Monday, November 17, 2008

The Weekend Recap

It was a very lively Sunday evening down at Heinz Field for me, and after coming back from the Big Mustard Bottle on the North Shore to my drafty Oakland apartment, it took me the better part of Sunday evening to thaw myself out, hence why you are getting a Weekend Recap at on a Monday afternoon, instead, of you, at the end of the day Sunday like I hope to do.

For anyone else who was in attendance, I think you hopefully more than understand where I am coming from though, as I was in no condition to do anything but spend 30 minutes in a scalding hot shower and the rest of the night curled under roughly 300 blankets.

But believe me when I tell you, it was more than worth it to say that I was there for the first 11-10 final tally in the long history of the National Football League. And to say I was there for truly remarkable performances from Willie Parker, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward, and to also say I was there for one of the weirdest, most random, yet coolest snow storms in Pittsburgh history.

So, without further ado, here are the quick hits from the weekend that was in the Burgh:
-As is always the case when it comes to us residence near The Confluence, the weekend is made or broken by our beloved Steelers, and though the game kept us on pins and needles for 3 solid hours, our black and gold warriors once again game through victorious in a truly strange game that had to leave a smile on your face. The defense continues to enforce its will upon their opposition, and two players in particular, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, have to be considered among the best defenders in all of football right now. Both made spectacular plays yesterday, Harrison with a game-altering safety of Phillip Rivers and Troy with an unreal interception that, from my distant view at Heinz, looked like an impossible pick. And of course, there is Troy's controversial fumble return for a TD that was negated, which is all the talk today because of the gambling implications.

-I can't for the life of me understand how the refs could go under the hood to look at the fumble, call it a fumble and a Steeler TD, and then decide, without any logical reason behind it, that it wasn't a TD. A truly strange moment if I have ever seen one, and one that rightly deserved the numerous articles and thousands of jokes surfacing on the 'net today.

-Large Benjamin still looks awfully achy to me out there. He was clearly laboring on any throw that went beyond 15-20 yards downfield, and it was surprising that Willie Parker had as much success as he did running the ball when the safeties were not playing far from the line.

-This is a truly bizarre NFL season, and with no offensive skill player really emerging with big statistical numbers to gain serious consideration for the NFL MVP Award, I am throwing my full support behind the one and only Silverback, James Harrison. Harrison is one nasty, nasty individual on the football field and that mean streak carries over to the rest of the defense when they line up together. Add that to the fact that he has the pretty, shiny statistics that voters lover to see (he's on pace for about 100 tackles and a jaw-dropping 19 sacks). Not to mention the Steelers Defense has statistically been either the best or very close to the best all season long, the Steelers are almost certainly headed to the post-season, and the way that they defense single-handedly won that game and has kept them in several games this season, and I think that we have ourselves a legitimate case for MVP on our hands.

-It was very cool to see Skippy Reed get another game winner as the clock ran out last night. He has been one of the best kickers in football the past couple seasons (and should have been a Pro Bowler last season), and knocking in game winners are often what gets kickers notice in this league.

-Hines Ward may have lost a step or two and doesn't force any team to bring safety help in to stop him the way we see opposing teams do with Santonio on occassion, but that guy is an absolute warrior and was the focal point of that offense yesterday.

-I've said it before (though probably not on here) and I'll say it again: I will never buy Phillip Rivers as a franchise quarterback, and will forever be grateful that the Chargers wanted him over Big Ben back in the 04 draft when they instructed the G-Men to take him instead of Ben to complete the Eli Manning trade. I'm not saying he's not talented, and he can certainly be a complimentary QB and lead talented teams into the postseason like he did a year ago, but I don't think he has that extra gear like Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have shown where they can lift their team from a good playoff one to a great championship one, and he certainly won't ever be on the same stratosphere as all-time greats like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre.

-The Penguins continued their recent hot streak in playing from behind with a big 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres that was a much closer game then that score might indicate. To me, it seems like Geno Malkin is playing the best all-around hockey of his career right now, even better than the way he played last spring after Sid went out with an injury. He is an offensive force right now, and is the best player on the planet.

-Right now, the top two point scorers in hockey are a Penguin and a Capital, which should surprise absolutely no one who even remotely follows hockey. What should surprise them is that those two scorers are Geno and Alexander Semin.

-There are early reports this morning that the Flower, Marc-Andre Fleury, is injured. The injury is not yet known, he is day-to-day, and will miss the Minnesota game. Dany Sabourin has been excellent in relief so far this season, and I'm not concerned as long as this is a very short-term loss.

-The Darryl Sydor trade is a little strange in my opinion. I'm not the least bit surprised that he was dealt, and he has clearly wanted it for months, and he earned it after playing the good soldier for so long. But the return is what puzzles me. The man the Pens received in return, Phillipe Boucher, is only slightly younger than Sydor (35 to Darryl's 36), makes the exact same amount of money (2.5 million for this year, UFA afterward) and contributes nothing offensively. The only difference is he is a righty. So why do this deal? I mean you have to think that Boucher is just going to sit like Sydor did, and when Whitters and Gonch return, he is REALLY going to sit then. I assumed they'd keep Sydor til January or February then deal Sydor for a throwaway prospect to clear cap space for a trade where they acquire a top 2 line winger. Ray Shero, you know I hate to doubt you, because very often you end up being right, but I'm not too sure about this little maneuver.

-The win this past Saturday by the Cincinnati Bearcats sets up the biggest game of the Dave Wannstedt era this coming Saturday evening between said Bearcats and our Panthers. A full preview will be coming your way on Friday. I haven't even formulated any thoughts on this one yet other then some serious giddiness for my Panthers, as Cincinnati, while a tough and very resilient foe, looks to be a very beatable opponent, even though the game is on their turf. A W there puts there Panthers firmly in the driver's seat for the Big East crown, and sets up what would then be the new biggest game of the Dave Wannstedt Era.

Until next time folks...

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