Monday, September 29, 2008

Random Stat

I've had seven different best friends over the last seventeen months. Don't read anything into that, just the way it's worked out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #91

Ben Kweller - Thirteen
(ignore the crappy homemade video, just listen to the song).

My heart breaks a little more every time I listen to this song. I don't always get through it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #92

Josh Rouse - My Love Has Gone

The best example of the cool, melancholy flavor which makes Nashville such a unique and wonderful album.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Week Four Picks

Lock of the Week:
TITANS -3 over Vikings

Really Like:
Browns +3.5 over BENGALS

Also Like:
Texans +7.5 over JAGUARS
Packers +1 over BUCS

If Forced to Choose:
Ravens +5.5 over STEELERS
Falcons +7 over PANTHERS
Cardinals +1 over JETS
COWBOYS -11 over Redskins
BEARS +3 over Eagles
CHIEFS +9 over Broncos
RAIDERS +9 over Chargers
Niners +5.5 over SAINTS
Bills -8 over RAMS

Lock season record: 1-1
Really like season record: 2-0
Also like season record: 1-4
If forced to choose season record: 19-18-1
All games season record: 23-23-1

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Week Three Observations

1. Let's see the Falcons win a game a) away from home or b) against a team that is not one of the three worst in the league before we give them too much credit. Nice rebound game for Matt Ryan and Mike "Olde Whitey" Smith.

2. BILLS! I still don't have them in my top 10. Next up: St. Louis, then Arizona, then a bye. The Bills could be undefeated going into an intriguing week 7 home game vs the Chargers.

3. The Bears should be 3-0. Their pass D is slipping late and they have botched a couple important third down conversions. They play Philly next, so they could drop to 1-3.

4. Matt Forte is the best running back the Bears have employed since the '80s. As much as they are using him, they should try to get him the ball even more if they want to win more games. They do not have anyone else on offense who can make a play.

5. Kyle Orton sucks of course, but he throws decent short passes.

6. The Panthers are error-prone for some reason.

7. When was the last time a 13 point dog won by 25 in the NFL?

8. I am gonna have to watch the Fins/Pats game during the week to determine a) how bad are the Pats, b) could the Dolphins make some noise this season, c) is Ronnie Brown fully healthy, d) has Randy Moss shut it down for '08, e) can a high-school offense succeed in the NFL.

9. Carson Palmer remembered TJ Houshmandzadeh is on his team.

10. Unfortunately for me and other Ocho Cinco fantasy owners, it doesn't seem Palmer has much interest in throwing to his other star wideout, and when he does, Chad isn't open. Palmer was throwing a lot more to that Chatman guy. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ocho Cinco shut it down for the season pretty soon and get that shoulder repaired.

11. I am not impressed with the Bengals running backs.

12. Tennessee's defense is the best in the league, right?

13. One workout is not enough to get through a full Sunday without feeling like crap. You really need to go before the games and again before the Sunday nighter.

14. The Rams are light-years away. They need to blow everything up and restart from scratch. I'd start by getting rid of Scott Linehan (always in any "league's worst coach" discussion) and then unload Torry Holt (a great player they can't properly utilize right now) for draft picks. Scary thought - what if the Cowboys sprung a deal for Holt??

15. As I said last week, I really admire what Matt Hasselbeck is doing with this receivers corps. I don't think they have a receiver that would get much playing time for any other team in the league.

16. I don't see Ray Rice getting much action this season with Willis McGahee back and the Ravens' unexpected devotion to Le'Ron McClain.

17. My man Toph told me last week a) Ravens -1 over Browns was his lock of the week, b) the Ravens D is one of the league's best again now that it is healthy, and c) the Ravens are one of the better teams in the NFL. I haven't seen them play much so far but I do remember they were a top-5 team in '06 and still have most of those players on their team. Monday night at Pittsburgh they have the opportunity to make a statement.

18. Marvin Harrison is a step slow.

19. Fred Taylor is one of the league's top running backs.

20. Interesting how both Dallas and Philly convincingly won games with their defense a week after battling in that epic shootout. This is why they are the two best teams in the league - they are balanced and can win games in different ways.

21. Let's take a closer look at why Ben Roethlisberger is getting sacked so much. The Steelers do not run a dink-and-dunk offense. They have Ben take deep drops and they throw the ball down the field. They do not waste time with four yard outs, short passes to the fullback, and all that other weak sauce teams with bad quarterbacks run. As a result of all these deep drops, Ben ends up getting hit a lot. Now the thing about Big Ben is that he almost never throws the ball away before the initial hit. He always hangs in there and takes it or tries to avoid it. Often, since he is so huge and athletic, he brushes the guy off and doesn't get sacked. It has been said that Ben "avoids five sacks a game", which is sort of true, but he also puts himself in position to be sacked more than any other quarterback. He might avoid five sacks a game but he also hangs in there for five sacks a game. Let's also remember that this was the Jim Johnson blitzaholic Eagles defense in Philly they were playing, always maniacal on the pass rush and repeatedly selling out trying to get the sack. Finally, of course, the Steelers O-line is not blocking pass rushers well. I haven't watched them closely enough to see it, but I wouldn't be surprised if Willie P and the other backs are not picking up blitzers very well either.

22. Denver does not have a good defense, obviously, but they have only looked bad against the Chargers and Saints - teams whose quarterbacks are playing as well as anyone. Let's see how they fare against the Chiefs before hitting the panic button.

23. Brandon Marshall cannot be defended.

24. So yesterday we were having a discussion on whether Marshall has surpassed his "big brother" Terrell Owens, and if Marshall is now the league's top wide receiver. I watched NFL Live this morning and they were highlighting all the great plays TO made without the ball in his hands. After watching that, I can't put anyone ahead of Owens. And Randy Moss, by far the most dangerous, is also the hardest to rank because he doesn't help bad QBs and he is one-dimensional. Top 10 healthy wide receivers right now:

1. Owens
2. Marshall
3. Moss
4. Burress
5. Jennings
6. Fitzgerald
7. Boldin
8. Wayne
9. Holt
10. Andre Johnson

25. Jay Cutler needs to get a hold of this Brett Favre Syndrome - never giving up on a play, always believing he has the arm to make any impossible throw - if he wants to be one of the best.

26. I'll repeat the statement John Madden made Sunday night: Jason Witten is the best tight end in the NFL.

27. Is Patrick Crayton in the Witness Protection Program?

28. How good is Dallas? The 2-0 Packers seemed to be playing well at home and still lost convincingly to the 'Boys.

29. The Jets are a long ways off. It will be many weeks before they can compete with the big boys, if they ever can this season.

30. I'll go ahead and say it - right now, Darren Sproles is a better running back than LaDainian Tomlinson.

Power Ratings
1. Dallas (1)
2. Philadelphia (6)
3. Pittsburgh (2)
4. Green Bay (4)
5. Tennessee (7)
6. New York Giants (3)
7. San Diego (10)
8. Denver (5)
9. Baltimore (21)
10. Carolina (9)
11. Buffalo (12)
12. Minnesota (14)
13. Chicago (11)
14. Tampa Bay (16)
15. Jacksonville (15)
16. Indianapolis (13)
17. New England (8)
18. New Orleans (17)
19. Arizona (18)
20. Washington (23)
21. Cleveland (19)
22. Houston (20)
23. Atlanta (25)
24. New York Jets (22)
25. San Francisco (27)
26. Miami (29)
27. Seattle (28)
28. Oakland (24)
29. Cincinnati (31)
30. Detroit (26)
31. Kansas City (32)
32. St. Louis (30)

F Bodog

This morning I received an email entitled Thomas, The Bodog Poker Open is back! The email kicked off like this:

Dear Thomas,

As a Bodog Poker Open Alumnist I’d like to take this opportunity to personally invite you to our next installment of the BPO kicking off on Sept. 28! The BPO II will consist of 14 tournaments held over eight days with more than $650,000 in prize money guaranteed. The main event on Sunday, Oct. 5 will award a guaranteed prize pool of $300,000, the largest ever in Bodog history.

The rest was more of the same. I sent Bodog a curt response:

Why don't you send me an e-mail about THE STATUS OF THE $25,000 IN BOUNCED CHECKS YOU SENT ME rather than this. Funny how Bodog has time to send me BPO emails yet hasn't contacted me about MY LOST MONEY in a month. Are you informing people that if they win a BPO tournament they won't be able to get their money, or are you going to let them find out the hard way?

Thomas Fuller

Friday, September 19, 2008


This year I have played 539 hours of tournaments (live and online) and made a profit of $34,914. I have played 80 hours of cash (all online) and made a profit of $55,541. In tournaments I am averaging $64.78/hour and in cash I am averaging $694/hr. Over this small sample size I am making ten times as much money per hour playing cash as I am playing tournaments.

I especially got into tournaments this year. I focused on tournaments because I thought they were more exciting than cash games, because you can make huge scores, and because generally I feel tournament fields are softer than cash game tables.

Today I decided to play the WCOOP $500 6-max rebuy and $1k PLO tournaments. I played hard in both, won a lot of pots, and busted in both six and a half hours after starting. My head hurt and I felt like crap. It was another nice day in Boulder, and I got calls throughout the day about hanging out, playing tennis, etc. I almost didn't play the tournaments in lieu of studying game tapes from each of last week's NFL contests. Of all the annoyances tournaments provide, being forced to carve out big chunks of time without being able to leave is the most irksome to me.

I think I am done with the small buy-in tournaments. By small, I mean pretty much anything below $5k buy-in. Every once in a while I will play a 1k or some Sundays or something, but for the most part I think I am going to stick to a sparse diet of short cash game sessions when I feel like it. The longest I have played cash in 2008 in one session is 3.5 hours, and 90% of my sessions have been two hours or less. I like playing online cash because I can get a session in without it being the day's main activity.

As for the theory that tournaments are more lucrative than cash games, that obviously hasn't been the case for me personally. I have long maintained that I am a beast at cash and a mediocre tournament player, and the results continue to support that argument. 80 hours is not a big sample size of cash obviously, and the tournament results may be skewed by a lack of a final table at the WSOP, where many of those hours were logged. But I did win one pretty big one, and OPR has me in the top .2% of tournament players on both Tilt and Stars.

As I continue to play fewer and fewer hours, I will try to make the most of those hours. This should mean cutting the donkaments out of the schedule almost entirely.

Week Three Picks

Also Like:
BEARS -3 over Bucs
BRONCOS -5.5 over Saints

If Forced to Choose:
Rams +9.5 over SEAHAWKS
Panthers +3.5 over VIKINGS
PACKERS +3 over Cowboys
Steelers +3 over EAGLES
GIANTS -13.5 over Bengals
Raiders +9.5 over BILLS
Lions +4 over NINERS
TITANS -5 over Texans
FALCONS -5 over Chiefs
REDSKINS -3 over Cardinals
PATRIOTS -13 over Dolphins
COLTS -5.5 over Jaguars
RAVENS -1 over Browns
CHARGERS -9.5 over Jets

Lock season record: 1-1
Really like season record: 2-0
Also like season record: 1-2
If forced to choose season record: 13-10-1
All games season record: 17-13-1

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week Two Observations

1. Chris Johnson of the Titans may end up being the most important rookie of the 2008 season.

2. Carson Palmer eats it.

3. Doesn't look like the Packers miss Brett Favre too much.

4. Calvin Johnson is a monster. It will be interesting to see what system/team /QB he winds up with. If he slips into the right situation I would expect him to eventually become the top wideout in football.

5. The Saints cannot run the ball up the middle. With a nine point lead over the Skins, they couldn't keep the chains moving, kill clock, and book a win. The Saints will always have a chance to put a bunch of points on the board but they cannot be relied upon to put bad teams away. They averaged just 2.9 yards a carry against the Skins (and only 5.9 per pass attempt).

6. Clinton Portis is right. Put him on a team with a decent line and he is respected as a top-5 back.

7. I love the way the Bears are playing. There is no shame in losing to Carolina. They are going to need Devin Hester to win a game or two for them this season though.

8. The Panthers are already looking like that funky team that wins 11-12 games and substantially overshoots their expected win total. They've already snatched two games from the jaws of defeat, games they were supposed to lose without their best offensive player. With Smith coming back next week I really like their chances to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC South.

9. The Titans are the snake in the grass of contenders. There is a dichotomy developing between the contenders that have an explosive offense (Cowboys, Broncos, Eagles, Chargers) and those that have a sterling defense (Titans, Patriots, Bears). The only teams I see that have balance are the Steelers and Panthers. The Pats may eventually have a strong offense too, and the Cowboys do have a lot of big names on D.

10. As much as I like to see the Bills win, I'm not sold on them as a contender yet. They beat a godawful Seattle team and then snuck by a Jacksonville squad missing four offensive linemen. They play solid D, solid O, and great special teams, but do not have the firepower of the top teams.

11. There are a number of teams that got screwed in the opening schedule. There is so much momentum and emotion in football, I think it's crucial to start with a light schedule. Starting with 2+ losses is devastating. Check out some of these opening schedules:

Minnesota: @Green Bay, Indy, Carolina, @Tennessee, @New Orleans
Chicago: @Indy, @Carolina, Tampa, Philly
Cleveland: Dallas, Pittsburgh
Dallas: @Cleveland, Philly, @Green Bay

The team that really got screwed is Houston. They started off with the brutal @Pittsburgh. Instead of getting Baltimore at home in week 2, Hurricane Ike pushed that game back to week 10 (their bye week). So now the Texans basically lose their bye week and have to play fifteen games in a row. The sickest part of this is that their next two games are road games - rough ones @Tennessee and @Jacksonville. This is especially unfortunate because the Texans (at least last year) played much better at home than on the road. Now their opening slate looks like this:
@Pittsburgh, BYE, @Tennessee, @Jacksonville, Indy. Not fun times.

12. The injuries that Seattle has sustained at the wide receiver position are almost unfathomable. Just two weeks into the season they have lost six of their top seven at the position, including their top three, including three season-enders (which rarely happen to WRs). Matt Hasselbeck is becoming one of my favorite QBs the way he is handling this. No whining or bitching, even publicly taking the blame for losing to the Niners. He might be the most mature QB in the league.

13. NEVER make your lock of the week a bad team starting a rookie quarterback in his first road game!

14. Atlanta's play-calling against Tampa was horrific. I will be watching their future games closely to see if this continues.

15. The Jets may now be emerging as my #1 team to bet against. They still haven't done anything respectable and it's quite possible that they suck. They have the worst kicking game in the league, a so-so defense, one of the worst starting tailbacks, and, IMO, a mediocre QB.

16. It's funny how quickly I have forgotten my hatred for the New England Patriots. How quickly they went from a lovable bunch of overachievers to the Most Evil Team Ever back to that likable band of scrappy warriors. I remember talking to my friend David Hoedeman two years ago (when they went to the AFC Championship and barely lost to that Colts comeback) about how this was secretly the most amazing Cinderella run in NFL history and nobody knew it because it was the Pats. The Pats never stopped being a contender, because they have by far the best coach in football.

17. That was the best the Cardinals have looked in years. They should cruise to that division title and then get beaten soundly in the first round of the playoffs.

18. How ridiculous is it that we can sit at home watching CBS and know a call needs to be overturned, but the refs at the stadium can't overturn it because the replay system is malfunctioning?

19. What happened to the Chargers on Sunday was sickening, because that game will likely have profound effects on the playoff picture. I'm glad this happened early in the 16-game season. The Chargers can come back from this 0-2 hole, and I believe they will. Their offense looked smooth, their receivers are actually decent for once, they play in a division with two pushovers, and they even have an answer if this LT turf toe thing continues to be a problem. They were in just as ugly a spot last season before turning it around.

20. Having said that, the Broncos had 34 first downs against the Chargers. San Diego got no push from their front seven and the Broncos passing game feasted on them.

21. I never thought I would see a Mike Shanahan team run the most aggressive passing offense in the league. Given the personnel, it is the right way for them to play. It will be interesting to see how the Broncos offense fares against a team with a serviceable defensive line. That is really the only questionmark facing this offensive juggernaut.

22. The ages of some of Denver's key offensive contributors:
QB Jay Cutler - 25
WR Brandon Marshall - 24
WR Eddie Royal - 22
RB Selvin Young - 24
RB Andre Hall - 26
TE Tony Scheffler -25
LT Ryan Clady - 22
RT Ryan Harris - 23
This is very bad news for the rest of the AFC West. It also means that the Broncos, barring injury, should not draft a skill position player in the first three rounds of the draft for several years.

23. I had been singing the praises of Darren Sproles for weeks. It will be interesting to see how much he gets to play this season.

24. The football prospectus reports that teams have converted 55% of 2 point conversions since 2003. I had always heard that going for 2 usually failed. The way the Broncos were moving the ball, especially on short passes, they had to be a favorite to convert that deuce. It was a ballsy call to go for it, but it was also mathematically correct.

25. Going for two there was basically Mike Shanahan's version of confirming his belief in the "John Elway is God, Jay Cutler is Jesus" theory.

26. I think Cutler will be a top 3 QB by the end of the season, but right now he still makes a few too many mistakes to crack the top . The quick top 10 of healthy QBs right now looks like this:
1. Romo
2. Roethlisberger
3. P Manning
4. Brees
5. Hasselbeck
6. Cutler
7. McNabb
8. Rivers
9. E Manning

27. The Cleveland Browns have four major problems:
  • Their defensive line puts absolutely no pressure on the QB (and just lost a starter for the season)
  • Braylon Edwards, one of the NFL's top wideouts in '07, is playing like crap
  • Donte Stallworth has been injured and they do not have serviceable backup WRs
  • Their offensive line is not run-blocking well
The Browns have lost to what currently appear to be the two best teams in the league the first two weeks. Their next two games are against the Ravens and Bengals, so there is hope.

28. Pittsburgh seems to be in cruise control too much. They seem to be completely dominating the game yet you look up and there are four minutes left and it is a one-possession game. I'm not sure why they often struggle to finish teams off.

29. For such a loaded list of defenders, the Cowboys seem to give up a lot of points. They always seem to get a lot of sacks, turnovers, and other big plays, but never shut teams down.

30. Marion Barber's hair makes him look more barbarian than he is. I'm not saying he isn't a physical runner though - amongst starting RBs, only Brandon Jacobs is harder to tame.

31. Donovan McNabb looked like the healthy, explosive McNabb and the hobbled, beaten-down McNabb in the same game.

32. We learned it last year and we are relearning the lesson now - the single most important thing in today's NFL is putting pressure on the quarterback.

Power Ratings (last week's rank in parenthesis)
1. Dallas (1)
2. Pittsburgh (2)
3. New York Giants (3)
4. Green Bay (4)
5. Denver (12)
6. Philadelphia (8)
7. Tennessee (11)
8. New England (9)
9. Carolina (10)
10. San Diego (6)
11. Chicago (13)
12. Buffalo (15)
13. Indianapolis (5)
14. Minnesota (16)
15. Jacksonville (7)
16. Tampa Bay (20)
17. New Orleans (17)
18. Arizona (23)
19. Cleveland (18)
20. Houston (19)
21. Baltimore (21)
22. New York Jets (14)
23. Washington (28)
24. Oakland (31)
25. Atlanta (22)
26. Detroit (24)
27. San Francisco (29)
28. Seattle (25)
29. Miami (26)
30. St. Louis (32)
31. Cincinnati (30)
32. Kansas City (27)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #93

Weezer - Buddy Holly

Weezer's Blue was arguably the best album of the '90s, and it climaxes right at 2:51 of this popular music video.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Don't Care About Poker Anymore

The WCOOP is in full swing and I have a couple guys, BlueFlare and TheMasterJ33, staying at my house. I should be fired up to play cards but I am not. Poker is not one of my top five priorities right now.

In spite of this, I do seem to play really well when I do get in there - as long as I am not playing nine-handed no limit hold em. That game is not exciting enough for me unless the stakes make it so.

I suspect I will get back into it a little more once the weather goes downhill, and especially after the NFL season ends. I have no interest or plans in cutting poker out cold-turkey but don't expect to see much about it on this blog. The plan for the Fall was to play three 5k events - the WCOOP main event and WSOP Circuit tournaments in southern and northern Indiana. Now I wonder if I will play any of them, simply because they are on weekends and I would rather not miss any NFL action.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #94

The Black Crowes - Jealous Again

Pure rock and roll.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #95

Hunters and Collectors - Holy Grail

Started out seeking fortune and glory
It's a short song, but it's a hell of a story,
When you spend your lifetime trying to get
Your hands on the Holy Grail

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Week Two Picks

Lock of the Week:
Falcons +9 over BUCS

Really Like:
Titans +1 over BENGALS

Also Like:
Saints +1 over REDSKINS
Niners +7 over SEAHAWKS

If Forced to Choose:
Bills +6 over JAGUARS
Dolphins +6.5 over CARDINALS
Packers -3 over Lions
PANTHERS -3 over Bears
Colts -1 over VIKINGS
Giants -9 over RAMS
Eagles +7 over COWBOYS
Patriots +1 over JETS
CHIEFS -3.5 over Raiders
BROWNS +6 over Steelers
Chargers -1 over BRONCOS
Ravens +4.5 over TEXANS

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 1-0
Also like season record: 0-1
If forced to choose season record: 6-7
All games season record: 8-8

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Week One Observations

1. Eli Manning, as John Madden repeatedly put it, looked very "comfortable." Plaxico Burress is going to have a monster season. The Giants as a whole looked very "comfortable." This team is a contender.

2. Brandon Jacobs is a helluva back, but he will probably get injured again soon.

3. One of the guys in my fantasy league changed his team name to "jim_zorn_must_go" after that week one performance. The Skins looked so bad that it's already almost inconceivable that they could be at all decent anytime soon.

4. I thought the Seahawks offense would be bad. They are in serious, serious trouble. Losing Nate Burleson for the season might be the death knell. This will likely remain my #1 team to bet against for the next few more weeks before the lines go down to where they're supposed to go.

5. I'm not sold on the Jets yet. This clash with the Pats this weekend should give us a lot of information on both teams.

6. The Panthers looked very, very good. They deserved to win this game. I was thinking the whole time, what this team really needs is a playmaking receiver. It just so happens they have one of the most explosive in the league. When SS gets back, they may be unstoppable. In my mind, this team is already a contender.

7. You can just tell with Dante Rosario. This guy is gonna be a monster. Buy stock in Dante Rosario while it's still cheap. We haven't seen a tight end this athletic enter the league since Antonio Gates.

8. No need to panic if you're a Chargers fan. They should be fine. But they do need to shore up that defensive line. The Panthers controlled the line of scrimmage.

9. The NFC West could very well be the worst division in NFL (sports?) history. All these teams are horrible. I like my pick of the Cards to win the division at 8-8. I don't really like the Cards much though. I don't think they've improved over last year, though the record may be better.

10. The Niners do have a couple things going for them, and outplayed the Cards during that game. If they can eliminate some of the gruesome mistakes, they could fight for a 6-10 record, lol.

11. Dallas is the obvious Juggernaut. There is no reason to believe their offense can be stopped, unless injuries hit.

12. The Bears looked very '06 Bears. Chicago's record by season since 2001: 13-3, 4-12, 7-9, 5-11, 11-5, 13-3, 7-9. This team swings. Preliminary indications show a huge potential upswing in '08. That '06 formula is in place - stifling defense, run the ball, make plays on special teams, manage the game. Even Kyle Orton didn't look that bad.

13. No need to panic if you're a Colts fan. But like the Chargers, they have some troubling issues in the trenches.

14. Aaron Rodgers badly missed on a few easy throws, but also nailed some difficult ones. The jury is still out.

15. It's hilarious to think about how much better the Vikings would be with Chad Pennington behind center. The Vikings pass play calling is dreadful though - you can't blame Tarvaris for everything.

16. Another thing - these dink and dunk teams that like to run the ball and have no faith in their QB require a sterling tight end. The Vikes don't have one. Think of the Chargers - they pretty much run that dink and dunk "manage the game" offense with Rivers that limits passes to WRs, but they have Antonio freaking Gates. And this makes all the difference. You give the Vikes Pennington and a good TE, and it's a whole new ballgame.

17. Somewhere down the line the Raiders are going to make me some money, I think. If this team can get a lead or get in a close game, they can run the ball down your throat and control the game. They will surprise some solid teams.

18. It is an exciting time to be a Broncos fan. Jay Cutler looks absolutely fantastic, a top 5 NFL QB. He has all the throws. Marshall/Royal is the new Smith/McCaffrey, and Cutler is the new Elway. We will learn more this Sunday against the Chargers.

Power Ratings
1. Dallas
2. Pittsburgh
3. New York Giants
4. Green Bay
5. Indianapolis
6. San Diego
7. Jacksonville
8. Philadelphia
9. New England
10. Carolina
11. Tennessee
12. Denver
13. Chicago
14. New York Jets
15. Buffalo
16. Minnesota
17. New Orleans
18. Cleveland
19. Houston
20. Tampa Bay
21. Baltimore
22. Atlanta
23. Arizona
24. Detroit
25. Seattle
26. Miami
27. Kansas City
28. Washington
29. San Francisco
30. Cincinnati
31. Oakland
32. St. Louis

Saturday, September 06, 2008

NFL Preview Part Three: Predictions


Cowboys (11-5)
Giants (9-7)
Eagles (9-7)
Redskins (5-11)

Packers (12-4)
Vikings (11-5)
Lions (8-8)
Bears (6-10)

Saints (10-6)
Panthers (9-7)
Bucs (6-10)
Falcons (5-11)

Cardinals (8-8)
Rams (7-9)
Niners (6-10)
Seahawks (5-11)


Wild Card
Vikings over Saints
Panthers over Cardinals

Packers over Panthers
Cowboys over Vikings

Packers over Cowboys


Patriots (14-2)
Bills (10-6)
Jets (9-7)
Dolphins (6-10)

Browns (9-7)
Steelers (8-8)
Ravens (7-9)
Bengals (5-11)

Colts (10-6)
Jaguars (9-7)
Texans (9-7)
Titans (7-9)

Chargers (10-6)
Broncos (7-9)
Raiders (6-10)
Chiefs (3-13)


Wild Card
Bills over Browns
Jaguars over Chargers

Colts over Bills
Patriots over Jaguars

Patriots over Colts

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots
Defensive MVP: Dwight Freeney, Colts

Super Bowl
Patriots over Packers

Thursday, September 04, 2008

NFL Preview Part Two: The 35 Most Intriguing Players of 2008

35. Andre Johnson
Can he stay healthy?

34. Jonathan Stewart
33. Jake Delhomme
32. Steve Smith
Delhomme is the classic aging QB coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery; Smith is the classic talented nutjob wideout capable of anything; Stewart is the classic rookie running back with a high ceiling; Carolina is the classic totally unpredictable NFL squad.

31. Troy Smith
30. Joe Flacco
Two Ravens, one an underappreciated Heisman Trophy winner and the other a 2008 first-round pick, battling for the starting quarterback job on an appealing squad looking to rebound from a rough season.

29. Carson Palmer
Little-known fact – Carson played some pretty terrible football in 2007. If he doesn’t get it together this year, the Bengals could be looking at a 4-12 campaign.

28. Larry Johnson
More intriguing for fantasy purposes than game-winning purposes, since everyone knows the Chiefs will have a hard time winning multiple games in 2008.

27. Ted Ginn, Jr.
Ginn caught eight balls the first nine games of ’07, then grabbed twenty-six over the last seven, including seven and a TD in week 17.

26. Adrian Peterson
In 2007 he had six games over 100 yards, including 224 and 296 yard efforts, but also missed two games due to injury and rushed for just 144 yards on 54 carries over the last four games of the season (2.7 ypc).

25. Vince Young
No Madden Curse to worry about this season. You do have to wonder about his receiving corps.

24. Brady Quinn
23. Derek Anderson
The most unexpected star of 2007 is expected to lead his team to the playoffs, while the expected star of the future sits on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity that may never come with this team.

22. Jeremy Shockey
Will he be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Saints and vault their offense to Patriot-like explosiveness? Or will his recovering broken fibula remove him from the A-list of NFL tight ends?

21. Tank Johnson
20. Felix Jones
19. Roy Williams
18. Zach Thomas
17. Adam “Pacman” Jones
You know what you’re getting with most of the Cowboys at this point (good things). With this quintet it’s a little murkier. Each of these players has Pro-Bowl talent but each sports a questionmark next to the star on his helmet.

16. Randy Moss
There is no reason to believe Mr. Moss won’t have another monster season, other than the fact he is a crazy troublemaking headcase with a history of self-destruction.

15. Kevin Smith
14. Matt Forte
13. Michael Turner
Unknown talents starting for bad teams at RB – three of the most critical and unpredictable players in the league. Sky’s the limit for these guys.

12. Chad Ocho Cinco
11. Calvin Johnson
Two receivers whose careers are headed in opposite directions. The hype on Calvin “Megatron” Johnson has become deafening in recent weeks, while Ocho Cinco and his five straight 90+ catch, 1200+ yard, 7+ TD seasons have been forgotten after a loud offseason.

10. Eli Manning
Word out of camp is that little Manning is playing with unprecedented poise and confidence – playing like a Super Bowl Champion Manning. With the defense decimated, the Giants will need to put more points on the board.

9. JaMarcus Russell
8. Darren McFadden
Rise of the silver and black?

7. Ricky Williams
The league’s most unpredictable player.

6. Matt Leinart
5. Kurt Warner
The way Warner finished the ’07 season bodes well for tortured Cardinals fans. The way Warner’s body traditionally breaks down during the season bodes well for Matt Leinart’s fading hopes of starting in the NFL.

4. Tarvaris Jackson
On paper, the Vikings have the best defense in football as well as the most terrifying running game. On paper, they also have the worst starting quarterback. If Tarvaris can merely upgrade his play from “horrific” to “bad”, the Vikes will be a contender.

3. Chad Pennington
2. Brett Favre
1. Aaron Rodgers

The wildest soap opera of the offseason leaves us with Pennington helming the rebuilding Dolphins, Favre captaining a revamped Jets squadron, and Rodgers trying to fill the shoes of the NFL’s most legendary quarterback while taking over a wildly talented posse of up and comers. Important facts to remember here –
1. The Packers could have had Favre. They chose Rodgers. They decided the team would be in better hands with Rodgers rather than Favre.
2. Since 2002, Favre has thrown 116 interceptions – by far the most in the league. 3.5% of his passes over the last six years were picks. Compare this number to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (2.3% intereception rate) or Jeff Garcia (1.8%), or Pennington (2.9%). The most important of these interceptions was the last pass Favre threw last season, an NFC Championship-losing pick to the Giants.
3. Chad Pennington has the highest career completion percentage in NFL history.
I think all three teams benefited from this merry-go-round, and the biggest winner will be the Green Bay Packers.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Day I Tried To Live

Three weeks ago I started to get a strong feeling that something big was about to happen. I had no idea what it would be or even if it would be good or bad but I had a strong sense change was in the air. It occurred to me that this might be wishful thinking, as my life could use a big jolt right about then. I almost posted about this premonition in the blog, but didn’t want to jinx it or come off as a wolf-crier if nothing happened.

As the instinct of change heightened, a massive weather pattern settled over the Front Range. It was gray and rainy for three days, something that almost never happens in the Boulder area. The rain was more evidence of an impending happening – a cleansing before the Big Event.

Sunday of that week I hit bottom as the clouds faded away and the sun started to come out. I just could not seem to do anything right and was the most depressed I’ve been in 2008. That evening I won the heads up tournament and suddenly felt a million times better. I always seem to hit these scores right during or after the roughest times. This wasn’t about the money – it was about owning a bunch of fools heads up and winning a tournament in a dominant manner.

The next day was the first day of the summer you could classify as crisp. It wasn’t hot but the sky was cloudless and bright. For the first time you could sense a season other than summer. I was talking to Truman on AIM trying to convince him to join my brother and I on an ascent of North Maroon Peak when he told me that Zoe had died.

Paul got Zoe, a skittish, darling black lab, from the humane society early in 2006 when we lived in Westminster. The story was that Zoe had been in a frat house for a year before being rescued. She had a scar on her muzzle that may have been a burn mark. She was terrified of fire and hated to be left alone. Several times when we all left the house she chewed up shoes and peed on the floor, so Paul had to keep her in his room when we left.

The first time I went for a walk with Zoe, we had to stop suddenly at one point for a car before walking across the street. Zoe was petrified of people suddenly rearing back like that. She ripped her neck out of the leash and took off sprinting in another direction. I followed awkwardly, trying to think of how I was going to tell Paul I lost his dog. I chased Zoe around the streets of Westminster in ten different directions before we wound up at the house half an hour later. I have always wondered if Zoe knew the way back home – it had been less than a week since she moved in – or if it was just dumb luck.

I have been uncomfortable around dogs most of my life. My mother tells me I was accosted by a large, aggressive, barking dog when I was three years old. I remember in elementary school my friend Jonas Jacobson’s family had a gigantic hairy dog much bigger than us which scared the crap out of me. I remember being chased by a maniacal dog once while biking to school. My family never had a dog and I never cared for them.

The trepidation faded away as I got older but I never really came around on dogs until Zoe came along. Zoe was the sweetest animal I have ever encountered. She was the type of dog that was more interested in you than anything else. She would come running upstairs when you got home. If you had a bad day, she seemed to sense it and would sit on you until you felt a little better. She never got annoyed with humans. I heard her bark just a couple times.

So often Paul would go to her after a losing session or tournament and you could see his anger dissipate. We weren’t allowed to have animals in the WSOP house in the summer of ’06, but Paul needed her there and I wanted her there. So we drove out to Vegas and slept by the side of the desert road with Zoe in between us with no fear of snakes or ruffians.

When we checked in Paul hid upstairs with Zoe while I got the tour from the idiot landlord. At one point Zoe bolted for the door. Paul made a diving tackle that shook the floors. The landlord asked what the thump was – I knew but pretended not to.

Every night during Paul’s run to the final table we took a walk with Zoe through the neighborhood. There was this pack of barking German shepherds behind a mansion’s fence that Zoe would always walk by. I assumed it was a gesture that was both flirtatious and taunting.

After the World Series we went on a weeklong raft trip in Utah. Dogs weren’t allowed but we were driving back from Vegas and Paul had Zoe so there wasn’t much option but to sneak her along. When we left they went half a mile downriver and hid behind a bend while we talked to the ranger. We picked them up later and learned how afraid of water Zoe was. It was kind of sad and kind of funny, watching her stand stiffly and nervously on the back of the raft.

That didn’t last long though. By the end of the trip Zoe spent as much of her time as possible in the water, fetching sticks, swimming with us, and occasionally just jumping off the back of the raft when she felt like it.During that raft trip, Paul and Amber’s relationship was cemented and shortly after she moved in with Paul. Amber grew close to Zoe very quickly, and assumed co-parenting duties.

About a month ago Paul and Amber took Zoe to the vet for surgery on the canine equivalent of a torn ACL. That surgery went well, but Zoe moved around too much during the recovery week and broke her fibula. She then went back in for another surgery and had a brace screwed into her leg. After the second surgery, Zoe returned home depressed and unresponsive. She ate nothing. The doctor was not concerned, however, and said this sort of behavior was typical for dogs after surgeries of this magnitude.

On Monday the 18th of August, Paul and Amber took Zoe back to the veterinarian. Shortly after going under the vet’s care, Zoe went into cardiac arrest and died. Later it was surmised that Zoe was experiencing kidney failure, likely caused by a rare allergic reaction to one of the medicines she was given during her surgeries.

That evening my brother Jimmy and I drove to Aspen and camped up the Maroon Creek road under a lantern-like full moon. I didn’t manage to convince Truman to come along but it was for the best. I hadn’t hung out with my brother in a long while and in two days he would be leaving for five plus years of grad school at Cornell. There was a time when my brother might have been my best friend, and I remembered why on this trip.
We set the alarm for 5 AM but there wasn’t an ounce of daylight when it sounded and Jimmy wanted to sleep a little more. For half an hour I lay there in the freezing cold looking at the stars preparing for a mountain that would likely be tougher than any I had ascended.

We hit the trail around 6:30 as the sunrise broke over the Maroon Bells just as it had a week earlier when we climbed Pyramid Peak. A warning sign provided another reminder on the fragility of life.
Jimmy did his best Usain Bolt impression as I tried to keep up. We moved up the trail quickly, pondering just how we were going to get up this thing,to the basin below the north face of North Maroon.We then hopskotched across a boulder field to the base of a gully, trying not to destroy any of the spiderwebs strung between the rocks.
We spent much of the morning racing the most fantastical creature of the Rockies, the mountain goat, to the top.
The mountain goat’s eyes looked like Zoe’s.
After a couple hours negotiating steep gullies,
and ridges,
we reached the summit.
Jimmy did another Usain Bolt impression
and took some quality summit shots:

Pyramid Peak looking impossible

Facebook material with Snowmass Mountain and Capitol
Peak in the background, two 14ers I have yet to conquest

Jimmy with the wildly exposed Maroon Bells Traverse to the right

The only person we saw on the climb was a 65ish Aspen man on the summit. When I asked if this was his first time up he said it was his “fifteenth or sixteenth” time up. I thought about how I want to have this life when I am 65.

I thought a lot about Zoe, how she had been so unfortunate. How she had given joy to others, how meaningful her short dog’s life had been. When I see death I always get jolted thinking about how I need to stop screwing around and make the most of the life I have while I still have it.

I thought about how devastated Paul and Amber must be. I really thought about Amber, knowing she was absolutely crushed. Amber is a good person and tries hard to live a good life. In two years time I have watched Amber become a better, stronger, happier person by trying. She has had some bad luck at bad times but fights to be a better person and live a better life.

At the beginning of the year, inspired by how Truman and Nappy were living their lives, I decided to make a New Year's resolution to have the best year of my life. I made the resolution as an end to a means: so I would wake up every day thinking about what I had to do that day to accomplish the goal of the best year ever.

At the World Series I woke up every day and gave it everything I had. Poker cannot be controlled by effort though, and my results did not reflect my determination. After six weeks of failed tournaments I went home broken with the resolution forgotten. It is a brutal thing to try your hardest and fail at your goals. Sadly I lost sight of the most important goal.

Two weekends ago we were partying at Boulder's Outback Saloon, the closest thing the town has to a dive bar. It was an extremely hilarious and enjoyable night for reasons that can't be explained here. Amber sung a couple karaoke songs, a duet with Paul and a blistering Bon Jovi cover. Afterwards I told Amber she did a great job and I could never sing karaoke in public.

"You don't have to be a good singer," Amber explained. "You just have to try."