NFL Superbowl

Seahawks-Eagles Preview
2014-12-04

Dominating those facets remain the calling cards of the Seattle Seahawks, helping them regain control of their fate in the NFC West.

Both teams are coming off easy Thanksgiving Day wins over division rivals, leaving former Pac-12 coaching foes Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly extra time to prepare for a compelling encounter in their first NFL matchup Sunday when Seattle visits Philadelphia.

Hours after Kelly's team rolled to a 33-10 holiday victory in Dallas, Carroll's club manhandled San Francisco in a 19-3 win. The Eagles (9-3) grabbed a share of the league's best record, and the Seahawks (8-4) moved within a game of West-leading Arizona but defeated the Cardinals four days earlier and play them again in Week 16.

"We had a really nice Thanksgiving around here," Carroll said Monday. "... Our players had a nice ballgame and a nice break here, too, getting ready for this week. So we're in good shape and looking forward to a terrific matchup. Exciting time of year."

With middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor recently returning after missing time with injuries, Seattle's vaunted defense appears to be getting even stronger. That unit, allowing a league-low 285.8 yards per game after also ranking No. 1 last season, has surrendered two field goals and an average of 184.0 yards in the past two games.

Richard Sherman had two interceptions against the 49ers to earn NFC defensive player of the week honors after Chancellor won it for his eight-tackle effort against Arizona.

"We're having a good time. We're dedicated to one another right now," Sherman said. "When you're on the field playing for one another, we're playing like some 9-year-old, 10-year-old kids, not worried about the outcome, not worried about individual stats or anything like that. ... When a team's playing like that, we're really hard to beat."

However, the offense the Seahawks face Sunday is more formidable than the ones they've recently shut down. Whereas Arizona and San Francisco are among the bottom-third of the NFL in total yards, Philadelphia ranks fourth in that category (416.2 per game) and in scoring (31.2).
The Eagles have topped those averages in the last two games as LeSean McCoy totaled 289 yards rushing. He's averaged 6.3 per carry in that span, compared to 3.7 through the first 10 games, while doubling his season total of 100-yard games to four.

"I think when people talked about him (negatively) earlier in the year, I felt very confident with him. I think that is showing," Kelly said of McCoy, whose 6,491 career rushing yards leave him 48 shy of passing Wilbert Montgomery as the Eagles' all-time leader.

The Seahawks have held four of their past five opponents under 65 yards rushing, and they've forced 11 turnovers in the past six. They're 5-1 in that span while limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 65.0 rating, with only Eli Manning throwing for more than 200 yards.

"You (can't) spend too much time worrying about one guy, they have so many playmakers," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "... We're gonna have our hands full, gonna have to really turn it up."

Sanchez was 9 of 22 for 124 yards in his only matchup against the Seahawks and Carroll, his former college coach, in a 28-7 loss with the Jets in 2012.

Kelly handed Carroll one of his worst losses at Southern California in their only collegiate matchup in 2009. Oregon won 47-20 against a fourth-ranked Trojans team and totaled 613 yards - the most ever gained on one of Carroll's USC defenses.

"They're really explosive. They've got a real style about them," Carroll said of Kelly's offense. "You have to mention Chip, and his concepts and approach, when you talk about this offense because it is what he has constructed over the years. It's innovative and it's well run and designed beautifully."

Likewise, the Eagles should have their hands full with Seattle's top-ranked rushing offense (168.6 ypg). While Russell Wilson has run for nearly twice as many yards (679) as any other quarterback, Marshawn Lynch is fifth in the league with 956 and leads with nine touchdown runs.
Lynch, approaching his fourth straight season of 1,000 yards and 10 TDs, has surpassed 100 yards in three of the past four weeks.

Philadelphia, though, has steadily gained confidence against the run with averages of 90.3 yards allowed and 3.6 per carry over the past seven games. The Eagles held NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray to 73 yards on 20 attempts on Thanksgiving - he ran for 115 against Seattle on Oct. 12.

Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, though, said "nobody runs the ball harder" than Lynch.

"It's nice that we're facing those two big downhill runners back to back. We know what it's about," Davis said. "It takes a swarm tackle. You can't arm tackle Marshawn Lynch. It's got to be a full body swarm with all the effort to the ball."

Success in the ground game often limits Wilson's drop-backs. He's had 22 attempts in back-to-back weeks, completing 32 without an interception, but was also sacked 11 times.

That could be a problem against a Philadelphia pass rush which has an NFC-best 42 sacks, including a conference-high 12 1/2 by Connor Barwin.

He's had 10 1/2 in the last four games at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles have won 10 straight in the regular season.

Lynch rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 win in 2011 in these teams' last matchup. Seattle has played only three games in Philadelphia over the past 25 years and won them all.




SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-4) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-7)
2013-11-25

The 49ers look to get back on track with a road win over the lowly Redskins on Monday night.

Both San Francisco and Washington have lost two straight games. The most recent defeat for the 49ers was against the Saints on the road where they fell 23-20, but covered as 3.5-point underdogs. Washington, on the other hand, has two straight SU and ATS losses, dropping road games to the Vikings and Eagles. The last time these two teams met was in November of 2011 when San Francisco prevailed 19-11 on the road as a 4.5-point favorite. Since 1992, the 49ers are 4-1 SU against the Redskins in Washington, but are just 3-2 ATS in those games. As the coach of San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh is 14-3 ATS versus poor defensive teams that allow more than 5.65 yards per play. However, teams such as Washington after a game where it forced no turnovers, against an opponent after a game where it forced 3+ turnovers, are 138-79 ATS (64percent) over the past 10 seasons. Although Redskins starting WR Leonard Hankerson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury and starting TE Jordan Reed (concussion) is questionable, top WR Pierre Garcon (ankle) is listed as probable. The 49ers will likely be without CB Tarell Brown (ribs) and G Mike Iupati (knee), but there's a slight chance that they could be getting back top WR Michael Crabtree, who has missed the whole season recovering from a torn Achilles.



The 49ers have lost two straight games and their offense has really struggled in those defeats with a paltry 14.5 PPG and 173.5 total YPG. Against the Saints last week, the 49ers rushed for a season-low 81 yards on 22 carries (3.7 YPC). San Francisco ranks last in the NFL in passing offense with a paltry 168.0 YPG and QB Colin Kaepernick must play better if the 49ers are going to get back to the playoffs. After tallying a 98.3 passer rating in 2012, that number has dipped to 81.8 this season as he has completed just 56.7percent of his passes for 1,802 yards (7.2 YPA), 11 TD and 7 INT. He has also lost four fumbles. Despite last week's struggles, the Niners are still a great running team with 141.0 rushing YPG (5th in NFL). RB Frank Gore has led the way this season, rushing for 748 yards with seven touchdowns, and before being held to 48 yards last week, he had compiled at least 70 rushing yards in each of his previous seven contests. Kaepernick has contributed a lot to the running game too with 335 yards (6.0 YPC) and three touchdowns on the ground. San Franciscos offense is much better when TE Vernon Davis is healthy. Davis has been slowed by numerous injuries but still has 34 receptions for 553 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns this season. WR Anquan Boldin has been the top target with 630 receiving yards, but the possible return of Michael Crabtree (1,105 rec. yards, 9 TD last year) could really add another element to this offense. San Franciscos defense has been solid this year allowing just 323.8 total YPG (7th in NFL). This includes 220.0 YPG through the air (10th in NFL) and 103.8 YPG on the ground (T-12th in NFL) The Niners rank fourth in the league in scoring defense (17.8 PPG allowed) and sixth in defending third downs (35.0percent). This has also been a very opportunistic unit with multiple takeaways in six of their past seven games, forcing 18 turnovers during this stretch.



After surprising many with a playoff berth last season, Washington has had a very disappointing 2013 campaign. The Redskins offense has moved the ball very well this season with 412.1 total YPG (6th in NFL), which includes 256.9 YPG through the air (11th in league) and an NFL-best 155.2 YPG on the ground. The problem, however, is that the Redskins are getting these yards after falling behind early and that their defense cant stop anybody. Washingtons defense is allowing 389.9 total YPG (28th in NFL), including 274.9 YPG through the air (26th in league) and 115.0 YPG on the ground (19th in NFL). The Redskins have also been terrible in the red zone (68percent efficiency, 2nd-worst in NFL), which has led to 31.1 PPG allowed (3rd-worst in league). This is despite being on the field for just 28:36 (6th-fewest in NFL) because of how well the Washington ground game has been. RB Alfred Morris has been one of the few bright spots for Washington as he has rushed for 918 yards (5.1 YPC) and five touchdowns on the season. The Redskins offense would be better off giving him the ball more often than letting QB Robert Griffin III continue to turn the ball over. Griffin has really struggled this season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. That is twice as many picks as he threw in 15 games in his rookie year, when he finished with 20 TD and 5 INT. And after rushing for 815 yards (6.8 YPC) and 7 TD in 2012, Griffin has just 345 rushing yards (5.2 YPC) and zero touchdowns this season.




NFL: Maturity leads Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden to Hall of Fame
2013-08-26

Dave Mohler remembers his first conversation with Jonathan Ogden.

The St. Albans School football coach approached Ogden, then a 6-foot-6, 300-pound sophomore. You couldn't blame Mohler for expecting a deep, booming voice.

"He had a high, squeaky voice," said Mohler, who coached the offensive and defensive lines at the Washington, D.C.-based prep school. "It was almost something out of a cartoon character."
The voice, which has since changed, may have been the only immature thing about Ogden, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. The former Baltimore Ravens left tackle made 11 Pro Bowls after displaying a preternatural maturity throughout his life.
His football talent was apparent from the beginning.
He quickly became St. Albans' right tackle -- because the quarterback was right handed, the team ran many of its plays to the right -- due to his quick learning curve and a strong willingness to be coached.
"You tell him, 'Keep a wide base and don't put your feet underneath you and get your pad under his pads,'" Mohler said. "It might take two times to get him to do that. He didn't struggle to comprehend the blocking scheme. It's not like he was flawless, but he never didn't get the concept."
Mohler was so impressed by Ogden's first few practices that he told his parents he was working with someone who could become one of the best linemen in the country. He said they didn't believe him.
Ogden received several scholarship offers but chose UCLA because its coaches would let him compete in shot put as well as football. He had been an All-American in both sports in high school.
It wasn't long until football coaches and teammates asked him to stop throwing, said former UCLA men's track and field coach Art Venegas. But Ogden didn't because he had said he would participate.
"I don't think it hurt him as much as he wanted to be happy," Venegas said. "Doing track, it was a way to get in shape for football and get his strength level up. I think it helped his football a lot.
Venegas knew Ogden's future would be football. Ogden was a football player who just happened to be really good at the shot put. And the NFL was taking notice.

While studying UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes in 1995, then-Cleveland Browns general manager Ozzie Newsome became intrigued about one of the players in the background: Ogden. Newsome wondered why the junior wasn't entering the draft.

For those around Ogden, the answer was simple: his maturity. He didn't want to jump at the first opportunity at earning money in the NFL. He wanted the perfect opportunity.

"(The Ogden family) had everything totally prepared," Venegas said. "They knew what the future could be like. They wanted him to mature, be able to handle the pressure of the NFL with an extra year of college life and being ready.

"He knew to have a big future he had to improve his skills. He came back to prove something."

Ogden won the Outland Trophy as the best interior offensive lineman in college football and an NCAA national championship in indoor shot put his senior year. Newsome then chose him with the fourth pick of the 1996 draft, making Ogden the first pick in Ravens history after the team moved to Baltimore.
Ogden didn't expect a career in Baltimore.
"All the draftniks, all the people were saying that, 'You were going to go to the (Arizona) Cardinals with the third pick,'" he said. "That was getting beaten into my head the whole time. So when the third pick came up, and they picked Simeon Rice, I was a little surprised."
Ogden became one of the best left tackles ever, and the NFL Network ranked him No. 72 among its top 100 players in 2000. He retired in 2008, after 12 seasons, and will be presented by Newsome.

That comes as no surprise to those who knew the squeaky-voiced Ogden.
Mohler -- whose prediction of his player's potential many years ago came true and who Ogden credited for coaching him -- will be joined by about 20 of Ogden's former St. Albans teammates, coaches and teachers for Ogden's induction.
"It's not like I had some special capacity to discern this, but if you knew anything about football and technique," Mohler said, "you could sit down and say, 'If the cards are aligned and he doesn't get hurt, the talent is limitless.' That's what proved out. He did everything he should've done with his talent.
"The story of his life was that it was unremarkable. He didn't have to be the center of attention, he didn't have to be coddled, he never had a big ego. He was just a student who happened to be the best offensive lineman I've ever seen. He was just Jonathan."


Cincinnati Bengals optimistic Andre Smith will re-sign
2013-04-23

After weeks of tough talk, Lewis' optimism Tuesday was notable. It sounds like the Bengals and their talented right tackle have made progress recently.

"I'm hopeful we can get a solution prior to (Thursday's) draft," Lewis said via Bengals.com." I know Andre would like to get it done. I think he'd feel better about things so he doesn't get lost without a chair."

Securing Smith would solve one big need and allow the Bengals to focus on getting the best player available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Safety and running back look like big needs, while Lewis also mentioned linebacker as a spot needing depth.


Bet on Super Bowl XLVII
2013-01-25

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