Belfast American Football Writing

I write a column on American Football for a local paper - here you can read the reports a couple of days before they go in print; and my confused waffles...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Play-off shuffle

AMERICAN football fans are busy with calculators and arcane counting this weekend as the final NFL shuffle for the remaining play-off places gets underway.

As ever the final weeks of the season mean teams still in with a hope of reaching post-season football and a chance of Super Bowl glory are looking not only at their own performance but that of rivals.

A round-up of who is already there and who still holds out hope looks like this.

In the AFC East last year's Super Bowl heroes, the New England Patriots have already clinched their division, while in the AFC North the Cincinnati Bengals, have likewise secured their divisional place.

Division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a win for a play-off spot, or a Kansas City loss or San Diego win.

In the AFC South it's much clearer as both Indianapolis and Jacksonville are already there, with the Colts securing home field advantage. In the AFC West Denver has secured a first round-bye, but Kansas City a win combined with a Pittsburgh loss and a San Diego loss or tie.

In the NFC East Dallas can look forward to play-off football if they win and Washington or Carolina lose. Also, if they win and Tampa Bay lose, New York Giants lose and the Giants and Dallas have a better record than Tampa Bay. The Giants are already through. Washington can go through with a win or a Dallas loss.

In the NFC North Chicago has already secured play-off football and a first round bye. The NFC South is a little more complicated, with a multitude of scenarios meaning either Carolina or Tampa can qualify.

The NFC West is a lot simpler with Seattle already through and with home field advantage secured.

All will be revealed this weekend, but for 18 teams they are out of contention. For many it may seem that these teams won't be competing all-out. But for the players it is next year's lucrative contracts that will keep them interested until the final whistle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Go Bears!

Okay, I have to admit a bias - I'm a Bears fan. It has been lean years of late, but finally the Monsters of the Midway are back - and boy are they the Bad Boys of the defensive world! Just ask Michael Vick. For a full report on how the Bears beat up Atlanta go to
And now for Green Bay. Hey Brett, you got extra rib pads ready? You're gonna be hurting come Boxing Day!

PS - Lovie, it has to be Grossman as starter - Orton acn have some time growing up, but go with Rex now!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Keep on winning

As the final four weeks of the 2005 NFL season begins, there are six teams with winning streaks of at least five games – led, of course, by the 12-0 Indianapolis Colts.

The total of six such clubs is the most since 1970 at this point in a season.
The ’05 teams are the Colts, the 8-0 Bears and Seahawks, and the 5-0 Chargers, Jaguars and Vikings.

“It’s hard to get wins,” said Bears head coach Lovie Smith. “But our team finds a way to win each week. It’s fun watching them play.”

Imagine how much fun Tony Dungy is having. His Colts this week in Jacksonville seek to extend their record to 13-0 – a mark that only three teams in history have reached (1934 Chicago Bears, 1972 Miami Dolphins and 1998 Denver
Broncos) -- and a record that only one team has extended to 14-0 (’72 Dolphins).
A victory for the Colts also would clinch the AFC South Division and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

“I know how hard it is to win nine games, 10 games, 11 games,” said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. “To win 12 games is extremely hard, but to win 12 in a row…You don’t have time to pat yourself on the back as a team.”

The back-patting can wait. As the final four weeks of the season begin, there are division titles – and more -- to be won. The Seattle Seahawks already have guaranteed play-off football having won the NFC West Division, as have the Colts.

The Cincinnati Bengals can join them if they win and the Chicago Bears continue their fine defensive form to topple the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last year’s Super Bowl winners, the New England Patriots can clinch the AFC East Division with a win and a Miami loss.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The final countdown

IT’S the final countdown as the NFL begins December with a final five weeks that will decide who will make it to the playoffs this January.

“This is what you live for as a football player,” said Carolina Panthers safety Mike Minter, whose team faces an important division battle with Atlanta this week. “These next five weeks are going to be big-time football.”

They will be that way even more so for the Indianapolis Colts, who are five wins away from history. Indianapolis, which reached 11-0 Monday night with a win over Pittsburgh, can post the most regular-season victories (16) without a defeat in history, topping the 14 wins of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

It will be tough. There is a 60 percent failure rate for the 10 teams in history that attempted to raise their record to 12-0.

“It’s hard to win 11 games in a season, let alone the first 11,” said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

The Colts this week can join the NFC’s top club, the 9-2 Seattle Seahawks, in becoming the first teams to enter the 2005 playoffs.

But many eyes will also be focused on the NFC East clash that sees the Dallas Cowboys visit the New York Giants.

The teams are tied for first in the NFC East…Dallas holds the tiebreaker with an October overtime victory…and former Giants coach Bill Parcells is back in town.

“This is a huge game,” said Giants TE Jeremy Shockey. “This is the ‘Game of the Year’ for the Giants.”

This could be a close one if it turns into a typical Giants-Cowboys game. Eight of the 11 meetings between the two since 2000 have been decided by no more then seven points. If it comes down to the fourth quarter, both teams are well suited.

The Giants rank second in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring with 95 points. And only Detroit (34) has allowed fewer points in the period than Dallas (40).