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...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Insanity - yep Super Bowl week. Changing Pittsburgh's name to Steelers, Pennsylvannia - yes renaming an entire city for a week; then in Detroit the mayor wants to declare it as Jerome Bettis week; and then don't even mention knocking down the home of Motown Records for a Super Bowl car park. With all this, methinks that Seattle will be able to enter the game with a chip on both shoulders - and a balanced team as a result

Monday, January 23, 2006

Extra large match-up for Super Bowl XL

Extra large match-up for Super Bowl XL - you bet! The Pittsburgh Steelers proved the metal in their hearts and their passion is burning for a victory in Detriot. The Seattle Seahawks showed solidity was in their souls.

A classic Super Bowl - can't wait!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

One step to Motor City

FOUR teams, two places in Super Bowl XL; one final step to glory for the teams in this weekend’s Championship games.

And despite what the pundits said the favoured few are not among tomorrow’s competitions. The Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Denver Broncos, while the Carolina Panthers travel to the Seattle Seahawks.

And the players know that there is no second chance for the teams wanting to take the trip to Detroit.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver, Steve Smith – who played superbly against Chicago last week – put it simply: “There’s no next week.”

Denver have been away from the big game for too long in the view of their fans, but the longest serving coach in the NFL, the Steeler’s Bill Cowher is desperate to reach the Super Bowl.

And if anyone typified that desire it was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with his despairing tackle to stop a recovered fumble being run back by the Colts for a heartbreaking touchdown.

For the Seattle Seahawks it is almost a case being noticed. Mike Holmgren led the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl glory before upping sticks to Seattle.

Seahawks fans firmly believe that their teams improvements have gone ignored because of they are in the Pacific north west of the US, away from the media spotlight in the US.

Seattle has a well-rounded game, but it will be the ability of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to deal with the Carolina defence that will be the game decider.

The Panthers, with the Steelers, are facing the toughest challenges. If they reach the Super Bowl they will be the first teams since the Patriots in 1985 to win three play-off road games to that far.

Is it a game too far? If they are to overcome 20-years of history the Steelers will have to find a way past safety John Lynch’s ability to blitz and cover, while Pittsburgh will need their safety Troy Polamalu to do exactly the same thing.

Both players enjoyed superb games last week, quarterbacks look out!


Championship weekend

Both of the championship games are live on Sunday on Sky Sports, first up being Pittsburgh's visit to Denver, followed by Carolina's trip to Seattle.

Any odds on Super Bowl XL being between two Wild Card teams?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Beloved Bears fall

Ah well, there are times when it just isn't meant to be. My beloved Bears fell at last night's divisional game, when Grossman's inexperience showed and the mighty defence timidly rolled over for Carolina.

But hey, it's not all bad news! The Colts were beaten! And what a picture it was seeing Peyton 'Me and God, we're like chums' Manning when that field goal went astray.

The weekend results set up two intriguing championship games - the Carolina Panthers travelling to the West Coast to take on the Seattle Seahawks; with Pittsburgh going to Mile High to go up against the Broncos.

Can't wait!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Three wins away

Your chance to read my column from Ireland's Saturday Night before anyone else

AS American Football teams square up for this weekend’s divisional play offs, fans, coaches, and players know that their team is just three wins away from lifting Super Bowl XV.

The action gets under way tonight (Saturday) when Washington travel to the west coast to play Seattle, followed by the New England Patriots visit to Mile High Stadium to take on the Denver Broncos.

Sunday’s games feature the Pittsburgh Steelers match-up with AFC favourites, the Indianapolis Colts.

The divisional weekend concludes when the Carolina Panthers travel to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears.

And this is one game when defence will be the key. Chicago were the number two ranked, with Carolina number three in a season where the defensive mind-set has been the key to success.

And it is a game where home field advantage could be key for the Bears. The Monsters of the Midway allowed the fewest home points (61) in a season since the 16-game schedule began in 1978.

The teams’ top two rushers did not do much on November 20 when the Bears beat visiting Carolina 13-3 – and sacked quarterback Jake Delhomme eight times.

The key to the game could be the Bears’ ability to stop the NFL’s 2005 receiving-yards leader, Steve Smith. In the November game, Smith had 14 catches for 169 yards but no touchdowns.

“I’ll take 14 catches and no touchdowns anytime,” said Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher of Smith’s first game. “I would hate to have a game where he catches three balls for three TDs. The times he does catch it, you just have to tackle him.”

Monday, January 09, 2006

Patriots through

Wild card weekend wasn't exactly wild - but for those purists amongst us, some great games. The Tampa Bay Washington may not have been a score-fest, but it still was a showcase for the game, with great defence and that final flailing attempt to convert by the Buccs

All in next week's column for the Ireland's Saturday Night, but for now suffice to say that who's backing against the New England Patriots now?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wild Card Weekend

A preview of my American Football Column which will appear in Ireland's Saturday Night two hours before Wild Card Weekend kicks off....

THE race to play in Super Bowl XL in Detroit on February 5th gets serious this weekend when Wild Card weekend kicks off tonight (Saturday). And it is set to be a weekend of tasty match-ups throughout the play-offs.

There are seven new playoff teams; one that has won three of the past four Super Bowls and there are four clubs that won 51 of their 64 games this year.

Tonight the action gets underway when the Washington Redskins visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, closely followed by Jacksonville’s visit to New England.

Sunday sees Carolina at the New York Giants, with Wild Card weekend closing with Pittsburgh’s trip to Cincinnati.

“What the regular season does is get you to the playoffs,” said the quarterback of one of those new playoff teams, Eli Manning of the New York Giants. “Now you see what you’ve really got.”

And what New York will be hoping is that teams based in warmer climates will struggle when travelling to cold and chilly pitches such as New York and New England.

But it could be the final game of the weekend that is the most promising, with the divisional match-up between the Steelers and the Bengals.

About 300 miles separate these two Ohio River cities and their teams like the other’s place – at least this year. The Steelers won (27-13) in Cincinnati on October 23, and the Bengals won (38-31) in Pittsburgh on December 4.

“We love this match-up with Pittsburgh,” said Bengals QB Carson Palmer. “They love playing us. It’s always a great, competitive game. It gets your mind ready. When you’ve got Pittsburgh coming in, you’ve got to get focused.”

If it’s cold or rainy or snowy, that focus may well stay primarily on the ground, and the teams are fine on that front. Cincinnati’s Rudi Johnson finished No. 7 in NFL rushing (1,458) and Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker No. 12 (1,202).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wild Card weekend

Oh, there goes sleep! The play offs are here! And for everyone in the UK with even a pasing interest in American Football, the real deal is here - the knock-out stages; the time when dreams are made and broken; when every play counts.

Action kicks off on Saturday night, when at 9.30 (UK time) Washington travel to take on Tampa, followed at some Godforsaken hour by Jacksonville at New England.

Sunday sees Carolina at the New York Giants (thankfully at a more civilised kick-off time of 6.00pm) followed by Pittsburgh at Cincinnati.

Sunday's games are all between teams with identical 11-5 records - noone but the foolish would bet on the outcomes, except me! Look for Carolina to fold in the New York cold, while the Bengals prove to be too tough for the Steelers!

As for Saturday's games? Anyone's guess!