Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Final Observations

I will not be writing any more NFL Observations posts. I've enjoyed the process of watching all the games the last two years, posting all my thoughts, getting feedback, and repeating the next week. I've learned a ton about the NFL while improving my writing. But the whole thing takes so much time there has to be financial motivation. With the dissolution of the betting corp, that motivation is gone. Unless I find a publisher that pays more than The Exception, there will be no more Observations.

I still love watching NFL football of course - this isn't the end of football-related blogging. I'll keep posting the picks as well as weekly power rankings, and a giant season recap is already in the works.

Thanks to everyone who has read the Observations, and special thanks to all those who have posted a comment. The Observations have been an important stepping stone in my writing "career" - a career I will be talking more about in a few days.

Fascinating things are happening late in the season - things we thought we knew for sure are now in doubt. Contenders are coming out of the woodwork, while the perceived juggernauts are fading fast. Many teams appear to be peaking or cratering right this moment.

The power rankings reflect this. Yellow signifies a team ranked higher than they have been at any point the last six weeks, and red signifies a team ranked lower than they have been at any point the last six weeks.

32. Detroit (32)
31. St. Louis (31)
30. Kansas City (30)
29. Seattle (29)
28. Buffalo (25)
27. Tampa Bay (27)
26. Cleveland (28)

25. Oakland (24)
24. Washington (23)
23. Chicago (26)
22. Jacksonville (21)
21. New York Jets (20)
20. San Francisco (17)
19. Atlanta (19)
18. Carolina (22)
17. Miami (16)
16. New York Giants (14)
15. Tennessee (11)
14. Houston (18)
13. Denver (15)
12. Baltimore (13)
11. Pittsburgh (12)
10. Cincinnati (9)
9. Arizona (10)

The Contenders

I see no difference between #8 and #1 at this point. But if I had to rank them:

8. Philadelphia (4) just cause I don't trust Andy Reid
7. Indianapolis (1) because they have angered the Football Gods by throwing an undefeated season in the garbage. Can they really go four weeks between trying and expect to be the same team?
6. San Diego (7) is obviously going to suffer an upset loss now that everyone believes in them
5. Green Bay (5) will have to win three tough road games to make the Super Bowl
4. Minnesota (3) is not the same team without E.J. Henderson
3. Dallas (8) is getting tremendous play from its defensive line, and this is the time of the season when defensive lines take over.
2. New Orleans (2) is suffering from mass sphincter-tightening
1. New England (6) is peaking on offense and defense and is still the best-coached team of the contenders.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #23

Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

The best song from the best band to ever come out of New Zealand.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Week Sixteen Picks

Really like:

STEELERS -2.5 over Ravens
REDSKINS +7 over Cowboys

Also like:

PATRIOTS -8 over Jaguars
Chiefs +13.5 over BENGALS

If forced to choose:

NINERS -13 over Lions
Panthers +7.5 over GIANTS
TITANS -3 over Chargers
Jets +5.5 over COLTS
Raiders +3 over BROWNS
Bills +9 over FALCONS
BEARS +7 over Vikings
DOLPHINS -2.5 over Texans
Seahawks +14 over PACKERS
Broncos +7 over EAGLES
Rams +14.5 over CARDINALS
Bucs +14 over SAINTS

Three Team Teaser of the Week: REDSKINS +17 over Cowboys plus PATRIOTS +2 over Jaguars plus NINERS -3 over Lions

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 4-8
Also like season record: 36-45
If forced to choose season record: 64-63-3
Teaser season record: 4-5
All games season record: 105-116-3

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Week Fifteen Observations

1. Peyton Manning is the greatest executioner of bad teams the NFL has ever seen. It takes a brainy, diabolical defense to take him down.

2. The Buffalo Bills have proven that no matter how talented your running backs and wide receivers are, there is nothing more important in the NFL than the quarterback and his offensive line.

3. New England's offense is nothing special without the deep strikes to Randy Moss.

4. I was happy to see Lions rookie safety Louis Delmas house one for 100 yards against the Cardinals, as he has played hard and well all season.

5. You know how people are always saying "that guy is a warrior" or "I would go to war with that guy" or "that's a guy you want in your foxhole"? Well, if I had to go to war with one NFL player, it would be Anquan Boldin. That guy is a warrior.

6. It's funny to think Jason Snelling was actually looking better than Michael Turner earlier this season. He looks very mediocre now. Turner's injury could not have been timed worse for the Falcons.

7. Atlanta OC Mike Mularkey has been a huge disappointment this season after virtuoso work in '08.

8. But not as big a disappointment as DE John Abraham, who went from Defensive MVP candidate to average pass rusher.

9. Brad Smith is an interesting player I've never discussed here. His skill set is pretty similar to that of Josh Cribbs. It's rarely a bad idea to call a play for Smith or Cribbs, especially considering their starting quarterbacks.

10. The Jets played a great defensive game for 58 minutes, then forgot to cover Tony Gonzalez on fourth down in a spot where Matt Ryan would obviously be looking his way.

11. You would think a team that scored 41 points would have had a strong performance from its quarterback, but that wasn't the case for the Browns on Sunday. Brady Quinn, who will miss the last two games of the season, has rarely looked good duringhis pro career. Cleveland basically had the exact same season from their quarterbacks as they had in 2008, and they are in the exact same position as they were a year ago.

12. A friend was asking me why Josh Cribbs has more kickoff return touchdowns than anyone in league history. I didn't have a great answer, but watching the two Cribbs TDs this week, I realized that it's the combination of everything. He isn't as fast as Ted Ginn or as balanced as Devin Hester. He doesn't have the moves of Dante Hall or the power of Maurice Jones-Drew, but he isn't lacking in any quality. It all starts with vision, fearlessness, and attitude, and it ends with speed. The difference with Cribbs is that he can break a tackle OR juke a guy if the traditional method (find a hole and run past everyone) isn't readily available.

13. I love how Kansas City traded away All-Pros at defensive end and tight end, and now they could really use a decent defensive end and tight end.

14. Although he will be a chic second round pick in 2010 fantasy drafts, there has never been a moment when I was impressed by something Jamaal Charles did on the football field. He is fast, but not Chris Johnson fast.

15. The Chief I like as a fantasy sleeper in 2010 is Matt Cassel. He's a gamer.

16. Vince Young converts a couple third downs every game with his legs. Two bonus first downs per game makes a huge difference.

17. Miami had a nice call trailing 24-6 facing a fourth and three from the 27 yard line with five and a half minutes left in the third quarter against the Titans. It's easy to panic and go for it there, but kicking the field goal is a smarter play when you have a decent kicker.

18. Tie game. Miami has the ball. Second and six from their own five yard line. 53 seconds left. Tennessee has all three timeouts left; Miami has one. Jeff Fisher didn't call timeout here, instead letting the game run out to overtime.

I thought this was the worst coaching decision of the entire season. Miami has little big play ability. The chances of the Dolphins getting the ball into field goal range in this situation cannot be good. They are just going to try to get a first down. The Titans, however, have a great shot at getting a field goal attempt of their own in this situation. All they have to do is stop the Dolphins - who are backed up in their own zone - from getting a first down and they will get the ball around midfield or better with more than thirty seconds on the clock. They will also have a timeout if they force an incomplete pass. Horrible, horrible endgame from Fisher and the Titans staff.

19. Philadelphia's offensive design is excellent. They do such an amazing job at shifting the pocket, manipulating the line of scrimmage, finding mismatches, and attacking defenses. It's a little strange because they seem to have a hard time adjusting when the plan doesn't work. Every season they have one or two games where they just cannot find any answers on offense - despite looking like world-beaters in most of their other games. Make no mistake about it - Philly can win the Super Bowl. Their A-game is as strong as anyone's.

20. Green Bay's defense is like Philly's offense in that it looks very good most of the time, but occasionally has off games where they can't stop anybody. The Pack is like Philly in that they could get hot and make a Super Bowl run, but they are clearly flawed and could never be considered elite.

21. I just want everyone to know that even though San Diego is 10-3, even though he's been making a mark on the record books lately, even though his team pays their running backs more than anyone else, LaDainian Tomlinson is the worst starting tailback in the league. You think LT could run for 286 yards in a game? I just cannot get over how wimpy his speed/power combination is. He never, ever breaks a tackle and he can't outrun anyone either.

22. The Chargers started 2-3. They have suffered numerous key injuries. They have no running back and no defensive line. Yet they have won nine games in a row and will probably get a bye the first round of the playoffs. They have one of the most innovative offenses in the league. It seems comical to even think about it, but don't we need to start considering Norv Turner for Coach of the Year?

23. Here's a classic example of clock-butchering that I see all the time. Bengals with the ball down 14-10. Carson Palmer throws a pass over the middle to Andre Caldwell, who is tackled for a Bengals first down at the seven yard line with 35 seconds left. The Bengals have one timeout left, but decide not to use it here. Instead, they get everyone to the line and spike the ball with 22 seconds left. On second and third downs, Palmer throws incompletions, and Cincy kicks a field goal with ten seconds left in the half. They go to the half with a timeout in their pocket.

The thinking behind spiking the ball on first down is to save the timeout in case of a sack. But it's so hard to convert a touchdown from the seven, you need as many cracks at it as you can get. Calling a timeout rather than spiking the ball gives you time to take three shots - passing - at the end zone, and then you can still kick the field goal on fourth down. If there is a sack on first or second down, you can spike the ball and still have time to kick a field goal. If there is a sack on third down, you will probably still have time as well.

That clock management error along with a couple punts the Bengals failed to pin and a horrifying false start/delay of game/delay of game trifecta really hurt them in this hugely meaningful game.

24. Is Kyle Orton the least mobile quarterback in the NFL? He really goes down easy, and you will never see him make an athletic play.

25. I think Michael Bush would be a major star on a lot of teams.

26. The Giants are perhaps the best example of why my NFL picks have been so bad this season. I hung with them after their losing streak began, counting them amongst the league's best teams. Then, finally I admitted my mistake and put them back in the pack of mediocrity - just as they got it together and became contenders again. I don't know what to think of these teams, I don't know if the Saints are fading or hiccuping, I don't know if the Eagles or Patriots will cruise through the playoffs or go down in round one, I don't know if the Chargers are the league's best team or ripe for an upset, and I don't know which of the eight AFC Wild Card contenders are going to make it in. I just know that anyone can win on Any Given Sunday, I really want to see a Packers/Vikings playoff game, I am excited to see playoff football in the Superdome, and luck and variance will have great impact on who walks away with the title.

Defensive Breakout Player of the Week: James Anderson, Carolina
Offensive Breakout Player of the Week: Travelle Wharton, Carolina
Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Ron Meeks, Carolina
Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Bruce Arians, Pittsburgh
Defensive MVP of the Week: Anthony Spencer, Dallas
Offensive MVP of the Week: Josh Cribbs, Cleveland

Power Rankings:

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deranged Fantasy

As long as I can remember, I have fantasized about living in a post-apocalyptic world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week Fifteen Picks

Also like:

SEAHAWKS -6.5 over Bucs
STEELERS -2 over Packers
CHIEFS -2 over Browns
PANTHERS +9 over Vikings
REDSKINS +2.5 over Giants

If forced to choose:

Patriots -7 over BILLS
Bengals +7 over CHARGERS
RAMS +14 over Texans
Falcons +5.5 over JETS
LIONS +13 over Cardinals
Bears +11 over RAVENS
EAGLES -7.5 over Niners
Colts -3.5 over JAGUARS $
Dolphins +5 over TITANS
Cowboys +7.5 over SAINTS
Raiders +14 over BRONCOS

Three Team Teaser of the Week:

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 4-8
Also like season record: 35-41
If forced to choose season record: 55-62-2
Teaser season record: 4-5
All games season record: 95-111-2

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Week Fourteen Observations

1. The NFL Network flashed an amazing stat during Thursday’s Pittsburgh/Cleveland game. The Steelers were the first team since the 1998 Denver Broncos to play their first twelve games without ever facing a deficit of more than seven points. Yet they lost six of those games. The Steelers this season have
  • beaten the Chargers, Vikings, and Broncos
  • lost to the Bears, Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns
  • lost seven games by a touchdown or less, including four by three points
  • lost five consecutive games
  • blown fourth quarter leads in five of their losses
  • one of the worst special teams units in the league
  • not used their timeouts efficiently
  • appeared to have little relationship between clock management and play calling
  • had critical assignment breakdowns on offense, defense, and special teams.
What does this tell us? It tells us the Steelers are one of the worst-coached teams in the NFL.

2. You know it’s gone bad when Hines Ward isn’t smiling.

3. The Denver Broncos kept beating their heads (and running backs) into a brick wall against the Colts, repeatedly running up the middle on third and fourth and short with no success.

4. I'm not impressed with Matt Moore.

5. Carolina had some bad luck on penalties against the Patriots. If not for that, the Panthers would have had a shot.

6. Seattle's third and fourth down checkdowns are sad to watch.

7. Seems like at least half of Jay Cutler's interceptions are miscommunications of some sort.

8. The Lions ran a fake QB sneak on third and short against the Ravens, looking for a big play. They didn't get the big play, but Daunte Culpepper was able to scramble outside for a first down. I continue to love Detroit's coaching. I just hope they can get some players in there. The talent level, particularly after the best ten players on the roster, is incredibly low. Watching Ray Rice and Wilis McGahee run circles around them was just kind of sad. With Kevin Smith out for the season, Matt Stafford fighting through an injury, and Louis Delmas banged up, the Lions would be wise to cash in their chips and look towards 2010. Ndamukong Suh could help turn things around.

9. Ryan Fitzpatrick made the best block I've ever seen by a quarterback this week against the Chiefs, springing Marshawn Lynch for a big gain.

10. For the first half of the 2007 season, the New England Patriots blew away everyone they faced. As the season wore on, teams figured out a few ways to limit the explosiveness of New England's offense and the gaps closed. The Patriots kept winning, but the games were closer. The New Orleans Saints crushed all comers the first half of this season, but have had a much harder time winning the last several weeks. They are still winning, but the games are coming down to the last minute. The difference between the Saints and '07 Patriots is on the other side of the ball. The Saints have suffered several key injuries to their defense, and they are having a hard time stopping people. The Saints are vulnerable in the playoffs, because their defense might have a hard time getting off the field. The New Orleans crowd will help.

Meanwhile, NO's offense is as unstoppable as it has ever been. The Saints attack the field short, medium, and long. They do everything right. I don't believe they can be stopped, not for long.

11. Reggie Bush played well against the Falcons, though that defense has been known to make a lot of players look good.

12. Tampa Bay had 18 plays for 15 yards in the first half Sunday against the Jets. They finished the game with 124 yards. This was a game where the offense did more harm than good.

13. Kellen Clemens is awful. He should be out of the league within a few years.

14. Miami's young corners are getting better.

15. As bad as Keith Null and the Rams are on offense, they might be worse on defense. Richie Incognito is an idiot and had his release coming for a long time, but cutting out cancers won't help the Rams. They are incredibly light on talent. It's hard to imagine this team competing in 2010.

16. A fake punt was the Rams best offensive play Sunday against the Titans.

17. The Titans have now lost a game by 59 and won a game by 40.

18. Not sure why Gary Russell returns kicks for the Raiders. They have plenty of burners.

19. Darren McFadden came to play Sunday. The Raiders don't need three tailbacks. They probably should have taken a 2008 offer of a San Diego second round pick for Michael Bush.

20. ***Guest Observation of the Week***
Before the season I said Jason Campbell was the third most intriguing player of the season and wrote "During or after the season, Campbell will become a superstar and sign a gargantuan contract to become one of the highest-paid players in the league, or he will become a second-stringer with a small contract and little hope of playing in meaningful games. There is little middle ground."

My friend Zaxelrod from DC wrote "Love that you have Jason Campbell at #3 - it's certainly a big issue around Washington, but I'm not sure I agree that he becomes a huge star or nothing. I do believe, however, that he proves himself as a more than serviceable starter or nothing, and if the former, then he tries to force DC to pay too much (we're good at that); deservedly so for having to put up with Dan the Man. Point being, I think the most likely outcome is that he proves to be a good, serviceable quarterback and then fights for superstar money if the Skins want to keep him from going to a better situation."

It appears Zaxelrod hit the nail on the head. The Skins are going to have a very interesting offseason.

21. As expected, Washington/Oakland was a tough, competitive battle between two underrated teams - before Bruce Gradkowski got hurt, JaMarcus Russell came in, and the Raiders returned to laughingstock territory.

22. Washington's front seven is really playing well right now.

23. I think if Devin Thomas can step it up some more next year, it will open up more opportunities for Santana Moss.

24. San Diego's Kassim Osgood is incredible on punt coverage. He looks like the best non-returner special-teams player out there right now. My 2010 Pro Bowl ballot:

Peyton Manning
Philip Rivers
Carson Palmer

Drew Brees
Brett Favre
Aaron Rodgers

I went Palmer over Tom Brady cause of Brady's early-season struggles. Kurt Warner was also considered.

Running Backs
Chris Johnson
Maurice Jones-Drew
Ray Rice

Steven Jackson
DeAngelo Williams
Adrian Peterson

Obvious choice here, didn't consider anyone else.

Wide Receivers
Andre Johnson
Reggie Wayne
Brandon Marshall
Vincent Jackson

Donald Driver
Larry Fitzgerald
DeSean Jackson
Steve Smith Giants

Tough category, especially in the AFC where I left out both Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Vincent Jackson is just impossible to cover on the deep ball.

Tight Ends
Dallas Clark
Antonio Gates

Vernon Davis
Tony Gonzalez

I'm not sure how good Vernon Davis actually is and probably should have gone with Jason Witten because of his superior blocking, but Davis does lead the NFL in TD catches.


Honestly anyone I put down here would be because of word of mouth, not anything I saw myself.

Michael Roos
Ryan Clady
David Stewart

Donald Penn
Jeff Otah
Bryant McKinnie

Bad year for tackles. Few had great seasons. Two Tennessee Titans, which makes me wonder if they are making Chris Johnson look good or vice versa.


See centers.

Lousaka Polite

Leonard Weaver

Weaver isn't actually on the field that much, but he is a terror with the ball in his hands and has done as much for Philadelphia's offense as any of their other new additions.

Strong Safeties
Brian Dawkins

Adrian Wilson

Two stone-cold sickos. I continue to marvel at how Adrian Wilson plays the game. If he had ball skills he would be even better than Troy Polamalu.

Darrelle Revis
Leon Hall
Nnamdi Asomugha

Charles Woodson
Chris Gamble
Aqib Talib

The AFC is incredibly competitive in this category this season. I had to leave Champ Bailey, Brandon Flowers, and Jonathan Joseph off.

Defensive Ends
Dwight Freeney
Robert Mathis
Aaron Schobel

Jared Allen
Trent Cole
Adewale Ogunleye

Tough call in the NFC, where I also considered Cullen Jenkins, Will Smith, Julius Peppers, Johny Jolly, and Calais Campbell.

Defensive Tackles
Haloti Ngata
Vince Wilfork
Domata Peko

Darnell Dockett
Albert Haynesworth
Pat Williams

Haynesworth was a tough call because he's banged up so much, but he's such a monster when he's in there.

Free Safeties
Ed Reed

Darren Sharper

It will be interesting to see if Buffalo rookie Jairus Byrd gets voted in, as he leads the league in interceptions.

Inside Linebackers
Gary Brackett
David Harris

Patrick Willis
Jonathan Vilma

Brackett is now an All-Pro in my book.

Outside Linebackers
James Harrison
Tamba Hali
Clint Session

DeMarcus Ware
Chad Greenway
Parys Haralson

Harrison is the only Pittsburgh Steeler on my ballot - just as Hali is the only Kansas City Chief. Perhaps the Steelers are not as talented as we all assume. Sack leader Elvis Dumervil is one of the most overrated players in the league - he can't defend the run and most of his sacks sprout from Denver's incredible secondary and scheme.

Kick Returners
Ted Ginn

Percy Harvin

I love the way Darren Sproles and Eric Weems approach kick returns. They could be the best, but Ginn and Harvin have had more big plays this season.

Sebastian Janikowski

Ryan Longwell
Quietly, Longwell has only missed one field goal this season.

Mike Scifres

Andy Lee

Shane Lechler has the gaudy average, but his finesse game cannot match Scifres. Andy Lee is fantastic.

Special Teamers
Kassim Osgood


25. If Larry Fitzgerald is double or triple-covered, why throw him the ball? I understand the Cardinals are trying to generate some big plays, but they’re beating a dead horse here. Throw it underneath.

26. I feel like I’ve said everything there is to say about the Arizona Cardinals. Their passing attack is very high-variance. Tim Hightower can’t run and Beanie Wells can’t block. Both fumble. Adrian Wilson is a beast. They can beat anyone or lose to anyone. But wow, that offensive line was atrocious Monday night.

Goat of the Week: Richie Incognito, St. Louis (now Buffalo)
Defensive Breakout Player of the Week: Darcel McBath, Denver
Offensive Breakout Player of the Week: Danny Woodhead, New York Jets
Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Rob Ryan, Cleveland
Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Marty Mornhinweg, Philadelphia
Defensive MVP of the Week: Gary Brackett, Indianapolis
Offensive MVP of the Week: Brandon Marshall, Denver

Power Rankings:

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #24

Badly Drawn Boy - The Shining (Avalanches Good Word for the Weekend Remix)

This has to be the most obscure track on the list, stumbled upon accidentally in the Napster days while trying to download Badly Drawn Boy's Hour of Bewilderbeast album.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Week Fourteen Picks

Really like:

Dolphins +2.5 over JAGUARS

Also like:

Rams +13 over TITANS
Steelers -10 over BROWNS X
COWBOYS -3 over Chargers

If forced to choose:

TEXANS -6.5 over Seahawks
Eagles +1 over GIANTS
NINERS +3.5 over Cardinals
PATRIOTS -13 over Panthers
Broncos +7 over COLTS
Bengals +6.5 over VIKINGS
FALCONS +10.5 over Saints
RAVENS -13.5 over Lions
Packers -3.5 over BEARS
Jets -3.5 over BUCS
CHIEFS +1 over Bills
Redskins -1 over RAIDERS

Three Team Teaser of the Week:
PATRIOTS -3 over Panthers plus CHIEFS +11 over Bills plus Redskins +9 over RAIDERS

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 3-8
Also like season record: 35-38
If forced to choose season record: 47-58-2
Teaser season record: 3-5
All games season record: 86-104-2

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Week Thirteen Observations

1. Thursday night football, Jets vs Bills, was a showdown of the two worst starting quarterbacks in the league. As bad as Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick are, Kellen Clemens is worse. The Jets would be a clear-cut playoff team if they had a quarterback.

2. Paul Posluszny is a nice young player when he’s not injured.

3. Matt Millen is a damn good color commentator. He seems to know everything about everything. You can see how he became Detroit’s GM, but you can’t see why he sucked so badly at that position.

4. In a meaningless game against the Rams, Jay Cutler played one of his best games of the season. He was kept on a short leash.

5. Meanwhile, opposing quarterback Kyle Boller played one of the worst games any quarterback has played this season.

6. I thought Tennessee's 4th down fade play to Kenny Britt was one of the worst calls of the season. They called a timeout to think it over, too. You have Vince Young's legs, you have Chris Johnson, you have capable tight ends, and you call a static finesse pass play from Young to a rookie wide receiver. Made no sense.

7. The Chiefs have at least one good player in their front seven, 26 year-old DE Tamba Hali. He had ten tackles and three sacks against the Broncos.

8. Oakland's win in Pittsburgh, the biggest upset of the season, was not a fluke. The Raiders didn't get lucky. Oakland's last drive had a few wild plays, but overall it was an even game. The Raiders with Bruce Gradkowski are just not that bad a team. All season long the Raiders were better than the truly horrid dregs of the league in every area, but their quarterback kept letting them down. Quarterback is no longer a huge weakness for the Raiders - and they are no longer a punchline.

9. Shane Lechler is overrated. His finesse punting is nothing special.

10. Ben Roethlisberger has cost the Steelers a couple games with Cutler-like bad decisions in the red zone.

11. The Saints winning in Washington, on the other hand, was one of the flukiest wins of the year (unless you are a Redskins fan and saw this one coming the whole game). The Redskins had
  • a dropped interception,
  • a punt hitting a blocker which was recovered by the Saints for a turnover
  • a missed 23 yard field goal,
  • and this - the wildest play of the season

If any of these things don't happen, the Redskins likely win the game.

12. With Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, the Skins will be a little too rich and redundant at tight end in 2010. The Skins should trade Cooley in the offseason for an offensive lineman or draft pick(s).

13. Sign me up for Devin Thomas in fantasy 2010.

14. I've always felt Sammy Morris is New England's best runner. When he's healthy, he breaks more tackles than Laurence Maroney or Kevin Faulk.

15. Davone Bess is one of my favorite players, because his game is all about smarts and hard work. Physically, he is one of the least gifted wide receivers on an NFL roster. He is neither large nor fast. But he has good balance, runs great routes, and catches most everything thrown his way. The Dolphins are in a weird situation with their wide receivers. They have four young guys with different skill sets - Bess, Ted Ginn, Brian Hartline, and Patrick Turner. Greg Camarillo is also in the mix. The problem is, none of these guys are gamechangers and it doesn't appear any of them ever will be. The Dolphins have found ways to use all these guys, but they will never be a top-flight offense without a legitimate WR.

16. Miami's management of the clock is shaky. I am leaning Sean Payton over Tony Sparano for Coach of the Year.

17. Jacksonville's crowd is officially the worst in the NFL.

18. The 7-5 Jaguars have not beaten a team with a winning record this season and have a scoring differential of -48 on the season.

19. Rex Grossman has attempted only nine passes on the season, but those were enough to cost the Texans a must-win game they should have had in Jacksonville. He could also cost Gary Kubiak his job.

20. Houston just keeps inventing new ways to lose critical games in gutwrenching fashion. A Chris Brown INT in the end zone was the latest culprit. Chris/Kris Brown have cost the Texans 2-4 games.

21. I’m telling you guys, Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson are the same player. Any talk that Freeman takes care of the ball better than Johnson was put to bed on Sunday.

22. Tampa Bay had 469 yards of offense and scored six points against the Panthers.

23. Antonio Bryant made the catch of the year against the Panthers, but nobody was watching. I can't find it on youtube.

24. Dan Fouts is driving me nuts. Please, please get rid of him, CBS.

25. Leroy Hill got away with pass interference on San Francisco's Delanie Walker on fourth and goal.

26. Linebackers can't handle Vernon Davis. This season it has become clear why Davis was one of the highest drafted tight ends in NFL history. You don't usually see underachieving "athletic" players suddenly blossom in the NFL (and Davis did drop a touchdown Sunday), but it does happen. Vernon's quarterback, Alex Smith, is another example. Both Davis and Smith will be intriguing fantasy options in 2010. The most stunningly effective fantasy players of the season:

13. Cedric Benson
12. Aaron Rodgers
11. Mike Wallace
10. Mario Manningham
9. Johnny Knox
8. Percy Harvin
7. Ricky Williams
6. Ray Rice
5. Steve Smith Giants
4. Vernon Davis
3. Mike Sims-Walker
2. Miles Austin
1. Sidney Rice

27. Frank Gore has had a high-variance season, and I'm not sure why. Usually scatbacks see big swings in their production, not hosses like Gore.

28. Julius Jones might be the least intimidating starting tailback in the league.

29. San Francisco should have beaten Seattle. They have a better team. Myriad mistakes including poor clock management in the last minute cost the Niners the game.

30. Brady Quinn puts up just good enough numbers against bad defenses (Detroit, San Diego) to make the Browns consider him for the future instead of going in a new direction.

31. There aren't a whole lot of ways to describe Philip Rivers other than "good." OK, maybe "douchebag." "Chode" works too.

32. I can't believe a team with a defensive line as bad as San Diego's is 9-3.

33. Giants 31, Cowboys 24 was an old-school Giants result, but if you watched closely, their level of play was not what it was earlier in the season. The defensive line was better than it has been in recent weeks, but the running game, specifically the running backs, are not where they were at the beginning of the year.

34. Sometimes it all comes together for the Arizona Cardinals. The finesse passing game is unstoppable when functioning properly. It's easily disrupted, which is why the Cardinals sometimes look so terrible. Arizona doesn't have a "secondary" offense to fall back on, like the Saints have developed this year, but in the right situation, they are like the Saints. Arizona has a better running game than last year as well as a better defense. It's unlikely they will make another Super Bowl run, but the chances of it happening are higher than they were last year at this time. A hot Cardinals team is capable of taking out the Saints or Vikings in the playoffs.

35. The big trend this week in the NFL was the pop-up kickoff, the high-arcing pooch that usually lands around the 30 yard line. I have no clue why so many teams went to the pop-up this week, or would ever use it. There is a chance that it could be mishandled by the blocker that has to field it, but usually it just gives the receiving team better than average field position.

36. Domonique Foxworth is having a rough year. I don’t have the numbers, but I would imagine he’s been burned more than any other corner in the league this season. Don’t feel sorry for Foxy though – he’s being paid kindly for his troubles.

37. Everybody knows Baltimore’s cornerbacks stink, so they do everything they can to attack them and avoid the front seven. They need Ed Reed back there to strike some fear into opposing quarterbacks, but they really need a good young corner to rebuild the secondary around. Trouble is, they also need wideouts. And those linebackers aren’t getting any younger. And…

38. Todd Heap’s inability to exploit AJ Hawk in pass coverage was one of the keys to Green Bay’s castration of Baltimore on Monday night. The Ravens need to get hold of a tight end as well. Ozzie Newsome will have his hands full this offseason.

39. The more I see of Ryan Grant the less I like. Expect the Packers to use a high pick on a running back in April.

40. I am no college football expert, but my from my vantage point, Ndamukong Suh is the obvious choice for the Heisman Trophy. He is the most talented player in college. He does more to change the game than anyone else. He and Nebraska's kicker/punter extraordinaire Alex Henery are the only good players on the team, yet they are top 25 and almost knocked off undefeated Texas for the Big XII Championship despite no contributions from anyone else. Suh is the consensus top prospect for the 2010 NFL Draft. There are no obvious candidates who play offense. Suh had twelve sacks as a nose tackle and led the team in tackles as a nose tackle despite constant double teams. He is the most dominant defensive player I can remember coming out of college. Everybody knows he is a better overall player than Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram, Toby Gerhart, and Colt McCoy. I mean seriously, who had a bigger impact on that Big XII Championship, McCoy or Suh? We all know Texas wins at least ten games every season no matter who their quarterback is, and Alabama might still be undefeated without Ingram. But Nebraska is just a boring also-ran without Suh. So give him the damn trophy already.

Goat of the Week: Shaun Suisham, Washington (now unemployed)
Defensive Breakout Player of the Week: Jamar Williams, Chicago
Offensive Breakout Player of the Week: Devin Thomas, Washington
Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Bill Davis, Arizona
Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Russ Grimm/Mike Miller/Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona
Defensive MVP of the Week: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Offensive MVP of the Week: Philip Rivers, San Diego

Power Rankings:

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

Monday, December 07, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #25

Hans Zimmer - Fort Walton, Kansas

Shortest tune on the list.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Week Thirteen Picks

Also like:

REDSKINS +9.5 over Saints
Jets -3 over BILLS $
Broncos -5 over CHIEFS
Texans -1 over JAGUARS
Rams +9.5 over BEARS
Vikings -3.5 over CARDINALS
Cowboys -1 over GIANTS
Ravens +3.5 over PACKERS

If forced to choose:

PANTHERS -5 over Bucs
BENGALS -13 over Lions
Chargers -13 over BROWNS
FALCONS +5.5 over Eagles
Titans +6.5 over COLTS
Raiders +14.5 over STEELERS
SEAHAWKS +1 over Niners
DOLPHINS +4.5 over Patriots

Three Team Teaser of the Week:

BENGALS -3 over Lions plus Chargers -3 over BROWNS plus SEAHAWKS +11 over Niners

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 3-8
Also like season record: 31-34
If forced to choose season record: 43-54-2
Teaser season record: 2-5
All games season record: 78-96-2

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Week Twelve Observations

1. Kevin Smith is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season and 3.8 for his career. So why do I feel like he's a good back?

2. A decent chunk of Miles Austin's 7 catch, 145 yard performance against the Raiders came against the legendary Nnamdi Asomugha.

3. Last season Arizona travelled cross-country to Philadelphia Thanksgiving night and got annihalated by a previously struggling Eagles team. Thursday night the Giants suffered the same fate in Denver. New York was completely out of it mentally and physically and didn't seem to realize this game counted in the standings.

4. Seriously what is up with the Giants? Their struggles are inexplicable. Why isn't the defensive line dominating? Why isn't the offensive line dominating? When and why did Brandon Jacobs start wearing a skirt? Watching the game, rooting for the Broncos, I was still disappointed in the Giants.

5. Here's the book on Knowshon Moreno: he's ok at everything. He's not fast. He's not powerful. He has pretty good vision. He has moves. He can catch. He can block. He has no outstanding traits unless you count them all together.

6. Matt Prater's Thanksgiving: 4/4 field goals, 2/2 PATs, 5 touchbacks, one kickoff returned to the 19, one kickoff returned to the 14.

7. Bronco rookie David Bruton is living up to his pre-draft prognostication as a special teams stud.

8. So I'm watching the Thursday night game on NFL Network and see Deion Sanders rocking a terrible salt and pepper goatee unbecoming of the usually stylish man. Then watching the postgame...the goatee is gone! He shaved it some time during the game!

9. I thought Philadelphia's decision to open the game with an onside kick was one of the worst coaching moves of the season. Why give the hapless Washington offense a short field to open the game? The Skins are the type of team that likely won't score twenty points on their own; the Eagles are explosive enough to score twenty in most games; why increase the variance?

10. Is it just me or does Donovan McNabb throw fifty yarders more accurately than twenty yarders?

11. Don't tell me the Eagles aren't going to miss DeSean Jackson. Kid might be the most explosive player in the league.

12. Let's set the record straight on Asante Samuel. He is not a "shutdown" corner. He is a gambling addict who comes up with a lot of picks and gets burned from time to time.

13. Slowly but surely those three pass catchers Washington drafted in the second round of the '08 draft - Devin Thomas, Fred Davis, and Malcolm Kelly - are emerging. I say again they would have been better off drafting offensive linemen, but maybe these guys aren't total busts.

14. Chris Redman isn't much of a dropoff for the Falcons, not with the way Matt Ryan has been playing. The issues with Redman aren't so much throwing the ball as they are things like snapcounts, handoffs, and the other usual problems a new quarterback has with the offense.

15. Redman loves Tony Gonzalez.

16. Alex Smith looks comfortable in the spread, which he ran under Urban Meyer at Utah.

17. Longtime readers of this blog know how I feel about Tim Hightower. I have to give him some props this week though - he plays hard and he knows the system.

18. Beanie Wells has too many weaknesses to warrant playing time ahead of Hightower, though he is obviously the superior runner.

19. Nate Washington hikes his skirt up a little more each week.

20. Drew Brees is a great quarterback of course, but this season it's easy to forget he struggles in inclement weather. I predicted the Saints to do well this season knowing the closest thing to a bad weather game they had this season was @Washington on Sunday. The closest thing they've had previously was @Buffalo in September. The closest thing they've got after this week is @Carolina in week 17. Then it will be Dome games.

21. There should be no question who the best team in the league is after that Monday night performance...but I don't know how the Vikings can be beat. They have no weaknesses. It's interesting - this year there are three elite teams. Last year there were none. Put the 2009 Saints, Vikings, or Colts in 2008 and they should win the Super Bowl without too much trouble. But this season at least one of the three will not make the Super Bowl, and only one can be champion.

Defensive Breakout Player of the Week: Tim Crowder, Tampa Bay
Offensive Breakout Player of the Week: Quinton Ganther, Washington
Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Mike Nolan, Denver
Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Pete Carmichael Jr., New Orleans
Defensive MVP of the Week: Brian Dawkins, Denver
Offensive MVP of the Week: Drew Brees, New Orleans

Power Rankings:

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


In 2010 I am going to write a book. The subject of this book will be revealed in a blog later this month.