The NFL in London could work with a little compromise

This coming Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars will play the third and final game of this NFL season’s International Series at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

The series began as an experiment in 2007 by the National Football League to gauge interest of the sport in the European marketplace.

And although the second largest media market in this country – Los Angeles – is on the verge of landing not one but possibly two NFL teams as soon as maybe next season after being without a team for 20 years, the League is still hell-bent on putting a team across the pond in London by 2022.

Commissioned by the NFL and a London marketing agency, the accounting firm DeLoitte released its findings last week from their study that said an NFL franchise based in London could generate more than $255 million for Britain annually.

In British pounds, we’re talking 165 million.

Pounds. Dollars. No matter what currency you reference, that’s a whole lot of coin the 32 team owners can’t ignore.

So, what about the fans both in the States and the British Isles?

A majority of NFL fans here don’t like the idea of putting a team in London because of travel logistics and the idea that it would be similar to out-sourcing American jobs to foreign countries.

Tom Bateman, president of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots. courtesy: Tom Bateman
Tom Bateman, director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

As for the Brits, L.A. native Tom Bateman, the director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to merry old England for a week in October of 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams take on the New England Patriots.

While there, Bateman spoke with British fans he discovered enjoy American football immensely but think the idea of putting a team in London permanently is a silly one.

I agree with the Brits. If a team is moved or an expansion team is awarded to London, would the league’s name be changed to the International Football League?

“Part of the appeal to the Brits is that each (International Series) game showcases different teams” said Bateman who added, “The NFL in the UK is a spectacle as much as it is a sport. Probably more so.”

British tailgaters at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
British tailgaters “dressed to kilt” at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

He also discovered an NFL game represents everything the British love about America.

According to Bateman the Brits love the fact that we’re a show off nation.

Really, no sport or league shows off more than the NFL.

“It’s flashy, spectacular, the uniforms, the helmets, the cheerleaders, the endzone celebrations, the sack dances, all of that.” Said Bateman continuing, “But as a sport, to the Brits it can’t hold a candle to soccer or as they refer to it, real football.”

Also on the NFL’s agenda, sooner rather than later, is reducing the pre-season schedule from four games to two while expanding the regular season from its current 16-game schedule to 18.

An 18-game schedule is something the Players’ Union isn’t too keen on for player safety and the extra two games don’t increase the players’ salaries.

What about a little compromise for all parties involved so the 32 team owners, the players and Britain’s annual economy can capitalize on the projected $255 million the NFL stands to generate should it have a permanent presence in London.

Since the Brits enjoy seeing different teams play each International Series game and the logistics of having a permanent team call London home seem a bit difficult to iron out, let’s give the Brits what they want.

America's Game - NFL Football - celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
America’s Game – NFL Football – celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

At the same time, let’s expand the regular season from 16 to 17 regular season games with the extra game for each team played each week at Wembley Stadium in London.

So what if it’s an odd number schedule. Only thing affected is a team finishing .500 which isn’t a huge deal in the grand playoff scheme of things.

This way, only teams with winning records would qualify for the postseason.

Make the 17th game match ups interconference games – AFC vs. NFC – with the match ups chosen with ping pong ball machines much like the ones used to choose the World Cup soccer groups or the NBA Draft Lottery and do it during Super Bowl Week for games in the upcoming regular season. Cut the pre-season to just two games.

You’ve added a game while having an entire regular season schedule – 16 weeks – in London with the Brits seeing all 32 NFL teams in different match ups each game and year.

It becomes a “pseudo Super Bowl” each week in London because the logistics time wise of having the Super Bowl in London – which has been discussed – just won’t work for NFL fans in the States who want to see the biggest game and spectacle on U.S. soil and rightfully so.

After all, it is America’s Game. Somewhere all 32 teams need to always call home.

No Disrespect. L.A. is the pLAce for the NFL

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at dusk.

Let me immediately debunk a serious cliché, untruth and down-right lie in regards to WE Angelenos.

It states, “WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team in Los Angeles because there are just too many other things to do here on a Sunday afternoon.”

Well, the part about plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon is spot-on. But, that’s what makes the City of Angels one of the greatest cities in the world.

The part about WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team is the biggest bunch of absolute garbage I’ve ever heard or read.

This clichéd rhetoric is old, tired, ignorant and completely false.

It’s a complete insult to all of US Angelenos.

Seriously!

Looking at L.A. from atop the Hollywood Sign.

Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country, home to Hollywood, a pair of MLB teams (Dodgers & Angels), a pair of NBA teams (Lakers & Clippers…and maybe the Anaheim Royals soon.), a pair of NHL teams (Kings & Ducks) a pair of major division one universities (USC & UCLA) and a pair of  MLS teams (Galaxy & Chivas USA) isn’t called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing. And although a sport, football, which includes the NFL variety, is one of the greatest forms of entertainment known to man, woman and child.

All I have to do is cite the Los Angeles Rams, the gold-standard among many pro football teams that have called L.A. home, as my example of WE Angelenos SUPPORTING an NFL team.

The L.A. Coliseum opened on May 1st 1923.

Beginning in 1946, after their move from Cleveland because they couldn’t compete with the Browns, the Los Angeles Rams called Southern California home for 49 years. The first 34 at the 100,000 seat L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the last 15 at Anaheim Stadium before moving to the Midwest in 1995.

49 YEARS!

Had the Rams not been supported by WE Angelenos throughout that half-century, you figure they would have left after year five.

The Rams called the Coliseum home from 1946 to '79.

During a 13 year period in the modern Super Bowl era from 1967 to 1979, the Rams won nine division titles, seven of those in consecutive seasons, played in seven conference championship games and one Super Bowl all the while attracting crowds at the Coliseum in excess of 65,000 to over 70,000 every Sunday afternoon.

In my interview with Hall-of-Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and tight end Bob Klein, stars for the Rams during those years, both told me they fed off the energy of those Coliseum crowds. Fans that are still devoted to them today.

The Rams averaged just under 60,000 fans per regular season game in the 34 years they played at the Coliseum including three of the top-ten all-time league attendance single-game records exceeding 100,000 fans in the stands.

Rams called Anaheim Stadium home from 1980-'94.

The  first 12 seasons in Anaheim, they averaged about 57,000 fans. The years 1992-94 saw a significant drop-off due to rumors of a potential move first to Baltimore and, later, St. Louis. The Rams averaged about 45,000 fans those final three seasons.

Most team owners in any professional sport relocate because they can’t get the city they call home to ante up, via public funding, for a brand new arena with all the modern amenities to maximize revenue for them and their team.

Ex-Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom with a model of the Football-enclosed Anaheim Stadium.

Former L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom left L.A. for Anaheim in ’79 because the Coliseum Commission and L.A. politicians wouldn’t fork over taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Coliseum. Anaheim DID enclosing the Big “A” without its then-primary tenant, the California Angels, reaping any benefits whatsoever, so it could gain elite status as a city that an NFL team called home.

That changed in the early 90s when Georgia Frontiere wanted upgrades to the Big A via public funding. Anaheim said not this time. Off the Rams went to St. Louis.

St. Louis city officials and the state of Missouri gave the Rams everything they wanted and more including a new stadium in 1995 to return the Gateway City to elite NFL status after the Cardinals bolted a few years earlier for Arizona.

The 17 year old Edward Jones Dome is already obsolete by NFL standards.

The tables have now turned for the Gateway City. The Edwards Jones Dome needs upgrades the Rams negotiated in their original contract. St. Louis wants the Rams to pay more than half with taxpayers footing the rest of the bill.

Currently the Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the NFL franchises looking to upgrade their stadium situations and join the 21st Century NFL.

It’s why Al Davis moved the Raiders to L.A. from Oakland in 1982 and then back to Oakland in ‘95. ‘84 when Bob Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore for Indianapolis. ‘87 when Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix. ’95 when Frontiere moved the Rams to St. Louis from Anaheim. ‘96 when Art Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. ’97 when Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Tennessee from Houston.

These owners didn’t pack up their teams and leave their former cities because of the lack of fan support. It always has been and will be about stadium upgrade issues.

PERIOD.

San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium is one of the 3 most outdated stadiums in the NFL.

Not coincidentally, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are on the possible relocation list because they play in two of the three most outdated stadiums in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers were on the list playing in the third.

The 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara is scheduled to open in 2014.

The 49ers will be playing in a brand new $1.2 billion facility within the next couple of years in Santa Clara. A building privately funded with the 49ers borrowing $400 million. The Santa Clara Stadium Authority borrowing $450 million. $150 million from the league’s stadium fund. $40 million from the Santa Clara City Redevelopment Agency with the final $35 million coming from a hotel tax paid by tourists and visitors to the city.

I bring these three teams up because, if you include the L.A. Coliseum and Pasadena Rose Bowl, California has the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums. Anaheim Stadium’s out of play because it’s now a baseball-only stadium if you don’t count a high school gridiron clash or two.

California’s citizens and its government entities won’t consider stadium plans of any sort to be publicly-funded using taxpayer dollars. Especially in these tough economic times. We’re absolutely right not to.

That’s why the state is home to the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums in the country.

This is the ONLY reason why Los Angeles hasn’t been a part of the NFL for 17 seasons and counting.

AEG is targeting a 2017 grand opening of Farmers Field in Los Angeles.

This “extended road-trip” Los Angeles has endured could be coming to an end soon with not just one, but possibly two teams, from the list relocating here.

"Tailgating L.A. Style." An artist's rendition of Chick Hearn Court on Game-Day Sunday. Nokia Theatre and restaurants on the right. Staples Center in the left foreground. Farmers Field in left background.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) privately funded the Downtown Los Angeles Corridor Revitalization building the Staple Center and L.A. Live, and now is committed to privately fund, without taxpayer/public dollars, the entire construction of the $1.4 billion L.A. Convention Center and Farmers Field.

AEG’s already invested over $40 million, $27 million of those for an environmental impact report and the balance going to designs for the new convention center and football stadium.

Upon releasing the 10,000 page EIR earlier this month on the steps of L.A.‘s City Hall, point-man Tim Leiweke addressed AEG’s vision for the return of the NFL to the City of Angels.

A team could be calling L.A. home in September of 2013 playing its home games at the Coliseum until Farmers Field is completed by 2017.

As for which team it will be. Take a look at the aforementioned list. The Rams (if any team should call L.A. home, it should be the Rams.) and the Vikings are the top two candidates for various reasons. Who will it be?

It’s going to happen. L.A. will be back in the NFL and the NFL will be back in Los Angeles. From any angle, it’s quite overdue.

Yes. There are plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon in the City of Angels, one of the greatest cities in the world, and the NFL should and will be one of them.

Photo courtesy: Eric Geller, AEG, Farmers Field, Los Angeles Times, stadiumsofprofootball.com, USA Today.

Video courtesy: Eric Geller, NFL Films

I Need to Bounce Back after Last Week’s Debacle!

Eric’s NFL Week 5 Picks

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY“…………

Last Week: 6-8 (UGH!)  Season:  36-26

What a rough week. Worst ever for me. I’ll  make a huge comeback today even though I’m sidelined and under the weather. Speaking of this week’s injury report, here’s ESPN’s Steve Levy.

JACKSONVILLE (2-2) +1.5 @ BUFFALO (0-4) O/U 41 pts
-So. Let me get this right. The Jaguars beat the Colts last week and they’re the underdog? Well, if QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills are going to win a game, it’s this one at home. Jags featured RB Maurice Jones-Drew who rushed for triple-figures and a touchdown in the win over the Colts. A toss up. BILLS (36-26, JAGUARS)

TAMPA BAY (2-1) +7 @ CINCINNATI (2-2) 38 pts
-The Buccaneers are coming off a bye week while the under-achieving Bengals lost by three to in-state rival Cleveland last week. Bucs QB Josh Freeman and Tampa playing well. But, I don’t think they can beat Carson Palmer throwing to WR’s Chad Ocho-Cinco and T.O. while Cedric Benson carries the pill. T.O. with a huge receiving day catching the pill for 222 yards. moving into second place behind Jerry Rice among WR’s. Palmer threw for 371 yards and two TD’s. Turnovers killed the Bengals last week. BENGALS (24-21, BUCS)

ATLANTA (3-1) -3 @ CLEVELAND (1-3) 41 pts
-The Falcons were fortunate to beat San Francisco at the Georgia Dome last week. Cleveland capitalized on turnovers to beat instate rival Cincinnati last week. Falcons only a three-point favorite? Behind QB Matt Ryan, the ATL soars. FALCONS (20-10, FALCONS)

ST. LOUIS (2-2) +3 @ DETROIT (0-4)  43 pts
-Behind rookie QB Sam Bradford, that running game featuring Steven Jackson, and that defense, the Rams playing for first place in the NFC West. No denying Bradford’s a special player that’ll run the Rams for at least a decade. Winless Detroit playing much better as well and their future is bright. Unfortunately, the Lions are without last year’s top-overall pick, QB Matthew Stafford, who separated his shoulder in week one. Shaun Hill’s played well in his stead. Detroit might need to un-retire Eric Hipple. What’s a Hipple you ask? Google time. Rams looking for their first road win since last year in Detroit. They’ll try for their first three-game winning streak in four years. RAMS (44-6, LIONS)

KANSAS CITY (3-0)  +7 @ INDIANAPOLIS (2-2) 45.5 pts
-The Chiefs coming off their bye week as the league’s last undefeated team. They’re averaging 160 yards on the ground with RB Jamal Charles and a dynamic duo on special teams with returnee’s Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Their defense stellar as well. QB Peyton Manning and the Colts aren’t used to having two losses this early in a season. In last week’s loss at Jacksonville, the Colts had turnover issues and couldn’t stop the run. They also couldn’t run. Problem for the Chiefs, Peyton’s angry and it’s hard to beat Indy in Indy after a loss.  COLTS (19-9, COLTS)

GREEN BAY (3-1) -2.5 @ WASHINGTON (2-2)  45.5 pts
-Redskins featuring the running game and solid defense in last week’s homecoming win for QB Donovan McNabb over the Eagles in Philadelphia. Packers behind QB Aaron Rodgers snuck by the Lions at home. Redskins have the worst pass defense in the league. PACKERS (16-13, REDSKINS)

CHICAGO (3-1)  +2.5 @ CAROLINA (0-4) 33 pts
-Bears QB Jay Cutler was knocked out of last week’s loss to the Giants, who sacked Bears’ QB’s 10 TIMES! Cutler’s out of Sunday’s game with effects from a concussion getting pounded to the Meadowlands Stadium Turf so many times. Veteran Back-Up QB Todd Collins gets the start and DE Julius Pepper’s returns to Carolina to go up against his winless former team. Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen starts for the third straight time for the Panthers. Carolina’s getting much better. They need to be able to run the ball with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Collins could have issues because the Bears O-Line is suspect (See Last Week) and they can’t run the ball. Remember. Mike Martz is the offensive coordinator. They can probably feature some running against the Cats. BEARS (23-6, BEARS)

DENVER  (2-2) +7 @ BALTIMORE (3-1) 33 pts
-Denver can’t run the ball thus having issues getting the ball in the end zone. The Ravens are so good in all phases of the game. Led by LB Ray Lewis. QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Bouldin and lights out as is that running game with Ray Rice. RAVENS (31-17, RAVENS)

NY GIANTS OF NEW JERSEY (2-2) +3 @ HOUSTON (3-1) 48.5 pts
-If the Giants can do to Texans QB Matt Schaub what they did to Bears’ QB’s, sacking them 10 times, the Giants just may be back. Unfortunate, they’re in Houston where they’re going against the league’s top rusher, Arian Foster. Schaub will look for WR Andre Johnson who’s sprained ankle is beter. On defense, QB Eli Manning and RB Ahmad Bradshaw need to get some time against DE Mario Williams and LB Brian Cushing who returns to the line-up after a substance abuse suspension. TEXANS (34-10, GIANTS)

NEW ORLEANS (3-1) -7 @ ARIZONA (2-2) 45.5 ptS
-The two last NFC Super Bowl reps tangling in the Valley of the Sun. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they have QB issues. Derek Anderson’s done and replaced by undrafted rookie Max Hall. No such issues for the World Champion Saints. They have Drew Brees. Saints are winning ugly this year always in close games. The mark of a champ. It’ll be like last year on Sunday with Brees throwing all over the field. SAINTS (30-20, CARDINALS)

TENNESSEE (2-2) +7 @ DALLAS (1-2) 42.5 pts
-Titans running into to the Cowboys at a bad time. Dallas had its bye week last week after beating the Texans in Houston two week’s ago. Cowboys featured RB Marion Barber n the win taking pressure off the league’s most over-rated and over-hyped QB ever, Tony Romo who was 23-30 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. Texans QB Vince Young returning home. He guided the University of Texas to a national championship a few years back.  Titans have a 10-game win streak against NFC opponents. Ends today. COWBOYS (34-27, TITANS)

SAN DIEGO (2-2) -6.5 @ OAKLAND (1-3)  45 pts
-An AFL rivalry that’s spans five decades. Chargers haven’t played well enough on the road to win having special teams and turnover issues. QB Phillip Rivers playing huge for the Bolts. Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski has Oakland playing well. Raiders without RB Darren McFadden who’s out with a hamstring pull. The Raiders defense playing well. Bolts a bit better. CHARGERS (35-27, RAIDERS)

PHILADELPHIA (2-2) +3 @ SAN FRANCISCO (0-4) 38.5 pts (SNF)
-Eagles returning QB Kevin Kolb as the starter after Michael Vick went down with a rib injury in last week’s loss at home to Washington. 49ers still winless after gift-wrapping a game to the Falcons in Atlanta last week. San Francisco gets its first win. 49EERS (27-24, EAGLES)

MINNESOTA (1-2) +4 @ NY JETS OF NEW JERSEY (3-1) 38 pts (MNF)
-Vikings traded for WR Randy Moss last week returning him to Minnesota and pairing him with QB Brett Favre who always wanted to throw to Moss. WR Percy Harvin is, also, back. It’s all about RB Adrian Peterson. He runs past a great defense, it’ll open up that passing game that’s, currently, last in the league. Since an opening game loss to Baltimore, QB Mark Sanchez has been stellar throwing eight TD passes and no INT’s. Former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth running behind the Jets O-Line designed for the run where San Diego’s was designed to pass block for Phillip Rivers. Moss will go up against CB Darelle Revis for the secnd time in two week’s. Moss sent Revis to the sideline’s beating him for a Patriots touchdown tweaking Revis’ hamstring in the process. It’s the game of the week. Favre played a season for the Jets and will have a blast against one of his former teams with Moss back. VIKINGS (29-20, JETS)

BYE WEEK:

MIAMI (2-2)

PITTSBURGH (2-2)

SEATTLE (2-2)

NEW ENGLAND (2-2)

LOS ANGELES (15 years, 5 weeks)

Special Teams and Kickers Kicked My A&&!!

Eric’s NFL Week  4 Picks

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY“…………

Last Week: 10-6 Season:  30-18

The Chargers Special Teams, Kicker Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders & Saints kicker Garrett Hartley all played like “Huxley College”. Dedicated to them, one of my favorite “football comedy bits” provided by the Marx Brothers in HORSE FEATHERS.

SAN FRANCISCO +6.5 (0-3) @ ATLANTA (2-1) O/U 42.5 pts
-49ers were pre-season favorites to win the NFC West. Now, with a loss to Atlanta, the Mike Singletary watch will be on. The Falcons have the upper hand on the NFC South after beating the champion Saints in overtime last week in the Big Easy. “Tic-Toc, Samurai Mike.” FALCONS (16-14, FALCONS)

NY JETS OF NEW JERSEY +5.5 (2-1) @ BUFFALO (0-3) 37 pts
-Bills replaced starting QB Trent Edwards with back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick in last week’s 38-30 loss to New England. Fitzpatrick played so well, head coach Chan Gailey cut Edwards off the roster completely. Rex Ryan and the J-E-T-S! JETS, JETS< JETS! Can go 3-0 within the AFC East for the first time in 10 years. QB Mark Sanchez and that offense showing good balance since the loss in the opener to the Ravens. Could be an “ambush game” for the Jets. Watch out, Rex. It’ll be close. JETS (38-14, JETS)

CINCINNATI -3 (2-1) @ CLEVELAND (0-3) 37.5 pts
-The Battle of Ohio renewed on the shores of Lake Erie. Browns QB Jake Delhomme’s back from injury. Browns gave the Ravens a scare last week in their 24-17 loss. This one’s going to be close too. Bengals offense should FINALLY open up. Watch out for plenty of Carson Palmer to Ocho-Cinco and T.O. BENGALS (23-20, BROWNS)

DETROIT (0-3) +14.5 @ GREEN BAY (2-1) 45 pts
-Lions still without Matthew Stafford at QB. Detroit lost big at Minnesota last week. It’ll be worse Sunday especially since the Packers are coming off a loss in Chicago. Aaron Rodgers should unload a can of “whoop-a&&” in the “not yet frozen tundra.” PACKERS (28-26, PACKERS)

DENVER +6.5 (1-2) @ TENNESSEE (2-1) 43 pts
-QB Vince Young and the Titans rebounded well from an ugly home loss to Pittsburgh with an inspired win over the Giants in Gotham last week. QB Kyle Orton and the Broncos are putting up good stats but can’t get the pill in the end zone. Denver struggled mightily in last week’s 27-13 home loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts. Titans RB Chris Johnson’s going to have a big day. TITANS (26-20, BRONCOS)

SEATTLE (2-1) -1 @ ST. LOUIS (1-2) 40 pts
-Pete Carroll’s Seahawks were fortunate Leon Washington was able to return two kick-offs for touchdowns in last week’s 27-20 home win over San Diego. Bolts QB Phillip Rivers dissected the Seattle secondary for 455 yards. They better watch out because they’re in the Gateway City facing an improved Rams team with a gun-slinger at QB. How about the Rams and top overall pick Sam Bradford! They broke a 14-game losing streak taking care of Washington, 30-16 last week. RB Steven Jackson’s questionable because of a pulled groin. Kenneth Darby did well replacing the all-pro with 49 yards on 14 carries and a score. Seahawks have won nine straight against the Rams. The Rams could easily be 3-0 with their two losses by a combined five points. Let’s keep that MOJO going. Bradford’s going to have a big day. RAMS (20-3, RAMS)

CAROLINA (0-3) +13.5 @ NEW ORLEANS (2-1) 44 pts
-If it weren’t for Saints kicker Garrett Hartley’s missed 29 yard field goal in overtime, the Saints would be 3-0. New Orleans brought back 22-year veteran kicker John Carney who could replace Hartley as soon as Sunday. Both were on last season’s roster. Carolina’s working Notre Dame rookie QB Jimmy Clausen into the offense so this is an extended “pre-season” going into the next season. This could be ugly. SAINTS (16-14, SAINTS)

BALTIMORE (2-1) +1.5 @ PITTSBURGH (3-0) 34.5 pts
-This has got to be the game of the day. An AFC North Clash of Titans. Both with monster defenses. Without QB Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have rediscovered the running game with Rashard Mendenhall moving the chains. That defense, led by Troy Palomalu, is awesome. Same with Baltimore’s led by Ray Lewis. QB Joe Flacco tossed three touchdowns to new toy Anquan Bouldin in last week‘s 24-17 win at Cleveland. Ravens, also, have a solid ground attack with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. This is a pick ’em game and I’d lean to the home team in this home-and-home series. I’m going to go with Flacco and the Birds in a close one only because this is where the Steelers will miss Big Ben. RAVENS (17-14, RAVENS)

HOUSTON (2-1) -3 @ OAKLAND (1-2) 43 pts
-Are you kidding me, Sebastian Janikowski!!!! If it weren’t for your three missed field goals, including a 32-yard “chippie” as time expired, you and the Raiders would be 2-1. Wasted effort by new starting QB Bruce Gradkowski and that third-ranked Raider Defense in that 24-23 loss at Arizona. Are you kidding me Texans!!! You had a 3-0 start in your sites and laid an egg at home to previously winless Dallas last week, 27-13. QB Matt Schaub and that number one offense stopped dead by the Dallas defense. Meanwhile, Dallas QB Tony Romo sliced and diced that worst passing defense in the league. Won’t get any easier for the Texans in the black hole, especially, with WR Andre Johnson still hobbled by the bad wheel. Gradkowki licking his chops to get at that Houston pass defense. Don’t let me down again, Janikowski!! RAIDERS (31-24, TEXANS)

Fitting Houston’s at Oakland.  Hall-of-Famer George Blanda played in both cities (Oilers & Raiders) as well as in Chicago with the Bears during his remarkable 26 year NFL/AFL career. Blanda passed away this past week at 83. Here’s a tribute to one of the most amazing players ever courtesy of the NFL Network. R.I.P  George Blanda.

INDIANAPOLIS (2-1) -7 @ JACKSONVILLE (1-2) 46 pts
-Only way Jacksonville has a shot against Indy is if RB Maurice Jones-Drew has a big day against that Colts defense, which he’s done in the past. Also, that Jags defense has to find a way to stop Peyton Manning. No way. COLTS (31-28, JAGUARS)

WASHINGTON (1-2) +5.5 @ PHILADELPHIA (2-1) 43 pts
-Welcome home, Donovan McNabb!! Redskins coming off a bad 30-16 loss at St. Louis. That defense is the worst in the league adjusting to that 3-4 scheme. “Big Dog” Michael Vick has thrown for 750 yards, six TD’s, no picks, 170 rushing yards and another score since taking over for Kevin Kolb in week one. McNabb was instrumental in bringing Vick to the Eagles last year. The thanks, McNabb’s going to get bitten hard by him in the City of Brotherly Love. EAGLES (17-12, REDSKINS)

ARIZONA (2-1) +8 @ SAN DIEGO (1-2) 45.5 pts
-Chargers are playing true to form giving games away in the first five weeks of the season. QB Phillip Rivers threw  for 455 yards in the loss at Seattle last week. Bolts special teams needs a wake-up call after giving up two kick-off returns for touchdowns. Cardinals should’ve given a game-ball to Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski last week, for missing three field goals including a 32-yard chippie as time ran out, gift-wrapping a 24-23 win for the Cards  in Arizona. Is that correct?? Derek Anderson’s the starting QB for the Cardinals?? STILL?!?!? CHARGERS (41-10, CHARGERS)

CHICAGO (3-0) +3.5 @ NY GIANTS OF NEW JERSEY (1-2) 43.5 pts (SNF)
-The Bears and QB Jay Cutler looking very strong and improved after Monday’s 20-17 win over Green Bay at Soldier Field. As for the Giants, head coach Tom Coughlin could be on the hot-seat if his team plays the way they’ve been playing. BAD. QB Eli Manning looking like his Dad Archie, trying to create something using his opposite hand to try and throw a touchdown. Instead, a pick by the Titans in the end zone. If the Giants can get any kind of running game……………oh, snap! It’s the Bears defense with Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers. BEARS (17-3, GIANTS)

NEW ENGLAND (2-1) -1 @ MIAMI (2-1) 46.5 pts
-Patriots with a close shave with the winless and hapless Buffalo Bills last week at The Razor, winning 38-30. QB Tom Brady is his old self throwing darts to his tight ends and selection of  WR’s. New England’s defense isn’t what it used to be. The Dolphins played it tough in a home loss to the Jets last week. QB Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall clicking as are running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams although the latter needs to hold on to the rock. Miami’s defense is better. A close division game. DOLPHINS (41-14, PATRIOTS)

BYE WEEK:

DALLAS (1-2)
MINNESOTA (1-2)
KANSAS CITY (3-0)
TAMPA BAY (2-1)
LOS ANGELES (15 years, 4 weeks)

Are the Rams Returning to the City of Angels?

I don’t want to get too excited about the Rams returning to Los Angeles because I really don’t like to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch and find myself with bitter disappointment.

But………Can it be? Are the Moons aligning? In the names of Merlin, Youngblood, Deacon, Crazy Legs and Roman, are the Rams beginning the process of moving back to Los Angeles?

At the moment, all signs seem to be pointing in that very direction.

Published reports from St. Louis and Los Angeles are abuzz with stories regarding the sale of the Rams and two possible sites in the greater Los Angeles area for a state-of-the-art NFL stadium.

In the “Gateway City”, writers from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believe St. Louis losing an NFL franchise for the second time seems inevitable while Bernie Miklasz of stltoday.com and ESPN Radio refuses to suggest such a notion even though he clearly sees the writing on the wall.

Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke wants full control of the franchise and is looking to purchase it from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.  At issue, Kroenke owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. The NFL has rules against cross-ownership of teams in other major U.S. sports leagues. Kroenke seems to be able to clear such hurdles by signing over controlling interests of his other major sports teams to other family members.

Kroenke, also, seems to be working with L.A. sports & entertainment big-wigs to get them back where they belong, LOS ANGELES.

Earlier this week, St. Louis Globe-Democrat columnist Howard Balzer wrote:

It turns out Kroenke is a member of the league’s Los Angeles Stadium Working Group committee. Roll that one around in your mind a few minutes. Everyone I mentioned that to Thursday was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Oh, my God.”

It means Kroenke is privy to every detail, every plan, simply everything that is related to those trying to get a stadium built there.

Then on Thursday, Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer wrote that businessmen Casey Wasserman, who owned the L.A. Avengers of the defunct Arena Football League, and AEG’s Tim Leiweke are considering a plan to build a privately funded stadium behind the Staples Center where the West Hall of the Convention Center currently sits. They tried this about eight years ago, but they backed out when the Coliseum Commission tried to make its own bid that, also, failed.

In a follow-up article from Saturday’s L.A. Times, Farmer added Wasserman and Leiweke want the proposed $1 billion stadium to have a retractable roof for use year round for a number of other events.

The Coliseum Commission isn’t a factor any longer because it’s locked in with USC which has rights of first refusal because the Trojans football team is the Coliseum’s major tenant.

The stadium would complete the L.A. Live entertainment corridor that was envisioned by AEG when the Staples Center was first built. Of course, the stadium proposal would need to be approved by the City of Los Angeles because the convention center is owned by the city.

In the article, Farmer added:

What’s more, the downtown bid would put Wasserman and Leiweke in direct competition with developer Ed Roski, who already has an entitled and shovel-ready piece of land in City of Industry to build a football stadium. There is only room for one such project in the L.A. area, and the Industry group is at least a year ahead of any other because it has clearance to build.

Another problem exists with the NFL. The current collective bargaining agreement ends after next season. The league is trying to avoid a labor dispute and subsequent work-stoppage in 2011.

The sticking point, team owners want the players to help in paying off the huge stadium costs.

The new CBA will take at least a year to negotiate which means no stadium will be built or team will re-locate while the NFL takes care of its CBA. That’ll give Wasserman and Lewieke a year to catch up with Roski.

When the time comes, I think these two competing stadium teams might want to join forces and work together on one site to benefit the greater Los Angeles Area, the NFL, maybe the Rams, and, first and foremost, the long suffering Los Angeles Rams fans.

The Rams called Los Angeles home for 49 years before (gulp) Georgia Frontiere moved them to St. Louis in 1994 claiming Los Angeles wouldn’t support them because there was too much to do in Southern California other than watch football.

I said it then and I’ll say it now. HELLO! 49 YEARS! Needless to say, Georgia pulled a “Major League” getting a sweet money deal in St. Louis while still residing in Bel-Air.

The City of Angels could soon be celebrating the Rams 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles (16 years, and counting, in the making) with St. Louis losing its second NFL franchise. That doesn’t have to happen.

Here’s a thought. When the Rams move back to Los Angeles, how about moving the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars to St. Louis and re-naming them the Stallions. Wasn’t that the idea when the league expanded 16 years ago anyway?

As far as a second team in the new Los Angeles Stadium.  Do you really think Chargers owner Alex Spanos will sit put in San Diego and play in an aging Qualcomm Stadium when he can move his team into a state-of-the-art play-pen back in its original home just up Interstate 5?

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