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Fourth and Two - The Kris Head Column

24.09.2015
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Greetings all we're heading into week three of the NFL regular season and time continues to fly quicker than David Cameron pork jokes, The season began with a bang and already featuring incredible upsets and crushing defeats after only two weeks of football, Super Bowl contenders look like they couldn't run their way out of paper bags (which the fans will no doubt soon be wearing) and rookie quarterbacks hit the record books, it's the greatest sport in the world and after a fortnight the proof is in the box scores.   I guess apart from enjoying the games (despite Colts results) and the run of television programming for the NFL I can't help but feel that this season has been one of the bleakest after the off season of all the dramas within the league in the UK the fans are becoming spoilt, family run businesses are calling it quits and Patriots fans are acting crazier than conspiracy theorists with tin foil on their heads that everybody is out to get them. When I first started watching the game seriously in the mid 2000's I learned the majority of the game from watching way into the early hours the analysis from Mike Carlson who is no longer on Channel 4 as they refused to pick up their option for terrestrial television, Great American Sports announced in the off season they were calling it a day this is the family business I discovered in 2007 and never went anywhere else for my purchases. NFL fans on communities, social media and groups seem to do nothing more than make "banter" and argue amongst themselves through ridiculous meme's in effort to troll other fans and this has really started to grind me down. It used to be that when NFL fans met each other the conversation would be articulate and friendly, now I don't know if this is a generational thing because I certainly don't feel old at 28 but I'm beginning to wonder what the attitude problem is with fans in this country, now before I go further let me explain this article.   1. I know this is not all fans, just the most noticeable ones.   2. I understand that the NFL is a business.   3. You can't always get what you want.   4. Sometimes you don't get what you need.   5. The attitude of fans toward fans is nothing new.     The first time I watched NFL on Channel 5 I was blown away by the quality of the analysis with John Madden often leaving a lot to be explained in an articulate manner (though the "booms" "doinks" and stating the obvious was always fun at 3am) Michael Carlson became a cult hero in the dawn of the social media age amongst NFL fans and I made several friends through the "appreciation society" this group was a place for one liners and talk all about the sport where we earned nocturnal sleep pattern badges, this is the first NFL season I have watched without tuning into Carlson (and Nat Coombs 2007 - present day) since 2005. I could certainly state biased reasons for me wanting these two gentlemen on television but it's not just for me, it's for all those new fans who can't afford GamePass or the ludicrous prices for Sky's pandering to the rookie viewers, the insomniacs, the procrastinating students on a late night cram or just the kids in the school holidays who won't go to bed, what about the kids who just caught the highlights on the off chance at the weekend and became hooked. Channel 4 really screwed the pooch with this one, but that's ok I'm sure the Hollyoaks and Made in Chelsea will continue to keep the masses distracted with no chance of gaining anything out of their television time. Nat and Mike have been picked up by the BBC for the International Series games and a future highlight show later on in the season. If you were also not aware Mike and Nat appear on Americarnage a podcast available (www.americarnage.co.uk) so if you're like me and still trying to adapt to not flicking the television on at 1am you can still get your NFL fix. If the NFL want to continue to push and promote the game, not allowing a terrestrial deal was definitely not a step in the right direction, it's a sack fumble in the end zone.   NFL fans in the UK have often been a funny bunch, from not acknowledging each other on trains and coaches into London for the Wembley games despite the common interest (This is evidently a British thing since none of us seem to want to talk to each other any other time either) But recently behind the screens of computers all I seem to be seeing is insults, nonsensical smack talk. What happened to actual conversation? what's happening in the game instead of the latest internet meme? It's embarrassing to think that as a fan base we've resorted to dumbing down a great sport with dumb behaviour. After the week one boat race the 49ers put on the Vikings up in Santa Clara four 49ers fans were filmed beating up a Vikings fan on the floor in something similar to the football hooliganism we see here in England, it's depressing. Fortunately the four involved have been arrested, unfortunately one of those arrested is seventeen years old. Smarten up, Wise up and treat each other well at Wembley, around the tailgate area and the surrounding pubs, I know this usually isn't a problem but I find myself starting to wonder about those who can't go through a game without being loaded on booze. Patriots fans continue to make out the NFL is against them after a headset malfunction against the Steelers caused the Pittsburgh bench to hear nothing but the Patriot radio broadcast, cue another conspiracy theory about how the league is trying to screw the most successful franchise in recent years. Look, We don't hate you because we ain't you, we're not just jealous of your success (I've watched every Super bowl the Patriots have appeared in since 2001) I've admired your success (as I'm sure all real NFL fans have) I admire Belichick he's one of the greatest coaches in our games history, I've seen Tom Brady rack up a combined 100+ points in games I've attended with him playing in, the issue lies within the fact that the Patriots have constantly been caught out "misconstruing" the rulebook and why would any fan not doubt that their successes have been brought in by doing things that effect the integrity of the game, so please (As I said above not all of you) move on and grow up, that also goes to the fans who constantly do nothing but moan about the Patriots, it's a game.   I apologise if you didn't come here to read a rambling rant about the negativity I've felt towards the game I love and write about but this has definitely been one off season filled with nothing but bad news. I want to thank Great American Sports for the service they've brought to NFL fans in the UK for many a year from the small store in Five Ways, Birmingham to it's current home in Exeter. The service was second to none, the reliability second to none, Marguerite and Francis treated all customers like friends and friends we have all become, it's a crying shame that suppliers could not meet realistic fan demands but hey here's to the Bevans. Great American Supports supplied stadium edition Super Bowl programmes and delivered them first class every time, they sponsored the first UK NFL podcast in 2010 "The NFL International" podcast as hosted by myself and Jack Bloomfield.
08.09.2015
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If you're anything like me you've already had football for the past few months with the BAFA my cousins Solent Thrashers will be appearing in the finals this weekend in Leicester, Go Thrashers! or you indulged yourself with week one of the NCAA football season, I personally stayed up until 6am to watch TCU defeat Minnesota in what was a battle of my loyalties being a devout TCU fan since 2009 it was difficult to watch my team beat up on Minnesota (several of my friends Alma mater) but certainly kept me out of trouble considering I watched the annihilation of Minnesota in a Minneapolis bar last September at the hands of TCU. If the British leagues and college football season is not your thing then I guess Madden 16 has kept you occupied? Not a gamer? How about all those NFL Network top 10 reruns? Barring the preseason what else has kept you occupied? Fantasy drafts? Three drafts in and I'm salivating at the thought of week one action. Tom Brady won his appeal with the NFL (you already knew, if you didn't where have you been?) Though I believe Brady is not wholly innocent, the NFL team couldn't get its case together or operate it with the same consistency that Brady runs his offences therefore the Hail Mary's spoken across the New England fan-scape were answered, but all is not lost all the spygate leaks are now coming out and even more fans across the globe are placing asterisk's onto the Lombardi trophies displayed in Foxborough. Tim Tebow didn't make the final 53 man roster of the Eagles and bible thumping Christians across America are crying persecution on behalf of their faith, He wasn't cut because he believes in a highly questionable deity, he was cut because he isn't consistent, he isn't strong armed, he isn't a pro pocket passer and he can't break down the defences the way you need to... he won some games, but not without some luck, he can join Ponder, Locker and Sanchez fraternity of could have been Quarterbacks thankfully Tim never ran into the ass of one of his linemen. In the fourth and two column I'll be making my picks for each weeks game, plus my opinions (more in depth throughout the season as topics come and go) Let's get to my picks for the 2015 regular season. AFC North The Steelers will take this division this year and the reason why? The offence is looking better than ever, the defence is starting to look solid maybe not to the peak of the mid 2000 Steelers we are used to but with Big Ben reaching his prime years and prime maturity there is no reason why they can't take the crown. The Ravens will still be a threat, if Andy Dalton can play with the consistency the Bengals fans are asking they also could be a threat to the top spot. Cleveland, keep on keeping on.                                       1. Pittsburgh Steelers                                       2. Baltimore Ravens                                        3. Cincinnati Bengals                                        4. Cleveland Browns                                         NFC North It's very difficult to pick against the league’s best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and after all it was not number 12 who allowed Seattle back into the NFC title game, it was the mental mistakes on defence and special teams that cost the Packers a shot at a fifth Super Bowl trophy. The Vikings can creep into the post season if Teddy Bridgewater can click with Adrian Peterson and newly acquired Mike Wallace the Vikings could be a dark horse in 2015. Detroit losing Suh but adding Ngata could be problematic in Detroit but the London bound Lions are also still in contention in the North. Chicago... Jay Cutler. 1. Green Bay Packers   2. Minnesota Vikings   3. Detroit Lions   4. Chicago Bears   AFC South Indianapolis will take top spot unless something drastic happens. Houston should come in at a close second behind the play of JJ Watt and a journeyman quarterback in Brian Hoyer who knows the system from his days in New England with Bill O'Brien. Jacksonville could be the surprise with another year in the same system with Gabbert, Tennessee with Mariota will have to see how he adapts to the pro game. 1. Indianapolis Colts   2. Houston Texans   3. Jacksonville Jaguars   4. Tennessee Titans   NFC South Atlanta should come back from a 6-10 record (5 wins within the division) with a new identity, hopefully without the mental errors and injuries, it's the 50th season for the Falcons and hopefully a season to remember for the folks in Georgia. New Orleans will come into the year with a new ground and pound identity with both Ingram and CJ Spiller on the roster as they set out to regain control in the South. Carolina after the loss of rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin in the preseason the Panthers could suffer on the offensive end, hopefully Rivera will shape up the defence to a higher standard in the points allowed column. Tampa will continue its youth movement. 1. Atlanta Falcons     2. New Orleans Saints   3. Carolina Panthers   4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers   AFC East Expect New England to maintain their hold of the throne by any means necessary,  This division is wide open for second place, easily the toughest four to pick in order however with additions to the Dolphins on both side of the ball, particularly NFC North stalwarts Greg Jennings and Ndamukong Suh should take second spot. The Jets and Bills will tough it out with two new head coaches and two new quarterbacks starting it's a crap shoot. 1. New England Patriots   2. Miami Dolphins   3. Buffalo Bills   4. New York Jets   NFC East Dallas will be a handful in the East and should defend the title with relative ease, the loss of DeMarco Murray could be costly but with the offensive line intact it's next man up for the Cowboys, expect the Giants to right the ship with Coughlin on the hot seat, Cruz returning alongside Beckham*, Philadelphia are always shapeshifting and eventually Chip Kelly's train of thought will get derailed, Washington remain at the bottom with inconsistent... everything. 1. Dallas Cowboys   2. New York Giants   3. Philadelphia Eagles   4. Washington *Madden Curse Pending   AFC West Peyton Manning is not the Peyton Manning we know and love and with a new offensive system I'm not sure how the Broncos will recuperate after a disappointing preseason expect the San Diego Chargers to win out the AFC West being set on both sides of the ball. Kansas City and Oakland have both made strides to improve but without receiving touchdowns in Missouri and a 32nd ranked offence in the bay area these two teams will continue to fight for third and fourth. 1. San Diego Chargers   2. Denver Broncos   3. Kansas City Chiefs   4. Oakland Raiders   NFC West The most difficult division to pick a winner for Seattle was one run play away from back to back Super Bowl championships I don't know how much more this team can keep up with the grind of an NFL season but if any team is to do it, it's a team coached by Pete Carroll. A lot of veterans and despite Chancellor holding out this team will be very difficult to beat, though I see it being the Cardinals year with a full healthy season from Carson Palmer. St. Louis now have Nick Foles instead of Sam Bradford and the 49ers have sunk quicker than the Titanic this off season. 1. Arizona Cardinals   2. Seattle Seahawks   3. St Louis Rams   4. San Francisco 49ers
05.08.2015
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Do you love football? The title of Jon Grudens 2002 Autobiography of the same name has been playing on my mind often this off season, six weeks after the Super Bowl which saw the Patriots win their 4th ring in 14 years I headed back to my spiritual home of Minneapolis, Minnesota to chase my other passion, Basketball. Upon my return to Blighty my basketball team the Hamble Hornets went on to win the Solent Area Basketball Association intermediate cup, since then I've been to a few concerts and even got to throw a pass to Andrew Luck (true story, ask the editor) *Confirmed as true – Ed. I do love football, I love football so much I'm sitting here writing this for you to read it, and it’s an open love letter to a deflatable object. The off season has been one of the most negative off seasons I can recall in recent years, would Adrian Peterson return to Minnesota? Did Tom Brady empty his balls? Aaron Hernandez a murderer? Could the Jaguars turn their fortunes around with another high end draft pick only for him to get injured? It all happened and I get the feeling that eventually everybody was fed up with it, but let me get to business... this is August, this is the first month of the rest of our 2015 season lives which means the pro football hall of fame and pre-season starts and here in my column "Fourth and Two" I'll be discussing what I love, dislike and that area which you're not sure if Elaine Benes would find "sponge worthy" In Canton, Ohio this weekend see's my favourite event in the NFL calendar as explained in last year’s mammoth article, the pro football hall of fame induction ceremony... Tim Brown (finally) Charles Haley (FINALLY!) Jerome Bettis (One of my all-time favourites) Junior Seau (first ballot no questions asked RIP) Will Shields and Mick Tingelhoff (coolest name in the class possibly the entire hall) and two contributors whose work within the NFL cannot be doubted Bill Polian and Ron Wolf two of the best general managers in the history of the league. Saturday night will show us the reason why Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis, Will Shields and Mick Tingelhoff loved to play football, what drove Ron Wolf to trade for Brett Favre (also covered in Jon Grudens book) what gave Bill Polian the will to walk the long hard road towards the Lombardi trophy that haunted him in Buffalo for four consecutive years, why do they love football? The Hall has decided in recent years to not allow family members to speak on behalf of the inductees who are posthumously inducted, this means we'll watch a tribute video to Junior Seau whilst his family can't speak on his behalf all for the benefit of a television schedule. Sunday night we'll see two storied franchises (and Wembley attendees) the Pittsburgh Steelers facing off against the Minnesota Vikings in our first taste of gridiron action since February 2nd, the start of pre-season and a brand new chase of the Lombardi and I'll be here every step of the way with my opinion on the 2015 season and for good measure here's a photo of me and Hall of Fame Running Back Jerome Bettis.   Enjoy your weekend and ask yourself; Do you love football? If you want to ask me a question find me on Twitter @KrissiTrash87 or Email me kris.head@ukfirstdown.co.uk to appear in the 4th and 2 column.