NFL Nation: countdown live

Live from Ford Field

December, 22, 2012
DETROIT -- I’m here in the press box high above Ford Field.

There are only a handful of Atlanta Falcons out on the field loosening up. Two other buses were waiting for more players and coaches when I left the team hotel.

I’ll be back with inactives (and the status of injured safety William Moore) roughly 90 minutes before kickoff.

And here’s another invitation to join us in the Countdown Live chat we’ll be conducting throughout the game.

Live from the Georgia Dome

November, 29, 2012
ATLANTA -- I made it to the Georgia Dome press box without seeing any flying eggs. I’m not sure if the New Orleans Saints’ team bus had to endure any more eggs on the way to the dome.

In fact, I’m not even sure if the Saints have arrived yet. The only player currently on the field is Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant. And the only other activity on the field is a rehearsal of either the halftime or pregame show.

I’ll be back with the inactives approximately 90 minutes before kickoff.

Also, please join us during the game for the Countdown Live chat. Your entry way into that will be popping up in a separate post on this blog before the game.

Halftime thoughts: Buccaneers-Vikings

October, 25, 2012
I saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers jump out to a 14-0 lead against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

I remember thinking, "This one’s far from over."

Well, the Bucs now have a 20-10 halftime lead on the Minnesota Vikings.

I think there’s a decent chance Tampa Bay’s lead is safe this time.

Why the difference? Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder is not Drew Brees. Not even close.

Aside from one nice touchdown pass to Percy Harvin on a fade route, Ponder has looked terrible. Give the Tampa Bay defense plenty of credit for that, but Ponder never will be confused with Brees. Plus, Tampa Bay’s run defense has done a decent job against Adrian Peterson.

Ronde Barber, who had a tremendous first half, forced a Peterson fumble by stripping the ball loose. Barber also forced another fumble earlier, but stripping the ball from a receiver. With this kind of deficit, the Vikings might not have enough time to try to let Peterson carry them back into the game. They may have to put it all on Ponder’s shoulders and that’s probably good news for the Bucs.

The flip side there is you may see the Bucs go heavily with their running game in the second half. They’ve had good success with it so far. Rookie running back Doug Martin is having what looks like a breakout game and his numbers could end up being huge.

I’ll be back with a wrap-up as soon as the game ends. If you’re not already participating, please join us in the Countdown Live chat in the second half.

Headed for the Georgia Dome

September, 17, 2012
BUFORD, Ga. -- Since the traffic is probably the only thing I don’t like about Atlanta, I’m going to start making my way down toward the Georgia Dome now in hopes of getting there before the worst of rush hour gets started.

A couple of broadcast notes: First, I’m scheduled to do a phone interview with SportsCenter at approximately 4:20 p.m. ET. Then, I’ll follow that up at about 4:45 with an interview with Atlanta’s 680 (AM) The Fan.

Once I get settled into the Georgia Dome, I’ll check in to see what the other NFC South coaches had to say in their Monday media sessions. I’ll also work ahead on some stuff for Tuesday.

Heck, I might even have enough time to check the Facebook pages of all the replacement officials, just to make sure none of them are Atlanta or Denver fans.

As we get toward the evening hours, I’ll focus in on the “Monday Night Football’’ game between the Falcons and Broncos. I’ll get you the inactives about 90 minutes before kickoff and will weigh in if there is any pregame news or notes.

We’ll be doing our Countdown Live chat once the game starts and I’ll have Rapid Reaction right after the game and a full column a little bit later.

Meantime, I’ll leave you with a little suggested reading:
  • In this radio interview, Atlanta coach Mike Smith says he hasn’t noticed a change in quarterback Matt Ryan. A lot of people are talking about the “new’’ Ryan after his superb performance in Week 1. But I think Smith is right. Ryan hasn’t changed. He’s always been a hard worker, a leader and a good quarterback. People are just thinking he’s more than that now and he may be. But it’s not because he’s changed. It’s because the Falcons have surrounded Ryan with so much talent and they’ve brought in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to run a system that suits his quarterback’s skills very nicely.
  • And check out this radio interview in which Denver cornerback Champ Bailey compares Atlanta receiver Julio Jones to a young Terrell Owens. In terms of athletic ability, I think that’s a fair comparison. But I wouldn’t compare the personalities of the two. I’ve yet to see any of the “diva’’ attitude out of Jones that seems so common among Owens and many other big-name wide receivers.

Looking ahead to MNF: Broncos at Falcons

September, 17, 2012
BUFORD, Ga. -- It’s time to start looking ahead to the "Monday Night Football" game between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos.

Let’s take a look at some of the preview stuff from the pages of our site:

Here’s my advance column on the game. It’s about how Matt Ryan and the Falcons have played a lot of prime-time games in recent years, but the major storyline always has featured the opponent. The Falcons have a chance to start changing that against Denver.

Take a look at this Insider piece Insider that examines how Denver’s Peyton Manning and Ryan have fared historically when getting pressured by the pass rush. I don’t think you’ll be surprised by what the numbers have to say.

In this Insider piece Insider, Ron Jaworski writes that Atlanta’s offense is becoming elite. That’s based on the season-opening performance against Kansas City, but I agree with Jaworski. I think Ryan will blossom because he’s surrounded by so much talent at the skill positions. The only thing that could throw the Atlanta offense off track is if the offensive line has problems.

Here’s our Monday Night HQ page, which features just about everything you could want to know about the game.

Also, we’ll be doing Countdown Live throughout the game. Just check this blog this evening and you’ll be able to get in. Please stop by and chat with us as we watch the Falcons and Broncos.
Earlier, we gave you the rundown on what picks each NFC South team currently holds heading into the last day of the draft.

Let’s also take a quick look at what players are still available. Mel Kiper Jr. has this Insider list Insider of the best players remaining and it has some names that many expected to be off the board long ago.

Mississippi tackle Bobby Massie and Miami running back Lamar Miller are easily the two biggest surprises on the list and people are starting to wonder if they have medical or other issues. I’m also shocked Oklahoma linebacker/defensive back Ronnell Lewis and Florida State offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders still are available.

Saturday’s portion of the draft starts at noon ET and it’s going to move very rapidly. If you’re able to, join us in Countdown Live, the interactive chat in which you can talk with the eight divisional bloggers, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson, Football Scientist KC Joyner and others.

I’m not even going to try to give you instant analysis on every one of Saturday’s NFC South picks on the blog. That’s what our Insider Draft Tracker is for. I’ll weigh in on picks of note and maybe provide a quick summary of each round or every couple of rounds.

But my main assignment Saturday is to write a division-wide draft wrap-up and I’ll be working on that through much of the day. That should post on this blog soon after the draft ends.
We’ve got a potential classic going on between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

Once again, we’re seeing why you never can count the Saints out. They turned the ball over three times in the first quarter and fell behind 17-0. San Francisco was firmly in control and it was looking like the game could be over before halftime.

But no game is over when Drew Brees is involved. He rallied the Saints to two touchdowns and San Francisco leads 17-14 at the half. The Saints intercepted Brees again at the end of the second half or else the Saints might have had a chance to go into halftime with a lead.

Whatever momentum San Francisco had — and there was quite a bit — is gone. New Orleans’ defense isn’t playing too badly. Brees and the offense have put the Saints back into this game.

This one could end up going either way. Enjoy the second half and feel free to join us in the Countdown Live chat. I’ll be back after the game.

Countdown Live: Broncos-Patriots

January, 14, 2012
Join our NFL experts as they break down the rematch between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: Steelers-Broncos

January, 8, 2012
Join our NFL experts for our final postseason contest of the weekend between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos.

Contribute your thoughts and questions at 4:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Live from MetLife Stadium

January, 8, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It’s a relatively gorgeous day here at MetLife Stadium for the playoff game between the Falcons and Giants.

It’s sunny and the temperature has to be in the 40s already. There’s a bit of wind. But, when you consider this is January and I was bracing myself for the worst, this feels like Miami. If the Falcons lose this one, the weather can't be an excuse.

I’m set up in the press box. The Falcons' buses arrived as I was going through the security line and a couple of players already are out jogging. Some of the Giants also are on the field.

I’ll be back with the inactives about 90 minutes before kickoff and will weigh in with any other pregame notes. We’ll also be doing the Countdown Live chat throughout the game.

New Orleans fans, I’ll try to do a post before the game in which I share some interesting numbers on the Saints’ victory last night.
NEWARK, N.J. -- I’m not quite in New York, but I can see it across the river.

Anyway, lots to deal with before we get ready for Sunday’s playoff game between the Falcons and Giants. Most importantly, we’ll have Saturday night’s game between the Saints and Lions.

I’ll be taking part in the Countdown Live chat throughout the game. I’ll be joining colleagues Kevin Seifert and Jeff Chadiha, who will be at the game, along with Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson and ESPN Stats & Information. I’ll also provide a wrap-up soon after the game ends.

Also, a couple of other NFC South notes to catch up on. The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 15 finalists from the modern era for the Class of 2012 and we have four guys with NFC South ties. The main one is former New Orleans offensive tackle Willie Roaf. The others are Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene and Tim Brown, who each had brief stops in the NFC South. The final voting will be held the day before the Super Bowl in February.

Also, the Falcons have granted permission for offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to interview with the Miami Dolphins for their opening for a head coach. The Falcons previously gave Jacksonville permission to interview Mularkey. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have a vacancy and it wouldn’t be a shock if Mularkey becomes a candidate for that job.

Countdown Live: Lions-Saints

January, 7, 2012
Join our NFL experts for the playoff showdown between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: Bengals-Texans

January, 7, 2012
Join our NFL experts for the first playoff game of the season, between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: Redskins-Giants

December, 18, 2011
Join our NFL experts as they analyze the divisional throw down between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: Broncos-Chargers

November, 27, 2011
Join our NFL experts as they break down the AFC West match up between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET. See you there.