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...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Striving for seven

IT could be a week that sees two teams reach 7-0 records in the NFL when the pack leading Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts look to maintain unbeaten records going into November.

Chicago, if they succeed, will manage the feat for the first time since their Super Bowl winning season in 1985.

And they face a San Francisco side with a 2-4 record and struggling to find an identity on both sides of the ball.

‘Frisco will need to be on guard for the sensational Bears’ rookie defensive end Mark Anderson who has recorded a team best 6.5 sacks so far this season

Indianapolis have a more difficult task when they take on the 5-1 Denver Broncos,

It will be the usual high-powered Colts offence (No. 3 in the NFL) against the Broncos’ No. 4 defence that has surrendered a league-low 7.3 points per game, allowed two TDs, and held five consecutive opponents to single digits.

“To beat a team like the Colts, you have to be consistent,” says Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. “That’s offence, defence and special teams. On defence, we have to play at another level because we’re playing a quarterback (Peyton Manning) who is very consistent.”

Manning has thrown for 34,809 yards in his nine-year career and needs 191 yards to reach 35,000 for his career.

If he accomplishes the feat, Manning will reach 35,000 yards in the second fewest games in history, trailing only the 134 games of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

The key to the game could be Denver RB Tatum Bell, fresh off his third 100-yard effort of the year, going against Indy’s 31st-ranked NFL rush defence.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bears go to extend unbeaten run

IN a week that sees the Chicago Bears seek to make it five games unbeaten, many eyes will be focussed on the return of troubled wide receiver Terrell Owens to the Philadelphia Eagles

Owens left Philly after bust-ups with Coach Andy Reid and QB Donovan McNabb. Now he returns as a key component of the Dallas Cowboys attack.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a big game, that’s for sure,” said Cowboys TE Jason Witten. “We’ve heard about this one since the schedule came out.”

But memories aside, this is a division battle, which comes packed with even more tension. The Eagles had swept four of the past five season series (split in 2003) before the Cowboys took both meetings last year

All eyes will be on Owens, but safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis will also have to be wary of WR Terry Glenn

“When Owens is out there, Glenn gets single coverage, and you can’t cover him one-on-one,” said Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe.

In Chicago their game against the Buffalo Bills sees another return. New Bills head coach Dick Jauron will face the team he led for five seasons (1999-03), taking it to a 13-3 record in 2001 and a division championship – but it is a game he will not be looking forward to.

Chicago’s Rex Grossman has taken the club to its first 4-0 start since 1991 and is the second-ranked passer in the NFC. He distributed passes to six different receivers in the Bears’ 37-6 win over Seattle last week.

“I’m really pleased with the decisions Rex is making,” said Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner. “He’s naturally aggressive, which is a huge strength for him. He’s doing a good job of knowing when to be aggressive.”

The Bills’ J.P. Losman was even more liberal with his throws in Week 4, sending them to eight receivers. For the third time in four games, Losman was turnover-free.

Losman will confront a Chicago defense that has allowed the fewest points of any team that has played four games (29) and ranks third in the NFL with 15 sacks. The Bears, meanwhile, will try to stop the NFL’s rushing leader, Willis McGahee (389 yards).