Thursday, September 22, 2011

Better-late-than-Never NFL Division Preview: AFC North

After two eventful weeks, the AFC North is all square, each team sitting at 1-1.  That means it's fair game to roll out another division preview featuring two Super Bowl contenders and two...teams that have a couple young guys we like.

1. Go on record and then explain why. Who is the better safety: Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu.

Dave Hendrie: This is tough going forward because I think that Polamalu could be better going forward. Reed may only play for a few more years. Up until this point, I will have to give a slight edge to Reed. He is a slightly better playmaker and makes far fewer mistakes. Polamalu is explosive but makes too many mistakes in coverage.

Sam Widdoes: Sadly, I going to say Ed Reed.  I watch every play the Steelers make, so I see ever play that Troy overcommits on and every tackle he misses, and also every spectacular interception and tackle he makes.  I just don't see Ed making the mistakes Troy makes, or being out of position the way he is sometimes.  I realize that's a product of the way Troy plays, but Reed seems to be just as effective without as much of the detriment.  Plus, Ed ranked a couple spots higher on the NFL Network Player's Vote.

Scott Simon: Both are great players but I think, when playing at their peak, Polamalu is a SIGNIFICANTLY better safety than Ed Reed. He just does more. Reed is the league's best centerfielder- without a doubt. When he gets his hands on the ball he generally ends up in the end zone. He's a big play waiting to happen. But he can go quiet for GAMES at a time. Polamalu is more consistent and he is known to make a big play from time to time as well. Ed Reed is more Ken Griffey where Polamalu is Willie Mays. Both are top 5 safeties of all time, but Polamalu is just better.

Johhny Hendrie: Ed Reed. Slightly better big play capability. Slightly better pass defender, in a passing league. Went to The U as compared to USC.

2. Which roster would you rather have: Browns or Bengals.

Building blocks
DH: Browns no question. I love Colt McCoy, and think that this offense is a lot closer than people think to being elite. The defense needs some work, but It looks like Jabal Sheard could be a stud. The Bengals on the other hand are looking dreadful. Other than A.J Green their is nobody on that roster that excites me in the slightest. 

SW: Gosh, both teams stink.  I suppose I'd prefer the Browns because they have a stable quarterback who I am pretty sure will have a long, steady career, they have some nice pieces on D in Joe Haden and D'Qwell Jackson and their running back isn't Cedric Benson.  But this question sounds a little like the South Park election episode: Would you rather vote for a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich?

SS: The Browns have a cornerstone left tackle and a quarterback who I think can win in this league. I'm not sure Cincy has either of those (although I like Bruce Gradkowski). I'd take the Browns roster although I shudder typing this sentence.

JH: Browns. It's not even close. I'm a big Browns fan actually. Mike Holmgren is a proven winner. They have potential at QB, a franchise LT and good young secondary.

3. Compare Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Marvin Lewis to college basketball coaches. (ie Tom Coughlin : Gary Williams).

DH: Mike Tomlin (young John Chaney), John Harbaugh (Stan Van Gundy, I know its the NBA but he is just such a beta brother I couldn't resist), Marvin Lewis (Jamie Dixon). 

SW: Mike Tomlin : Bo Ryan -- Tell me which coach said these: "The players here represent the [blank] and they represent the players who have played here. Everyone knows that when you're part of something good, the tendency to give in or to stop working is tougher,”

“We are where we are and we go to the next game. I'll let other people judge whether that's good, bad or indifferent because they're all entitled to their opinion. I'm just getting ready for [blank].”

"What happened in the other games will have no bearing on the outcome of this game. Each individual performance stands on its own. We're not buying into that."

John Harbaugh : Bill Self -- Soft spoken, can dominate in the regular season but has some trouble matching up with the big boys.

Marvin Lewis : Frank Martin -- Total fucking gasbag.

SS: Tomlin : Billy Donovan - youthful, exuberant, demanding coaches with titles.
Harbaugh : Jamie Dixon - tough, talented, close-but-no-cigar coaches who are perennial winners.
Lewis : Tubby Smith - Both have a ring (Lewis was an assistant) and are sort of meddling right now. Are either really a great coach? I'm not sure anymore.

JH: John Harbaugh and Billy Donovan. Both are youthful and full of energy. They are also probably better suited for the college game.

Marvin Lewis and Tubby Smith. Both coaches have had some levels of success but are stuck in miserable places and appear to hate their lives.

Mike Tomlin and Ed Cooley. Two bad motherfuckers.

Best defensive player in the division?

4. You're making up your best starting 11 defenders out of the AFC North. How many Browns/Bengals do you have. List your 'starting' 11. Run 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 3-3-5. I dont care.

DH: Great question! I would probably run a 3-4 with the following positions:

DE: Haloti Ngata, Aaron Smith
NT: Casey Hampton
OLB: James Harrison, Terrell Suggs
MLB: Lawrence Timmons, Ray Lewis
SS: Ed Reed
FS: Troy Polamalu
CB: Leon Hall, Joe Hayden

In case your counting, that is only two players from the Browns/Bengals. 

SW: Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Haloti Ngata.
Suggs, Timmons, Ray-Ray, James Harrison
Joe Haden, Reed, Polamalu, Leon Hall

One Bengal, One Brown, and a mortifying front seven.

SS: Smith, Hampton, Ngata, Harrison, Lewis, Farrior, Woodley, Haden, Hall, Polamalu, Reed. 2.

JH: Safeties: Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu
Cornerbacks: Joe Haden and Leon Hal
Linebackers: James Harrison, Ray Lewis, Lawrence Timmons, Lamar Woodley (suck it Suggs)
Defensive Line: Ziggy Hood, Haloti Ngata, Carlos Dunlap

5. Is Steelers/Ravens the best rivalry in AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL Sports? If not, what is?

DH: No. I would say that it is behind Patriots/Colts, Patriots/Jets, Vikings/Packers, Cowboys/Redskins, and Alabama/Auburn in pro football alone. In baseball you have to take Red Sox/Yankees, Dodgers/Giants, and Cubs/Cardinals. In basketball you have to go Celtics/Lakers. Any rivalry where one of the two teams is a virtual expansion team that wears purple can not be considered the best in sports.

SW: Yes.  Since 2008, the teams have played eight time, twice in the playoffs.  Only two of those games have been decided by more than 4 points.  This is the most consistently compelling series in all sports.

SS: Yes. Best rivalry in the best sport. No question.

JH: No. I think there are a few baseball rivalries that are better and Celtics Lakers is definitely better. Might be the best NFL rivalry.

Wait He's There?
JH: Nate Clements, Bengals

Rookie to Watch:

: Jabaal Sheard, Browns


Unanimous Decision:  Steelers, Ravens, Browns, Bengals


Sumner Widdoes said...

A few notes:
1. This was by far the best division preview. Smart debate in Q1, nightmare scenario in Q2, masterful creativity in Q3, near consensus in Q4, and unbridled passion in Q5. We killed it, guys.

2. I love that Billy D. was compared to two different coaches. Can we settle this in our next poll?

3. Charlie, we need your answers.

4. Dave's opinions about rivalries are absolutely worthless.

5. Scott and Johnny's starting D's are fascinating. I'd love some further discussion there.

6. The answer to my Tomlin-Bo Ryan quotes quiz: #1 - Ryan; #2 - Ryan; #3 - Tomin. How'd you do?

John Hendrie said...

My Dunlap decision was a bit of a Sports Illustrated pick, admittedly. I also overreached in an effort to get away from all Steelers and Ravens.

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