Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Song of the Year

21. School of Fish - Three Strange Days
20. Matchbox Twenty - How Far We've Come
19. Ben Kweller - Thirteen
18. Massive Attack - Teardrop
17. The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth
16. Heart - Alone
15. Ray LaMontagne - Empty
14. Muse - Take A Bow
13. Al Stewart - Year of the Cat
12. The Eagles - How Long
11. Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy
10. The Avett Brothers - Go To Sleep
9. The Replacements - Shiftless When Idle
8. Brendan Benson - Alternative To Love
7. Dolly Parton - Jolene
6. Kathleen Edwards - Run
5. Alanis Morissette - All I Really Want
4. Gavin DeGraw - I Don't Want To Be
3. Tift Merritt - Broken
2. Sam Phillips - I Need Love
1. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Monday, December 29, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #70

Fountains of Wayne - Stacy's Mom

I think of a lot of things when I hear this song - The Cars, Rachel Hunter, the excellent Welcome Interstate Managers album, the power of MTV; but more than anything else, "Stacy's Mom" - a runaway smash late in the summer of 2003 - vividly encapsulates the lazy buzz of August - the summer winding down and dreading going back to school.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Week Seventeen Picks

Also Like:
Chiefs +3 over BENGALS
Redskins +3 over NINERS
SAINTS +3 over Panthers
TEXANS -2.5 over Bears
Dolphins +2.5 over JETS
Cowboys +1.5 over EAGLES
Patriots -6.5 over BILLS
Titans -3 over COLTS
Seahawks +6 over CARDINALS

If Forced to Choose:
Rams +14 over FALCONS
Giants +7 over VIKINGS
BUCS -13 over Raiders
PACKERS -10.5 over Lions
CHARGERS -8 over Broncos
Jaguars +13 over RAVENS
Browns +11 over STEELERS

Lock season record: 3-3
Really like season record: 12-5-1
Also like season record: 33-27-2
If forced to choose season record: 77-73-2
All games season record: 124-108-5

Week Sixteen Observations

1. I was very satisfied with the results of this week’s games. The teams that have consistently played at a high level all season (Baltimore, Tennessee, Miami, Atlanta, Carolina, New York Giants) fared well, while the teams that are not as consistent or well-coached (Dallas, New York Jets, Houston, Denver, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Green Bay) found new ways to lose.

2. On Thursday night, in a critical road game, Peyton Manning played the finest game a quarterback has played all season. He looked like Drew Brees in the Dome.

3. I was surprised by the quality of information Deion Sanders put forth doing color commentary of the NFL Network’s broadcast of the Baltimore/Dallas game. I had always assumed Deion was one of those guys that just yelled pointless stuff in those massive 5-headed pregame shows, but he really had some interesting and insightful things to say while doing the game. The ten best color commentators I have heard this season doing NFL games:

10. Ron Jaworski
9. Brian Baldinger
8. Steve Tasker
7. Deion Sanders
6. Tony Boselli
5. Rich Gannon
4. Brian Billick
3. Phil Simms
2. Cris Collinsworth
1. John Madden

4. Hideous game from Shaun Hill and the San Francisco offensive line against a terrible St. Louis defense. The Niners have not found the answer at quarterback and should address this along with their line in the offseason.

5. Rams backup running back Kenneth Darby was tackled by a referee on Sunday. The Rams will need a healthy Steven Jackson in the lineup next season to have a chance.

6. The critical sequence in the Rams/Niners game came with St. Louis up 16-3 with 7:13 left in the 4th quarter facing a 3rd and 13 from their own 46 yard line. The Rams called a 4-wide shotgun pass play which was incomplete to Torry Holt, then punted into the end zone. This is the kind of situation the bad teams screw up so often compared to the good teams. The Giants, Panthers, Titans, etc. know what plays to call in these situations and then know how to execute them. If the Rams had called a running play or pinned the Niners on the punt, the rest of the game would have been different and St. Louis might have won instead of lost.

7. The Chargers have not lost a game by double digits this season. They are the only team in the NFL that can say that.

8. The Patriots have Lamont Jordan and Sammy Morris healthy once again. This makes a difference and gives them a balanced offense that could make a run in the cold weather playoffs – if they get in.

9. Kurt Warner may be the worst bad-weather quarterback in the league. There’s a reason it didn’t work out for him in New York. The Cardinals obviously are not built to play in bad weather.

10. The Patriots/Cardinals game was not as close as the 47-7 final score indicated. It could have been worse.

11. You never know what you’re gonna get from Old Man Collins, but if he can give Tennessee three good games in a row in January, the Titans will have a good chance to win it all.

12. Offensive playcalling is not one of Detroit’s myriad problems.

13. Why not play Josh Cribbs every down at quarterback? Wouldn’t that be better than Ken Dorsey or Bruce Gradkowski?

14. Disappointing effort from the Kansas City fans, who I recently named the league’s best, the last couple weeks. First they leave early in a divisional game against the Chargers and miss San Diego’s wild comeback, then they hardly show up in the bitter cold Sunday against the Dolphins and miss an entertaining shootout.

15. Every once in a while JaMarcus Russell decides to look competent, keeping hope alive for Raider fans and executives while avoiding LVP honors for the ’08 season.

16. Gary Kubiak is maniacally going for it in some questionable 4th down spots, not to mention passing twice in a row on 3rd and 4th and inches.

17. The Jets just never got it through their heads that the best part of their offense was the run game. Even in Seattle with the snow coming down, the season on the line, the score close, Brett Favre struggling, and the Jets averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry in a defensive game, they threw it more than they ran it.

18. Total yards from the first quarter: Denver Broncos 213, Buffalo Bills -2. And the Broncos would lose the game.

19. The Broncos were rather stupid in avoiding kicking off to Leodis McKelvin, as Matt Prater’s squibs fell into the hands of a competent Fred Jackson and he burned them.

20. Champ Bailey is a special player. He finds ways to make plays even when the opposing team refuses to throw the ball in his direction. But he will not be back to the real Champ Bailey until next season.

21. I hate betting on the Eagles, because you just cannot trust Donovan McNabb to bring the A-game. No “good” quarterback is more inconsistent.

22. Washington’s secondary – the best in the league – is back at full strength with a healthy Shawn Springs and a focused LaRon Landry.

23. Tarvaris Jackson is a better runner than any other current starting QB, but he puts his head down when he decides to run. He does not keep looking up the field like a McNabb or Roethlisberger.

24. I really, really enjoyed the Panthers/Giants Sunday Night battle royale, and not just because I had large bet on Giants -4 which miraculously covered. This was the best game of the season – very well played, coached, and officiated. Even the one big mistake (John Kasay’s missed 50 yard field goal) was forgivable considering the conditions.

25. I’m stunned the Panthers played that well and lost. They are the most balanced team out there, with fewer weaknesses than anyone else. On offense they have one of the best lines blocking for two good backs, a smart veteran quarterback, a team-friendly possession receiver that becomes more and more valuable as the season progresses, and one great playmaker. Their defense is not quite as stingy as that of the other contenders, but they tackle well and can get after the quarterback in key situations. Their special teams are also above average. You could see the value of kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. In such a close match, he was able to give Carolina superior field position by consistently outdistancing John Carney on kickoffs.

26. Just been one of those seasons for the Packers. No reason to believe they won’t win double digit games in 2009.

Offensive MVP of the Week: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
Defensive MVP of the Week: Leon Hall, Cincinnati
Breakout Player of the Week: Jason Jones, Tennessee
Head Coach of the Week: Mike Holmgren, Seattle
Assistant Coach of the Week: Greg Blache, Washington Defensive Co-ordinator

Power Rankings:

The top five are so close now. They are all practically the same team – well coached teams that value defense and running the football above all else. The Ravens and Steelers play the best defense but Pittsburgh has a bad offensive line and Baltimore starts a rookie quarterback. The Panthers have the best offense of the bunch but their defense is a notch behind. And the Titans and the Giants do just about everything well.

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Golden Era of American Television

I watch a lot of television. Since the NFL season started, I've been watching roughly thirty hours a week. Yet I do not consider myself a “couch potato” and feel no guilt about how many hours I spend in front of the tube. I watch tv in a meticulous, organized fashion and everything I watch is quality programming. I do not channel surf and have not seen a MTV, VH1, or E! program in a long time.

The advent of tivo/DVR and DVDs have changed the way we can watch television. I can watch anything I want whenever I want and never watch commercials. I don’t watch anything live except for Sunday afternoon football games – but then always multiple games on multiple tvs – and the occasional event such as the presidential debates or other sports.

Every week I watch about ten hours of NFL football and another five of college football. During the week I watch NFL Live every day (20 minutes a day with DVR), NFL Primetime (40 mins) the fresh WSOP episodes (1.5 hours with DVR), Survivor (40 minutes), and The Office (20 minutes). I also watch every NFL game edited into a “Short Cut” of only the action. This adds an additional seven hours every week.

It doesn’t stop there. The best thing about modern television is these boxed DVD sets of television shows. You can watch full seasons of any show you want without commercials. You can wait to hear the buzz on shows, then decide if you want to take the plunge and watch a season. Lost is a show that got a lot of buzz and sounded like something I would enjoy, so eventually I bought the first season. Now I’ve watched the first three seasons, and they’ll surely get me for the last three.

I’ve watched the first season of both Arrested Development and Entourage and am considering digging deeper. The Wire, another show that’s gotten a ton of positive hype, is next on my list. For a rainy day, there’s always Prison Break, Californication, Weeds, Rome, Deadwood, and on and on. If I hear enough recommendations for something else, I’ll look into that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Week Sixteen Picks

Lock of the Week:
GIANTS -3 over Panthers

Really Like:
Bengals +3 over BROWNS

Also Like:
Texans -7 over RAIDERS
Eagles -5 over REDSKINS
Saints -7 over LIONS
Falcons +3.5 over VIKINGS
BUCS -3.5 over Chargers
Bills +6.5 over BRONCOS
Steelers -2 over TITANS

If Forced to Choose:
SEAHAWKS +4 over Jets
Packers +4 over BEARS
RAMS +5.5 over Niners
Dolphins -3.5 over CHIEFS
Ravens +4.5 over COWBOYS
Cardinals +7.5 over PATRIOTS

Lock season record: 2-3
Really like season record: 11-5-1
Also like season record: 30-23-2
If forced to choose season record: 72-72-2
All games season record: 114-103-5

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Week Fifteen Observations

1. The Bears beat the Saints because their team is better suited to play on a sloppy field, in the wind, and in the cold. The Saints look like gods every game in the Superdome but they are bad enough outdoors that they can't beat mediocre teams like Chicago. Drew Brees has played at an extremely high level much of this year, but he does not bring that every game on the road. Thus, he is no longer an MVP candidate - though his skill is greater than any other quarterback right now.

2. Nothing the Bears are doing right now is particularly impressive. Kyle Orton has not gotten back to the level he exhibited before his injury.

3. Even on the best play of Cedric Benson's season, you could tell he does not belong in the NFL. He fell over untouched to end a 79 yard catch/run.

4. Steven Jackson, the second best running back in the world, is going to have a short and oft-injured career because of his violent style.

5. The great Favre/Rodgers debate has finally been settled: Chad Pennington is better than both.

6. For the season Torry Holt now has 651 yards receiving and three touchdowns; longtime running mate Isaac Bruce has 766 yards and six TDs for the Niners.

7. The Jets average 4.8 yards per carry, tied for tops in the league. But they rank 16th in attempts. Meanwhile, they rank 20th in yards per pass, yet are 15th in attempts. The Jets have had trouble establishing their identity all season. They have insisted on running a pass-heavy West Coast offense, though the numbers show this doesn't make sense for their team. On Sunday, they handed the ball off just once to the electric Leon Washington. That one carry was a 47 yard touchdown scamper. The Jets may sneak into the playoffs because of a creampuff schedule, but NYJ fans should not be happy with how this season has gone. The talent is in place for better results.

8. J.P. Losman is the poor man's J.T. O'Sullivan.

9. Dallas Clark has really been coming on strong - even before Thursday's fantastic performance against the Jags. People forget how much action Clark got the last couple years and how important he can be for that offense.

10. Indianapolis picked up kick returner extraordinaire (NOT) Najeh Davenport and immediately sent him back to return kickoffs. I have no idea why a team would look to Davenport to return kicks.

11. Chiefs rookie CB Brandon Flowers continues to emerge as a playmaker.

12. I've always liked Dennis Northcutt. He has made plays throughout his career.

13. Kerry Collins appears to be faltering. He is missing some of the throws he was making during the middle part of the season.

14. Arizona's two wins over teams with a .500 or better record: a week six overtime win over the Cowboys and a week two blowout of the Dolphins.

15. That Bernard Berrian punt return touchdown featured some of the worst special teams defense I've seen this year.

16. Carolina is leading the NFL in scoring over the last two months.

17. Lost in the controversy of the Santonio Holmes touchdown ruling was Pittsburgh's terrible clock management down the stretch. The Steelers spiked the ball on 1st and goal from the 4 with one timeout and 52 seconds left. Either a timeout or a play, even a running play, would have been better in this situation. This could have cost them big. I just don't get it; the NFL is a league of professional players and coaches but it seems only a couple teams know how to manage the clock late in a tight situation. It shouldn't be this hard.

18. I felt like the rain and field conditions were the reason the Raiders couldn't stop the Patriots. Their defensive backs were very slow reacting to pass patterns. Nobody was running super fast, but the offense knew where they were going while the defense had to guess and catch up. It gave the team with a competent offense, the Pats, a big advantage.

19. Before we get too excited about Tashard Choice, let's remember that Felix Jones was averaging 8.9 yards per carry in a similar role for Dallas.

20. John Carney, who was selected to the Pro Bowl this week, has not attempted a field goal over 50 yards this season. Jason Hanson missed just one field goal all season and went 8/8 from 50+ yards; John Kasay also missed just one and was perfect from 49 yards or less. Carney, who has gone 29/31, was a bogus selection for the Pro Bowl.

21. Ken Dorsey might just be the worst quarterback to set foot on an NFL field this season. That list looks something like this:

10. Damon Huard
9. J.P. Losman
8. Kevin Kolb
7. Brooks Bollinger
6. Rex Grossman
5. JaMarcus Russell
4. Andrew Walter
3. Brad Johnson
2. Brodie Croyle
1. Ken Dorsey

22. Monday night, Donovan McNabb was as hot as any quarterback we've seen this season. The Eagles are playing as well as any team right now, but we need to remember that McNabb has not been consistent, they have issues converting third and short, they mismanage the clock on a regular basis, they can't kick long field goals, they've turned the ball over 24 times this season (even turnover ratio), and their play-calling can't be trusted.

Offensive MVP of the Week: Andre Johnson, Houston
Defensive MVP of the Week: John Abraham, Atlanta
Breakout Player of the Week: Jason Craft, St. Louis
Head Coach of the Week: John Fox, Carolina
Assistant Coach of the Week: Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Defensive Co-ordinator

Power Ratings:

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

My 100 Favorite Songs: #71

Oasis - Underneath the Sky

Noel Gallagher has said that he believes he is a conduit of God, and this is how he was able to spout forth so much incredible material from 1994-1996. Oasis had such an excess of great songs during this time that they stocked each of their singles with fresh, excellent backing songs. The band eventually released a collection of these tracks called The Masterplan, maybe the best B-sides album ever released.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #72

Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey

I remember seeing a picture of Van Morrison for the first time and being totally shocked that he was not an old black man.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #73

John Hiatt - Cry Love

Stumbled across this one watching Arrested Development and it hasn't left my conscious since.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #74

U2 - One

"One" was ranked #36 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, voted the 5th most popular song of all time in a poll conducted by Sony, ranked #2 on VH1's Top 100 Songs of the '90s, and placed #1 on Q Magazine's Best 1001 Songs Ever.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Week Fifteen Picks

Lock of the Week:
CARDINALS -3 over Vikings

Really Like:
Packers -1 over JAGUARS
FALCONS -3 over Bucs

Also Like:
EAGLES -14 over Browns

If Forced to Choose:
Patriots -6.5 over RAIDERS
Redskins -6.5 over BENGALS
Steelers +3 over RAVENS
JETS -9 over Bills
Seahawks -2.5 over RAMS
Chargers -5.5 over CHIEFS
TEXANS +3 over Titans
Broncos +7.5 over PANTHERS
Niners +6.5 over DOLPHINS
Giants +3 over COWBOYS
Lions +17 over COLTS

Lock season record: 2-2
Really like season record: 11-4
Also like season record: 29-23-1
If forced to choose season record: 65-67-2
All games season record: 107-96-3

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Week Fourteen Observations

1. You have to wonder where the Chargers season would have gone if LT had suffered a season-ending injury early and they had been forced to give Darren Sproles the ball.

2. How do you keep a bad team in the game? Commit four defensive offsides penalties in the first quarter like the Vikings did vs. the Lions.

3. The Vikings would not have won this game without the Williams boys, as they stopped Detroit on two middle runs on critical 4th and 1s.

4. The Vikings hit some clutch challenges against the Lions to save their asses, including a questionable overturn of a key completion to Calvin Johnson late in the game.

5. Jared Allen seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses.

6. Well played game by Daunte Culpepper. The Lions would have won a game if he had played for them the whole season.

7. For the 800th time this season, I’m wondering what Kevin Smith is going to do when he gets behind a decent offensive line.

8. The Lions were rather unfortunate that Tarvaris Jackson decided to play so well and snuff out their last chance at a win.

9. I’m surprised Ryan Fitzpatrick is still standing. He is taking a beating.

10. Houston’s powerful offense is third in the league in total yards, but they can’t take care of the ball. Gary Kubiak’s schemes lead to lots of big plays but players like Sage Rosenfels, Matt Schaub, and Jacoby Jones don’t show enough discretion with the ball.

11. One of the most interesting stats over NFL history is that there is no correlation between defensive penalties and losing. The theory is that defensive penalties are often mistakes of effort, whereas offensive penalties are mistakes of ineptitude. There is a strong correlation between offensive penalties and losing – and the Green Bay Packers lead the league in offensive penalty yards.

12. Three weeks in a row the Jaguars have gotten off to disastrous starts. They spotted the Vikings a quick two touchdowns three weeks ago, then got in a quick 10-0 hole at Houston. On Sunday they force-fed the Bears an early TD. Jacksonville is not a team that can afford to dig itself a hole.

13. Against the Bears, Jacksonville was unable to convert third and short via the pass. Then they tried to run it on third and short, and that didn’t work either. The Jags finished the first half with 33 passing yards and four first downs.

14. Kyle Orton has not been the same since coming back from injury.

15. Tight end Greg Olsen might be Chicago’s best pass catcher.

16. If the Browns could just put the ball in the hands of Josh Cribbs every play, they might have a chance. You can tell this is a poorly coached team by how long it took them to get Cribbs into the offense.

17. Tennessee and Pittsburgh have very smart defenses. They are always aware of the situation and what sort of plays they should be expecting. The Titans are great at coming up and stuffing runs and short passes on third and short.

18. Highlight of the Titans-Browns game: A rare caught deep ball to Braylon Edwards is ruled out of bounds on a close play with the Browns down 28-9 with eight minutes left. Cleveland elects not to challenge the play and an enraged Dan Fouts screams “It’s a fifty yard gain and you’re not gonna challenge it!? Somebody’s asleep on the sidelines!” The Browns then run it on 2nd and 10 for a loss of four, check it down for a short pass (incomplete) on 3rd and 14, then punt the ball down 19 with seven minutes left.

19. Lots of punt returners are being real squeamish on short punts, letting them bounce instead of rushing up to make the catch. Far too often they let the ball bounce and it ends up bounding another 10+ yards, or occasionally glancing off a teammate to create a potential turnover.

20. The Saints averaged 6.1 yards per carry against Atlanta, but went 0 for 2 running the ball on third and one and barely eked out an essential fourth and one. This has been the Achilles heel for an offense leading the league in yards.

21. Roddy White is now leading the league in receiving yards and sits atop NFL Outsiders’ WR rankings. He deserves a lot of the credit for Matt Ryan’s amazing season along with Atlanta’s underrated offensive line. There is no wide receiver I’d rather have locked up for the next couple years in a fantasy keeper league, even my boy Larry Fitzgerald.

22. Philadelphia finally realized Brian Westbrook is their best player with three minutes left in the third quarter against the Giants, and that realization may have saved their season. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb got bailed out of another long week of scrutiny by Jim Johnson and the Philly defense.

23. Shaun Hill is now 5-2 in his career as a starter.

24. Jets wide receivers have not gotten separation against some pretty suspect secondaries the last couple weeks. I may have to go with Davone Bess over Laveranues Coles for the fantasy playoffs.

25. The Jets have been able to run the ball very effectively the last couple weeks, but they don’t call enough running plays. And they aren’t getting the ball into the hands of their one dynamic player, Leon Washington.

26. Chad Pennington has quickly transitioned to Davone Bess as his favorite target after the loss of Greg Camarillo.

27. J.P. Losman didn’t get much help from his receivers on Sunday, who dropped numerous passes. You see receivers drop a lot more passes when the backup quarterback comes in.

28. Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan has become hilariously obsessed with hang time on punts and kickoffs, but he is still one of the best in the business. The top ten play-by-play guys doing NFL games right now:

10. Kenny Albert
9. Matt Vasgersian
8. Dick Stockton
7. Thom Brennaman
6. Gus Johnson
5. Kevin Harlan
4. Jim Nantz
3. Al Michaels
2. Joe Buck
1. Dick Enberg

29. Hard-earned season-defining win for the Patriots up in Seattle. The Seahawks played one of their best games of the season and New England was just barely able to overcome that unexpected effort thanks to some timely third down conversions and a classic performance from Wes Welker.

30. Kevin Faulk is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season, tops in the league.

31. PiMaster had an astute observation on Marc Bulger: most of the time his crappy offensive line doesn’t give him any time to throw, so he has to rush it and he makes poor throws. He has been so conditioned to expect a hit that when the line actually does protect, he still rushes it and makes poor throws. We’ve seen this phenomenon from just about everyone except Ben Roethlisberger, including Peyton Manning throughout his career and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl against the Giants.

32. Arizona’s rush offense is so bad they averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against the pitiful St. Louis run D despite passing the ball with their usual effectiveness.

33. People touting Kurt Warner for MVP are not watching the games. He is very accurate of course, but his offensive line, wide receivers, coaches, and schedule are responsible for those gaudy statistics.

34. Rookie left tackle Ryan Clady of the Broncos is playing so well in such a crucial role that he’s emerged as a candidate for my 2008 NFL MVP. An estimate of the importance of positions in the NFL:

1. Quarterback
2. Left tackle
3. Defensive tackle (particularly nose tackle if the defense uses a 3-4 alignment)
4. Middle linebacker
5. Right tackle
6. Center
7. Defensive end
8. Running back
9. Guard
10. Free safety
11. Strong safety
12. Cornerback
13. Tight end
14. Outside linebacker
15. Fullback
16. Wide receiver
17. Kicker
18. Punter
19. Punt returner
20. Kickoff returner

35. If you could sum up Denver's season in one play, it would be the crazy throw by Jay Cutler and even crazier catch by Peyton Hillis (at 2:24) that converted a third down and ended Peyton's legendary rookie season. Despite having his leg bent back enough to rip his hamstring, Hillis held on to the ball and the Broncos were able to go down and get a key touchdown before the end of the half. Selvin Young appears to finally be getting healthy just in time to give the Broncos another tailback.

36. Dallas coaches did a nice job gameplanning for Tashard Choice, calling plays suited to his skill set rather than relying on the same stuff they set up for Marion Barber.

37. It was rewarding and a little disappointing to see the Ravens smack the Redskins around on Sunday Night, since Baltimore has been one of our most lucrative ponies this season. We don't expect the lines to be as favorable after that impressive performance on national television. John Madden talked a little about the symbiotic relationship between their offense and defense. The Ravens are good enough to win the Super Bowl this season.

Offensive MVP of the Week: Roddy White, Atlanta
Defensive MVP of the Week: Ed Reed, Baltimore
Breakout Player of the Week: Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay
Head Coach of the Week: Mike Singletary, San Francisco
Assistant Coach of the Week: Jim Johnson, Philadelphia Defensive Co-ordinator

Power Ratings:

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Give A Little Bit

My social life has shown the same pattern of improvement throughout my life. Generally I believe the more people get to know me, the more they like me. By the time elementary school ended, I was one of the most successful and popular kids at Bixby School. I entered middle school as one of the biggest dorks in the school and exited reasonably well-adjusted. In high school I didn't get much traction the first year but by the time it was over I had managed to carve out a nice niche with a core group of friends. College was similar as my first year was wasted socially but eventually I settled into a satisfactory crew or two and graduated happy with everyone around me. And now, three and a half years after graduating and moving back to Boulder, I am more satisfied with my social life than any time I can recall.

Getting off the tournament circuit and spending more consistent time exploring sustained activities has been one of the keys to the recent improvement. I've also discovered that small sacrifices can go a long ways in your relationships. It's not easy for a stubborn SOB like me to give ground on something I believe or spend time doing anything but my favorite activities, but I increasingly realize that backing down a little bit is well worth it in the long run. Your friends will appreciate you more, but more importantly, you will see things from their point of view and gain a greater appreciation for them. In the end, the time you spend with your friends will be enriched because of greater mutual appreciation.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Week Fourteen Picks

Also Like:
TITANS -13.5 over Browns
Chiefs +9 over BRONCOS

If Forced to Choose:
RAVENS -5 over Redskins
Dolphins +1 over BILLS
Jets -4 over NINERS
BEARS -6.5 over Jaguars
CARDINALS -14 over Rams
Texans +6 over PACKERS
GIANTS -6.5 over Eagles
PANTHERS -3 over Bucs
Patriots -4.5 over SEAHAWKS
Falcons +3 over SAINTS
Cowboys +3 over STEELERS
Raiders +9.5 over CHARGERS
LIONS +10 over Vikings
Bengals +13.5 over COLTS

Lock season record: 2-2
Really like season record: 11-4
Also like season record: 27-23-1
If forced to choose season record: 58-60-2
All games season record: 98-89-3

Cheaters Never Prosper

In the wake of a 60 Minutes piece that aired Sunday on the Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet cheating scandal, I was reminded to make a post that I have meant to make since word of the scandal first broke: I believe all poker players should boycott Absolute and Ultimate Bet, never play there, and cash out all their money from the sites. What UPPER MANAGEMENT allowed to happen is completely unacceptable. As customers, we should not allow these companies to survive this. They should be punished for what they did to us and our industry.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Week Thirteen Observations

1. We've reached the point in the season where weather starts determining a large number of games. On Sunday, weather was a factor in eight of the ten games played outdoors. The ability of teams to handle the weather and/or adjust to the conditions becomes crucial. Jay Cutler was not affected adversely by the conditions; Brett Favre, Matt Cassel, Randy Moss, Peyton Manning, and Rian Lindell were.

2. Every Tennessee game I notice that speed Chris Johnson has been blessed with. Some of the other outstanding player traits in the league that seem to jump out every week:

1. The accuracy of Drew Brees
2. The power of Albert Haynesworth
3. The hands of Larry Fitzgerald
4. The toughness of Anquan Boldin
5. The vision of Michael Turner
6. The overthrows of JaMarcus Russell
7. The precise short patterns of Steve Smith (Giants)
8. The playmaking ability of Steve Smith (Panthers)
9. The ferocity of Adrian Peterson
10. The uncanny ability of Jamal Lewis to pick up exactly 3 yards on every run

3. I don't think Tashard Choice is going to get it done for the Cowboys. They need Marion Barber to have a chance at the playoffs.

4. Bills special teams are falling apart after such a great start.

5. We were wondering if Trent Edwards was benched because of injury, as reported, or if the injury was a smoke screen for his feeble play.

6. Marshawn Lynch has one of the strangest running styles you'll see. Almost every step is a miniature cutback. His general direction is often north-south, but his feet are sideways. His head is always moving from side to side. It takes him longer to get through holes than a lot of backs, but defenders rarely get a clean hit at him. What ends up happening is a lot of defenders get 3/4 of a tackle on him. Watching the games running back is the easiest position to evaluate; Lynch is the hardest back to evaluate. I still don't know how good he is, or how good he is compared to Fred Jackson (pictured at right, who has been confirmed as one of the better #2 running backs in the league).

The top ten #2 running backs:

10. Maurice Morris
9. Mewelde Moore
8. Darren Sproles
7. Fred Jackson
6. Chester Taylor
5. Jerious Norwood
4. Leon Washington
3. Felix Jones
2. Derrick Ward
1. Maurice Jones-Drew

7. San Fran second-year wideout Jason Hill continues to impress.

8. It was fun watching Isaac Bruce take rookie CB Leodis McKelvin to school. Class was in session in Buffalo on Sunday.

9. Cam Cameron was on fire again Sunday with his playcalls. He will likely be my assistant coach of the year. No one is doing more with less.

10. I can't remember watching a game this season and thinking "wow, what a great play by Reggie Wayne."

11. Steve Smith (Panthers) uses an assortment of subtle body moves to create separation from defensive backs the last second before the ball arrives. He also has great ball skills and perhaps the best balance of all players in the league. Balance may be the most underrated trait in successful football players.

12. Steven Jackson is an absolute beast. The Rams are a much better team with him in the lineup.

13. St. Louis does not have a good passing scheme. The coaching staff is not designing effective passing plays.

14. Every road game New Orleans plays against a good team follows the same script. They don't make enough stops on defense, they can't run the ball and possessions die on 3rd or 4th and short, they have breakdowns on special teams, and inevitably a desperate Drew Brees ends up forcing it and throwing interceptions. This was a bad year for the Saints to be in the NFC South.

15. People can say the Giants don't need Plaxico Burress, but he is their playmaker in the passing game. They would not have gotten to the Super Bowl last year without him, that is almost certain. They are very good, but I wonder if a situation might develop in the playoffs where they need his playmaking ability. The NFC has a lot of strong teams that can take a shot at the Giants.

16. Although Domenik Hixon played well Sunday making some nice grabs, he and Eli Manning were not on the same page a couple times. Those communication errors led to a D'Angelo Hall pick and another easy one which Hall dropped.

17. Don't be fooled by the final score - the Falcons-Chargers game was not close. Atlanta got repeatedly screwed by the officials, was incredibly unlucky in other plays, and still won without much difficulty. The Falcons are one of the best teams in the league.

18. Antonio Gates is not the explosive, dynamic, dominant player of three years ago.

19. The Chargers still have a positive point differential and the Broncos still have a negative one, yet Denver is three games up.

20. Michael Lombardi writes every week about how Heinz Field is slowing down the Pittsburgh defense and how they are faster and more dangerous in other stadiums. Evidence, such as their monster game Sunday in Foxboro, continues to mount supporting this theory.

21. Whether it was the weather or not, the Pittsburgh offensive line had a rare excellent game pushing the Patriots around on Sunday protecting Roethlisberger and consistently opening holes for Parker and Moore.

22. The Raiders came out with a lot of creative offense against the Chiefs. It was working early, but a ten-point swing on a fake field goal scared them out of sticking with it.

23. JaMarcus Russell went back to being the worst quarterback in the NFL Sunday against a porous Chiefs defense.

24. Oakland's pass defense has given up a maximum of 204 yards the last seven weeks, against some of the better passing teams in the league.

25. Both the Saints and the Chiefs found midseason replacement placekickers, and the new guys (Garrett Hartley and Connor Barth) have not missed.

26. Horrendously coached game by the Jets. The Broncos could not stop the run (7.5 yards per carry Sunday) but the Jets only ran it 19 times. Brett Favre was having difficulty throwing the wet ball, yet the Jets found a way to throw it 43 times. Leon Washington is the perfect player to attack Denver's deficient defense, but the Jets only got the ball to him five times on offense. New York's defensive gameplan was just as bad. Jay Cutler was rarely pressured and never sacked, and he responded with 357 yards in the rain.

27. Denver is now 3-4 as a favorite and 4-1 as an underdog.

28. Dre' Bly has really stepped his game up since compadre Champ Bailey went down. If Bly can maintain that level of play when Champ comes back, the impact of Denver's safeties (by far the worst unit in the league) can be minimized.

29. I've watched closely and think Denver fan favorite Peyton Hillis is legitimately good, though he does not have breakaway speed. I don't think I'm drinking the Bronco Kool-Aid on this.

The most shocking fantasy studs of 2008:

13. Tim Hightower
12. Jay Cutler
11. Kyle Orton
10. Kurt Warner
9. Eddie Royal
8. Le'Ron McClain
7. Tyler Thigpen
6. Steve Slaton
5. Mewelde Moore
4. Lance Moore
3. Benjarvus Green-Ellis
2. Peyton Hillis
1. Matt Cassel

30. We've studied this all season and conclude that Devin Hester's problems on returns are psychological, not physical. You could see on his receiving touchdown he still has the speed and explosive cuts. On returns he just doesn't run vertically.

31. The suspensions of Pat and Mike Williams will likely cripple the Vikings. Both were All-Pros last season.

32. Houston's offense is extremely similar to the one Gary Kubiak coached in Denver during the Broncos championship years. Denver has not been able to get back to the Super Bowl since John Elway retired, and you have to wonder if the Texans are capable with either Matt Schaub or Sage Rosenfels.

Offensive MVP of the Week: Mark Clayton, Baltimore
Defensive MVP of the Week: James Harrison, Pittsburgh
Breakout Player of the Week: Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta
Coach of the Week: Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Assistant Coach of the Week: Cam Cameron, Baltimore Offensive Coordinator

Power Ratings:

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

November Top 15

15. Manic Street Preachers - I'm Just A Patsy
14. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth
13. My Morning Jacket - Librarian
12. Ween - Baby Bitch
11. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cherry Lane

10. Manic Street Preachers - Autumn Song
9. My Morning Jacket - I'm Amazed
8. Wilco - Spiders (Kidsmoke)
7. Petula Clark - Downtown
6. Van Morrison - And It Stoned Me

5. Van Morrison - Brand New Day
4. Ryan Adams - Chin Up, Cheer Up
3. Superdrag - Drag Me Closer To You
2. Kelley McRae - Never Be

Song of the Month: Stevie Wonder - I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

Monday, December 01, 2008

My 100 Favorite Songs: #75

Alice in Chains - Down in a Hole

One of three Alice songs on this list - only Bob Dylan has more.