Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The Houston Texans (8-3) continue to lead the AFC South but are now starting their third string quarterback T.J. Yates after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart's injuries have put them out for the 2011 regular season. The good news for the Texans is that their top WR Andre Johnson is back, they have an excellent run game with Arian Foster and Ben Tate and an improved defense thanks to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
The question is how well Yates can pick up the quarterback-friendly offense which will feature a run game but Yates will need to make plays as a QB as opposing defenses stack the box against the run and force the QB to make plays.
Texans' Head Coach Gary Kubiak has weathered the storm thus far and will have to keep his team focused as they inch their way to the franchises' first ever playoff appearance. Houston will face the 7-4 Atlanta Falcons at home this week.
The Tennessee Titans (6-5) are the Texans remaining opposition in the division at two games behind. Tennessee pulled out a dramatic 20-17 victory over Tampa Bay and will travel to Buffalo (5-6) to remain in contention for the division title and wild card.
Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback has done a fine job for the Titans while running back Chris Johnson has had a slow start after holding out for most of the training camp and preseason.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) are undergoing a major overhaul with five games left in the season as nine-year Head Coach Jack Del Rio was fired on Tuesday followed by owner Wayne Weaver announcment of the sale of the Jaguars since the franchises' inception in 1995.
Assistant coach Mel Tucker was named Del Rio's interim replacement and has named rookie Blaine Gabbert to QB after he was pulled in the fourth quarter against the Texans the previous week.
The next five games will be a re-evaluation for the future of the franchise.
The Indianapolis Colts (0-11) are having their worst season since 1998, Peyton Manning's rookie season. For football fans it is impossible to understand how poorly the Colts have played in Peyton's absence.
Without question, Peyton Manning is one of the top quarterbacks of all-time, if not the best of all-time, but there is simply no excuse for a once dominant franchise to have dropped this far. Whether it is poor drafting, poor coaching or poor play it is inexcusable for this proud franchise to be winless.
The Colts were 115-45 in the 2000's (2000-2009) and 125-51 in the past 11 years with 7 AFC South titles, 3 AFC title game appearances, 2 AFC titles and 1 Super Bowl titles.
Indianapolis is in position to draft Andrew Luck for next year and with Peyton Manning's possible return this team needs to work much harder next year to get back to where they have been the past decade.
The Mountain West Conference (MWC) will be consolidating with Conference USA next year but the present is will be decided after 12 weeks of play. The TCU Horned Frogs (9-2, 6-0) have clinched at least a tie for the conference title with one game remaining against UNLV (2-9, 1-5). TCU will move to the Big-12 after this year after winning its’ third straight MWC title.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Since 1998 the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in college football has dictated which teams qualify for the BCS bowls and the BCS National Championship Game. Until a few years ago only teams from the BCS conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Pac-10, SEC and Notre Dame) that were either conference champs or at-large teams qualified.
Programs such as TCU and Boise State have dominated their non-BCS opponents in the past 14 seasons in the BCS era. TCU has achieved 13 of 14 winning seasons, posted a 125-35 record, won their conference 7 times, won 5 bowls and 1 BCS Bowl while Boise State has had 14 straight winning seasons, 127-15 record, 9 conference titles, 5 bowl wins and 2 BCS Bowl wins.
The knock on both non-BCS programs is that they pile up wins over non-BCS teams which is true but they also have proven to hold their own against BCS competition. Granted they may not deserve a chance in the BCS Title game but the format is confusing enough without a playoff. College football fans know that both teams could make noise in a playoff format the way underdog teams win games in the college basketball tournament. For example, an underdog Butler Bulldogs squad has been to two consecutive NCAA finals.
DEspite their relatively easy schedule both deserve a chance to compete with the "Big Boys" when TCU joins their old Southwest Conference foes in the Big 12 and Boise State joins the Big East. We'll see how both teams fare against better competition but the chance to compete in the BCS is a reward for two programs who have not only desired to win but have won and won consistently in the BCS era.
Friday, November 18, 2011
The Houston Texans (7-3) are leading their division for the first time in the 10-year history of the franchise.Things were looking good after a 37-9 win over Tampa Bay until QB Matt Schaub injured his foot and will be out for the remainder of the regular season.
With Schaub out backup and former USC great Matt Leinart is going to get a second chance after coming into the NFL 6 years ago with much promise. Houston and Leinart will get an extra week to prepare for Jacksonville on November 27 with a much-needed bye week.
Houston will get WR Andre Johnson back and still has its strong run game lead by Arian Foster to take pressure off Leinart.
Meanwhile, Houston's former team, the Tennessee Titans (5-4) will have a chance to gain a half game in the standings when they travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons (5-4). The AFC South appears to be a two- team race and the Titans will be counting on the veteran leadership of QB Matt Hasselback to get them into the playoffs.
Jacksonville's Jaguars (3-6) will go to Cleveland and can also gain a half game with a win against the Browns to keep their playoff hopes alive. At this point the Jaguars are hoping QB Blaine Gabbert can continue to get playing experience and develop into a decent QB. Jacksonville will face Houston at home in a week.
The Indianapolis Colts (0-10) are also on a bye week after a disastrous season thus far without Peyton Manning. The Colts are in position to draft QB Andrew Luck but there is no excuse for this team playing as poor even without arguably the greatest QB ever.
The New Orleans (7-3) like their AFC South leading counterpart will have a bye this week after a big win in Atlanta. The Sains will face the New York Giants at home the following Monday night.
Atlanta Falcons (5-4) like their AFC South counterpart will have a chance to gain a half game when the Titans come to town. Falcons coach Mike Smith has had a tough week after a controversial decision at the end of the Saints game. Atlanta is 38-19 since Smith was hired so Falcons fans should give him the benefit of the doubt despite his foolish decision against New Orleans.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) appear to be fading and have the misfortune of having to travel to Green Bay to face the undefeated Packers (9-0). Tampa's struggling offense will have a tough time trying to keep up with the prolific Packers offense.
The Carolina Panthers (2-7) were playing in every game until a poor performance against Tennessee. They go to Detroit to face the struggling Lions (6-3). QB Cam Newton is going thru the rookie growing pains and must continue to progress which means winning games.
AFC South since 2010:
NFC South since 2010:
Tampa bay 14-11
Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Keith Antigiovanni
November 16, 2011 will be remembered in Houston, Texas as the day the Astros were moved from the National League to the American League. Houston will be placed into the American League West with in-state rivals Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels, Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.
Major League Baseball’s decision was brought on in order to balance the NL and AL at 15 teams each which had been out of balance since 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays joined as expansion teams.
Houston’s move make sense in order to balance the two leagues but why the Astros? Why not the Milwaukee Brewers which had been in the AL until 1998? Houston was an original NL expansion team in 1962 along with the New York Mets. Granted, the Astros have never been a powerhouse but they have a half a century in the NL and have been one of the more consistently winning teams the past 30 years along with a World Series appearance in 2005.
The move clearly shows MLB’s bias against the city of Houston which is a big market but not a northeast or upper Midwest market which MLB tends to favor. There is no doubt that the New York, Boston and Philadelphia markets are more important to MLB despite Houston’s history and market size but what doesn’t make sense is how a small market like Milwaukee would get seniority over Houston.
Houston’s professional baseball history did not begin in 1962 it actually began in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the Houston Buffaloes of the South Texas League . The Buffs spent four years in the South Texas League until they joined the Texas League in 1907.
In 1920 Houston became the first modern affiliated “minor league team” when St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey bought the Buffaloes to create a pipeline of talent for the small market franchise where they can grow players “on the farm”. The result was 40 of 50 winning seasons, 12 pennants and 8 World Series titles between 1920 and 1970 for St. Louis as many of the Cardinal greats began their professional careers in Houston.
For almost 6 decades Houston became a dominant team by winning pennants 16 times between 1905 and 1956, qualified for 9 league finals, won 7 league playoff titles and 4 Dixie Series titles (1928, 1947, 1956 and 1957).
After the 1958 season Houston went into the AAA American Association to position themselves to join Branch Rickey’s proposed third major league, the Continental League in 1960. When MLB expanded in 1961 and 1962 the Continental League never came to fruition as the Astros became an expansion team in 1962.
After 106 years of professional baseball 50 of which were in the NL the Houston fans will begin their AL years in 2013 barring any last minute changes.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
SEC Standings Thru week 10
By Keith Antigiovanni
The Alabama-LSU game on November 5 is an instant classic after LSU’s 9-6 win in Tuscaloosa to take the division lead in the West but the season is far from over for both teams. Alabama (8-1, 5-1) has a chance if they can win out. The Tigers must still face Arkansas in their traditional game after Thanksgiving. Arkansas is currently 4-1 in conference 8-1 overall.
If the division ends up in a three-way tie then the top ranked team will get to advance to Atlanta. That’s if Alabama and Arkansas can win out in the competitive SEC.
Meanwhile in the East Georgia is in first place (7-2, 5-1) and half game in front of South Carolina. Georgia faces Auburn (6-3, 4-2) this week. Although Auburn is almost out of the division race it would be a boost for them to make a New Years’ bowl game to help build on next year.
The Tigers will face Alabama in their annual “Iron Bowl” game on Thanksgiving and can be a factor the next few weeks. Florida (5-4, 3-4) is out of the east race but is also a factor next week when they face South Carolina (7-2, 5-2). If Florida wins they are bowl eligible and position themselves for a decent bowl although probably not a New Years’ bowl.
Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State are all trying to become bowl eligible down the stretch.
Missouri was approved to join the SEC for the 2012 season to be the 14th team.
Texas’s 52-20 win over Texas Tech helped Texas become bowl eligible for the 13th time in 14 years since Brown was hired in 1998. Texas (6-2, 3-2) is coming off a poor year but appears to be back into Big-12 contention.
Brown’s first 12 years led to 12 straight winning seasons (1998-2009), 6 Big-12 South titles and 2 Big-12 titles along with 7 bowls, 3 of which are BCS. Brown is 121-32 in the regular season.
Friday, November 4, 2011
American Football Conferences' Southern division is currently lead by the Houston Texans (5-3). Houston is a half-game up on Houston's fomer team, the Tennessee Titans (4-3). Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) are in third place and the Indianapolis Colts (0-8) are in fourth place.
With the Colts having an off year without Peyton Manning the other clubs in the division have a chance at the playoffs. Houston has yet to win the division in it's 10 years of existence while the Tennessee has not won the division since 2008 and won in 2002/2003 when the Colts began their dominance. Jacksonville has also yet to win the South but had good years in 2005/2007.
Houston will face Cleveland at Reliant Stadium while Tennessee hosts Cincinnati at LP Coliseum. Jacksonville has a bye and Indianapolis will face Atlanta.
Houston's 41-7 victory over Tennessee a couple of weeks ago has to give them a psychological advantage but the teams will play again in Houston.
Meanwhile in the National Football Conferences' Southern division the New Orleans Saints (5-3) lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) and Atlanta Falcons (4-3). Carolina is 2-6.
New Orleans is in the midst of its best run in playoff history under Coach Sean Peyton. Payton is 54-34 since 2006, has won 2 division titles, 2 NFC title games, 1 NFC title and a Super Bowl title but most of all he and QB Drew Brees have helped establish Saints football as a premier franchise.
Since Peyton's arrival their biggest challenger has been the Falcons who have had 3 straight winning seasons Coach Mike Smith's arrival in 2008. Smith and QB Matt Ryan also came into the franchise at the same time and have done a fine job but yet to match the success of Payton/Brees.
NO will host Tampa Bay at the Superdome in a re-match while Atlanta faces the Indianapolis.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
If you can get past the hype this week over the Alabama-LSU then you will see how it can be a potentially great game when the two southern powerhouses meet in Tuscaloosa this saturday.
Both come in at 8-0 overall, 5-0 in the SEC play. This game will not only decide the SEC West title, SEC title and potentially the National title but its Alabama's Nick Saban facing his former team, the LSU Tigers. The team he built 11 years when he arrived in Baton Rouge. His LSU teams were dominant during his five years until he left for the pros in 2005.
He was replaced by Les Miles who had a tough act to follow but Miles has continued the winning formula in the Bayou State since 2005 with 6 straight winning seasons, 2 SEC West titles, 1 SEC title, 2 BCS bowl wins and a National title in 2007.
Meanwhile Saban spent 2005-2006 in the NFL with no real success he came back to college and the SEC in 2007 when he took over the troubled Alabama program. In 2007 he struggled to a 6-6 record, then broke thru in 2008 with a SEC West title and 12-1. In 2009 he followed it up with an undefeated National title season at 14-0 then a failed back to back bid in 2010 at 10-3.
The Tide were still in position for a second straight BCS appearance until they were defeated by LSU the past season at Baton Rouge and essentially eliminated from the Conference race.
Meanwhile, Arkansas (7-1, 3-1) faces the SEC East leader South Carolina Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1). Arkansas has an outside chance at the SEC Title game if they win out and LSU beats Alabama because the Arkansas will face LSU after Thanksgiving.
Defending champion Auburn is (6-3, 4-2) positioning themselves for a New Years' Day bowl if they can win out.
The Georgia Bulldogs have won 6 straight after a rare win over Florida and have a chance at the SEC East title if they win out and South Carolina loses another conference game. Georgia has not won a SEC title since 2005 and a SEC East title since 2007 when they split with Tennessee.
Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt are all in decent shape to make a bowl but not New Years'.