The Hunger Games ………

The Hunger Games

By Tophatal

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe that we have been witness to that within the past five days. The crass ego of Roger Goodell was forced to take a back seat after his idiocy in originally enforcing a league mandated lockout of the NFL certified referees. With an agreement now having been reached with the NFLRA (referees’ union) it is back to work as per usual with the league, and all is right with the world. Well, based upon last night’s display by the Dallas Cowboys. I am not so sure that Tony Romo and his teammates are entirely happy with their performance offered up to the fans in attendance at Cowboys Stadium , in Arlington , Texas , alongside the millions more, watching nationally in a televised broadcast ! It’s still early in the regular season but now at 2-2 , I think the death bells could very well be ringing for a team that simply is devoid of creativity in terms of its offense as witnessed with an inept display in the team’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears .


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Slide show .

If this loss signified anything , it is that within the NFC East this season will be no walkover for any of the residents within that division eying postseason glory. The Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) leads the division by virtue of their win total , but their play if anything this season has been just as inconsistent as of that of the Dallas Cowboys . In reality , this Michael Vick led team , could just as easily be 1-3 , at this stage of the Eagles’ season, rather than their current mark of 3-1. The NFC East will become an all-out dogfight between all four of the teams within the division , and at the end of the day , after all of the bloodletting, we may not recognize the remnants of the carcasses left on the roadside . It will simply be road-kill, and not much more beyond that.

If the clock is said to be ticking for the Dallas Cowboys , as team owner Jerry Jones and the front office continues to search for answers after another inexplicable loss. Then most certainly , the de-facto general manager will have to look at not only the makeup of the roster , but also that of the coaching staff , led by head coach, Jason Garrett . Clearly, there is something awry , when both the defense and offense are clearly out of sync and there seems to be no apparent leadership being shown from anyone on the team , much less from the head from any member of the coaching staff. Caution , and self-preservation may well be the prudent line being taken by the players , but if anything it has become indicative of the lack of guts , not just from Romo , but also from many of the seasoned veterans who are well rewarded , while offering little of note to the fans in return .

In week five, the Dallas Cowboys, along with the Detroit Lions , Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers , have byes , which gives those teams the chance to reassess their current situation , make the necessary adjustments , as they make ready for Week six of the regular season schedule. Of that quartet of teams, it is the Detroit Lions with the most to prove , given the team’s progress over the past two seasons. Matt Stafford has established himself as a star in the NFL , with a growing belief in his own abilities as well as showing the leadership qualities sought by head coach , Jim Schwartz . It has to be said that the Lions have come a considerable way from their 0-16 season in 2008, perhaps the lowest point in the franchise’s esteemed existence . Team President Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew have been prudent in their draft decisions in the ensuing years since 2008 , without also having to overpay for the talent acquired via free agency. In 2012 , it has been no different with the coaching staff in conjunction with the front office being prudent with the rookies taken in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Dwight Bentley, Ronnell Lewis , Tahir Whitehead , Chris Greenwood , Jonte Green, and Travis Green are all looking to make solid contributions over the course of the Lions’ schedule as they embark upon their professional careers in the NFL .

The Detroit Lions did themselves no favors in their most recent game , in what many may well have felt was a surprising 20-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings . In that game the Vikings’ Christian Ponder out-duelled his Lions’ counterpart, Matt Stafford , in a conference match-up, that has typified some of the more surprising results in the infancy of the 2012 season. Thankfully, this was a game where the replacement official did not interject themselves into the events , making complete fools of themselves , in showing their lack of knowledge of the NFL rules , when officiating these games !

There are now three unbeaten teams in the NFL, with each carrying a 4-0 record, as we approach week 5 . The Arizona Cardinals , Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans , are the franchises with an unblemished record , and who will be most certainly will be looking to keep their records intact. Of that triumvirate , the most surprising might well be the Cardinals , as there was a growing uncertainty as whether or not John Skelton or Kevin Kolb would be the starting quarterback for the team . Both players during the preseason had shown a tendency for not being able to secure the ball , being errant in their decision-making ,while not having the complete confidence of the offense. Ken Whisenhunt made the decision to go with Skelton in the season opener , but he would be lost to the team by week 2 having suffered an injury in the team’s opening season victory over the Seattle Seahawks, in a 20-16 divisional win. And since replacing John Skelton , Kevin Kolb has led the team to three straight victories while playing with a great deal of poise and showing a great deal of leadership ability over that period. That renewed confidence by Kolb, and the fact that the offense is now being productive bodes well for the Cardinals over the remainder of their schedule . And with vigor being shown by the team’s defense , not often exhibited in previous seasons , this very well could be the year where the Arizona Cardinals tries to pull off a big surprise .

Of the games scheduled in week five , to my mind, perhaps the most intriguing will be match-up between the San Diego Chargers and the New Orleans Saints ! The hapless Saints at 0-4 have yet to win a game, while looking completely inept in almost every facet of the game , never-mind the fact that Drew Brees is having a less than inspired season by his lofty standards. The offense looks bewilderingly flat while the defense cannot stop the run , the pass or anything else actually thrown in their direction , and that includes the verbal abuse now being lobbed at the franchise from an ever-growing and weary public , which simply despises the franchise. Drew Brees may well feel it is time for the “us against the world” mentality , as he seeks to bring back a sense of normalcy to the Saints, but in all honesty the vast majority of fans are simply happy to see this team troll the depths of mediocrity .

As to the game itself , between the Chargers and Saints , it should tell us a great deal about the intent of both teams, and the apparent directions they seek to be heading in. A loss for the Chargers would pretty much seal their fate, not just within the NFC South, but most certainly within the NFC as well as the rest of the league . With all of the upheaval that has taken place in the midst of the ongoing drama within the Saints’ organization, the past fourteen months within this franchise has played out like a prime-time episodic drama , with more plot twists than could have been conceived by any major script writer in Hollywood .

Another season and another turn of events in a change of coaching personnel with regard to one of the NFL’s storied franchises in the Oakland Raiders . Out went Hu Jackson at the behest of team owner Mark Davis , and presiding over this new regime as its chief executive is GM Reggie McKenzie.Apart from the departure from the abrupt firing of Jackson, the franchise also sought to jettison players thought to be superfluous to their needs, and being keenly aware of the franchise’s failures in 2011 . The franchise has seen fit to build around quarterback Carson Palmer , with a view to be seen as credible challenger within the AFC West , this upcoming season . It is hard to see where the Oakland Raiders can go from here when one bears in mind that four games into the season the Raiders are now 1-3 , and coming off their worst defeat of the season in a crushing 37-6 loss to the Denver Broncos. As to what this would suggest about the Raiders’ anemic defense and the very fact that they have a rookie first year coach , in , Dennis Allen . The head coach has been thrust into the lion’s den , without the tools to aid him , other than an assortment of players who are simply out of their depth. A seasoned veteran such as quarterback Carson Palmer does not show the presence of mind to indicate that he possesses the trait as a leader. The roster on paper has all of the talent in the world , but in the NFL of today , talent alone will not get a team that far. For the Raiders that journey, or desired destination has not been a part of the franchise’s journey since 2002 , when the team made it to the Superbowl . In the ensuing years, it has been one pratfall after another, with the growing ineptitude gaining momentum each season.

More indecision is liable to a focus for this Raiders’ franchise, as there now seems to more apathy than ever before amongst the front office , albeit that their fans have yet to voice their indifference as to another woeful start to their season. I can understand the reason why , because it does not appear to that the main focus appears to be improvement , much less being a contender within the NFL , but more so to remain amongst one of the NFL’s more high-profiled franchises , even when failure has become an omnipresent force . The problem now befalling the Oakland Raiders is that they have become a money-losing —- concern in spite the franchise’s popularity and their national visibility. So now, not only is success evading the Raiders , from a financial standpoint, now , there too, they are failing in an ever-increasing degree. If there is a cause for concern , then it is the very fact that this is something that is not being acknowledged by the Raiders’ ownership , much less by anyone from within the NFL hierarchy. This asinine hitherto notion by fans, that the NFL as a concern will continue to make money, is really something of a farce because the league’s books have never been open to public scrutiny. However, what we are continually made aware of is that the league’s revenues by way of strong-arming the broadcast networks to overpay for a brand that has become diluted and some might suggest watered down. . The one saving grace for the Oakland Raiders is that their fan-base remains strong and solid right across the country. Attendance for the team’s home games at the O Coliseum , in Oakland , California, has always been amongst the most positive aspect of the support for the franchise.

Week six will see the Raiders as the guests of the Atlanta Falcons when the two teams meet in a game where a win is of the utmost priority for the AFC West franchise, if they are to have any semblance of a season that can in some way be redeemed . For Mike Smith’s resurgent team led by four- year veteran Matt Ryan , who is off to a fast start this season with the unbeaten Falcons . I would like to think that the Raiders are in with a remote chance of defeating the NFC South divisional leaders, but nothing I have witnessed from this Dennis Allen coached team would suggest that they are , or will be capable of pulling off a victory ! There are way too many flaws on this Raiders’ team, and it is has become abundantly clear that neither Allen or anyone on his coaching staff has an answer for a Falcons’ team with such offensive capabilities .



Picture gallery .

With the return of the NFL certified officials are you entirely happy with the fact that they will resume officiating regular season games ? And do you feel that the league’s handling of the situation was done with the utmost wish to get the game back on track or merely done by Roger Goodell to protect his ego ? Of the current unbeaten teams in the NFL , which franchise do you believe might have the most credible credentials to make a deep run into the NFL postseason ? Simply leave a comment on points raised and on anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter .


Picture gallery and slide show details below.


(1) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton (69) during the second half an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. The Bears won 34-18 . AP Photo/The Waco Tribune-Herald, Jose Yau …..

(2) Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) makes a touchdown reception between Chicago Bears corner-back Tim Jennings (26) and strong safety Craig Steltz (20) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. AP Photo/Sharon Ellman ….

(3) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) sits on the bench with quarterback Kyle Orton (18) after throwing an interception to Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. The Bears won 34-18 . AP Photo/Sharon Ellman ….

(4) Minnesota Vikings’ Marcus Sherels (35) returns a punt for a touchdown during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio ….

Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen congratulates Denver Broncos coach John Fox after their NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Denver. The Broncos won 37-6 . AP Photo/Joe Mahoney ….

(6) Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is helped up off the turf after taking a hit by the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Denver. The Broncos won 37-6 . AP Photo/Joe Mahoney ……

(7) Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) talks with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) following a 30-28 win by the Falcons over the Panthers in their NFL football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. AP Photo/David Goldman ….



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