by English Paul… Another day and yet another story linking the Buffalo Bills with a move to a new city. This time, the rumour mill has them relocating to Los Angeles.
John Semcken, managing partner of Majestic Reality Co. and the developer behind a potential new stadium in Los Angeles, has stated that Buffalo and Jacksonville are his prime candidates.
“Jacksonville and Buffalo are two teams in very, very small markets,” he told the Associated Press.
Personally, I do not see the Los Angeles scenario coming to fruition. Apart from the fact that this news is coming out of California rather than Buffalo, no stadium has actually been built yet.
Also, any potential new owner would have to meet all of the numerous strict relocation rules in place before any move could be considered. There is a lot of work to be done before it gets anywhere close to this stage.
Add to this the fact that Jacksonville is in a much worse position than Buffalo and this story is a non-starter.
Having said that, Buffalo’s residents must be sick of these constant rumours surrounding their beloved franchise. They already have enough on their plate worrying about where the Toronto experiment may eventually lead.
However—and this is easy for an outsider to say—maybe the people of Western New York do not need to worry so much. That’s because Buffalo has the backing of only the most powerful man in the NFL: Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell was more than happy to approve the deal for Buffalo to play eight games over the course of five years in Toronto. However, this decision was not made with the intention of eventually moving the team north of the border full-time.
Instead, Goodell felt that having annual games played in Southern Ontario would mean enough additional revenue to help the team stay in Buffalo long-term.
“I think their step to Toronto has helped strengthen that,” Goodell said, according to the AP. “And I see the Buffalo Bills being in Western New York for a long time.”
For anyone still not convinced that Goodell has any real interest in keeping the Bills in Buffalo, it is worth noting that he was born in nearby Jamestown, and spent his early years growing up in the area.
Of course there are no guarantees in life and no one knows for sure what will happen when Ralph Wilson passes on. However, with the commissioner on board, you can be assured that he will do everything within his power to keep the team in its rightful place.
By English Paul… According to various reports, Brian Billick is the latest big name to be linked with the head coaching job in Buffalo.
However, unlike Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher, there appears to be a possibility that Billick is seriously considering the role, which is good news for any Bills fan. This is because, if history is any indication, once the former Super Bowl-winning coach sets his mind to something, it’s as good as done.
This mentality can be traced all the way back to the Ohio native’s college days when, after spending his freshman year at the United States Air Force Academy, Billick transferred to BYU.
It turns out that he made this decision after learning that his height and weight stopped him from ever becoming a fighter pilot (something which he didn’t find out until after he had enrolled).
Another example of Billick’s focused approach came when he made the decision to become a head coach in the NFL. He was considered “hot property” at the time and was apparently the top candidate for the Cleveland Browns job.
Billick was offered an interview but decided to meet with the Baltimore Ravens first. Within 24 hours of his initial interview, he had signed up for the job. Once again, Billick had made a firm decision.
One other interesting facet to Billick’s make-up is his adaptability. While with the Minnesota Vikings, he forged a reputation as an offensive genius. His crowning achievement was the 1998 season, when the Vikings set a then-NFL record for most points in a season (556).
However, once Billick was installed as the Ravens’ top man, he adapted his philosophy to suit the personnel on the team. Only two seasons after setting the offensive mark, he did the same with the defense, which allowed an NFL record 16-game low of 165 points.
Unfairly, critics state that anyone could have had a productive offense or defense when you have the likes of Randy Moss and Ray Lewis to work with. But this just proves the ignorance of people.
During the 1998 season with the Vikings, there is no doubting that Randy Moss had a spectacular rookie campaign. However, this would not have been possible without the rebirth of quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Earlier in his career, Cunningham was better known for his scrambling abilities. However, under the guidance of Billick, the former Philadelphia Eagle developed into a pocket passer and enjoyed the most productive season of his career.
Likewise, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense had ranked no higher than 22nd before Billick’s arrival. Suddenly in 1999, Baltimore jumped all the way up to second, which was surely no coincidence. Billick can flat-out coach.
Apparently, Billick is currently putting a coaching staff together. If this is true, it shows that once again Billick has his mind set on something and will do everything within his power to make it happen.
The only question is whether this vision includes the Buffalo Bills.
by Gregory Figuereo… The New England Patriots have been the most dominant football team of the past decade. Ironically, they’re also the only team to have been part of a major Superbowl spread upset with a victory over the highly favored St. Louis Rams, and a loser with a massive Superbowl spread against the Giants in 2007.
The two matchups that the oddsmakers are favoring in Superbowl XLIV are the Colts-Saints at +275 and the Chargers-Saints at +450. Undoubtedly either of those matchups would have tight lines because of the incredible offenses. If an underdog squeezes through, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the favorite is going to dominate.
The Lombardi Trophy brings the best out of everyone, and a big Superbowl Spread doesn’t guarantee victory for either team no matter what the oddsmakers think.
by Jeremy Visser… A month and a bit after a nightmarish 3-15 season drew to a close, the Argos have ousted Bart Andrus as head coach. Andrus, who was brought in in January after spending last year on the Tennessee Titans staff, never really seemed to know what he was doing in his one season in Toronto, managing to find ways to blow games in just about every way possible.
I spent last season covering the Argos and was around Andrus a lot. Personally, I thought he was a good guy and I liked the hard-nosed approach he took in regards to discipline. Still, tactically, the guy was completely out to lunch. A couple times late in games he seemed to have no clue what was going on — I think back to the early-season one against Winnipeg with the senseless delay of game penalty before the potential game-winning field goal and the loss to Calgary where he decided a hail mary was a better shot than a game-tying field goal that just may have been in Justin Medlock’s range. The odds were better with Medlock, for sure. Andrus didn’t blame his players for shortcomings but often stood by his decisions, meaning going in a different direction next year is probably a good choice for the Argos.
The decision to fire Andrus is the first of many changes in store for the Argos this winter — aside from now having to bring in a new coach, there are still plenty of questions regarding team ownership and a possible sale and a potential move to BMO Field for next season, though it looks like there are plenty of roadblocks in the way of that.
by Jeremy Visser… Toronto is used to shitty sports teams, so why not let another borrow our great city for one night? The Buffalo Bills did just that the other night, hosting the New York Jets and falling 19-13 at the World’s Greatest Entertainment Centre.
This one had everything you’d expect from a Bills game, even coming off a shocking win over the Dolphins Sunday in which they tripled their season scoring output in the final five minutes of the game. Buffalo couldn’t move the ball — Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting despite Trent Edwards’ likeness plastered on the outside of the building, completed nine passes for 98 yards and the Bills managed a combined total of 194 offensively. Marshawn Lynch was a bright spot, gaining 60 on six carries and scoring Buffalo’s only touchdown, a 15-yarder in the second quarter.
The Jets, who improved to 6-6 with the win, lost rookie quarterback Mark Sanchise (I don’t believe in that nickname — I’m only saying it because I think it’s so stupid) to a sprained PCL in the third, but it wasn’t a big loss because you don’t really need a quarterback to beat the Bills. The Jets rushed for over 200 yards against Buffalo for the second time this season, with Thomas Jones picking up a game-high 109.
That’s what I’m saying, guy…
by Jeremy Visser… Yeah, I’d call that a choke. The Saskatchewan Roughriders blew a 27-11 fourth quarter lead, falling to the Montreal Alouettes 28-27 in last nights Grey Cup on a 33-yard Damon Duval field goal as time expired. I’m guessing this one’s a little hard to take for Regina natives, because from what I understand, the CFL is pretty much their lives.
In the end, the team that was by far the most dominant in the league this year came out on top. Sure, they got some help from an inept Rider squad late, but that’s why they play the full 60 minutes. Avon Cobourne, whose three-yard score midway through the fourth pulled Montreal within eight, picked up MVP honours.
A day later and I’m guessing Saskatchewan Roughrider fans still haven’t fallen asleep after last night’s collapse due to their coach’s inability to count. Hell, even Hedo Turkoglu couldn’t have blown a game in such ugly fashion.
by Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano… Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off in Indianapolis, and it seems to be the game on the lips of broadcasters and other media to fans and, I am sure, players, as well. The battle of the perennial favorites, one undefeated in the Colts and Manning, and the other returning to his dominant form after his injury to bring his team back into the talks of the Super Bowl-bound, that being Tom Brady and the Patriots. The other great game features the division rival Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, making for a great weekend of football coming up!
Jaguars (4-4) @ Jets (4-4) -6.5 O/U 41
The Jags are one-dimensional with only their running game to lean on. With Maurice Jones-Drew’s hands on the ball during the majority of the offensive plays for Jacksonville, anything can happen. Jets are off the bye week and are getting healthy, and I believe their defense returns to what got them off to such a great start and Mark Sanchez settles down and gets it done.
Jets win 24-13
Broncos (6-2) @ Redskins (2-6) +3.5 O/U 36.5
The Redskins’ anemic offense has a hard time scoring against anyone, and if they get a field goal in this game they will be lucky. Denver should be able to put enough points on the board to get the win and will control the clock.
Broncos win 17-3
Bengals (6-2) @ Steelers (6-2) -7 O/U 41.5
The Bengals won the first matchup 23-20 in Ohio and can almost sweep their division with a win over the stingy home Steelers, leaving only one game against Cleveland to complete it. The Steelers’ home record has been well documented, and Big Ben has been slinging. Though they are on a short week, the hometown defending Super Bowl team will get it done and take the division lead.
Steelers win 27-17
Bills (3-5) @ Titans (2-6) -7.5 O/U 41
The injury bug has infected the Bills all season and yet a return of Trent Edwards and a possible exit for this game for Terrell Owens. The surging Titans may have found what got them to the great record of last season and should stick it to this bellowing Buffalo.
Titans win 31-17
Lions (1-7) @ Vikings (7-1) -16.5 O/U 47.5
The Lions, though with a win this year, are still horrid and their division rival Vikings are on top and in cruise control. The Lions surprisingly hold big AP on the ground, which opens the door for the ever rejuvenated and youthful Farve to go through the air for big plays to Harvin and the other receivers in a blowout!
Vikings win 42-17
Saints (8-0) @ Rams (1-7) +13.5 O/U 50
Come on man! Is it worth talking about, no! Saints, Saints, Saints! Nuff said!
Saints win 45-3
Falcons (5-3) @ Panthers (3-5) +1.5 O/U 43.5
The Falcons RB Michael Turner has had big games against this division rival Carolina team. Though the Panthers looked good against the Cardinals two weeks ago and hung in with the Saints last week, albeit in a loss, they have only beat Washington, Tampa and the aforementioned Arizona Cardinals. Turner run, run, run, Gonzales TD.
Falcons win 35-24
Buccaneers (1-7) @ Dolphins (3-5) -10 O/U 43.5
Though Bucs rookie QB Josh Freeman looked good last week and surprised the Packers with Tampa’s first win, I believe the adrenaline rush will be gone as he faces a much tougher team. The Dolphins will control the clock and power their way past the poor rush defense of Tampa.
Dolphins win 24-13
Chiefs (1-7) @ Raiders (2-6) -2 O/U 36.5
A divisional game that means nothing aside from pride pretty much from here on out for both teams, unless either can go undefeated for the rest of the season, ummm no! Oakland beat KC in week two 13-10, but if anyone has improved I would have to say it’s been KC. Season series split.
Chiefs win 16-13
Seahawks (3-5) @ Cardinals -8.5 O/U 46.5
Points should be fairly abundant in this game but the majority of them should be on the home team’s scoreboard. Would the real Kurt Warner please stand up? If he does, the Cards roll. If he doesn’t, is it time to see Matt Leinart take the reins? Perhaps next year, Matty.
Cardinals win 38-21
Eagles (5-3) @ Chargers (5-3) -1 O/U 47
The Eagles have injuries, but they should get RB Brian Westbrook back. He and the other offensive weapons on this Philly team make them are dangerous. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers has a great record at home throughout his career, and they are coming off a 21-20 win against Philly’s division rival New York Giants. Lots of points and whoever scores last should win. Eagles will run it through the soft rush D of the Chargers, and their defense may even score and will stop Chargers a few times.
Eagles win 38-31
Patriots (6-2) @ Colts (8-0) -3 O/U 48
The premier matchup of the weekend will be played Sunday night in prime time at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The three big weapons of the Pats, Brady, Moss and Welker, will be trying to outdo the three bigs of the Colts with Manning, Wayne and Clark. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will be doing their best to limit Brady’s time in the pocket, where he does most of his damage. The Pats’ injuries and number of questionable players who were limited in practice makes me want to go against popular belief that the Pats are the team to take in this game. I am sticking with the home side in this one against the injured team on the road.
Colts win 28-24
Ravens (4-4) @ Browns (1-7) +10.5 O/U 39.5
This Monday night game is over pretty much before it starts in my mind. The Browns have been atrocious this season, and losing four of their last five, the Ravens have to get back to winning football games if they have any hopes of a playoff berth. Flacco should get some confidence back, and Ray Rice should rumble into the end zone a good number of times in this lopsided game.
Ravens win 37-6
Enjoy the great games this weekend and hopefully we all pull a little further ahead in our pools and perhaps make a little loot on the side!
All the Best!
by TJ Zwarych… For the first time since 1976, the Saskatchewan Roughriders finish first place in the CFL Western Division. Although this is a huge feat and means a lot to the Roughriders’ organization, they aren’t near happy yet. This first place finish means that the Riders will have a first round bye in the playoffs and will play the winner of Calgary and Edmonton who play in the first round. First place also means that the Western Finals will be played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
We all know that the Roughriders have the best fans in Canada. They sell more merchandise than all other CFL teams combined, all home games are nearly sold out and other teams hate travelling to Saskatchewan because of the immense noise produced by the 13th man (the fans). With the Riders now one game away from the Grey Cup, Rider fans could not be more excited.
To clinch first place, the Riders had to get through the Calgary Stampeders Saturday, November 7th, and oh baby did they ever. With constant chants of HENRY, to psych out Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris, the Riders came away with the victory 30-14.
The quarterbacking battle was won by the Riders and many fans thought that is exactly what it would take for the Riders to come away with the victory. Darian Durant, the Riders’ nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award threw 36 passes in which he completed 24 for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the other side of the field, Calgary quarterback Henry Burris threw for 221 yards and 1 interception on 15-25 pass attempts.
The rushing game was nearly the only area of Saturday’s game that the Stampeders did better. The Stamps, (lead by Jofferey Reynolds with 107 yards) combined for 171 yards rushing and one touchdown while the Riders, (lead by Wes Cates with 54 yards) combined for 117 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Roughriders’ 2009 award nominees all had good games. John Chick, the Riders’ nominee for best defensive player had 6 tackles and 1 sack to show that he did really deserve to be the one nominated. Darian Durant had a fantastic game with nearly no mistakes as he had 2 more touchdowns than he had interceptions. Interceptions have really haunted him this season but this game he had none. He also seemed to have found a new go to receiver with Weston Dressler out in Andy Fantuz. Fantuz had 123 yards on 12 receptions. Outstanding Canadian nominee Rob Bagg had a critical touchdown reception and Outstanding LinemanGene Makowski and Outstanding Special Teams Player Jason Armstead had solid games like always as well.
First place in the West was key for the Riders this season. If they can just get that one win at home, the will be in the Grey Cup facing the BC Lions, Hamilton Tiger-Cats or (and most likely) the Montreal Alouettes. The reason first place is more important this year than most, is because if the Riders do make it to the Grey Cup, it will be pretty much a home game as the game is in Calgary. Rider fans have no problem travelling to the Grey Cup in Calgary as it is close to home and there are many, many Rider fans who live in Alberta.
The Roughriders still have some key players injured who have chances of returning before seasons end which just may propel them to a Grey Cup win. Receiver Weston Dressler, halfback Eddie Davis and offensive tackle Wayne Smith are all not ruled out to be back by the West Final or Grey Cup which could seriously help the Riders.
by Jeremy Visser… In an all-around ugly season, the Argos saved perhaps their worst performance for last. Despite resting several starters with the playoffs looming, the Montreal Alouettes took command early and romped to a 42-17 win in Saturday’s season finale at Rogers Centre.
The Alouettes, with backup quarterback Anthony McPherson starting in place of the league’s top passer, Anthony Calvillo, scored on their first three possessions and took a 26-4 lead to halftime. McPherson was near flawless all afternoon, completing 16-of-20 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to third-stringer Chris Leak to start the fourth quarter. McPherson also ran for 55 yards.
For the Argos, it was only a fitting end to a season of frustration. Even so, head coach Bart Andrus had positive things to say about his squad after the game.
“I told them how much they persevered throughout this year,” Andrus said of his post-game speech. “The way they came to work, their professionalism — this is a good group of people.
“When you have a group that works as has as they work, it’s just a matter of time before positive things begin to happen.”
Of course, time will tell if Andrus is around to witness a possible turnaround. He declined to comment after the game regarding his future and the future of the franchise as a whole. After a 3-15 campaign and with talk of the team potentially being sold, Andrus is as good a bet as anyone not to be back in 2010.
With little more to play for than pride, Andrus handed the starting quarterback duties for the finale to rookie Stephen Reaves. The southpaw struggled from the get-go in his first CFL start, overthrowing Brad Smith on Toronto’s opening possession for an interception that led to a Damon Duval field goal. In all, Reaves threw four picks and had another negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“It was tough,” Reaves said afterward. “I pressed too much. I have to do a better job of taking what the defense gives me. I’d love to have a few of those back. Overall, a tough day against a tough defense.”
Reaves wasn’t the only Argo to slip up on an error-filled day. Andre Durie returned a first quarter kick 104 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back because of an unnecessary roughness call on Raymond Fontaine. Earlier in the quarter, long snapper Etienne Legare airmailed a snap to Justin Medlock, resulting in a turnover and an 18-yard McPherson touchdown pass to Kerry Walkins one play later.
Running back Jamal Robertson scored Toronto’s only touchdown on a one-yard run late in the third quarter but struggled horribly the rest of the afternoon, finishing with negative six yards on five carries. The Argos finished with zero rushing yards as a team.
If it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, then the Argos will have something to take from this nightmarish season. Durie, for one, suggested the team gained mental toughness that will provide an important boost in the future.
“We’re looking forward to more stability next year,” he said after the game. “Every championship team goes through losing, and we had a lot of it this year. We all stayed mentally strong though, and we’ll take that into next season for sure.”
Perhaps the biggest thing that will come from Saturday’s loss is closure. And with that, a fresh start.
“I’ll go to bat with these guys anytime,” linebacker Zeke Moreno said after the game. “I’d love to come back next year and see no new faces. We have the talent and the potential.”
by Jeremy Visser… The CFL regular season consists of 18 games over four months, but you can forgive the Argos for feeling like it’s lasted a lot longer. At 3-14 and long eliminated from postseason play, Toronto wraps up the 2009 season today at Rogers Centre against the league-best Montreal Alouettes.
The Alouettes, 14-3 and locked into a first round bye, will likely spend much of the afternoon with big guns such as Anthony Calvillo and Avon Cobourne stapled to the sidelines to ensure their health for when the games actually matter. Similarly, Argos coach Bart Andrus will be sending out a few fresh faces, though for different reasons — he’s holding auditions for next year.
“It’s the last game,” Andrus said after Friday’s walk-through. “It’s their last opportunity to play and make an impression. Still, we’re approaching it from the standpoint that we’re playing to win this game.”
The most notable new face in the Argos lineup will be at quarterback. After spending almost the entire season on the practice roster, Stephen Reaves will get the ball for his first career CFL start. Reaves came in in relief last Saturday in Edmonton, completing 10-of-16 pass attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown in Toronto’s 36-10 loss.
“The last few weeks everyone has been auditioning for jobs,” Reaves said Thursday. “In this league, it seems like it could be one play that could either get you back or not get you back the next year. Personally, I see it as an audition for me.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he added. “It’s not under the circumstances everyone wants, but I’m excited and hopefully we come out with a win.”
While Reaves and the Argo offense will be looking to finish on a strong note, the Toronto defense, which enters the finale amongst CFL team leaders in several major categories, is left to lament a season of strong play left to waste. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to mail it in a week early.
“It’s the same mindset as every other game,” said defensive tackle Kevin Huntley, who leads the Argos and sits sixth in the CFL with nine sacks. “We want to go in and compete and do the best we can, regardless of whether they’re going to the playoffs and we’re not. We want to end the year on a good note.”
Adriano Belli, Huntley’s partner in crime on the defensive line, echoed his sentiments.
“Tomorrow’s our Grey Cup,” Belli said after the walk-through. “We’re going to go out there and have fun.
“More than anything, we feel bad for our fans, though it hasn’t been for a lack of effort. We’re going to play our hearts out.”
The Argos and Alouettes kickoff at one Saturday.
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