Come join Award-Winning Actor Keith Collins and VibeThat.com’s VP of Marketing and Advertising Scott D’Amato for the Offical Lauch Party of VibeThat.com!
Foundation Lounge NYC and promoter/actor Keith Collins have teamed up with VibeThat.com to celebrate the launch of the VibeThat.com’s web page and community. Not only that, but we will be celebrating Keith Collins achievement of winning Best Supporting Actor at the Downbeach Film Festival Cinefest in Atlantic City for his role in a new 2010 film “A Fight for Survival”. While we’re at it, why not throw in a birthday bash for Scott D’Amato too. This night will be a blast, so bring your friends.
The event takes place Saturday, October 23rd at Foundation Lounge in New York City and is guest list only.
So, in dramatic fashion, we limp to the finish line for all you football heads out there. I have no excuse save that the last week was full of travel and entertaining of guests. But I’ll not let you down, and even though this is admittedly the weakest division in the league, it still deserves some face time, right?
San Francisco 49ers
Niners tight end Vernon Davis (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images)
Maybe its just me, but it seems like the stories of Montana, Walsh, and Rice are fading further and further into antiquity with each passing year, looking more like an aberration and good luck than an organizations commitment to winning. Of course, you can’t always hire a coach that will fundamentally change the way the game is played or drat the best quarterback and wide receiver in the history of the game every time you neeed one, can you. The Niners are a far cry from the flash and shine of those halcyon days in the 80’s and 90’s, but they’ve done a complete makeover as only San Fran is capable, and have come out of it a whole different beast. It all starts with coach Mike Singletary. For a city that’s more style and substance, Singletary brings a bedrock to the team to build upon. A part of the ’85 Bears team that produced the Super Bowl Shuffle and a 15-1 record, Singletary was another in a long line of Bears linebackers that stuck utter terror into the hearts of opposing players. Now, as the coach of the 49ers he is trying to do the same thing, and has turned a historically pass happy team to a run-first bludgeoning fist. He takes little to no shit from anyone, going so far as to make Vernon Davis, the Niners star tight end, to go to the locker room because he was being whiny. So things are changing. The draft this year focused on rebuilding a porous offensive line that has allowed former number one pick Alex Smith to be knocked senseless, lose his starting job, and get it back. That’s the key to the whole seasaon, plain and simple. If that can stay strong and Smith can fulfill his promise FINALLY, the Niners are the class oft his division. If not, they have this kid Nate Davis from Ball State that can just flat out huck the ball. Big, strong, he could be very good. Frank Gore at RB is one of the most unheralded backs in the league in a division with Stephen Jackson, another of the same. The aforementioned Davis, when he was drafted, was considered the best pure athlete in the game with a freakish size and speed combination. Basically, if LeBron James played football, you’d have Vernon Davis. In an earlier column I mentioned how Brian Westbrook was on the Redskins, but I was wrong and informed of that while watching the Niners preseason game last week. So really, having one of the best backs in recent history as a backup is going to add some magic to that backfield. Plus, Michael Crabtree is going to be playing an entire season and if that talent he showed at Texas Tech pans out, well, the Niners have a threat at wideout like nobody else in the league. He is that good. If Ted Ginn, recently acquired from Miami, can find his hands, that could be a very good receiving corps. Defensively, Patrick Willis at linebacker leads a very solid group. This is Singletarys’ pride and joy here, a get after the ball kind of team that just wants to destroy. They’ve taken on the mentality that Singletary brings to the team, and that’s just dangerous. Willis is one of the best backers in the league, hands down. Combine that with safety Taylor Mays out of USC and the middle of the field is a place you don’t want to be against this team. Mays is a freak like Davis is, and watching USC games the last couple years saw him literally everywhere on the field. If he wasn’t the guy making the tackle, he was right there delivering a bone-shattering hit anyway. The d-line isn’t amazing, but solid, and they were one of the toughest teams against the run last year, something that should carry over. Pass-wise, Mays is what some consider the second coming of Ronny Lott, the Hall of Fame safety that was the face of the Niners defense for all those championship runs. So keep an eye on San Fran, and the Bay in general, it looks like a couple of teams there are going to surprise the league. Prediction : 11-5, playoffs. (more…)
2009 was a lost year in the Windy City, with the Bears seemingly confused about their identity. The trade for Jay Cutler was another in a long, decades long, quest by Chicago to find a franchise quarterback. Ever since Jim McMahon and even during his tenure, the Bears haven’t had a guy under center they could trust in crunch time. The acquiring of Cutler carried the hope that search was over. Unfortunately with the addition of the cannon-armed Denver ex-pat, the Bears got lost, forgot how to run the ball, didn’t have the pieces around Cutler to help him succeed, and stumbled through to the end of the season. Add to that to the injuring of the great Brian Urlacher in the first game of the season and the Bears season was done before they could even get going. But it’s a new season, Urlacher is back with a vengeance, and the fabled Bears defense is looking to retake its place at the top of the league. Somehow Lovie Smith is still employed there, and the management brought in Mike Martz to inject some flavor into a vanilla offense, so there are tools there to give Cutler a boost. A recommitting to the running game that is the engine of Bears football should help that swagger come back to Soldier Field, but the dearth of wide receivers is going to continue to plague Cutler’s completion percentage. He’s a strong guy, as the experts say “Can make all the throws”, but he doesn’t have anyone to catch the ball. Johnny Knox had a great rookie campaign last season, and if he can improve on that there could be some nice chemistry there between him and Cutler. Other than that though, Devin Hester continues to underwhelm at wideout despite his breakaway speed, and while Juaquin Iglesias is talented, he isn’t game tested at all and could be either boom or bust. The Bears traded all their draft picks for Cutler in ’09, so their talent infusion came by way of free agency. Julius Peppers is in Chicago now and could either be a furious force or MIA, depending on how motivated he is. His time in Carolina proved this, so hopefully Coach Smith can motivate him. Other pickups include tight end Brandon Manumaleuna from San Diego. He’s a classic blocking tight end who will probably catch about 10 balls all year, and that’s a stretch. But he should give young Matt Forte a hand when it comes to rushing and take some pressure off an offensive line that continues to have questions raised about age and ability. Chester Taylor was signed, and if his time in Minnesota is any indication he will be a dangerous second back. Like Michael Turner was in San Diego, Taylor is a number one back on many teams but will be stuck playing second fiddle here again. Team-wise that’s not a problem, and he is a consummate team player as well as fresh despite his veteran status. The secondary still has problems, but the Bears have never had a lock down corner or a Polamalu-type safety, using the front seven to pressure QBs and beat them that way. The important thing is that Urlacher is back and aching to hit somebody. The Bears aren’t going anywhere in a very tough NFC North, but they will win their share and maybe play the spoiler. Prediction : 8-8.
Green Bay Packers
QB Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers fumbling (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images
Barring the (probable) return of a certain number 4 in Minnesota, the Packers are the class of this division. QB Aaron Rodgers proved his status as an elite QB last year, dragging a team that struggled defensively early on to the playoffs where they lost on a fluke. Rogers continues to be comfortable in an offense growing in complexity, and in his third year is in a place to maximize his success. Coach Mike McCarthy noted there are some new wrinkles and concepts in a recent interview with ESPN, so opposing defenses tape study is going to get a little more frustrating. Though wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are a year older, Driver in particular is getting up there, they are one of the best WR tandems in the game. Add to that Jermichael Finley’s emergence last year at tight end and the targets just keep coming for Mr. Rodgers. An offensive line that allowed Rogers to get knocked around last season was bolstered in the draft with Brian Bulaga out of Iowa (if anyone looks like a Packer, this guy does) and Marshall Newhouse out of TCU, though the last time an Iowa product was picked that high was Robert Gallery by the Raiders, so hopefully its not something in the water. The addition to the line will help Ryan Grant at halfback, who after a breakout postseason on 2007 has struggled in an offense that was supposed to enhance the running game. A retooled line and added focus on Rodgers should take some pressure off him though so he can at least contribute solidly. The defense returns from a fantastic year particularly against the run, but the loss of DT Jonny Jolly in training camp due to injury laid a damper on that a bit. ’09 first rounder B.J. Raji is being moved to take his place and if he lives up to the level of potential he has could be a force up the middle. The linebackers are a great bunch, with Clay Matthews having a fantastic rookie campaign. Offenses will key on him more so former first rounder A.J. Hawk should be freed up a bit to dominate the way he should. Al Harris, CB, is still out from surgery, so opposing teams will be aiming in that direction and away from defensive player of the year Charles Woodson. From what various outlets have reported it is a good competition on that side of the field, which makes for good news in Green Bay. The safeties are a question mark for another season, but year two of the switch to the increasingly popular 3-4 defense should make them less integral and more complementary for the D. One of my roommates last year said the 3-4 would make the Packers great defensively, and I told him to shut it. Apparently I was wrong. Anyhow, this is a very good team, and should challenge for the North crown and a Lombardi Trophy. It’s always nice when it comes back home. Prediction : 12-4, playoffs.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Getty Images)
I am glad I’m not a Vikings fan. A guy by the name of Brett Favre is spending his second summer jerking the poor people of Minnesota around after crushing them last January. Should he return, they are the team to beat in the Black and Blue, if not its all about Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson. I’m still confused why John David Booty isn’t given more face time, but that’s neither here nor there. Brad Childress is probably as pissed as any Vikings fans at Favre’s see-sawing, and the team is suffering because of it. Although he did skip training camp and some preseason and went on to have his best statitistical year ever last year, so there’s not much argument to be made there. Other than Favre this is a talented team, and the Packers only real competition for the division. Adrian Peterson is going to continue his destructive campaign through the league, obliterating linebackers and safeties whenever he can. And if he’s learned to hold onto the football then whoa Nelly, we got an MVP candidate here. Or rather would, if it weren’t for CJ in Tennessee and the dominance of QBs in the league. The departure of Chester Taylor is going to put more pressure on AP, but if anything that could be a boon for the team as long as it doesn’t wear him down too horribly, hitting holes on third down. Rookie Percy Harvin had an electric season despite migraines, and Visanthe Shiancoe came out and blew some people away. How much of that was Favre for the both of them is a good question, one that could be answered, but either way they are very, very good. Sidney Rice is a fantastic number 2 wideout and will cause trouble for corners around the league. Defensively the Williams Wall is still there despite being busted for PEDs in some way or other, and super-redneck Jared Allen will continue to be a tornado of hell off the end. That guy is amazing, probably the best end in the league, which only makes the rest of the line better. Other than that front four though, the defense is kind of lacking. Names like E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway aren’t scaring anyone, but much like the Giants the front four gets this defense going. Cornerback Cedric Griffin is on the PUP list so keep an eye on that, because though he’s no Revis, he’s still the best player in their secondary. The whole season really does hinge on the decision of a middle-aged Mississippian and his ankle, so until he makes his decision, we’re going with him not being there. Prediction : 10-6 without Favre, 13-3 playoffs with. The Packers are going to be pissed if he shows up.
First round pick by the Lions, DT Ndamukong Suh with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at draft (Getty)
The biggest move of the last five years, maybe decade, in Detroit was the removing of Matt Millen from GM duties. Owner William Clay Ford probably loved Millen, he seemed like a nice enough guy and he can talk, but build a team he cannot. There is a sense of cautious optimism coming from the Motor City, what with Matthew Stafford taking the reins of the team and Calvin Johnson, the most overlooked wide receiver in the game, finally having someone to throw him the ball. Kevin Smith at running back has been almost good, but Javid Best was picked in the first round to boost the running game. Best is a talent, in the Chris Johnson “home run hitter” mold and should add some fire to the offense that despite promise was rather vanilla last season. Second year coach Jim Schwartz is in a great position because if he succeeds he further entrenches himself and if not, well, its the Lions, what do you expect. Some people thought they should build on the offensive line in the draft, but the team could score just fine last year, they just let up a ton of points. So Ndamakung Suh is now in the Silver and Blue and the Lions are rather jazzed about it to say the least. Suh, the all-everything do everything defensive tackle, absolutely dominated at Nebraska in a defense that was designed so he picked up blocks to free up linebackers. With that in mind, he had four and a half sacks in the Big 12 title game alone, half of the Cornhuskers total for the game. If he works out, and all indications are he will, then the Lions have a cornerstone the size of the GM Renaissance Center to build a defense around. Sadly, besides Suh the defense is pretty ugly, and not the Big Ugly kind. The secondary continues to be ineffective and with the QBs that now populate the NFC North, particularly if Favre returns, that will spell doom for Detroit. The selection of Amari Spievey out of Iowa in the draft adds some attitude to the secondary and some competition to the vets from last season, a good thing on a bad team. The linebackers are equally nonexistent, Larry Foote being the only name that might ring a bell in that squad. The Lions aren’t a good team, far from a contender, but at the very least they look to be a challenge for their opponents and maybe win a game in divisional play. The Lions are on the way back, but that road is not brief, and there are no shortcuts. The key in Detroit is to eliminate a very dense culture of losing but with the unloading of Millen and a team that seems to be entirely under the age of 26, that is working out quite well. Prediction : 6-10.
Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (Al Bello / Getty Images)
Kudos to the Giants for being able to maintain a level of competitiveness despite losing one of the best wide receivers last year in Plaxico Burress. The guy could ball, and only had one leg working the whole season. But competing is not contending, and there the Giants are lacking. Coach Tom Coughlin was supposed to be fired back in ’07, but the Giants went on to win a championship, which is always good for job security. Also, Eli Manning got a fat contract, and from my point of view at least, did a good job of making him the most overrated QB in the league. I was a little irritated by the positive comparisons writers and talking heads were making between him and his brother last year, when he tore it up the first five weeks. But that’s last year, and Manning is a capable QB. The major question mark on this team is at the halfback position. Brandon Jacobs was a wrecking ball in ’07 and ’08, but his running style seemed to catch up with him last season. Is he healthy? If so, the Giants have a good season ahead of them. The offensive line is pretty much the same as in their Super Bowl run, and as the Colts and Patriots have shown us, continuity is the key to that group. Manning isn’t carrying this team though, that’s for sure. If the Giants can get back to the defense and ball control that won the thing in ’07 especially against the high-powered offenses they face in-division, they could frustrate a bundle of higher rated teams in the Cowboys and Eagles. It all hinges on Jacobs. Defensively, a lot of fans are pissed that Rolando McClain wasn’t there for the G-Men, but Jason Pierre-Paul, while raw, is in the right place to learn the position of defensive end from some of the best. Osi Umenyiora is back and less pissed at his team it seems, so the front four seem to be pretty solid. Unfortunately they got rid of Antonio Pierce which leaves the team without a real leader on defense. the front four are the engine that runs the whole squad, and with the problems at safety and cornerback as well as linebacker this team could face a lot of long days. They seem to miss Steve Spagnuolo more and more with each passing day. Still, if they keep with Coughlin’s mandate of playing every down hard and not letting up in true Giant football fashion, combined with the bludgeoning the four teams in the division lay on each other, who knows, they could catch some magic once again. It’s a lot of ifs and maybes, but a fan sees those as yes’s. Like Dave Chappelle said, “Maybe? I can work with maybe. It’s those no’s that get me.” A new stadium and a firey fan base are in their favor, so who knows. Prediction : 8-8. Not bold, but I’m not sold either way with this team.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (Martinez / Getty)
Owner Jerry Jones has a right to be excited about his Cowboys this year. They added an exciting player in Dez Bryant, but other than that, they’re the same team as a year ago. Miles Austin came out of nowhere, and when Roy Williams is your number three or four wideout, you don’t have problems. That’s one guy you don’t mind telling to can it when he complains about touches, like the opposite of a certain number 81. Letting offensive tackle Flozell Adams walk was a good move since he was aging and Doug Free seems like a capable replacement, and the line in general seems pretty solid and as big as ever, Texas style. The Boys luck out because of the lack of a great pass-rusher in their division plus Tony Romo is very mobile in the pocket, so protection shouldn’t be a problem. The offense is all-around badass, make no mistake, with Marion Barber and Felix Jones sharing carries and Jason Witten continuing to be the standard at which modern tight ends should be measured. His rapport with Romo is amazing, they could find eachother if blindfolded in a forest. Tashard Choice is a nice number three back, probably better than some number ones around the league. Defensively, other than DeMarcus Ware it seems like the cupboard is a little bare. Jay Ratliff is a moose of a man though, and Igor Olshansky is a big ugly with a mean streak, so at least the run shouldn’t be a huge problem for them. Their linebackers are getting a little long in the tooth, guys like Keith Brooking pushing 35 and Bradie James leaning on 30. If Tony Sparano were still around I would say that’s not a problem because he’d just dial up some complexity to confound the other guy, but he isn’t, so it is. Terrence Newman is a good corner, but without safeties to add over the top help and linebackers to put pressure on the QB, it’s going to be tough for him to cover the whole field. All the defense has to do is keep the Cowboys in the game though, and the offense will win it. There’s a lot of talent, particularly on the offense, so while they aren’t a lock to win it all, the continuity at QB and the veterancy of the team should make them a favorite to win the division. Prediction : 12-4, playoffs.
Eagles new QB Kevin Kolb(Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)
This is a boom or bust kind of a team right here. In unloading Donovan McNabb for Kevin Kolb and not resigning Brian Westbrook, the Eagles have all but cut ties with the team that has gone to 4 NFC Championships in the last decade. Kolb, despite a couple of starts, is a basically unproven asset, and though Andy Reid is one of the most creative, exiting offensive minds in the game, it remains to be seen where Kolb will lead them. Much like the Cowboys, other than a couple shiny parts the defense is a little lax, but like the Boys, the offense is where the magic happens anyway. Youth at receiver with DeSean Jackson (if he can hold onto the ball all the way across the goal line) and Jeremy Maclin (if he can stop complaining about hurt) are just a couple of tools Reid has at his disposal for his video game –based offense. Another new face in running back LeSean McCoy seems like an exciting addition and could be a capable replacement for Westbrook, a man who was an offense by himself. The key to all this is replacing John Runyan at left tackle to keep the line a solid piece of machinery for another year. On the other side of the ball, the only name that someone would recognize is Asante Samuel. A great corner, it will be hard for him to do anything if there’s no pressure on the QB and no safety coverage or anything like that. They’re going to give up points, but if Kolb does work out, they’ll score them too. I’m just glad I’m not an Eagles fan because it could get real ugly if Kolb isn’t the real deal. This may all be a cover up for a rebuilding year, more like a reloading year really. They did a lot of drafting with the Donovan trade, the first four picks all defense, so there is a lot of unproven talent there. If it all works out the Eagles are Super Bowl contenders. If not, middle of the road at best. They’re still a tough team though, the furthest thing from a pushover. Prediction : 10-6. Probably playoffs, if it all works properly. If not, hoo doggy, things could go bad.
Dan Snyder continues to throw money at problems and hope they’ll go away. The thing is, with all the talent on this team you’d think they’d be really good. Donovan McNabb moves south for the winter, bringing old friend Brian Westbrook with him. That alone should be enough to make the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys nervous. McNabb with a chip on his shoulder combined with a possibly healthy Westbrook was always dangerous, but now they have a coach with a winning pedigree in Mike Shanahan and something personal driving them outside of winning. The wide receiver position is a little questionable, but McNabb has worked in Philadelphia for most of his career with worse, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The line though is where Skins fans should be worried. His whole career in Philly, Donovan had days of protection because Big John Runyan and his boys were there. The line in Washington is at best tissue papery, at worst sieve-like. Donovan isn’t as mobile as he once was, and this could prove to be a problem. At least Jason Campbell was able to evade some sacks despite being knocked around last season. Chris Cooley is back from an injury plagued season, and should resume his position as a top flight tight end. On the other side of the ball Albert Haynesworth is finally in camp and could prove to be the key to this whole operation. When the best defensive lineman is the nose tackle in your 3-4, good things are in the offing. Him plus London Fletcher at LB is a dangerous combo. And let’s not forget the young Brian Orakpo. His rookie year was filthy, and now that he’s back in the 3-4 he’s comfortable in it should free him up a little more to crush the QB or whoever gets in his way. The defense could be quite solid especially against the run. If DeAngelo Hall, CB, can play to his potential and stop trying to jump routes so much, and LeRon Landry can play as a serviceable to very good safety, that could be a solid secondary. But, anyone who watches football can tell you, the NFC East loves to run the ball, even the Eagles, so it’s going to start and end with that front seven, as ever. And as long as the offensive line holds up, the Skins could actually challenge the Boys and Eagles for supremacy. Who knows, it’s a tough division that could send three teams to the playoffs. Prediction : 9-7, playoffs?