Sunday, October 26, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 22-21 victory over Atlanta Sunday

My column. Why the glass is now half full for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions:

My column on Michigan/MSU - Michigan not only punching bag, but punch line for Mark Dantonio and MSU football:

Thoughts halftime Lions, Falcons

- The Falcons are 2-5, desperate and badly in need of a win. And they are playing like it. The Lions, on the other hand, are playing like a team which has already limped into its bye week. What a nightmare of a first half for the Lions. I thought it was summed up by Ndamukong Suh inadvertently colliding with Nick Fairley, injuring Fairley's knee. The Lions could really use C.J. Moseley right now. Bad timing for his conduct issue. Jeez.
- This looks like the Lions' offense from late last season when it was void of any real weapons other than a banged up Calvin Johnson. Think about it: Matt Ryan is throwing to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Henry Douglas, while Stafford's options are Golden Tate, and well, Golden Tate. Without Megatron, Reggie Bush and their tight ends, the Lions' are badly lacking a supporting cast for Stafford.
- The Lions offensive line just isn't playing well. Hasn't all season.
- Nice try by Rashean Mathis, but that was a classic example of pass interference. It was interesting how he maneuvered his way 103 yards down the field in close minute's time, or so it seemed.
- A lot more Jeremy Ross would be a good thing for the Lions.

My column. Michigan not only punching bag, but punch line for Mark Dantonio and MSU football:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My thoughts and column on MSU's 35-11 victory over Michigan Saturday

My column. Michigan not only a punching bag, but a punch line for Mark Dantonio and MSU football:

Thoughts halftime Michigan, MSU

This very much appears to be a replay offensively for Michigan of its last couple visits to Spartan Stadium. The Wolverines just can't do anything offensively. Simply put, the Wolverines' offensive line is terrible. Devin Gardner and UM's running backs don't have a chance. If it weren't for a missed field goal, Connor Cook missing a wide open receiver, Aaron Burbridge, for an apparent touchdown and a fumble by Spartans' tight end Josiah Price, the rout would be on. As is, it is still 14-3, but only because the Spartans are shooting themselves in the foot. The Spartans should, honestly, be winning this game by three or four touchdowns. More utter embarrassment for Michigan football.
 - How can Michigan's defense allow a 5-8 (and that's being generous) 196-pound running back move the pile five yards like Nick Hill did early in the second quarter?
- If Michigan's secondary isn't the worst in the nation at playing the ball while it is in the air, it is close. The play in which cornerback Jordan Lewis was flagged for pass interference, after giving up a long gain anyway, was especially telling.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Michigan, MSU

- It's still a game, but probably shouldn't be. The missed field goal try into the wind by MSU kicker Michael Geiger is the reason. The Spartans simply look like the better team in every way.
- If there is one play that sums up the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry these days it is Spartans' quarterback Connor Cook just plowing over Wolverines' defensive back Delano Hill, and then Hill getting a penalty for taking a shot at Cook after the play. The Spartans are exceptionally tough football team, the Wolverines extremely soft in comparison. It's been both mentally and physically, and for awhile, too.
- I do like Michigan's basic strategy defensively. It is to try to take the run away from MSU, and force Cook at to beat them throwing the ball. It's the Wolverines' only chance. Not that it's a good one because the Spartans throw the ball well. And MSU is still running the ball relatively effectively. The passes have loosened up the Spartans' running attack.
- I understand doing everything possible to take away helmet-to-helmet hits, but I did feel bad for MSU freshman Chris Frey. It wasn't intentional, it didn't seem that damaging, and yet he was thrown out of the game. Guess it is better to err on the side of caution.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan? Why the jury is still very much out

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is Pavel Datsyuk still a special player or overrated at this point?

There was a time at Joe Louis Arena, not long ago, when they would interview a long-time season-ticket holder during a break in the action on the overhead scoreboard.
One of the question they'd ask, "Who is your favorite Red Wing?"
Most nights the answer: "Pavel Datsyuk."
There are two things Datsyuk does better than any player I've ever seen - stickhandle and take the puck off opposing forwards. He is also an adroit playmaker, and has excellent snap and wrist shots, although he doesn't deploy them nearly enough.
Count me among those who have long lauded Datsyuk as one of the best players in the world, and that, if anything, he is underrated outside of Detroit.
Yet, in truth, it's been awhile since Datsyuk, 36, has been that great player. He missed nearly as many games as he played last season because of a knee ailment. He played brilliantly for Russia at the Olympics, although his team was crushed, and he had one terrific playoff game for the Red Wings last spring (the only one they won vs. Boston, which was not a coincidence). He was hurt (shoulder) in the first preseason game this season. It's almost like he hasn't been part of the team, nor that Red Wings are depending on him. It's been more like Datsyuk, at 36, has become an more an "X" factor than a great player.
Well, he's back tonight for the Red Wings at Montreal.
TSN still rated Datsyuk as the 17th best player in the world, but he was less than a point per game player last season, and just plus one.
If the Red Wings have Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg really back and rolling as a 1-2 punch, it greatly changes the dynamic of what they are capable of accomplishing this season. You saw what Zetterberg did against Toronto over the weekend. It was special. Is Pavel Datsyuk still special?
We're about to find out.

My column. Nice win, but will the Lions have the same competitive character when it really counts:

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions 24-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Lions, Saints

- The Lions finally put together drive by mixing their plays up better and taking a shot or two little deeper. They also relied a bit on Joique Bell. Today, that's a good thing. He is running well.
- If you give Drew Brees and inch, he is going to take a mile. His 46-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills was a classic example. He had a guy open. He didn't miss. Also, you saw his brilliance when the Lions had the Saints pinned back to their own one after a punt, and Brees immediately fired a pass to Marques Colston for a first down. Even Lions' fans have to admire his brilliance in a way today. It's almost like a privilege to watch the guy play. He is that good. Or should we say great. He has the Saints on the move again.
- Can you image this game coming down a field goal attempt by Matt Prater? Never mind.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Thoughts halftime Saints, Lions

- While the Lions' defense is playing well enough to win this game, their offense clearly is not. Matthew Stafford is not sharp. He did miss Brandon Pettigrew for a potential TD in the second quarter and has been just a bit off with too many throws. And it's not like Stafford is getting much help from anybody other than Golden Tate.
- As well as the Lions defense played for most of the first half, it was disappointing, to say the least, how it ended. The two-minute drive by Drew Brees and the Saints was just too easy.
- How about a little more Joique Bell and little less of Reggie Bush. Bell seems to be the more effective of the Lions' two backs today and they need to gash the Saints a little bit inside.
Matthew Stafford
- Matt Prater is a shank about to happen. If there is anything such as a bad made field goal attempt, Prater demonstrated it by banking in a 21-yard attempt off the left upright during the second quarter. Brutal.
- The defensive line is an obvious strength for the Lions. The most underrated player on the front is tackle C.J. Mosley. He is not only solid at the point of attack, but he makes his share of big plays. We saw another example of that when he stripped Saints' running back Khiry Robinson of the ball and caused a fumble during the second quarter.
- The concept of Tate on bubble screens and quick flips to the flat against zone coverage is a good one. He is terrific running after the catch. It might be a good idea to use him on reverses, as well.
- The Lions' offensive line has been subjected to much criticism this season, and its effectiveness is certainly worthy of the questions. Yet, it's difficult to tell sometimes whether it's because of different pass protections than they used in the past. But what is clear, the offensive line is not creating running room at all up the middle. It does make you wonder how much tread is left on the tires, so to speak, for guard Rob Sims and center Dominic Raiola.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Saints, LIons

Calvin Johnson
- The Lions' defense looks good today. They have put good pressure on Drew Brees. They also aren't afraid to bring pressure from their linebackers and safeties. The sack by James Ihedigbo was key. It's still early early, but it not an overstatement to suggest Teryl Austin is running a much better scheme than the Wide 9 the Lions' deployed under the previous coaching regime.
- Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions must do the basic things well offensively today. One is they must run the ball better. Yes, they have been able to run the clock out late in some games this year, but their rushing attack has been among the bottom quarter of all NFL teams. It's been disappointing so far today. Also, they can't, obviously, turn the ball. That's been disappointing so far  today, too. The defense isn't going to hold the Saints' offense with a short field. And they can't take foolish penalties, like the one on Glover Quin at the end of the quarter.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Detroit Tigers won't get better unless general manager Dave Dombrowski does

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 17-3 victory over the Vikings Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Lions, Vikings

- The kicking situation is a disaster. The Lions will probably get away with it today because of the Vikings' ineptitude offensively and the strength of their Front 7 defensively, but come on..
- Hate to say it, but guard Rob Sims and  center Dominic Raiola have not been playing well, and it could be Father Time may have caught up to them. To have Stafford sacked and hit this often is unacceptable. It's not like there is much option at backup QB, either.
- The one problem with trying to run out the clock with Joique Bell and George Winn as your running backs is both have shown the propensity to fumble.
Matt Prater

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

Tboughts halftime Lions, Vikings

- The missed field goals mean more than just three points not being added to the scoreboard. Particularly with the Lions at this point, they are very deflating. You just can't measure how much Matt Prater's miss took the life out of the Lions' offense. The Lions obviously should have drafted either the Eagles' Cody Parkey or the Cardinals' Chandler Cantanzaro rather than Nate Freese in the seventh round. Both those undrafted rookies are having excellent seasons for their respective teams.
I know, Prater hit the second one. But one of two isn't good enough. Not even close.
- Having said that. Matthew Stafford has to pick it up. He was brilliant on the first drive of this game. Not so good since. A big issue, however, is the Lions' poor pass protection.
- The Lions' defensive line is playing well today, especially Ziggy Ansah  and Ndamukong Suh, both against the run and the pass. They should do well, though, against an inexperienced QB like Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings' offensive line is not that good, either.
- In fairness to Bridgewater, he'd be much more effective if the Vikings had Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. They clearly aren't the same offense without those two, especially Peterson, a Hall of Fame talent, at running back.

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Vikings

Theo Riddick
- Lions' running back Theo Riddick doesn't have great track speed (he nearly ran a 4.7 in the 40-dash at NFL Combine), but he does have functional football speed. He is also very elusive in the open field. And he has excellent hands. While he lacks Reggie Bush's home run speed, Riddick is more than capable of filling the same role. You definitely saw that on the Lions' first drive. It was an excellent example of a solid draft evaluation when the Lions took Riddick out of Notre Dame with their sixth-round draft pick in 2013.
- Lions' safety Glover Quin made two big plays in the first quarter. The most obvious was intercepting Viking QB Teddy Bridgewater's pass in the end zone. Less obvious was tackling Vikings' wide receiver Jarius Wright in the open field on a reverse. If Quin didn't make that tackle, it's likely Wright would have taken that run all the way for a touchdown.
- Count me among those who viewed the Lions' secondary as by far their biggest weakness coming into this season. It's amazing how well it has played this season.

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

My thoughts and column on Michigan win over Penn State, and my column on MSU after Purdue win

My column on Michigan. A win and a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column on Michigan State: MSU Spartans won't get their due until they respect their collective self: