SPORTS w/The Jock 11/16/10

On the heels of one of their more memorable, last-play wins, the Jaguars, now sitting at 5-4, will be hosting the Cleveland Browns on Sunday downtown at the Stadium.
Three weeks ago, the conversation around town was focused on what this team was all about, what their problems were, and what could or should be done, as fans were unhappy with how the Jags had performed.
And now, after consecutive victories over the Cowboys and Texans, there is a healthy amount of excitement towards these guys, not only from fans, but from inside the stadium and lockerroom as well, from Jack Del Rio and the players.
The talk now is about how things have changed a bit, with the players essentially ‘getting’ it’, as they like to say. Del Rio will tell you that things are starting to come together for them, as the players are maturing and learning as to what is happening, both on and off the field, for them to succeed and come together as a group.
While it is certainly possible to shake your head and agree with this, it is also an aspect that still needs a tad more to happen for others to believe. The Jags are becoming more fun to watch…the more excitement, the better.
Cleveland comes in at 3-6, having beaten the Saints in New Orleans, and the Patriots in Cleveland, before losing in OT last week to the Jets. Cleveland has shown they have the moxie to win games. Their problem is that they started their season on a losing note, losing their first three, before going 3-3 in their last six games.
Offensively, they are led by the rookie QB Colt McCoy, who has done a decent job leading them. Their main rusher is Peyton Hillis, who has come from no where, having played as a fullback at Arkansas (blocking for Julius Jones and Darren McFadden), before being drafted in the seventh round by the Broncos. He was then traded to the Browns along with draft picks for Brady Quinn. He plays at about 240 pounds, and he is a bruiser.
The Browns have beaten the Jags the last three times they’ve played in Jacksonville. They also beat them last year, 23-17, when they finished the season in Cleveland. And so the Browns know they can win this one. I’m sure the Jags are quite aware of it as well.
A victory over the 3-6 Browns will have the Jaguars looking that much better at 6-4, in their quest to snag a playoff spot. Doing that will be a tough task in the very competitive AFC. All the Jags can do is play by the overused cliché’ of ‘one game at a time’, and see how things play out.
With all teams having completed the ‘bye’ week in their schedules, we shall see a full slate of NFL games being played this weekend.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers will try to bounce back from their home loss to the Pats last week by hosting the Oakland Raiders, a team people are starting to take some notice of with their 5-4 record sharing the lead in their Division. There have been plenty of noteworthy games in the history between these two franchises. It should be interesting to see how it plays out.
In Foxboro, the Patriots will host the Colts for the 14th time in 11 seasons! The colts have had some success against New England, having won five of their last six against them, including the last two at this site. But Indy is badly beaten up at both the RB and WR positions, and their offense has indeed suffered as a result. Conversely, Tom Brady and the Pats are on nice roll and are playing some solid football as of late.
Then on Sunday night in Philadelphia, Michael Vick and the Eagles will host the Giants, who got smacked around last weekend by the Cowboys. This past week everyone has been praising Vick for his play against the Redskins, as well they should…Philly is 5-0 when Vick starts and completes their games at the QB position. The winner of this game takes the lead in the NFC East Division, so it’ll be fun to see how these two teams go at it.
This weekend a little bit of history is revisited, as two college football games will be played in Major League ballparks.
In Chicago, Illinois and Northwestern will play at Wrigley field. In New York City, Notre Dame and Army will face each other, as they had done previously years ago. While the games are unique and certainly carry some weight simply from the location and markets in which they are being played, for all intents, the contests will be watchable, but certainly not tremendously meaningful by any means. Northwestern is the only team ranked in the Top 25, and they are at #25.
Nonetheless, I’m sure there will be a slight degree of curiosity from sports fans and football fans alike. And it may even be possible both games are competitive and interesting. We’ll see…
There’s a three-way battle for the Big Ten title, as Michigan St., Wisconsin, and Ohio St. all carry one loss within conference play. This week, The Spartans will host Purdue, while the Badgers play at Michigan and the Buckeyes head to Iowa. I’m guessing one of those three will lose on Saturday, which should clear things up a tad…
We will also start to see some ‘rivalry’ games played, as teams finish up their regular season schedules. Stanford plays at Cal, Tennessee plays at Vanderbilt, and UNC and NC State face off…in the meantime, BCS leaders Auburn, Oregon, and TCU are off, while Boise State hosts Fresno State on Friday night in Idaho…
This weekend, NASCAR will hold their season-ending race down in Homestead (Miami), in a duel for the Championship, essentially between leader Denny Hamlin, and four-time (and reigning) champion Jimmy Johnson. For all intents, it makes the race seem almost moot in so many ways. Should fans care at all about the other 30 or so drivers during the race?
On top of it all, this race has traditionally lacked in interest and in attendance. That alone simply adds that much more of a concern to the boys running NASCAR. This race on Sunday can be considered nothing more than a two-man duel for a couple hundred miles. Everybody else is simply out for a Sunday run…

Major League Soccer (MLS) will hold their season championship…named the MLS Cup…on Saturday night, when Colorado will face Dallas. The match will be held in Toronto, which will seem so far away from both cities and homes of the teams and fans. It makes you wonder if MLS shouldn’t simply hold Final matches at the home field of the team with the best records at the end of the seasons.
We shall see how their attendance is for the match. Overall, though, MLS needs to do more to market their League and their sport in the U.S…