Friday, January 09, 2009

2008 NFL Season Recap

If and when I become a professional writer, this sort of blog will be posted the day after the regular season ends instead of eleven days later. My apologies to the loyal readers, and an even bigger apology to those who got into this blog for the poker and other content and now have no interest. At some point, this blog will once again be filled with quality content unrelated to football – though I can’t promise it will have anything to do with poker.

It has been a long season.
  • Four of the top five preseason contenders (New England, Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville) are no longer standing; the only one who is (San Diego) was 4-8 and left for dead.
  • Three weeks into the season, I made a 40:1 bet on the Dallas Cowboys to go undefeated.
  • The Colts were 3-4 on Halloween.
  • After week twelve the Jets were 8-3, had won five straight including an easy win at undefeated Tennessee, were #4 in the power rankings, and would be favored in each of their final five games. They lost four of those five, missed the playoffs, fired their coach, will likely be without a decent quarterback next season, and now face an ugly salary cap situation.
  • The Broncos were 8-5, up three games in the division with three to go, and ended up missing the playoffs and firing their coach of fourteen seasons
Some crazy ups and downs in the power rankings:
  • Washington was 28th after the first week, 3rd after the fifth week, and 20th after week fifteen.
  • Dallas was #1 the first five weeks of the season and didn’t make the playoffs.
  • Philadelphia has been as high as #2 and as low as #16.
  • Denver rifled up and down the rankings between #5 and #25.
  • The Jets got as low as #24 and as high as #4 before ending the season in the 20s.
  • Two teams that couldn’t crack the top fourteen with one week left in the regular season (San Diego and Arizona) are two wins from the Super Bowl.
Revisiting a few observations from Week One:
  • “Plaxico Burress is going to have a monster season”
  • “The Skins looked so bad that it's already almost inconceivable that they could be at all decent anytime soon.”
  • “I thought the Seahawks offense would be bad. They are in serious, serious trouble. Losing Nate Burleson for the season might be the death knell. This will likely remain my #1 team to bet against for the next few more weeks before the lines go down to where they're supposed to go.”
  • “The Panthers looked very, very good. They deserved to win this game. I was thinking the whole time, what this team really needs is a playmaking receiver. It just so happens they have one of the most explosive in the league. When SS gets back, they may be unstoppable. In my mind, this team is already a contender.”
  • “You can just tell with Dante Rosario. This guy is gonna be a monster. Buy stock in Dante Rosario while it's still cheap. We haven't seen a tight end this athletic enter the league since Antonio Gates.”
  • “The NFC West could very well be the worst division in NFL (sports?) history. All these teams are horrible. I like my pick of the Cards to win the division at 8-8. I don't really like the Cards much though. I don't think they've improved over last year, though the record may be better.”
  • “Dallas is the obvious Juggernaut. There is no reason to believe their offense can be stopped, unless injuries hit.”
Now onto the player awards, starting with one of the most intriguing and competitive MVP races the league has seen (although the final Associated Press numbers did not reflect it):

13. John Abraham, Atlanta
The scariest one-on-one pass rusher in the league on obvious pass downs.

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Ryan’s season had three phases: the start of the season where he got the kid gloves treatment because he was a rookie; the middle section where he caught fire, took control of the team, and was actually playing MVP-caliber football; and the final month where he ran out of gas. A rookie season that exceeded all expectations and shocked a franchise into believing in itself.

11. Roddy White, Atlanta
The secret reason for Matt Ryan’s success, White did more to help his team and quarterback than any other wide receiver this season. His consistent, no strings attached, high level of play was as big a reason for Atlanta’s stunning success as Ryan, Abraham, Michael Turner, or Mike Smith.

10. Ed Reed, Baltimore
Nine picks including two touchdowns and eight in the final six games, but Reed isn’t as good a tackler as he once was.

9. Chad Pennington, Miami
The perfect player for Miami’s situation, but not talented enough to garner serious MVP consideration.

8. Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Quite possibly the best football player in the world, but injured too often to get serious consideration for MVP.

7. Kurt Warner, Arizona
Great season in a great system for Warner, but this team wouldn’t have made the playoffs in six of the NFL’s eight divisions, and Warner throws to two of the best wideouts in football.

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans
The closest thing to “unstoppable” on the offensive side of the ball, but only in Domes and/or against bad defenses; incredibly efficient in his good games, but he couldn’t get it done against the better defenses and/or in bad weather.

5. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
The most terrifying player in the league, but he also terrorized his own fans with nine fumbles.

4. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Ware was the force that kept the Cowboys in the playoff hunt through all their troubles on offense and in the locker room, finishing with a league-high 20 sacks. On a team lacking consistency, Ware was the one playmaker that came to play all season. But he disappeared the last two games and couldn’t will the ‘Boys to a playoff berth.

3. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh
One of the most unique players in the league, Polamalu is an indispensable playmaker who gives Pittsburgh’s defense the highest ceiling in the league. They are able to do so much because of Polamalu’s skills. Pittsburgh can show different looks and call all kinds of defensive plays that other teams cannot, and Polamalu is the biggest reason for that.

2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
The reasons why the AP voted Peyton the league’s most valuable player: the Colts had a mediocre defense, an aging Marvin Harrison, and no running game – and still won twelve games including nine in a row; the Colts would have won about five or six games if Peyton had missed the season with injury. By the end of the season, Peyton was playing better at quarterback than anyone else, and singlehandedly led them to a critical playoff-clinching road win over the Jaguars.

The reasons why I can’t vote Peyton #1: He did not start playing consistently well until November; he was unable to guide the Colts to more than three points against the Cleveland Browns in a must-win November 30 game; Drew Brees and Philip Rivers had better numbers across the board working with similar wide receivers; much of Peyton’s success came against poor defenses; I believe Indy’s excellent record in close games was more due to coaching and variance than Manning; and the argument he got them five or six wins they wouldn’t have won with their backup works just as well for Cutler, Warner, Brees, and Rivers.

1. James Harrison, Pittsburgh
In the words of David Hoedeman, diehard Steelers fan:
he's an absolute force
he plays every play about 1.5x faster and harder than anyone other than polomalu
he reads run/pass VERY well
he has far more total tackles than any of the other top sack guys
he's pretty serviceable in pass defense
never seen him overrun an open-field tackle like his boy larry foote does 5 times a game
he's a hard pass rusher that rarely gets burned by draws or screens

Tons of good options here – you could go with anyone who played defensive line or safety for Denver, anyone who played defense for Detroit, Brodie Croyle, Ken Dorsey, JaMarcus Russell, or Brad Johnson. Pacman Jones is another obvious choice here, but it is teammate Roy E. Williams (WR) that takes the grand prize. No other player more explicitly made his team worse than Williams.

Head Coach of the Year:
Bill Belichick, New England
A lot of coaches did great work this season – Tom Coughlin keeping the Giant ship on course after some injuries and distractions, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano turning franchises around in the blink of an eye, and Tony Dungy and Jeff Fisher extending excellent tenures with some of their most underrated work. But the best is still the best.

The Patriots lost Tom Brady in game one; lost everyone they had at running back at some point during the season; lost player after player on defense; lost two heartbreakers by a field goal to their biggest rivals; and somehow lost just five games total.

Assistant Coaches of the Year:
Awesome work from both of Baltimore’s coordinators, Rex Ryan on defense and Cam Cameron on offense.

Worst Coach of the Year:
Rod Marinelli, Detroit
Another competitive category, featuring a couple hopeless, overmatched “generals” (Herm Edwards and Romeo Crennel) and some overthinkers who can’t wrap their heads around coaching’s most basic concepts (Andy Reid, Brad Childress, and Eric Mangini). But when a team goes 0-16, that ends all discussion.

Most Underrated Player
LT Ryan Clady, Denver
As a rookie, Clady may already be the best player at the second most important position.

Most Overrated Player
G Alan Faneca, New York Jets
It’s hard for me to judge how well offensive linemen are playing, but others know better.

Most Inconsistent Player:
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia
I’m personally banking on a poor performance Sunday in the Meadowlands, and scared to death of a good one.

Pony of the Year:
Ed Reed, Baltimore
With all the bets we had on Ravens, Ravens second halves, and Ravens overs, Ed Reed was the gift that kept on giving during the holiday season.

Game of the Year:
Philly/Dallas on MNF in week two was wildly entertaining, and the second Pittsburgh/Baltimore clash was like a pitched battle, but the season's best game was the epic Carolina/New York Giants clash for the #1 seed on Sunday Night Football in week sixteen.

Moon's All-Pro Team:

QB Drew Brees, New Orleans
RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
WR Andre Johnson, Houston
WR Roddy White, Atlanta
TE Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City
OT Ryan Clady, Denver
OT Michael Roos, Tennessee
C Kevin Mawae, Tennessee
OG Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota
OG Chris Snee, New York Giants

DE John Abraham, Atlanta
DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants
DT Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee
DT Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
LB James Harrison, Pittsburgh
LB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
LB Joey Porter, Miami
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
CB Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
FS Ed Reed, Baltimore
SS Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh

K Jason Hanson, Detroit
P Mike Scifres, San Diego
KR Josh Cribbs, Cleveland
PR Roscoe Parrish, Buffalo
ST Josh Cribbs, Cleveland


Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

Although not a huge football fan, I enjoyed your weekly recaps. Good luck next year.

5:45 PM  

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