The NFL is both beloved and exalted in the pantheon of spectator sports because absolutely no one knows what will unfold from week to week. But that doesn't stop us from predicting up a storm when it comes to the season just ahead. More than two months away from the full-scale opening of training camps, here are seven strong hunches we're willing to share in a bold foretelling of 2012's storylines to come:
When his team plays at home, the Red Sox manager holds press conferences in front of a red brick wall that lends an unintentional air of comedy or tragedy to his every utterance, the brick-wall backdrop being synonymous with stand-up comedy and firing squads and official announcements from the Boston Red Sox, for whom April has alternated between farce and doom.
So let me get this straight: The guy who once said he plays when he wants to play wants to play again? Ah, but it takes somebody to want him to play for them, and that's where Randy Moss's big 35th birthday un-retirement announcement on Monday comes out sounding like the proverbial one-sided conversation at the moment.
The New York Giants parade through the heart of Manhattan, celebrating a dramatic win in Super Bowl XLVI.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Call it the Reluctant Touchdown. Ahmad Bradshaw's awkward and unwilling flop into the end zone is part of Super Bowl lore now -- there with Rice-to-Montana, there with David Tyree's helmet catch, there with Lynn Swann's ballet, there with Mike Jones' tackle one yard shy. Those moments defined their times. In many ways, The Reluctant Touchdown defines ours.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the Giants' impossibly dramatic and gritty 21-17 defeat of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night in Lucas Oil Stadium. As it turns out, it was a rematch, and a redux, indeed...
A ticker tape parade awaits the New York Giants this week when the team returns home as Super Bowl champions after defeating the New England Patriots on a last-minute touchdown.
There is no sweeter scenario for a Super Bowl broadcaster than a game hanging in the balance, and NBC's ratings for the Giants' 21-17 victory over the Patriots on Sunday will almost assuredly top last year's Super Bowl on FOX, which averaged 111 million viewers and became the most-watched television program in U.S. history. But how was the NBC broadcast for viewers? It's time to hand out grades.
Grading out performances from the New York Giants' nailbiting 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Eli Manning stirred controversy when he declared himself an elite quarterback at the start of the 2011 season.
Triumphing in a thriller, quarterback Eli Manning led the New York Giants on Sunday to their second Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in four years.
For the past few days, the NFL punditry here has been remarkably divided on predictions for Super Bowl XLVI. For every expert espousing New England Patriots' depth and balance there is another waxing rhapsodic about the New York Giants' "momentum" and "destiny." Las Vegas echoed this ambivalence, as the gambling line continues to shift.
Not in a long time has the pre-Super Bowl chatter been so dominated by one player's body part.
INDIANAPOLIS -- This city's outdone itself. It's been a great game site for the Super Bowl. So much to do downtown, all on foot, and the natives and even the drunks are in great moods. The meteorologists have helped, but there's something to be said for a vibrant downtown hosting everything at a Super Bowl, and holding the Super Bowl in a place where you never have to get in a car.
One of the great myths about the NFL is that the salary cap affords the league much better competitive balance than is possible in the cap-less Major League Baseball. This would not be a good week to be promoting that myth, seeing that the New York Giants and New England Patriots have become what Meryl Streep and George Clooney are to the Oscars. Ho-hum. The Giants and Patriots have filled one-third of the available spots over the past 12 Super Bowls.
Across the country, fans of the New England Patriots are wondering whether Tom Brady will return to top form this Sunday, whether Gronk's ankle will hold up, and whether cornerback Julian Edelman can shut down the Giants' dangerous receivers. But here in Beantown, folks ask still another question: Will the Pats go out and win this one for Myra?
If you love the passing game, you'll love Super Bowl XLVI. In fact, it's a watershed moment in the evolution of pro football.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the exercise in pack journalism that was Tuesday's Super Bowl media day at the beehive known as Lucas Oil Stadium, which served to remind me once again that when it comes to this over-hyped event, alas, we're farther away all the time from chatting up Namath at poolside...
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sure, they seem unbeatable now. Dare we say, even super. The Patriots enter this week with a league-best 10-game winning streak that began in mid-November, and the Giants are on yet another improbable and magical postseason run, with five consecutive elimination-game victories to their credit and a world of mojo in their favor.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Lots going on as we draw nearer to The Rematch Bowl of Super Bowl 46. (That's right, I'm not a big Roman numeral guy.)
FOXBORO, Mass. -- During Bill Belichick's tenure in New England, the Patriots have gradually transformed themselves from a lunch-pail group of players who fed off other's disrespect to an offensively brilliant glamour team. The first group won Super Bowls; the second lacked a key ingredient for postseason success. They got it back Sunday to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in a win that felt more like 2001 than 2012.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a down-to-the-wire Championship Sunday. We had three-point thrillers, from coast to coast...
Grading out the performances in the New England Patriots' narrow 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap our brains around the new realities that the divisional playoffs have wrought: The Giants and 49ers move on, and the Packers and Saints don't. There's nothing like the plot twists you get in the NFL's postseason....
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Before Saturday night, New England hadn't won a playoff game in four years. From the looks of what the Patriots put on display against Denver, they're not going to have to wait four years before winning another.
Grading out the performances from San Francisco's New England's dominant 45-10 beatdown of the Denver Broncos in Saturday's AFC divisional round matchup.
1. Tom Brady's paper-tiger Patriots need this win more than Tim Tebow's magical Broncos.
Sign me up for the notion that the NFL's divisional playoff round typically makes for the best weekend of the season, with the league's elite eight pairing off in four bursts of high-stakes elimination football. Here are eight of the best storylines that provide a backdrop of the action on tap:
I write and tweet about the Hall of Fame so much, and my buddy Don "Donnie Brasco'' Banks always tells me to stop doing it -- because the more I do it, the more I unleash the masses, angry that this guy or that guy didn't make the Hall -- or, in this case, didn't make the list of the finalists for enshrinement in the Hall when the 44-person Board of Selectors meets in Indianapolis Feb. 4.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we break down the NFL's 12-team playoff field from as many angles as occur to us...
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 17 that gave us playoff-scenario drama, record-breaking performances and the close of another unpredictable regular season in the NFL...
DENVER -- Here's the thing the Denver Broncos learned about magic Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field: It just doesn't work as well in a three-score game.
New England Patriots (10-3) at Denver Broncos (8-5)
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight in a Week 14 that had more than its share of frantic finishes, like the ones that unfolded in Washington, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Detroit...
It's been an odd season in New England, where the Patriots defense springs the odd leak and Tom Brady turns the ball over more than usual. The Albert Haynesworth experiment fizzled. Chad Ochocinco has been quieter than anyone thought. The Patriots secondary is beset by injury. And yet the Patriots, after a thorough 34-3 victory over the Chiefs on Monday night, sit atop the AFC East at 7-3 with a two-game lead over the reeling Bills and Jets. Is New England Super Bowl ready? Are the Chiefs toast in 2011? Those questions will be answered in time, but here's what we learned Monday night.
Many months ago I asked you to coin new words for familiar concepts in sports and you replied in great numbers, from places farflung and nearflung -- a word that doesn't exist but ought to, which is the whole point of this exercise.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Things we learned from New England's less-than-artistic but still-satisfying 37-16 victory over the New York Jets Sunday night at MetLife Stadium ...
With Week 9 finished and 130 of the NFL's 256-game regular season now in the books, we're almost exactly halfway through the story in 2011. The second half of the season shapes up as an intriguing and wide-open affair, with 20 of the league's 32 teams still playing .500-or-better ball, and 18 clubs either in first place or within two games of the lead in their division.
This may be the week offense came down to earth, and the league got back on its axis of normalcy. But before I get into the two Games of the Week, Eli Manning playing at a postseason 2007 level (sweet music to Giant ears everywhere) and a very weird scene involving Rex Ryan and a Belichick bobblehead, let's turn our eyes west. To Aaron Rodgers, who is halfway to the best season a quarterback has ever had in the 92-year history of the NFL.
PITTSBURGH -- At 2-2, coming off that humbling and ragged Week 4 loss in Houston, they looked old, slow and perhaps even insufficiently motivated. Now, not quite a month later, the Pittsburgh Steelers just look dangerous. Once again.
Every once in a while, we're reminded that maybe the NFL schedule makers really do know what they're doing after all. Week 5 provides us with ample evidence.
Ten Things that surprise me about the NFL at the quarter-pole:
New England Patriots (2-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-1)
CHICAGO -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a tight, taut and thrilling Week 3 in the NFL that featured seven of the early eight games being decided by a touchdown or less ...
SI.com is previewing all eight divisions throughout the week in anticipation of the 2011 season kicking off. (Send comments to email@example.com)
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in the all-important (OK, more important?) Week 3 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do ...
Brace yourself, NFL. It looks like Bill Belichick plans to come back from the lockout with guns blazing.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on NFL training camps across the country. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
The NFL rolled out the 2011 schedule with its usual amount of prime-time fanfare on Tuesday, and yet what do we make of a regular season that has the potential to be anything but regular?
Grading out the performances from the Jets' stunning 28-21 win over the Patriots in an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium:
They have spent much of the week talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. Which would be fine, were the words interesting or inspiring. By now, however, anything uttered by members of the New York Jets organization can only be interpreted as the inane, nonsensical blatherings of jealous dolts.
The biggest upset of the NFL playoffs took place this week when Rex Ryan, the most controversial head coach in professional sports, stepped behind a podium and said, well, nothing.
Musings, observations and the occasional Week 16 insight as the NFL's 12-team playoff field continues to come into focus ...
CHICAGO -- After this one, you could almost hear the collective uh-oh starting to echo around the rest of the NFL. These Patriots are serious. They're on a mission. And we all know what that means, because it hasn't been all that long since we've seen it before.
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Five things we learned from New England's shocking 45-3 destruction of the New York Jets Monday night at a festive Gillette Stadium. ...
Dom Bonvissuto blogs the battle for the AFC East lead between the Patriots and Jets.
Here in New England, a couple of months ago, we actually cared about Randy Moss. Now you never hear his name around Gillette Stadium. The Patriots host the New York Jets in Foxborough on Monday Night Football next week and Randy Moss is ancient history. He is a non-factor.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This time, he could not beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots. This time, he could not finish the furious comeback. This time, he threw a killer interception in the closing seconds when his team was already in position to tie the game with a field goal.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's more compliment than complaint, but here's the problem I've got with these annual Colts-Patriots showdowns, the ones the NFL use as the centerpiece of its entire 256-game regular-season schedule every November: They only serve to make us realize what we're missing the rest of the year.
PITTSBURGH -- Bill Belichick has won three Super Bowls. He coached a team that went 18-0 and came within a couple of minutes of winning a fourth Super Bowl. He has a place in Canton, Ohio, when his coaching days are over.
PITTSBURGH -- Here are five things we learned from New England's 39-26 throttling of Pittsburgh on Sunday night at Heinz Field, in a surprisingly one-sided showdown of AFC superpowers ...
OAKLAND -- Musings, observations and the occasional Week 9 insight as we make special note of our first ever Snap Judgments filed from the Black Hole, the very epicenter of Raiders Nation ...
When he looks around his huddle these days and barks out the play call, could you blame Tom Brady for wondering, "Who are these guys?'' Here's a quick check of who the Patriots' franchise quarterback sees staring back at him in New England as Week 7 of the NFL's regular season looms:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional Week 6 insight as we watch the NFL's most desperate two teams, Dallas and Minnesota, fight it out for an all important second win at the Metrodome ...
It was the feel-good game of the year in New England. It reminded Patriots fans of the good old days when the Pats won with brains and teamwork.
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Baltimore at New England game
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Kansas City at Indianapolis game (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the blockbuster trade that sends Randy Moss back to Minnesota, from as many divergent angles as possible ...
There are a lot of long faces in New England today. The Patriots just dumped one of the most prolific receivers in the history of the game, trading Randy Moss to Minnesota for a third-round draft pick in 2011.
Mired in third place in their division and with their Super Bowl aspirations in jeopardy, the Minnesota Vikings addressed their need for a vertical receiving threat in stunning fashion on Wednesday, trading a 2011 third-round pick to New England for receiver Randy Moss, an NFL source confirmed.
As the guy responsible for SI.com's NFL Power Rankings, someone asked me Monday afternoon what constitutes the NFL's elite class this season. As I gave it some thought, I realized Week 4 was when it started to dawn on us that we don't really have one of those yet in the 2010 NFL season.
On a night when Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were little more than footnotes, the Patriots still dominated the Dolphins 41-14 in Miami Gardens. If that doesn't make the rest of the league sit up and take notice, it should.
There are many Sundays when it's better to cover the NFL from home. Pre-game shows, Red Zone Channel, reliable Internet. Keep up with everything and then hit the road to interview live bodies during the week. Seriously. Last Sunday, however, was not one of those days, because you definitely wanted to be in Foxborough for the Randy Show.
There was a time in this great land when baseball was king, a time when boxing and horse racing mattered. It was a time when when people actually read printed newspapers and a lot of Catholics went to daily Mass.
NEW ORLEANS -- One superstar quarterback contract down. Two more to go.
The college football season is underway and nobody cares in New England.
We'll keep today's Clicks (relatively) short and sweet, just in case you haven't finished devouring Monday's PPR spectacular, which might've gone on even longer if Brett Favre had played more than one series against San Francisco on Sunday -- or attempted more than one pass. Oh, those attention-loving Vikings!
The pro football season can't start soon enough. Here in New England, we can't wait for Week 2 when the Patriots play the Jets at the new football theatre off exit 16W in the Meadowlands.
Some NFL jerseys tell a story. In the case of Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew case, his number 32 tells a tale of revenge.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Don Banks had to say about the Patriots camp in Foxborough, Mass. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
Every NFL season starts with a host of unanswered questions, and this year it's even more so. With the opening of the first training camp less than 10 days away -- Dallas, on July 24 in San Antonio -- here are 20 pressing questions, in no particular order, that begged to be answered as the 2010 preseason looms:
I find it interesting that New England has chosen to go down a road that runs the risk of irritating the most important player in franchise history. By not yet entering into serious contract negotiations with Tom Brady -- a situation that Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports went into great detail here -- the Patriots could be doing more harm than good.
LOWELL, Mass. -- I've been thinking there's a strong likelihood the 2011 NFL season will be interrupted because the players and owners won't reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. And I'm not sure I've changed my mind. But two things happened in the past week that made me feel like there might not be a job action.
So one of the controversies of the day Monday, via e-mails and Twitter, centered on Pat Tillman and whether his valiant life, tragic death and turning down NFL millions to join the Army Rangers in the war in Afghanistan merits a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In January 2004, the Patriots hosted the Titans in an AFC divisional playoff game in which the temperature at kickoff was 4 degrees with a wind chill of minus-10. Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow was part of a radio broadcast crew doing the game, and as we rode on the elevator to the press box beforehand, he shook his head about the players being forced to take the field in such harsh conditions.
The footage was unmistakable. A camera for FSN Rocky Mountain, the television home of the Rockies, had found Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer sitting on the visiting bullpen bench in the second inning of a game on May 10, looking through a pair of binoculars in the direction of home plate.
LAYING OVER AT JFK -- OK. Before I inflame a few more passions, the answer to the golf over-under I posed in Monday Morning Quarterback: one. I put one tee shot in the drink from the 17th tee at the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund benefit golf outing. I stink at golf anyway, but this was the big time, and I really wanted to hit one good shot on a waterlogged day. I used one of those hybrid clubs, swung soft, hit it pin-high -- but 10 feet to the right of the island. Plunk. Good thing our fivesome didn't have to use my tee shot in the team format on that one.
The disgrace of two former New Jersey heroes and one from LSU headlined the week -- and yes, I believe any award or postseason honor, including rookie of the year, should be stripped if a player tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, as apparently is the case with defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans. But I'm not leading with bad news. I'm leading with Tom Brady breaking his offseason silence to discuss his bi-coastal life, hopes for his team, a charity he is very bullish on and how much his world has spun in the past few years.
Charlie Whitehurst is getting used to a new life in Seattle, a life with a little more pressure than he had as the number three quarterback in San Diego. There will be expectations now -- that he can push Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job, and even if he loses that competition, that he'll be ready to play at a moment's notice for the Seahawks this year. Until now, the thickly brown-bearded, long-haired Whitehurst has been known for one thing as a Charger: his resemblance to Jesus Christ, at least to how Christ looks in the photos and images we've become used to seeing.
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we watched a prime-time version of the NFL Draft's first round from a raucous Radio City Music Hall ...
Welcome to my town, Boston, Massachusetts. It's quite simply the best sports city in the United States of America. Especially this week.
There's pressure on everyone to figure out which draft picks will prosper and which will bust in their NFL career. There's pressure on the players too -- particularly the highly drafted ones. The 10 people on draft weekend who should be feeling the most heat:
The beauty of the NFL schedule can be in the eye of the beholder, but I know which 17 games in the NFL's 17-week regular season that I consider must-see TV:
With the demise of the NFL's salary cap dramatically changing the landscape, free agency is such an unknown this year that one club executive told me this week the only thing he knows for sure is Washington will throw money around like it's playing Monopoly.
No sooner had the last flake of confetti fallen in Miami that next year's Super Bowl odds were posted. Not surprisingly, the Colts are the favorite to do what they couldn't achieve this season. Everybody of consequence returns for the Colts next season. Linebacker Gary Brackett is scheduled to be a unrestricted free agent and Antoine Bethea is a restricted free agent, but both are expected to return to Indianapolis. With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest questions that need answered this offseason among the AFC teams.
Five quick observations, then your e-mail from a busy NFL week:
Is that it? Has the curtain officially been drawn on the golden era of New England sports?
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight after taking in three-fourths of the NFL wild-card playoff weekend and preparing to write a separate story after attending the fourth game ...
When's the last time you recall all four wild-card games being so competitive you wouldn't be surprised to see the road team win any one? Two roadies won last year, and three won in 2005. This year, I don't care what Vegas says. It's even-steven across the board entering the weekend.
Even more stuff you need to know before the NFL playoffs kick off this weekend with four first-round games...
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