Thursday, October 30, 2008

Week Eight Observations

1. The Bucs have come up short against two of the league's worst defenses. They scored 13 against the Broncos and 9 against the Cowboys. The Buccaneer offense ranks in the middle of the pack in both yards and points but hasn't gotten it done against the pitiful defenses.

2. Dallas won this game with 192 yards of total offense. Terrell Owens led the team in receiving for the first time this season - with 33 yards.

3. Don't be fooled by those Washington/Detroit final or halftime scores. This game was dominated by the Redskins.

4. Santana Moss is the #1 wide receiver in fantasy football through eight weeks.

5. The Lions have a problem now that they've traded Roy Williams. Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey are short, slight, and don't jump real high. Dan Orlovsky is not very accurate. So you see a lot of balls go sailing over their receivers.

6. I have no clue why the Lions ever hand the ball off to Rudi Johnson.

7. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Chad Pennington has the highest completion percentage in NFL history.

8. The Rams have all the skill position pieces in place on offense. They are a great example of why it is not enough to have a good quarterback, running back, and wide receivers. Most NFL games are decided "in the trenches" as they say. The Rams are weak on the line on both offense and defense.

9. They could have used Steven Jackson in this game; their backups are not too strong.

10. I gushed a bit about Donnie Avery last week. This week I like him even more. He has exceptional speed and balance.

11. Torry Holt may have lost a step. Dante Hall has not lost a step, he has lost two steps.

12. Matt Cassel is playing better and better. He still makes terrible plays like sliding two yards short of a first down with no one within five yards and he has no patience in the pocket. Basically he is the opposite of Ben Roethlisberger. He seems to be getting more comfortable.

13. The Patriots are 5-2. Their five wins have come over the Chiefs, Jets, Niners, Broncos, and Rams. Matt Cassel has not played against a top 10 defense yet this season. Their November schedule is more difficult.

14. The Chargers fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell in an attempt to improve their horrible defense. I still expect the Chargers to get into the playoffs. Five of their last eight are at home, they play KC twice, they get Denver at home in the last game of the season, LT should get healthier after this bye, and they have the second best quarterback in the league.

15. Donovan McNabb does an amazing job weaving through traffic in an effort to find a throw and keep plays going. It would be hilarious to watch Matt Cassel or JaMarcus Russell in this offense.

16. Atlanta got robbed of a chance to win the game with a two-minute drive for a touchdown against the Eagles. One of the worst calls of the year denied Matt Ryan an opportunity at a game-winning touchdown drive. It's really too bad cause Ryan could have pulled it off. Ryan is having one of the best seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had and this could have been a signature moment.

17. Brian Westbrook had a chance to kneel down on a touchdown run before the end zone to run out the clock just as he did last season. This time, in almost the exact same situation, Westbrook took it to the house.

18. The Jets do not have an offensive identity. There is nothing they do very well. There are many different things they do decently. They involve a lot of people and mix it up. They might be better off paring it down and focusing on fewer things.

19. Arizona's passing offense is fearsome. They have the best wideouts in football and a quarterback who can deliver the ball consistently and accurately short, medium, or deep. Edgerrin James isn't getting any faster and Tim Hightower runs chaotically. Their schedule is also conducive to continued aerial assault. As long as they protect Kurt Warner and keep him healthy, expect these sort of 350 yard days from Warner to continue. I wish I had him in fantasy.

20. Joe Flacco is fast. Cam Cameron is having fun coming up with creative ways to get Flacco out of the pocket.

21. JaMarcus Russell is so inaccurate and rarely throws the ball down the field. Although he is a monster, he does not play like Ben Roethlisberer. He is more of a Byron Leftwich, only less accurate. He is still a project. It's disturbing comparing his progress to the likes of Trent Edwards and Matt Ryan. If I was a Raiders fan, I'd be very worried. When do you push the panic button with Russell?

22. Ocho Cinco's decline in numbers is due in large part to Ocho Cinco's decline in play.

23. It doesn't make sense considering how productive he was the last two years, but the Browns do seem to function a little better with Kellen Winslow out of the lineup replaced by Steve Heiden.

24. It's pretty obvious why the Jaguars are not as good as last year - their decimated offensive line is not moving people around.

25. It's amazing that the Steelers have gutted out five wins with that offensive line. I don't think you can win a Super Bowl with a line that can't block pass rushers.

26. Pittsburgh's amazing defense held the Giants to 2.4 yards per rush. Although they had a rough day against the Steelers, the Giants sure have some talent at running back. Derrick Ward may be the best #2 RB in the league and Ahmad Bradshaw is the best #3 (yes, ahead of Mewelde Moore). I'd really like to see Bradshaw get some action - his talent is obvious. They can't get him on the field with Jacobs and Ward.

27. For a long time, I have wondered why the Steelers use Najeh Davenport on returns. It doesn't make sense to put a 247 pounder back there, does it?

28. There isn't much to say about the Niners other than they make tons and tons of mistakes. They don't take care of the ball and they commit tons of penalties.

29. Monday afternoon Trent Dilfer told me on NFL Live that the Colts were going to be able to hit Dallas Clark on the seam route for some big plays against the Titans, then rolled some videotape and explained why. That night Clark had seven catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, most of the damage coming via that seam route. In the studio, Dilfer displays more confidence, accuracy, and explosiveness than he ever did on an NFL football field. He is one of the best already. The top ten NFL studio analysts:

1. Cris Collinsworth
2. Trent Dilfer
3. Tom Jackson
4. Floyd Reese
5. Steve Young
6. Tim Hasselbeck
7. Mark Schlereth
8. Howie Long
9. Mike Ditka
10. Marcellus Wiley

30. Tennessee has now beaten a team with a winning record - the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens. They will probably drop at least one of their next three - Green Bay, @Chicago, @Jacksonville.

Power Ratings:

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #79

Alice in Chains - No Excuses

The first single off Jar of Flies, the first EP to ever top the charts, No Excuses was the band's only #1 hit. It's one of those songs where every performance is executed brilliantly - the prominent drums, the understated guitar (including a nifty solo), the twin vocals of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, and especially the groovy, catchy bassline.

My 100 Favorite Songs: #80

Moby - South Side

My senior class chose Moby's "Porcelain" as the song to represent the graduating class, but for me it's this one and A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" that best recall that year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #81

Cornershop - Brimful of Asha

This inspired the Song of the Month tradition.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #82

Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

"I've got three fathers," Jack White once said. "My biological dad, God, and Bob Dylan."

Week Eight Picks

Really Like:
TITANS -4 over Colts

Also Like:
RAVENS +7.5 over Raiders
COWBOYS -2.5 over Bucs
Chargers -3 over Saints
JETS -14 over Chiefs

If Forced to Choose:
NINERS -5 over Seahawks
LIONS +7.5 over Redskins
Falcons +9 over EAGLES
PANTHERS -4 over Cardinals
TEXANS -9.5 over Bengals
DOLPHINS +1 over Bills
JAGUARS -7 over Browns
Rams +7.5 over PATRIOTS
Giants +3 over STEELERS

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #83

Cake - End of the Movie

A summary of my 2008 WSOP experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week Seven Observations

1. The Buffalo Bills have the most underrated offensive line and quarterback in football. I don't expect this team to fade or disappear - they have talent at every position and are the most well-rounded team in the NFL. The Bills are one of the leading contenders to win the Super Bowl. But don't be surprised to see them drop one this weekend at Miami, the NFL's most underrated team.

2. The Chargers have been rather unlucky this season. In week one they got Carolina before anyone knew the Panthers were any good, and lost on a wild last second pass. In week two they faced the Broncos at peak strength and got screwed on two huge calls. Week five they had to play the dreaded East Coast early game against a Dolphins team that matched up well against them, and week seven they again had the dreaded East Coast early game against a top team. Now they have to play in London although they finally caught a break as Reggie Bush - a player that would give them a lot of problems - will not be playing. With all the problems the Broncos are having, the Chargers are still the favorite to win the AFC West then go into the playoffs as the proverbial Team No One Wants To Play. I still consider the Chargers a leading Contender as well - but only if they can pick up the defense. It does not resemble last year's playmaking unit.

3. The Vikings have now had two games where they gave up two touchdowns in the punting game - and neither has involved Devin Hester. The Vikings kept kicking short (and doing a terrible job of it) to avoid kicking to Hester. News Flash, Vikings: Devin Hester is not a returner to be feared right now. Do some scouting, idiots.

4. Marty Booker had a touchdown that made a lot of highlight packages, but he also dropped two touchdowns that cost the Bears ten points. The Bears scored 48 and it should have been 58!

5. Wide receiver Hines Ward broke the jaw of linebacker Keith Rivers throwing a block during the Steelers/Bengals game on Sunday. If you could have picked the wide receiver most likely to break a linebacker's jaw throwing a block, you'd have picked Hines Ward. Rivers, Cincy's '08 first round pick, is out for the season.

6. This Chris Johnson kid is FAST. He looks faster to me than any other running back. The caveat is the only Titans game I have really watched was against the Chiefs. The Titans have this thunder and lightning tandem thing down. Both their backs are not complete every down types, but both have their strengths and you can see the defense struggling to adjust to their differences.

7. I was impressed with the way the Titans came out Sunday morning against the Chiefs and just laid down the law on offense and defense. Very focused. Like they were trying to break the Chiefs right away, just make it clear that KC had no chance and should just give up. We haven't seen many beatings of this severity this season. The final margin was 24 points but this was the most dominant performance I have seen this season.

8. Lavelle Hawkins had two catches for 11 yards. That was it for the Tennessee receiving corps on Sunday. 455 total yards, 11 of them accounted for by wide receivers. They have the worst WRs in the league but they don't give a crap. Adjust to your personnel.

9. As I pointed out last week and will likely point out again next week, the Titans have not played a team with a winning record.

10. Terrell Owens has not led the Cowboys in receiving in any single game this season. Jason Witten has four times, Miles Austin once, Marion Barber once, and Martellus Bennett was the team's leader with 67 yards on Sunday. Owens has now gone ten straight games with less than 100 yards receiving.

11. Brad Johnson played rather poorly on Sunday. All those things you fear and expect when the backup QB comes in - missed throws, fumbled snaps, WRs running different routes than the QB expects, dropped balls by the WRs - happened against the Rams.

12. The Cowboys are having huge problems in their secondary. Rookie first-rounder Mike Jenkins had a rough game against the Rams. Safety Roy L. Williams, a strong run-stopper but a poor pass defender, broke his arm Sunday and is out for the season. Safety Pat Watkins has been having neck problems which may be caused by a bulging disk. He may end up out for the season as well. The Cowboys desperately need Terence Newman back and they need Jenkins to step up. This could be the worst secondary in the league right now.

13. The one Dallas player who seems to be getting better and better is DeMarcus Ware, who is piling up sacks at an alarming rate - nine for the season.

14. For whatever reason the Cowboy offensive line is not blocking as well as they were earlier in the season, both in the run and the pass.

15. Cowboys offensive coordinator and play-caller Jason Garrett has been taking a lot of heat for this 1-3 slide, but I thought the play-calling against the Rams was actually quite good. The problem was execution.

16. It was fun to watch Steven Jackson and Marion Barber in this game as they are so similar in appearance, run style, and overall quality. Jackson is a little faster in the open field and Barber a little better at getting the extra yard in close quarters.

17. I think we can now conclude that Scott Linehan was indeed the worst coach in the league during his tenure. This Rams team looks totally different now that he has been jettisoned. They play harder and smarter. They were so fired up and excited to play on Sunday. Linehan actually put Marc Bulger on the bench! Like that was their problem. The Rams did the right thing and put Linehan on the bench.

18. Although he was the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft, Donnie Avery had been flying under the radar. Not anymore. Operating opposite Torry Holt, Avery has made nine catches for 138 yards the last two weeks and his role should continue to grow as he learns the complicated Al Saunders offense. His role and style are similar to the other top rookie WRs, DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal.

19. The Dolphins moved the ball well against the Ravens, but couldn't stick it in. Baltimore did a nice job preventing the big play, stuffed them in the red zone,and notched a crucial pick six that changed the complexion of the game.

20. Willis McGahee is the factor back for the Ravens, not Le'Ron McClain or Ray Rice. Willis CUTS whereas McClain mashes and Rice just runs.

21. Of all the Really Bad Teams in the NFL, I think the 49ers are the closest to getting out of the dumps. They do need to upgrade the quarterback position though. J.T. O'Sullivan is a poor man's Tony Romo. He plays fearlessly (which I love watching cause all these bad teams throw nothing but 5 yard dinks and the QB nevertakes a chance) but he does not seem to understand how devastating turnovers are. He does not take care of the ball.

22. Frank Gore is only 25 and didn't put on that many miles at the U. He is not really a speed back. He should be a big producer for many years to come.

23. Plaxico Burress is always in the news during the week for the wrong reasons, but it never matters. When it is game time he shows up and plays well consistently. Last year he didn't practice but had a great season and was their MVP in the NFC Championship.

24. It is both sad and funny that Reggie Bush got hurt this week, as I really felt like he was doing a much better job running the ball vertically and sticking his nose into the line in the first half against the Panthers.

25. It's amazing how many deep balls Steve Smith has grabbed over the years through double coverage. He is 5-9. You see that ball go up deep to him, you see two defenders covering him (one or both bigger than him), and then you see Smith come down with the ball somehow.

26. The Texans are giving up a lot of big plays in the passing game.

27. I like Kevin Smith, rookie RB for the Lions. He is fast and hits holes. For the season he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The problem is the Lions usually fall behind and have to abandon the run. They also waste carries on Rudi Johnson. Luckily I picked Matt Forte instead of Smith in the fantasy draft.

28. The Lions face a long road to recovery on defense. They do not have talent there.

29. That Oakland crowd still gets up for games even though they have a crappy team and have had one for a while. That's the true test of fans - passion during the down times.

The NFL's Top Ten Crowds:

10. Indy
9. Buffalo
8. Minnesota
7. Pittsburgh
6. Seattle
5. Denver
4. Oakland
3. Washington
2. Green Bay
1. Kansas City

30. Sebastian Janikowski is finally showing why he is the only kicker to ever be drafted in the first round.

31. The Jets ran a gutless, punchless offense on Sunday with no vertical passing. It was like they thought they could win the game by reducing the variance and not making mistakes. They would have except for a couple of ill-timed turnovers. That loss knocked them out of the playoff picture, for now.

32. The Colts had a very hard time passing the ball in Lambeau. I think the wind may have been the culprit. Peyton Manning has a history of struggling in adverse conditions. It seemed to me the Packers coaches and players were prepared for the conditions and the Colts were not. Green Bay's game plan seemed to fit the wind - tons of running and short passes. They were also cognizant of when the wind was at their backs and when it was against them, and structured the attack accordingly. Indianapolis was badly outcoached in this game and Aaron Rodgers played much better than Peyton Manning.

33. Not sure why Derek Anderson gets so many balls batted down at the line of scrimmage. He is 6-6.

34. The ideal recipe for a horrendous day of passing goes something like this: Give an inaccurate quarterback (Derek Anderson) no time to throw all day against the best secondary in the league, then have his targets drop the ball on the off chance he does get it to them. By my count, Anderson blew 11 passes (where it was his fault and not a protection problem) and the Browns dropped four passes. I don't know if Drew Brees has missed 11 passes all season, and don't know if Tom Brady missed 11 all last year.

35. As a team, the Redskins have thrown 332 consecutive balls without an interception - an NFL record.

36. The Patriots should be embarassed giving up six sacks to the league's worst pass rush. Remember last year how Tom Brady never got hit? This isn't all on Matt Cassel. When you give up six sacks to the Denver Broncos, your line is not doing its job in pass protection. Cassel has been sacked at least four times in every game he's started!

37. It sickens me to watch the Patriots. This team had the best offense in the history of football last season! And now they are below average. Cassel always takes the short throw, the checkdown, the dumpoff. Quarterback is not only the most important positionin football, it is the most important position in any of the major team sports.

38. The Broncos should be even more embarassed giving up 41 points to one of the league's worst offenses. I hate it so much when the quarterback gets all the credit or blame (see Bulger, Marc) for a team's success. Matt Cassel is an awful quarterback, one of the five worst to see the field this season in the NFL (two play for the Chiefs by the way).

39. It is the same thing every week for the Broncos - Champ Bailey never gets thrown at but still manages a spectacular play or two and never misses a tackle, Elvis Dumervil gets a sack, Ebenezer Ekuban pressures or sacks the quarterback once, D.J. Williams makes a play or two - and the rest of the defense does absolutely nothing. With the exception of those four guys, EVERY other defender for the Broncos is WELL below average. Their safeties are the worst pass defense safeties in the league, and against the Patriots they were pretty useless against the run too. Denver's defensive problems do not come from scheme or motivation - they come from lack of talent. Their defense has serious personnel problems. They have drafted poorly on defense for many years. It is not going to be an easy fix, it is going to take a long time. Fortunately, they have many offensive positions squared away for a while so they can focus draft and free agency efforts on the defense for the next couple years.

40. Champ is out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin, and his linebacker brother Boss is out for the season and will need the dreaded microfracture surgery. What happens when one of the worst defenses in the NFL loses an All-Pro and a starter? It becomes the worst defense in the NFL, no doubt about it.

41. On the other side of the ball, I expect the Broncos to improve greatly after the bye week. They will get everyone back healthy and rested, including rookie RB Ryan Torain. It has occurred to me that in two weeks the Broncos may trot out the NFL's best offense and worst defense in the same game.

42. This Calvin Lowry kid the Broncos threw in there at safety Monday night looks like one of the worst defensive players to see the field this season. I don't understand why the Broncos let go of Hamza Abdullah and John Lynch if they were going to end up playing someone as bad as Lowry. I helped drive the "John Lynch is old and overrated" bandwagon but had no idea the alternative could be this bad. Lynch lives in Denver and wants to play football. It's the bye week. Please give him a call, Mr. Shanahan.

43. Jay Cutler's biggest weakness appears to be vision. He does not see open receivers and sticks with the covered ones. I don't know enough about the position to know if this is a mental problem that can be overcome with practice or a physical one that will never be fixed. I am praying it is the former, as he has unlimited potential in all other areas.

Power Ratings:

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #84

The Doors - L.A. Woman

On July 4, 2007, my friend Nate and I woke up in Ice Lake Basin and packed out down to Silverton, CO. We watched a parade, I dropped Nate off in Durango, and then I drove ten hours on desert back roads from Durango to Las Vegas to go play the WSOP Main Event. I will never forget listening to Jim Morrison bellow Mojo Rising at the climax of that drive while watching the fireworks explode over Las Vegas on the way down the hill from the Hoover Dam.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #85

Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire

June Carter wrote the song in 1962 while married to Edwin Nix, though it is generally believed (and portrayed in Walk The Line) that the song was about Carter's relationship with Cash. "There is no way to be in that kind of hell," Carter wrote, "no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns."

The song was first recorded by Carter's sister Anita, but didn't gain much attention. After hearing the song, Cash said he had a dream where he heard the song accompanied by mariachi horns. Cash then told the Carters "I'll give you about five or six more months, and if you don't hit with it, I'm gonna record it the way I feel it."

Cash's first wife, Vivian, wrote "[June] didn't write that song any more than I did. The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part."

Cash recorded the song, with backing vocals from the Carter sisters and their mother Maybelle, in March of 1963. It was the biggest hit of his career, spending seven weeks atop the charts.

Cash and Carter married in 1968 and remained so until Carter's death in 2003. Cash died four months later.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Week Seven Picks

Really Like:
TEXANS -9.5 over Lions

Also Like:
Browns +7.5 over REDSKINS
GIANTS -10.5 over Niners
BEARS -3.5 over Vikings
Jets -3 over RAIDERS

If Forced to Choose:
Colts -1 over PACKERS
RAMS +7.5 over Cowboys
BILLS -1 over Chargers
BUCS -10.5 over Seahawks
PANTHERS -3 over Saints
Broncos +3 over PATRIOTS
Ravens +3 over DOLPHINS
CHIEFS +8 over Titans
BENGALS +9.5 over Steelers

Lock season record: 2-2
Really like season record: 4-0
Also like season record: 7-7
If forced to choose season record: 32-33-1
All games season record: 45-42-1

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Week Six Observations

1. OMG Kyle Orton! Where is this coming from? I really thought there was no way he could ever be a successful quarterback in the NFL. I did not think he had the ability. He is really playing well here.

2. But the Bears lost yet another game they could have won. As I wrote last week, letting games they can win slip away may cost them a playoff spot. And this season, as we'll go into later, getting to the playoffs should mean a real shot at winning it all.

3. Looks like the Falcons got the right guy in Matt Ryan. He has "Franchise Quarterback" written all over him. This does not look like a rookie, at least when they are at home.

4. I was very happy to see Jason Elam get a chance at a long game-winning field goal, as he was such a consistent producer for the Broncos for all those years and is their all-time leading scorer. He had made something like forty straight inside of 40 yards before blowing that late chip shot that would have sealed the deal against the Bears. Still, early indications are that the Broncos got the best of that exchange as new Denver kicker Matt Prater costs less and kicks longer.

5. It is not going to be easy for Detroit to win a game this season.

6. Bernard Berrian has been putting up pretty big numbers lately.

7. The numbers and NFL ranks for Drew Brees this season: 159 completions (1) 224 attempts (2), 71% completion percentage (2), 1993 yards (1), 9.02 yards per attempt (1), 332 yards per game (1), 12 TD (4), 6 INT (4th most), 105.0 rating (2). His top wide receiver, Marques Colston, has been out for most of the season but should be back this week.

8. Reggie Bush is averaging 3.1 yards per rushing attempt.

9. Fumbles are HUGE. In fourteen games this week, 26 fumbles were lost. Many teams lost critical game-changing fumbles, none more than the Washington Redskins. The Skins were playing a team so bad there was no way they could lose if they didn't turn the ball over, but they lost three fumbles. The key play of the game was an offensive lineman catching a tipped ball, then fumbling the ball, which was returned by the Rams for a critical touchdown as the clock ticked away in the second quarter. Without that "fumble-six" there is no way the Skins could have lost. Yet another game a team may look back on in December and say, jeez, that game cost us the playoffs (and a shot at a world championship).

10. Andre Johnson is so big and fast, there is no way to stop him - unless he drops the ball before or after he catches it, which he does a lot.

11. The Texans can still turn this around. That was a HUGE win over the Dolphins. Their next four games: Detroit, Cincy, @Minny, Baltimore. A five game winning streak and "Gary Kubiak Coach of the Year" editorials may be coming.

12. Ronnie Brown is a very good running back, and Ricky Williams looks a little quicker than he did at the beginning of the season.

13. Welcome back Indianapolis! This may have been the most meaningful win of the season in terms of The Big Picture - Peyton Manning is once again a top-2 NFL QB, Marvin Harrison is once again a threat, Indy is once again scary. Name one team that would be favored over Indy in a neutral site game this weekend. There may not be one.

14. Maurice Jones-Drew - just a delightful player to watch. Quietly, he has moved up to the eighth best fantasy back despite the platoon with Fred Taylor, though this guy doesn't give a crap about his numbers.

It's not easy to compile a ranking of the NFL's top running backs because of all the injuries, but here is an attempt trying to factor in how often they are injured and what they look like when they are healthy:
1. Peterson
2. Tomlinson
3. Westbrook
4. Jacobs
5. Jackson
6. Gore
7. Turner
8. Barber
9. Portis
10. Jones-Drew
11. Taylor
12. Forte
13. McGahee
14. Lynch
15. Addai
16. Larry Johnson
17. Ronnie Brown
18. Chris Johnson
19. Slaton
20. Bush

By the way, none of the three league leaders in yards per attempt cracked the top twenty. The current leader, Derrick Ward, is averaging 7.4 yards per carry with a season long of just 22 yards. #2 Jerrious Norwood is averaging 6.8 this season and 6.3 for his career. Selvin Young is at 5.7 this season and 5.3 career. Felix Jones is averaging 8.9 per carry but doesn't have enough rushes to qualify for official statistics. It's pretty hard to judge.

15. The Broncos caught a real bad break when Brandon Stokley got knocked out of their game against the Jaguars with a concussion. With no Stokley, Eddie Royal, or Tony Scheffler, Jay "Tunnel Vision" Cutler looked only for Brandon Marshall and forced several throws. If Cutler wants to be one of the best he really needs to improve his progression of reads and stop making desperation throws. If the Broncos want to get back to a high-flying offense, they need to get these targets back and healthy.

16. Mike Shanahan shockingly went with a feature back approach against the Jags, and Michael Pittman looked very good. Expect more Pittman next week. Ryan Torain is looming though.

17. Denver may have the worst defensive line in the NFL. Jarvis Moss is officially a bust.

18. Correll Buckhalter plays just like Brian Westbrook. He is about 90% as effective. The Eagle offense doesn't have to change when he comes into the game. I think generally it is probably better to have more of a "thunder and lightning" change of pace backup RB, but for the Eagles Buckhalter is probably the optimal backup.

19. So every week I wonder why the allegedly well-coached Eagles keep losing fluky close games. Maybe this Bill Simmons column provides the answer (about a third of the way down, look for the Andy Reid picture).

20. Matt Hasselbeck is secretly the NFL MVP. The Seahawks do not have a chance without him in the lineup.

21. Speaking of Hasselbeck, it's funny how all the bad teams are the ones whose QBs get hurt. Detroit, Cincy, and Seattle all have Pro-Bowl QBs who went down after it became clear their teams were horrible. Tony Romo got hurt after the Cowboys started having some troubles.

22. Humongous win for the Cardinals, who should make the playoffs unless Kurt Warner gets injured (which is about 50/50). Even then they will probably make the playoffs. It's crazy to think about but at this point I believe the only team more likely to make the playoffs than the Cards is the Titans.

23. Larry Fitzgerald is a special player. He has surpassed Moss as the guy most you most want to throw the jump ball. On a related note, I have him locked up this season and the next two in my fantasy keeper league.

24. The Cards have been extremely impressive at home: 3-0 with easy wins over the Dolphins and Bills and this OT thriller over the Cowboys. Yet it seemed like half the fans in that game were cheering for Dallas.

Wild sequence of events for Dallas. In order:

25. They make a crazy last-second comeback to tie Arizona, then get a punt blocked for a touchdown to lose in overtime. This drops Dallas to 4-2 having lost two of three with the win being a narrow one at home over the dreadful Bengals. This is not what I foresaw when I made a 40-1 bet on Dallas to go undefeated three weeks ago. It is what I foresaw when I predicted them to go 11-5 despite being the most powerful team in football. Now suddenly for the first time, it is conceivable that the Cowboys could actually miss the playoffs.

26. Felix Jones goes down for 1-2 weeks with a hamstring injury. The timing could not be worse because the electric Jones would likely have gotten more time the next month because

27. Tony Romo breaks a finger and will miss a month. The backup is Brad Johnson, who will likely give them a reasonable dink-and-dunk offense with none of Tony Romo's playmaking flair. This might not be so bad, as Romo's hijinks were costing a high-powered offense 1-2 possessions a game and increasing the variance for a team that has no need for variance. Perhaps now they can get back to pounding Barber and throwing to their possession receivers (T.O., Williams, and Witten, easily the best group of possession receivers in the NFL). But now teams will be cheating up a bit to stop the run and short pass. It is hard to say what this team is going to look like for the next month. They may emerge in six weeks as the Contender they started out as or they may fall back to the pack and miss the playoffs. What a wild season.

28. Pacman Jones gets suspended yet again, and it appears this may be the last straw. His stay in Dallas, possibly the NFL, may be over. I don't believe Pacman was playing at a high level, but Dallas has had major injuries and other problems with their secondary and at least he was a warm body. I think Jerry Jones needed to get some positive spin going, so he then

29. Traded first, third, and sixth round picks for Detroit WR Roy Williams and a seventh rounder. There was some word and speculation that the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles were also looking to spring a deal for Williams. It has been just three weeks since the Lions ended Matt Millen's tenure as GM and they are already getting max value exporting their talent for future considerations. I absolutely love this trade from Detroit's perspective. This seems like Dallas gave up way too much for Williams. I wonder if Philly was in there driving up the price auction-style until it got this high.

The deal doesn't make a ton of sense for the 'Boys, who already have the best big, powerful wide receiver in football. Long-term Williams could be an eventual replacement for T.O., but again, Dallas gave up four picks for him. Right now they already have a "problem" spreading the ball around to all those playmakers. Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Felix Jones can't be too excited about this trade.

30. Did Norv Turner just outcoach Bill Belichick?

31. As John Madden pointed out on SNF, San Diego's Mike Scifres is one hell of a punter.

32. I don't think Phil Rivers missed a throw the entire night against New England. This guy is in the zone right now. I never thought it would happen. I am so excited about the development of this Denver/San Diego Rivers/Cutler rivalry. These guys could be shooting it out in 2018.

33. Matt Cassel looks like a guy who hasn't played in eight years.

34. As feared, Randy Moss has decided to check out from the Play Hard Hotel.

35. Never trust your friends to DVR the big game. Do it yourself.

36. The biggest problem the Browns face in trying to recover from that 0-3 start is the schedule. They would be ripe to make a big run here but have to go to Washington and Jacksonville the next two weeks before hosting Baltimore and Denver, then play at Buffalo. It was very unfortunate for the AFC North teams to have to match up against the NFC East this season.

37. It is ridiculous how often we have seen fumbles from guys who are not used to carrying the ball this season. It has gotten to the point that when you see an interception, you expect the new ball-carrier to lose the ball during the return. Tons of defenses are throwing away turnovers by handing the ball right back to the offense. If I was an NFL coach, I would make every player on the team practice handling and running with the ball.

38. Guys are getting banged up, going down for the season, moving less quickly. Games are getting uglier. You are seeing teams put up fewer points as the season rolls along. Running backs are not as fresh. Quarterbacks are laboring to pass the ball. Wide receivers are not sprinting and cutting quite as quickly. We probably won't be seeing another "Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37" or "Denver 39, San Diego 38" the rest of the way.

39. Just when we thought the NFC East might be the best division in sports history, they drop three games to teams outside the division.

40. How wild is this season? There is only one undefeated team left, which is crazy, but even crazier is that there are only three teams with one loss! Tennessee and the three one-game losers have all had a bye week. No team has won six games, and only one has won five games...and we are six weeks into the season.

The idea this season has to be just to get into the playoffs and hope variance is on your side. There is no favorite. There is no dominant team. If a team gets into the playoffs, it has a shot to win it all.

Only four teams are completely out of it six weeks into the season. Think about that. Just one eighth of the league is finished a third of the way in.

Power Ratings:

I almost eschewed the power ratings altogether, as it has grown so muddled and confusing. Last week I had the Cowboys at #1 and the Colts at #15 and now I have the Colts ranked higher than the 'Boys. It would be better not to rank Dallas at all, as they probably won't look too good the next few weeks but must still be considered one of the most likely to win the Super Bowl even if they lose their next few games. Making power ratings for all 32 teams at this point is pointless and has no predictive value. It is more reasonable to group the teams in broad categories, which I have also done.

First there is the team you have to put at the top right now, but only by default. They have not blown a team out and have not yet beaten a team with a winning record. I'm also not sure they would be the favorite in a one game neutral site matchup against any of the next seven teams:

1. Tennessee (4)

Then there are the maniacs, teams that have looked great at times and weak at other times, teams that all have huge problems, teams that you wouldn't be surprised to see win the Super Bowl OR miss the playoffs entirely:

2. New York Giants (2)
3. Pittsburgh (6)
4. Washington (3)
5. Indianapolis (15)
6. San Diego (8)
7. Philadelphia (7)
8. Dallas (1)
9. Buffalo (12)
10. Tampa Bay (14)
11. Chicago (10)
12. Carolina (5)
13. Denver (9)
14. Arizona (19)
15. New Orleans (21)

Then a muddled group with a Lower Upside:

16. Atlanta (16)
17. Miami (17)
18. New York Jets (18)
19. Jacksonville (22)
20. Green Bay (20)
21. Baltimore (13)
22. New England (11)

One totally frisky wildcard who might finish 6-10 but could be in the top five in two weeks:
23. Cleveland (24)

And then some Bad Teams That Have Not Given Up Completely because a) schedule b) circumstancial evidence of a potential revival and c) division rivals ahead of them that could spring leaks down the road

24. Houston (23)
25. Minnesota (25)
26. San Francisco (27)
27. Seattle (28)
28. St. Louis (32)

And finally the four Drawing Dead - teams planning for next year.
29. Oakland (26)
30. Cincinnati (30)
31. Kansas City (29)
32. Detroit (31)

My 100 Favorite Songs: #86

Led Zeppelin - How Many More Times

The final track on Led Zeppelin's debut album, "How Many More Times" is an amazing example of the heights rock and roll can reach when four gifted players combine their gifts and work as one. This is probably my all-time favorite song to run to. I try to align it so the blistering climax plays right as I finish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #87

Fatboy Slim - Praise You

I've always been a sucker for technopop anthems.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #88

Guster - Satellite

It's an amazing feeling knowing there is someone out there who revolves around you as you revolve around them, someone who is more important to you than you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Week Six Picks

Lock of the Week:
BRONCOS -3 over Jaguars

Really Like:
FALCONS +2.5 over Bears

Also Like:
Panthers +1.5 over BUCS
Ravens +4 over COLTS
Packers +2.5 over SEAHAWKS
Dolphins +3 over TEXANS
BROWNS +7.5 over Giants

If Forced To Choose:
Cowboys -5 over CARDINALS
Lions +13 over VIKINGS
Bengals +7.5 over JETS
Patriots +5 over CHARGERS
NINERS +4.5 over Eagles
Rams +13.5 over REDSKINS
Raiders +7 over SAINTS

Lock season record: 2-1
Really like season record: 3-0
Also like season record: 4-5
If forced to choose season record: 30-28-1
All games season record: 39-34-1

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rays of Light

Not many things could get me to watch baseball these days, but a matchup between the Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Yankees, errr, Red Sox, might be one of them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Week Five Observations

1. I know the Bears won 34-7 on Sunday, but their play-calling is horrendous. It is like watching a third-grader play Madden. Deep balls on second and four. Deep balls on the ensuing third and four. Inside running plays on second and goal from the ten. Outside running plays on second and one. This has already cost them games this season. The Bears appear to be one of those teams that is going to be in a fight to make the playoffs. With this hideous playcalling, Devin Hester' taking a Dante Hall career path, and the inevitable upcoming Matt Forte injury, I don't like their chances (although two paragraphs from now I will present the opposite argument).

2. Detroit's problems are numerous of course, but their biggest weakness is linemen. This is what happens when you draft nothing but wide receivers in the first round year after year. They do not protect the quarterback and they do not get after the quarterback. They focused on bottling up Matt Forte on Sunday, and they did, but the rest of their defense is so weak that they allowed The Neckbeard to throw for 334 yards and 2 TDs without a turnover.

3. It is exactly these sort of games against terrible defenses that could build the confidence of The Neckbeard and get him to the level the Bears need to win the division. There is no way the Bears could win a game against an NFC East opponent on the road in the playoffs, but what if they all eat each other and the Bears win all their games against bad teams? January playoff games in Soldier Field are not out of the question. The Bears have a favorable schedule with no obvious losses the rest of the way.

4. The Falcons love throwing deep to Roddy White the first play of the game, and it has been working. White is one of the most underrated players in the game. I feel like he gets grouped into that third tier because his name sounds like and his hair looks like all those other crappy guys. This is no Roydell Williams though. This guy can play.

5. Speaking of guys that can play, Michael Turner sure is good. It's funny that his nickname is "The Burner" because he is obviously not the fastest of backs. But his vision is fantastic. He chooses the right holes and the right cutbacks and he runs over people. They should create one of those jolting virtual reality 3-D rides called the Michael Turner Experience, then force Reggie Bush to ride it for six hours every day.

6. So Atlanta's core is Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White. It is amazing how quickly it can turn around in the NFL.

7. In consecutive games, the Dolphins have knocked off the two teams that played in the AFC Championship last January. Check out these stats:

Vs. Patriots
Score 38-13
First Downs 23-14
Total Yards 461-215
Rushing Yards 216-78
Yards Per Pass 11.7-3.9
Posssession 32:33-27:27

Vs. Chargers
Score 17-10
First Downs 23-10
Total Yards 390-202
Rushing Yards 167-60
Yards Per Pass 7.7-5.1
Possession 36:41-23:19

I don't want to go totally overboard here...the Dolphins did lose 31-10 to the Cardinals...but wow those numbers are impressive. These have not been scrappy, fluky wins of variance, turnovers, and special teams. These have been systematic dominations of upper-tier squads. Observation #6 noted "it is amazing how quickly it can turn around in the NFL."

8. The obligatory softball analogy of the week:
I have this problem with my elbow. It is probably tendonitis. I should find out for sure today. It has been an issue for years, and has been particularly aggravated playing softball. The amount of pain it causes me goes up and down from day to day and week to week. When it is hurting, it never hurts so bad that I can't make one more throw or take one more swing or anything. It hurts afterwards but it never renders the elbow incapable of action. But I am always thinking about it. It is in the back of my mind on every throw, every action.

Last week it was hurting pretty bad and I had a horrendous game. I'm not blaming everything on the elbow, just saying that it is something that is constantly in my mind when it is bothering me. This is how injuries are. They fester. Just because a player is back in the lineup does not mean he is truly back. Devin Hester is listed as Devin Hester, but he is not really Devin Hester. Right now LaDainian Tomlinson is not really LaDainian Tomlinson. They are expected to play at less than 100%. The coaches may not even be aware of what kind of shape they are in.

9. Let's have a little discussion about the Giants here. They beat an obviously unprepared Redskins team in the season opener (we'll call that team Redskins 1.o), crushed the worst team in the league the next week, eked by the 0-5 Bengals, had a bye, and then pasted the also-terrible Seattle Seahawks. This is the NFL, so 4-0 always needs to count for something (especially when three of the wins came easily). But I am not prepared to call the Giants the best team in football, not when the Cowboys have played at the Browns and Packers and hosted the Eagles and Skins 2.0, not when the Skins have gone into Dallas and Phily and won.

The Giants play at Cleveland Monday night, then host San Francisco. So they have a good shot at getting to 6-0, but then take a look at their last ten:


After the Giants lose 6-7 of their last ten and miss the playoffs in a brutal NFC, remember we had this conversation.

10. Speaking of potential frauds, the Titans have beaten the following teams: Jacksonville, Cincy, Houston, Minnesota, Baltimore (a combined 6-17). Unlike the Giants though, the Titans should have no problem making the playoffs in an overrated AFC South and may contend for homefield advantage. They are more of a contender than the Giants in my eyes, though they might not be as good a team.

11. I wrote a lot about the Redskins last week. This week I will keep it short: they are an excellent team. They have above average players at almost every position on the field, they have good chemistry, and they play hard. They do not play another division road game, and their next three games are against the Rams, Browns, and Lions.

12. Like I said last week, Clinton Portis no longer has that breakaway speed in the secondary. However, he is one of the best at the first five yards of his carry. That Joe Gibbs "three yards and a cloud of dust" strategy and all the mileage has changed him from an explosive Tomlinson type to a more pedestrian grinder, which he can also pull off quite well.

13. Ladell Betts is no good.

14. For once Philly did not lose a game they should have won. They lost to a better team this time.

15. Every year there is a decent team that gets off to a nightmarish start with a bunch of heartbreaking losses. This year it is the Houston Texans. I will be looking for attractive spreads they should cover.

16. The Denver defense looked much, much better. They have been experimenting with a 3-4 defense rather than their usual 4-3, and it is a better fit as they have very poor defensive linemen compared to mediocre linebackers. The Broncos do not play many high-powered offenses the rest of the way.

17. Do a google image search for "Jay Cutler." What more does he need to do to crack the top ten?

18. Michael Pittman looks like a man on a mission every time he gets the ball. He may actually be Denver's best back.

19. Tony Scheffler is currently 14th in the NFL in yards per catch at 16.2, easily best amongst tight ends. Unfortunately he may have a serious injury.

20. Felix Jones averaged 9.1 yards per carry last season at Arkansas. Through five games in the NFL, he is averaging 9.0 yards per carry for Dallas. And yes, he had zero carries in the Cowboys' loss to the Redskins.

21. Earlier in the year I had Tony Romo ranked as the #1 healthy QB in the NFL. I think I was focused too heavily on fantasy football at the time. This guy makes 1-2 humongous mistakes per game, the kind of mistakes that swing a game by 7 points.

22. In their two home games, the Cardinals have outscored solid AFC East opponents 72-27. Their third home game is a very intriguing matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

23. Lee Evans, who last week became the league's third-highest paid wide receiver, is averaging 27 yards a catch.

24. The Patriots threw deep to Randy Moss on Sunday. Shockingly, good things happened. The Patriots have two similar, wildly intriguing games coming up - a Sunday nighter at the Chargers followed by a Monday nighter at home against the Broncos. Lose both and they are probably out of it. Win one and they have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. Win both and they will once again be a Contender.

25. There is no reason to believe the Jaguars are any good at all. For some reason their defense is regarded as tough and physical. It is not. Their running game is stuck in the mud because of all their injured linemen. It is going to be fun to bet against this team, starting next week in Denver where they will be lucky to avoid a blowout.

26. Ahhhh, Ben Roethlisberger. He is such a special player. He does things that no one else does, which is a big reason we watch sports and the NFL. Pittsburgh buddy Dave Hoedeman thinks he is the best quarterback in the NFL. It is probably an impossible argument. He is not as accurate as Brees or Manning but he makes so many plays that other quarterbacks cannot dream of. He may be the ultimate bad offensive line QB. John Elway was one of the best; Big Ben is probably unmatched in his ability to turn a negative or zero play into a positive one. Sometimes he turns a zero play into a negative one of course, but to win games you need to make plays. This is what is so nauseating watching half the teams in the NFL play offense. Their quarterbacks almost never throw it more than seven yards...unless of course they are throwing it away. I love watching the Steelers because Big Ben does not have the throwaway programmed into his brain. He is going to try to make a play every time, and he does not care about getting pounded. I just pray he does not get hurt. It would seem the blows he is taking will eventually catch up with him. Luckily his head is not Trent Green's.

27. Again, Mewelde Moore - not that bad. But they could use Fast Willie back in the lineup.

28. That Saints defense looked awesome Monday night. Where has this been the last two years?

29. Reggie Bush is the worst running back in the league on handoffs. Not just the worst starter - I believe he must actually be the worst in the NFL when he receives the ball on a handoff. Fourth-stringers like Pittman and Moore are much better. Bush runs the ball like I would if I was forced to play NFL running back. He appears absolutely petrified of getting tackled. He takes the ball and does everything possible to avoid taking a hit. This is a good thing on punt returns and just deplorable on handoffs. He runs sideways. He runs out of bounds. He falls to the turf before he gets hit. He does not break tackles. He fumbles the ball. Someone needs to tell him that the NFL is not a flag football league. You can get touched by someone's arms and the play is not required to be over. It is laughable watching him try to run the ball.

Now when he catches the ball or returns punts, it's a completely different story. Bottom line - Reggie Bush would be one of the greatest players in the history of flag football. When he gets in the open field he is a great player. His problems arise when people are threatening to actually touch him. With the sad demises of Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs and Roscoe Parrish's injury, Bush is currently the best punt returner in the league. He does not cut and run vertically as well as a healthy Hester, but then again no one does.

The ultimate flag football team:

QB Michael Vick
RB Barry Sanders
HB Reggie Bush
WR Randy Moss
WR Dante Hall
TE Kellen Winslow Jr.

30. So the Saints have now lost two games because they couldn't convert a 3rd and 1, and two games because Martin Gramatica blew field goals (one of those games overlapping). The Saints are 2-3. They are not going to make the playoffs. They are in the NFC South, which is a tough division they are not going to win, and they have little hope of grabbing a wild card over those NFC East behemoths.

To recap: The Saints have the best quarterback in the NFL, the #1 fantasy running back in the NFL, a reasonable defense, and they are not going to make the playoffs.

31. I cannot remember a team going on the road as an underdog against a solid team, winning, and looking so terrible. The Vikings are a bad football team, simple as that. I remember last year they were expected to be so bad but exceeded all expectations because of their offensive and defensive lines and Peterson. This year they supposedly upgraded the defensive line even more but they are not doing the job. I remember watching games last year just marveling at the way Pat and Mike Williams were moving people around and swallowing up the offense. This year the Williams boys and Jared Allen (who led the NFL in sacks and pass knockdowns in '07) are not doing anything. I have no idea why this is not working; the talent is obviously tremendous.

32. The Vikings O-line has been equally disappointing. There was nothing there all night for Peterson. Last year they had incredible success running to the left, behind LT Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson. McKinnie had been suspended the first four games due to his involvement in the party boat scandal. His return against the Saints did not yield positive results.

33. Not only did the Vikings have a rough game blocking for Peterson, they also did not offer Gus Frerotte much protection. Gus's courage was obvious in this game as he had little time to throw and repeatedly got thrown to the ground on vicious hits. He hung in the pocket admirably, often waiting till the last second before heaving it in Bernard Berrian's direction. I think it is safe to say the Vikings would not have won this game with Tarvaris Jackson behind center.

34. On a doubly-related note...I have huge doubts about Brad Childress's abilities as an NFL coach. The Vikings did absolutely nothing to improve their quarterback situation in the offseason, and it is costing them dearly. Every game I watch I imagine what their team would be like with Chad Pennington throwing those dinkers. He would be a perfect fit for their offense - which is just awful. I cannot stress enough how painful it is for me to watch this offense. Gutless is probably the most accurate description. They refuse to throw the ball down the field.

35. When they did actually throw it down the field, they had tremendous results in this game. Berrian is a viable deep route receiver. Frerotte to Berrian is not exactly Brady to Moss or Romo to Owens in terms of potency, but they are good enough to make some plays with the defense always overcrowding the line keying in on Peterson.

36. I hope the Vikings will realize how much success they had throwing deep in this game and implement it even further in the future, because I cannot stand watching Adrian Peterson running into those nine-man fronts any more. He is the best running back in the NFL, there is no doubt in my mind. He hits the whole so incredibly powerfully. No one else is running like this right now. In this game he never once got to the second level of the defense. When he does, the defense looks like a bunch of hobbits trying to tackle a rabid stallion.

So again to recap...the Vikings have the best running back in the NFL and the best defensive line on paper, but they will not be making the playoffs either. They will also be the first and probably only team of the year to win a road game over a decent team and drop in the power ratings.

37. There is a lot of discussion going on right now about who is the best team in the NFL. You know it, I know it, and Vegas knows it. If you had to pick one team to win one game at a neutral site, we all know who it would be. I am certain they would be favored in this game over all other teams in the league, probably by at least three points.

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

Monday, October 06, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #89

The Cardigans - Live and Learn

Nina Persson's voice is like chocolate, drizzled with honey, coated in sugar, with a cherry on top.

My 100 Favorite Songs: #90

Coldplay - Swallowed in the Sea

Back when I was a romantic, I used to believe in this sort of BS.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Week Five Picks

Also Like:
Patriots -3 over NINERS
Redskins +6 over EAGLES

If Forced to Choose:
LIONS +3.5 over Bears
Steelers +5 over JAGUARS
Titans -2.5 over RAVENS
Bills +1 over CARDINALS
PACKERS -3.5 over Falcons
GIANTS -7 over Seahawks
Bucs +3.5 over BRONCOS
DOLPHINS +6.5 over Chargers
TEXANS +3 over Colts
PANTHERS -9.5 over Chiefs
Bengals +16 over COWBOYS
SAINTS -3 over Vikings

Lock season record: 2-1
Really like season record: 3-0
Also like season record: 2-5
If forced to choose season record: 23-23-1
All games season record: 30-29-1

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Week Four Observations

1. You have to figure Adrian Peterson will end up leading the league in rushing yards, assuming he doesn't get hurt.

2. I can't currently execute a slide while running the bases playing softball. I've never done it. On Tuesday, a situation came up where if I had slid, I might have been able to score a run instead of getting tagged out. We ended up losing the game by one run. I knew this was gonna cost us eventually.

Now, a lot of people were shocked by "Chiefs 33, Broncos 19." I wasn't one of them. The Broncos have had some pretty glaring problems early in the season, and despite the 3-0 start, if you watched the Broncos you had to know eventually these problems were going to catch up with them. On Sunday the Chiefs managed to exploit several of these problems, especially porous defense, overaggressive passes from Cutler, and shaky special teams play. These were weaknesses for the Broncos the first three games, but they survived because they caught the variance on the low side and played a couple teams that can't run the ball up the middle.

When you factor in Arrowhead Stadium and Shanahan's history of playing down to bad teams, "Chiefs 33, Broncos 19" didn't surprise me at all.

3. Deuce McAllister is becoming a factor in New Orleans again. This could be big.

4. Just when we thought we had settled the Rodgers/Favre debate, week four happens, and now we're back to the discussion.

5. Rodgers looked pretty bad against the Bucs, sort of bad before that shoulder injury and real bad in the fourth quarter.

6. So I went to the Bucs/Packers game in Tampa, and of course a lot of the fans were wearing their Bucs jerseys. Looking around the crowd, I saw a wide assortment of names on the back of the jerseys. I saw some Galloways, some for Cadillac Williams, a good number for Derrick Brooks, a sprinkling of Dunns, one or two Earnest Grahams, a Sapp or two, a John Lynch, and even a Garcia. It appeared to me the #1 jersey Bucs fans were wearing was Ronde Barber. Ronde Barber - that's the Buccaneers' biggest star right now and over the last decade.

This got me thinking. The Bucs have had basically no star power over the franchise's history. Yet they have been a very respectable team the last decade, winning a Super Bowl and competing pretty consistently.

Then I watched the game and realized all of their skill position players suck. Jeff Garcia and Joey Galloway were pretty good last season. Now their #1 QB and WR are Brian Griese and Ike Hilliard, guys that aren't good enough to see the field for most teams in the league. Griese was abysmal in this game. All they had to do was hold on to the ball, play defense and grind out a win, but Griese insisted on throwing two bad interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by Charles Woodson.

Yet they ended up pulling out the win and are 3-1, 3-0 with Griese as the starting quarterback. Their defense is very good, although they have been giving up some big plays this season. They have no stars but for the aforementioned Brooks and Barber. The real stars of the Bucs are on the sidelines - head coach Jon Gruden and longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

The current top ten of NFL head coaches:

1. Belichick
2. Gruden
3. Fisher
4. Holmgren
5. Coughlin
6. Reid
7. McCarthy
8. Dungy
9. Jauron
10. Payton

7. Warrick Dunn is not completely washed up.

8. Tomlinson is getting closer to usual form. As a LT fantasy owner, I'm not nearly as concerned now as I was two weeks ago.

9. The Buffalo Bills beat the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. This means very little. What it does mean is that the Bills didn't lose to a team circling the drain, which is more than teams like the Broncos can say. The Bills are 4-0. That's four wins out of the nine to ten they will need to make the playoffs.

10. The Bills lost Roscoe Parrish for at least a month. With the disappearances of Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs, Roscoe may have been the top return man in the league before this injury. This is a very harmful injury to the Bills, whose greatest strength has been special teams.

11. I think Seattle is back to the NFC West favorite now. I am excited to see what they can do against the Giants now that some NFL caliber receivers will be suiting up.

12. I was extremely impressed by the Washington Redskins watching their game against Dallas. I thought it all started with the secondary, which is probably the best in the NFL. Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers, and especially LaRon Landry are all fantastic players. It is sad remembering that the Skins safeties should be Landry and Sean Taylor, which would have given them one of the best safety combos in NFL history.

13. The mental and emotional effort for the Skins was superb on Sunday. Everyone was locked in playing super hard, super smart football. I was reminded of the Giants in the Super Bowl against the Pats. It takes a great effort like that - and a talented team - to win a game against a great team like the '07 Patriots or the '08 Cowboys.

14. I know Clinton Portis had good numbers against the 'Boys, and I know I recently said he was a top 5 back, but he looks slow to me. He does not have the burst of the explosive backs.

15. The West Coast offense is a perfect fit for the Redskins because of the receivers they have. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El are elusive guys. They are perfect on those little 5-yard slants, outs, and hooks. They are not beasts like Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson who you can send deep over the middle. Those short little dinks and dunks work so well because Moss and Randle El get open and then get bonus yards after the catch when someone overpursues and runs past them.

The Redskins run the right version of "The West Coast Offense." It is dominated by short throws, but they sprinkle in enough deep balls to a) get some big plays and b) soften the secondary for those short throws, making them far more effective. The weaker versions of this offense, which I like to call the "Dink" or the "Bullshit Offense", do not take enough deep shots. This is usually because a) they cannot depend on their line to give the QB protection for a deep throw, b) they have no faith in their quarterback (whereas Washington is now showing faith in Jason Campbell and he is responding), or c) their wide receivers are not playmakers like Moss and Randle-El.

15. As many have already said, eight carries in a game is never enough for Marion Barber.

16. Except for that Felix Jones kickoff return TD vs the Eagles, the Cowboys return game has looked very poor. Pacman Jones is not getting anything at all on punt returns, which is a big part of his perceived value.

17. Philly lost to the Bears because of injuries at running back. It's really too bad, because down the line that could cost them a playoff berth.

18. The Eagles have blown so many close ones the last few years. It always seems like they are better than their record. Why does this keep happening? I don't know.

19. The Eagles were on to the "give Matt Forte the ball every play" strategy, and the Bears did jussst enough without him to get the win. They really need to develop the Orton to Lloyd game, kind of what the Chiefs have with Dwayne Bowe, to have a chance. The moment Forte goes down is the moment the ice cracks and the Bears slip into the icy depths of suckitude.

20. Baltimore is another team running its offense with kid gloves. I like the way Joe Flacco throws the ball down the field though. I think they found the right guy.

21. As a Ray Rice fantasy owner, it is frustrating watching all these carries go to Le'Ron McClain. He looks pretty good. A healthy McGahee/McClain/Mason trifecta could be enough to get a rookie QB to the playoffs (along with the best or second best defense in football).

22. Poor Rashard Mendenhall. At least this was a shoulder and not something career-threatening like a knee.

23. When Mewelde Moore entered Monday night's game, we started cracking jokes. But he looked alright.

24. Still waiting on the first Limas Sweed sighting.

25. The Steelers are extremely beat up, and this could get worse after Sunday night's battle with Jacksonville. This will factor heavily into the power ratings, as will all the other injuries across the league.

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

September Top 15

15. Griffin House - Tell Me a Lie
14. John Mellencamp - I Need a Lover (Who Won't Drive Me Crazy)
13. Jimmy Buffett - Come Monday
12. Kelley McRae - Never Be
11. Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm

10. Brendan Benson - Alternative to Love
9. Mika - Relax (Take It Easy)
8. The Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing
7. Augustana - Sweet and Low
6. Mika - Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)

5. Nas - Stillmatic (Intro)
4. Mika - Ring Ring
3. Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra - Love is Blue (Instrumental)
2. Mika - Love Today

Song of the Month: Dire Straits - Money For Nothing