Archive for Ben Roethlisberger

2011 NFC And AFC Championship Game Picks — It’s All About The Quarterbacks

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by thelasthonestman

We’re down to the last four standing in the NFL, as the wildly entertaining and exciting playoff season draws closer to its conclusion.  That also means it’s time for my penultimate picks of the football year; after going 3-1 (2-2 against the spread) last week and going 5-3 (4-4) overall, I’m looking to emulate my perfect end from last season to finish strong — but will i have to pick against my favorite team to do it?  There’s only one way to find out — let’s get on with the show!

Pittsburgh (-3.5) over N.Y. Jets

This man is one game away from leading the Jets to the Super Bowl

This game will be a rematch of their Week 15 match-up (also played at Heinz Field) that the Jets won 22-17.  The Jets were reeling at the time, having lost two games in a row and their playoff chances suddenly slipping into jeopardy.  But New York won the game with a great defensive effort and a solid, mistake-free performance by their second-year quarterback, Mark Sanchez.  Sound familiar?

It should — it’s the formula that’s gotten the Jets on the cusp of their first Super Bowl appearance since the days of Joe Willie Namath — and it’s a formula that head coach Rex Ryan’s team will have to follow again on Sunday if they want to beat the Steelers on the road.  If they able to do that, it will be the latest in a stunning series of playoff accomplishments for the Jets.  They’ve already vanquished two of the all-time greatest quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — with their four Super Bowl rings between them — in hostile environments, and this Sunday they’ll face another Super Bowl winner, two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger.  It’s a feat reminiscent of the Saints march through the playoffs last season (when they beat Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Manning en route to their title).

Meanwhile, the Steelers continue to do what they do best — quietly win while the spotlight has shines brighter on other teams.  In the AFC this season, the focus has been more on the Patriots and the Jets all season, while Pittsburgh remained somehow under the radar — an astonishing feat for a team that now finds itself arguably the Super Bowl favorite.  It’s even more of a stunner considering how much the Steelers and their quarterback were in the news all off-season for all of the wrong reasons.

Thankfully for him and the Steelers, it's been a relatively quite season out of the headlines for Big Ben

But Roethislberger has stayed out of the spotlight since his return from suspension, and the Steelers have continue to follow their own winning plan for success.  Their defense was statistically better than the Jets’ much-hyped unit this season — in fact, it was the top-rated defense, and it was by far-and-away the stingiest defense when it came to shutting down the running game.  For comparison, the Jets were ranked 4th in the NFL in giving up 3.6 yards a carry.  The Steelers, however, gave up a paltry 3.0 yards a carry, a full half-a-yard better than any other team in the NFL.  And that’s where the Jets are going to be faced with their biggest problem on Sunday.

Sanchez doesn’t have to carry the Jets on his shoulders if the team can run the ball successfully and take pressure off of him.  But as talented as the Jets running back tandem on Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson are, they’re going to have trouble moving the ball against the Steelers on the ground (they tallied 106 yards the first time around) — and if they can’t do that, then it’s going to be up to Sanchez to put points on the board.  That’s a challenge that the young signal-caller has answered so far in the playoffs — but can he do it again?

I think this week, at least, the answer will be no.  This match-up is similar to the Steelers game against the Ravens last week — two teams with great defenses and two teams that will have trouble running the ball against the other.  And as it was against the Ravens, the difference for Pittsburgh will be in the quarterbacks and their play.  Roethlisberger is better at this point in his career, and if one quarterback makes a crippling mistake to his team’s chances, I don’t think it’s going to be him.  Sanchez has made great strides this season, and he might win a Super Bowl with the Jets at some point.  It’s just not going to be this year.

Green Bay (-3.5) over Chicago

And now, the hard part.

I survived the Bob Avellini era -- though the scars still remain

I asked my friend Steven yesterday if, as a die-hard Bears fan for thirty-five years of my life, as a Bears fan who lived through the agony of a thousand awful quarterbacks (from Bob Avellini to Chad Hutchinson), as a Bears fan who still carries the great memories of Walter Payton, of the glory days of Mike Ditka, and the immortal 1985 Super Bowl team, if I could go against all of that and pick against my beloved Bears on Sunday.

Sadly, the answer to that is yes.

I have to go on record (yet again) that, on the subject of the 2010 Chicago Bears, I couldn’t have been more off on my predictions if I had tried to be.  I (and many others) thought this season was going to be a debacle of epic proportions, while the Bears have instead come together as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.  I thought that Jay Cutler would be a disaster this season under center, while instead he put up one of the finest performances of his young career last weekend at Soldier Field against the Seahawks.  I thought that the coaching staff — which features no less than three former head coaches under head man Lovie Smith (Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice) — was going to be hopelessly outclassed this season, while instead the Bears coaching has gotten a great effort across the board, particularly from the much-maligned Martz.

I will maintain, however, that the Bears improvement this season was due to avoiding the problems that I had harped on previously — most importantly, avoiding costly turnovers — and to a fundamental change to the way Martz ran his offense.  As I pointed out last week, the Bears prior to the bye this year were a pass-happy team that made way too many mistakes and were headed for another disappointing season.  The Bears after the bye morphed into a team with an offense that ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock, and added a great defense to boot.  That was a change that led to Chicago reaching the NFC Championship Game across from from their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers.

A Super Bowl win would put Rodgers in an elite class of quarterbacks -- if somehow you didn't think he was there already

Green Bay is playing their best football of the season at just the right time.  Their running game has shown a sign of life, but it’s really Aaron Rodgers’ amazing performance at quarterback that’s led the Pack to this point.  Rodgers’ talents and numbers have already made him one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (even if the general public hadn’t realized it yet), but his playoff run is setting himself up to be talked about in the same conversation those elite who wear a Super Bowl ring — think of Drew Brees at this point the same time last year as a relative example.   What’s worth noting is that, as great a career as he had, Brett Favre won a lone Super Bowl in his time with Green Bay (and in the NFL) — Rodgers can equal that total in just a few short weeks.

Much like the game in the AFC, the NFC Championship clash features two teams with a lot of the same characteristics.  There will be some great defense played from these two teams, and much like their game in Green Bay at season’s end, I don’t think there will be a lot of points scored at Solider Field on Sunday.  As is usually the case in games like these, the winner and the loser will likely be separated by turnovers and mistakes — the winner will avoid them.  That’s where the quarterbacks come in, and like in the AFC, that’s where I think the game will be decided.

Cutler was magnificent in his first playoff start last week — but these aren’t the Seahawks he’s facing this week.  Only four teams gave up fewer yards and three teams fewer touchdown passes than did the Packers, and only one team had more interceptions than Green Bay’s defense did.  As good as Cutler has been most of the time this season, he’s still had ugly moments — and while Martz has had his worst tendencies kept in check, he still is capable of producing some true head-scratchers (like his call for an option throw by Matt Forte that we saw last week with the Bears winning 28-3 — a bone-headed might have led to a comeback if a better team had been on the field against them).

As a Bears fan, what I’m deathly afraid of is exactly those moments rearing their ugly head up on Sunday — and while the optimist in me wants to believe in the Bears winning, the realist in me is sees at least one play where Cutler makes a terrible decision or Martz makes a terrible call.  As evenly as these two teams may be matched, that one play is likely all the Packers are going to need in order to meet the Steelers in the Super Bowl — as much as it pains me to say that.  On the bright side, if I’m wrong, I’m perfectly okay with that.

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Prepare For Things To Get Messy For Big Ben

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Will this be the cover of the 2010 Steelers Media Guide?

So now Big Ben is claiming, in so many words, that “he did not have sex with that woman” (or something along those lines) — the said woman being his accuser in the currently-unfolding sexual assault complaint that Roethlesberger finds himself embroiled in.  However, he does admit to having “sexual contact” with his accuser — at least according to this report by MSNBC.  That’s a nice way of looking at it — by chance, is he getting advice from former President Clinton these days on how to distinguish between sex acts?

All kidding aside, this sordid tale is going to end up as a major black eye for not only Roethlisberger, but for the Steelers and the NFL as well, before it’s all over.  Look, we all know that the average professional athlete sees women throwing themselves at them on a regular basis.  We all know that random sex is pretty much a case of “where and when do you want it?” situation with those athletes as well.  But that doesn’t mean that we want to know all about it and have the private lives of our athletes turned into a version of a “Letters to Penthouse” column either.

You want a great example of a celebrity keeping their private life just that? Look no further than Derek Jeter.

Even if you want to give the benefit of the doubt to Roethlisberger at this point, it’s hard to be anything but extremely critical of his seeming immaturity.  If the stories filtering out about his behavior on the bar circuit are to believed, the Steelers quarterback looks to be living his life with motto of  “I get older, they stay the same age.”   Hitting on coeds in a small-town college bar isn’t anything you’d hear of Derek Jeter doing, is it?  Or showing up in photos half-baked by alcohol?  Jeter lived the bachelor life for a long time, with a veritable all-star lineup of famous beauties coming in and out of his world, and the embarrassing photos and stories we’ve seen of Roethlisberger’s behavior in the last year were something you never saw from someone like the Yankees’ shortstop.  I’m not begrudging Big Ben to fight for his right to party, but a little discretion and common sense deifintely seems to be lacking on his part.

Of course, we may be looking at something far more serious than a frat boy trapped in an adult quarterback’s body.  Roethisberger’s story of this latest dust-up already smells fishy, and (again according to MSNBC) the Steelers’ star is not consenting to another police interview, nor is he willing to provide a DNA sample to investigators (as of yet).  The adage is “innocent until proven guilty”, but the other adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” also applies — and in Big Ben’s case, there’s been a whole lot of smoke in the past year.

The interesting thing to me at this point is the lack of comment from the NFL on the matter.  Commissioner Roger Goodell may find himself quickly on the hot seat to discipline Roethlisberger at some point as the situation unfolds, even if the case doesn’t go to trial — even if Roethlisberger is never charged by police.  The Steelers QB is cultivating an image — fair or not — right now of a wealthy athlete who thinks the rules of society don’t apply to him, particularly when it comes to how he treats the opposite sex.  One isolated incident wouldn’t cause this shift of perception — but the disturbing pattern of events that have followed Roethlisberger over the last twelve months (starting with the rape accusation against him by the former Lake Tahoe employee last year) have many people believing that he is a serial offender and already proclaiming him guilty.  Guilty of what?  There’s a segment of the public that isn’t going to wait to find out what.

And considering the hard line that Goodell has taken with other NFL players during his tenure as commissioner, at some point, he’s going to have to address the issue with Roethlisberger — and hand out some sort of punishment — or he’ll be facing some uncomfortable questions about the fairness of the NFL’s conduct policy — and whether or not it’s truly handed out indiscriminately.  With the exception of Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones, all of the players who have been subject to suspensions have been African-American.  Except for current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (who at the time of his suspension, had already pleaded guilty to federal charges of dog fighting), none of those who’ve been suspended had anywhere near the name recognition of Roethlisberger, nor were they high-profile players at the game’s most visible position.  In addition, none were faced with accusations as serious as Roethlisberger has faced.

Goodell will have to do something at some point, particularly if more ugly details emerge about this latest incident.  Even if he didn’t commit a crime, Roethlisberger is certainly engaging in conduct that has the potential to embarrass and damage the league’s carefully-crafted image — nothing in the NFL policy states that a player has to be convicted in a court of law first in order to face punishment — and if the NFL chooses to turn its head and wait for the mess to simply go away, they’re going to be rightly accused of utilizing a double standard for their “star” players — as well as a double standard when it comes to white athletes behavior aside of that of black ones.    Both would be potential quagmires that I would guess Goodell wants no part of wading through.  If he doesn’t speak up soon, he may find out though that he doesn’t have a choice.

The NFL Off-Season Is Heating Up — But The Bears’ Chances Are Still Ice Cold

Posted in News/Current Events, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s probably going to surprise you — but as a Chicago Bears fan, I’m not at all happy about the way their off-season has gone.

"So we'll line Marshall up as a receiver, and put Holt and Bruce on the other side of the field for Warner. What's that? What do you mean it's not still 1999?"

First, there’s the fact that almost all of the people responsible for the debacle of the 2009 season — head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo among them — are back in Chicago, making me less than optimistic that things are going to be any different in the Windy City for 2010.  Worse yet, the possibility that I talked about way back in November has unfortunately become a reality:  Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator for the Bears.  On this, I can **barely** contain my enthusiasm.

I said then that hiring Martz was only going to compound the problems with the team’s direction, and I’ll predict it again now.  Jay Cutler, Johnny Knox, and Devin Hester/Devin Aromashodu are not Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, and Issac Bruce — a reality that the Bears “braintrust” seems all to eager to ignore.  And of course — the Bears best receiver (or certainly most talented one) is probably tight end Greg Olsen.  So it makes all the sense in the world that one of Martz’ first moves was to decide that Olsen is a bad fit for his almighty system.  The Bears are apparently shopping Olsen to the rest of the NFL, which means that Cutler will have one less quality target next year — at least one that’s actually wearing a Bears jersey – and Olsen, who’s shown signs of emerging as a valuable pass-catching tight end, will blossom with some other lucky team.  Oh, joy.

Pictured: Not Marshall Faulk

Granted, the Bears have shown a willingness to open up the checkbooks for a change this off-season — but what exactly have they been buying?  For starters, they got a running back in Chester Taylor who’s a decent enough back as a backup, but someone who already is 30 years old, has seen over 1000 carries in the NFL, and — and let’s face it — just isn’t all that good, having averaged 3.8 YPC over the last two seasons with a better line than the Bears have.  The word was that Martz viewed him as a poor man’s Marshall Faulk — I think he’ll be more along the lines of a poor man’s Kevin Faulk, at best.  They also acquired the 30 year-old Julius Peppers — signed to a huge multi-year contract, despite looking uninspired and erratic while in his last year in Carolina — and a pass-blocking tight end in Brandon Manumaleuna.

Add it all up, and the Bears are looking like the NFL North’s version of the Washington Redskins, minus the meddling owner.  At this rate, I’ll have to make sure to request a vomit bag along with my purchase of the Sunday Ticket to watch Bears games next fall.

On the other hand, at least I have the NFL draft to look forward to, and all of the picks in the first two rounds that the Bears … errr … never mind.  Let’s forget I even brought that up, shall we?

— The other big news of the last week involved Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who for the second time in less than a year, finds himself in the middle of allegations regarding his conduct with women.  After a civil suit was filed against him by former Harrah’s employee Andrea McNulty last July (a lawsuit which is still ongoing), the Pittsburgh quarterback now finds himself the target of accusations of sexual assault following a night out in the bars and nightspots of Milledgeville, Georgia.

Sometimes, throwing into double coverage looks good when compared to the other ways you can show bad judgement

I like to reserve judgement on these type of situations until all of the facts are in, but there’s one thing I’m pretty certain of already: once might be an aberration, but multiple times is a trend.  There’s no way to know for certain now what happened in either case — and we’ll probably never know 100% for certain no matter how much time passes — but it’s pretty obvious to me that Roethlisberger is guilty of putting himself into situations he shouldn’t be getting in, and if nothing else, he’s clearly exhibiting bad judgement.  If it turns out that Roethlisberger is guilty in either case, then I hope the judicial system tosses the book at him and that his NFL career comes to a richly deserved crashing halt.  Whether or not he is, however, should prove to be a drama that plays out in the news for the next several months — which if the news today that the quarterback has hired a prominent Atlanta attorney to represent him in the matter means anything, it’s that it won’t be pretty.