Thursday, 28 November 2013

NFL Week 13 Thanksgiving Preview

Thanksgiving means so much to so many Americans.  Apart from a public holiday less than a month before Christmas and one long weekend to do your shopping for the next holiday it also means a chance to sit down with the family, hoover down your food and then retire to the Laz-e-boy and watch three NFL games back to back, beer to beer, turkey leg to pumpkin pie.

This year like last there is three Thanksgiving games featuring the two regular hosts of Detroit and Dallas as well as an almighty Thursday night showdown in the AFC North for the NFL Network.

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)
In the first game, the Detroit Lions host their division rival Green Bay Packers in a match for the supremacy of the NFC North where it appears only one team from that division will make the playoffs due to the play of the Carolina Panthers and the West division.
The Lions have so much talent in abundance and yet they have conspired to lose their last two games at Pittsburgh when Stafford had over 300 yards in the first half and yet Calvin Johnson had no receptions in the second half leading to a 10 point loss. Last week they lost at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game again they should have won on paper, yet they are a team who lose from winning positions. Not good for momentum and play off pushes.
The Packers will be starting Matt Flynn who led the team well in the tie versus Minnesota on Sunday, Flynn knows the system and has good targets in Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin.
Expect a lot of throws in this game although Eddie Lacy could make a differemence in the dome where his asthma problems will not surface, having sat out the fourth quarter and overtime at the weekend.

Prediction: Lions by 4

Oakland Raiders (4-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
The Cowboys will like their chances of getting to seven wins before the Eagles travel across the country to Arizona on Sunday in a close encounter.
Oakland came close to defeating Tennessee but oddly two missed field goals by Seb Janokowski meant they lost by four instead of winning by two.  Matt McGloin is decent at times and done a good job but the Titans are just as good at defence as are the Cowboys.  Expect Rashad Jennings to have a good day with the run, although the Raiders do not have the same number of wide out weapons that Tony Romo has to call upon - Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin.

Prediction: Cowboys by 7

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
The Steelers have done extremely well to get close to .500 having opened the season 0-5, this has been due to the offense being left to Big Ben and the defence slowly resurfacing to past glories.
The Super Bowl champions however have had a god awful year not helped by the lose of veteran defenders to retirement, Denis Pitta lose to injury before the season started and then the ineffective play of both Ray Rice and Joe Flacco. 
Something to remember about this match-up is that this is always close and comes down to a late field goal as it did earlier in the season at Pittsburgh when Shaun Suishman connected with a time expiring field goal for a home victory. This again will be close.

Prediciton: Steelers by 3

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

AVB's people problem

The Tottenham Hotspur manager, Andre Villas-Boas, is facing a crisis of some sort at White Hart Lane. After having off-loaded the club's best player in the usual Spurs way and getting the most money you could for that same player, AVB promptly bought seven players of varying position and quality to help with the club's bid for a top four finish and the ultimate goal of returning Champions League football to the other North London club.

However, for want of a better word, this season has started to become a bit unstuck for the Lilywhites following a second consecutive Premier League defeat.  And when we say defeat a 6-0 away lose to Manchester City is still only a defeat as only three points were lost.  Of course pride and confidence will take a bruising for those players involved, and AVB himself looked a little bit more than stunned at the game's conclusion as he zombie-walked down the tunnel looking for some consolatory handshakes from City staff.

Yet not all can be put at the door of AVB, he has at his disposal a squad that in essence has two starting XIs in them and perhaps too many players to keep happy. Of course, his stubborn-ness in maintaining his 4-2-3-1 formation is causing all manner of problems for Roberto Soldado up front; who too often finds himself isolated from play and with little or no chance of making an impression on the game.  His only open play goal, away at Aston Villa in a 2-0 victory came from one of the only occasions when Spurs passed forward and with fluidity.  It came from harassing Villa defenders forcing an error and in two passes giving Soldado a shooting opportunity in the opposition penalty box which he duly converted with aplomb. 

AVB prefers the slow-tempo build up offense of passing teams to death and force openings by moving defenders out of position.  Unfortunately, by being so stubborn in his formation and tactics, opposition have grown accustomed to this practice and drop deep saying to Tottenham try and break us down, knowing that the pass will go sidewards or backwards wasting Soldado's runs into space with no ball forthcoming.

However, whilst a lot has been made of Bale's absence, AVB has been scuppered by the loss of Danny Rose at left-back to injury.  This has forced Jan Vertonghen to play in that position when his best role is at centre back, the role that got him into the Premier League Team of the Year last season. Younes Kaboul's return to centre back after two injuries last season, has not gone well and Michael Dawson looks to have lost a yard of pace. 

An injury to Capoue in the middle of the park has meant that Sandro and Moussa Dembele play more often, whilst Paulinho is not showing the Brazilian flair expected of him.  The elevation of Andros Townsend to the right flank has been good, yet he has evolved into a one trick pony coming onto his favoured left foot too often to attack when he should maybe deliver. Lewis Holtby is all guile without any end product and now Christian Eriksen has an ankle injury.  Nevermind his refusal to even use Jermain Defoe in his system, despite the fact the striker can score goals and has been reduced to taking on European teams instead on Spursday nights.

The constant changing of personnel is doing the team no favours, AVB needs to stick to his best starting XI and give those players the confidence to take the team forward. This Sunday they are at home to Manchester United, a team likewise going through changes and dropping points.  However, both teams are only two points off of fourth place.  All is not lost for the teams, although judging by betting patterns and rumour mills it may be a whole lot more than three points that Villas-Boas may lose come Sunday evening.

Desert Runners

DESERT RUNNERS plays in the ‘Best of Fests’ at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) this week and is eligible for the Audience Award.
Desert Runners is directed, produced and edited by Jennifer Steinman and tells the story of an eclectic group of non-professional athletes who take it upon themselves to take on the Desert Grand Slam of runs resulting in Five Marathons in Six Days across the four harshest deserts in the world - Atacama, Sahara, Gobi and Antarctica.  All whilst running and carrying everything you need to survive (food, first aid, supplies, water) in a rucksack on your back.
The documentary follows the runners, Dave O'Brien a 56 year old Irish businessman, who as he has got older has become an ultra-marathon nut in an attempt to combat ageing.  Ricky, an ex-baseball player from America. Samantha, a law student from Melbourne, Australia who dreams of being the first female to complete the challenge and the youngest person at the same time.  In her words, she has time for structure before her dreams get undone by the stringent nature of societal rules of marriage and security.
Steinman not only offers incredible insight into the psychological nature of these competitors who go to extreme ends of the earth to fulfill their ability but shows how their sheer belief has guided them to the end result.
This close proximity with the competitors showing the harshness and physical toil that they put themselves through is in sharp juxtaposition with the sheer awe and beauty of the natural landscapes the runners have as a backdrop.  Allowing Steinman to also offer a picture postcard of Mother Nature as well as a tough cookie to overcome when running through her.
At times as gruelling as it is inspiring offering an amazing insight into the mind of runners in general coupled with some wonderful landscape cinematography.  Desert Runners is one of the most exhilarating documentaries of recent years.
Desert Runners as well as being up for Best Documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam; was named as one of the Best of the Fest at the 2013 Edinburgh Film Festival and won Audience Awards at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival and 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Monday, 25 November 2013

In praise of...Bill Foulkes

It is always sad when a true footballing legend passes away. Some leave too soon, some live a full and happy life grateful that they have fulfilled their career to the best of their ability in spite of certain obstacles put in front of them and in the process become iconic for that club and can be called a club great by their retirement and in their passing become legend.

William Anthony Foulkes was born on 5th January 1932 and sadly passed away this morning 25th November at the age of 81.  Foulkes was a one club man for the 17 years at Old Trafford and played 688 matches for the Red Devils, the fourth most for the club - behind Bobby Charlton, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.

Foulkes won four league titles (1956, 1957, 1965 and 1967), one FA Cup in 1963 and the European Cup in 1968, ten years after perhaps the biggest obstacle of his career was overcome.

In February 1958 on the way back from a European Cup tie in Belgrade, Manchester United were waylaid in Munich and despite the unsavoury conditions the plane attempted a take off. The plane crashed yet Foulkes survived, whilst several team-mates of the Busby Babes died.

Oddly Foulkes benefited from the death of Mark Jones and the forced retirement of Jackie Blanchflower due to sustained injuries in the crash. They were first choice centre-halves so Foulkes had to step into the fold and be a leader for the newly formed team.  He was in the words of Bobby Charlton "as hard as nails, as tough as teak – I was always glad I didn't have to play against him."

Yet listening to Foulkes' contemporary Jimmy Armfield on BBC 5 Live this evening, Armfield mentioned how following the Munich Air Disaster Foulkes had to be an example to the team and two weeks following the crash Foulkes was playing again in an FA Cup tie at home to Sheffield Wednesday.  United won the match 3-0 and got to the final at Wembley, which they lost.  Armfield also mentioned how Foulkes would say how he had to mask some of the difficulties of dealing with the disaster and how his grit and toughness embedded in him by his work in the mines and his National Service in 1955.

It is telling that Armfield chose to mention this story on the same day that English cricketer Jonathon Trott decided to leave the Ashes tour of Australia due to stress-related issues with immediate effect.  Trott's issues will not be disclosed and he is allowed his privacy. 

My praise for Foulkes is that following the death of team-mates and the fact he faced death down, Foulkes easily could have taken as much time of as he wanted.  Instead Foulkes manned up and decided to be an example to those around him, and hence enhance his reputation not only as a professional but as a human being meaning his legend grew.

Sometimes when you hear of individuals such as Trott or Marcus Trescothick talk of the stress related issues such as depression in a sporting context - where you travel the world and are paid handsomely for being quite good at a sport - in contrast to the careers of Foulkes and Charlton and what they had to overcome, a turn of phrase from another bygone era, 'You never had it so good'.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

NFL Week 12 preview

Week 11 had two big match-ups between undefeated Kansas City at Denver Broncos, with Denver winning to go atop the AFC West standings and had the Chiefs their first defeat of the season.  Denver are now in the driving seat but have two big games in consecutive weeks on the road at New England and then back at Kansas City.

The other game saw two playoff contenders the New England Patriots travel to the Carolina Panthers, the Panthers continued their winning streak to six as they benefited from a flag being picked up in the end zone which denied the Patriots a chance from the one yard line to win the game.  Although, Tom Brady would be under centre or in the shotgun, the Panthers did enough to win the game due to their formidable defence and Steve Smith getting the upper hand of the returning Aqib Talib in terms of pushing and shoving.

In other games, the Detroit Lions lost out on the road to Pittsburgh despite Calvin Johnson having two touchdowns in the first half yet did not have a reception in the second half. They lost by 10 in a game they should have bossed, but perhaps two road games were too much for this optimistic side.

The bottom is falling out of the San Francisco 49ers, they suffered their second loss in two games on the road to New Orleans Saints. Again the Saints benefited from a questionable call, but Ahmad Brooks practically clotheslined Drew Brees in the pocket.  Garrett Hartley kicked the winning field goal. The Niners lost in New Orleans for the second time in 10 months following their Super Bowl defeat in February.  The 49ers are now 6-4, 3.5 games behind the Seahawks with the Arizona Cardinals with the same record.  Could San Fran miss out on the playoffs?

Bye weeks this week for Cincinnati, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Seattle

Week 12 preview
Saints (8-2) at Falcons (2-8)
What a terrible year for the Falcons, so much expectation lost to lack of form and injuries all over the field. The Saints dodged a potential bullet versus the 49ers, and they should have their wicked way with the Falcons poor defence. Something forgotten is how bad Matt Ryan has thrown this year, admittedly he has few weapons, but the ball has not got to them.
Prediction: Saints by 8

Steelers (4-6) at Browns (4-6)
I fancied the Browns to upset the Bengals, and the Steelers upset the Lions in surprising fashion led by Big Ben throwing 400+ yards.  Anticipate Pittsburgh to throw but Joe Haden caught more passes than AJ Green (1 catch, 7 yards) last week, and he will be on Antonio Brown who had a huge day on Sunday.  A tight contest but defence should will out.
Prediction: Browns by 3

Buccaneers (2-8) at Lions (6-4)
The Lions need to get back into the groove and probably will at home against the winning Bucs who have a gem in Bobby Rainey at running back. The Bucs can throw though and Revis Island v Megatron should be an amazing sight.
Prediction: Lions by 4

Vikings (2-8) at Packers (5-5)
This could be an ugly game, reserve quarterbacks duel it out on the frozen tundra of Lambeau.  Eddie Lacy faced a formidable d-line last week, he may have more joy this week.  Scott Tolzien looked decent throwing for 300+ yards but 3 interceptions take the gloss of a game they could have won.
Prediction: Packers by 3

Chargers (4-6) at Chiefs (9-1)
The Chiefs begin a huge two game home stand with two divisional rivals. The Chargers just cannot gain consistency in their play week to week - the loss of Alexander and Floyd have hurt and put too much pressure on Ryan Mathew and Danny Woodhead, whilst Philip Rivers continues to frustrate.
Prediction: Chiefs by 6

Bears (6-4) at Rams (4-6)
Is it a blessing or curse to have a bye week after the best performance of your season as happened to the Rams who blasted the Colts in such high fashion. They return to home field against the travelling Bears who have injuries to still contend with and the five hour game in the mud patch last weekend v Baltimore.  The Rams might be fresher and the early start will work against Chicago, although Josh McCown has done pretty well replacing Jay Cutler
Prediction: Rams by 4

Panthers (7-3) at Dolphins (5-5)
For all the controversy, there was still the continued growth of Cam Newton at quarterback and of Carolina as a team. They forced a fumble and intercepted Brady, whilst Cam was clean throwing for three touchdowns, a surprise considering the running weapons at their disposal including Cam.  The Dolphins kept their season alive and have a shot at the six seed. Only one team out of five or six can get the sixth seed due to the presence of Kansas or Denver at fifth seed.  None of those play off chasing sides have a winning record, they all suck.  The Dolphins will not be able to defend Tannehill enough.
Prediction: Panthers by 12

Jets (5-5) at Ravens (4-6)
The Ravens can count themselves unfortunate losing in Chicago due to the elements considering they got a season high day out of Ray Rice finally, but Joe Flacco still threw a pick six.  The Jets had a God awful day in Buffalo getting blown out with Geno Smith being benched in the fourth quarter following three interceptions. If Baltimore win they are in the playoff hunt again.
Prediction: Ravens by 3

Jaguars (1-9) at Texans (2-8)
Yikes! How can you pick this one seriously and with actual confidence in your selection.  Matt Schaub was brought in after Case Keenum caved into the Raiders defence.  Bad move, give Keenum the ball and let him lead and learn.  Fancy the Texans, but will probably be proven wrong.
Prediction: Texans by 3

Titans (4-6) at Raiders (4-6)
I really really want Tennessee to win this game.
Prediction: Titans by 3

Colts (7-3) at Cardinals (6-4)
If the Arizona Cardinals want to be taken seriously as an NFC wildcard team, this is a game they have to win. Carson Palmer is doing decent along with Andre Ellington behind with L-Fitz and Malcolm Floyd going deep; along with their unheralded defence led by rookie of the year contender Tyrann Mathieu. The Colts will rely again on Andrew Luck, but can that O-line keep him upright.
Prediction: Cardinals by 6

Cowboys (5-5) at Giants (4-6)
The Giants are streaking and will fancy getting to Tony Romo even with Eli Manning still throwing pick sixes, but at least they are in victories recently. The Giants D has awoken from a September slumber and scoring points.  Dallas need to get back on the horse and prove they can win this division, that no-one wants to win.
Prediction: Giants by 4

Broncos (9-1) at Patriots (7-3)
The Broncos are scoring for fun, as is Peyton Manning who is on course for 54 touchdowns in the regular season. The record is 50 held by Tom Brady in the 16-0 season.  Manning has an awful record at Foxboro, one of the few venues he does not have a winning record in.  Belichick will welcome the challenge and do not forget the storyline of Josh McDaniels want to stick it to his former employer.  Brady has a near full quota of offensive weapons in his armoury, but this could be as big a shoot out as Denver had with Dallas earlier in the season, but perhaps the Broncos will come unstuck.
Prediction: Patriots by 4

49ers (6-4) at Redskins (3-7)
Interesting to hear Santana Moss' comments in regards to RG3 saying the quarterback should take some blame in regards to the team's performances this season.  RG3 is not a pocket passer, the two touchdowns he threw came on the run or out of the pocket. If that is the case why not run more, yet he will not put his knee in jeopardy. Expect pressure from the Niners to make RG3 move and not much joy for Alfred Morris.  The Niners need the win more, and will do so accordingly.
Prediction: 49ers by 7

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Monday, 18 November 2013

Big 12 makes noise

The Big 12 is one of the NCAA powerhouses yet it suffers from an identity crisis across two major sporting events.  In one, they are dismissed as an also-ran, a conference that does nothing to the bigger national picture. And in the other sport, it is helped by having a powerhouse team on a national stage.

Currently in College Football, Baylor is the only undefeated side in the Big 12, is ranked No3 in the nation behind Alabama (SEC), Florida State (ACC) and Ohio State (Big10).  Baylor are playing a brand of attacking offensive football which made darlings out of the Oregon Ducks who are missing out on another National Championship tilt due to their loss at Stanford two weeks ago.

Baylor Bears average 61.2 points a game (1st in nation) but also concede only 17.4 (7th in nation); they score points for fun and teams find it hard to match them.  They are led by coach Art Briles and quarterback Bryce Petty who has close to 3000 yards and 24 touchdowns.  Admittedly, these numbers do not match say Johnny Manziel nor Jameis Winston (Flordia State) but they have not been helped by their schedule.

The Big 12 unlike the Big 10, SEC and Pac 12 is not split into divisions, every team plays each other once in the season and they do not have a Big 12 championship game between the top two teams, meaning you have to beat everyone and hope that everyone else messes up.  Baylor back ended their schedule meaning they have three games left starting with at Oklahoma State who are ranked No10 nationally and are 9-1.  A win against them will make Baylor the No 3 side in the nation and the team that steps in should the Crimson Tide or Seminoles lose between now and the end of the season.

This would be rich reward for Briles who has made some noise in the Big 12 without much national recognition apart from getting Robert Griffin III the Heisman two years ago.  They have been consistent, the scheme works and makes stars of their young students.  After the OK State road trip they are at TCU who are currently 4-7 and then a home game to Texas which will end the regular season.

Whereas, Baylor are struggling for recognition, you look at a conference opponent in another sport that makes noise regularly year-in, year-out. Led by the formidable Kansas Jayhawks, the Big 12 in College Basketball is rightly one of the hotbeds of the national conscious of the sport.  Bill Self is chasing his 10th consecutive conference title in Lawrence and after defeating Duke last Tuesday by 11 points and with the expected No.1 player in the country - Andrew Wiggins - the expectation for that banner is high.

However, the other players in the Big 12 also play a big part.  Oklahoma State have Marcus Smart returning when it was thought he would leave for the NBA which will benefit them hugely.  Kansas State are always a solid exponent of conference play as well as the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners. However, the biggest surprise may well come from Iowa State.

The Cyclones are one of those wonderful David stories, as a team that surpasses expectations thanks to the development of a program under a young unheralded coach. In this case Fred Hoiberg, who was highly ridiculed when given the job after the retirement of his father, Ames four years ago.  Fred has overcome the shouts and jeers of nepotism to make a name for himself with the small program by taking them to the tournament last year and defeating Notre Dame in the first round. 

The Cyclones also were one of the teams to give Kansas a real scare last year, with the Jayhawks only coming through in overtime on the road.  This past weekend they recorded a 77-70 win over #7 ranked Michigan who reached the Final Four last year, this is probably the biggest win of Hoiberg's reign and will make people notice of their intention to be a Top 25 side in the nation.

A young coach doing great things with an unfancied unattractive side reminds you of Butler and Brad Stevens - yet Iowa State are helped by being part of one of the big noises in College Basketball.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

NFL Week 11 Preview

My apologies to any readers who were expecting my Week 10 preview, unfortunately, I took the week off much like my New England Patriots who enjoyed a bye week themselves. However, I am back and firing on all cylinders for the last 7 weeks of the regular season with many storylines to see out.

What do we know? The AFC is awful, with only three real contenders for the AFC Championship with two playing in one division and with the Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) playing their first test of the season on the road at Denver Broncos (8-1) before playing them again in two weeks, that division will get shaken up and answers provided. If the Chiefs win on Sunday, the division is theirs and if they split the series it could still be. The Chiefs come off a bye themselves, whilst Manning had more hits to add to the bruises he already has attained.

The NFC is all together a more entertaining conference with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints fighting for the Number 1 seed following San Francisco's home loss to the playoff bound Carolina Panthers.  There will be one bad team from the NFC in the playoffs thanks to the NFC East with the Cowboys reluctant to take the lead with the Eagles having an easy run-in and a bye week.

Bye weeks this week are for Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams, why some weeks do we have six teams on a bye and this week only two. Seems bizarre in the scheduling matters to be fair, but hey we have more games this week to predict wrong.

Week 11 Preview
Colts (6-3) at Titans (4-5)
The Colts got pulverised at home to the St. Louis Rams 3-38 and now go on the road to the Titans for an in-division match-up versus the Titans who have lost Jake Locker for the season.  The Colts seem reliant on Andrew Luck at moment, and not getting much help from Trent Richardson. The Titans defence is as good as the Rams defence, so I fancy an upset here on the short week as Ryan Fitzpatrick showed some cohesiveness.
Prediction: Titans by 3

Jets (5-4) at Bills (3-7)
The Jets are rolling thanks to the defence making plays and stops, this allows Geno Smith to not have to make big plays and therefore eliminating mistakes from him; this along with a ground attack of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell is paying dividends. Feel for the Bills as they have talent but they needed EJ Manuel to lead this team, so a shame his injury has cost the Bills a possible breakthrough season.
Prediction: Jets by 6

Ravens (4-5) at Bears (5-4)
The Bears made a mistake of playing an immobile and injured Jay Cutler, Josh McCown played with some ability and when you have Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall as offensive weapons the pressure is not on McCown and more on head coach Mark Trestmann.  The Ravens beat the confusing Bengals last week and are getting more from their defence than Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Both teams could still make the playoffs but they need to win their division to do so.
Prediction: Bears by 3

Browns (4-5) at Bengals (6-4)
The Bengals have lost two in a row at Miami and v Baltimore, they should be 8-2 and with the #1 or #2 seed somewhat secure; instead their play has scuppered due to the play of Andy Dalton, also the lose of Geno Atkins and others on defence is forcing them to not make turnovers on teams they should be dominating. The Browns come off a bye with Jason Campbell having no turnovers in his two starts previously, their defence is under-rated and have playmakers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron ready to make a statement.
Prediction: Browns by 3

Redskins (3-6) at Eagles (5-5)
The Eagles have not won at home in nine games, methinks this may be the lucky 10th occasion to get above .500 before their bye week. Nick Foles got the win thanks to some lucky plays and bonehead defensive plays.  However, they are scoring at a rate of knots was expected under Chip Kelly. Tellingly, they took the lead over the Packers and chose to protect the ball and employed LeSean McCoy effectively. The Redskins need to bounce back, but they may be the worst team in the NFC East which is due to their inconsistency and terrible injury concerns.
Predicition: Eagles by 7

Lions (6-3) at Steelers (3-6)
You have an explosive passing offence going up against an ageing defence, the Lions are one game ahead in the NFC North and one more victory whilst the Packers have Scott Tolzien at QB is just what they need. The Steelers do have Big Ben, but the Detroit front seven should be able to nullify and wrap him up.
Prediction: Lions by 4

Falcons (2-7) at Buccaneers (1-8)
Who'd have funk these teams would have 3 wins between them by Week 11, the Bucs finally got their first W due to a combination of run and throw.  Revis Island should wrap up Roddy White and /or Julio Jones, and the Falcons are just poor at the moment.
Prediction: Bucs by 3

Cardinals (5-4) at Jaguars (1-8)
The Cardinals are a surprise package and could make the playoffs if things go their way and facing the Jags might be a much needed bonus. If Carson Palmer is upright he makes plays along with Andre Ellington in the backfield. The Jags beat the troubled Titans but still its the Jags, come on.
Prediction: Cardinals by 7

Raiders (3-6) at Texans (2-7)
For all of Case Keenum's impressive play since replacing Matt Schaub, he does not have a victory this may change this Sunday when they face the Raiders at home.  Terrelle Pryor is suffering with a hamstring which is stopping his mobility and therefore focusing on his less than good throwing. The Texans have lost many people due to injury but they still have JJ Watt who may be able to get to Pryor enough to force mistakes.
Prediction: Texans by 4

Chargers (4-5) at Dolphins (4-5)
Two teams who should be above .500 face off to end one of the other's weak playoff hopes. The Dolphins could win but off-the-field issues regarding the Incognito/Martin situation is having a negative effect on a team that had higher expectations. The Chargers are doing okay but need to get back to basics, maybe it is a good time to go to Miami in more ways than one.
Prediction: Chargers by 3

49ers (6-3) at Saints (7-2)
The Saints had forty that's 40 first downs at home to the Cowboys on Sunday with over 600 total offensive yards.  The Saints have a fortress at home, yet the 49ers won there last year but that was when Colin Kaepernick's read option play was still an enigma, however the Saints defence is better and the mixture of running backs as well as wide-out threat means the Saints are close to tying up a home playoff game. The fact that the Carolina Panthers may provide a sterner test than the Niners may say it all to the Saints.
Prediction: Saints by 7

Packers (5-4) at Giants (3-6)
The Giants are on a winning streak despite Eli throwing another pick-six last week to Tracy Porter (who became the first man to return interceptions thrown by both Manning brothers for touchdowns), yet the Packers are without Aaron Rodgers and miss him badly.  The Giants defence has improved, and they finally have a running back in Andre Brown to take the pressure off of Eli when necessary.
Prediction: Giants by 6

Vikings (2-7) at Seahawks (9-1)
The Seahawks are one game away from a much needed bye week before they travel to Candlestick, they may have Percy Harvin back from his injury and they face a Vikings team led by Christian Ponder who must be have cold sweats in facing this formidable defence in Seattle - the loudest place to play. Seattle do struggle against weaker/losing sides but this should be one way traffic.
Prediction: Seahawks by 10

Chiefs (9-0) at Broncos (8-1)
The game of the weekend will help us find out a lot about both sides.  Can Denver force Alex Smith to commit enough turnovers to allow Manning to score his touchdowns? Can Denver protect Manning enough to avoid getting hit by the blindside? Can Jamaal Charles run all day on this defence which gives up points for fun? A lot of questions will be answered but it all comes down to Manning and his health.
Prediction: Chiefs by 3

Patriots (7-2) at Panthers (6-3)
This should be a great Monday night game between two good sides. Brady is coming off a bye and Belichick rarely loses coming off a bye.  The Panthers had their breakthrough win against a winning side last week in San Francisco which was more about their defence than Cam Newton's play.  The defence will be tested by Brady and with Gronkowski having two weeks of rest and reps expect a statement from this ragged Brady bunch.
Prediction: Patriots by 3

Follow me @JamieGarwood on twitter

Monday, 11 November 2013

Meet Daniel Johnson...Part 2

“I wanted nothing more than to be a foreign filmmaker, but of course I was from Brooklyn, which was not a foreign country. Through a happy accident I wound up being a foreign filmmaker because I couldn’t raise money any other way.”
- Woody Allen

Following on from my earlier interview with up and coming film-maker Daniel Johnson, now is the time to talk to Daniel about well, now.  What is he working on currently on a part-time basis and long-term what is on the horizon for him in the coming months, I also ask him about his feelings about social media and the current YouTube phenomenon for young film-makers.

Daniel, thanks for talking to me again. What are you currently working on?

My web-series, 'Sally The Life Coach', and working on a screenplay for another production company.. and considering starting a new script of my own. I'm also creating quite a few showreels for actors.
Do you do other work apart from your own screenplays and directing?  Many people must imagine that you sit around writing all day and editing.
Most of my work at the moment is creating showreel content for actors, and also some directing work I do in Rugby for Harlequins TV. Being a freelancer, lots of other things pop up -- could be writing a script for someone, or doing some editing -- last week I even did some sound recording for a job -- so it all varies! 

Where do you sit on the YouTube generation?

I think there is a new, younger generation coming through, who totally know how to find an audience on YouTube. I was there at the birth of YouTube, but it's not my generation. You get these kids now, aged 15 or 16, and they have millions of viewers -- but what they create is really niche stuff, specifically targeted at their generation. Like if you look at someone like Jenna Marbles, she makes a living through YouTube videos.  They have great talent and a connection with their audiences that I find us older directors find harder to make. 
Has the growth of social media been a positive for young filmmakers aiming to break into the mainstream? Or do you think young filmmakers can have a voice without having to pine for the mainstream due to the proliferation of the social media?
Social media is a great way to connect with people and to share your work - but I think people also get far too caught up into it. The key to success isn't nagging people on Twitter, the key is to keep creating great work, that's how you get better. So I think social media serves its purpose, but you don't want to focus on it too much. It can be great but it can also be distracting, so you need to think about how you use it.
Do you attempt to make films/stories that will appeal to a wider audience whilst still having your identity on the product?
It's difficult to get right. What draws me to making films is to do what I want to do, what I think will appeal to people. But my audiences are far lower than I would like, so it's tricky. There are TV shows and movies out there that I don't think are particularly good, but people really love them. So how should I deal with that knowledge? If I try to make things to fit a market need, then I'm likely to be losing a bit of myself.  I think essentially you need both. To create things that people want to see, but viewed through your own outlook, your own take on the world. It's not an easy thing to do. 

Can you elaborate a bit more on 'Sally The Life Coach': how did it gestate and what is it like working with an actress who has worked on a nationally loved show?
Working with Natalie [Gumede currently starring on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing] has been a really great experience. I think at first I felt a little bit of pressure, because she was coming off this huge, iconic show, and then here she is in my web-series, and I was thinking, "Oh God, what if my project is really shit? How will it make her look?"  But then I got over that. All you can do is what you do, and you try and create the best project you can. Working with Natalie is a blast, she's SO dedicated, and so hilarious too - it was really a lot of fun.  I've known Natalie for many years so more than anything we were just excited to be doing a project we both really believe in.

Where you apprehensive of working with Ms. Gumede giving her experience on bigger productions?
Working with more experienced actors like Natalie is actually a real pleasure. And we both knew what 'Sally The Life Coach' was, it's a smaller, more personal project that we both believed in. But definitely, when you're working with someone who is a TV star, it does make you pay extra attention -- you want to be professional and you want it to be valuable for the actor. 

What are your expectations of the web-series?
I just hope it gets seen by as many people as possible. My big hope is that people get to discover some great actors through it -- Will Hartley, Steve Mitchell, Elizabeth Guterbock and Tony Craig are all great actors, and they've all had some great successes already, but I'd love to help their work reach a wider audience. And with Natalie, I want people to see it because she's really funny in it. So far people have see the Kirsty character in Coronation Street, and they've seen her incredible dancing on 'Strictly Come Dancing', but I feel this project will really show people how versatile she is.   And for me, I guess this is my way of showing people I am capable of longer form projects, of writing episodically. I really like working on this format and I hope it leads to more for everyone involved. 

If you would like to see more of Daniel Johnson's short films then please seek out his website and follow him on twitter @danieljohnsonuk

Natalie Gumede can be followed on twitter @NatalieGumede

Keep your eyes peeled for more interviews with Daniel Johnson