Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Carter Returns to Busy Schedule After Cancer Announcement

I wrote an article about Jimmy Carter for the Guardian Liberty Voice that was published earlier today.

Please take a look!

Carter Returns to Busy Schedule After Cancer Announcement

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Packers Hang On & Remain Unbeaten, and Week 4 Predictions

I watched the game from early into the fourth quarter on. It was more or less exactly the way the game was supposed to pan out, with the Chiefs trailing 31-14, and the Packers continually pressing. Eventually, Green Bay got the touchdown that at least seemed to ice the game. 

38-14 in the fourth quarter. Game over.

Only the Chiefs kept fighting back, perhaps having taken a lesson from what the Colts did to them in the playoffs a couple of years ago (Kansas City had a 28 point lead in the game not once, but twice, yet still managed to lose). Suddenly, the Chiefs got one touchdown drive, and then another. That final touchdown made it briefly interesting, as a two point conversion would bring them to within a touchdown (and another two point conversion) of tying the game. But the Pack defended it well, and the Chiefs were now down 38-28.

Time expired, and the Green Bay Packers remained as one of the seven - yes, seven! - teams to remain unbeaten through the month of September.

The star of the game was quite predictable as well, with Aaron Rodgers dazzling everyone, lighting up the scoreboards as he threw five touchdown passes. 

Surely, this cannot last, right? Some of those teams are bound to lose in the near future. Also, some of the winless teams are bound to find that first victory of the season as well, right?

Let's take a look at the schedule this coming week. I will begin with the Thursday Night Football game, which normally would feature two solid, smashmouth rival franchises slugging it out. But with the Steelers missing their quarterback, and the Ravens rather shockingly sitting at 0-3, the game does not have quite the same lure that it normally would and should:

Baltimore defeats Pittsburgh - I predicted a Ravens win last weekend, but I still maintain that they will have to win their first game eventually. Why not against a weakened, watered-down Steelers team? The Ravens need this win, because otherwise, it is hard to imagine them even salvaging anything out of this season.

London Game - NY Jets defeat Miami - The Dolphins have problems. I suspected this last weekend, even though I still predicted that they would beat the Bills (boy, was I wrong!). But in my defense, I did mention a discomfort with the pick, and indeed, Buffalo played extremely well. The Dolphins will play better, but the Jets should earn the victory in London.

Buffalo defeats NY Giants - I would love to believe that the Giants can pull off a second win in a row at Buffalo, and indeed, they just might. But it is hard not to be impressed with how well Buffalo has come storming out of the gate, and they are particularly tough at home. The Bills (hopefully) will not win in blowout fashion, but they probably earn the win nonetheless.

Philadelphia defeats Washington - I think that this is the Philly team that we were expecting, finally emerging. Washington has played fairly well so far this season, but they are not a high-powered team. The Eagles get things straight for a second week in a row, and earn a big victory on the road within the division. 

Cincinnati defeats Kansas City - Boy, this is a tough stretch for the Chiefs! It's almost unfair! A home game against the Broncos, then a road game on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field, followed by another road game against the unbeaten Bengals. Cincy might not last too much longer as an undefeated team themselves, as they have a tough stretch of their own coming. But that first lost will not likely come against Kansas City this weekend.

San Diego defeats Cleveland - I suspect that the real Browns are indeed emerging. They may change the uniforms, and they may change quarterbacks at will (a problem that has plagued Cleveland for many years, actually), but they never seem to change the outcome on the field of play. Unfortunately, they just are not a good team, and the Chargers are hungry for a win after two straight losses. The Chargers win, and possibly big.

Carolina defeats Tampa Bay - The Bucs are improving, but it will take time. The Panthers, in the meantime, are playing lights out to start the season. With enough efficiency to get by on the road against a weak divisional opponent, the Panthers should remain unbeaten for at least one more week.

Indianapolis defeats Jacksonville - The Jaguars have done some impressive things and are an improved team, although you likely will not see it if you judge the final results at New England, and most likely, at Indianapolis this coming weekend. Having two toad games in a row against those two teams in particular is kind of unfair. The Colts continue to straighten out their wrinkles, and start to take a firmer command of a weak division after this one.

Oakland defeats Chicago - This one is tricky, because eventually, the Bears will earn their first win. Also, West Coast teams usually do not play particularly well on the road in the East Coast. However, the Raiders are soaring high right now, while the Bears are already reeling, like a wobbly fighter about to hit the canvass with a knockout punch. For Chicago's hopes this season, a loss here would effectively end their playoff chances, because the Bears are not good enough to recover. And I suspect that they will find a way to lose this one, too.

Atlanta defeats Houston - At least the Texans managed to get their first win last week. But going to Atlanta is a daunting prospect, with the way the Falcons are playing right now. The Texans try and hang tough, but in the end, I suspect Atlanta overwhelms them a bit. 

Denver defeats Minnesota - True to their billing, Minnesota looks like a playoff caliber team. But going on the road to face Peyton and Company at Mile High Stadium in Denver? That is a tall order for anyone. The Broncos are playing extremely well so far, and they continue again this weekend with a win over the Vikings to remain perfect.

Green Bay at San Francisco - Green Bay is showing why they were one of the early favorites to win it all this season. The 49ers, in the meantime, are still reeling from two consecutive losses, and the last one was an embarrassing blowout. They will try to slow down the Pack, but Green Bay will likely put on a clinic worthy of the San Francisco teams of the dynasty era, and take a solid road win to add to their undefeated start. 

Arizona defeats St. Louis - The Cardinals are on fire right now. They have one of the best defenses in the league, and perhaps the most explosive offense - and given the level of play of some of the offenses out there, that is saying something! With another home game against a divisional opponent, look for the Cardinals to take out the Rams, who suddenly look like they are struggling once again. The real test for Arizona will be when they play Seattle. That will provide our first glimpse as to whether they are legitimate this season, or if, like last season, they are a second tier playoff contender pretending to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Dallas defeats New Orleans - I would like to think that the Saints have it in them to win this game, and indeed, maybe they do. But the Cowboys, despite the injury problems that they have been plagued with, are still a solid team, and the Saints, quite frankly, are not. Even if this is being played in the Big Easy, rather than in Big D, the Cowboys should have enough to get past a weak New Orleans franchise.

Seattle defeats Detroit - So, this is the MNF match-up? Come on. This is almost unfair! The Lions are staggering after another disappointment, and an 0-3 start. Now, they go out to Seattle to face a still hungry and angry Seahawks team that is healthy and loaded? And this s a nationally televised game? Sorry, but the Lions are not up for that. Look for Seattle to overwhelm Detroit, as they start to emerge as a factor again in the NFC West, following the uncharacteristically slow, 0-2 start. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015-16 Week 3 Review

There were some surprising results during yesterday's games. Perhaps no outcome came as a bigger surprise (to me, anyway) as the Dolphins getting absolutely blown out at home against the Bills. That Miami could lose such a game was not a surprise. That they were embarrassed, especially to the degree to which they were embarrassed, was just a very bad sign, given the struggles that the Dolphins have experienced thus far this season.

Another surprising result came in Baltimore, where the Bengals beat the Ravens on the road to stay perfect at 3-0. More surprising than that is that the Baltimore Ravens, a team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago, had an impressive showing in last year's playoffs, and which was widely considered one of the favorites in the AFC, are now 0-3. They are really struggling, and need to stop the bleeding in a hurry, or this season will be lost before it ever really began for them.

There was another meeting between one perfect team and another winless team, with the winless team also hosting this game. The Detroit Lions gave the Broncos a run for their money, but Denver pulled it out again, to get off to a hot 3-0 start. Detroit, in the meantime, looks like they will likely have to endure another long season, after some promise shown last year.

The Raiders defeated the Browns in Cleveland. Usually, western teams do not fare too well back East, but Oakland is looking good so far, having won two games in a row. This was a big loss for the Browns, who could have kept up with the Steelers at nipping on the heels of the division leading Bengals.

Yes, Pittsburgh won on the road in St. Louis, but the main story for them is the loss of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and how that might affect the team over the next 4-6 weeks. That is the time that he is expected to be out for because of this injury. As for the Rams, another painful loss, and a 1-2 record, has them trailing the Cardinals by what appears to be a growing distance.

Yes, Arizona is red hot, one of the seven remaining unbeaten teams as I write this (although Green Bay will put their unbeaten record on the line against Kansas City later tonight). The Cardinals walloped the 49ers, 47-7. It was the second game in a row that Arizona scored more than 40 points, which is the first time that they have achieved that feat in many decades as a franchise. The victory by the Cardinals dropped the 49ers to 1-2, nodding them up with the Rams and the Seahawks.

Seattle is no longer winless, having earned their first victory in a convincing shutout over the Bears. nothing at all surprising there. Chicago was no match, and now have fallen to 0-3, and looking dangerously close to a team that will not be a factor at all this season.

Indianapolis was another team that surprised many with their 0-2 start, although they finally got their first win of the season yesterday, barely nosing by Tennessee. Still, already, the Colts are nodded with the Titans, Jaguars, and Texans within the division, as every team here has an identical 1-2 record at the moment.

The Jaguars got absolutely blasted by the Patriots, who scored 51 points, and are looking virtually unstoppable. New England upped their record to 3-0, and now stand alone atop the AFC East.

The New York Jets suffered their first defeat of the season, losing at home to the Eagles, although they did at least fight for it late, ultimately falling short in their bid to mount a big comeback. In the meantime, Philly gets back in the race in the NFC East, where every team but Dallas has a 1-2 mark.

The Cowboys probably should still be unbeaten, as they owned a two touchdown lead three different times in yesterday's game. But the Falcons are showing some resiliency, as well as a strong ability to mount late comebacks. They became the first team in NFL history to start off 3-0 after trailing in the 4th quarter in all three games.

The Carolina Panthers predictably downed the Saints, a team that is already enduring a long and hard season. New Orleans trails both the Falcons and Panthers by three games already, just three games into the season, and they have a host of other problems. Looks like the party in New Orleans is over.

Houston got past Tampa Bay, using their trademark tough defense in so doing, and the Chargers were beaten by Minnesota.

That leaves seven unbeaten teams remaining (I do not remember so many this far into the season), and only four teams remain winless (the Bears, Lions, Saints, and Ravens).

Interesting beginning to the season so far, and let's stay tuned to see if the Chiefs can handle the Packers at Lambeau Field tonight. Smart money is on Green Bay, though.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

NFL Predictions for 2015-16 Week 3

The Giants finally won that first game of the season, even if they had to hang on late to do so.

Still, it is always nice to be able to enjoy that first win, especially when it comes in the latter part of September (or sometimes even beyond), rather than early in September.

New York almost won their first two games, and probably should have won at least one and, frankly, both of those games. But against Washington, as hosts, the G-Men absolutely had to get it done on Thursday - and did. After all, their backs were again the wall. 

I hesitate to say that the game was a "must-win" while still in September, but it certainly was as close to that as possible if it did not outright qualify. Had the Giants lost, Washington would have been two games up on the Giants, and Dallas would have been 2 1/2 games up, with both teams owning wins over New York. In other words, most likely, the season would have been done, for all intents and purposes.

But the Giants won, and in so doing, they have the temporary tie-breaker over Washington, who now has the same record as the Giants. Both teams are ahead of the Eagles, at least briefly, before Philadelphia takes on that other New York team, the Jets. And while Dallas is still ahead in the division, they look to be on shaky ground, with their starting quarterback and star wide receiver out for some time in the future. 

It might not happen that the Giants could rally to contend for the division title, but at the very least, this win prevents such a notion from being laughable, which it really would have been if they were now sporting that 0-3 record, securing a winless September. 

So, for us Giants fans, there is still hope, thanks to their big victory on Thursday.

Now, onto Cincinnati.

Well, no. Not really. But they do have a tough game up at Buffalo coming up, and they are clearly a team that cannot overlook any opponent. So let them prepare for that game with the extra time off that they got to enjoy, and hope that they make the most of their opportunities.

For now, let me focus on predicting what teams will win this weekend:

Arizona defeats San Francisco - I see Arizona putting together a solid game plan, and executing well, leading to an early lead that they continue to expand. A convincing win for the Cards.

Philadelphia defeats NY Jets - As much as I would like to pick the Jets here, it is still hard for me to picture them going 3-0, at the expense of Philly going 0-3. Sooner or later, the Eagles are going to get back into this thing, and I suspect that it starts right now. This is as urgent a game for them as could be this early, while the Jets could probably afford a loss right now, with the hot start, and the rest of the season to recover.

Seattle defeats Chicago - Everyone is talking about the Seahawks slow start. But you will not see that too much this weekend from a determined Seattle team ready to get their awful start, as well as memories of 2nd and 1, behind them. It is hard to see Chicago even being able to compete in this one. Look for Seattle to blow them out of the water.

New England defeats Jacksonville - It looks like the Jaguars might be headed in the right direction overall. But one direction that you really never want to head in the NFL is towards Foxboro, for a road game against Brady and Belichick. This is a loss for them, and could potentially get ugly if the Patriots are running on all cylinders.

Miami defeats Buffalo - This should be a tight, tough game. I could see it going either way, but will lean towards the home team. That said, the Finns have looked sloppy so far this season, so I am not fully comfortable with this one.

Indianapolis defeats Tennessee - The Colts defense is a bit wobbly, but I suspect that their offense gets into gear against the Titans. Again, like was the deal with the Giants and Eagles this weekend, the Colts are entering as close to a "must win" situation as you can get, without officially being there. They cannot afford to lose, and that is why they will not. It is entirely possible that the Colts will jump to the lead in the division with a 1-2 record after this game. Sad, but true.

Carolina defeats New Orleans - Yes, I am basically giving up on the Saints. If they do not win this one, it is likely season over for them. And it is hard to picture them suddenly getting everything right enough to knock off the Panthers in Carolina. Tough defense, which the Saints likely cannot handle, and certainly cannot match with their own deteriorating defense. These are two franchises headed in opposite directions.

Pittsburgh defeats St. Louis - Pretty soon, if the Rams lose a lot of games, people are going to suggest that the victory over the Seahawks was a fluke. The Steelers should prove too tough for them this week.

Baltimore defeats Cincinnati - Knowing that football is a game of momentum, this one made me feel a little uneasy. Still, I cannot picture the Ravens simply lying down and letting the Bengals take a three game lead over them in Week 3. As good as the Bengals have been thus far, they likely stumble in Baltimore.

Houston defeats Tampa Bay - Two mediocre teams square off. But the Bucs earned a win last weekend, while Houston needs that crucial first victory of the season. I think they get it today.

Atlanta defeats Dallas - The Cowboys got off to a hot start for the season, and considering the problems that they are facing right now, they certainly will need it. The Falcons are on a roll, and they should earn a big win in Big D today.

Cleveland defeats Oakland - Both teams have shown glimpses of being on the rise and heading in the wright direction. But the Browns are at home, and that helps - a lot - in this one.

San Diego defeats Minnesota - Tough game. Could go either way. But the Chargers have some weapons, and I think that makes a difference later in this game. The Vikings fight for it, which they did not in their first loss at San Francisco. But ultimately, they fall short against the Chargers today.

Denver defeats Detroit - Yes, the Broncos add to the growing woes of the Lions. Detroit's defense looks nothing like last year's unit, and the Broncos should exploit that this time around. The Lions just cannot keep up in this game, and lose at home to start off 0-3 on the year.

Green Bay defeats Kansas City - The Chiefs lost a painful game that was nationally televised to the Broncos, but Lambeau is a tall order to ask for a bounce back. Look for the Packers to put the pressure early, and earn a convincing win in this one.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Arizona Trip Wrap Up

It has now been one month to the day since we departed Arizona and returned to our lives here in New Jersey. I remember feeling a bit depressed as we headed out, the road trip over. It would likely be no earlier than next year before we take a fairly lengthy road trip again somewhere, and this one had stood out for all of the right reasons.

There are some things from the trip that we will likely remember. Some good, some bad.

One of the disappointments occurred at the Grand Canyon, while my son and I sat down to eat lunch. My legs were feeling tired. Hell, I think the exhaustion of running around all over the place in the days before was catching up with me, and I was feeling drained, and in need of some kind of sustenance. So, we found a little sandwich shop inside of Grand Canyon village, and ate outside. And as we were eating, as were some other people, when I saw the male half of one old couple get up after finishing, and simply leaving his wrapper right where he ate. There was a trash can not ten feet away, but he could not be bothered. Things like that bother me, and I said something under my breath when they passed, although I am not entirely certain the guy heard, or even would have understood that it was aimed at him if he did hear. Plus, I had to keep such behavior in check while I had my son. But it bothered me a lot, and reminded me of the time after attending the Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium in 2007, and seeing more trash than usual both in the seating area, as well as in the parking lots, which were heavily littered with beer cans and bottles and other crap. Both incidents were just so antagonistic to the spirit of what this was supposed to be about - greater environmental awareness (and awareness of the Earth in general) with the concert (and the Grand Canyon), and with an incredible natural wonder for the other.

There may have been other disappointments, but that one stood out in a particularly depressing manner, because it seems that these days, there really is a lack of reverence, a lack of simple respect and good manners, even at some of the most sacred places in the world.

Ultimately, that did not define the trip. We both enjoyed it, and it was a real, wild west experience. my son's favorite highlight was Tombstone, while for me it was the Grand Canyon. But I also simply enjoyed driving around the unfamiliar state, and admiring the unique landscape. This was a trip where we were immersed in both cowboy and Indian culture, and that was really cool! My son got what he wanted by adding some cool looking rocks to his growing collection, while I got the chance to get the both of us to see something entirely new, and entirely unique, compared to everything else that we had experienced beforehand.