10-6 in the final week of the regular season in the NFL. Now comes the time to prove if I have what it takes to win it all. Here we go with Wild Card Weekend.
17. Cincinnati at Houston. Who would have thought back in August that this would be a Wild Card matchup? Every time I try to analyze this game and try and come up with a winner and why, I get stumped and move on to something else. I just can’t fully figure this one out. In a battle of rookie quarterbacks, I would gladly take Andy Dalton any day. However, all T.J Yates needs to do is hand it off to Arian Foster, watch him run, huddle up, and repeat. Both defenses are in the top ten overall and both can get takeaways. I like the big play ability of Dalton to Green, and the tight end and former Sooner great Jermaine Gresham could be deadly in the red zone with a defense that has slowly become weaker in that territory the second half of the season. I think Houston will be fired up for their first playoff game in decades, but Cincinnati has the better quarterback and I think Red Rocket makes a big play late to win it.
18. Oh, why did you have to lose to Matt Flynn? The Lions lost a valuable chance at traveling to New York Sunday if they could have defeated the Packers B-team. Instead, they get the consolation prize of traveling to New Orleans where Brees and company hasn’t lost all season long. Back in Week 13 when these two teams met in the Superdome on Sunday night, the Lions discipline issues were at its peak, with examples being the Titus Young shove near the goal line to pull them from the one yard line, to Pettigrew’s shove of the referee which drew a personal foul, or Logan’s flip of the ball to a Saints player which took them out of decent field position. That 31-17 loss was a changing point of Detroit and their discipline on the field, and while at one point it was a seven-point affair, the Saints never truly seemed to have that game in doubt. I see a lot of points coming ahead in this one, and this will mark the first game in NFL History that matches up two 5,000-yard quarterbacks. For the Lions to have any chance at winning Saturday night they must find ways to completely take away the run game of Sproles and Ivory and force the Saints to have to throw. Yes, you are putting it in Brees’s arm more that way, but you can utilize that pass rush of Suh, Vanden Bosch, and Avril if you can force him to have to throw to move the football. You can’t stop Brees in the Superdome, you just have to hope you get one more possession than he gets. I think this one is close for three and a half quarters, but Sproles makes a play in special teams to set up the score that puts the Saints ahead by 14. New Orleans wins in a scoring frenzy.
19. I have heard this said many times by analysts on TV, but this Giants team is very similar to 2007. They lost by three at home to the best team in football, but took away from it that they could compete right to the end with the best of them. Then they find a way to win the important games to get into the postseason, with a pass rush that can scare the living daylights out of offensive coordinators and a quarterback who peaks at the right times. I think Atlanta must establish Michael Turner from the very beginning, and as we have seen with some big-time receivers against the Giants secondary, if Julio Jones can make one or two big time, down the field catches to really open up the defense, they might be able to keep this one close. I like the blue in this one though, by ten.
20. Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. What to do with you now? I think the magic ride may have finally come off the tracks last week. If that wasn’t some of the worst quarterbacking the league has seen in quite some time, I don’t know what would be then. He needs to just start throwing the ball and getting back to making plays. At this point, what is there to lose? This will surely be Denver’s last game of the season, which will ultimately start a very long and tedious offseason playing America’s favorite game “What Should We Do With Tim Tebow?” If he goes out there and just lets it fly, we might finally get a chance to see if he can bring back some of that game-changing power he had during their six game winning streak and upset the Steelers at home. Pittsburgh won’t really feel the loss of Mendenhall this week, but when they face Baltimore the week after they won’t like not having his bruising-back ability coming out of the backfield. Denver loses by a couple touchdowns, but Tebow puts up some decent numbers at the end of the game.
21. Well that concludes another episode of The Numbers Games and wraps up Week 4. I will tackle all of the exciting events from Wild Card weekend, finalize the results from the Bowl Challenge, examine the NBA season up to this point, and we will have to wait and see if West Virginia scores anymore points.
Follow me @m_Bruu96. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.