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"Football is easy if your crazy as hell." - Bo Jackson

Alan Squatrito: Live From Super Bowl Media Day

Media Day Pass

By Alan Squatrito – Big Blue United 1.31.14

There he is; holding his arms behind his back like Prince Charles, Peyton Manning walks through an anxious crowd, ready to field questions on anything and everything on his road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

What was seemingly a wild goose chase for eight months long, my quest to gain access into Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII was finally paying off. I had a tough time believing the confirmation email I had received from the NFL event coordinators that Monday night, but with five hours left on the clock ’til the doors opened at the Prudential center, I had to say to myself,”Snap out of it, jerk!”

It was time to focus. Besides, I knew my Super Bowl coverage depended on it and that deep down inside, Peyton Manning really wanted me to be there. Yeah, right! So then, I did what any other aspiring broadcast journalist would do and started coming up with a list of questions to ask and a reliable recording device to bring with me, my cell phone!

ALMOST THERE: The Populous was the only barrier left standing in my way to gain access into Media Day as I watched commercial broadcasting crews from ESPN, Fox Sports, and Showtime receive their Media Day Passes to gain entry. “And what company are you with,” asked one of the Populous, confidently, I responded,”Big Blue United.” I held the straightest face that I possibly could as the gentleman with all the power in the world to tell me to turn around and go the heck home sized me up. Then, he logged my name along with Big Blue United into his laptop and printed out my very own Media Day Pass; BOOOM, I was in!

JUST DON’T ACT LIKE A LITTLE KID: Bright lights, advertisements, and crowd noise immediately took over my perception as I stepped foot onto the artificial turf laid before me. Various walks of life were there to observe, cover, and report the “fourth” biggest sporting event in the world and I too, was ready to do the same.Alan and Rich Eisen

My first interaction was with retired three-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection linebacker from the Washington Redksins, LaVar Arrington. Trotting after him, I called his name 5 times before I grabbed his attention. I picked his brain on Elvis Dumervil’s foolish decision to leave Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos last off-season to sign with the Super Bowl-Hungover Baltimore Ravens. I know what your thinking, the Broncos didn’t get the fax in time, but the reality of it is if the fax would have been sent out in time, the decision to stay with the Denver Broncos would have been based on the greater likelihood of going to a Super Bowl, not on greed. Finally, I asked LaVar for his prediction of Super Bowl XLVIII and then he skedaddled. I got the feeling he was rooting for Denver.

From there, having ‘gotten my feet wet,’ I found myself stirring up questions and conversations with Rich Eisen, Terrell Davis, Brian Billick, Marhshall Faulk, Paris Lenon, Red Bryant, Shaun Philips, Warren Sapp, Cliff Avril, Pete Carroll and you guessed it…….Peyton Manning. You can listen to all those sound bites here and my one-on-one with Peyton Manning can be viewed on Youtube here.

My favorite encounter of the day was with Brian Billick. Brian knows so much about the game of football, where its headed, and how to convey a message clearly, that I cherished his conversation the most. He seemed like he was twenty-five years old. They all seem that way, because they are all living their lives like little kids. At one point, Billick was talking about how the NFL needs to regulate safety rules to ensure the safety of its players, but then he paused and steered the conversation towards, these athletes know what they are signing up for. Of course they do! The injury for risk is the price they pay for doing what they love to do most, to play football, agreeing to terms with violence.

What I learned:

Richard Sherman was more popular than Peyton Manning. I climbed up a cameraman’s vacant step ladder to ask Richard Sherman about his strength and conditioning program/coach at Stanford, but surprisingly, his attention was a lot harder to attract than Peyton Manning’s attention. His previous outbursts on live television brought the boom and after ten minutes worth of trying to grab his attention, the cameraman came back and asked me for his step ladder back.

Bring a better recording device. Brian Billick

Check the pictures out that you take after you take them!

Russel Wilson is hard to phase. He is the real deal and if you look up his scouting report, you will belt out the biggest laugh because the only knock on him was his height and that’s why he fell to the third round in the 2012 draft. If the Seahawks lose, it won’t be because of Wilson. Observing him answering media questions told me all I needed to know about his “lazer-eye focus.”

Media Day grants you a free all you can eat buffet and guess what, you can interview a lot of players and coaches right in the cafeteria!

It’s all about will and perseverance.

Love it or hate it, plenty of media day personnel-with no idea about the game of football- had gained access into Media Day. One reporter, from a network I won’t disclose, asked Wes Welker, “So what’s it like to play football?” My jaw dropped. I suddenly felt terrible for the diehard fans who had purchased tickets for Media Day, just watching from the stands in hopes of a high five or a glance from one of their favorite players or coaches.

Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk admits Peyton Manning is a better quarterback than Tom Brady. Yes, this is a bar room conversation, but you can talk about it for hours.

Media Day is a lot less about football than it about being in the limelight. It’s a combination of the two, but the latter outweighs the former from my experience.

I am grateful for every moment I spent at Media Day. I had a great time and got some great footage.I wanted to thank Rich Eisen for writing the book Total Access, Brendan Lee, Tom Rullis, Rich Nardo, and Ian Taubin in helping me get there. I almost forgot, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Super Bowl Prediction.

The Broncos are going to win because the majority of the world wants to see Peyton Manning win one more Super Bowl before his career comes to an end. I do believe the Seahawks are the better team, but with Von Miller in the lineup, it’s too tough to call. The Seahawks lose this one due to their lack of focus and some poor officiating.

Denver Broncos win, 27-19.

Big Blue United: Week 6 Turning Points – Giants @ Bears

Brandon Myers (83) Photo Credit: Mike DiNovo – USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Myers (83)
Photo Credit: Mike DiNovo – USA TODAY Sports

By Alan Squatrito – Big Blue United 10.14.13

I’ll refrain from opening up this post with an obnoxious 0 and 6 knock-knock joke for all you die hard Giants fans on here. But still, I encourage you to consider the pain of a 0-16 season first before complaining about the dreadful 2013 season you are having thus far.

As easy as it might be to beat the Giants while they’re down, let’s give them some credit for trying to stand up this past TNF.

Positives @ Soldier Field: 

  • Brandon Jacobs didn’t fumble; he also averaged 4.8 yards per carry, a vast improvement over the 2.8 yards he averaged in week 5.
  • The Giants prevented their defense from letting up 30 points, that’s a first on the season!
  • Statistically, the Giants’ offensive line had their best game of the year. Rookie tackle Justin Pugh only let up one hurry in pass protection compared to six in week 5. He’s also showed a drastic improvement in terms of both run-blocking and pass-blocking over the last four weeks and is shaping up to be a quality first round selection.
  • Recently acquired Panthers’ MLB, Jon Beason was a great addition to the Giants-mounting 7 stops and 11 tackles in week six. He hasn’t played a full season since 2010, but perhaps that will change in a GMEN’s uniform.
  • What else? Eh, not much more. The Giants did cut their penalty yards in half from the week prior though, and made a lot less mistakes as a unit.

Now for some turning points…

  • Amateur Hour - On the third play of the game, Bears’ strong side cornerback Isaiah Frey crosses the line of scrimmage undetected and Easy E ends up throwing a ball off his back foot, leading to his first interception of the game. You know better than that Eli! Luckily, that turnover didn’t cost the Giants any points.
  • Spoke to Soon - Woops, Tim Jennings picked off Eli Manningon the very next drive, and the Bears got on the board for six! Eli and Matt Schaub are starting to look identical after that costly interception. Honestly, the blame should be put on Rueben Randle here; he was supposed to run a hitch route but ended up running a go route instead, foolish.
  • Not Another Plax - Rueben Randle almost pulled a Plaxico Burress after a 20 yard catch taking the Giants down to the Bears fifteen yard line when he slammed the ball down in frustration without being touched down after slipping. Luckily, the officials ruled Rueben down for “giving himself up” and it was NOT a turning point of the game!
  • Red Zone Mishap - In the second quarter, on 3rd and goal for the Bears, Will Hill was caught out of position attempting to undercut a ten yard pass over the middle. Brandon “Godzilla” Marshall ended up catching the pass behind him for a score.
  • Not Without Hope: The Giants get a chance to upset the Bears on a late drive towards the end of the game, but Brandon Myers botches an unforgivable dropped pass that lead to another Tim Jennings’s interception and another Giants’ loss.

The Bottom Line:
The Giants had three turnovers, the Bears had zero. The Giants didn’t make plays in key situations that could have changed the outcome of the game, the Bears did. Still, the Giants appear as though they are beginning to put it all together, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finally get their first win in week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Thanks for tuning in peeps, stay classy, those are your turning points for week six.

Big Blue United: Week 5 Turning Points – Giants vs. Eagles

Eli Manning (10)  Photo Credit: Robert Sabo – NY Daily News

Eli Manning (10)
Photo Credit: Robert Sabo – NY Daily News

By Alan Squatrito – Big Blue United 10.7.13

I attended a Latin Mass this Sunday prior to the 1’o clock kickoff, but failed to understand what the pastor was preaching about. Later that afternoon, I watched Eli Manning attempt to run an offense and a similar feeling ensued: “What the heck is going on out there?!”

Three intentional grounding calls, three interceptions, and twelve penalties for 136 yards will most likely guarantee a loss for any team in the NFL. I don’t need to reiterate how frustrating it is to watch the Giants play football this season, but it is a bit surprising.

A Broken Record:  Again, the Giants didn’t lose the game because of a single play. Again, the Giants didn’t lose the game because of one single play. Again, the Giants didn’t lose the game because of one single play.

You have to wonder, are the Giants sick of watching film yet on Monday’s?

Anyway, here are the top plays the Giants could have avoided but didn’t in week 5:

  1. Giants lead 7-6 in the second quarter: Michael Vick throws a 56 yard pass to DeSean Jackson that goes right through Trumaine McBride’s hands for a should-have-been interception. This sets up a LeSean McCoy score from one yard out.
  2. Giants trailing 13-6 in the second quarterBrandon Jacobs fumbles at the 50-yard line, reminding Giants’ fans why he should have stayed let go. Forget about the disagreement to restructure a new contract deal in March, 2012 when he was originally released!  This turnover sets up a Michael Vick hamstring pull and an Alex Henry field goal, count it.
  3. Giants down 22-21 in the fourth quarter: Eli’s attempts to avoid a sack makes the play a lot worse, putting a meatball intended for Brandon Jacobs up for grabs. Jacobs fails to pull a David Tyree from Super Bowl XLII, and Mychal Kendricks comes down with another costly interception, setting the Eagles up for a highlight-worthy touchdown grab made by Brent Celek from 25 yards out.

Giants travel to Soldier Field on a short week to take on the Chicago Bears. I’m kind of curious as to how long they can keep their losing streak going at this point.

Cheer up Giants’ fans; those are your top turning points for week 5.

Week 3 Turning Points: Giants @ Panthers

Josh Brown

In a battle between two 0-2 teams scratching for their first win, you could assume the will or efforts put forth by every individual to be exactly the same, yet that would be foolish.  The New York Giants didn’t put up much of a fight against the Carolina Panthers in week three because they were too busy beating up themselves.

The Giants put a zero burger up on the board against a Panthers’ secondary that was riddled with injuries, without the likes of Quintin Mikell, D.J. Moore, Josh Thomas, and James Dockery.  Further, the Panthers ranked 26th overall in pass coverage this season prior to Sunday’s inactive player report.

Giants fans,"I know now why you cry." Photo Via timblr.com

Giants fans,”I know now why you cry.” Photo Via timblr.com

Scratch your head: Hakeem Nicks didn’t even register a catch!

IF there HAD to be ONE momentum changing play of the game, it would be Josh Browns’ missed field goal at the start of the second quarter with the Giants trailing by seven.

Prior to the attempt, Aaron Ross intercepted Cam Newton at Carolina’s 13 yard line, setting the Giants up for a gift wrapped scoring opportunity. Capitalizing on turnovers by adding points = the most powerful way to change a game’s momentum.  What happens to momentum when the opposite occurs?

The Giants still had two and a half quarters left of play to reestablish their offense but failed. Eli Manning got sacked seven times in the game but what is interesting to note is that five of those sacks happened in the first quarter! That set the tone of the game.

I could be wrong, but the Panthers didn’t even need a twelfth man for their homecoming game at Bank of America Stadium; the Giants were defeated before they ran out of the tunnel.  Hopefully, Tom Coughlin can realign the troops in week 4, as they travel to Arrowhead to take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Top Five Fantasy Draft Board Misconceptions

rgiii-jersey-sales

1) Larry Fitzgerald – Larry Fitzgerald’s current ADP is 27; Stevan Ridley’s current ADP is 22, but how? If Bill Belichick uses a running back carousel throughout the course of the season, drafting Ridley ahead of Fitz could harm your fantasy squad.  Fitz is arguably the best wide receiver in the game and unlike last season, the Cardinals have a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer this year. The hiring of Bruce Arians also raises Larry’s stock. On average, Bruce Arian’s NFL offenses have generated 23.5 points a game, that’s eight points better than the 2012 Cardinals (15.6). This is why I believe Larry Fitz makes a great candidate to be a SAFE top 15 pick this season. I’m not mistaken; the common misconception analysts made in placing Fitz in front of Ridley is due in part of the bad taste John Skelton and Kevin Kolb left in our mouths’ last year.

2) Jared Cook – A lot of people don’t know this, but Jared Cook is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He is an acrobatic 6′ 5” monster, with 4.5 forty speed and a 41 inch vertical. He received a new deal with the St.Louis Rams worth 35.1 million dollars. Besides for being their former coach, the trade still had to be made. Jeff Fisher knew the Titans underutilized Cook’s talents because of their tight end blocking schemes; that’s not going to be the way the Rams utilize Cook in 2013. Don’t be foolish, Cook’s current ADP is 97 and Jason Witten’s is 52; I believe the two should be flip flopped! Regardless, you don’t have to reach for Cook, but take advantage of his ADP and turn him into one of the steal’s of your draft!

3) DeSean Jackson –Before the season even began, Jeremy Maclin landed on the NFL Hit List with an ACL injury. Tough break Jeremy, but still, that doesn’t mean DeSean Jackson’s ADP should have to suffer because of it. Actually, he should get a boost. Action Jackon’s ADP in most drafts is currently 67. With elusive ability and a 4.3 speed, he is going to find his way in space and behind defenses all season long.   If Vick stays healthy, and that’s one big if, Jackson’s current ADP of 67 will become a popular topic amongst fantasy football nerds at the end of the season.

4) Russell Wilson – The kid is going to be great, there’s no doubt about that; and if you have a man crush on him, fine, pick him at his projected ADP-60th. Don’t get it confused: his value last year as a Mr.Irrelevant pick was a lot more valuable than his value heading into 2013. I’m not quite sure why he is ranked higher than Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, and Matthew Stafford on NFL.com’s rankings. As you all know, I conceive Michael Fabiano and his commonly mistaken entourage to be quite foolish, but then again, I enjoy being in fantasy drafts where owners draft accordingly to their rankings. Don’t be surprised if Wilson isn’t the most consistent fantasy quarterback this season. Coach Carol tends to base his team’s offense around their defensive play and run game, because they can.

5) RGIII – Just because Adrian Peterson recovered from an ACL and MCL tear in a nine month time frame, it doesn’t mean RGIII will recover similarly so. I apprehend it as silly to place Robert Griffin III ahead of Matty “Ice” Ryan on your fantasy rankings heading into this season; but it’s the general consensus among NFL.com analysts. RGIII has eye widening athletic ability and at the quarterback position, his value seems limitless, but last season the rookie’s biggest strengths were his biggest weakness. If RGIII stays healthy all season long, he could outperform Matt Ryan, but do you want to take that risk?  Fact: Matt Ryan averaged .4 points more than RGIII did last season. Where’s the logic NFL.com? This is a no brain decision.

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Another Super Bowl in New Orleans: Niners vs. Ravens Preview

Super Bowl XLVII

No matter what kind of research we do, no matter what kind of history and stats we look up, we won’t find the answer we are looking for when trying to predict the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII. It just wont happen! Still, that won’t deter any of us from shaking out all the variables to justify the reasoning behind our winning pick this Sunday in New Orleans. Ha-ha-ha, you might as well flip a coin in this matchup or go visit your local fortune teller. My two cents: your going to have to scroll down and weigh out all the variables for yourself.

Let’s Start Small: On paper, the 49ers blow the Ravens out of the water in most categories.

Profootballfocus.com ranks the San Francisco 49er’s # 1 overall on offense and on defense in 2012.

Take a look at where the Broncos and Patriots placed on offense and defense this season. Hmmm…..

Seasonal Patterns: Let’s take a brief look @ the 49er’s and the Raven’s win and loss patterns in 2012.

 

 

  SUPER BOWL XLVII – ?

Interesting to note: This season, the 49er’s have had a trend of most likely losing every third game they have played. This season, the Ravens have had a trend of going on a few 4 game winning streaks. After the Niners bye week, they tied the Rams. After the Ravens bye week, they went on a 4 game winning streak. So by looking at these so called patterns I dug up, it seems as though the Ravens are due for a win and the 49ers are due for a loss. Am I reaching too much? Eh, you tell me. Either way, there are more goodies downtown, do it!

Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick: Technically, Kaepernick is a second year pro at the quarterback position, but he hasn’t seen everything. This seems like an advantage for the Ravens defense considering the different types of blitzes they can/will throw at him all game, however, the boy can run. Colin ran a 4.5 forty at the 2010 NFL combine and can run in and outside of the tackles without hesitating. The Ravens have had a huge problem at containing the outside rush all season long, and that won’t change in Super Bowl XLVII.

Kaepernick set the NFL rushing record for a quarterback with 181 yards against the Packers three weeks ago, so the Ravens have to balance their blitz attack and look to get a couple of great hits on Colin to keep him from entering beast mode. Ask yourself this question: can he be stopped? Are the Ravens going to lay licks or throw cheap shots at Colin to get him out of the/off of his game?

Joe Flacco is a prototypical, fundamentally sound quarterback @ “6′ 6,” with one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but ever since Jim Caldwell took over as the offensive coordinator, his qb production has soared through the roof. In the postseason, Flacco has thrown for 8 touchdowns with 0 interceptions with a more balanced attack offense. His quarterback rating in the playoffs thus far is 114.

Now, something interesting to note is the fact that Joe Flacco is incredible when opposing teams don’t blitz or pressure him, while the complete opposite is true when he does get blitzed or pressured. Sounds like a pretty common sense statement to make about most quarterbacks playing the game of football, but that simply isn’t true. A lot of great quarterbacks love getting blitzed, Joe Flacco does not however. Take a look see.

It’s no surprise that Flacco is pretty bad against the blitz. The 49er’s know it but they don’t like to blitz a whole lot because they can generate pressure with their front 4. The truth: The Ravens offensive line is one of the better offensive lines in the NFL at pass protection, so expect the Niners to dial up some blitzes if they want to fluster Joe cool.

Strange but True: Ed Reed is overdue, having not collected an interception or pass defense since Week 13. 49ers’ outside linebacker, Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 14 of the regular season.

Distractions: Did Ray Lewis use deer antler extract to help him recover from his triceps injury? Who gives a _________!!!!! The whole world wants to see him play, he’s freaking playing and he’s gonna do the squirrel dance one last time by golly!

New Orleans is a very easy place to get distracted by, especially right before the Super Bowl. This will be the tenth Super Bowl played in New Orleans since the start of the Lombardy Trophy race.

Besides for the three point difference in Super Bowl XXXVI  (20-17) between the New England Patriots and the St.Louis Rams, the Super Bowl loser in New Orleans loses by an average of 22 points since it’s history of hosting Super Bowls. Super Bowl XXXVI is the only outlier. WOW.

Either way, You knew this was coming:

 Throw everything mentioned above out the door like JJ.

Football games aren’t played on paper, they be played on the gridiron fool, so choose wisely.

My Prediction: If it wasn’t for the Harbaugh brothers knowing each other so well, I would honestly take the 49ers in this game in another New Orleans’ Super Bowl blowout. The 49ers are a young team with so much brute force and a ton of depth on the interior line, on both sides of the ball; it’s hard to pick against them.

On the flip sip,the Ravens are old vets that use to be the best in the business on the defensive side of the ball but they have adapted by countering a “bend but don’t break defense” with an interchangeable offense that could put up plenty of points when in need.

The mystique behind Ray Lewis’s retirement and the Ravens will to win in the past two games and on the road as the underdogs, against TWO 8/9 point spreads, is arguably a miracle. Don’t count out the trials and tribulations the Ravens went through as a team all season long in 2012.

When the now backup quarterback for the 49ers, Alex Smith was benched behind Colin Kaepernick long term, I thought it might have bitten San Francisco in the back, it hasn’t yet. I think it will in Super Bowl XLVII. I do want the Ravens to win but I also believe that they can and will. I believe that every individual Raven wants to win Super Bowl XLVII more so, than every individual 49er. The Ravens are going to win Super Bowl XLVII, 24-19 final.

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