Thursday, November 20, 2014

NFL Week 12: Separating contenders from pretenders

Rob Gronkowski

Last week, the eleventh week of the 2014 NFL season, we were all given the gift of some solid football, not the most exciting of weeks; however, there were some great games which featured teams making statements by winning big. The Atlanta Falcons earned a 19-17 win over their NFC South division rivals, the Carolina Panthers as they improved their record to 4-6 on the season and now sit atop the lacklustre NFC South. The Chicago Bears were able to snap their losing streak, as they went on to beat their NFC North division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 21-13. The Kansas City Chiefs played host to the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, and were able to snuff their opponents as they earned a 24-20 victory and improved their record to 7-3 on the season. The biggest surprise of week 11 would have to be the Denver Broncos going into the St. Louis and getting dominated as they went on to lose to the Rams by a score of 22-7. Also in week 11, the Patriots went on the road and into Lucas Oil Stadium, a place which hasn’t been kind to the Patriots in recent years and were able to earn an impressive 42-20 victory over their AFC foes.

We are slowly nearing the end of the season, as much as all of us fans don’t want to admit, and wins are becoming more and more crucial for those teams looking to make a playoff push. Week 12 brings us several great games that hold major importance and that will impact the standings.

That being said, here are a few games to look for this weekend.

Detroit Lions (7 – 3) vs. New England Patriots (8 – 2)
Last week the Detroit Lions travelled cross-country into the state of Arizona to do battle with the Cardinals in a tilt of NFC powerhouses. The Lions fell to the Cardinals by a score of 14-6, which dropped their record to 7-3 and helped improve the Arizona record to a league best 9-1 on the season. QB Matthew Stafford leads the Lions offense which ranks 21st in the league in terms of overall production, with the rushing attack ranking 30th in the league, a number that they are not proud of and a number that must improve. The Lions’ bread and butter is their defensive play, it has won them some games this year and currently ranks 1st in the league in terms of overall defense. Their defensive front has been able to effectively stop the run this season, making them a force to be recon with for opposing backs. The Lions have a new weapon on offense and it’s not Calvin Johnson, it is WR Golden Tate, who has over 900 receiving yards to his name, a team high. Last week the New England Patriots had themselves quite the road trip as they marched into Indianapolis and laid a smack down on the hometown Colts as they went on to win the game by a score of 42-20 and improved their record to 8-2 on the season. QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, leads the Patriots high powered offense. The Patriots have their share of offensive weapons which include, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, RB’s Steven Ridley and Jonas Gray. Gray went off last Sunday night against the Colts as he rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He made quite the name for himself and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the Lions this Sunday. The Patriots defense has been playing very well as of late, they rank 16th in the league in terms of overall defense, but don’t let the numbers fool you, they have a dynamite defense that can execute to perfection. If the Lions want to be successful they will have to move the ball more efficiently on offense. As of late their play calling has been quite predictable and they have not run the ball well at all. The Lions will need to spread the ball evenly and try not to lock into only Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate because those two will be blanketed, they will need TE Eric Ebron to step and prove himself. If the Lions can move the ball efficiently and not have to rely on yet another fourth quarter comeback, they have a shot at beating the Patriots. If the Patriots want to be effective in this game, they will need to pass the ball efficiently because it could be tough running against the Lions top-ranked D-line. Brady, the master game manager must look methodically to move the ball downfield for long, time-consuming against this defense. Brady to Gronk will be the match up to watch because these two fully understand each other and they have the ability to make life a living nightmare for opposing defenses. This game should be a fun one to watch; however, the Patriots have a distinct advantage in this game based on the way they’ve been playing as of late.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 1:00pm from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. 

Arizona Cardinals (9 – 1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (6 – 4)
Last week the Arizona Cardinals played host to the Detroit Lions and were able to earn a tough 14-6 win and improve their record to 9-1 on the season. QB Drew Stanton is now leading the Cardinal offense after their number one starter; Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury just one week ago. Drew Stanton has made appearances in five games so far this season and has thrown for over 900 yards, five touchdowns and only two interceptions, so it’s fair to say that he is a dependable back-up quarterback. WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and RB Andre Ellington are the playmakers on this Cardinals squad and will look to help lead their team to their tenth win of the season in the hostile environment that is CenturytLink Field. Arizona is a team that ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall offense and 13th in the league in terms of overall defense. They are a very balanced team, meaning they can perform well on both sides of the ball. Now, don’t let the numbers fool you, they may not be in the top 10 in terms of their rankings, however, they’re a damn good football team that can grind down their opponents and earn tough, hard-fought victories. Last week the Seattle Seahawks went on the road to battle the Kansas City Chiefs and were handed their fourth loss of the season after they fell to the Chiefs by a score of 24-20. QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown for over 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, he leads the league 11th ranked overall offense. With RB Marshawn Lynch and the mobile QB Russ Wilson at the helm, it’s no surprise that the Seahawks rank 1st in the NFL in terms of rushing offense. However, their passing game has struggled so far this season, it ranks 30th in the league in terms of production and the Seahawks desperately missing the presence of a superstar wide receiver who can put up the numbers. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense ranks 3rd in the NFL in terms of production and they have proven that they can stop both the run and the pass, though they are nowhere near as dominate as they were last season. If the Cardinals want to be successful in the bitter NFC West clash, they will need to be functioning on all cylinders and have QB Drew Stanton executing plays that he’s comfortable with, not forcing any throws and taking what the defense gives him. Some teams have had success running the ball against the Seahawks so that means RB Andre Ellington, if used effectively, can have a decent game against the Seahawks. The key to beating the Seattle defense is playing high tempo, no huddle offense because the Seahawks love to substitute their defensive players and when teams play tempo on them, they can switch thus meaning they are playing more snaps with fatigued players in the game. If the Seahawks want to be successful in this game they will need QB Russell Wilson to be at his best because the Cardinal’s defense is no joke. The Seahawks will need a receiver to step up and prove themselves because as of now, the Seahawks don’t have any receivers with more than 500 yards, and that’s a shame, especially when you’re the defending champions. This is going to be a close defensive game with the potential for either team to take the victory; however, the Seahawks have a slight advantage simply because they’re playing at home.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 4:05pm CenutryLink Field in Seattle, Washington.

Baltimore Ravens (6 – 4) vs. New Orleans Saints (4 – 6)
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of a bye week; however, in their last game in week 10; the Ravens had earned themselves a 21-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans which improved their record to 6-4 on the season. QB Joe Flacco, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season, he will be leading the 12th ranked Ravens offense. RB Justin Forsett and WR Steve Smith lead the team at their respective positions by putting up some fantastic numbers and have given this Ravens offense a new look and style.  The Ravens are a team that can effectively run the ball and pass the ball which is good because they don’t have to rely on one aspect of the offense to win their games for them. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens defense ranks 11th in the league in terms of overall defense (which we are used to) and can thank the defensive front seven for that. Last week the New Orleans Saints played host to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game which saw them fall to their AFC foes by a score of 27-10. QB Drew Brees, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, leads the Saints and their 2nd ranked overall offense. Brees has put up some solid numbers this year; however, he has thrown for 10 interceptions already which is unheard of when it comes to the typical Drew Brees standards. The Saints are loaded with playmakers on offense with guys like TE Jimmy Graham, WR Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and RB Mark Ingram, who have helped the Saints with their offensive ranking. The Saints defense, which looked incredible last season, has struggled so far this season, in particular in the pass defense. The Saints defense ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall production and that ranking isn’t ideal for a team that’s looking to regain control of the NFC South division. If the Ravens want to be successful in this game, they will need to pass the ball effectively against this struggling Saints secondary. Joe Flacco will need to hook up with Steve Smith and Torrey Smith in hopes of torching the Saints secondary. The Ravens will also need to figure out how to cope with the noise that the fans will generate inside the Superdome. If the Saints want to be effective in this game, they will need Drew Brees to have himself a great day in the passing department and take advantage of the Ravens secondary that has also looked a tad vulnerable at times, like their counterparts in this game. Brees cannot turn the ball over anymore; he must take better care of it and ensure his offense is on the field more often and not Baltimore’s. The Saints need this win if they want any shot at making the playoffs, however, it’s going to be very tough to earn against a very balanced Ravens squad that is also hungry for a win and is eager to gain ground in the division and leapfrog the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Game details: Kickoff on Monday, November 24th at 8:30 pm from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Matt Kassabian

Friday, November 14, 2014

The UFC: Keeping Up with the Action

Looking Back
Looking back on some recent events, it is the up and comers that are shinning as they continually push out the old names of the UFC. A prime example of this was on November 8th at UFC Fight Night 56: Shogun vs St Preux where St Preux defeated Shogun by TKO in a matter of seconds. Previous to this fight St Preux had been quietly collecting several impressive wins, having won 11 of his past 13 fights. The only losses came to Ryan Badar and Gerard Mousasi.

Another quick defeat over one of the sports stars happened on that same day in Sydney, Australia. Luke Rockhold defeated Michael Bisping by guillotine choke at :57 of the second round. This, in many people’s minds, was Bisping’s last shot towards a title fight. Bisping has won many big fights; however, has not been able to win important fights to get him into any talks of title contention.

Just prior to that action packed weekend we watched as Jose Aldo defeated Chad Mendes at UFC 179. Although it was not as decisive as his first victory over Mendes, it was an impressive battle. The win was impressive enough for increasing talk of him passing Jon Jones in the Top Pound for Pound rankings. With Aldo having now defended his title seven times in the UFC and with having only one loss on his record, it is certainly something that could be argued.

In that same card we saw Phil Davis easily handle Glover Teixeira proving that Glover just has not been the same fighter since his loss to Jon Jones.

Looking Forward
UFC 180 might be forever thought of as the injury card. What promised to be one of the greatest cards in UFC history was absolutely destroyed by injuries. Being the first ever card in Mexico City, the UFC was looking to put on a special event, including their country’s hero, Cain Velasquez fighting to defend his title. Unfortunately an MCL injury to the champ put an end to those plans. Also in one of the most anticipated fights of the year both Diego Sanchez (knee) and Joe Lauzon had to withdraw due to injuries. Joe Lauzon was himself an injury replacement for the Ultimate Fighter winner, Norman Parke.

What is left of the UFC 180 card is an interim title Heavyweight fight that Cain Velasquez and fans alike dismiss, as Cain states, “when I have my chance to fight, we’ll fight for the real one.” Many people believe that should Fabricio Werdum fight as he did against Travis Browne, he should walk all over Mark Hunt. The last person to beat Werdum, Alistair Overeem, commented on the upcoming fight saying, “At the heavyweight division, it can go either way”. He also goes on to admit he believes Werdum has the advantage in the fight.

Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum is also an interesting fight for this card. For those who have read my past work I noted over a year ago that Kelvin was a fighter to watch out for. He was very unassuming on the Ultimate Fighter, where he was the eventual winner, and he continues to impress here in the UFC, remaining undefeated. Ellenberger, on the other hand, has struggled to win lately and should he lose at UFC 180, it would be his third loss in a row. This would be a huge win for Gastelum beating the 7th ranked welterweight and would certainly see him move up in the division.

Another interesting and potentially explosive fight is that between Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez. Lamas has won five of his last six fights, his only loss coming in a title fight against Jose Aldo. Bermudez is also riding a significant streak of his own. Since losing in the Ultimate Fighter Finale, Bermudez has won seven fights in a row including an impressive victory over Clay Guida on July 26th. These are two fighters that are certainly in the talk for title contention and an impressive win at UFC 180 could get them a fight away from fighting for the title.

In a quick preview of UFC Fight Night 57 we will look at the main event between Franky Edgar and Cub Swanson. This fight has all the potential to be the fight of the year, as we have a past champion and experienced veteran of the sport fighting a young fighter doing anything in his power for a shot at the title. Swanson has been extremely impressive having now won six in a row in impressive fashion. A win over Edgar; however, would be his most impressive to date.

Then UFC fans can look forward to one of the best cards of 2014 on December 6th. At UFC 181 we have two title fights including the rematch between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. Many believe that this fight will go the same way as the first fight; nevertheless, this fight has the potential to go either way and promises to be extremely exciting.

The other title fight on this card will be Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis taking on Gilbert Melendez. Another fight with the potential of a war or the potential to end in seconds. All of Gilbert’s past four fights have went the distance, including three five round fights. Pettis, on the other hand, has made quick work of his last three fights, winning them all in the first round.
In another main card fight that will include two heavyweights with the potential to knock you out with one punch, we have Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub. This fight could be a turnaround for Browne as he looks to get back into title contention after his loss to Fabricio Werdum.

Recently Announced
If these main cards aren’t exciting enough for you, here are some recent fight announcement:
·         The return of Frank Mir. Many did not believe he would be back, but it has been announced that he will be fighting ‘’Bigfoot’’ Silva at UFC 184. This fight is in addition to already announced Chris Weidman vs Vitor Belfot and Ronda Rousey. It is clear that the UFC wants to start 2015 with a bang.
·         Sweden can look forward to two exciting fights. UFC Fight Night: Anthony Johnson vs Alexander Gustafsson has just been announced, as well as another main card event with Dan Henderson taking on Gerard Mousasi. This event is set for January 24th, so expect more announcements in the near future.

Curtis Lauzon

Euro 2016 qualifying: Serbia faced with a "must win" situation

It is only three matches into their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, but Serbia is already faced with a must win situation.  Today, Serbia will welcome a good Denmark squad to Partizan’s stadium in the capital city, Belgrade.  As most already know, this match will be played without fans due to problems that occurred during Serbia’s match vs Albania.  After three matches played, Denmark sits atop group I with four points. 

Here are a few keys to Serbia putting forth a good performance and winning this match.

Contain Eriksen and Hojbjerg-if Serbia has any chance at winning this match, shutting down Eriksen and Hojbjerg is a must.  Eriksen is a player with tremendous vision and great free kick ability, so giving up as little free kicks as possible would be quite ideal.  In the BPL last season, Eriksen had seven goals and eight assists to his name and he was one of Tottenham’s best players.  Considering Matic will be the starting defensive midfielder in this match, he will have his work cut out for him trying to defend one of the better playmakers in English football.  Similar to Eriksen, Hojbjerg displays good passing ability, and he is very calm on the ball, especially for a 19 year old midfielder.  Hojbjerg has been receiving more and more playing time for Bayern Munich and his confidence has been quite high.  Depending on who the other midfielder is for Serbia (most likely Gudlej), he will most likely have the task of blanketing Hojbjerg.  The likes of Ivanovic and Nastasic will have to chip in as well.

Get some shots on target early-with the likes of Mitrovic, Tadic and Tosic, Serbia has all the weapons necessary to test any goalkeeper, but they have not been doing that often enough in qualifying.  Instead Serbia opts for passing the ball around and waiting to score the perfect goal (similar to what Arsenal does).  Even though Gudelj and Matic are fairly defensive minded, they have the ability to score goals as well-Matic with his lethal headers and Gudelj from set pieces.  Markovic is known as a speedster; however, at some point he has to start shooting on net, something this whole squad gets criticised for.

Backline has to make up for missing Kolarov-the Manchester City defender has been ruled out for this match and the friendly vs Greece in a couple of days.  Dusko Tosic will be taking Kolarov’s spot on the left flank.  That being said, every player in that backline will need to do their best to chip in and keep the Danes at bay.  Communication is key, now more than ever with one of the main guys missing at the back.  Serbia cannot allow Eriksen to stroll through and set-up the likes of Bendtner and Krohn-Dehli.

PLAY WITH URGENCY!-this being a must win situation (if you ask me), Serbia must attack from the first minute.  Testing Schmeichel early and often is a priority, transitioning from attack to defending must be smooth because the Danes will make you pay.  Man marking on all set pieces has to be well thought-out and every man needs to be marked closely, especially with Eriksen delivering to the box.  

Ogi B

Analysis Alan's Week Eleven Picks

Beast Mode in action vs Giants 
Away vs Home Pick
Bills vs Dolphins Dolphins
5 -5
Falcons vs Panthers Panthers
0.5 -0.5
Bengals vs Saints Bengals
7 -7
Broncos vs Rams Broncos
-10 10
Texans vs Browns Texans
3.5 -3.5
Vikings vs Bears Bears
3 -3
Seahawks vs Chiefs Chiefs
1 -1
49ers vs Giants Giants
-4 4
Bucs vs Redskins Redskins
7 -7
Raiders vs Chargers Raiders
10 -10
Lions vs Cardinals Lions
2 -2
Eagles vs Packers Packers
5 -5
Patriots vs Colts Colts
2.5 -2.5
Steelers vs Titans Titans
-6 6
Last week 9-4
Overall 74-71
Alan M

NFL Week 11: Can Sanchez and Stanton get it done under pressure?

Sanchez vs Panthers in Week 10 
Last week was the tenth week of the 2014 NFL season and the first game was played between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals for the battle of Ohio. The Browns earned their sixth win of the season after beating up on the Bengals as they have earned their seat at the top of the AFC North division. Week 10 also saw the Detroit Lions improve their record to 7-2 as they beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of 20-16 on yet another last minute touchdown drive led by Lions QB Matthew Stafford. The San Francisco 49ers marched into New Orleans and earned a much needed win on the road against the Saints. The 49ers won the game on a field goal in overtime, which helped them improve their record to 5-4. In week 10 the Green Bay Packers were able to improve their record to 6-2 after they completely dominated their NFC North division rivals, the Chicago Bears, on their way to a 55-14 win. This biggest surprise of week 10 was the New York Jets snapping the Pittsburgh Steelers 3-game win streak by beating their AFC foes by a score of 20-13 as they earned only their second win of the season.

We are now entering the eleventh week of the season; we have passed the half-way point and teams are bracing to make that push for a playoff spot. Games are becoming more and more important as the weeks go on, which makes it all the more interesting for every fan of the NFL.

Week 11 brings with it some massive games which feature some serious divisional opponents, that being said, here are some of this week’s biggest games.

Philadelphia Eagles (7 – 2) vs. Green Bay Packers (6 – 3)
Last week the Philadelphia Eagles played host to the Carolina Panthers, in the Monday Night game, and were able to earn the 45-21 victory over the depleted Panthers. QB Mark Sanchez has been forced to take over as the team’s starter since Nick Foles injured his Collarbone in a week nine tilt vs. the Texans and in Monday night’s game, he looked very good playing his first game as a starter for the Eagles as he went 20 for 37 for 332 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Eagles offence is loaded with talent and thanks to big names such as WR’s Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, RB’s LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, the Eagles offence ranks 5th in the league in terms of overall offensive production. However, it’s their defence that has cost them a couple games this season with some inconsistent play. The Eagles defense ranks 21st in the league in terms of overall production, a number which has to improve if the Eagles want to remain serious contenders. Last week the Green Bay Packers played host to their NFC North division rivals, the Chicago Bears, and were able to earn their sixth win of the season as they went on to beat the Bears by a score of 55-14. Non-other than QB Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay offensive attack that ranks 12th in the league in terms of overall production. The Packers have had excellent production from their WR’s Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, however, they are still looking for an impact from RB Eddie Lacy, who has rushed for just over 400 yards and only one of those runs was for over 20 yards. The Green Bay defense ranks 23rd in the league in overall defense, however, don’t let the numbers fool you, the Packers defense looked fantastic against the Bears last Sunday night and seem to have found their groove, which is bad news for opposing offenses. If the Eagles want to be successful in this game and earn a very important road win, they will need to play smart football, which they did against Carolina last Monday night. Smart football means taking what the defense gives you and not forcing any throws or turnovers. The Eagles will need to run the ball with authority and if they do, they can be successful in this game because the Packers have one of the league’s worst run defenses and if McCoy, Sproles and Polk heat up, they can shred the Packers. The biggest thing for the Eagles though, is their defense, if they can contain Aaron Rodgers and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket, it would be great for them, it’s important that their defense is executing a very high level, if they want to win this game because that’s what it comes down to for the them. For the Packers however, it’s important that their defensive front-seven come to play on Sunday, they need to break through the Eagles’ O-line and disrupt the run game as often as they can, in order to neutralize the Eagles.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 16th at 4:25pm from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Detroit Lions (7 – 2) vs. Arizona Cardinals (8 – 1)
Last week the Detroit Lions played host to the Miami Dolphins, where they were able to mount a last minute comeback and win the game by a score of 20-16, as they improved their record to 7-2 on the season. QB Matthew Stafford, WR’s Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, RB’s Joique Bell and Reggie Bush lead the Lions offence, an offense, which ranks 19th in the league in terms of overall offensive production. The Lions rank very high in their passing offense, however, they have struggled mightily running the ball this season, which explains why they rank 30th in the NFL in rushing production. On the flip side of the ball, the Lions defense has looked stellar this season and they have rightfully earned the spot at the league’s top ranked defense. The Lions front seven have proven to be a force and have made it very hard for opposing teams to run the ball on them. They have also been able to effectively execute on their pass defense. Last week the Arizona Cardinals played host to their NFC West division rivals, the St. Louis Rams, and were able to earn the 31-14 win and extend their record to 8-1 on the season. The Cardinals have the best record in the NFL, however, they have their work cut out for this this weekend when they play the Lions and their top-ranked defense because they will be without their veteran starting QB Carson Palmer who is done for the season after suffering an unfortunate knee injury during their game against the Rams. The Cardinals will have to rely on QB Drew Stanton to pick up where Palmer left off and lead this impressive football team. The Cardinals offense has its fair share of playmakers such as WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Josh Brown and RB Andre Ellington, however, despite their great record and the names they have, the Cardinals offense ranks 24th in the league in terms of overall production. Unfortunately, they have struggled to run the ball at times, which explains why they are ranked where they are. Though the Arizona defense ranks 15th in the league in terms of overall production, they are a force to be reckon with because they are a physical, hard hitting bunch that has the ability to win games, just like the Lions. If the Lions want to be successful, they must try to get Reggie Bush involved, if he’s healthy that is, and set him up with some screen passes and have him attempt to create some great gains. If the Lions can keep WR Calvin Johnson away from CB Patrick Peterson, they have a great chance creating some big plays downfield, however that is some seriously wishful thinking because PP will be everywhere. It’s also very important that QB Matthew Stafford has himself a very productive and efficient game in order to give the Lions the best possible chance at winning this game. If he stumbles and tries to create another comeback, it probably won’t happen against this stingy Arizona Cardinals team. If the Cardinals want to be successful in this game they will need the help of their defense to have a great game and help out backup QB Drew Stanton as much as possible. It could be tough for them to move the ball against a tenacious Lions defense, but, if they can get all off their receivers going and not just look to target Larry Fitzgerald, they have a shot at winning this game. Look for that Cardinal defense to try and control to the tempo of this game.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 16th at 4:25pm from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona.

New England Patriots (7 – 2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6 – 3)
The New England Patriots are coming off of a bye week, however, in their last game, a week nine tilt against the Denver Broncos, the Patriots earned a massive 43-21 victory over their AFC foes as they netted their seventh win of the season. Non-other than QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for nearly 2,400 yards, 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions so far this season, leads the Patriots offensive attack. The Patriots are blessed with weapons such as WR’s Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB’s Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen that help bolster their offensive attack, an attack that ranks 9th in the league in terms of overall offensive production. The Patriot defense, however, ranks 16th in the league, but don’t let that number fool you, they have some great play makers on that side of the ball that sure can take over games. The Indianapolis Colts are also coming off of a bye week. In their last game, a week nine game against the Giants, they were able to earn a 40-24 win and improve their record to 6-3 on the season. The Colts offense is led by the poised gunslinger, QB Andrew Luck, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions so far this season. The Colts have some serious weapons on offense such as WR’s T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, RB’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, guys that are all capable of big plays and are partially responsible for the reason why the Colts have the league’s top ranked offense in terms of overall production. The Colts defense has had its moments of greatness so far this season, however, they have been anything but consistent. They rank 18th in the league in terms of overall defense and it’s because they haven’t proven that they can stop the run, but, they have had their fair share of trouble trying to defend the pass. If the Patriots want to be successful in this game and earn a road win this upcoming Sunday, they will need their defense to help them out as much as possible. The can count on Brady to manage the offense, however, it’s extremely important that their defense can step up and blanket the high-flying Colts offense, and if they do that, they have a great shot at winning this game. If the Colts want to be effective, they will need to try and run the ball with authority and try to gash the Patriots defensive line, who has struggled a bit at times. Like Brady, Luck can manage the offense, but he will need his defense to keep Brady and company off the field and help them win this game. This matchup of AFC powerhouses should make for an outstanding game for all viewers so this is a match-up you do not want to miss because both of these teams have a great shot at winning.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 16th at 8:30pm form Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Matt Kassabian
Twitter: @PassDaKassabian  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Marko Vejinovic Case: Netherlands or Serbia?

Marko Vejinovic, Vitesse midfielder
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on Filip Kostic and how he had the choice of either playing for Montenegro, or Serbia.  Since then Kostic stated that he will be waiting for Serbia to call his name, no matter how long that may take.

In the last week or so, Vitesse midfielder, Marko Vejinovic has received some interest from both the Netherlands and Serbia.  Vejinovic is older than Kostic (24), so the true football fans out there know he is a bit of a late bloomer.  Unlike Kostic, Vejinovic was actually born in the Netherlands in 1990; he has been capped for the Netherlands U-17, U-19 and U-21 sides, which is not an easy thing to do, when you consider all the great talent that comes from the Oranje

Vejinovic started his youth career at Ajax, but then he moved on to Utrecht and AZ Alkmaar.  In 2008, he finally made his debut for the Alkmaar first team.  In 2009, Vejinovic made the switch to Heracles Almelo for an undisclosed fee.  In four years at Heracles, Vejinovic played in 102 matches, scoring 11 goals and that is when the big name teams from the Eredivisie started to take notice.  In July of 2013, Vejinovic made the switch to Vitesse.  In his first season at Vitesse, Marko gathered two goals and four assists, but you can tell that the potential was there.  This season it has been a completely different story.  In 12 matches played, Vejinovic has six goals and three assists to his name, which has attracted the attention of Hiddink (Dutch manager) and Advocaat (Serbian manager). 

The thing that both Hiddink and Advocaat like about Vejinovic, is that he can play more than one position, which is a big time bonus  because now you can use him in multiple situations.  When asked which national team he would play for, Vejinovic replied by saying “I am just focusing on my career with Vitesse currently”.  Multiple media sources have stated that Vejinovic would have no problem putting on the Serbian jersey, but it is still only speculation. 

I truly believe that the first coach to call up Marko will be the one to get him.  He does not seem like the type of guy who would turn down an invite from either team. 

Ogi B 

Red Star/Cukaricki Recap

disappointment after the match vs Cukaricki
In the derby of the 12th Matchday, Red Star took on a very good and organized Cukaricki side.  Once again, Red Star struggled scoring goals, which has been the teams Achilles heel this season.  The match ended in a nil-nil draw.

Red Star came out in the following line up (4-4-2):
Rajkovic; Mijailovic, Planic, Lazic, Pavicevic; Kovacevic, Bosancic, Katai; Lazovic, Rakic, Pecnik
Used subs: Despotovic-Katai, Jovic-Pecnik, Ristic-Kovacevic

Cukaricki got off to a fairly quick start.  In the 3rd minute, S. Srnic attempted a shot on net; the ball was handled easily by Rajkovic.

In the 7th minute, Pavicevic crossed a ball from the right side of the pitch, right onto Pecnik’s head, but unfortunately his header sails just over the net.

In the first 10 minutes, Cukaricki played very open football, something they said they would do prior to the start of the match.

Another great chance for Pecnik in the 14th minute, but his header is cleared off the line by Ukah, who was Cukaricki’s best defender on the day.

Miscommunication in the Red Star backline, as Planic lets a ball go, thinking another defender would gather it, instead S. Srnic collects it, goes one-on-one with Rajkovic, but the 19 year old keeper makes a diving stop to his right.

You would think third time’s a charm for Pecnik, but in the 25th minute, his header goes off the crossbar.  Unlucky. 

In the 27th minute, Cukaricki defender, Brezancic got his second yellow in a matter of minutes, thus leaving the visitors with a man down for the remained of the match.

Even though Cukaricki was down to 10 men, Red Star did not pressure as much.  In the 37th minute, Cukaricki makes a substitution to strengthen their backline after the red card.

At the start of the 2nd half, Red Star coach, Lalatovic makes a substitution.  Katai goes off for Despotovic.  Katai has shown very little in the matches he has played in the first half of the season.

Another hiccup from Planic in the 55th, as he he sends a ball back to Rajkovic, but it is well short, Stojiljkovic takes the ball, but Rajkovic does a fantastic job of coming out of net and deny a serious chance.

Pecnik beats Jankovic in the 57th, but then delivers an awful cross which goes well over the net.

In the 62nd, Pecnik once again beats Jankovic one-on-one; however, the cross goes right into the hands of Stevanovic.

In the 65th, Despotovic is involved in a play for the first time.  Despotovic beats a defender, centres the ball to Rakic, whose header is saved very well by Stevanovic.  Cukaricki get the rebound and clear it into safety.
69th, Pavicevic gets the ball onto Planic’s head; however, the shot is right at the keeper.  Fans at this point are starting to get a little bit restless because much more was expected.

In the 78th, Cukaricki shows some life.  After some dreadful control from Despotovic, Cukaricki hit the counter attack, but S. Srnic misses a sitter.

After the Cukaricki counter attack, Red Star comes the other way.  Despotovic combines with Rakic, who then beats two defenders and the goalie, but his off-balance shot goes wide of the net.

Last chance of the match came in the 94th minute from a Cukaricki free kick, luckily the ball sails over the net.

Game Notes:
-Katai has been absolutely dreadful since his loan deal from Greek giants, Olympiacos.  In the next i expect Katai to be replaced by either Ristic or Gavric.

-Petkovic’s injury has forced Pavicevic to now play right back, which means that Planic is getting playing time at centre back.  Much more is expected of Planic, especially when you consider that he was in the ideal XI in the 2013/2014 season.

-The strikers have had a dry spell the last few weeks, if Red Star wants to win, players like Despotovic, Rakic and Jovic will need to start scoring goals.

Ogi B