It is the season to be jolly ……. or maybe not

It is the season to be jolly ……….. or maybe not

Well, on Thursday night , the NFL officially kicks off its season for 2013, where the reigning Superbowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens are the guests of the Denver Broncos at the Sports Authority Stadium /Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Reigning Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco brings with him a newly revamped roster to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos . The four-time league MVP is now on the cusp of further adding to his already illustrious career . Manning now sits a mere five hundred and thirteen yards from hitting the 60,000 yards` career plateau . A mark that has only been surpassed, by Hall of Fame inductee Dan Marino and the all-time career yards` leader Brett Favre , as Manning now seeks to join that illustrious list .

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Last season, the fans saw the rise of rookie quarterbacks , Andrew Luck , Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson , not only have extremely productive years , in also having each led their respective teams into the postseason . Yet, it can be said, seasoned veterans such as Peyton Manning , Drew Brees , Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were also one of the primary reasons why the NFL was such a success. And beyond the Superbowl itself , with the Ravens winning the second title of its proud heritage, one could attest to the fact that the expectations are high are for this season for not only that organization, but also for the other thirty-one teams around the league , with each expecting a chance of getting their shot to raise the Lombardi Trophy. .

This opening game of the regular season schedule places John Fox and John Harbaugh under the spotlight, as they each seek to get their teams off to a winning start . For Peyton Manning the highlight of the Broncos` off-season may well have been the choice to make that decisive decision to obtain former New England Patriots` wide receiver Wes Welker . That player`s addition to what was already a highly explosive offense, now becomes considerably better , and one in which Manning gets to be a teammate of Welker, who has averaged over one hundred receptions a season for the past five years .

Both of these teams, the Broncos and Ravens are expected to defend their divisional titles and come away with a considerable amount of success in that particular endeavor. In the case of the Denver Broncos, within the AFC West , I certainly do not see a credible challenge coming from the Kansas City Chiefs , Oakland Raiders or the San Diego Chargers , as the Broncos seek to further enhance their dominance of that particular division . John Fox`s team is by far the best of the quartet within the AFC West and it certainly denotes the belief why a number of analysts and fans around the NFL believe why they should be considered a prime contender for the Superbowl within the AFC . I do believe that the Ravens are likely to face a much stiffer challenge however , within the AFC North , merely because of the growing confidence of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals . A team that I believe to be one of the most dangerous in the conference altogether !

Bengals` head coach Marvin Lewis has to believe that the growth and maturity shown by his team over the past two seasons , has to be a sign that the franchise is on the right track . Coupled with another very good draft class and a number of free agent acquisitions , it will be interesting to see how the Bengals fare over the course of this season. Dalton and his teammates will open their regular season schedule on the road at Soldier Field in Chicago , Illinois against the Chicago Bears .

For the Bears` Jay Cutler now in a contract year and unrestricted free agent at the end of the season , he now must prove himself to be resolute enough after all of the major upheavals during the off-season . The retirement of Brian Urlacher was one thing, but the inexplicable firing of Lovie Smith , still does not sit well with a number of individuals around the NFL. The front office explanation for Smith`s dismissal remains idiotic and most definitely bewildering. Smith`s successor, Marc Trestmann now has to get this team into a mindset where they have to perform at the highest level possible. Yet, the biggest questions that will remain is whether or not Jay Cutler can fulfill his potential or simply remain at best, a moderately average NFL quarterback.

If Cutler is said to be under a great deal of pressure to succeed then is conference peer Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are also in a similar position. The ten-year veteran not drafted in the 2003 NFL Draft , but was signed by the franchise and has become one of the league`s more dependable regular season quarterbacks, but a deer caught in headlights once the postseason rolls into being. Either because they are in a drug induced haze but repeatedly each season the Cowboys are viewed as a favorite for postseason play and the Superbowl itself . Unfortunately, since Romo has been the team`s quarterback , one postseason win during a decade of play for the franchise , has been all that the player has to show for his mediocre efforts. Tony Romo has his supporters, of which his biggest supporter, remains the team`s owner Jerry Jones . Yet for all of Jones` continued support and the recent decision to sign the player to a seven-year $119 million contract of which $40 million is guaranteed. It begs the question; upon what are Jones` expectations based, in offering such a lucrative deal to the quarterback? As I alluded to earlier , Romo does have his supporters, but he also has a great many detractors , many of whom are very vocal in ridiculing Tony Romo`s alleged skill-set. Personally, I find Romo to be overrated , lacking in leadership and one someone who continues to make excuses for his and his team`s own shortcomings !

The NFC East has now become a division once again where the most discerning of NFL fans can now take a real interest. The Washington Redskins came out of nowhere to surprise a number of individuals to capture the division and many , who expected if anything the division to be a three-horse race between the Cowboys , New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles . Well, the three aforementioned teams all fell by the wayside in 2012, through some lackluster play and poor coaching. If Tony Romo are to prove themselves this season to be amongst the elite within the conference and the division itself , then their play will have to be of the highest quality possible .

For Tony Romo and the Cowboys, the regular season begins with a divisional game against their erstwhile rivals the New York Giants. That contest will be played at the palatial Cowboys Stadium in Arlington , Texas , on Sunday night , in-front of a television audience of millions, between two of the NFL`s more celebrated franchises. Eli Manning will once again pit wits against a team where in recent years , he has had a considerable amount of success . Jason Garrett and his opposite number Tom Coughlin , a two-time winning …. Superbowl coach, will be looking to add to his already impressive record. . Inasmuch as Jerry Jones and his son, EVP Stephen Jones have sworn to stick by Garrett as the Cowboys head coach through thick and thin , I truly believe that this season their patience will be severely tested , if in any way the Dallas Cowboys are unable to acquit themselves on the field of play . Considering the tenures of several of the incumbent`s predecessors have been in a number of cases, considerably less than is own. I am actually now surprised that Jason Garrett has lasted as long as he as in his present position ! The likes of Dave Campo , Chan Gailey , Wade Philips and Barry Switzer have come and gone, along with their infamy and granted, Switzer was the only one of the quartet to actually guide the Cowboys to a Superbowl victory . It should be noted that the team in question was essentially built around the pieces put in place by Jimmy Johnson . Barry Switzer, may well be given a great deal of the credit , but in reality, his input when sought, may well have been minimal at best .

After what might well feel and seem like an eternity , the New York Jets have made the decision to name Geno Smith , their second round draft pick as the team`s opening day starting quarterback for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . Add in the fact, that the franchise also acquired Brady Quinn and signed him to one-year deal worth $715,000. It now seems only a matter of time before the decision is made to jettison Mark Sanchez , after what many might now feel , has been four years of highs and lows . Consider that to be now, more lows than highs , for another lackluster quarterback from the University of Southern California . I should not really say this , but isn`t that where a number of overrated quarterbacks tend to make their exit from , to enter into the NFL , only to then disappoint ? Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart , Carson Palmer and now Mark Sanchez. On paper, their college stats are impressive, but their NFL careers to date, have been about as eye-popping as Lindsay Lohan`s acting career and Miley Cyrus` somewhat bile inducing performance at the VMA`s . Now that’s a white girl that has no ass and should not be singing or `twerking` !

With Sanchez injured in the Jets` final preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles , in a contest also marking Geno Smith`s unbelievably poor play . It now has me wondering whether or not the former West Virginia Mountaineer is as good as advertised ? And was he really the best option available of the quarterbacks available in the second round of the NFL Draft ? Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik , I believe if they had it to do all over again, would have either drafted up or simply taken another position player and then acquired a free agent quarterback . I simply do not believe that Geno Smith is yet ready to play in the NFL ! Granted, this outing against the Buccaneers could prove to be trouble-free, given that team`s still unresolved problems in their secondary and the doubts concerning the unevenness of Josh Freeman`s continually lackluster displays. A home victory would appear to be on the cards for the Jets , but it will be dependent upon which Geno Smith the New York Jets` fans will be privileged to witness on Sunday afternoon . The player many saw at the collegiate level or the player many witnessed performed so ineptly against the Eagles ? Chances are that during the game we will actually witness both.

As to Tampa`s own ongoing issues , well, let us just say that Greg Schiano has some sort of plan, which he and his current staff are currently carrying out. For all of the team`s off-season maneuvers , we are likely to see a team much like last season , where the players who lined up to be part of what was an essence an extraordinarily bad roster. Considering that for now, almost three straight years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been unable to sell out a regular season home game. I believe that streak is likely to be continued this season , for a franchise whose preseason performances and record were woefully lackluster and inept . Also what remains in doubt, is whether or not defensive back Darrelle Revis is likely to see any type of action in the team`s regular season opener against his former team. Having missed the entire preseason schedule , clearly Greg Schiano must be aware, that it is now time to have Darrelle Revis ready to resume his NFL career and justify that six-year $96 million deal , the player was signed to in the off-season. GM Mark Dominik , by his reluctance to address the media on this one fact, has now become someone whose judgment must come into question .

At best , in a division , the NFC South , where the quarterback play is likely to be of an extremely high standard , I cannot see the Buccaneers coming through their divisional games unscathed and where their conference play is likely to be just as daunting a task. A 6-10 or 7-9 record is what I envision for the team , and that is likely to be generous, given what I believe will be another difficult year for Josh Freeman ! With the Buccaneers` quarterback due to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season , it is paramount that he puts himself into a situation where he is likely to be rewarded and that is by having a solid and very productive season . Is that beyond the scope of Josh Freeman? I will let you be the judge of that ! My own thoughts on the matter are that I did not feel he was a worthy first round draft pick in 2009 by then Buccaneers` head coach Raheem Morris . Four seasons later and the player is still acclimatizing to the environment of the NFL. A steep price to pay for an organization that has not seen a quarterback of note perform for the franchise at a consistently high level in its entire existence .

The Kansas City Chiefs may well have ended the season in 2012, as the team with the worst record in the NFL . In 2013 , I believe that with the addition of Alex Smith to helm the roster at the quarterback position, along with a new head coach in Andy Reid , we are likely to see a competitive club that will certainly be looking to meet the challenge of stopping the Denver Broncos` recent dominance of the AFC West. That in of-itself may well not be enough , but given Reid`s vast experience and GM John Dorsey has seen fit to revamp the lineup , seeking a number of changes that should see the Chiefs making inroads within the NFL this season.

Andy Reid`s team will begin their regular season schedule with a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ever Bank Stadium in Jacksonville , Florida. And for the Jaguars coming off another disappointing season and having yet to see any real signs of progress in the game of Blaine Gabbert . It will be interesting to see what Gus Bradley and his coaching staff are likely to do , in order to get the best out of what was one of the league`s more inept offenses and defenses of last season . Jaguars` owner Shahid Khan , as ambitious as he is, as the franchise’s self-effacing proprietor , must know that he faces an extremely daunting task in turning around the fortunes of this team . They are likely to face an uphill battle, in competing within the AFC South against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts , two teams thought to have the best chance of taking divisional honors this season.

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Certainly the build-up up to this season has seen some rather sensational stories within the NFL. Yet I can`t help but wonder what will unfold over the course of the year , as teams lay siege within their conference and divisions , with the hope of making the postseason . At the same time several head coaches within the league will be placed under the usual scrutiny one would come to expect, with the likelihood of their livelihood actually being at stake. It all makes for an intriguing and suspenseful year of anticipation within the NFL . What , if anything are you most looking forward to, as the season unfolds and which games in particular, in week one and throughout the first four weeks of the regular season do you believe will be the most appealing ? Just simply chime in with a comment as you see fit.

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(1) John Fox and Peyton Manning are seen on the sidelines during a postseason game from 2012 . The Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game at Sports Authority Field Saturday January 12, 2013. Fox and Manning will be looking to avenge that loss in their home regular season opener against the reigning Superbowl champions . Denver is seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the AFC West this season . Photo by Tim Rasmussen,/The Denver Post …….

(2) From left to right , Andrew Luck , Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson . All three rookie quarterbacks from last season took their respective teams into the playoffs at the first time of asking , with all three being highly effective in the postseason. Getty Images / Mark Parsons …..

(3) Cincinnati Bengals` quarterback Andy Dalton (14) is seen here during a team practice session alongside head coach Marvin Lewis . Dalton has led the team into the postseason for two consecutive seasons starting in 2011 and then again 2012 . The franchise`s head coach will be looking for further progress from this team , in which we have seen the growing maturity of Dalton and teammates , Jermaine Gresham and A J Green . Getty Images / Michael Carpenter ………..

(4) Jun 11, 2013; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestmann and quarterback Jay Cutler (6) during mini-camp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

(5) Tony Romo and Jason Garrett are seen here on the sidelines during a game from last season . After a disappointing 2012 foray , the Dallas Cowboys well be looking to rebound this season by making a serious challenge within the NFC East , where the Washington Redskins will be looking to make a successful defense of their divisional title . Gerry Matthews / AP Photo …..

(6) New York Jets` quarterbacks Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez are seen at the team`s training facility . Smith, the team`s second round draft pick from 2013 will be the opening day starter for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . A bye-line to this contest will be the return of Darrelle Revis, when he suits up for the Buccaneers to face his old team for the first time on the field of play. With Mark Sanchez now sidelined with a shoulder injury , GM John Idzik signed Brady Quinn to a one-year $715,000 deal . There now seems to be growing speculation that the Jets will seek to trade Sanchez, while taking his $8.25 million salary off the books . The former USC Trojans` quarterback signed a five-year $52.5 million deal in 2012 , of which $20.5 million was guaranteed . USA Today / Scott Patterson ….. `

(7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers` head coach Greg Schiano is seen here with the team`s defensive back Darrelle Revis . The player did not see any playing time during the Buccaneers entire preseason schedule and is likely to see limited time during the team`s regular season opener against the New York Jets at Met-Life Stadium ,in East Rutherford , New Jersey . Mark Palmer / AP Photo ….

(8) Buccaneers` starting quarterback Josh Freeman is seen here after a regular season game from 2012 . Freeman`s play has been inconsistent over the past two seasons . An unrestricted free agent in 2014 , the quarterback will be seeking a new long-term contract . GM Mark Dominik is not prepared to address the situation until the end of the regular season. Paul Dominguez / Miami Herald ….

(9) Where the white women at , with the `big junk` in the trunk ? Temptress, Miley Cyrus seen here performing with R&B crooner Robin Thicke at the VMA`s (Video Music Awards) . The untalented Cyrus now seems to be courting controversy rather than trying to enhance her talent as a singer and dancer . Talent is not something that seems to run in the Cyrus family . Courtesy of MTV/Viacom Inc .

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tophatal ……………. 09/04/2013

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NFL news and news from around the league

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Pic of the day , Denise Milani

I will paint you a picture and you can tell me how you would like the story to end …

I will paint you a picture and you can tell me how you would like the story to end

Training camps are now underway in the NFL , with a number of teams now in full swing as to mandatory workouts with rookies and seasoned veterans already in camp. Headlines around the league have been bleak, with players now becoming part on law enforcement blotters for all of the wrong reasons .

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Not to be left out of it all, there have also been two high-ranking Denver Broncos` executives who fell afoul of law enforcement for two DUI misdemeanors and who now await some sort of action to be taken. The matter was dealt with rather swiftly by the Broncos` Head of Football Operations , with John Elway placing the two individuals in question on administrative leave without pay, pending the outcome of the law enforcement investigations. Unlike the rather laughable actions taken by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has simply sat back and watched the NFL placed into further disarray by his lack of authority and complete inaction . The league might well be able to rebound from this latest mea-culpa , but with the likelihood of a media circus surrounding the upcoming homicide trial of New England Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez . I am not so sure that this is the staple that the league wants to be part of any time during part of its regular season schedule .

Away from the menagerie of player misbehavior, there have been one or two notable moments. Reigning Superbowl champions the Baltimore Ravens saw the retirement of defensive stalwart Ray Lewis , the departures of Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin as well as other roster changes that could either lead to the Ravens again being a contender to successfully defend their title or perhaps, simply fall from grace, as we have been accustomed to seeing of recent champions over the past few years . In all likelihood, it all makes for a great premise to be rolled out within the AFC North this season .

As to the expectations for the Baltimore Ravens , the questions likely to be raised are. Can Joe Flacco show the form witnessed during the postseason , as he guided the team to the franchise’s second Superbowl triumph in its young history . The quarterback, having excelled in postseason play , was able to garner a lucrative contract that in terms of guaranteed money is the fourth highest NFL history. Also, with the departures of such seasoned veterans, are the team`s young rookies and sophomore players able to step up to the plate for head coach John Harbaugh and his staff ? The Ravens` exhilarating Superbowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers and the fact that team owner Steve Biscotti and GM Ozzie Newsome can feel vindicated in assembling a roster and building a franchise , that is now amongst the most well-respected organizations in the NFL .

The preseason for the Ravens will be a situation where John Harbaugh can get to acclimatize himself with his new look roster in light of the off-season player-personnel upheavals . Games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week one of the exhibition schedule to be followed by the Atlanta Falcons , Carolina Panthers and St Louis Rams will act as a precursor for the rigors of what should prove to a fairly tough regular season schedule for the reigning Superbowl champions .

As an ardent fan of the NFL I am not expecting a great deal out of the preseason , as I find the whole exercise a futile effort on the part of the league hierarchy and team owners to excoriate even more money out of the fans for meaningless games, that simply plays no part in the makeup of the regular season . Rising ticket and concession prices, to go along with what at times has come to be rather bland product, does now seem to be alienating some fans , without us having to delve into the behavioral issues of the players and the total lack of urgency being shown by Roger Goodell and the NFLPA (Players` Union) to address the situation head on .

Call me naïve, but every time I hear the Dallas Cowboys` owner Jerry Jones talking about the expectations for his franchise each upcoming season. I tend to wait with bated breath, just to see if he will suddenly fall down from having drank far too much alcohol in giving his State of the Cowboys` speech on an annual basis . Each season for the past decade the expectations have been continually high. And repeatedly the Cowboys have never failed to disappoint with their continued ineptitude . Could this season be any different for the franchise, often described as America`s Team ? I will leave it for you all, to be the judge of that !

The off-season for the Dallas Cowboys saw the departure for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan , who was ultimately being blamed for the team`s defensive woes last season . Ryan`s replacement is the aging Monte Kiffin whose prior place of employment upon his return to the NFL was to aid his son, Lane Kiffin in turning the USC Trojans into a lackluster and perennially defensively mediocre program for a number of seasons during his foray back amongst the collegiate ranks .

One of the more comical aspects as to the Cowboys` off-season was the very fact that Jerry Jones sought to extend the contract of the often overrated Tony Romo , whose playoff career reads like a horror story from a Bram Stoker novel . One playoff-win was somehow enough to garner Romo a seven-year $119.5 million deal , of which $40 million is guaranteed , inclusive of a $25 million signing bonus . Which begs the question, is Jerry Jones now printing his own money , beyond the lucrative and extortionate deals he has been able negotiate with various sponsors ? As profitable and valuable as the Dallas Cowboys` franchise is said to be . There has to come a time when common sense must prevail from within this particular organization . Alas, there seems to be no signs of that even with the rather asinine insistence and notion of some fans and NFL analysts alike, who seem to be under the impression that Romo is an elite, if not a top-ten quarterback in the NFL .

Tony Romo has continued to spend more time making excuses for team losses racked up during his tenure than he has shown in is continued lack of effort in terms of all-round leadership ability . Other than the Chicago Bears` …. Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals , could there be a more overrated and under-achieving quarterback currently playing in the NFL ?

A tepid 8-8 season in the NFC East , once again summed up the plight of the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 , in spite of the coaching indecision of Jason Garrett , who continues to flounder under the weight of expectation and the ongoing implicit faith being shown in him by the league`s most self-absorbed and rambunctious owner .

The front office of the Cowboys having parted ways with a number of players that the coaching staff and Jones in particular, felt were superfluous to the team`s needs . This year`s draft and a number of free agent acquisitions were the basis for bolstering the roster for the upcoming season. Inasmuch, as I believe that Jason Garrett will have his eyes on the divisional games within the NFC East . His first priority must be the preparation of is players on what will be a do or die season for many of these players and I believe undoubtedly for the head coach himself ! Jerry Jones has been known to tolerate a great deal as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Yet I seriously doubt that he finds the bitter taste of losing as harmonious as he would be in winning, and winning on a consistent basis . The franchise’s last playoff win came in the wildcard round of the 2009 postseason . And since then, the cupboard has been essentially bare .

I am not one to point to conspiracy theories behind a franchise’s high s and lows . One is, either to make your own luck , or if you are unable to do so, simply fly by the seat of your pants. In the case of the Dallas Cowboys over the past decade, it has been the singular-minded belief of Jerry Jones , that as team President and general manager , he can do no wrong in either role . What has become abundantly clear however , is that Jones` mistakes have been paramount in the failure of the franchise to be successful in terms of the on-field product of the Cowboys . More misses than hits in recent years, concerning the draft and overpaying for players who have been somewhat unproductive for the team in recent years , are glaring examples reasons why the team has failed abysmally. With the preseason being no indicator of what is likely to place during the regular season . All that is left to do , will be for Jason Garrett and his staff to assess the merits of a revamped roster and how best to equip themselves for the upcoming season .

A week one opening regular season schedule for the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants, could prove prophetic for both franchises, as each looks to regain their swagger. For Eli Manning and the Giants, after last season`s 9-7 divisional second place finish and squandering numerous chances to make the postseason . This divisional match-up might just be the test to they need to gauge themselves against an opponent where their contests have always proven to be very competitive .

So to avoid indictment and further embarrassment to himself the franchise he purchased and the NFL as a whole. Cleveland Browns` owner, Jimmy Haslam has agreed in principle that his company Pilot Flying J Inc will pay the rebates (several million dollars) due to clients , rather than facing a federal indictment and a trial . The fact that Haslam agreed to this all , after at first, denying any culpability on his part , even in the advent of several Pilot J executives and mid-level managers being fired , among those , several who suggested that Jimmy Haslam was privy to the fraud being perpetrated . It would appear all along, the Pilot Flying J proprietor, did indeed have something to hide . What might be even more unpalatable over the course of this whole sordid mess ? The NFL hierarchy and its Board of Governors approved the sale of the Cleveland Browns` franchise while the Criminal Division of the US Justice Department was conducting an investigation into the business dealings of Haslam`s company . Suffice to say, not a great deal of due diligence was being used by Roger Goodell and the in-house investigators and financial experts used in such instances . It begs the question, if the NFL can be so lax in such procedures, and then what else are they also incapable of doing so incompetently?

What also has come out of this , is a class action lawsuit filed in the US District Court by twenty-five national trucking companies , seeking punitive damages from Jimmy Haslam and Pilot Flying J Inc . It would appear that this will not be the last that we will hear on the matter should there be a trial. The Browns` owner insists that the franchise is not for sale . Yet , it is my belief that should this situation become even dire , there will be calls amongst the NFL`s Board of Governors to force Haslam into an unwanted sale or in all likelihood the league itself, taking over the day-to-day operations of the franchise . Even with this action by the Browns` owner , it does appear likely that the US Attorney overseeing the case for the US government will press ahead, seek an indictment and then proceed on to a trial . This paints another bleak picture for the image of the NFL and specifically amongst the team owners . Far too often they old themselves up as captains of industry , yet in reality, their business practices in and outside of the NFL ranks, are akin to that of a racketeer or Mafioso Boss. Il Capo dei Capi (Boss of Bosses) .

The Cleveland Browns, coming off a 5-11 season (2012) and a last place finish in the AFC North , will be looking to rebound from last season . A great deal of that will be predicated upon the play of quarterback Brandon Weeden and how the player seeks make up for a rookie season filled that was with highs and lows . A chance of a sophomore breakout year could be expected , but it will be predicated upon the weapons available for the quarterback . For second-year head coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff , this year might well be the opportunity they seek to prove that 2012 was something of an aberration .

On both sides of the ball , last season proved to be an immense struggle for the Cleveland Browns. There is no doubt in my mind that Chudzinski has sought the upgrades he believes necessary by way of the NFL Draft and free agent acquisitions to improve both the offense and defense . If those solutions are dealt with adequately, then there is no reason to believe why the Browns cannot create some sort of competitive edge for themselves within the AFC North and AFC in particular

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Picture gallery .

The off-season of the NFL has proven to be rather unsavory for a number of reasons , without their being any type of proven leadership being shown by anyone within the league hierarchy or from the union (NFLPA) for that matter . Yet, we are now to believe that the league can continue to withstand the continued type of adverse publicity without any type of criticism being leveled at the brand , its leadership and all that is said to represent ? By all means, do leave a comment as you see fit concerning anything you believe pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) FILE – In this June 27, 2013, file photo, former New England Patriots NFL football tight end Aaron Hernandez stands during a bail hearing in Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. The legal problems of current and former SEC players _ from ex-Florida and NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez to LSU’s Jeremy Hill _ has cast a negative light on the league that has won seven consecutive national championships. Coaches in the conference say they have to weigh a player’s talent vs. trouble in or out of the locker room. AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald …

(2) Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco warms up during practice at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., Tuesday, July 23, 2013. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky ….

(3) Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh speaks during a news conference after practice at the NFL football team’s facility in Owings Mills, Md., Tuesday, July 23, 2013. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …

(4) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo throws a pass during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Oxnard, Calif. AP Photo/Gus Ruelas …

(5) Dallas Cowboys` head coach Jason Garrett , left is seen here with team President & general manager Jerry Jones at the team`s practice facility in Arlington , Texas . Jones believes that the team will be rebound from a rather lackluster season in 2012 , during which the franchise missed the postseason for the third consecutive year , having finished third within the NFC East , behind the high-flying Washington Redskins (10-6) , eventual divisional champions . Getty Images / Chris Walker …

(6) Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is one of the NFL`s newest owners having bought the Cleveland based franchise in 2012 . In recent months, Haslam and is company Pilot J Flying Inc have been under investigation by the Criminal Division of the US Justice Department for failure to pay trucking company clients nationwide rebates amounting to millions of dollars . Haslam denies any wrongdoing on his part , but several senior executives fired by the owner have stated that Jimmy Haslam was party to the massive fraud perpetrated against the clients . Those clients have since filed a civil suit against Pilot J Flying , in US District Court in Tennessee , seeking unspecified and punitive damages . For his part, the Cleveland Browns owner has stated categorically that the franchise will not be put up for sale , in spite of this latest controversy . AP Photo / Matt Carr ……..

(7) Browns` quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is shown leaving the field after an off-season workout in Berea, Ohio, has been working to improve his footwork. Weeden leads Browns` quarterback depth chart made up of himself , veteran Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer . The Browns will be looking to make a serious challenge within the AFC North this upcoming season . They start their regular season, with an opening home game against the Miami Dolphins in all an all conference AFC duel . AP Photo / Brendan Sykes ………

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tophatal ………………

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NFL team payrolls ……………. Salary cap will be raised from $120.6 million to $123.65 million for the 2013-14 season .

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Hot chic pic of the day actress & model Melyssa Ford

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be , but I’ll take it

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be , but I’ll take it

By Tophatal ….. 01/08/2013

There’s something to be said for teams playing themselves into contention as the postseason approaches , and one could also attest to the fact that a team without a veteran presence on it , will tend to come up short in the initial round of the NFL playoffs . Clearly, that was the case, when the Baltimore Ravens played hosts to the Indianapolis Colts , led by their rookie sensation , Andrew Luck . And against the backdrop of the stories that surrounded the franchise over the course of the season , it seemed that nothing was about to go right for the team.

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it was revealed before the Sunday afternoon kickoff, that Colts’ assistant head coach, Bruce Arians had suddenly taken ill , having collapsed in his hotel room , suffering from dizziness and nausea . Considering, the health issues that befell Chuck Pagano earlier on , with his recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma , having undergone several rounds of debilitating chemotherapy .One has to wonder, if this was simply a rather unjust way of getting back at the Colts after their on-field success this season?

From 2-14 in 2011 , to double-digit wins and a postseason berth in 2012 , to alongside the exhilarating play of Andrew Luck and his teammates . What no one would be in doubt with , was that Ravens’ veteran linebacker , Ray Lewis was not about to let this game be his final swan song with the Baltimore Ravens . Over his illustrious career, Lewis has racked up accolades, the way, Warren Buffett has seen his wealth grow immensely . Lewis has the respect of his peers, past and present , as well a great many number of fans across the NFL landscape. And while he made the formal announcement stating that this would be his last season in the NFL , I seriously doubt that Ray Lewis’ wish was to ride off into the sunset, with a postseason loss to the upstart Indianapolis Colts .

The Colts did their leveled best to keep this game close , but errant plays , missed opportunities , and as I alluded to , the lack postseason experience , with only a few such veterans on the roster who could provide a minutiae of what was sought , Indianapolis would in the end come up short , on the wrong side of a 24-9 loss to their AFC counterparts .

As a New England Patriots’ (12-4) fan, simply knowing that they had garnered a top two seeding in the AFC was enough of respite knowing that the team’s defense still remains a work in progress, this late into the season . Now, far be it, for me to suggest, that Bill Belichick , a defensive “guru” , simply does know what he is doing , but at times there does seem to be a reason to his madness and that of his coaching staff . As to what that might be , only the venerable head coach and his staff would clearly know what that might be .

All season long , the deficiencies in the Patriots’ defense were highlighted , with their inconsistent play , albeit that came away victorious in many of those games . Charged with making the defense a great deal stealthier , well that has been placed in the hands of Matt Patricia , while the offense is left in the hands of Josh McDaniels. While the defense has its ongoing woes, the offense of the Patriot has simply been clicking on all cylinders . Leading the way for the Patriots is the franchise’s three-time winning Superbowl quarterback and league MVP , Tom Brady , who simply goes through the motions during the regular season, but once the postseason comes around , he simply becomes a cold-hearted assassin .

The Patriots will host the Houston Texans . This will be the second successive season, in which the Texans have made the postseason . For Texans’ quarterback, Matt Schaub , he will be given the chance to redeem himself after the team’s lopsided 42-14 defeat in week fourteen to their venerable AFC East counterparts. And much of the hype that surrounded the Texans during the early part of the season wasn’t at all justified , as the team came into the final five games of the regular season , going 2-3 in those scheduled match-ups . Hardly, what one consider to be noteworthy for a franchise with Superbowl aspirations. And though one can’t really put much store in one game , I do feel however, if you gauge that by looking at the series between the two combatants , it can at times provide us with something of an indicator , as to how these games can go !

The Houston Texans have proven to be a formidable force this season , and as one of the three best teams </u in the AFC from a record and offensive standpoint , it is easy to understand why the team was seen and remains as such, one of the favorites within the conference for the Superbowl. Running backs , Arian Foster , Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead , should be able to provide the fans in attendance at Gillette Stadium , in Foxborough , Massachusetts with a great spectacle in terms of a running game . A stern test of both defenses will be part of the recipe , in what is hoped to be a scintillating game . If there is a victor to come out of this match-up , then it will be all predicated upon time of possession , and whomever controls the ball in that specific category will come away the winner , in this divisional round duel.

I don’t know that there will be a more highly anticipated game this upcoming weekend , than the prospective match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons ! For a seventh round draft pick (2012 NFL Draft) , Russell Wilson might just prove to be the invaluable and prophetic player taken that late in the NFL Draft over the past decade , since Tom Brady as was drafted by the Patriots a sixth rounder in the 2000 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots . As we know Brady’s career has been illuminated by his on-field accomplishments , his career earnings , estimated wealth , conservatively said to be between $75 million to $120 million , and the fact that he and Peyton Manning might just be the most marketable players in the NFL, and that is with the idiocy that surrounds the “marketing” of Tim Tebow , as one of the “up and coming faces “ within the NFL ! Affability as a sales’ tool when it comes to consumer branding and marketing amongst heterosexual males , might just rank up there alongside using Clay Aiken as the next spokesperson for Louis Vuitton. It just doesn’t work .

In a game that will see Matt Ryan , of the Atlanta Falcons , once again try to get off the “Schneid” in terms of garnering his first postseason victory in what will be his fourth attempt indicates the struggles the player has in terms of his postseason performances . Ryan , forever the consummate professional is a great regular season performer , yet all of his troubles tend to arise in the postseason. As to whether or not he will be able to lead the Atlanta Falcons past a self-confident and driven Seahawks’ team , well that remains to be seen .

Russell Wilson’s accomplishments this season have simply been extraordinary, and the very fact that he joined Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin as the only rookies to have taken their respective franchises into the playoffs in their very first season, speaks volumes as their play. What cannot be denied in 2012 , and it is that we may well have seen the best year amongst NFL rookie quarterbacks in well over a decade .

Whether or not he wins Comeback Player of the Year or adds to his tally of four League MVP’s , there is no denying that Peyton Manning had an astonishing season in 2012 . He led the Denver Broncos to a conference best 13-3 record , and the fact that they steamrolled their way to the AFC West divisional title , simply indicates to me that the , Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders , and San Diego Chargers , are in all likelihood , going to be playing catch-up to the Broncos for quite a few years to come !

And for the Broncos they now have a home date with the Baltimore Ravens , to be played at Sports Authority Field , in Denver , Colorado ,. The two teams met earlier in the season , in week fifteen , with the Colts coming away with a 34-17 victory over their conference rivals . It was very much a game , that pivoted around the proficiency of both offenses and defenses during a great deal of the scheduled match-up between these two teams. For quarterbacks Peyton Manning and the Ravens’ Joe Flacco , this should be an event , that will provide us with an aerial assault , as well as , a great deal of productivity on the ground , by way of a running game from both the Colts and the Ravens.

Getting beyond the travails of Alex Smith , for whom consistency has been worrisome , considering over the course of his career, it wasn’t until 2011 that we saw some growth , maturity and leadership from the seven-year veteran quarterback, drafted out of Utah State as the # overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. With Smith’s regression in 2012 , it has been his backup Colin Kaepernick , who has stepped to the fore to take this Niners’ team into the postseason. Head coach Jim Harbaugh , had shown all the faith he had in Smith , but once the player became injured , he was left with the backup , Colin Kaepernick. He has grasped that opportunity and relished being the incumbent starting quarterback . On Saturday , we will get the chance to see Kaepernick make his first postseason start and assuage his progress as player within the ranks ranks of the NFL .

The prospective match-up between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers , in a game to be played at Candlestick Park , in San Francisco , California, should prove to be eventful , with an all too weary Packers’ team seeking not to be duped into that false sense of security . And with Packers’ quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, looking to further cement his legacy , after another exemplary season . This game has all the makings of becoming an instantaneous classic, in more ways than one .

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What , if anything , has been the most surprising to you , in terms of the playoff games that have taken place ? And in the divisional round of the postseason , what do you hope to see from the teams participating at that juncture? Chime in, on this, and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates after an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, in Baltimore. Lewis has said he will retire at the end of the season, and the Ravens won 24-9 . AP Photo/Gail Burton …

(2) Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs with the ball and gets away from Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) , for a 47 yard gain , during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, in Baltimore. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …

(3) New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski faces reporters in the team’s locker room at Gillette Stadium following NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. The Patriots host the Houston Texans on Sunday in an AFC divisional playoff game . AP Photo/Steven Senne …

(4) Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) reacts to throwing an interception to Cincinnati Bengals’ Leon Hall during the second quarter of an NFL wild card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Houston. Left is Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins . AP Photo/Dave Einsel …

(5) Denver Broncos coach John Fox , left, and quarterback Peyton Manning (18) watch from the sidelines against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Denver. Denver won 38-3 . AP Photo/Joe Mahoney ….

(6) Head coach Jim Harbaugh talks to Colin Kaepernick (7) of the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park on November 19, 2012 in San Francisco, California. Getty Images North America / Thomas W Henderson …

(7) Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson waves as he leaves the field after an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. The Seahawks defeated the Redskins 24-14 . AP Photo/Matt Slocum …

(8) Five quarterbacks who failed to deliver in 2012 by way of a playoff berth for their respective teams . From left to right , Eli Manning , Tony Romo , Ben Roethlisberger , Philip Rivers , and Jay Cutler . All are hoping to rebound in 2013 . …. @ copyrighted material all rights reserved …

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Wale & … Gucci Mane “Pretty Girls”

Oops Upside Your Head I Said Oops Upside Your Head !

Oops Upside Your Head I Said Oops Upside Your Head !

Well week one of the NFL season came about with a bang and in some cases something of a whimper given the rather morbid performances of some noted players. Anyone who witnessed the performance of Donovan McNabb in the Minnesota Vikings loss 24-17 to the San Diego Chargers . And though Chargers’ fans may well feel that they can take a great deal out this victory , in truth the team’s performance wasn’t really something to be desired . A seven point win but it was simply the woefully inept performance by Donovan McNabb that surely indicates that the player’s best years are behind him . Anyone who simply felt that McNabb would be the answer to the team’s woes has to be now rethinking that premise .

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From my own perspective , Zygi Wilf and the entire front office of Vikings clearly were sold a “bill of goods” in terms of the McNabb acquisition . As for Minnesota Vikings’ coach Leslie Frazier if he has pinned his hopes on the veteran quarterback leading this team to unprecedented heights then he clearly hasn’t learned anything in the aftermath of the Brett Favre fiasco under his predecessor Brad Childress and then last season with himself at the helm as coach of the team. And with the team’s quarterback Adrian Peterson having signed a multi year multi million contract this looks as if it could be a season of discontent for the Minnesota Vikings . McNabb’s stats from this season opener might just be the most anemic a performance of any quarterback in the league over the past five seasons . 7/15 , for 35 yards 0 TD’s and 0 INT’s and you have to wonder what happens next for the now beleaguered player. .

For those of you out there who are intrigued as to who Leslie Frazier may well choose to step into McNabb’s shoes . If not Joe Webb or Christian Ponder then you might as well say that the Vikings’ goose has been cooked . Without an adept quarterback to lead this team then there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of the Minnesota Vikings having a legitimate chance doing anything meaningful within the NFL this season .

From winning the AFC West last season and then garnering a postseason berth the Kansas City Chiefs had sought to improve on their showing last season . Todd Haley and his coaching staff along with quarterback Matt Cassel were looking to bolster their claims that they could be viewed as a legitimate contender within the AFC . Offseason acquisitions and a draft class thought to be the best amongst the teams within the conference and there might have been every reason to believe the claims made by the staff. Well if you have ever seen an anvil being dropped from a great height then the Chiefs’ 41-7 bludgeoning by the Buffalo Bills . If anything we can all attest to the fact that the Bills might well have been one of the worse performing teams in the NFL last season.

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Matt Ryan (46) of the Atlanta Falcons fumbles the ball against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Falcons 30-12 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

In this game the Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had the type of performance that cast him as the second coming of Jim Kelly the Buffalo Bills’ Hall of Fame signal caller . There’s nothing to suggest that this Chiefs’ team possessed anything that was the equal of their conference opponents this past Sunday .

Care to suggest how the Kansas City Chiefs are likely to fare over the course the remainder of the season ? But simply base that thought upon the team’s woefully inept play against the Buffalo Bills . If you believe that the Chiefs are liable to improve then simply say “yes” , if not then obviously you’ll say ” no ” .

Mike Smith as coach of the Atlanta Falcons if he’s improve the goal of this organization . Smith over the past two seasons has seen gradual improvement not only in team’s play but also in the leadership qualities of his quarterback Matt Ryan . The player for his part is seen one of the bright young players at the position within the NFL . The Falcons for their part often regarded as a very good regular season team but come the postseason they simply floundered under the weight of great expectations .

In the Atlanta Falcons’ season opener against the Chicago Bears , wherein we saw an onslaught that the Falcons simply had no answer in a completely lopsided loss that not even most NFL fans would could have envisaged . Jay Cutler and his Bears’ teammates mauled the Atlanta Falcons 30-12 leaving the team in a complete daze. I have to admit that of all the games that took place this past weekend the result that I found to be the most surprising happened to be the lopsided defeat of the Atlanta Falcons .

One could surmise that the entrenched battle . between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers and the absolute bloodbath in terms of the adversarial demeanor between these two heated NFC North foes had to be seen to be believed . Seven turnovers and a slew of mistakes by Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger amongst others on what is usually well disciplined Steelers’ team coached by Mike Tomlinson .

To suggest that anyone could have foreseen the Baltimore Ravens laying waste to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 would simply be a complete lie . The margin of victory was one thing but for the Steelers to be so thoroughly outplayed had to have come as a complete surprise . Joe Flacco , Ray Rice , Terrell Suggs , Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin simply had a day at the office that they could all be pleased with . And for Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh this might be just the evidence needed to suggest that gutting of the roster from last season and the subsequent offseason moves that coincided with the draft picks was a vindication for the Ravens’ front office and coaching staff that the decisions made were simply the right ones at the time.

It is pretty much safe to say that the NFC West might just be the least competitive of all the divisions in the NFL . Anyone of the belief who simply belief that a team that wins its division with a sub .500 record should be viewed as a team with a legitimate chance of winning the Superbowl must be either satisfied with that type of mediocrity or they simply view those teams as viable within the NFL .

Each season the more I simply take in the events of the NFC West it is the more I feel that the appropriate action to take would be get a paper bag and simply begin to regurgitate the food I may well have ate earlier ! To describe the football being played within the division as mediocre would be to describe a painting by Van Gogh as average . Simply put , it’s diatribe being served up on a silver platter for the fans’ edification , not that the NFL fans should be subjected to this over the complete NFL regular season schedule by the teams within that division. But that’s ….. c’est la vie !

The Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll is amongst the highest paid NFL coaches in the league earning in excess of $7 million a year . Granted , team owner Paul Allen is amongst the wealthiest individuals on the planet but I’m sure that even he and GM John Schneider could have imagined wherein the team would simply have regressed rather than taking a step forward . I have never really thought Pete Carroll to be a very good NFL coach as his previous tenures has proven that coaching in the NFL isn’t within his wheelhouse . But this where the front office executives and team owners simply become at times too enamored with a college coach who’s said to have attained unprecedented success. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier should have been a clear indication that ………. all that glitters isn’t clearly gold .

The Seahawks were hosted by the San Francisco 49ers this past weekend and the effort put forth by Pete Carroll’s team can be best described as being anemic and completely devoid of any aggression . Funny how a team who made the playoffs last season can now be looked upon as quite possibly one of the worst performing franchises in the NFL , on both sides of the ball. The Niners came away with the bragging rights in the divisional game clearly laying waste to their opponent 33-17 . With the loss of Matt Hasselbeck to the Tennessee Titans as a free agent somehow the coach felt that former Vikings’ quarterback Tarvaris Jackson could be seen as an adequate successor to the seasoned veteran . Given Jackson’s performance in that game I somehow think that Pete Carroll’s problems have now increased immeasurably ! The coach’s options at the position are not that great beyond Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis , so it is hard to view this team as a viable contender within the NFC much less the league as a whole .

It has to be said that there would be no doubt that the Indianapolis Colts would suffer this season with the long term loss of their celebrated quarterback Peyton Manning . You simply knew that this team wouldn’t be the same with his loss. GM Bill Polian and the front office may well have felt that acquiring seasoned veteran Kerry Collins would indeed make a difference but in reality the Colts are not a team that play on par with a nemesis when they simply haven’t got their best offensive weapon at the helm as the signal caller and in truth you cannot expect them to be .

Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell and the coaching staff may well now have to keep the playbook simple for Collins and the team to have any semblance of success this season . Given the experience and the shock to the system of their season opener I am inclined to believe that the Indianapolis Colts are likely to struggle over the course of this year . The humiliating defeat the Colts suffered at the hands of the Houston Texans was enough to suggest that we might well be seeing the decline of a team who having the lost its leader has now become a rudderless vessel about to be capsized at sea. That 34-7 loss more than suggested how devoid of leadership this team becomes , without Peyton Manning but even more so , when you realize that there was no one willing to step up to the plate and assume the role as a leader . Say what you will , but if they are to fare well this season then someone has to be seen as the new leader on thus team .

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The NFL lockout may well have played its part in the rust we have seen from the teams in their performances in this first regular season scheduled game . But if anything it has to be said the coaches and their staffs had more than enough time to prepare their squads for expectations of what is always expected to be an arduous season . Simply put some of the teams in question may well have performed badly , much of it from their own doing and complete lack of preparation . If nothing else this could well be what we could very well expect over the next few games . But from my perspective these teams on the wrong side of these lopsided losses must have felt that they had been hit upside their heads ! What thoughts if any do you have from this first week of the NFL schedule ? Do you expect to see more of the same or could it be that this was merely a minor blip on the screen for many of the franchises in question ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) SAN DIEGO, CA – SEPTEMBER 11: Donovan McNabb #5 of the Minnesota Vikings in the huddle with his teammates against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on September 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images ….

(2) Donovan McNabb (5) of the Minnesota Vikings in action against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on September 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images …….

(3) Adrian Peterson (28) of the Minnesota Vikings is tackled by Donald Butler (56) and Takeo Spikes (51) of the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on September 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images ……….

(4) Quarterback Matt Cassel (7) of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after a turnover during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images …….

(5) Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) of the Buffalo Bills in action during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images …..

(6) Matt Ryan (46) of the Atlanta Falcons fumbles the ball against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Falcons 30-12 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(7) John Abraham (55) #55 of the Atlanta Falcons sacks Jay Cutler (6) of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Falcons 30-12. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(8) Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) of the Pittsburgh Steelers scrambles while being pressured by defender Arthur Jones (97) of the Baltimore Ravens during second half of the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images …….

(9) Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll walks the sidelines during their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 11, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images …….

(10) Tarvaris Jackson (7) of the Seattle Seahawks drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on September 11, 2011 in San Francisco, California. the 49ers won the game 33-17 . Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images ……

(11) Quarterback Kerry Collins (5) of the Indianapolis Colts is blind sighted by linebacker Mario Williams (90) of the Houston Texans on September 11, 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Texans won 34-7 . Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images …

(12) Head coach Gary Kubiak talks with quarterback Matt Schaub (8) of the Houston Texans during a time out against the Indianapolis Colts on September 11, 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Texans won 34 -7 .(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images ……..

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Ricky Don’t Lose That Number ………….

Ricky Don’t Lose That Number ……….

Well week three of the NFL preseason is upon us and as of Wednesday night the Washington Redskins remained one of the unbeaten teams within league . No great surprise as not many of us tend not to place a great deal on these games to begin with . They’re merely there to test the consistency of the teams and their play making abilities .

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For Mike Shanahan and coaching staff this has to be something that he relishes in seeing this team play to the best of their abilities . With both John Beck and Rex Grossman seemingly in tune with the offense it’s hoped that the players can overcome their misfortunes of last season . In the offseason Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen saw fit to make the moves necessary to compliment their roster through the arrival of free agents and the NFL Draft .

The Washington Redskins may well find themselves in something of a dogfight within the NFC East should they be able to raise the level of their play and be highly competitive within the division against their foes the Dallas Cowboys , New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles . Clearly Mike Shanahan believes that after the drama of last season with the inconsistency of Donovan McNabb the coach saw fit to jettison the veteran quarterback and look to both Grossman and Beck to secure the starting quarterback position .

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Ricky Williams answers questions posed to him by the convened press at M&T Bank Stadium after the player was formally announced as the latest free agent signed by the Baltimore Ravens . The eleven year NFL veteran still seeks an elusive piece of silverware to adorn his finger a Superbowl ring. AP Photo / Brian Cross ………

For John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens who hosted the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore , Maryland . This was a chance for the coach and his staff to assess the team after their own off-season moves sought by GM Ozzie Newsome .

One of the more surprising moves of the Ravens was to acquire former Miami Dolphins’ running back Ricky Williams to complement the offense led by Ray Rice . Certainly with all of the changes made on this roster apart from that of the coaching staff in particular with Cam Cameron now the offensive coordinator with Chuck Pagano now the defensive coordinator , both the defensive and offensive players now have a whole new premise as to their play-making. For quarterback Joe Flacco with the weapons he now has around him this season will be a true test of his abilities in set situations .

For the veteran Ricky Williams in what has been an up and down career filled with a great deal of controversy both on and off the field . I can only surmise that the player feels that he still has something to offer to the Baltimore Ravens and the organization’s front office feel that he would be of benefit to the team. Now there may well be many who would question the mindset of Ozzie Newsome’s decision and they may well be justified in their thinking. Granted, with the Miami Dolphins feeling that both Ronnie Brown and Williams were superfluous to their needs some may well have felt that this was a major mistake by GM Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano .

From my own standpoint this may well be the last hurrah for Ricky Williams as a player in the NFL . He may well be productive enough to indeed offer this team whatever it is they seek but I do feel that the Ravens’ best chance will lie in the productivity of Joe Flacco and that of his offense . This season the Ravens start off running right out of the gates with two conference games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the Tennessee Titans . We will definitely get to see the character of this team in both events and a great deal more about the Baltimore Ravens , in terms of their overall aspirations.

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From left to right Baltimore Ravens’ president Dick Cass , GM Ozzie Newsome , team owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh. The quartet took questions posed by the convened press concerning the NFL Draft , their own thoughts on the event as well as the NFL lockout and what effect it would pose to their decision making. AP Photo Rob Carr …….

Last season for the team was reflective of what they felt could be achieved , having made the postseason . Their wildcard defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs with the demonstratively easy 30-7 win was met with a somewhat less exhilarating display , with a subsequent loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers —- 31-24 in the divisional playoffs and the chance of making the AFC Championship game. That letdown may well explain the decision by Ozzie Newsome to implode the roster and start afresh with the influx of youth and speed , while at the same time still relying on the traits that has given the organization that it has been known for over the years. A hard hitting defense that’s miserly with points allowed per game and a running game that’s used as and when needed . I’ve no doubt that Cam Cameron will refine the attributes of the offense to get the best possible results and the same must be said of the defense that is now under the tutelage of Chuck Logano . This should be a very interesting season indeed for the Baltimore Ravens and their legions of loyal fans.

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What if anything to your mind has been of real interest to you this preseason within the NFL ? And what thoughts if any do you have on the upcoming regular season for the Baltimore Ravens ? Are you of the opinion that this may well be the last hurrah for Ricky Willams as a player as he strives to obtain that elusive Superbowl ring ? Simply leave comment as to your thoughts .

Alan aka tophatal ………….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal @ http://facebook.com/tophatal or

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(1) LaQuan Williams (15) of the Baltimore Ravens returns a punt against the Washington Redskins during the second half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31 . Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ….

(2) Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (L),Jason Murphy (61) , and head coach John Harbaugh (R) celebrate scoring against the Washington Redskins during the second half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……

(3) Quarterback John Beck (12) of the Washington Redskins throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images …….

(4) BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 25: Quarterback Joe Flacco (5) of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with Anquan Boldin (81) after the pair connected for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the second half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……….

(5) Ricky Williams answers questions posed to him by the convened press at M&T Bank Stadium after the player was formally announced as the latest free agent signed by the Baltimore Ravens . The eleven year NFL veteran still seeks an elusive piece of silverware to adorn his finger a Superbowl ring. AP Photo / Brian Cross ………

(6) Wide receiver Lee Evans (83) of the Baltimore Ravens catches a touchdown pass against defender DeAngelo Hall (23) of the Washington Redskins during the first half of a preason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images …..

(7) Running back Ray Rice (27) of the Baltimore Ravens leaps into the end zone for a touchdown in front of Ryan Kerrigan (91) of the Washington Redskins during the first half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images …….

(8) Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman is sacked by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky ……..

(9) DeAngelo Hall (23) of the Washington Redskins returns an interception for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a preaseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images …….

(10) From left to right Baltimore Ravens’ president Dick Cass , GM Ozzie Newsome , team owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh. The quartet took questions posed by the convened press concerning the NFL Draft , their own thoughts on the event as well as the NFL lockout and what effect it would pose to their decision making. AP Photo Rob Carr …….

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Please Don’t Make Me Laugh The NBA And NFL Continue To Show Some Sense As In Nonsense !

Please Don’t Make Me Laugh The NBA And NFL Continue To Show Some Sense As In Nonsense !

If there’s something troubling to me at present it has been the NFL lockout and what we’re now seeing is the very same prescribed idiocy from the NBA hierarchy and owners , general managers and the NBPA . I’ve said all along that I felt that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t the wisest of individuals in terms of being the leading official of a governing professional sport’s body . Whereas , his NBA counterpart David Stern rules with a rod of iron and an autocratic rule that would make a third world despotic tyrant feel proud . It has been this asinine notion of that both hierarchies that they can simply plead poverty without showing any signs of clear transparency when it comes to conducting their business practices . If there’s one thing that I believe that the fans need to learn is that neither party in the case of the NFL owners and the NBA owners can’t be trusted to tell the truth !

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Slide show for your perusal .

The NFL stoppage is now well into its third month and the two sides appear to be no closer in reaching an accord and that is in spite of the joint statement forthcoming from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith . The charade has simply become a complete pissing contest as each side looks to outdo each other rather than simply showing some common sense . And the same thing now appears to be happening as the NBA and union are on a path of actual self destruction . Billy Hunter the union executive director and Derek Fisher the NBPA president and the executive committee have stood steadfast in the belief that the league have been less than truthful as to the league’s financial problems . David Stern has stated that the league is on course to lose in excess of $450 million for the fiscal year 2010. And while I do not dispute that figure what I do dispute is the mere fact that the owners felt that they could simply get by on being gregarious in their spending as they chased after success. The league has a soft salary cap of $57 million but here lies the sheer stupidity of the teams’ actions and that of the general managers as they sought to simply go way beyond that limit (2010-11 team salaries ) . [( 2009-10 NBA team salaries ) ]

Now as the drama plays itself out for all to see I seriously doubt that the fans really can really align themselves with either party in the ongoing negotiations with the NBA , NFL and the respective unions that they are currently dealing with.

This upcoming NFL season should there be one , will prove to be very interesting with Jim Harbaugh and John Fox now taking over the helm of the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos . Both teams had their highs and lows in terms of last season and their respective records within the AFC West and NFC West left a great deal to be desired by their fans. So much so that if anything their schedules and play may well be met with some optimism as well as a sense pragmatism. Inconsistency and an overall lack of accountability and leadership led to both teams’ failings and misfires throughout much of their respective seasons .

Josh McDaniels as Fox’s predecessor simply couldn’t get the Broncos play with any passion and much of that had to do with the incompetency shown by the team over the coach’s tenure. And it should not come as a surprise that the McDaniels was abruptly fired by team owner Pat Bowlen , with the owner having to endure the coach’s lies and his complicity in an episode that simply dragged the Broncos’ season into further despair. Needless to say that the fans were happy with the coach’s firing and John Elway now coming on board as a consultant with the organization as the team’s de-facto general manager . The team with Tim Tebow now on board as its quarterback will certainly have a great deal to live up as they seek to make their presence felt within the league .

In light of the problems had by the Broncos over last season one now has to ask what John Fox can simply do to make this team better ? Certainly with the team’s draft choices from this NFL Draft and that of past seasons one can see that Fox has a stern task ahead of him . If nothing else if Tebow is now viewed as the starting quarterback then his leadership skills and play will most certainly have to come to the fore if the Denver Broncos are to have any chance of having a successful season at all this year.

I am not about to suggest that the Broncos are capable of winning the AFC West but I do certainly feel that they are good enough perhaps make some noise within a division where consistency has always been a problem for the teams there. The Oakland Raiders with new coach Hu Jackson in tow will always be looking over his shoulder as the front office and team owner Al Davis will continue to scrutinize his every move and decision made . This team has become a conundrum and enigma all rolled into one as you never simply know what to expect from this team from one moment to the next . With the talent on show with the Raiders you simply have to believe that there has to be a turnaround sooner or later . The revolving door mentality that seems to have been in place for the Raiders hasn’t bared fruit for the organization . Since the departure of Jon Gruden you have only but to look at the problems that seem to have manifested themselves for the Oakland Raiders . One would have to be in complete denial to think otherwise , as the organization has simply struggled to make their presence felt . I am sure that the fans believe that with Hu Jackson having succeeded Tom Cable they can only make great strides this upcoming season . I am of the opinion that the team will finally begin to show the signs that we saw throughout much of last season as the team at times showed their offensive capabilities . From a defensive standpoint the struggles were there for all to see .

If there’s one team in the AFC that I continue to be beguiled by then it has to be the Baltimore Ravens ! When this team is at its very best I do believe that they’re capable of being and competing amongst the very best in the NFL . In Joe Flacco they have a quarterback who is amongst the very best amongst at the position in the league and a player whose confidence continues to grow each season . But to solely think it has been Flacco that has been the main reason for the turnaround and consistency shown by the Ravens then one ought to look at the coaching qualities of John Harbaugh , his coaching staff and in particular the play of ageless wonders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed .

The Ravens this past postseason wilted when it mattered most but that seemingly came down to the fact that they were complacent . The loss if anything indicated that while they appear to be on the right path the Ravens are still one or two players away from being a truly perennial contender for the Superbowl . The draft and the continued prowess shown in making the prudent choices that have been of benefit to the organization surely will make them quite possibly a presumptive favorite the upcoming Superbowl to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium , Indiana , Indianapolis . I know that amongst some circles teams such as the New England Patriots , New York Jets , Indianapolis Colts , San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers have to be considered the preeminent contenders within the AFC .

This upcoming season may well tell us a great deal about the direction that this team could very well be heading should there be a schedule to be played. One hundred and six days in and with neither side actually inching towards seeking a quick resolution to this ongoing debacle I for one have become completely resolved to the fact that the season could very well be a shortened one , with there being the usual postseason schedule remaining in tact. The fans are annoyed with the usual statements coming from the respective hierarchies with little evidence to be shown that either side is actually prepared to reach an accord . Simply put , whether or not there is any football to be had then in large part the fans will no longer care either way , as they’ve lost complete faith with the NFL hierarchy and the union.

In the runup to this season’s All Star Game I am beginning to think the teams in with their divisional titles are now focusing on positioning themselves that final onslaught over the ensuing months . Certainly once the events of the All Star Weekend are over and done with , we will see those division leaders simply look to separate themselves from their rivals and those to be in with a chance of attaining a wildcard berth .

I certainly don’t believe that speculating beyond the statements made thus far it’s worthwhile trying to disseminate the information that is now out there to be surveyed . We know the teams are giving it their all with players all seeking to place themselves in a position for the game’s individual awards . As to the postseason itself there’s still a great deal of baseball to be played and it will be interesting to see how things play out over the regular season we before we can begin to think about baseball’s showcase event.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What points raised within this piece have been of interest to you ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts .

Alan aka tophatal ………… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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(1) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban walks out of the NBA owners meeting without commenting to waiting media, in Dallas on Tuesday, June 28, 2011. AP Photo/LM Otero ….

(2) NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter is seen here alongside Commissioner David Stern . AP Photo/ Rafael Montalvez ….

(3) In this undated photo released by the United States District Court , U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan poses for a photograph. Critical thinking and an ability to relate to others plays a big role in the courtroom for Boylan, who is no doubt having those skills tested as he tries to diffuse the tension in the NFL lockout, no more than 100 days long. AP Photo/United States District Court ……

(4) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and National Football League Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith speak to reporters outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sarasota, Fla., after speaking at the NFLPA’s rookie symposium, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. AP Photo/Brian Blanco …….

(5) ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 20: NFL player Tim Tebow speaks onstage at the 42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards at The Fox Theatre on April 20, 2011 in Atlanta City. The show airs on GMC on Sunday April 24th 2011. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for GMA ……

(6) Joe Flacco (5) of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Bengals 6-0 at the half. Larry French / Getty Images North America …..

(7) Ray Lewis (52) of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6 . Getty Images North America / Larry French ….

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