by TOM WEPPEL
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Going into this weekend, there is only ONE team in the NFL that is still undefeated. The Atlanta Falcons are now 7-0, having beaten the Eagles in Philadelphia, 30-17, last Sunday. Interestingly enough, they went into that contest as three-point underdogs!
To me, what that says is they haven’t retained a vast amount of respect, not only by the mainstream media, but by many other NFL fans around the country! And, if you go into the Atlanta market, while they do covet a decent amount of coverage and following, you do not get the FEEL for the team like you would, say, in Pittsburgh, Dallas, or a number of other towns, where NFL teams are the kings of the crop!
But the Falcons are flat out good! They have played more on the road (4-0) than at home (3-0). QB Matt Ryan is third in the League in the ratings, at 103.0, having thrown 17 TD passes, including four to Tony Gonzalez, one of his leading receivers. And their Defense has been formidable, ranking third in the NFC in turnover ratio (+10).
On Sunday night, Atlanta will be at home, to host the Dallas Cowboys (3-4)…a team coming off a tough loss to the Giants last weekend. Many eyes will be on the Cowboys, wondering if they can come through and pull off a win. There will be a lot of curiosity and interest in the Atlanta area, to see just what the Falcons once again are all about.
Atlanta comes in as a four-point favorite. Should be fun to watch…
There are two marquee games of note in college football this weekend. Both have major implications in various ways.
In the SEC, we see the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide traveling to Baton Rouge to face the #5 ranked LSU Tigers. This game certainly has a lot riding on it, with Bama at the top of the charts and the SEC, while the Tigers will be going in with essentially nothing to lose, having only one loss.
Both teams have national prowess in their own right, having played for the National Championship. And it is fair to consider the SEC the premier conference in the country.
For LSU, they are wanting to win this game badly…and are certainly juiced up and ready to go! A win for them would put them right into discussion for the SEC title game, and BCS title as well!
Meanwhile, Alabama is simply looking at this as a prime opportunity to further establish their prowess! They will be going into this game considered 9-10 point favorites. I am sure, with both schools coveting a strong, passionate throng of fans, that this contest will be a barnburner…
Out West, we will see the undefeated and top ranked Oregon Ducks go into Los Angeles to play the USC Trojans. Normally in the past, the thought has always been that USC would have no problem playing against these Ducks. Southern Cal has carried powerful, talented squads in the past, while the Ducks have been good…but not great.
This year, though, we see that things are slightly different. Oregon has simply been manhandling their opponents with no problem, averaging 53 points per game! Meanwhile, USC (6-2) comes in having suffered a defeat last week at Arizona…one of two losses for the Trojans so far this season.
It is quite rare for USC to be considered an underdog playing at home, but that is indeed the case for Saturday, with the Ducks coming in as a seven-point favorite. It will be an entertaining game to see and observe…we shall see how things progress…
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Every year, it seems the Los Angeles Lakers are always THE team for everyone to be interested in, no matter how good they are! Whether they end up in the middle of the pack, or NBA Champions, it seems the Lakers are the team everybody is talking about.
This season, though, should be a real test for them. Without question, the Lakers have a TON of talent, with the addition of G Steve Nash and C Dwight Howard, to go along with G Kobe Bryant and F Pau Gasol.
It would make you think the Lakers are the best team in the NBA…or, at least in the Western Conference. Yet they have already started the season 0-2. It has gotten people wondering aloud whether the boys have perhaps TOO MUCH talent (if there is such a thing!). Can they find their cohesiveness?
All that said, it should be interesting to follow this team throughout the season, as I’m sure everybody will be doing. It will even set up a situation where every game Los Angeles plays it will be THE game for their opponent! The Lakers will have to come out playing their best ball on a nightly basis, with no letting up.
And, we will also see how they fare against the other top team in the League, including the Heat and the Thunder…