Thursday, December 15, 2011

What if Tebow Does it Again?

What-ifs are one of the most exciting things in sports, let alone the world. It allows you to delve deep into a dimension where dreams can become a reality and the impossible suddenly becomes possible.

Sports fans have what-ifs run through their heads every season. “What if my team wins a championship?” is probably the most common one.

Being a Cowboys fan, I’m all too familiar with what-ifs. What if the Cowboys didn’t blow the easily winnable games to the Jets, Lions, Cardinals, and Giants this year? Wouldn’t they be 11-2, fighting for a playoff bye?

What if Romo didn’t get hurt last year? Could he have won that game against the Giants, sent the Cowboys to 2-4, and led them to an improbable run to the playoffs?

What if that miscue against Seattle didn’t happen?

But enough ranting about the Cowboys, the main point I am trying to make is that what-ifs are only fun before the actual event takes place. Otherwise, you just kick yourself over them. If there’s anything I’ve learned been a Cowboys fan, it’s that.

Also, you have to make sure you temper expectations for these what-ifs. You could have unreal what-ifs like these: What if the Chiefs upset the Packers? What if the Colts score 75 points against Tennessee? Then you have your all too realistic what-ifs. What if Drew Brees throws for over 200 yards against the Vikings? Those kinds of questions aren’t fun at all. For the unrealistic ones, at least a man can dream.

What you must do is find a what-if that is very improbable and hard to believe it could happen, but still has that sliver of hope that you could actually consider it.

You’ve probably figured out what my question is right now. ‘What if Tim Tebow and the Broncos can upset the mighty Patriots on Sunday?’

If you’re reading this, this is probably the hundredth article you’ve read on Tebow all year. And those are for the normal people. If you’re a diehard fan that bleeds pigskin, that numbers may be in the thousands by now.

The reality is that every week, Tebow gives us something that makes us talk about him: wins. That’s what you want people to be talking about when they talk about you.

For those of you who don’t understand how in the world this continues to happen, let me try to explain it in the best way I have come to understand in these five bullets.

· Tim Tebow is not a bad quarterback: Tebow has improved, as you saw in the game against Minnesota. While it may look ugly, he is starting to make good throws and deep throws. And clutch throws have always been there.

· Tebow has an excellent team surrounding him: Willis McGahee has revitalized career. He is running hard and he is running with a purpose. Maybe it’s because many considered Grandpa Willis unfit to be a lead back in the NFL. Maybe it’s because he could probably break Knowshon Moreno’s paper and glass body with a simple bro-slap and hug. Whatever the case is, he’s hungry. Then you look at the defense. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil lead a nightmare of a pass rushing attack as Champ Bailey anchors the secondary. And like McGahee, they are hungry.

· Tebow’s ability to run and run the offense: John Fox has done a marvelous job of creating a game plan that Tebow can succeed in. It allows Tebow to have several choices of what to do with the ball. One of those choices including talking it himself, which, if you haven’t gotten by now, is something he’s rather good at.

· The power of positive thinking: I’m sure this is the point where I’ll lose all the Tebow haters and people who hate corniness. But the truth of the matter is that Tebow has put his faith in God and truly believes that him and his teammates will succeed. Notice how I said will, not can. As a Christian, I am truly amazed by how strong his faith is and what he is doing with it. And even if you’re not a Christian, you can’t deny the fact that Tebow’s positive thinking hasn’t been anything short of a miracle. Unless you’re one of those people who hate corniness, in which case, you’re not reading anymore. Are you?

· Wins: Tebow is 7-1 as a starter this season. Clutch has been replaced in the dictionary with the word “Tebow.” In fact, on that note, I think now would be a good time to let you all know that “tebowing” is now an official word in the dictionary. But back to the wins, isn’t that all that matters? If Tebow can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl, I’m sure all their fans will be laughing in the faces of those ignorant enough to continue criticizing him.

With that, I hope I didn’t confuse you even more. So to take a more playful side of the Tebow phenomenon, I’ll let you in on a moderately interesting and probably useless story.

I decided to play games of Madden 12’ with the Broncos that may actually occur in the playoffs, because I’m a dork. So I started off with their most likely first round matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As you would imagine, things got off to a rocky start. Pittsburgh got two quick field goals while Tebow fumbled on his first carry, and then Rashard Mendenhall broke off a long touchdown run. Before I could even understand why I thought an all out blitz would be a good idea on that play, I had just thrown a pick with Tebow. A Mike Wallace touchdown catch quickly made it 20-0 in the 2nd quarter.

Then out of nowhere, I tossed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal. Tebow magic?

Now in the second half, I was aided by a stingy defense, I continued to make stops and eventually led a Tebowesque (that word should be in the dictionary soon) drive, which ended with a Demaryius Thomas touchdown pass. 20-14.

The defense stepped up. I kicked a field goal. Then another. Then another. With less than two minutes to play, I was up 23-20. Big Ben had a one final chance to come back.

The Denver defense held him to a three-and-out. Broncos win.

I honestly didn’t feel fazed by the early deficit. I felt like as long as I made smart plays, I would be fine. I was channeling Tebow. Yes, in a video game.

I then went on to play the Patriots, a possible second round opponent. I jumped up to an early 17-0 lead and wounding up sacking Tom Brady nine times (remember that number on Sunday, just for the what-if purpose). Brady quickly came back in a fury that included a long touchdown to Wes Welker, a running score for Benjarvus Green-Ellis, and a few field goals that ultimately led to the score being 23-17. In favor of the Broncos, of course. Brady was driving again at the end of the game and had fourth down at about the Denver 20 with less than two minutes left. New England had three timeouts, so they elected to kick the field goal and kick the ball away instead of going for it. Not very realistic, but this is Madden coaching right now, not Belichick.

The rest was history, as McGahee killed the clock and ended the game. I was on such a Tebowhigh (more words), that I decided to play Baltimore in a potential championship game.

Two early interceptions got the Ravens out to a 10-0 lead. But it didn’t matter. Does any deficit really matter?

I eventually tied the score at 10 but surrendered the lead by giving up a late Ray Rice touchdown. With about a minute and no timeouts left, I had one final shot to salvage the game. Driving down the field and making some ridiculous throws, I set the ball up at the goal line with six second remaining. I asked myself, “What if I ran the ball?”

QB sneak. Touchdown Tebow. Overtime. Coin Toss won. Game-winning field goal: good.

Granted I didn’t have the same amount of luck when I played the Packers next. It was still pretty wild. And granted it was just a video game, it got me thinking: “What if that actually happened?”

The reason why I gave you that not-so-short story was to try and put you in a what-if mindset as we turn our attention to the game at hand.

It seems like an ideal matchup for Tebow. He has struggled against good pass defenses, which is something New England does not possess.

He finally gets an elite team after beating the scrubs and mediocre teams of the league and a chance to really prove something.

If the Broncos defense can keep the game close and not make it a shootout early, maybe Tebow gets a chance to win it at the end like he has been all season.

At this point, it’s harder to bet against Tebow than it is to bet on him. He has been so astounding so far and that Bears game was just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t get the game in my area (I was in Pennsylvania), so I was forced to watch it on I saw Denver on the 41 and thought it was all but over. And then a blue screen popped up.


I literally jumped. There’s probably still a hole in the ceiling. I also saw this one when it seemed Caleb Hanie had guided Chicago to a win.


I jumped a little higher. He did it again.

What-ifs are a lot of fun. If you want to give your brain some exciting food for thought, you should ask yourself, “What if Tebow wins?” Then again, you may just want to ask yourself, “Why not?”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Final Stretch

With only four weeks left to play, the NFL is entering its final quarter. All of the teams are entering the stretch run, some firmly in the playoff race, some already eliminated, and some who are reaching out for a final playoff spot. This time of year is so exciting. December. Where the real teams come to fruition. I will be reviewing all of the divisions and what to expect out of them for the remainder of the season.

AFC East: This one seems to be just about wrapped up. The Patriots will most likely win the division and probably even get a first round bye with their incredibly easy remaining schedule. At 7-5, the Jets are still fighting for a wild card spot. Their remaining games aren’t too difficult but aren’t easy either. They could very well sneak into the playoffs yet again. Buffalo is in a downward spiral that is really hurting their fast start. With the injury to Fred Jackson, it seems that their team has been exposed. With an average passing game and a defense built on the big play, things are not looking good for their remaining games. Expect the Dolphins to jump them in the division standings. They’ve won four of five, the loss being by one point to the Cowboys. Matt Moore and Reggie Bush have revived the Miami offense and maybe even saved Tony Sparano’s job. They are the perfect definition of a spoiler team.

AFC North: It has become clear that the Bengals are not quite in the same league as the Steelers or Ravens, and I’m not shocked. The Bengals are too young and their record has been favored by a creampuff schedule (before the meetings with Pittsburgh and Baltimore). If they can squeeze into a wild card spot, it will prove they really are ahead of schedule in developing as a team. If not, you could see them resemble the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season (ouch). The Ravens are incredibly dangerous, especially at home. I would not be surprised at all if they can finally reach the Super Bowl this year, but if Big Ben is in their way, they may not fare so well. Roethlisberger and the Steelers step up in big games. They have the kind of mentally tough team that is built for a playoff run. Winners of 7 of their last 8, I would have to make them my AFC Super Bowl pick. The Browns are ugly. There’s really nothing else you can say. The team has little to no talent and it’s a blessing they’ve gotten four wins. Cleveland’s front office needs to have a busy offseason if they want to be competitive in their division for the next decade.

AFC South: This division is over-or is it? T. J. Yates has looked good enough to where the Houston defense and running game can carry him to the playoffs, but consider this: the Texans and Titans each have three games before their Week 17 showdown. To make that a winner-take-all matchup, the Titans would need to go 2-1 and the Texans would need to go 1-2. The Titans play the Colts, Jaguars, and Saints, so it is entirely possible. The Texans get the Bengals, Panthers, and Colts, another possibility. However, due to tiebreakers, one of those Houston losses would have to be to the Colts. Hey, they have to win at some point right? The Colts are a mess but look a little better with Dan Orlovsky at the helm. Drafting Andrew Luck is a must for them. Jacksonville has become one of the worst teams in the leagues but has a solid core to build off of if they make the right moves in the offseason.

AFC West: This is the only division where every team has a realistic shot of winning it. Right now, it’s Tebow magic up top leading the way. Tim and the gang are leading the division with good defense, good running, and clutch play. They seem to be the favorite, as wild as that may seem. But you never know in the Wild West. Just like you never know what you’ll get with the Raiders, who must travel to Green Bay Sunday after getting thrashed by Miami. If Darren McFadden doesn’t get back soon, Oakland’s season may be over. The Chiefs and Chargers are both still alive, being two games out of first. I wouldn’t count out San Diego because of their historically stellar play in December and the division up for grabs, but you can turn the lights out in Kansas City. Tyler Palko cannot lead this team to the playoffs and Kyle Orton is not the savior either.

NFC East: The Giants-Cowboys Sunday night game is actually a lot more crucial than people think. If the Cowboys win that game, they could clinch the following week with a win and a Giant loss. That isn’t a guarantee, but expect Dallas to come out and play their hearts out knowing it’s a huge game. Expect the same from the Giants, who know they are playing for their season. Losers of four straight, New York is desperate for a win. This week will show us which team is hungrier. The Eagles season has been a drag and they look absolutely miserable. They resemble the Cowboys of last year. Unlike the Cowboys, there won’t be a coaching change that will spark them to end the season strong. The front office needs to do some evaluating and find players who want to win. The Redskins need to find a new quarterback. And wide receivers. And head coach. Both the Shanahans have been awful since they’ve been in Washington. Did they really think Rex Grossman or John Beck could lead the team? The Redskins’ defense is solid, but the offense is what really holds them down.

NFC North: Ah, the Packers. Would you look at them. Blazing through the competition, it seems almost impossible to stop them. They should go 16-0, and I have them as my Super Bowl pick, but it is possible a team could upset them in the playoffs. It doesn’t seem like the Lions or the Bears want a playoff spot at this point, but I see the Lions getting one by process of elimination, and because they’re actually healthy. Playoff experience would be good for this young team. As for Chicago, it’s unfortunate that such a promising season has been doomed by injury, so they’ll have to wait for next year before they truly contend. A lot of people say that if the Vikings had a quarterback, they would be a good team, but I just don’t see it. Did you see that secondary on Sunday? The Broncos wide receivers aren’t that good. The defense is really aging quickly. This team is in full-scale rebuilding mode.

NFC South: The Saints look really good. Almost as good as the Packers. The only difference I would say is that Drew Brees throws more picks and the Green Bay wide receivers are better, but both defenses are awful. New Orleans looks like it could keep on rolling right into the NFC championship game. The Falcons have gotten better but I’m still not sold on them. Matt Ryan has struggled this year and the secondary is spotty. Due to mediocrity of other teams, Atlanta is the best NFC team that won’t win its division. Wasn’t this the year the Bucs were going to compete for the NFC South title? A win over the Saints had them in prime position at 4-2. Six games later, it has gotten ugly. The team looks absolutely lifeless, unlike the Carolina Panthers, who just thrashed them last week. Cam Newton is a special player. Once he limits his mistakes and the Panthers get defensive help, they will be a playoff constant.

NFC West: San Francisco has been outstanding this year. The defense has been spectacular and Alex Smith has become a good quarterback. I still worry about them in the playoffs, but they’re headed in the right direction. Seattle has been impressive. Marshawn Lynch can still run in the NFL and the team really plays hard for Pete Carroll. Can you say Matt Barkley? Arizona wishes they could. They would really love to draft a quarterback like that, but may be stuck with Landry Jones. Or they could still be stubborn and keep Kevin Kolb. Winners of four of their last five, Arizona is overachieving. The Rams are underachieving. Sam Bradford has had his sophomore struggles and the team just isn’t that good overall. How in the world did this team beat the Saints?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How the NFC East will be Won

The NFC East has downgraded from last year. The Eagles have flopped. The Redskins are bad. And the Cowboys and Giants are not considered elite by many people. However, anything can happen in the playoffs, which is why it will be interesting to see who wins the division.

The winner of the division will have a lot of momentum and get through a tough road to the playoffs. Therefore, they will be battle-tested and have a shot to make some noise in the playoffs. With that, I look into some key factors that will shape the road for both teams.

First, the obvious: the remaining schedules. Next week, the Giants travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys on Sunday night football. While it's only one game, it will be huge in giving momentum to the winner. If the Giants win, the two teams are tied. If the Cowboys win, the Cowboys will have a two game lead with three to play.

Many would say the game is more crucial for the Giants, but I would say it's just as important for the Cowboys. If New York wins, they automatically become the favorites in the division race and people will question Dallas after losing back to back games.

Needless to say, it is an important game for both sides.

An interesting thing to look at is the parallel between the Packers-Giants game and the Patriots-Giants game from 2007. In the final week of that season, the Giants played the undefeated Patriots close, but lost. The rest is history, after they went on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

There are many differences and similarities to that game, but the best thing you can take out of it is that Tom Coughlin's Giants know how to learn from their losses and beat teams the second time around. That its why the Giants could be dangerous, should they get into the playoffs.

It may mean nothing, but it's an aspect to keep on eye on should the situation arrive. The Giants will be focused on winning right now. As will Tony Romo.

This division race and a possible Cowboys postseason appearance will do a lot to shape Romo's legacy. He has been an excellent quarterback in the NFL but has been erratic at times and has had trouble winning close games. Everyone remembers when he botched the hold on the field goal against Seattle in his first season starting. Then, of course, their are the many December follies he has had.

This year, we've seen the good and the bad of Romo. Earlier in the year, he found a way to give games to the Jets and Lions by throwing interceptions.

However, in the game against San Francisco, and in recent games, Romo has been clutch.

He has blown out the Bills and Rams and handled the Seahawks. He set his team up for game winning field goals against the Redskins, Dolphins, and Cardinals (even though they didn't beat the Cardinals).

Romo's clutch play as of late has Dallas fans being optimistic. However, the running game has to get better in order to not put everything on him. Romo is a good quarterback, but not one who can get the job done all by himself.

If Romo can lead his team to the playoffs and some postseason wins, his image may be changed for the good. If he fails to come through again. People will be saying he can never win the big one.

So finally, with all of that being said, what will happen? I'll pick all of their remaining games to correctly see who will win the division.

Giants @ Cowboys: I like the Cowboys because they have a better defense. If DeMarco Murray gets going, it will be a long day for the Giants.

Cowboys @ Buccaneers: A rare Saturday game, but I like the Cowboys again. Tampa Bay has been completely flat and looks like they have no desire to play.

Redskins @ Giants: In a must-win game, I can't see New York dropping this one. They will avenge an early season loss against the inept Redskins.

Giants @ Jets: This will be a truly close and exciting game, but I like the Jets to pull out a win in the battle for New York.

Eagles @ Cowboys: The Cowboys have something to play for. The Eagles don't. And right now, at least for this season, Dallas is a better team.

Cowboys @ Giants: The Giants get the victory in what would be a meaningless matchup. For the record, however, even if the game meant something, I would still pick the Giants because I think the teams are so even that they will split the season series.

That would put the Cowboys at 10-6 and give them the division crown over the 8-8 Giants. But that's just my opinion. Anything can happen. All I know is it's going to be an exciting end of the season for the entire NFL. But don't sleep on the NFC East; you may be surprised at what you see.