Monday Night Lights: Ambrozejczyk on American Sport

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Carmelo Anthony. Image: Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons

Carmelo Anthony. Image: Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons

David Ambrozejczyk’s American Sports Column: Volume 8

Melo Going Nowhere

The past week or so has seen the Denver Nuggets Carmelo Anthony wanting out, but the all-pro Small Forward will have to continue to eat humble pie as his proposed trade to the New Jersey Nets fell through, potentially shattering the dreams of a player who has come out publicly and said it was his “dream” to play in New York.

It appears that for Melo, this isn’t about money, but his own wellbeing; born in Brooklyn and growing up in Baltimore, Anthony has close ties to the East Coast but has somewhat surprisingly balked at the chance of playing for the struggling Nets, who are desperate for a franchise player to inject some life to turn around the franchise before their move into a new arena in Brooklyn in 2012. His reluctance to play ball in his hometown is more likely a sign a that Anthony is desperate to play for the New York Knicks: he could potentially excel next to Amare Stoudemire, giving New York two players who could drag them out of mediocrity, much in the vein of the Miami Heat have done with their acquisition of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade who have revitalised the South Beach franchise this year.

Superbowl XLV: Defence Wins Championships?

Get ready for a bruising encounter in Arlington on February 6th as two of the best defensive units in the NFL face off for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Green Bay Packers, reaching their first Superbowl since 1998, will face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers who are aiming for their second Superbowl under Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

The Packers have been installed as early seven point favourites despite finishing as the sixth seed in the NFC – a surprise to some – but their route to Arlington should be justification enough. Not content with embarrassing the Philadelphia Eagles and two of the NFL’s most explosive players in DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick, they proceeded to beat the Atlanta Falcons, the NFC’s top seed, in their own back yard at the Georgia Dome.

To top it all, they Packers went to Soldier Field and beat Chicago, Aaron Rodgers cleaning up with 244 yards for two touchdowns and one with his feet after his defensive unit took advantage of Chicago’s woeful offensive line, knocking Chicago QB Jay Cutler out of the tie. The game also saw another 300+ pounder baffle commentators and fans alike as Green Bay Nose Tackle B.J Raji, weighing in at 338lbs, inexplicably picked off Jay Cutler before running it back for the touchdown, going one better than Offensive Tackle Dan Connolly of the New England Patriots who returned a kick-off 73 yards despite weighing in at a mere 316lbs.

Pittsburgh have also been greatly impressive on their way to the Superbowl, topping their fierce AFC North Rivals Baltimore before silencing the upstart New York Jets 24-19 at Heinz Field, establishing a twenty one point lead at half time as they made a mockery of Gang Green’s supposedly fearsome defence. Rashard Mendenhall had a huge game on the ground running for 121 yards for a touchdown against the NFL’s fourth ranked defence, leaving Jets coach Rex Ryan to ponder the Jets’ grit after they defeated the New England Patriots in the previous playoff round.

Fisher Out in Tennessee

Jeff Fisher has parted company with the Tennessee Titans after 17 years as head coach. Fisher, who first took over the then Houston Oilers back in 1994, has a had a tough few years since going 13-3 in 2008, slipping to 6-10 this year to finish bottom of the AFC to cap a miserable year in which the battle between fisher and Quarterback Vince Young hit fever pitch, resulting in Young’s placement on Injured Reserved midway through the season. The removal of Fisher and the impending trade or release of Vince Young is undoubtedly the start of a rebuilding process in Tennessee; Owner Bud Adams will now be seriously considering taking a shot at a potential franchise Quarterback in the upcoming draft, where they hold a top ten pick and the name of Blaine Gabbert is being heavily linked.

Adams might be wary of drafting Gabbert so high again after seeing Vince Young become a distraction – issues have been raised about his work ethic, while he is a few years of being a potential franchise signal corner, needing to drastically improve his awareness to be NFL Ready. Tennessee could better served taking a Quarterback in the lower rounds, as they should be able to get by with 38 year old Kerry Collins, giving the youngster a chance to learn the ropes.

For now, Fisher is out of football, but you can bet a small fortune that there will be no shortage of suitors around the league or in the broadcasting booth who will be clamouring for his services.

NFL DRAFT 2011 –Player Watch

Cam Newton may have taken all the headlines, but there’s another reason why the Tigers remained unbeaten this year.

Nick Fairley – Defensive Tackle – Auburn

Fairley has steadily risen up draft boards to become many pundits pick to go first overall since Andrew Luck returned to school, overtaking Pat Peterson in becoming the most sought after defensive prospect coming into this draft. Fairley is tough yet versatile lineman and is as powerful as much heavier nose tackles despite only weighing in at 298lbs, giving him the chance to play as a Nose Tackle in a 3-4 scheme. But it is Fairley’s ability in a 4-3 scheme, however, that has him drawing comparisons to Warren Sapp for his ability to get to the Quarterback; if you watch tape of him, he isn’t a finesse rusher, preferring a mauling, aggressive style to run over blockers with his brute force and moving straight ahead in his quest to sack the quarterback.

Fairley’s dominance has been apparent all season, notching 56 tackles and 12 sacks – he is almost unblockable when offenses run the spread against him (watch the tape of the BCS Championship game for proof against #3 ranked Oregon) and ends up in the backfield often before the Quarterback has the chance to set his feet.

Now that the defensively minded Ron Rivera has taken over in Carolina, Fairley is seemingly destined to be the cornerstone of a revamped Panthers defence that has struggled to find a real front seven difference maker since Julius Peppers left for Chicago. The other option at #1 is Georgia Wide Receiver A.J Green, so if Carolina passes on Fairley, the man who brought Peppers into the league, John Fox, will be happy to take him to Denver, significantly upgrading their severe lack of ability to reach the QB; Denver managed a league low 23 sacks this year.

Keep an eye out for the Monday Night Lights preview of the Superbowl coming this week!