Sunday was a somber day in Queens. Not only for the failure of the New York Mets to beat the Marlins on the last day of the season for the second straight year in order to reach the playoffs, but also because the loss meant the last Mets game in Shea Stadium had been played. The frustration over the Mets collapse was shared by the fans, the Mets management and the players. It was not as historic as losing the 7.5 game lead of last year, but it stings the same. As disappointing as not reaching the post-season is, it should not take away from what Shea means to the fans of the Mets. It is no Cathedral of baseball like its cross-town counterpart, rather it is more like the worn down Knights of Columbus meeting hall of baseball but it has seen its share of memorable moments and is home to a host of faithful, if not dejected fans.
To look at the Mets compared to last year the result was the same but the team was different. The Mets of this year did show up offensively, even if not on Sunday, and it was the bullpen that let the team down. Johan Santana was masterful all season and even better on Saturday as he pitched a complete game shut-out on three days rest. Since the move to replace Willie Randolph with Jerry Manuel, both Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were more productive, particularly in the second half of the season. Beltran certainly has not lived up to the over 18 million dollars he gets paid per year, but he played much better this year down the stretch. Carlos Delgado would have had a solid case for MVP had the Mets reached the post-season. Every time the Mets needed a big hit, seemingly Delgado provided it. The left side of the infield was again terrific with the play of David Wright and Jose Reyes. Wright had some struggles in the final week, but there is no arguing with his numbers. But so many times this year the big plays of the Mets big four were thrown away by the bullpen. The relievers were 28-28 with an ERA over 5.00 and blew 29 saves. Pick any two of those games the bullpen threw away and the Mets would be a playoff team. The injury to Wagner was a huge loss, but the front office never made a move mid-season or by the deadline. Once Wagner was down, there was nowhere to turn, and watching Luis Ayala trying to be a closer was downright painful. The lack of motion by Omar Minaya and company coupled with the atrocious bullpen performances sank the Mets well before the final game. After Sunday’s game Delgado said the Mets were a playoff caliber ball club, but with that kind of bullpen, it is easy to argue against him. Even the late injuries to John Mayne and Fernando Tatis are not valid excuses, just ask the Tampa Bay Rays who weathered their storm by making a few late-season moves and having their pitching step-up instead of bail-out.
Stepping away from the gloom of the game, let’s take a last look at Shea. Many pundits, including some windbags at ESPN love to point out that Shea Stadium was named after a lawyer. While this is true, it was William Shea who was responsible for brining National League baseball back to New York after the Giants and Dodgers fled to California. Shea was the head of a movement to form a new baseball league, the Continental League and when MLB became wary they welcomed the Mets into the NL. Shea opened in 1964, when the World’s Fair came to Queens. The first 4 seasons at Shea were similar to their first 2 in the Polo Grounds: lots of losing. Even in losing, the Mets gained a fan base through their lovable team persona. The esteemed Casey Stengel who had won multiple championships with the Yankees was now the heartwarming grandpa over his bumbling young team. “Can anybody here play this game?” he would say. But when Casey had enough, it was Gil Hodges who in 1969 would help the Mets would pull off the stunning worst-to-first move that would propel them to the pennant and eventually the World Series. The Amazin’ Mets were a term coined by Stengel to describe his surprise when the Mets did anything right in those early years. In 1969 they were amazingly terrific and became the Miracle Mets after dropping the Orioles. Shea had some landmark moments in that series including two incredible catches by Tommie Agee to his left and right and an insane diving catch by Ron Swoboda in right field. The final catch of the series was made by Cleon Jones as he dropped to one knee and the fans poured out onto the field (as they did in those days) and the Mets became permanently endeared to their portion of New York. The Yankees had more titles than you could count on two hands at that point, but this one for the Mets was special, it was theirs.
The next magical moments in Shea came from Tug McGraw in 1973. The Mets trailed deep into August when McGraw heard a speech from Mets chairman M. Donald Grant about how they still believed in the Mets players and it was Tug who jumped up and yelled, “Yeah, you gotta believe that’s right you gotta believe!” That night the Mets won and McGraw got the save and from then on it was their rallying cry. It took them all the way to the NL pennant but in the World Series they could not overtake the mighty Oakland A’s, even with Willie Mays playing his final season with the Mets that year.
Shea wasn’t exactly a home of greatness during the next 12 years. The club floundered until the Mets began to cultivate their farm system where they produced two first prize crops: Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. After adding Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter they were ready to take the league by storm. The Mets of the 1986 were a new kind of Met team. They were still rugged and rough, but they were also confident, if not cocky. Their confidence was almost silenced until another magical moment at Shea took place in the World Series of ’86 against the Red Sox. Mookie Wilson’s roller past first (behind the bag!) is one that will always be a part of baseball lore, loved by Mets fans and loathed by Boston fans. The Mets had some great seasons following ‘86 including a NLCS against the Dodgers in 1988 which if not for the pitching of Orel Hershiser or the hitting of Kirk Gibson may have played in another World Series.
After the 1990 season Strawberry left the team and the Bobby Bonilla era began. Once again, the Mets’ faithful suffered some horrid years of baseball. It was not all Bonilla’s fault, but he was the high man on the payroll and took most of the heat. Shea would not see playoff baseball again until the late 90s. Although they would not win a third World Series they had some great moments, like Robin Ventura’s walk-off Grand Slam(err single due to Todd Pratt’s excitement) and the Mets run to the 2000 Subway Series against the Yankees. The first game in Shea Stadium after 9-11 was an emotional game for all of New York and included a late home run by Mike Piazza versus the Braves that will always be remembered by many including yours truly.
Many other moments outside of baseball happened at Shea from the Jets playing football to the Beatles playing their landmark American concert, but of course the Mets were the centerpiece. The Mets have 2 World Series titles, the Yankees have 26. Yankee Stadium is hallowed ground according to baseball purists, and Shea is most often referred to as a dump. The final ceremony for Yankee Stadium was featured for hours on ESPN and attended by the legends of the franchise and their kin, and at Shea the ceremony was missing some of the key players from its history and played out in front of a depressed crowd. Still that’s been part of the Mets and their fans’ identities; they don’t want people to pine after their franchise. It’s pretty easy to be a Yankee fan; it takes discipline and a strong stomach to be faithful to the Mets. When you root for a team and become a true fan, you love your team like a family member. You stick by them when they make a fool out of themselves, in the good times and when you wish they were not related to you, and most of all, when they need you. LeBron can keep his Yankee hat, that’s fine but the Mets’ fans are glad that they stand alone while America has its love affair with the Yanks. Shea did its job in representing the team for what it was: the team that is hard to love, but hard to let go of once you do. Citi Field looks like it will be a marvel of modern baseball, I just hope it keeps the charm of Shea Stadium, we already know it is keeping the home run apple and hopefully, the mini-helmet ice cream.
Here are a couple Shea articles:
Fans share their Shea memories. [Deadspin]
One last visit to Shea. [ESPN Page 2]
Tuesday, September 30
The first fourth of the season is finished for most teams and finding a foothold has been folly for some, fun for others. The number of undefeated teams has dwindled to 3, and they are Buffalo, Tennessee and the New York Giants. As opposed to last year, it looks as though parity will rule in the league, although this year there are plenty of good teams that will battle it out for the last playoff spots 1 through 6. This may well be a battle of attrition where the teams that weather the storm are left standing at the end. Continue on for a look at what was seen this week in the NFL.
A man must admit when he was wrong (NYJ 56, ARI 35)
In my picks for week 4, I proclaimed that Favre was looking old and that the Cardinals secondary would be able to make some plays. This should provide sufficient evidence as to why I do not gamble on sports. Favre had a career day and the Kurt Warner from the evil dimension appeared and turned the ball over 5 times.
Steve Smith has a very special present for Ken Lucas (CAR 24, ATL 9)
No, it wasn’t a right cross it was a football after Smith scored his first TD of the year. I don’t know how Lucas felt about the gift, but I think he may just want to forget about the incident and move on, but the most important thing is that the Panthers played well. Muhsin Muhammed and Smith combined for over 230 yards in the win and the team did not turn the ball over. The bad news for the Panthers was that both of their tackles, Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah were taken off the field. The Falcons are still at 2-2 though and Matt Ryan has delivered so far, mostly because he has had no great expectations to live up to.
Titans are playing Jeff Fisher football (TEN 30, MIN 17)
There is no denying that the coach, offense, and team overall feel more comfortable with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Vince Young will be best served at studying the games and getting himself rehabilitated and ready to step-in should anything happen to Collins. Fisher has the defense in Nashville back to dominating, and Collins is spreading the ball around along with the thunder and lightning (obligatory) of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. Fisher rarely gets the recognition he deserves but year after year he makes it work with the Titans. This year he has the talent to take the team into the playoffs and get a home game this year and possibly a first-round bye.
The Bills are 4-0, do not adjust your corneas (BUF 31, STL 14)
Against our trusty NFL barometer the Bills struggled until late when they returned an INT and made some late scores. Scott Linehan got the axe at 2 a.m. and Jim Haslett will take over the duties in Saint Louis after a week in which there was mutiny afoot in the locker room from Marc Bulger and others. Buffalo has now become one of the top teams in the AFC, but the heads better stay on straight because although they are good, they are not dominating and must play focused in each week to keep up the momentum.
The honeymoon is over (TB 30, GB 21)
Rodgers got picked three times and hurt his shoulder late in the game. Tampa has yet to be spectacular but the NFC South will not be a beauty contest by any stretch. Griese has established himself as the starter after some less than stellar starts. If Rodgers misses Green Bay’s game this week against the Falcons, the Favre-lovers will be all over the fact that he didn’t last 4 games in the consecutive starts streak. The good news for the Packers is that they are still tied for the division lead at 2-2.
If you’re surprised by T.O.’s whining, you may also be shocked to learn the country is in a financial crisis (WSH 26, DAL 24)
Jim Zorn has every right to tell the media and fans to shove it after going into Texas Stadium and beating the Cowboys. The Redskins are now 3-1 and Jason Campbell looks every bit the pro quarterback. The Dallas play calling was a bit heavy on the passing, not heavy enough for Owens who was shedding no tears for Romo like he was after the last Cowboys’ loss. It’s one thing if the defense takes Marion Barber and Felix Jones out of the game, but simply not putting the ball in their hands is another. This game exposes where Dallas is vulnerable; when a talented team comes in with a solid game plan combined the Cowboys making bad decisions.
15 seconds of dumb play cost Ravens the game (PIT 23, BAL 20 OT)
In a hard hitting game, the Ravens executed their game plan perfectly until they played bad on defense for one drive, committed a dumb personal foul, and gave up a big play. They then fumbled the ball to Pittsburgh for a TD. That’s the danger when you play that style, if you have a few lapses in focus, the cost is magnified. Can Big Ben really take this kind of punishment all year?
In Rick Bonnell's most recent article, the Bobcats new head coach points to some potential roster problems during Bobcats media day. The base line has been set now. No concerns, gripes, or misgivings will be expressed any nicer the rest of way. Brown would like a third PG with a handle, he also wants two SFs that can guard, and five athletic big men. For the PG position the Bobcats would do well to look at Julius Hodge, currently in Nets camp, but likely without a roster spot. The Cats have a surplus of SFs, but this defensive emphasis probably isn't a good sign for Adam Morrison's playing time. More than being athletic Brown would like to see the Bobcats add a veteran front court presence. Bonnell points to camp invitee Andre Brown to possibly fulfill that role.
An interview with Blazers assistant GM and salary cap guru Tom Penn. Intriguing read if you want to impress the ladies with your knowledge of the soft cap.
Pat Riley's no longer coaching, but he's still sticking his fingers in your pots and tasting what your cooking. Does that bother you? Maybe you should spend some more time with your family. Three days into Heat training camp and GM Randy Pfund has resigned. "While I resign my position with the Heat, I feel it is the perfect time to pursue other opportunities within the NBA, and I'm excited about my future." Translation: Riley drove me batsh*t because he wanted to play GM.
Monday, September 29
With the Bobcats first preseason game just over a week away, I have a confession. On draft night, I described DJ Augustin as my nightmare pick. I firmly held that either Brook Lopez or Jerryd Bayless would be better options for this team.
I saw Lopez as a poor man's Tim Duncan, an intelligent big man that can score, rebound and pass, with the added benefit of moving Emeka to his more natural Power Forward position. The flaw in that logic was Emeka needs to be near the hoop to be effective, and he's not comfortable chasing the more athletic PFs around the perimeter (think Bosh, Sheed, and Turkgolu). Drafting Lopez to pair with Mek would've had the same issues that he and Nazr Mohammad had last season.
Jerryd Bayless, a score first point guard is cut from the same cloth as Raymond Felton and would've likely necessitated moving Felton. They have similar skill sets, and playing them at the same time would not be a viable long term plan, because the Cats would be undersized at four of the five positions. Bayless may end up being the best player of the three, but if the team remains committed to Raymond, bringing Bayless in would have added little.
When I heard the Augustin pick, I thought about Coach Larry Brown's affinity for taller, veteran guards. Nothing about the pick seemed to fit, but upon revisiting the pick as we start the season, I now believe DJ was the right pick. The styles of Felton and Augustin are complimentary and should provide Coach Brown with flexibility to exploit specific match-ups on a nightly basis. A veteran and a rookie at the PG position is reminiscent of Brown's tandem in Indiana where he effectively used Mark Jackson and an undersized, young Travis Best. In that pairing, Jackson was the distributor and Best the more talented scorer, so the roles will be reversed, but the 80/20% playing time split between the two will probably be similar for the new pair.
My hope, and I suspect that of the team's, is that with the contrasting styles, Felton and Augustin will push each other to be better, without direct competition. With no other PGs on the roster, the team's success will be dependent on Coach Brown's ability to get both to perform to their fullest.
One number from each game that stuck out above all others.
Browns v. Bengals - 1 - One win for Romeo Crennel and the Browns. First TDs for Braylon Edwards and Chad Ocho Cinco. Eric Wright's one-handed interception. One passing TD for Bengals QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, tying starter Carson Palmer for the year. The Browns first rushing TD. One for the ages? No. One game that summed up Ohio's NFL frustrations this year? Yes.
Vikings v. Titans - 7 - Fumbles in the game. The difference: of the four Minnesota fumbles, they lost three. The Titans only lost one of their three. The Vikings also had seven penalties for 50 yards, while Tennessee penalties accounted for only 18 yards. Three of Minnesota's four 3rd quarter drives were cut short by penalties (the fourth ended early because of a fumble).
Broncos v. Chiefs - 5 - KC scoring drives that started in Denver territory. Also the total number of turnovers in the game, four of which were by the Broncos.
49ers v. Saints - 16 - As in New Orleans WR Lance Moore. Moore had 102 total receiving yards and zero TDs in the first three games of the season. He caught seven passes for 101 yards and two 2nd quarter TDs against the Niners.
Cardinals v. Jets - 6 - 2nd quarter scores by the Jets, the turnover margin in favor of NY, and Brett Favre TD passes (a career best). A game that featured more FG attempts than punts, the Jets put up 56 points and only managed to score in two quarters.
Packers v. Buccaneers - 3 - Field Goals and XPs for Tampa Bay K Matt Bryant, just days after the passing of his 3-month old son, Matthew Tryson.
Falcons v. Panthers - 100 - Regular season wins for Carolina in franchise history. Jake Delhomme completed his 100th TD pass with the team, and WR Muhsin Muhammad accumulated his 27th 100-yard receiving game with the Panthers, a team best. As for 1-0-0, Steve Smith scored his first TD of the season, and Carolina gave up 0 sacks, and had 0 turnovers.
Texans v. Jaguars - 2 - or as Chris Berman might say deux, deux, deux. One of the most statistically even games of the years, the teams both had only two penalties and punts, had a difference of only two first downs and 11 yards (1 + 1 = 2, right?). The time of possession difference was less than two minutes and Texans Coach Gary Kubiak decision to not go with his #2 QB Sage Rosenfels almost paid off, and had the two-sided coin landed in their favor, it may have. Ultimately, the Jags got the win, running their record, fittingly, to 2-2.
Chargers v. Raiders - 4 - San Diego scored 25 of their 28 points on four of their last five drives, all in the fourth quarter. Conversely, the Raiders were unsuccessful on four of their five fourth quarter drives. LaDainian Tomlinson scored his first 100-yard rushing game of the season in the team's fourth game for the second year in a row (Tomlinson has rushed for 100+ yards in 7 of his 8 week four games). And finally, the Lane Kiffin job watch enters it's fourth week (come on, I had to).
Bills v. Rams - 3 - The Bills used three unanswered fourth quarter scores to take and extend the lead against the Rams. For the third straight week, Buffalo has entered the fourth quarter trailing and emerged victorious.
Redskins v. Cowboys - 8 - "Eight! Freaking Eight!" This will be sum up Cowboy fans calls to sports radio shows over the next few days. Just a week after being mentioned in this very column, for his increased second half effectiveness, Marion Barber III had only eight carries, and only three in the second half. I guess we can't count Wade Phillips or Jason Garrett amongst our loyal readers.
Eagles v. Bears - 1 - The Eagles had advantages in all of the statistical categories: first downs, passing yards, rushing yards, time of posession, and turnover +/-. All of the statistical categories except one, the one that mattered, the scoreboard. Correll Buckhalter was stopped on critical back to back plays at the one-yard line, and the lack of one Pro Bowl running back, may have cost the Eagles.
In a recent interview with Jim Rome, Bart Scott was funny, charismatic, and honest. He was light-hearted through most of the discussion, managing to be self-deprecating while still being able to declare himself "Hood Champ." The only time Bart's demeanor changed was when the conversation shifted to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Scott did not take lightly to a "cheap shot" by Hines Ward (video below), saying that he could've taken a shot on Big Ben earlier, but didn't. You may recall that Scott even threatened to "kill" Hines Ward, a threat that Scott was dismissive of during his interview with Rome. Scott said that during this meeting he would be taking full advantage of all opportunities to hit any and every Steeler. Not only is this game significant in the AFC North standings, but an angry Ravens linebacker bent on revenge adds even more intrigue.
This story may not be typical of what we cover, but the fairness of redshirts is something we've broached before.
What a difference a game makes. Just over a month after Pitt's Mike Cook was denied a 6th year of eligibility, Syracuse's Eric Devendorf has been granted an extra year. Last season, Mike Cook played in 11 games, Devendorf played in 10. Both rulings are correct based on the NCAA's rule, but the luck (if there is such a thing when discussing ACL tears) of Devendorf's occurring five days and one game earlier may represent substantial gains for the Orange. Devendorf averaged seventeen points per game last season for the Cuse, second only to new Sacramento King Donte Green. By getting the extra year of eligibility Devendorf will be listed as a junior this season. The benefits for the Orange faithful may not be apparent until the 2009-10 year, when Coach Jim Boeheim will feature a talented veteran team (thie 08-09 team has 3 seniors, but only one who has seen significant action). If Jonny Flynn does not jump for the NBA, the return of guard Andy Rautins and with the addition of incoming freshman wingman Mookie Jones, the Cuse should be poised to once again become a power player.
Saturday, September 27
Some people around the country may not be aware, but there has been a severe gas shortage in the southeast thanks to Hurricane Gustav and Ike. Prices have skyrocketed and lines at the stations that actually have gas resemble people awaiting the release of a new pair of Jordans. Refineries being shutdown have left the southeastern pipeline largely devoid of fuel, but we here at ASD doing our diligence sent special correspondent Extra Medium to investigate. XM was able to snap this photo with his cell phone, and finally we know what exactly has been causing this shortage: greed.
Virginia 3, Duke 31 - This sums it up. If Tennessee continues to struggle the seven Duke football fans had better enjoy this year. The Vols first call has to be former offensive coordinator and current Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe if/when Phil Fulmer gets shown the door. Courtesy CollegeGameBalls: One outta three for Duke cheerleaders is their best ratio in years.
Pittsburgh 34, Syracuse 24 - When Greg Robinson watches The Express, he'll see more Syracuse victories than he ever did during his tenure as coach. They're so bad, not even The Stache could screw this one up.
Maryland 20, Clemson 17 - We have a new rule at ASD. If I tell Cleet I'm getting engaged, he has to slap me twice to make sure I'm confident. If I say I'm buying Clemson as a potential ACC champion, he has to slap me three times.
Northwestern 22, Iowa 17 - Perhaps the most rational discussion of a loss to Northwestern ever.
Mississippi 31, Florida 30 - Lose on a blocked PAT? Where's all the heaps of praise we see every time UF special teams block a kick?
Following the Miami game, Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley had some choice words for UM Coach Randy Shannon:
"Get a grip, Randy Shannon.
You know what a grip is. That's when you take the hand of the opposing coach and shake it like a man instead of hand-slapping him and running away like you're late for the team charter."
I wonder if the UF lap dog will hold Urban Meyer to the same standard after Meyer's dismissive postgame handshake today. My sources say no.
Navy 24, Wake Forest 17 - Many people don't know, and those that do will proclaim it as if they're Herodotus-esque historians, but the ACC was originally founded as a football conference. With Wake Forest's loss, the ACC has no undefeated teams left this season. The only BCS conference to beat the ACC to this dubious honor was the Pac-10, but unlike their oceanic counterparts no ACC team has a chance at the National Championship. As fas as the other BCS conferences at this moment, the Big XII has six undefeated teams, the Big Ten two, the Big East two, and the SEC four (with one guaranteed to fall tonight).
Arkansas 10, Texas 52 - At least Houston Nutt isn't having success, right Razorbacks? right? Sometimes programs just need to learn their place in the pecking order and accept it. Then they won't have to get in bed with a scum sucking, bottom dweller (I may not be certified to give out mad props, but if I can I'm giving them to the Falcons for having that on their website).
Wisconsin 25, Michigan 27 - Speaking of scum sucking, bottom dwellers, congrats RichRod.
Houston 41, East Carolina 24 - From ESPN to regional coverage to radio. hell of a run for Skip Holtz and the Pirates. 621 total yards of offense for Houston? You could play NCAA 09 on 12 minute quarters and not get that much with the Cougars. The board of trustees forgot to include a don't lose to Houston clause in Holtz's new contract.
Friday, September 26
Well, at the very least I am consistent. Last week's picks were par for the course for my NFL locks so far this year. Decent, but much room for improvement. You would like to think that as the season goes on you could predict the games better, but it really is not the case. Hopefully I can do better at the picks this week.
Last Week: 10-6
ATL at CAR: Panthers- This is a game the game that would have been considered easy for the Panthers up until Antione Winfield's sack on Delhomme before halftime last Sunday, now it is in doubt. The Panthros should bounce back and remind Blue Suede and the Falcons that they should not be tied for the division lead.
ARI at NYJ: Cardinals- I think the Favre love may soon turn into jokes at Brett's expense. He looks his age finally and the way he likes to sling the ball, the Arizona secondary should get some grabs. Anything Rivers and his receivers can do against the Jets I think Warner, Fitz, and Boldin will be able to do.
CLE at CIN: Bengals- In the battle of crappy Ohio teams I have to give the edge to the Bengals because of the way they played last week and the fact that the Browns have entered the possibly Quinn era. Also, the Browns pass rush has been bad, and I think Carson will enjoy the time to throw.
MIN at TEN: Titans- The Titans are rolling and Minnesota has not had a solid week of football yet. Gus Frerotte will face a real pass rush this week, and Kerry Collins should distribute the ball enough to keep from the front four of Minnesota from pinning their ears back like they did against the Panthers.
GB at TB: Packers- The Packers will bounce back here but it won't be easy. This game is on their defense more than Rodgers and the offense. Griese better not throw more than 40 passes in this game, even with Al Harris out.
SF at NO: Saints- This season every team that has beaten Detriot has lost the next game, probably because they didn't have to play that much actual competitive football against the Lions.
HOU at JAC: Jaguars- So much promise for Matt Schaub and the offense of Houston, yet its getting it over the goal-line and not turning it over that turns promises into results. The run game for the Jags could be back on track now.
DEN at KC: Broncos- This would mean that Denver would be 4-0, man alive. But it's hard to see myself picking the Chiefs in any game this season.
BUF at STL: Bills- Another likely surprise 4-0 team. The Bills should do well here, but maybe Trent Green has some magic left in the old arm.
SD at OAK: Chargers- I think the Raiders make this close, but at this point I don't think Kiffin cares if he wins games anymore.
WSH at DAL: Cowboys- Badly want to take the 'Skins, but in the end, too much Romo with no Jason Taylor. T.O. always has a big game following a bad one in Dallas.
PHI at CHI: Eagles- I really like how the Eagles are playing and the funny thing is that it is classic Andy Reid and Jim Johnson. Short passes and blitzes for all.
BAL at PIT: Ravens- Baltimore really wants this one and everyone knows Big Ben is on injury watch with the way his line protected him last week. Another low scoring affair I believe.
The Clue fact of the week occurs at the end of the third ending(there are 3 endings, well there is a 4th one but it is really never shown). Mr. Green who earlier in the film proclaimed himself to be a homosexual shows himself to be an FBI agent undercover. He says "I'm a plant" to which Miss Scarlett says "I thought men like you were usually called a fruit." At the point in my life when I began watching this movie I had no idea what a homosexual was or what it meant to be a fruit. It's funny how sometimes things we see in childhood don't reveal their meaning until later on. Ok, maybe it's not that funny, enjoy the weekend everyone.
Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn's late interception of USC QB Mark Sanchez led to the Beavers lone 2nd-half score, but it was enough to hold off the consensus number one. Laybourn, who appeared to be wearing an ascot (credit: originally identified by ASD confidential source Extra Medium) picked off the pass at the USC 30 and ran the ball down to the two-yard line. Oregon State scored on the next play to make the score 27-14 and following a quick USC TD drive, the Beavers recovered the onside kick and secured victory.
The original title for this post, was going to be, "Man in Ascot Deals Death Blow to USC's National Championship Hopes," but the Trojans are not done. With eight of the current top ten teams calling either the SEC or the Big XII home, there's a real possibility of all of them ending up with at least one loss. USC's schedule had already come under fire (a discussion for another day), but if all of the top teams lose, USC could be right back in the mix.
First things first, if a school from the SEC goes undefeated, they're in the big game. Same goes for any team from the Big XII. If a Big Ten school goes undefeated, they will be in, unless there are undefeated teams from both the SEC and the Big XII, in which case they'll be bridesmaids (sound familiar Penn State fans?). If any of these scenarios play out, USC will be stuck once again in a bowl they feel they're better than.
If the SEC champion has only one loss, they're in, unless the BIG conferences each feature an undefeated team. If the Big XII champion has only one loss, they will be in, if there are no undefeated teams, or the SEC champion is the only undefeated team. If either Big Ten team loses only one game, they will have to hope that every team has two losses, because none of them will get the nod over USC.
USC's best hope for another shot at the championship lies, ironically in games they've never had to play, conference championship games. If a two loss team can knock off either an undefeated team or a one loss team, USC may be able to creep back into the picture. Even if there are other one loss teams, but they do not play for the conference title (think Auburn), USC stands a chance. With USC still likely to win the conference, voters will justify that a conference winner carries more weight than a team that couldn't even win their division.
One interesting scenario that could play out, would be Ohio State running the table, and finishing with only one loss. This would assume that they would beat Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State. Three quality wins versus one for USC. As much as it pains me, there is no way the voters would put Ohio State into the National Championship. The only match-up that would appeal to me as a Buckeye fan would be a rematch with the Trojans. Would a full-time Terelle Pryor and Beanie Wells make a difference? Based on Jacquizz Rodgers performance, a good running back could go a long way (/slight case of denial).
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Trojans are relegated to scoreboard watching and trying to get up for each game hoping for a second chance. As it stands now, potentially the best team in the nation stands on the outside looking in, and if at the end of the year, their ring fingers remain bare, it'll be due to their inability to get excited for a game against a conference opponent on national TV, a 5'6" 180-pound freshman running back, and a man with an ascot.
Thursday, September 25
We enter the third week of our grand fantasy football experiment and again our power teams flex the muscles. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the Big XII is one of them. It is becoming clear that some conferences have the upper hand in their alumni, which is a big part of what we are doing. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from last week’s match-ups.
Big XII 91.5
The SEC representatives had a strong performance in all phases of the game to achieve the high score of the week as a conference . Only two players had Jason Campbell(Auburn) led the way at QB for conference dubbed the best in college football. Ronnie Brown(Auburn) the former teammate of Campbell had the high score for the week in the league with 39 due to his 5 TDs against the Patriots. Rudi Johnson(Auburn) had 18, LeRon McClain() also 18, and Joseph Addai(LSU) 20. Another LSU Tiger, Corey Webster had 13 to lead the defense.
The Big XII continued its struggles as it remains the only BCS conference without a win in our league. They say that teams can’t win in the NFL without good QB play and that may hold true for our league as the Big XII is without a QB with Vince Young on the shelf. Correll Buckhalter(Nebraska) was the leading scorer for the conference when he subbed in for Brian Westbrook. The only other offensive player in double figures was Ricky Williams(Texas) with 11. The Big XII is 0-3 and although it is a offensive power in college football, in our league it is falling short.
Phillip Rivers(NC St) has manned the QB position for the ACC every week now and again he had a big performance with 21 points. Santana Moss(Miami) and fellow Hurricanes Roscoe Parrish, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, and Willis McGahee all scored in double figures. Sebastian Janikowski(FSU) had a big day in Buffalo with 12 points, but the star of the team was the defensive effort of Antonio Cromartie(FSU) with 19 points.
It seems a broken record with the FCS division but it was another great performance against a BCS conference but to no avail. J.T. O’Sullivan() earned the QB spot for the FCS with 18 points and we will ignore the fact that they played the Lions. The FCS also utilized the two tight end formation with Kevin Boss() earning 11 points and Delanie Walker 10. Out of nowhere Miles Austin() had 17 points for the Cowboys Sunday night. Rasheen Mathis() had 17 points for the defense, but the Brian Westbrook(Villanova) injury and some low totals by the other wide receivers sunk the FCS.
Big Ten 169
Pac Ten 182
In a repeat of the epic match-up of the USC-Ohio State, the Pac Ten took bragging rights. The score was much closer this time but the west coast prevailed again. Aaron Rodgers(Cal) got his first defeat as a starter Sunday, but he led the way with 18 points at QB. T.J. Housmenzadeh(Oregon St) tallied 20 points at Wide receiver and Reggie Bush(USC) added 24 to lead the way. Not to be outdone, Marshawn Lynch(Cal) and Maurice Jones-Drew(UCLA) had 23 and 21 respectively.
The Big Ten had a good performance but it was not enough. T.J. Duckett(Mich St) came on the board for the first time with 19 against the hapless Rams. Brian Griese(Michigan) threw enough times to earn 21 points. Marion Barber(Minnesota) had another solid 20 point performance while the defense was lead by Antione Winfield() with 15 thanks to his sack, forced fumble, recovery and TD on Jake Delhomme right before the half.
Big East 111
The Big East battled hard and found a way to win against the MAC who had its problems. The old Syracuse stalwarts Donavan McNabb and Marvin Harrison contributed 10 points. Steve Slaton(West Virginia) was the high man with 17 points and a pair of Pitt receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant earned 16 and 14 points respectively. Anthony Henry(South Florida) beat out his Cowboy teammate Pac-man Jones(West Virginia) by gaining 11 points at defensive back. The Big East may be out-manned but when the big guns perform they can get it done.
The MAC had as rough a week as Ben Roethlisberger(Miami OH). Byron Leftwich(Marshall) actually beat out Big Ben in points with a measly 2. Michael Turner(N. Illinois) was the lone bright spot with 28 points. The only other player in double digits was Greg Jennings(W. Michigan) with 11.
Conf USA 116
The mish-mash conference team produced a win with some solid efforts including the new Gus Frerrote(Toldeo) experiment in Minnesota which produced 11 points. The running back tandem of LT(TCU) and Julius Jones(Notre Dame) scored 20 points each. Joey Porter() for once backed up his mouth and gained 16 points on the defense.
Conference USA had big numbers from Favre(Southern Miss) who had 20, Matt Forte(Tulane) also had 20, and Brandon Marshall() had another big week with 21. Roddy White() had 17 and a back flip, but with Tom Brady out it is hurting Randy Moss(Marshall) who figured to be a big play for the conference.
Here’s a look at the standings:
1. ACC 3-0
2. Pac Ten 3-0
3. SEC 2-1
4. Big Ten 2-1
5. MWACBELTIND 2-1
6. Big East 1-2
7. Conf USA 1-2
8. Big XII 0-3
9. FCS 0-3
10. MAC 0-3
Week 3 Match-ups:
SEC vs. Big Ten
ACC vs. Big XII
Div. I-AA vs. MWACBELTIND
MAC vs. Pac 10
Conference USA vs. Big East
Julius Peppers stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall, 283 pounds. He is 28 years old and was the first round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2002. In college at North Carolina Peppers played not only football, but also was on the Tar Heel’s 2000 Final Four team. His first 5 seasons proved the Panthers had made the right decision in using the second pick to gain his services at defensive end (David Carr was taken first and Joey Harrington was taken behind Peppers). But something changed last year when Peppers had a poor season on paper, physically, and on the field. It has not been said what was the factor for the drop-off, neither from the organization or from Peppers himself. What is the difference? All we have are our theories.
By the Numbers
In Julius Peppers’ first year he played 12 games and recorded 12 sacks. He also had 1 interception. His 28 tackles were the lowest of any year in the league. It was established then that Peppers was capable of delivering on the promise of his physical potential. In 2003 Peppers’ sack total fell to 7 but his tackle total rose to 37 and he was an integral part of the Panthers run to the Super Bowl. In Julius’ next season, he took his game to the next level. He went from being competitive to domination. He had 11 sacks, 52 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 9 pass deflections. He returned one of the interceptions against the Buccaneers 97 yards for a TD. In the 2005 and 2006 seasons Peppers had 23.5 sacks (13 in 2006) and played in each game both seasons. Peppers had now become the formidable face of the Panthers defense which had guided the Panthers to two NFC Championship games during his time there. But something changed last year; Peppers became a shell of his former self. Just 2.5 sacks in 14 games and his lowest tackle total since his rookie season. So far, by the numbers, Julius has 7 tackles and a sack in the first 3 games but the game is not just played on paper, and on the field Peppers looks like the one we saw last year.
The Eyeball Test
Besides the drop-off in numbers, Peppers has simply not looked like the player he was before on the field. He was beating defensive ends off the edge and striking fear into opposing tackles and quarterbacks, now he was just another player who could be blocked. Last year it was clear that his motor was not in gear. At certain times he was even on the bench sucking on the oxygen machine, not inspiring confidence from his teammates. It was not long before teams did not have to adjust their gameplans to blocking Peppers as they had in earlier years. By the end of the year he was being man-handled by tackles that would have been considered outmatched against the previous version of number 90.
This year the debate has raged on about whether Peppers is back to his old self. In the age of TIVO and DVR fans and media alike have easy access to replays of the games and they are watching games over again and honing in on Pepper’s performance. The judgments were split on the first two games but it was clear he was not in the peak form of pre-2007. In last Sunday’s game against Minnesota, Peppers did record a sack, but he also looked sluggish at times, fell to the ground often, and played a game of paddy cake with Adrian Peterson while chasing him down instead of tackling him.
Down With the Sickness?
Many (mainly those who support Peppers) claim that the performance of last year was the result an illness which Peppers had early on in training camp and throughout the season. The team never released any information to verify this not that that is surprising considering that Coach John Fox’s favorite phrase is “It is what it is” and Julius has never been a conversationalist with media. The scene of him on the oxygen tank and the bad motor on the field leads one to think there is something physically wrong with him. The scary thing is that if it is an illness it has gone on all of last year and there seems to be some carry over to this year. What illness would have that kind of lingering effects? Mono? Diabetes? If the Panthers have spent the money on long contracts for Julius Peppers, I would hope they would have deduced if this was a physical malady. Whether they choose to divulge that information is another issue.
Another darker theory is that Peppers’ years of great performance were made possible by a banned substance. It is not likely but it is one in this day and age that has to be acknowledged. In his first season, Peppers was suspended for 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The incident was not a steroid related issue, it was merely a banned substance listed on a common supplement. We all know the tests are not a proof positive result of what the players are taking since the laboratories are staying ahead of the tests, therefore we cannot rightly know all the truth about what everyone is on. The theory is a weak one considering the length of Peppers dominance and the drop-off is so dramatic. This argument is almost obligatory but it is similar to other athletes who have been much more likely to be guilty.
The other option is that it is all psychological. Peppers is a private person and as mentioned before he does not articulate often to the press. When members of the media have been critical, he has shied away from being more vocal. Sometimes the term “the edge” is used to describe the competitive energy with which a player takes the field. If nothing is medically or chemically wrong with Julius, then it is safe to say plainly that he has lost the edge.
In summation, we don’t know what is wrong with Julius Peppers. He certainly won’t tell us and neither will the Panthers. If nothing is “wrong” then we have seen one of the biggest downturns in the NFL in the last ten years. We want Julius to be his old self and we want to see Pep succeed because we want to see greatness. The new season is young so there is ways to go before this season becomes a repeat for Peppers, but so far it looks like more of the same. The new Julius doesn’t look like the old Julius.
Wednesday, September 24
Each week we'll be offering a dose of trivia. Not always in the same format, but hopefully fun for all ages. Click for the full article to see all of the answers, as well as a scoring system. Feel free to post your score, and Cleet will send you wonderful prizes from the much heralded ASD prize chest. This quiz has 14 answers, please keep your eyes on your own paper.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the 1992 NLCS, the Atlanta Braves came to the plate against the Pirates mustachioed and mulleted ace [Stop looking]. The leadoff batter,[No Cheating], doubled down the right field line. The next batter, David Justice, reached on a groundball error to second baseman,[No Cheating]. After the next batter walked to load the bases, Pirates skipper and generally grumpy old man,[No Cheating], made a call to the bullpen. He brought in [No Cheating] who promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to Ron Gant, to make it a one-run game. Catcher [No Cheating] then walked and pinch-hitter Brian Hunter (+2 for knowing he came in for [No Cheating]) popped out for the second out of the inning. The final batter of the series was [No Cheating], hitting for pitcher [No Cheating]. A line drive to short left field to the amicable one,[No Cheating], allowed David Justice and [No Cheating] to score, just ahead of the lunging tag of catcher [No Cheating]. The Braves went on to the lose the World Series in six games to the [No Cheating]and Series MVP,[No Cheating].
Intentional white space
1. Doug Drabek
2. Terry Pendleton
3. Jose Lind
4. Jim Leyland
5. Stan Belinda
6. Damon Berryhill
7. Rafael Belliard
8. Francisco Cabrera
9. Jeff Reardon
10. Barry Bonds
11. Sid Bream
12. Mike LaValliere
13. Toronto Blue Jays
14. Pat Borders
1: Jane Fonda
2-4: Ted Turner
5-7: Braves fan
8-10: Parent of an Atlanta Brave
11-12: Bobby Cox
13-14: Leo Mazzone
15: Depressed Pirate fan that has watched the homemade videotape of this game no less than 500 times while reliving the glory years where your team almost made the World Series, instead of wallowing in the self-misery that is irrelevance in the NL East
Tuesday, September 23
One number from each game that stuck out above all others.
Chiefs v. Falcons – 4 – Kansas City becomes just the fourth team since the AFL-NFL merger to start three different quarterbacks in their first three games (excluding strike years). The other three teams (76 Rams, 88 Browns, and 97 Jaguars) all finished with at least ten wins and made the playoffs. The Chiefs may not have been able to stop Michael Turner, but they will able to stop this trend.
Raiders v. Bills – 4 – Times Oakland started in Buffalo territory, but converting for only 16 points. Of those drives, the only TD came following a DeAngelo Hall interception on the Bills 13-yard line. While protecting the lead the entire second half (until Rian Lindell’s game-winning FG), the Raiders went three and out on 4 of their five drives. Of those drives, only one took more than 1:49 off the game clock (3:25).
Buccaneers v. Bears – 67 – Brian Griese passing attempts, the most since 2001 and only three shy of the all-time record of 70 set by Drew Bledsoe in 1994. Griese’s passing accounted for 407 of the Buccaneers 454 total yards of offense.
Texans v. Titans – 6 – Times Houston was inside the Tennessee fourteen-yard line, but settled for field goals each time. Texan WR Andre Johnson struggled mightily as he was targeted five times in the endzone, but failed to complete any and dropped two. He also dropped another deep ball that could have been an easy score.
Panthers v. Vikings – 38 – Total yards of Panthers offense in the second half. In the half, Carolina had only seven plays that gained more than five yards, but nine that lost at least five (Six penalties as well as three sacks). Welcome back, Steve.
Dolphins v. Patriots – 5 – Ronnie Brown TD’s. Cliché, but definitely of note. ESPN says it best, “ Miami's Ronnie Brown rushed for four TDs and threw another one, joining Paddy Driscoll from the Chicago Cardinals, who performed the same feat on Oct. 7, 1923 against the Rochester Jeffersons.” It feels like cheating, so here’s another: Only twice since Bill Belichick took the helm have the Patriots given up more than 38 points, both in the 2005 season. They gave up 41 to the Chargers and 40 to the Colts. The Pats had also previously only given up 38 points twice during that stretch: in the AFC Championship to Indianapolis during the Colts’ Super Bowl run and in 2002 to Kansas City, a game the Pats won, 41-38.
Bengals v. Giants – 3 – Yards short of the first win for the Bengals. They drove 71 yards in final 1:50 of the 4th quarter, but fell just nine feet short, and settled for a 21-yard Shayne Graham field goal as time expired. Three was also the number of catches, for Ocho Cinco, raising his total to eight on the year (88 total yards).
Cardinals v. Redskins – 2 – Arizona turnovers. Entering the game, they were the only team in the league without a turnover, but a fumble in the first quarter and a costly 4th quarter interception combined to be the undoing of the Cardinals.
Saints v. Broncos – 25 – Reggie Bush’s number. After last season, where the Saints attempted to primarily use Bush as a RB, they went back to the drawing board, and he’s being used as a versatile weapon instead of just a running back. Mr. Bush has rung up four touchdowns, and with his rushing TD against Denver, he’s the only player in the league to score by rushing, receiving, and returning kicks.
Steelers v. Eagles – 200 – The difference in yards given up by the Eagles defense from last week (380) to this week (180). After a horrendous performance against the Cowboys, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson had his squad confounding the offense once again. The defense racked up nine sacks, against zero last week. With the Brady injury and this performance, there seems little doubt that the top teams all reside in the NFC, and predominantly in the NFC East.
Jaguars v. Colts – 3.45 (repeating) – Jacksonville RBs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew accounted for 228 yards on the ground. Their previous high this season was a whopping 66 yards. Either Jacksonville has done wonders replacing the linemen they lost in week one, or it is time to start thinking about taking this Colts team out to pasture.
Browns v. Ravens – 32 – total number of yards receiving for Cleveland QB Derek Anderson’s top target. Braylon Edwards was second with 27 yards on 3 recs, but Anderson’s top target did it in only one catch, and was one of two TD passes thrown by him. The receiver: Raven’s S Ed Reed.
Cowboys v. Packers – 2 – As in 2nd half. Marrion Barber III ran the ball 28 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. In the first half, two-thirds of Barber’s attempts netted four yards or less. In the second half, however, half of his attempts netted more than five yards per carry, a number that is slightly skewed by a goal line stand and the final draining of the clock. It took him two attempts to get in the endzone from the 2, and he had two carries in the Cowboys final drive, that were more formality than attempt. If you take away those carries, two/thirds of his second half attempts went for more than four yards, a complete flip from the first half.
Jets v. Chargers – 13 – Rushing attempts for the Jets. People are already slamming the Favre pick up and saying the experiment has failed, but the problem for this team has been the inability to run the ball. The Jets re-tooled their O-Line by acquiring RT Damien Woody and LG Alan Faneca and yet the rushing game has grown less effective week by week.
Another week in the NFL that makes us realize how much we love the game, how much we hate when our team sucks, and how much much we think we know after less than a quarter of the season. There is a line drawn in the proverbial sand when a team faces the prospect of going 0-2 or 2-0, but the line becomes even more visible after week 3. Getting that first win keeps realistic playoff hope alive, but facing 0-3 means you must do what only 3 teams have done in the salary cap era in making the playoffs. The 3-0 teams can begin their delusions about cake-walking into Tampa, and for teams that have not been 3-0 in awhile, fans can get excited about the possibilities. The separation of the 1-2 and 2-1 teams seem to be clowns to the left of them(Al Davis), jokers to the right(Joey Porter) and here they are stuck in the middle with 2(losses or wins). Let's take a look at the separation from this week that is causing the anxiety.
Zorn to be Wild (WSH 24, ARI 17)
The outlook has changed in the DC area after the Redskins produced another quality win n Sunday. Yes, Arizona is a quality win now. The Redskins head to Dallas this week so it should be interesting to see how they fair against the best in their division. The Cardinals should in no way panic yet. Any loss where they are in it at the end is a good loss for continuing to change the culture in Arizona, but they can't let it become a habit. From what we have seen from the rest of the NFC West, they still should come out on top of this division.
Blue Suede Shoes (ATL 38, KC 14)
Atlanta may have gotten a reality check last week but the reality is that they can beat bad teams, and beat them soundly. That makes the Falcons a mediocre team, which nobody thought they would be this year. Even with the stands almost empty, they are playing hard, and Ryan is showing he has the stuff to get it done in the league. It is very possible the Falcons could sneak by the befuddled Panthers and take the lead in the division. Herm Edwards was not exactly handed a full deck this year, but if the Chiefs don't start competing he may be playing to keep his job at the end of the year.
Take to the air (TB 27, CHI 24 OT)
Brian Griese threw the ball a lot, and usually when your team throws over 60 times a game and only scores 27 points, you lose. But Kyle Orton had another so-so performance, including an interception returned by DL Gaines Adams (Sick on the stick!) to keep Tampa in the game. In the overtime Charles Tillman retaliated for some after the whistle bumping by Tampa and got caught by the refs giving the Bucs and automatic first down from which they would turn into the game-winning field goal.
The Bucs have been less than impressive but are still in the suddenly highly competitive NFC South. Chicago still has a solid team but unless they hold at home against the Eagles this week they will be staring at 1-3.
Everyone on the Gus Bus (MIN 20, CAR 10)
The Panthers had complete control until right before halftime Jake Delhomme got hit from his non-blind side and fumbled away a TD. Once the Panthers got behind and were forced to pass, the front four for the Vikings pinned their ears back and caused havoc in the Carolina backfield. Steve Smith did not get the ball enough and Frerrote made the throws in the second half that Tavaris Jackson has not proved he can make. Minnesota had great ball control in the second half and the Panthers looked unprepared and unconfident after looking the opposite their first two games.
Manning among men (NYG 26, CIN 23 OT)
There is no doubt Eli Manning has become a more confident quarterback and has established himself as one of the better ones in the league since the beginning playoff run of last year. However, I think a lot of credit has to go to the Giants offensive line. Late in the game yesterday on all the big throws it was the time Eli had in the pocket that allowed him to hit those big passes to Burress and Toomer. The Giants are doing well, but I am not totally convinced of their greatness until they go through their games in the NFC East. The Bengals get the good effort award for the past week, which means you didn't win. The Bengals must put themselves back together or simply do another mail-it-in season, I'm voting on the latter.
Dolphins gone wild (MIA 38, NE 13)
It's been a long time they say since New England got pummeled like this. Hey, I was in college when the Pats used to get pummeled like this, they're not that old are they? The Dolphins were emotionally invested in this game and they wanted it bad. Not to vindicate Joey Porter, who did prove right on his prediction this week but has fallen flat on many more others, rather to show that their days as a doormat were over. I don't think they are a good team yet, but Tony Sporano had them playing inspired and they were able to use their execution on wild hog formation to perfection. Cassel looked very bad, no other way to say it, and New England has work to do, but I do not think it is doomsday for the Patriots as all the media has been hyping. There is no guarantee for the Patriots going forward, that is the most telling thing from this game.
Barometer measurement on the Seahawks: Still some life in them yet, thanks St. Louis (SEA 37, STL 13)
Mile High scoring (DEN 34, NO 32)
Oh, how I missed the painful expression of Martin Grammatica. Denver showed it has the goods to score with anyone, but the defense needs some work when they get a lead. The Broncos have the opportunity to stay ahead of San Diego for at least a couple weeks. New Orleans finds itself looking up at Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. The Saints found the key to using Reggie Bush, but he doeswn't play defense.
Burning the Oil Field (JAC 23, IND 21)
The Colts are 0-2 at Lucas Oil field and are lucky to not be 0-3. Obviously with Bob Sanders out (again) they are worse off on defense, but the offense has not looked at all like the high-powered, well-oiled (pun intended) machine it was in years past. It appears this system is not one where you can just plug in anyone and still be effective. Harrison looking old, Clark with a tweaked knee, and Anthony Gonzalez inserted new into the offense and they still have the big play ability, but cannot move the chains like they did in past seasons. The Jags would rather not be 1-2, but to get the win in Indy after so many failed opportunities it must feel good.
The Brady Quinn rumors continue to grow (BAL 28, CLE 10)
It seemed like old times for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Their QB throwing 2 INTs, but it not mattering. The Ravens defense may be old at certain spots, but they are just fine at others and flying all over the field. Ed Reid is back patrolling the backfield again and the front four is getting pressure, the question is can they keep it up? Cleveland is in a freefall and Romeo is discussing getting Brady reps. The Browns need more than a change at QB, they need a change of attitude and I don't think Quinn can do that for the defense which has zero pass rush ability.
The Quakers wouldn't have liked this one (PHI 15, PIT 6)
An extremely hard-hitting affair in Philidelphia Sunday afternoon that left Westbrook limping, McNabb wincing, and Big Ben hugging the ground. The Philly D sacked Roethlisberger 9 times. McNabb came out at one point but did return, and Buckhalter picked up the slack for the missing Westbrook. It didn't take long for the Eagles to get one or both McNabb and Westbrook injured, it just seems inevitable each year. The O-line for the Steelers wilted in the face of Jim Johnson, who wanted some vindication after allowing Dallas to put 41 on them the week before. The Steelers will be hobbling around the last 5 weeks of the season unless they get some protection pronto.
Not so fast my young friend (DAL 27, GB 16)
Aaron Rodgers is not where Tony Romo is or where he should be. Romo made mistakes as Rodgers did but he also made key plays when the Cowboys needed it. The Cowboys offense just looks like it has too many answers for opposing defenses. If these two meet again down the road, the Packers should be more seasoned by then.
We own the night (SD 48, NYJ 29)
It should not be suprising that a hungry, desperate, and talented team like the Chargers put the hurt on the Jets. I was at a bar with Catfish watching the game so I was lucky enough not to hear the commentary, but I doubt even Tony could deny how old Favre looked. The plays that he sometimes makes (against Seattle last year underhanded) are fun to watch but contrastly the vain attempts (limp ball roll last night while going down) to salvage a play make him look every bit the legend who held on too long. I still think the Jets are at least a 9-7 team, but performances like this lead one to think that's all they are and nothing more. Number 4 doesn't look able to weather 12 straight weeks of games after their bye week in week 5. The Chargers were expected to come out with intensity, but they really lit it up and got everyone involved. The question is will we see this kind of urgency in weeks when their playoff life may not blatantly hang in the balance?
Monday, September 22
Friday, September 19
Another 10 pick performance last week, if only the Vikings could have landed in the endzone, but hey I picked the Broncos and they got some help so I should not complain. This is the week where teams can either take a giant leap forward, fall way behind, or hold steady in the pack. Continue for my picks.
Last week: 10-5
ARI at WSH: Redskins- I honestly have no idea who is going to win this game. Arizona has looked good against two bad teams, but when do you feel comfortable trusting the Cardinals.
KC at ATL: Falcons- Picking the Falcons three weeks in a row makes me look retarded. Added to this is that I want Tyler Thigpen to represent Coastal Carolina well but I think Atlanta is the better bad team, make sense?
OAK at BUF: Bills-There is something special brewing in Orchard Park and I guess that means you can call Trent Edwards the brewmaster.
TB at CHI: Bears- Despite sliding off in the second half last week, the Bears are a solid football team and the longer Kyle Orton has practice time with the receivers, the better the passing game will get. The Chicago defense should be familiar with the passing of Brian Griese. They will need Devin Hester back soon though.
CAR at MIN: Panthers- Steve Smith is back, Gus Frerrote is in, Adrain Peterson is limpin, Panthers defense is hittin', so I say Carolina is winnin'.
HOU at TEN: Titans- Long lay-off hurts the Texans I think and the Tennessee defense will hold them down, meanwhile Kerry Collins gives the offense confidence....really?
CIN at NYG: Giants- In the immortal words of Owen Heart regarding Cincy: "enough is enough and its time for a change."
MIA at NE: Patriots- The Pats are so much weaker with Cassel, but the Dolphins are still the Dolphins and Joey Porter gave them some bulletin board
STL at SEA: Seahawks- If Seattle can't win this one, Mike Holmgren might as well retire now.
DET at SF: 49ers- When Matt Millen says its not time to panic, its time to riot in the streets of the motor city.
NO at DEN: Broncos- The loss at Washington has made me suspicious of the Saints. Why spend all those resources to get Jeremy Shockey if you are not going to use him. I expect a repeat performance from Denver's offense, sans blown fumble at the end.
JAC at IND: Colts- Popular pick of Jacksonville spiraling into the vortex of dashed expectaitions, eh Catfish?
CLE at BAL: Browns- Another game I am clueless on. Everything in me says take the Ravens, so like an idiot I'm taking Cleveland.
PIT at PHI: Eagles- Healthy Donavan vs. questionable Big Ben, Eagles win the battle of the Keystone state.
DAL at GB: Packers- Lambeau at night, place will be rocking and Rodgers has been brilliant so far. I believe the Packers defensive scheme will be more effective than the Eagles' one, but I suspect another shoot-out.
NYJ at SD: Jets- I see a hard-hitting, defensive game here with Favre pulling some play out of his ass in the 4th quarter and leading New York to a win by a field goal all the while Tony Kornhieser can't handle the Favre man-love in the booth. If you value sanity, keep the mute button on for this one.
This week's piece of Clue trivia is a juicy one: The final murder when the power goes out in the mansion is in the form of a singing telegram girl who promptly gets shot once the door opens. The girl is played by Jane Wiedlin who was the lead guitarist of the Go-Gos. Pretty damn sweet huh? Enjoy the games gang.
Found this on Knickerblogger (via Ball Don't Lie) and I actually laughed out loud. Also has listed as alternatives: A) Boxer B) Pit Bull C) Rottweiler D) St. Bernard. Shaq's basketball career summed up so succinctly and so accurately. I'm jealous. This diagram is the best I've seen since the Pan Flute Flowchart.
It happens all too often. A great return is called back because of a penalty and most of the time it is the block in the back and mostly it is a play that really had nothing to do with the work of the returning team getting to the endzone or down the field. That is not to say that there aren’t legitimate blocks from behind but like the adjustment to the facemask penalty, only serious infractions need to be penalized.
The genesis of this rule I believe was to prevent blockers running downfield from blindsiding would-be tacklers which gave them an unfair advantage and put the kicking team players at risk for injuries. The NFL interpretation of the rule states:
Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops.
The defensive player cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an eligible receiver in a manner that restricts movement as the play develops.
(from NFL.com Rulebook)
In theory this sounds like a sound rule. The return team players must be ahead or at least even with the tacklers in order to attempt to block them. However the game happens at real time in real speed. Most times this penalty seems to occur when a tackler is running for the ball carrier and lunges for a tackle with the blocker behind him. It is simply the appearance of the penalty; player A flies into the air with player B running behind. Everyone who has a team they root for has seen this play because they have had a great return called back and been furious when the replay showed the touch foul. Touch fouls are for basketball(and ACC officials), in football a penalty has to be an egregious physical manipulation of another player.
I mentioned the face mask penalty rule change, which I think is applicable to the block in the back. The 5 yard, “unintentional” face mask penalty was discarded. In theory this means a player can inadvertently grasp a face mask and let go and it not be called. Only when a player’s mask is grabbed and pulled should the flag be thrown. Likewise, I think only certain blocks to the back should be called. Blatant body checks in the back in which a blocker launches himself at the tackler should obviously be called. Also, an obvious shove with both arms extended should be flagged. The other key I believe is unless it is a clear body check to the ground, the block in the back call should not be made if it occurs out of the area of influence of the kicker.
I know this is asking a lot of officials. It comes down to a judgment call, but isn’t that the majority of penalties if not all? Considering that more often than not it is the defenders’ momentum that carries him past the returner, many times blockers are punished for tacklers taking the wrong angle and making a vain attempt to tackle to runner. This does create a lot of gray area, but that already exists. As great as Devin Hester is, he has had at least a few returns called back because of an alleged block in the back that occurred either because some tackler made a desperate attempt to dive after Hester and there was a blocker behind him at the time or a small push in the back occurred after Hester was already blazing downfield.
Making the adjustment to the rule should not the highest priority on the list for the league, but it should be looked at. As much as judgment penalties such as pass interference and roughing the passer are scrutinized, it would be nice if we could eliminate unnecessary penalties on special teams as well.
People are in a tizzy about the new Ernie Davis statue featuring him wearing cleats with the Nike Swoosh, even though he played more than a decade before the Swoosh was invented(?). This isn't a new phenomenon as you can see after the break.
Have you ever really looked closely at the Washington monument?
Paul Revere on the original Big Brown.
Even the Marines understood the need for the handsfree.
Despite the fact that it seems the generally accepted theory that USC will meet the winner of the SEC Championship in the BCS title game automatically, we should have learned from last year that a lot can happen in just a few weeks. Every year the BCS prays for two and only two undefeated teams from two major conferences to make the title game choice clear, but more than likely that won’t happen. We have only begun conference play and there is a long road to go. Still, the Trojans made their statement last Saturday and no one can deny that a spot in the title game is theirs to lose. Due to the margin of defeat which, depending on who you talk to, may or may not was due to Beanie Wells not playing or a few questionable calls the Buckeyes have only the goal of the Rose Bowl to look to. In the fans’ minds and the pollster’s opinions they have had their shot in previous years and this year, and will not be given a second chance. Right or wrong, its Pasadena or bust for Ohio State. But let us leave the gloomy outlook of Columbus and take a look at this week’s match-ups.
East Carolina @ NC State, 12:00
The Pirates almost had their ship sunk all of a sudden in the Superdome last Saturday but held on for the win over Tulane. They turn now to another team they should beat, but the Wolfpack will not go quietly. NC State played a competitive game with Clemson in death valley last week showing no quit at any point. Despite the fact a new injury seems to occur every quarter for State, Tom O’Brien will keep them fighting. The crowd should be raucous in Carter-Finley and if the Wolfpack win I definitely expect the goal posts to come down and the bill won’t be sent to ECU.
Iowa @ Pittsburgh, 12:00
The Hawkeyes took care of Iowa State last week in a revenge game and they now travel to the home of the very beatable Panthers. Pitt lost at home to Bowling Green and got a test from Buffalo. The stache is suddenly getting a lot of heat after being named a sleeper team in the Big East. This is the chance for Iowa to make a statement for their own sleeper chances in the Big Ten while at the same time making the statement that Wannstedt and company were not as good as advertised, but we already knew that.
Mississippi State @ Georgia Tech, 12:00
The theme for our CFB coverage has been the reputation of the conferences, and this game plays to that. Paul Johnson has led the Jackets to a win at BC and had Virginia Tech beat until they gave away the game. They appear to be an upper crust team in the ACC from these performances while Mississippi State has had some bad losses including scoring only 2 points last week. The ACC needs this one more than the SEC does.
Boise State @ Oregon, 3:30
Oregon came back to steal a win at Purdue despite Bob Griese’s best flag-waving efforts. And once again they did it while wearing hideous uniforms, I mean seriously Phil Knight. This game should be fun to watch and it is definitely a trap game for the Ducks. I look for the Broncos to come out strong and Oregon again to have to play catch-up. If Boise State wins, they make their claim as a possible BCS Buster again.
Florida @ Tennessee, 3:30
Many people have asked me to write something on the Gators running up the score on Miami(and by many I mean Catfish and two other people) but I already stated before the game that Meyer was going to do that so it did not shock me no matter how I feel about it, I’m sure you can guess but I’m a little more discreet than Warren Sapp. Anyway, there is no one that really thinks the Vols can win this game right? Exactly why I think it will be close and Tennessee might even throw a wrench in the “Tim Tebow Happy Self-righteous Fun Tour”.
Notre Dame @ Michigan St., 3:30
Charlie Weiss, after he got his knee injured, got a Gatorade shower from his team for beating Michigan in a game in which the Wolverines had 403 fumbles. Premature moisture in my opinion, but I can understand the Irish excitement after the pathetic performances of last year. However, the Spartans are a better team than Michigan and this time Notre Dame goes there to play. The Irish defense better strap it on or it is going to be a long, dry day for Weiss and company.
Northeastern @ Syracuse, 3:30
99.9 percent of the CFB viewing audience won’t be watching this game, if it’s even televised but this is the only winnable game I see left on the Orange’s schedule. Seriously, they will be an underdog in the rest of their games and if Greg Robinson is not fired after this season there will be riots at the Acropolis. I am rooting for the Cuse in this one because I saw a screening of “The Express” last night, which I will write a few review for in the coming weeks, and I would prefer them not to go 0 for the season.
Virginia Tech @ North Carolina, 3:30
Catfish has the particulars but simply put, it is show me something time for the Tar Heels. Contender for the ACC crown or pretender? They have the Hokies at home, coming off a few extra days rest, no excuse for the Butch-wagon.
Utah @ Air Force, 4:00
BCS-Buster watch game. The Utes want to prove that they are the team from Utah that will break into the BCS, not those silly Mormons. But first they have to play in the elevation against Air Force.
Appalachian State @ James Madison, 7:00
In the FCS, this game is huge. I do not know what the capacity of James Madison’s stadium is but whatever it is it will be rocking as they face the three-time defending champions from the Division I football sub-division that actually, you know, has a playoff. The Mountaineers always have the target on their back even when they play FBS teams, so they better bring it.
Wake Forest @ Florida St, 7:00
Last I heard, FSU was a 4 point favorite in this game. I am not a betting man, so I guess the oddsmakers know something I don’t. The Seminoles still have a portion of the roster suspended for their academic fraud last year. They have beaten Western Carolina and Chattanooga so far this year which has given them credibility somehow. Considering the blowouts Florida State has suffered at home in recent years and the ability for the Wake D to force turnovers I have no clue why so many people are backing FSU. Until I see otherwise, the Deacs are still the best team in the ACC.
LSU @ Auburn, 7:45
Last year LSU won this game on one of the dumbest play calls I have ever seen. Luckily for Les Miles, it was great execution. After that everyone was willing to look past their two losses and send them to the Sugar Bowl where they won the title game. Auburn’s new spread offense has looked like a fat kid trying to run the 100 meter hurdles so far this year. Considering LSU has the best defense Auburn has faced this year, I think Auburn needs to pull out all the gimmicks in order to score in this one. Auburn’s defense is stout and they have the home crowd so LSU shouldn’t run away with it. This series has not had a lot of scoring to being with, so if you like defense….guarantee Mike Patrick says that at least once tomorrow.
Georgia @ Arizona St, 8:00
This game lost a little luster when Arizona lost to the Sharks, err Running Rebels last week. Everyone is making a huge deal about Georgia traveling west and if they lose, a stigma will develop in conjunction with the Ohio State loss that East Coast and Midwest teams can’t handle the travel. Well when you look at what Maryland did to Cal, I guess it works both ways. If a time zone change and cacti can defeat the Bulldogs, then they are not ready to win it all. UGA looked less than impressive last week against the Gamecocks, but ASU’s defense won’t be as stout. The Devils are so worried about Knowshon that I think play action, especially early, can be effective. I honestly have no idea how this game will turn out, but I do know that ASU fell flat on their face last year in their big home game against USC. Georgia better stay hydrated, it gets dry out there.