NFL 2011: AFC North Predictions

Expect a decent season from Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns.

By Matt Noonan  

One of the toughest divisions in football will be on display all season, as Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh will duke it out for the top-spot. Yes, I mentioned the Browns, but don’t worry Steelers and Ravens fans, they’ll most likely be a third place squad. Expect another solid year from the Steelers unless an injury derails the defending AFC champions.

Pittsburgh Steelers [10-6] – Despite their aging defense, the Steelers practically have the same team intact from last season, although sadly they just didn’t have enough in the tank to beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. One of the biggest questions this year will be if safety Troy Polamalu gets a new contract, but also, how many fines will linebacker James Harrison register? All in all, the Steelers are a solid pick to win this division, as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains focused.

Baltimore Ravens [9-7] – This has got to be the year for quarterback Joe Flacco, who enters his fourth season with the Ravens. The young quarterback has performed quite well over the years, but this season he needs to step-up and become a true leader. If Flacco can lead his offense, then expect good things from an all-around solid wild-card team.

Cleveland Browns [7-9] – I’m really excited for the Colt McCoy era to truly begin. The Browns will be somewhat decent this season, however, not the greatest. Of course they’ll struggle, but again, expect another quality season from running back Peyton Hillis too.

Cincinnati Bengals [2-14] – This team has been nothing, but a media circus. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will get pulverized this season under center, while rookie wide-out A.J. Green will struggle immensely. Overall, this is not going to be a good season for the “Bungles.”

NFL Links – Week One News and Headlines

Would you want your team to draft Tiki Barber?

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Wednesday and welcome into this week’s edition of “NFL Links.” The season officially kicks-off on Thursday, as the New Orleans Saints travel to historic Green Bay, Wisconsin to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. So, while you anxiously await the inaugural kick-off, here are some headlines, news and more.

* Former New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan recentlystated in an ESPN Radio interview that the main reason he believes why NFL teams haven’t signed Tiki Barber is not because of his age, but instead, his personality. After Barber’s retirement in ’06, he criticized his former organization, as well as quarterback Eli Manning, who led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory that season against the New England Patriots. It’s possible to believe that Barber won’t be signed this year, however, due to the NFL Lockout, it’s possible some team will need a reliable veteran halfback.

* Some might wonder why exactly the Jacksonville Jaguars released quarterback David Garrard? Who’s going to lead this squad to victory? Does head coach Jack Del Rio firmly believe that Josh McCown is the best option? Still, it remains a mystery to why they released him, but in the meantime, various sources are reporting that a couple of teams are interested in his services.

* The Pittsburgh Steelers might want to try a tad bit harder to re-sign safety Troy Polamalu, who enters his final year of his five-year contract. Polamalu is expected to earn $6.4 million in 2011, but according to reports, the team has been in negotiations with his agent, Marvin Demoff.

* Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo knows that he needs to produce because otherwise, he’ll continue his current trend of failure. Indeed, he’s won a playoff game, but he’s also lost two critical nail-biters against the Seattle Seahawks in ’06 and New York Giants in ’07. He also knows that his statistics won’t win him or his teammates rings, which is why Romo expressed to the media recently that it’s about wins and losses, as well as the Super Bowl.

* New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told the Valley Ranch media recently that the Cowboys offensive line should be scared of his defense. Ryan expressed via a conference call on Wednesday his confidence in his defensive line, as well as some sort of optimism that his squad will have the upper hand on Sunday against Dallas, as well as his brother Rob Ryan too.

Daily Noontime – February 1, 2011

Whoa, it’s February already? Wow! Happy February to everyone and welcome to the Daily Noontime on a Tuesday. We have your headlines, news and video of the day, but also, be safe to all of our readers because America is getting slammed by more winter storms, good grief! Enjoy and as always, be good!

Headlines:

* Believe is or not, but Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can be compared to New England Patriots gun-slinger, Tom Brady.

* Apparently Dallas, Texas is dealing with some awful weather, low 20’s! Well, despite the fact that both Green Bay and Pittsburgh come from cold climates, I guess they could deal with it, right?

* Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back, Troy Polamalu earned the AP Defensive Player of the year award and “edged out” Clay Matthews from the Green Bay Packers.

* #21 Georgetown University defeated a Big East foe on Monday, #23 Louisville in what seemed to be a classic NCAA Basketball game.

* A county in Pennsylvania plans to change their name to “Black and Gold County” due to the Pittsburgh Steelers being in the Super Bowl.

* Could the Los Angles Lakers really be considering making either a regular or “blockbuster” trade? Could happen and that is according to their general manager, Mitch Kupchak.

* There are a lot of bad NBA teams apparently this season, but maybe not so much, but what team as hopefully a better future in place or even, better days ahead?

Games to Watch:

* Boston at Carolina (NHL) – 7:00pm eastern

* Chicago at Columbus (NHL) – 7:00pm eastern

* Pittsburgh at New York Rangers (NHL) – 7:30pm eastern

* San Antonio at Portland (NBA) – 10:00pm eastern

* Houston at Los Angles Lakers (NBA) – 10:00pm eastern

Video of the Day:

So what happens when the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg meets the real one?


Daily Noontime – January 27, 2011

Happy Thursday to everyone and for all of us in the Northeast, welcome to yet another snowy day! Despite the bad weather or winter, Noontime Sports keeps rolling on and so does the Daily Noontime too. Here are our headlines, games to watch and of course, an awesome video of the day!

Headlines:

* The NFL is still trying to work on a new CBA for the upcoming 2011 season, but what makes this story so interesting, higher executives are willing to cut their pay too!

* The New York Jets will need to open their checkbooks if they plan to keep Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie next season.

* Its official, the women in Pittsburgh love Troy Polamalu‘s jersey and surely, we can expect many of them wearing that particular shirt in Dallas at the Super Bowl.

* You choose, Kevin Durant or Kevin Love? Both great players and true NBA studs, but on Wednesday, Durant scored 47-points in overtime. Can we say that he is indeed the next MJ?

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer to advance to the Australian Open final, should be exciting!

* Apparently the New York Knicks are atop the NBA’s most  valuable franchises and is right above the Los Angles Lakers.

Games to Watch:

* Miami at New York (NBA) – 8:00pm eastern

* Boston at Portland (NBA) – 10:30pm eastern

Video of the Day:

This might hurt! Never do this when playing organized tennis!


NFL Week 4 – Three Games to Watch

Ravens-Steelers always offers an intriguing matchup!

Happy Saturday to all! Below are our Noontime Sports NFL Week 4 Games to Watch, so make sure that your remote has a fresh set of batteries and the sofa has an empty seat available because these three games that can’t be missed!

Also, let’s see how Matt Noonan does this week, especially since he is currently above .500 this season with a [6-3] record!

Baltimore [2-1] at Pittsburgh [3-0]: The AFC North will be on display this weekend in Pennsylvania, primarily in the city of Pittsburgh, as the Steelers take their [3-0] record into a must win contest against divisional foe, Baltimore. The Steelers have jumped out to an undefeated start and its possible that credit is owed to head coach Mike Tomlin, but also, his defense too. The Steelers defense has held their opponents to an average of 11 points per game, which is first in the NFL. They also rank third in rushing yards allowed too, [59.7 yards per game].

Ravens running back Ray Rice is listed as questionable and was limited in practice on Friday, so the pressure will certainly fall on the shoulders of quarterback Joe Flacco, but can he continue to hit his receivers in stride and avoid dangerous hits from Troy Polamalu and James Harrison?

The Steelers have sacked their opponents quarterback 10 times this season, which will put a great deal of pressure on the third year quarterback from Delaware. Although, Flacco has dealt well against pressure in most situations since entering the league and does have a decent wide out by the name of Anquan Boldin, who leads the Ravens receiving core with three touchdown receptions.

Look for a physical, brutal and in your face type of contest, but due to the Steelers track record against their rival, [12-4], which includes winning against them in the playoffs, expect Pittsburgh to earn their fourth victory of the season and enter their upcoming bye week atop the AFC North.

Prediction: Steelers 24 – Ravens 17

McNabb vs. Vick... this should be interesting!

Washington [1-2] at Philadelphia [2-1]: Quarterback Donovan McNabb returns to the city of “Brotherly Love” and is supposedly expecting cheers not jeers, but who really knows what QB #5 will get once he steps foot onto the gridiron. McNabb and his Redskins enter Sunday’s much-anticipated affair with only one win against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Philadelphia Eagles have won two of their last three and a main reason is the resurgence of quarterback Michael Vick. In his last two starts, Vick has thrown five touchdown passes, as well as tallied 575 yards through the air. Although, despite Vick’s early success, running back LeSean McCoy has rushed for 209 yards and scored four touchdowns. McCoy has also averaged a total of 6.1 yards per carry, which could be an issue for Mike Shanahan’s defense that ranks last in yards allowed and 31st in defending against the pass.

This particular game will be interesting, especially with the return of McNabb, but with the way the Redskins have been playing since their first win of the season, expect the Eagles to push their current winning streak to three.

Prediction: Eagles 27 – Redskins 17

Can the Patriots secondary stop the Dolphins air attack?

New England [2-1] at Miami [2-1]: It is a new month for both the Patriots and Dolphins who enter this game [0-2] against their AFC East rival New York “Football” Jets. Yet, a win for either team would put them in the passenger seat of this division, also known as second place.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leads an offense that is ranked first in points, but the Dolphins defense could challenge this explosive unit since they have held their three opponents to an average of 17 points per game. Running back Fred Taylor is expected to be sidelined on Monday, which will put pressure on Brady to spread the ball around, but also on head coach Bill Belichick’s running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis played a significant amount of time against the Bills last Sunday, so expect the third year back to receive a majority of the handoffs. Yet, if the Patriots will be successful, it doesn’t all rely on their offense, but their struggling defense that has allowed an average of 397.3 yards per game.

The Dolphins can cause problems for opposing coordinators on offense, especially when they utilize their favorite formation, the Wildcat offense. Running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have combined for 319 yards and one touchdown, but expect the lethal two-headed running attack to challenge a Patriots defense that has not stopped the run this season. Bills running back C.J. Spiller may have only rushed for 29 yards, but his kick return made the Patriots special teams look awful.

Lastly, expect quarterback Chad Henne to pick apart this Patriots secondary, especially with receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught 10 passes for 166 yards and scored one touchdown against the Jets.

Overall, this is an intriguing Monday Night game, but Brady did mention that Sun Life Stadium is a place where it is tough to gain momentum, but easy to allow it to slip away. Don’t expect any Patriots miracles, which is why the Dolphins will win this one.

Prediction: Dolphins 31 – Patriots 24

NFL Week 4: Can the Undefeated Teams remain… Undefeated?

Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs enter week 4 undefeated, but can it stay that way?

In 2009, things were different. The NFL had seven undefeated teams, 18 squads with one or two wins in their pocket, as well as seven other squads with goose eggs in their win column as week four approached.

Times certainly have changed, especially in the current 2010 season where only three teams remain undefeated and five have yet to win a game.

Although, five of those seven undefeated teams in ’09 made the playoffs, so does that add any pressure to the current three perfect teams?

The Chicago Bears in ’09 were in somewhat of a similar situation, but with a [2-1] record, entering week four. Yet, they finished the season in third place, [7-9].

Sure, the “Monsters of the Midwest” have shown promise and poise this season, but all of their wins haven’t looked pretty nor haven’t been able to exhibit the fact that they are a great team. The referees gave the Bears an early holiday present in week one against the Detroit Lions, calling back Calvin Johnson’s touchdown reception, which would have given Detroit their first week one win since 2007. The Bears looked somewhat decent against a Dallas Cowboys team that destroyed their chances of winning due to penalties and Tony Romo’s decision making, but also, seemed unable to stop the Green Bay Packers air attack on Monday Night Football.

This week the Bears face a physical New York Giants squad on Sunday, but who knows if their offense can fend off a struggling defense. Are the Bears playoff bound? It’s too early to tell, but unless their offense can play like the defense has been doing in their past three games, chances are they maybe sitting at home in January and not playing post season football. Although, this is the NFL, so time will certainly tell as the season progresses.

On another note, they have already wrapped up two divisional wins, which might be pivotal in the long run.

The Kansas City Chiefs were awful last season, pathetic maybe even the best way to describe a team that finished the regular season with a record of [4-12]. Although, they are currently off to a fast start, but can they keep their current momentum going?

Don’t look at quarterback Matt Cassel, but instead his tight end, Tony Moeaki, who currently leads the team through three games with 12 receptions, two touchdowns and 123 receiving yards. Their running attack is also a reason they are undefeated. Third year back Jamaal Charles has rushed for 238 yards and one touchdowns, but has also split carriers with Thomas Jones, who has piled up 217 yards on the ground and one touchdown.

Besides their offense, the defense has played phenomenal and who deserves some recognition for this, (drum roll please), well, the one and only Romeo Crennel. Boy do all New England Patriots fans wish he was taking care of their defense at this time, but the Chiefs have pressured their oppositions quarterback and have recorded seven sacks. Linebacker Derrick Johnson leads the team with 25 tackles and one forced fumble.

Kansas City will have to wait another week to play their fourth game of the season because this week they have a bye, but don’t expect head coach Todd Haley to take his foot off the pedal because games against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts will be important measuring sticks for the young squad.

The Chiefs undefeated record is a great story, but don’t expect it to continue past week six or seven. The AFC West is a mess and the way their divisional foes are playing, certainly means that this particular division will be up for grabs as the season comes to a close in January.

Can Pittsburgh's current defense that ranks first in points allowed, resemble the 1970 "Steel Curtain"?

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers who were coming off their sixth Super Bowl win last September, began their ‘09 season with a win in week one against the Tennessee Titans, but also, a loss too. Steelers players and coaches watched their strong safety Troy Polamalu suffer an injury, which eventually sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Although, all NFL fans have to appreciate the toughness and courage Polamalu displayed when he tried to return to the gridiron that season.

Now the Steelers are off to a very fast start. Both back up quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch have been part of the reason for their success, but so has the defense too. This defense is impressive, mean and resembles the old glory days of the 1970 “Steel Curtain.” Of course James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons may not be or could combine to “Mean” Joe Greene’s standards, but their efforts are certainly being noticed.

Wins against the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans were important, but beating up the Tampa Buccaneers showed that this offense is can be dangerous. Despite Dixon’s injury, Batch looked almost too perfect for this team, as he threw for three touchdowns and record 186 yards through the air in their recent victory against the Buccaneers. It certainly seems that the 35-year old quarterback still has an arm and can sling it down the field.

This Sunday the Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens in an early, but important AFC North division match up. Both teams know this game could translate toward future success this season and possibly a division championship too, but don’t expect the Ravens defense to allow an explosive running attack of Rashard Mendenhall to chew them up or Batch to throw multiple touchdown passes. This game will show the NFL fans if indeed the Steelers can be an unbeaten team for a few more weeks.

So, there you have it, our Noontime Sports break down on the three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. Below are all of the 32 teams records from 2009 entering week four and in bold are the playoff squads. Did your team make the playoffs? Should NFL fans assume that if a team is undefeated or [2-1] that they are a lock for a playoff spot? Who knows, but the NFL season is just getting started and this year it looks like there might be a few teams who are flying under the radar that might be playing an additional 17th or 18th contest after January 2, 2011.

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Teams that entered week 4 in ’09 [3-0]:

Baltimore Ravens/Denver Broncos/Indianapolis Colts/ Minnesota Vikings/New Orleans Saints/New York Giants and New York Jets

Teams that entered Week 4 in ’09 [2-1]:

Atlanta Falcons/Chicago Bears/Cincinnati Bengals/ Dallas Cowboys/ Green Bay Packers/New England Patriots/Philadelphia Eagles/San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers

Teams that entered Week 4 in ’09 [1-2]

Arizona Cardinals/Buffalo Bills/Detroit Lions/Houston Texans/Jacksonville Jaguars/Oakland Raiders/Pittsburgh Steelers/ Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins

Teams that entered Week 4 in ’09 [0-3]

Carolina Panthers/Cleveland Browns/ Kansas City Chiefs/ Miami Dolphins/St. Louis Rams/ Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans