From the "Talks too much" studios, make it a good one Strap.
NFL preview, part I
The NFL starts tomorrow night.
We spend more of our time following the college game. Hey, it's who we are, what we do and where we live.
That said, we're fans of the NFL. The game is excellent — and will be until the safety rules force us to play a two-hand touch/flag football hybrid in which every team must somehow fill a highlight video with big hits and keep the quarterback clean and upright throughout.
So let's breakdown the NFC today, going through the playoff teams, the award candidates and those with a legitimate chance at making a run to NYC for the coldest Super Bowl ever. Giddy-up
The NFC has flipped the script. Now the power in the conference — and the entire (cue Jaws) NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE — is the NFC West. Seattle and San Francisco are among the top-five Super Bowl contenders in the league. The Cardinals are better. The Rams have Jeff Fisher's mustache. Everyone has something on which to build.
We grew up a Falcons fan, but it's hard to feel confident about this Falcons team. If these Falcons were a car, they would have a lot of shiny new parts and an awesome radio/CD player and a DVD player in the back of each head rest. It would be cool to look at. But the engine would be like a V-2, held together with duct tape and bubble gum. The defensive front seven is littered with questions. The offensive line was flat-out bad in the preseason and still is looking for a replacement for Eric Johnson, who will miss the season with a broken leg. We want to believe in these Falcons, who have the best collection of skilled players in the (cue Jaws) NATIONAL Football League. Yes, the preseason means as much as spring scrimmage, but... (there's always a but), only three Super Bowl teams — 2000 Giants, 1990 Bills and 1982 Redskins — had winless preseasons.
Here is our best guess for the NFC playoff shakedown:
1) Seattle — We like Russell Wilson better than we like Colin "Humpty" Kaepernick
2) New Orleans — The Saints have a collective chip on their shoulder that serves as a kindred motivator and bodes for special things in professional sports.
3) Green Bay — The Packers have not had a 100-yard rusher in almost three years. Eddie Lacy will change that this month.
4) Dallas — The pieces click this year for Jerry Jones and Co. Behind Atlanta, the Cowboys have the best collection of skilled players in the league.
5) San Francisco — The 49ers could have the second-best record in the conference and have to start the playoffs on the road. Did you know the 49ers already stout defense added safety Eric Reid, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and corner Nnamdi Asomugha. Wow.
6) Atlanta — The passing game is elite. The rest of the team is filled with questions. After starting 8-0 last year, the Falcons were mighty pedestrian.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) works before the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Pouya Dianat)
NFC player of the year: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay quarterback
NFC defensive player of the year: NaVorro Bowman, San Fran linebacker
NFC coach of the year: Pete Carroll, Seattle.
Feel free to weigh in.
Speaking of college football...
It's here. It's happening. We will have some sort of college football presence almost every day. Who are we kidding — we will have one every day. It's here.
Here's a quick recap of the excellent college football coverage in today's TFP:
Ace columnist Mark Wiedmer details the emotional roller coaster for the Mocs since the Thursday Night Fall here.
Ace UT beat writer Patrick Brown talks about the Vols want to play faster here http://timesfreepress.com/news/2013/sep/04/fast-vols-aiming-to-accelerate-on-offense/?sports. And as Les Miles as tried to repeatedly tell us, good players with the want to be good players really can be good players.
SEC ace David Paschall walks us through Georgia's receiving rotation here and Auburn's new speed back here.
Add to that Johnny Frierson's two stories and notebooks from Knoxville and Athens and an inside SEC column from the sports editor and there were nine locally generated college football stories in today's TFP.
Two other college football stories worth mentioning:
The new AP poll was released and Clemson moved to No. 4. The Tigers deserved it, too, after beating Georgia in the opening weekend's best game. That said, the polls will be very critical this year, especially the Harris Poll when it gets released in a few weeks. Since there are only two teams in the BCS title mix, the top two spots are paramount. And since there figures to be multiple unbeaten teams this year, keeping a reservation among the top two is paramount. Case in point: Ohio State was passed by Oregon for the No. 2 spot. This will only magnify margin of victory in a perception sense for voters across the country.
The other was sad/hilarious story about the Georgia fan calling into an Atlanta sports talk radio station and breaking down in tears. Some of you guys mentioned it yesterday, but here's the clip.
Here's a good rule of thumb for those of us who care a touch too much about college football. Do not communicate — be it phone or electronically — after a long Game Day filled with cocktails. If you need to make a call, make it to family. And avoid the social media at all costs.
Today's message was brought to you by Bud Light, the first and almost only choice of fine pilsner for the 5-at-10.
(And if you think we're going to make fun of the Notre Dame souvenir cups that had "Figthing Irish" on them, well, you are wayoff base. Not unlike the golf Gods, which are quickly and vengeful when you laugh at someone else, the Spelling Gods can be harsh. And Carma can be a mother.)
We have always believed that you start paying attention to baseball in the 'er' months. September, October, you get the idea.
Well we're here. And here's what we believe:
The Dodgers are locked and loaded. The Braves are tougher than a 50-cent pork chop. The Tigers are built for the playoffs.
We also believe we agree with Joe Girardi about asking Mariano Rivera about coming back for one more season.
We believe that the Pirates' ascent is great for the game. (And the Angels' implosion also is a good lesson for the "free-agency spending spree" owners.)
We believe that Miguel Cabrera has earned a place with Tony Gwynn, Albert Pujols and Frank Thomas on the Rushmore of the game's best hitters in the last 25 years — non-steroid division. Discuss.
This and that
— Watched Hoosiers (again) last night, and it dawned on us: Is there a more awesome movie with a worse single scene than Coach Dale and Myra Fleener's kiss? Brutal. Leave the ball, will you George?
— Bloomberg News reported that the two largest growing restaurant chains are Firehouse Subs and Jimmy Johns. Each of those is taking a swing at the $5 footlong empire that is Subway. Take that Jared. Which sandwich shop do you prefer? (We think Jimmy Johns is top shelf, by the way.)
— It looks like truth and justice may actually catch Lance Armstrong. A Texas judge is close to ordering Lance to take the stand as one of his former insurance companies is suing Armstrong for fraud.
Feel free to swing at any of the above topics — from NFC picks to the Rushmore of hitters of the last 25 years.
Also, there is the matter of Myra Fleener... Is she the biggest wet blanket in sports movie history?
Also, if you got to punch one person in any sports movie, who are you taking a swing at?
Let's go to Kiper's draft board on punchable sports movie characters:
1) Roy Turner, Yankees manager in Bad News Bears
2) The Cobra Kai dojo leader guy
3) Clubber Lang, who may be higher since he made a pass at Adrian and killed Mick
4) Myra Fleener in Hoosiers
5) The woman that shoots Roy Hobbs, who is played by Myra Fleener from Hooisers.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...