Friday, October 31, 2014

The Cavs Learn From Nothing

Not Shown: Defense
So tonight in Cleveland, in the closest thing the NBA has to a homecoming game against a Division II opponent, the Cavs played the Knicks in LeBron James' first game back as a Cav. The Knicks had gotten treated like a punching bag the night before in New York, were missing starting point guard Jose Calderon, and are, well, the Knicks. A team that's not likely to make the playoffs in the still pretty bad East. A team that just went max contract for Carmelo Anthony, a me-first scoring forward who has gotten out of the first round once in his whole damned career.

Oh, and the Cavs lost.

How the hell does that happen?

Well, the first and most important thing we have to say here is that This Game Didn't Really Matter. The Heat lost to the Sixers in their opener last year, and it haunted them all of the way to the Finals. But the way in which the Cavs lost this was telling, because it's not going to be the last time they lose like this.

They lost on defense. And they lost pretty badly there.

New York shot 53% from the floor (just 6 of 12 from the arc), with 30 assists on 37 makes. The Cavs stressed their defense with lots of turnovers, and New York's benchies played over their heads, with 41 of the team's 95 points on 16 of 31 shooting... but when you give your bench minutes to the likes of Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller, Matthew Dellavedorva and Shawn Marion, that's three guys who have never played good defense... and the last guy, Marion, is 36 years old, and in his 15th year in the Association. He's not exactly lockdown now, either.

Please note that James *did* play poorly in this game, and will play better soon, and the Cavs are going to be fine. God does not love me, and hate Cleveland, so much as to have the East's New Big Bad to be mediocre or worse, and offense is more important than defense in the NBA.

But there was also this. James said in the aftermath that the Cavs needed to learn from this, but neglected to say anything more than the cliche. But what, really, are they supposed to learn? The man's 30 and isn't going to kill himself to win a regular season game. Kevin Love isn't going to start D'ing up his man and giving up his cheap board stats. Anderson Varejao isn't getting younger, and Dion Waiters isn't getting taller, or more interested in turning into Gary Payton II. Love and James aren't going to shoot 11 for 29 with 10 turnovers against 8 assists very often.

But make no mistake about this: these Cavs are a different club than James' Heat. The Heat had a defensive hammer at shooting guard who had won an NBA Championship before James came to town. They also had a stretch 4/5 who never had to come off the floor, even when other teams went small. They also had a defensive genius as a coach, and a defensive genius as a GM. The bench had stoppers. Hell, the starting five had stoppers.

These Cavs? Should be better at offense, especially once the shooters get used to all of that space. They should be vastly more athletic, even when you compare 26-year-old James to 30-year-old James. (Don't forget the crazy minutes he's played, all of the playoff runs, and the early start to his career, either. 26 might have been his 29, and 30 might be his 34.) There will be nights when Love or Kyrie Irving goes off, and James should be able to not have to rev in the red zone quite so much.

But better?

Not yet.

And maybe not ever.

After all, it's not as if the ownership here didn't screw things up when James was younger, or ever brought in teammates back then who could play defense, either...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NFL Week 9 Picks: Flippy Flip Flip

So as I was watching the Monday Night enjoyment between Dallas and the Slurs, it struck me, in a way that was made obvious: the NFL doesn't really have that much to do with what teams are good or bad any more. Turnovers, penalties, injuries all enter into the equation, along with matchups, bye weeks, coaching, etc. You can think one team is more talented, and you might even be right... but I'm not sure that really matters very much anymore.

It's a league of coin flips and knife edges, which is how they want it, because that means damn near every fan base is invested. And this week's slate of games is super-heavy on he coin flips, especially in the prestige games; this is going to be a great weekend to just watch. But it's absolutely maddening to try to bet, especially when you're trying to make up from the early hole.

Anyway... with that profundity noted, on to the picks!

* * * * *

NEW ORLEANS (-3) at Carolina

And here's Exhibit A, the freaking Saints, who beat back death with a track meet beatdown of the Packers. They've been terrible on the road, have to travel for the short week, and seem like a bad idea to take... but I'm not sure the Panther defense can stay with them even on a slow track, and their offense isn't strong enough to keep pace. Division game, probably a good one.

Saints 31, Panthers 24

Tampa at CLEVELAND (-6.5)


The Browns complete the Naughty Sailor Home Game Two-Step, which has to be the sweetest schedule the NFL can set up for you outside of a double bye with forfeits. Cleveland's not as good as their record, and will come to a reckoning now that their starting offensive line is no longer intact, but the Bucs don't put up much of a fight in an awful lot of games. This should be one of those.

Browns 27, Bucs 17

ARIZONA (+4) at Dallas


Well, so much for the narrative of Dallas being the new Big Bad. The MNF game showed a blueprint for beating them (control the ball, tempt them into getting away from their running game, hit) that plays right into the strengths of Big Red. In a road game that might not feel like one, they'll make big plays in the passing game, force more turnovers than they create, and put the NFC West into a greater stage of lockdown.

Cardinals 34, Dallas 24

PHILADELPHIA (-2) at Houston


I get why this line isn't bigger. QB Nick Foles has been poor on the road, Houston has a running game and can pressure the QB, and if you didn't look at the actual game, Green's loss to Arizona last week was letting the air out of the balloon. But they actually looked better in defeat than they have in many of their wins, and we're now looking at nearly a month of solid defense to go with the good special teams. With Darren Sproles back, they'll have enough margin to make this about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick... and at that point, the road team wins.

Eagles 27, Texans 20

NY Jets at KANSAS CITY (-9.5)


If Andy Reid knows how to do anything, it's this: beat the teams he's supposed to beat. Against a Jets team that gives up back-breaking plays in the passing game and can't stop from turning the ball over on offense, he's going to do just that. But it'll be a near thing for the cover, because it's not as if QB Mike Vick isn't going to play his best game of the year for old times.

Chiefs 34, Jets 24

JACKSONVILLE (+11) at Cincinnati


And here's my call for the team that's better now then they were before. The Jags have finally gotten their running game online with Denard Robinson, have a possession passing game in Cecil Shorts and TE Clay Harbor, and have resembled a football team for long stretches at a time. They'll cover the number in Cincy, and maybe even threaten the upset.

Bengals 31, Jaguars 27

SAN DIEGO (+1.5) at Miami


A few weeks ago, I'd have really liked Miami in this matchup. The Chargers had a little smoke and mirrors to them, especially on the road, and the Dolphins are a lot better at home. But now with RB Brandon Oliver doing solid work for the Bolts, they are more complete on offense, and also have extra prep time after the TNF loss in Denver. They'll need it to keep QB Philip Rivers clean, but they'll do just enough of that to pull off the win.

Chargers 27, Dolphins 24

Washington at MINNESOTA (-1)


Oh, you wacky Slurs. Owners of one of the more improbable two-game winning streaks in the league, with a MN win in Dallas... and you are going to race back to QB Bob Griffin despite probable injury rust, in a road game against a team with a sneaky good defense? For a team with so much invested in a young QB, this franchise just keeps setting him up to fail.

Vikings 24, Slurs 20

St. Louis at SAN FRANCISCO (-10)

At some point, someone's going to notice that HC Jeff Fisher really isn't all that impressive. The Rams lucked into competence with third-string QB Austin Davis and young buck RB Tre Mason... so they've now gone to bad committee work in the backfield, and also lost quality WR Brian Quick to the crash cart in last week's de-pantsing by the Chiefs. San Fran has a bye week of rest and all kinds of weapons to make this one comfortable.

Niners 34, Rams 20

DENVER (-3) at New England


The marquee matchup of the week and year, and Chapter 800 of Manning v. Brady... but honestly, there's a lot more to this. Denver's offense has been better with RB Ronnie Hillman in, but TE Julian Thomas has fallen off. CB Darrelle Revis can do more than most to make WR DeMaryius Thomas go away. WR Wes Welker has demons to exorcise, and the Pats are clicking on offense with a finally healthy TE Rob Gronkowski, and re-jiggered offensive line. In the end analysis, I'm going with Denver because I think they'll get to the QB, but it's as close to a coin flip as it gets.

Broncos 34, Patriots 30

OAKLAND (-15) at Seattle


Too many points for a Seahawk team that's been in way too much turmoil recently, and having real issues with offenses that can control time of possession. Oakland's not helpless on offense, and so long as this doesn't get into festival of turnovers, they'll cover a very big number. In case you haven't noticed, festival of turnovers hasn't happened much for the Seattle defense this year.

Seahawks 24, Oakland 13

Baltimore at PITTSBURGH (pick 'em)


The annual AFC North steel cage match, a living reminder that football can be brutal and violent and hate-filled, and it's almost always decided by a field goal. So I'll take the home team in the coin flip, and try to make myself feel better about the choice by the fact that their passing game somehow jumped into hyperspace last week against the Colts.

Steelers 24, Ravens 21

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) at NY Giants


Big time coin flip night game, but I'll take the Colts because I'm not really in love with Blue's home field advantage... and I also suspect that they will not be able to really replicate missing WR Victor Cruz, and that RB Rashad Jennings isn't 100% yet. But honestly, this one will come down entirely to interceptions. Blue has the better secondary, and the Colts have the better QB. Strong candidate for game of the week, in a week filled with good ones.

Colts 30, Giants 24

Last week: 8-7

Year to date: 57-61-2

Career: 545-561-41

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top Ten Takeaways From RomoGate

Back Contusion And Confusion
In Dallas' wildly satisfying home loss to the Washington Slurs, QB Tony Romo returned to a tie game after being injured while trailing. Because it's Dallas, there's more to the story, of course...

10) Owner Jerry Jones is also the team's head trainer and medic, because it's not as if anyone employed by Dallas will tell him he's not a trainer or doctor

9) Bringing back your aging QB with off-season back surgery into a game where he's been hurt due to protection issues always works out

8) Backup QB Brandon Weeden leading the team to 10 points in 2 drives means nothing, I tell you, nothing, since he's not A Star

7) Continuing to just run the damned ball with the best RB in the NFL this year takes away Super Genius points

6) The team might have left Weeden in the game, but it was on prime time tee vee, so, well, no

5) Winning a game in late October in prime time is worth any risk, since, well, this is Dallas

4) Romo's in-game X-rays were negative, so the fact that he wasn't actually playing or moving that well meant nothing

3) It's not as if Jason Garrett has, or gets to have, an opinion on this

2) The narrative of Dallas' unbeatable offensive line kind of took a hit here

1) We are shocked, shocked to discover that Dallas is dysfunctional and prone to short-term over-reaching tactical mistakes

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Your Almost Assuredly Worthless NBA 2014-15 Predictions

Let's Get Stupid
Hoop begins tomorrow, just in time to remind fantasy honks to set their lineup, and everyone else to tune out until at least Christmas. But that's usually a mistake, because the first five to ten games is usually a strong indicator of how the season will go, and it's usually ignored. The 82-game season is routinely dismissed by people who (a) don't see any real drama from division races or playoff seeding, and (b) want to just get to the best stuff in sports, which is the first round of the playoffs. But you can't have dessert without salad and veggies, and the regular season is the roughage. So let's get into it.

Eastern Conference

1) Cleveland
2) Chicago
3) Miami
4) Washington
5) Toronto
6) Brooklyn
7) Charlotte
8) Detroit

9) Indiana
10) New York
11) Atlanta
12) Orlando
13) Boston
14) Milwaukee
15) Philadelphia

Notes: LeBron James is trying so very hard to soften expectations for what he can do with a new roster, but the plain and simple fact is that no one cares about any of that noise. They want a championship, expect it, and know he's not getting any better or younger. Cleveland's time is now... Chicago is better even if PG Derrick Rose isn't 100%, or what he was, because Pau Gasol is a lot better than Carlos Boozer, and the club is still coached like mad. But they need Rose to be special to win it all, and he won't be... Miami is going to be a lot better than people expect, especially C Chris Bosh, who is ready to put up first team All-NBA numbers again. They'll also have tolerable depth with new Fs Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts. The problem is that G Dwyane Wade has be his old self, and he's not... DC is on the rise, but won't defend enough... Toronto's a nice club, but don't have top-tier star talent to win games they should not...  Brooklyn could be a top-4 team if they stay healthy, but won't... Charlotte's going to be a problem, especially on defense, but Lance Stephenson can't stay focused all year long... Detroit is a mild surprise for the final playoff spot. I like their coaching situation now, and didn't last year.

Of the also-rans, Indiana will try like mad but not get there. New York will have some runs, but not nearly enough. Atlanta's lost some bench depth and coherence due to bad off-season PR. Orlando should be better on talent and is not, because they don't defend. Boston can't really figure out this tanking thing, and Milwaukee won't be happy for hiring Jason Kidd. My Sixers will be better than last year, with a worse record. Hard to do, but needs to be done.

Western Conference

1) LA Clippers
2) San Antonio
3) Oklahoma City
4) Houston
5) Golden State
6) Portland
7) Dallas
8) Phoenix

9) Memphis
10) New Orleans
11) LA Lakers
12) Denver
13) Minnesota
14) Utah
15) Sacramento

Why the Clips? Because they care about the regular season and are going to spend the year in Ding Dong The Donald's Dead glee, especially at home, and the other top contenders know enough to pace themselves for the playoffs. The Spurs are deep and forever, and will spread the minutes and do what they need to do. OKC will miss Kevin Durant for a while, but close with a rush, and maybe be better off in the long run, in that they might actually start playing like a team on offense. Houston won't mind Chandler Parsons for Trevor Ariza, so long as Terrence Jones develops and Patrick Beverly takes over at the point. Golden State will rise with actual coaching and better substitutions, but this conference is just murderous. Portland needs to get deeper, but the home court is real, and they'll be good enough. Dallas got better in the off-season, but not dramatically, so this is more of a stasis year for them. Phoenix was the surprise team that failed at the close last year; I like them to stay healthier and get over the finish line this year.

Outside of the playoffs is the constantly difficult Grizz, who are aging in just bad enough ways to make the first round a lot easier for some lucky high seed. I like the Pelicans to really push forward this year, with F Antonio Davis getting real MVP consideration, but the bench is just not good enough to cover any injury or road work. I might have the Lakers too high, in that I really think they could be terrible, but just can't see Kobe Bryant allowing that much suckage, and I also think his comeback will be strong. Denver needs a new coach that will let them run, and a new training regime that might keep them on the floor. Minny's an entertaining mess, but too young to win in this conference. Utah might compete for a playoff spot in the East, and will not suck, but the won-loss record will barely reflect that. Sacramento is going to stink and threaten to move, like, well, nearly every year.

Eastern Playoffs

Cleveland over Detroit, Chicago over Charlotte, Miami over Brooklyn and Washington over Toronto
Cleveland over Washington, Miami over Chicago
Cleveland over Miami

Western Playoffs

LA Clippers over Phoenix, San Antonio over Dallas, OKC over Portland, Golden State over Houston
Golden State over Clippers, San Antonio over OKC
San Antonio over Golden State

Finals - San Antonio over Cleveland

So, yeah, LeBron loses to the Spurs in the Finals. The more things change...

MVP - James
Rookie of the Year - Andrew Wiggins
Coach of the Year - Steve Kerr
Sixth Man - Jamal Crawford
First Team All-NBA - James, Durant, Davis, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul
Second Team All-NBA - Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony and Serge Ibaka
Third Team All-NBA - James Harden, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin and Chris Bosh

Enjoy the games, everybody.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways

Fitz, Eater Of Worlds
> In what counts as fore- shadowing, QB Nick Foles was lucky to avoid a pick on his first third down

> S Malcolm Jenkins with the sweet run blitz and solo tackle

> Arizona ran out of a 4-WR set, proving they've learned from Chip Kelly tape

> QB Carson Palmer's 3rd and 3 conversion to WR John Brown, a perfectly executed fly, was also kind of foreshadowy

> Either both of these 5-1 teams weren't very good, or the refs just went flag-happy in this one

> The teams exchanged offsides for funsies

> The bail out call on S Nate Allen wiped out a strip sack from LB Trent Cole, and had absolutely no impact on the play

> Fifth flag in five minutes is defensive PI on CB Bradley Fletcher, and that one is refreshingly legit

> How CB Bradley Fletcher avoided a PI call in third down end zone shot, I'll never know

> Cards HC Bruce Arians elected to punt, rather than try a 53-yard figgie, and got all of 16 yards of field position from it

> Either the crew was flag happy, or Pro Bowl RT Jason Peters just commits hands to the face all the damned time

> Watching Cardinals DC Todd Bowles dial up blitzes that get picked up brought back memories

> RB Chris Polk had his first carry in forever, and looked fine doing it

> Road Eagle Fan made themselves known during a roughing the passer flag

> Foles throws a ball away for some reason, as Ertz was open on an out

> Foles to WR Jeremy Maclin for the well-run play action screen TD, with T Lane Johnson with the wipeout block

> Scoring from the 21 is a nice way to avoid the historic red zone futility shown by the Eagle offense

> That was the first time Red hadn't scored first in 2014

> When WR Larry Fitzgerald retires, Eagle Fan will not believe it, because he's just that terrifying

> Red converted a 4th and 1 that wasn't a QB sneak, which is the thing that always works

> Honestly, I can't remember an out of division opponent who has done more against my laundry

> Red got in a challenge after the next play was snapped, because rules are just LOL

> McCoy was the victim of the most obvious uncalled horse collar of the year

> Before leaving with a concussion, Red CB Patrick Peterson played as if he had one already

> WR Josh Huff is a rookie, which means that when he fumbles in the red zone and kills his team, it's just awful, rather than a firing offense

> LB Trent Cole got 15 yards for hitting Palmer a hair after he threw the football, in the legal area where you can hit the QB, on a play where he'd have be Keanu Reeves in the Matrix to not hit the QB, because that's the NFL now

> There were 80 combined yards in flags in 20 minutes, en route to 21 for 198 for the game, and yes, these refs sucked complete

> Just to get even and show the world that the refs matter more than the game, Red got dinged for a 15 yard roughing the passer flag that was also nauseating

> Arizona challenged a play where they would have given up a first down for a penalty anyway, and would up out of challenges for the rest of the game, because, um, dumbness

> Foles then underthrew Huff for the second inexcusable red zone turnover in a five minute period, because all bad things happened around Huff in this game

> This offense is going to make me abuse alcohol

> Red tries for killshot, but Palmer misses Floyd on a flea flicker where the WR was open

> Palmer and Ellington don't connect, third and long and defensive hope

> WR Jeremy Maclin got lucky with a hot shot bounce fair catch twice, and we all miss Darren Sproles a lot

> The mutual car crash with Peterson, Maclin and S Deone Buchanan was all kinds of scary

> Green should be leading this game, but when you turn it over twice deep in the red zone, nope

> Cooper back for the fair catch, with Maclin in the locker room with a (yuck) bleeding ear

> DT Calais Campbell had one of the more obvious jumps offsides you'll ever see

> Foles to Ertz had a great and absurd catch on a back shoulder catch around Buchanaon

> Foles being unable to operate against blitz pressure at the end of the first half was also forshadowy

> S Earl Wolff got hurt on K Cody Parkey's touchback, which just seems wrong

> Third and long on the first series of the second half is a slant to Fitz for 80 and the score, and honestly, I'd like to just fast forward to a future where he's only a distant painful memory

> WR Ted Ginn Jr. with the perfectly timed block/pick

> That's the longest catch in Fitz's career, because, um, of course

> McCoy for 5 as Ronde Barber fellates the defense, then Foles throws away on a single option route to Celek

> Foles to Mahel for the first, with possible YAC ruled out without replay, funsies

> Foles on long clock throws away, offense has not been with its usual zip due to, well, turnovers and lack of running game

> Boykin missed an opportunity on P Donnie Jones' 3rd quarter punt; not the STs best game

> Third and long has me cringing for the inevitable Fitz Moment, and that's something of a tell

> Backwards throw screen to McCoy for 2, and I so hate those plays, given how they are live fumbles that can be total disasters

> Parkey's connection from 54 was straight and true and awesome, and he continues to be aces

> Pressure from LB Connor Barwin forces a bailout (grounding?), and that's three and out for two straight series

> Maclin with another terrifying bounce catch, turns it into yardage, and ends things with a Gatorade table dive that Fox set to wackity schmackity music

> Get well very goddamned soon, Darren Sproles

> S Tyrone Mathieu with the great deflect on a try to Matthews, and the Honey Badger is a player

> Boykin touched a punt to down it, which should make it dead, but Red returns it anyway and gets yards, so LOL rules

> LB Brandon Graham nearly caused spinal damage to Ellington on a loss

> Maclin with an honest to God fair catch, and then catches a lightning perfect deep ball for the lead

> Palmer somehow avoids a sack, then somehow avoids a pick, as LB Emmanuel Acho can't make the catch

> Fitz for a first down off a screen, and he makes me go into the fetal position; when he had 6 for 155, he had more than half of Red's total freaking offense for the day

> Allen stripped Ellington on a play in which he got five feet in on the replay

> Green ball on the Red 48 with a chance for margin, 19 straight games for the defense with a takeaway

> Jones drops one inside the five as Red tries the Rams' tricky wrong side return

> This defense is growing on me except for the mind-boggling and crushing mistakes

> 3rd and 11 and loud is confused, then Foles gets picked by Cromartie again on a ball that missed the WR by three yards

> If you want to tell the story of how Green can't win because Foles, this game tape is going to be high on your supporting argument list

> Third Green turnover of the day, all of them murderous

> 1st and goal from the 10 is deflected, Red's lucky for the not pick, as Ryans had read the progression

> Palmer nearly gets Brown in the end zone, but the feet are out

> Third and goal from the 10 is a Carlson drop, aided by Ryans, and phew, amazing save by the LB

> K Chandler Catanzaro hits the chip shot, and it's all tied with 9 minutes left

> Green's answering drive was a lot of running plays that should have happened in the first 51 minutes

> McCoy got the give-back horse collar

> Funny, how effective play action is when you run the damned ball

> Clock running, McCoy for four, then six more on an absurd spin out of head on contact

> Polk to the five as McCoy takes a breath

> Polk to the goal line as the clock keeps burning; somehow it's third down and inches after a terrible spot

> Would love to see a challenge of the spot there

> Third and inches, men split wide, give to McCoy, no dice

> Really bad to not execute on third down, and Red not fooled at all by men out wide from that down and distance

> Two minute warning with both teams holding full time outs

> Parkey on for the field goal, something of a validation for the defense, and connects; Green 20, Red 17

> Given the team's issues in the red zone, and how the defense has played, I agree with the decision, but still hate that they couldn't get it in on third

> Parkey had a touchback when it mattered, like just about every other kickoff

> Fitz for 5, then Carroll with a knock down on a middle try to Brown, nearly picked, two stops for a win with 1:33 left

> Third and 5 is Palmer to Brown, wide open deep, and instant score, and how the hell that happens, I have no idea

> Red's made two plays on offense in a half, and scored two touchdowns on them

> Allen, just blowing it big when it mattered most, and Williams isn't exactly covered in glory there either

> Red 24, Green 20, 1:21 left with two timeouts

> By the way, this is a tie game if Green just freaking scores on third down on the last drive, and not close at all without the two earlier red zone turnovers

> Foles to Cooper, first down and slowed tempo for what wasn't a horse collar tackle while it was

> Foles to Maclin for 8, second Green timeout to set up third and 2 at the 50

> McCoy from his fingers, first down and out of bounds and a bailout of a bad throw

> Foles throws it away, off his back foot, from moderate pressure

> McCoy for 8 off a blitz, Red just trying to force quick throws

> Third and 2 with 30 seconds left from the 38 is Foles to Ertz, pressure and no flag

> Fourth and 2 with 25 seconds left is Red timeout

> Foles keeps for the first and calls timeout, and that was kind of nuts, given that it didn't get a lot of yards and puts the entire game on the line with a slow QB

> Foles to Maclin for 19 and out of bounds, and that's as good of a throw as he's made today

> 13 seconds left from the 16

> Too tall for Matthews in the end zone, seven seconds left

> Foles to Ertz, can't win a jump ball in the end zone, one second left

> Foles to Matthews, can't keep it in bounds, but otherwise had the play... and crap

> For the first time in 2014, my team deserved to win, and didn't

> Green is now 5-2, still very likely to make the playoffs, but home field and the division or a bye is getting quite unlikely

> Red is likely to win a division, but I still can't shake the idea that the Niners and Seahawks might be better, and that the division isn't as good as was expected

> Green goes to Houston next, for what has to be considered a must game, what with Dallas having the home game bye against the Slurs tomorrow night

> All being said, great game that could have easily gone either way

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Top 10 NFL Week 8 Takeaways

10) At one point in their game with the Dolphins, Jacksonville had 199 yards to 3, and were down 7-0

9) Cincy beat Baltimore by a field goal in the final minute, which is to say, they played the usual AFC North game

8) That guy in your fantasy league who dropped Tom Brady earlier this year shouldn't be remembered just for putting his head in an oven

7) Arian Foster dominated Tennessee because, well, that always happens

6) Kansas City crushed St. Louis as part of their whole Soul Selling month

5) Seattle overcame a week of media speculation to win a huge road game... against a team that's now won once in their last five games

4) Kyle Orton threw for 4 TDs in a game where he didn't actually play all that well, because LOL Jets

3) Detroit came from 21 down to beat the Falcons, because you only need to show up for 30 minutes to beat Atlanta, no matter what time zone you are in

2) The Bucs lost in overtime on an offensive fumble for score, because, um, they are the Bucs

1) There's no truth to the rumor that the Jets continued making turnovers after their game with the Bills was over

Top 10 NFL Week 8 Ad Questions

Fast Food Accost
10) Are Southwest flights filled with terrible dancing wedding guests?

9) How much did the HP kid spend to just return his stupid lizard, and how did the iguana get lost in the first place?

8) How many Rob Lowes are there, anyway?

7) Do all guys with erectile dysfunction have convertibles?

6) If I ask the Gogle phone app how much it really knows about me, will it answer?

5) Are people who eat at McDonald's prone to wearing any hat they find on the street?

4) Do people who drink Redd's Apple Ale make all of their decisions based on thrown projectiles?

3) If I get a PS4, will I hallucinate my way through multiple game titles?

2) Does LeBron James really think that his workouts are religious, and if so, doesn't this speak to a far more troubling issue than the use of a pair of headphones?

1) Why does Burger King cause people to scream, beyond, well, the obvious?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NFL Week 8: Halfway To Nowhere

Again, my pretties, no time for anything, as I'm traveling and working on business and have decks to present and people to talk to and sleep to not get. Let's just get through this and try to log another winning week, as those have been more common than not recently.

San Diego at DENVER (-8)

So much for the meme that Thursday night football is always terrible; the last two games have been downright watchable, which is just a great disappointment for those of us who'd like to see Phil Simms take his own life. (Do it, Phil. Why let defensive players have all of the fun?) There's reasons to think that this isn't enough points, mostly because the Chargers are due for a bounceback and have generally played well in Colorado... but when that happens, they usually have a physical running game to control the clock. Too many injuries for that, and the Bronco offense just purring along, especially now that the running game is working.

Broncos 34, Chargers 24

DETROIT (-3.5) at Atlanta


Just what Falcons QB Matt Ryan did not need: a team with a ferocious pas rush coming to town and turning his OL into even faster turnstiles. Ever since the Falcons went Globetrotter on the Bucs, they've been the Generals. Karmic, that.

Lions 24, Falcons 17

St. Louis at KANSAS CITY (-7)


Are you ready to live in a world in which Kansas City, a town known for bar-b-que, terrible pro sports teams, and the pride of being less unbearable to travelers than the hundreds of miles of desolation around it, is good at both of the leagues it's in? The Chiefs certainly are, especially when it comes to their cross-state rivals that they really should have to play more than once every four years. Home field advantage is back in Arrowhead.

Chiefs 30, Rams 21

HOUSTON (-2) at Tennessee


The also not really running hard enoughs in the AFC South get after each other, with the traveling Texans remembering that they are supposed to have a defense that generates turnovers, rather than just sporadic JJ Watt highlights.

Texans 24, Titans 20

MINNESOTA (+2.5) at Tampa


Do I have to pick this game? Does anyone have to watch it? It seems wrong, really. Almost as wrong as how the Bucs turn tail and quit faster than any other team in the NFL, no matter who is coaching them. It's almost as if they play in a hellishly humid eyesore in the middle of the worst state in the Union, to a local crowd of transients that really couldn't care very much.

Vikings 20, Bucs 17

SEATTLE (-4.5) at Carolina


Maybe the two most mobile QBs in the league, and they couldn't do it more differently. Also, a matchup between teams that prove why you should never take a defense early in fantasy. Seattle would have won last week in St. Louis had their special teams not taken a short bus to the game, so I think they'll turn it around. Besides, after what the Packers did to the Panther defense, they aren't getting well soon.

Seahawks 24, Panthers 17

BALTIMORE (pick 'em) at Cincinnati


Maybe the Ravens are actually good? The Bengals certainly haven't been, and even if they do get back do-everything WR A.J. Green, I don't think he's going to be everything right away. Against a Raven defense that's been taking away the running game, that's not a recipe for success.

Ravens 27, Bengals 24

MIAMI (-5.5) at Jacksonville


Just a perfect time for the Dolphins, who catch the Jags after their first win in forever, but without QB Blake Bortles actually playing all that well. The Dolphins are good and physical on defense, and the increased pace on offense is starting to pay dividends. They'll get up big early, and the Jags will fight to threaten the spread late, but not quite get there.

Dolphins 31, Jaguars 24

Chicago at NEW ENGLAND (-6)


Oh, I'm going to regret this, as soon as Good Jay Cutler shows up and turns his season around, the way they've been doing on the road, or when I've picked against them. But the more likely moment is that the Pats will take their extra rest (remember, they had a TNF game against the Jets last week) and use it to do enough against a weak Bear defense. Chicago doesn't do enough with a pass rush to make me go for the upset.

Patriots 31, Bears 24

BUFFALO (+3) at NY Jets


The Kyle Orton Experience continues, with the Bills also getting enough from the running game against a fading Jet defense. New York's secondary won't be able to contain WR Sammy Watkins, and RB Bryce Brown will make Bills Fan forget about the injured CJ Spiller.

Bills 24, Jets 20

PHILADELPHIA (+2.5) at Arizona


A nice test for both teams, and the Cardinals defense is a solid unit... but Philly comes in with the bye, more health than they've had in a long time, and a dominant special teams unit that gives them margin. Arizona is very good, but the secondary has struggled, and QB Carson Palmer might have real problems staying upright. It'll get pinbally late.

Eagles 34, Cardinals 31

Oakland at CLEVELAND (-7)


Time for the young Browns to bounce back against the NFL's bye equivalent at home. They'll do it with a dominant running game, a defense that will generate turnovers, and for one of the few times this year, something approaching ease.

Browns 27, Raiders 16

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) at Pittsburgh


Taking the Colts with the short week, the explosive offense, and a defense that is coming off a shutout of the suddenly feeble Bengals. The Steelers won't be able to get off the field, and stay with them with red zone execution of their own.

Colts 34, Steelers 24

GREEN BAY (+1) at New Orleans


Is this the final kick for the Saints? There's been few surer bets than Drew Brees at home and at night... but the Pack offense is just absurd right now, especially at WR, and the Saints just aren't doing what they need to do in the trenches. The NFC South is secretly terrible.

Packers 30, Saints 27

Washington at DALLAS (-10)


I'm not emotionally prepared for the Cowboys to be this good, but, well, they are. Let's just take the money while we can get it, pray for injuries to show how front-loaded the roster is, and remember the good times when QB Tony Romo tried to do too much and turned the ball over when it mattered. The safe word, again, is injuries.

Cowboys 34, Slurs 20

Last week: 8-7

Year to date: 49-54-2

Career: 537-554-41

NBA Change: Any Sign That They Are Slowing



So today in the NBA, the presumed highly unpopular Sixers won a major victory in their effort to rebuild the franchise, as the NBA's teams did not vote in strong enough numbers to punish truly bad teams with the potential of a middling draft pick in the lottery.

It didn't have anything to do with their popularity, of course. Rather, it had more to do with the OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs coaching and organizational trees working their way through enough sympathetic ears, and the cure seeming worse than the disease.

But a majority did go for change; it just wasn't enough people. Which means this will likely change next year, in a less draconian way, just in time (hopefully) for the Association to lock the barn door after the Sixers and their tanking horses have left.

So why did enough teams vote to let the tankers win by losing? Because the league is changing with incredible speed under them. Max contacts aren't as long as they used to be. The salary cap is about to go boom, thanks to the sudden influx of (much) bigger broadcast dollars. Franchise values may be doubling, even for teams in minus markets, thanks to the rampant popularity of the league in foreign lands. Adding a lottery change was just too much, too soon, for too many. But in a year? Probably not.

Oh, and one other thing: I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a franchise move, or a new team or two, really soon. Because if a franchise in a middling town like Milwaukee is worth $550 million, and the Clippers in Los Angeles go for $2 billion...

Well, how much would a three-pack of teams in Asian markets be worth? That would get the Association up to 32 teams, put franchises in more time zones, and create the greater potential for global numbers. Here, let me roll out a new 36-team Association, with divisions, and see how crazy it looks.

Atlantic

Boston
Brooklyn
New York
Philadelphia
Toronto
Washington

Central

Chicago
Cleveland
Detroit
Indiana
Milwaukee
Minnesota

Southeast

Atlanta
Charlotte
Memphis
Miami
New Orleans
Orlando

Southwest

Dallas
Houston
Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix
San Antonio
Utah

Pacific

Beijing *
Golden State
Los Angeles Lakers
Portland
Seattle *
Tokyo

And yes, the NBAPA would revolt at all of that plane travel... but if I shorten the regular season to 68 games (20 from 2 home and aways in your own division, home and away with the other five divisions to get you 48 more), they'll come around, especially when teams don't play more than 3 games in any week.

Besides, this isn't baseball, where franchises haven't moved in decades, or football, where teams don't move any more because the game has become the only national religion. There's also no real shortage of actual basketball players, unlike, say, home run hitters or quality quarterbacks.

The pace of change in hoop has, just like every other facet of modern society, quickened. Try not to freak out too much...

Top 10 reasons why the Cowboys cut Michael Sam

Update that helmet & jersey, Vince
10) Practice squad players who work hard, create no distr- actions, sell jerseys and make for good PR clearly aren't good enough to keep the gig

9) Pass rush that's getting a sack a week clearly has no need of giving anyone else a shot

8) Since the team is having a good year so far, no longer need to explore PR sideshowsU

7) Showers weren't nearly as awkward as promised

6) Didn't fit into their scheme, because beating an offensive lineman to collapse the pocket and tackle a QB is entirely scheme-dependent

5) As they didn't draft him, aren't as invested in making sure that Jerry Jones' ego isn't' deflated by kicking him to the curb

4) Didn't want to stand in his way of having 30 other NFL teams work the PR speed bag

3) Wanted to make sure that the people who bought his jersey felt as foolish as humanly possible

2) As Sam hasn't abused a spouse, taken PEDs or picked up an arrest, he clearly doesn't have what it takes to be on an active roster for even one game

1) Need to push him over the edge into that WWE appearance and incredibly awkward second career

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Criminally Irresponsible World Series Pick

We Legalized This, And Now KC Wins
It's been the kind of year that makes you walk away from the sportsbook. The Royals are undefeated; the Giants have lost twice in two series. I didn't pick the Royals to win any of the three events that they have been in to date, and I'm not going to pick them now. You can thank me in the better part of a week, KC Fan...

But the Giants do nice work against the running game, the Royals have been off for a really long time, and could be remembering that they aren't the 1927 Yankees, and it's not as if the Giants aren't good at winning these things.

Giants in five.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deep fantasy basketball sleepers

Oddly Prophetic, Really
Quick and dirty, the way you like it.

Point Guards

Patrick Beverly, Houston. Jeremy Lin is gone, and Chandler Parsons has been replaced by Trevor Ariza, aka a catch and shoot 3 kind of guy. Beverly is never going to be a monster provider, as he just plays too hard on defense to conserve his energy and fouls, but he's clearly got the capability to get up to a 12/7 kind of guy, with solid threes and steals to boot.

Evan Turner, Boston. Is he a point guard? Hell no, he's a terrible basketball player. But he's a terrible basketball player who seems to have the confidence of his coach, and he might get playing time for a half of a season or more while his team tanks. Marcus Smart is the long-term play here, and Rajon Rondo is the real point guards, but you might be able to ride ET for a few months.

Trey Burke, Utah. Last year's can't shoot at all guy is this year's team leader, mostly because Utah is just so young and bereft of leadership. Burke and the Jazz have looked surprisingly frisky in pre-season, and while Dante Exum is also looking useful, he won't poach enough minutes to harm. Look for Utah to compete harder this year, and Burke to minute his way to fantasy relevance.

Shooting Guards

Jimmy Butler, Chicago. A classic case of less is more, Butler's failed move to prominence last year comes true this year. He's not good enough to create on his own, but with Derrick Rose back amongst the living, he'll have some more free space, and rookie Doug McDermott will also keep him fresh. I'm looking for his percentages to improve, and his defensive counting numbers to go up despite less burn.

Rodney Stuckey, Indiana. Someone's got to lead the Pacers in scoring this season without Paul George or Lance Stephenson, and Stuckey's one of the few guys on the roster that thinks he's better than he is. That confidence will lead to gunning, and fantasy hoop is all about opportunity, more than talent. He'll try enough on defense to help there, too.

Danny Green, San Antonio. Is this the year that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili just gate-check the entire NBA regular season? Very possible, and that time off for the greybeards leads to minutes for the sharp-shooting Green, who also benefits from a Paddy Mills injury to get a little more PT. The fact that he's not really a SG helps as well, since it means you get assists that your average 2 does not provide.

Small Forward

K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia. He should have been a first round pick and knows it, having rejected the Sixers offer to extend his deal already. He's got elite level defensive abilities on the wing, unlike every Sixer since Andre Iguodala, and will get as many minutes as he can stand due to that. Offensively, he's not hopeless, and not hopeless is all you need when you get 35+ minutes a game.

Draymond Green, Golden State. New coach Steve Kerr has to know that the reason why his team loses despite breakthrough offensive talent is that, well, David Lee might be the worst 4 in the NBA on defense, right? That should translate into the minutes -- and it's only the minutes -- that Green needs to drive real benefit. Remember, he dominated in the second half of the season last year, and also showed well in the playoffs. On the rise.

Danilo Gallinari, Denver. The closest thing on the roster to a closer, recovering nicely from a knee problem. He does enough of everything to help, will have a clear path to minutes, and could perform at an All-Star level, especially later in the year.

Power Forward

Josh McRoberts, Miami. Now on his third pro team and a winner of no beauty prizes, McBob is a sneaky-good source of assists from the power forward, and with the paucity of production from the meh platter of Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier, I think he's got a shot to keep kicking out numbers. He's also fighting for minutes with guys who should not be in the league any more. That helps.

DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta. As under the radar as it gets, Carroll is an NBA vagabond who put it all together for last year's surprising Hawks squad. This year, he's supposed to lose touches to the returning Al Horford, but they really don't do the same things, and Carroll has startling utility as a steals magnet. It helps that he plays for an NBA team that is as anonymous as it gets, too.

Carlos Boozer, Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, yes, he's terrible; a defensive sieve and offensive black hole who does not give you numbers beyond points, boards, and a superficially tolerable shooting percentage. You should never, ever, watch him play ball, and Kobe Bryant is going to snarl at him more than, say, LeBron James snarled at Chalmers. But he's the best they have, Julius Randle isn't ready for the NBA, Jordan Hill is flighty and flaky, and his coach is dumb enough to just go with counting stats. Draft Boozer, then shower.

Centers

Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota. Think that Minny is going to want to slow things down with Nikola Pekovic, after they've swapped out Kevin Love to get flying young guys? Hells and no; this will be a run and fun team that smiles their way to 35 defense-free wins, which means Peko is going to develop some very convenient injuries and/or a trade out of town. Dieng will swoop up the athletic defensive numbers, and slam home enough garbage to not kill you in points, either.

Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett was too old five years ago, and he's positively embarrassing now. Brook Lopez can't stay healthy, and the other Net bigs are either head cases on on the decline. Plumlee is going to get all of the minutes he can handle, and do good things with them. He's an especially nice target for keeper leagues.

Jared Sullinger, Boston. It's either him or Kelly Olynyk, and I just don't think Olnyk is an NBA player. Sullinger isn't going to be an All-Star, but he is going to have a career, and play 30 minutes a game for a team that spreads the ball. You could do a lot worse.

Top 10 NFL Week 7 Takeaways

Sad Seattle Rain
10) St. Louis won due to a dominant special teams performance, which is pretty hard to do, really

9) Carolina put up so little right against Green Bay, Fox nearly switched off the national game in the first half

8) The refs tossed a Colts defensive lineman for reasons that were more or less incomprehensible to the naked eye

7) Buffalo won due to the last-second heroics of Kyle Orton, which is one of those sentences that hardly seems possible in English

6) The Bears were held to 14 first downs in a desultory home loss, adding to the Flip A Coin legend that is Jay Cutler

5) Detroit came from behind to beat the Saints, as Road Drew Brees threw a devastating fourth quarter pick, and Saint Fan is really starting to hate Road Drew

4) The Washington Slurs won on a last-second field goal drive that was engineered by Colt McCoy in a sentence that ends all future earning potential for Kirk Cousins

3) Jacksonville won convincingly over Cleveland at home, proving that the Browns really aren't ready for prosperity

2) Baltimore beat Atlanta 28-7 in a game where they turned it over three times, and only got it back once

1) If the season ended today, Seattle isn't in the playoffs

Top 10 NFL Week 7 Ad Questions

Must... Murder... Lizard
10) Given the Bucs' year, is the Bud Light guy who got his background converted now considering legal action?

9) If I get Direct TV, will it inspire schizophrenia?

8) Why does Packer Fan think they need to tell us how to dress warm?

8) Does eating KFC make you want to eat in inappropriate places?

7) If I get the new iPhone, will I be compelled to tell people what I eat?

6) Why is State Farm helping to get tanks into the hands of colossal idiots?

5) If I use Visa, will Pizza Hut deliver to the ocean?

4) Does anyone else want to not watch football, just to make sure you aren't like the people who watch the NFL Network?

3) Isn't the concept "there's a winner every 15 minutes" impossible while in connection with Taco Bell?

2) Will Geico pay out for murder by serial killer?

1) If you are a Ford van owner who commutes every 15 minutes, aren't you homeless and/or a registered sex offender?

In this year's fantasy baseketball news you can not possibly care about...

The time that you worry...
Here's the results of today's fantasy basketball draft. Asterisks denote keepers, and I was second in the league last year, so a lot of folks had more to work with than me. Also, um, this is a really smart league.

Player TM UNIT
PG Stephen Curry * GST 56
SG Andrew Wiggins * MIN 5
G Kobe Bryant LAL 26
SF Danilo Gallinari DEN 8
PF Dirk Nowitzki * DAL 29
F Al Jefferson * CHA 46
C Marcin Gortat * WAS 6
U David West IND 11
U Josh McRoberts MIA 1
B1 Omer Asik NOP 4
B2 Ersan Ilyasova MIL 1
B3 DeMarre Carroll ATL 1

(How was Wiggins a keeper? Because I drafted and stashed him for all of 2013 through a loophole that the rest of the league didn't think about. Call me Hinkie-esque.)

Here's the problem with being late in the draft and with little cash; I totally whiffed on getting a second point guard of any note to supplement Curry. I tried to get around this with passing big men (McRoberts is a nice $1 stash, I think), and maybe the multi-cat vengeance of Bryant, but I'd feel a lot better about this team if Asik was, say, Jeff Teague or Jrue Holiday. Hell, even Patrick Beverly or Trey Burke would have made me feel better. But it was not to be.

The problem with this roster? Blocks (projected last, as these bigs are more crafty than athletic) and assists (6th, and if Curry got hurt, we'd be totally hosed). The nice parts? Points, boards and percentages.It's not a team that's going to run out and hide on anyone, but I think it will show up every day and grind out some money.

And well, I'm OK with that. The top team in our league has nine blue-chip keepers, most of which are at absurd prices (James Harden, John Wall and Kyrie Irving, all are $27, when they would all easily go for twice that at open auction). Short of an injury epidemic, he's got the league won, and everyone else is just playing for second. If Wiggins can deliver real value, if I get a bounce-back year from Ilyasova, or continued goodness from Carroll (look at those 2013 numbers, they are sneaky great), I think I can contend. And if Bryant has a high-usage year in the barren wasteland that is Lakerland, maybe I do enough to turn a profit.

But it's also quite possible that league is a lot better in 2014, and my shot at second-place money is just delusion. My prep wasn't as solid as past years, running the auction while participating in it takes away from your shot at working out bid levels as more than whim, and might have given me the big clue that Yahoo had not classified Wiggins as a guard.

The lesson? Nothing ever comes easy. And you can't win a league on draft day, but you can sure as hell lose one.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Top 10 reasons why the Seahawks traded Percy Harvin

A little road music
10) Want to fool the super-deep sleeper guy in your fantasy league that the Paul Richardson hype is for realsies

9) Know that no team ever repeats, so it's time to start tanking

8) Harvin, like all other undersized speed WRs with intermittent production, has ties to gangs when you want to get rid of him

7) He kept insisting that the team only played 11 guys at a time, not 12

6) As the photo here shows, just would not comply with the NFL's stated choice of headphone

5) Need salary cap space for 2015... in the middle of 2014

4) Didn't think he did enough in the Super Bowl last year

3) Harvin upset the chemistry of a team with multiple PED users and infamous loudmouths

2) In trading him to the Jets for a second round pick, they get a cheap last first round pick while ensuring that, due to his QB being Geno Smith, Harvin can never come back to haunt them

1) Drafted him in their fantasy league, and are just super pissed

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Steps To A Better NBA

Bounce Bounce
So its preseason time in the NBA, where the Association is making a Nets-Celtics game shorter -- honestly, as short as you like on that one, Lords of Game -- and other notables are making the point that 82 games is too many, especially if it means we can possibly get away from the horror of back to back nights.

And, well, I get it. The NBA playoffs are so good, we want to make the regular season more like them, even though that is, of course, impossible. Since it's fairly rare for a good team to out and out miss the playoffs, and the advantage of higher seeds is fairly theoretical, there are no regular season pennant races, or bitter battles for the division and a bye week. The only people who really love the long regular season are fantasy honks, and outside of me, you don't know anyone who plays fantasy hoop. (Try it, by the way. Best fantasy game for a lot of reasons.)

But the problem with getting rid of 82 is what we wind up losing. Home games against every other team in the league -- and honestly, given how much better the West is than the East, I'm not sure that fans in a bunch of Eastern cities want to give up their annual shot to see Steph Curry or Kevin Durant in person. The NBA also doesn't have real schedule inequities, the way that the MLB and NFL does.

Instead, I'm going to suggest the following things that are never going to happen.... but might make for a far more intriguing regular season. And a whole lot less complaints about the length of the season.

1) Relegation for the worst six teams to the D-League. 

Want to end tanking forever, without monkeying with the draft lottery? Just put the worst six teams in the D-League every year, cutting the size of the league down to 24 clubs. (By the way, this also means that we need all of the D-League teams to become independent of parent teams, but that's pretty easy.) Then, add or move D-League teams to all of the towns that the Association has burned over the years -- Seattle, Vancouver, Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo, Pittsburgh -- and resuscitate the names, and hey presto, we've got a reason to watch ball during the off-season. Along with real drama in the second half of the year. (Note that this also means we're promoting teams from the D-League every year, too. And yes, this also makes life in keeper NBA fantasy league far more intriguing, too. Along with the opportunity to be the first guy in America to start an NBA D-League fantasy league...)

2) Back to back games can't involve plane travel. 

If you are playing Brooklyn one night and the Knicks the next, your only real problem is getting your guys to not stay up all night in New York. If you are playing the Sixers and Warriors, and your guys are on a bus for a couple of hours, honestly, shouldn't be that big of a deal. Same deal with the Clips and Lakers, or Chicago and Milwaukee... but Portland and Golden State? Kind of a different deal. 

3) A point edge for teams with inequal rest.

Let's say the Raptors are making the Texas 3-step death trip of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, with Dallas as the fourth game in five nights, and the Mavs haven't played in three days. That's a blowout waiting to happen, right? It sure is... so we simply agree that the Raps start the game with several points as a bonus just to even out the scales. Set the math nerds on this, and add a nice bit of drama where there was none. (Especially if cagey coaches start managing minutes the night before to try and back-load the starters. Nice bulletin board material, too.)

4) Minutes limits.

Let's face it; the Association would be better if more teams were like the Spurs, and the only way that's going to happen is if we make players 8 through 12 a lot more important than they are now. If every player had to be off at least 12 minutes a night, it really would not impact most games that much... but it would make some impact, and start helping more games get decided before the final minutes. It's the kind of small change that would have more impact than you might expect.

 5) Fewer timeouts, none back to back, and none in the opposing half court.

Nothing drives people off their meds faster than the common last minute experience of watching a team fail to inbound the ball, then call time and do it again... or call time when you are falling out of bounds. That's just a case of timeouts bailing out bad offense, and there's no reason why we should be doing that, especially in a league that's outlawed many previously allowed forms of defense. This just would make for better games, and shorter fourth quarters, which has to help overall fatigue levels.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NFL Week 7: No Time, No Time

Ticking away / the moments that...
I know that you have no time, because you are presumably a grown-up in 2014... but honestly? Every week for me is getting a little worse. Either the kids need more help or my wife is gigging more or the puppy needs attention and oh by the way, it's freaking Q4, and online advertising is crazy in Q4. And if it's not, you're officially screwed. At least a half dozen times a day now, as I look at the task list and the clock, I think the immortal words of Gob Bluth: I've made a terrible mistake.

Oh, and by the way? Other stuff is slipping. Leaves are falling and my gutters aren't clen, and that's a recipe for disaster. I have a fantasy basketball league auction on Saturday, and I'm not really prepared for that. I have to fly on business on Monday, for a week or full-throttle meetings on top of meetings in all likelihood, and slides need to get finished for that, too. I still have to run the miles, even though I don't have the time to get to the gym any more. It's all accelerating, and I get that this is probably what happens when you are 45 and have a teenager, but man alive...

Which, of course, is why last week's picks were not able to keep the momentum going. It's not that I'm dumb or flawed or doomed, just tired! But not these picks. These are gold, Jerry, gold!

And with that... on to the picks!

Oh, and by the way? Other stuff is slipping. Leaves are falling and my gutters aren't clean, and that's a recipe for disaster. I have a fantasy basketball league auction on Saturday, and I'm not really prepared for that. I have to fly on business on Monday, for a week or full-throttle meetings on top of meetings in all likelihood, and slides need to get finished for that, too. I still have to run the miles, even though I don't have the time to get to the gym any more. It's all accelerating, and I get that this is probably what happens when you are 45 and have a teenager, but man alive...

Which, of course, is why last week's picks were not able to keep the momentum going. It's not that I'm dumb or flawed or doomed, just tired! But not these picks. These are gold, Jerry, gold!

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

NY Jets at NEW ENGLAND (-9.5)

I know, way too many points. But aren't TNF games almost always crapstorms of blowouts now, and isn't New England all better that QB Tom Brady has a healthy TE Rob Gronkowski, veterans back on the offensive line, and the annual romp through the AFC East cakewalk? Well, sure, even though LB Jarrod Mayo is a real loss, and I suspect the running game is going to take a hit due to injury, too. But QB Geno Smith just looks like he's trying to get to his career as a frustrated back-up somewhere else with speed, and the late game TAInt does look like a speciality of the hosed.

Patriots 27, Jets 16

Atlanta at BALTIMORE (-7)


I'd like the Falcons to cover here, but a week after they got punked at home by the lackluster Bears defense, it's hard to see how they can keep QB Mat Ryan upright on the road in Charm City. I don't expect the Ravens to unleash the 7-on-7 drill that was last week in Tampa, but they'll get enough done to cover.

Ravens 31, Falcons 20

TENNESSEE (+5) at Washington


Should the Slurs be favored by five at home to anyone right now? Well, probably, but it's not the Titans, who seem to do just enough all over the place to avoid blowouts. Besides, QB Kirk Cousins has been turning the ball over more than anyone else in the league, and with the clock ticking before Bob Griffin comes back, he's either going to be too passive to show he can do it, or too aggro and dig the hole deeper. He's just not that good, people.

Slurs 24, Titans 20

SEATTLE (-6.5) at St. Louis


Perfect get-well assignment for the Seahawks; a defense that's been historically inept at rushing the QB, on a short week, after falling apart in the last 35 minutes of a game that was going their way. One of these days, people are going to notice that Jeff Fisher's career record really isn't that good.

Seahawks 27, Rams 17

Cleveland at JACKSONVILLE (+5.5)


Time to save Gus Bradley's job? Well, maybe. In last week's loss in Nashville, the Jags actually had a chance at the buzzer, but a curious decision to try the 56 yarder for the win with 12 seconds left on the clock didn't work out, and they are still 0 for 2014. The Browns come in high on life after finally bashing the Steeler Menace, and I don't think they are old and wise enough to handle prosperity. QB Blake Bortles finally gets a win.

Jaguars 24, Browns 23

Cincinnati at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)


Has the annual playoff bummer trip come to the Bengals early? It sure looks like that, after a period in which the Patriots got well against them, then the Panthers somehow pulled out a 37-all tie on the road when they got literally out-kicked. The Colts look well enough after early stumbles, and with the Bengals still missing WR AJ Green, I don't think they've got enough fire power to keep up.

Colts 34, Bengals 27

Minnesota at BUFFALO (-5.5)


After getting their savior rookie QB treated like a chew toy by Detroit, it's on to Buffalo, which is kind of like a mini Detroit on the front line. The number is a bit strong for a team with QB Kyle Orton at the helm, but it's not as if the Vikings have playmakers on defense.

Bills 26, Vikings 17

Miami at CHICAGO (-3.5)


QB Jay Cutler is the new Jeff George. Bear Fan knows it, you and I know it, and the only thing that's keeping everyone from chanting it like a mantra is that no one wants to remember Jeff George that much. I'd like the Fish a lot more this week if they didn't botch a perfectly acceptable home win against Green Bay last week; the possibility that they just can't get over the hangover is strong. And they really look like they have trouble with TEs, which is so not the way you want to be against Chicago, which is like playing against 3 TEs as WRs on every snap.

Bears 26, Dolphins 20

New Orleans at DETROIT (-2.5)


Ready to see Saints QB Drew Brees get the Teddy Bridgewater treatment? Lions Fan certainly is, and that's going to be all kinds of necessary in a game where they aren't going to have WR Calvin Johnson to make QB Matthew Stafford look unexposed. If the Saints were ever going to come through with a big road win, this is the week -- dome, manageable opponent offense, backs against the wall -- but Brees just might not be up to it anymore. He is 35, after all, and hasn't been good away from home in a real long time.

Lions 23, Saints 20

Carolina at GREEN BAY (-7)


Late word is that Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin suffered a partial concussion in last week's tie, which explains why he didn't know ties could happen in the pros, and why his catch percentage was so low. I liked the Cats to cover before he went down, but without him, the Pack's greatest defensive weakness isn't so glaring, and the Panther defense just isn't scaring anyone anymore. This will get a little runaway-ish.

Packers 34, Panthers 20

KANSAS CITY (+4) at San Diego


Time to roll out one of the great gambling chestnuts of the century: Andy Reid after a bye week! For years in Philly, we took faith that this showed us Cap'n Andy was really a great coach, because when both teams had extra time, he still out-schemed 'em. Until the end of the era, when his teams got bum rushed no matter what the circumstance. And doesn't a good record after the bye just mean that you aren't working hard enough on the weeks where you don't have one? Don't answer that, as I'm taking the Chiefs to cover. Freaking Reid.

Chargers 31, Chiefs 28

ARIZONA (-3.5) at Oakland


Not getting the lack of love shown to the Cardinals, who are on path to an NFC West title and playoff bye despite a rash of injuries. They got back QB Carson Palmer last week and kept him in one piece, and this week he gets to carve up the Raiders for overpaying to get him, then not keeping him. More points than you might expect, but in the end, Black turnovers, too.

Cardinals 34, Raiders 27

NY GIANTS (+6.5) at Dallas


Can the Cowboys handle prosperity? They never have in the last century of the Jones Era, so it's hard to see how they turn into pure pros now. Give me Blue to bounce back with an actual effort, Dallas to have RB issues between starter DeMarco Murray getting worn down and back-up Joseph Randle getting distracted with petty crimes, and Blue QB Eli Manning to have enough time, from a week of shame from his OL, to show the world that the Dallas secondary is not all better. Besides, these games are always tight. It's just a shame that Cowboys K Dan Bailey keeps hitting everything.

Cowboys 27, Giants 23

San Francisco at DENVER (-7)


Have you heard? The Broncos are the new America's Team, which is just as well, because I'm developing all kinds of hate for them. It's mostly a RB problem, in that I went all-in on Montee Ball last year, gritted my teeth and held on beyond all patience and endurance, and hoped to have it pay off with an actual RB1 this year. Ball stunk for a half dozen games, then got hurt, just in time for RB Ronnie Hillman to go for 100 (I had him last year, when he got cuckolded by RB Knowshon Moreno, but not now). So freaking annoying.

Oh, the actual game? The Niners can be exposed on defense now, and at home at altitude, that's just what Denver will do. I also wouldn't be too surprised if the Denver D or ST scores in this, too: the back end of the Niner roster is not encouraging.

Broncos 34, Niners 26

HOUSTON (+3) at Pittsburgh


By recent MNF standards, this is high quality, in that neither team will be on the clock and tanking games by the end of the year. Give me the road guys to grind out a tough win, because Pittsburgh's not good enough up front to protect the QB early, and as the Browns showed, you can run all damn day on this defense. Give the Texans this: they don't lost patience in the run game. Not that you need that much against this Steeler squad right now.

Texans 26, Pittsburgh 24

Last week: 6-8-1

Year to date: 41-47-2

Career: 529-547-41

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rest Of The Eagles Season, Because True Hope Isn't Part Of Eagle Fan's Worldview

Yes, Philosoraptor, it is
So, with a bye week and the best game of their season in the books, it's time for Philly Fan's favorite thing to do: nitpick the starting QB on a winning team.

It's just what is done, really, and it's done for any fan base that hasn't won and freaks out about that fact all too easily. It's even more acute when the QB in question has no real hard-core commitment, because Foles is a third-round pick in the Luck-Griffin-Wilson draft, and hasn't cashed in the big long-term contract that signifies He Is Muy Macho.

Last year's Foles was, of course, downright magical in his ability to avoid turnovers... while this year's model leads the league, and actually is a little fortunate not to have more. The fact that the QB leads the NFL in turnovers on a 5-1 team is just one of the more absurd facts from this year's laundry. (Secondary absurdities: that LeSean McCoy is still at just 3.6 yards a carry even after the SNF statsfest, and that the 28th ranked defense just registered the franchise's first shutout in a generation.) But mixed in with all of the jaw-dropping mistakes has been any number of stick throws, good courage in the face of a rush, keeping the tempo up in ways that other QBs can't, and, well, just being the only guy on the roster with the potential to play well enough to steal you a game of consequence.

Stealing a game of consequence was, of course, something we all thought that Foles would have to do for this team to go deeper in the playoffs. No one imagined the club to be in the position of #1 slot in the standings with a bye and home-field if the season were to end today, because the more realistic won-loss prediction was 4-2, with a couple of undefeated teams (Seattle, New Orleans and Green Bay all were world-beaters, right?) ahead of them.

Well, nice to have new problems, right? Except that Dallas looks for real (I will now gargle with bleach), and the schedule looks murderous. Here's what's ahead...

Week 8 (after the bye) at Phoenix. Who just got back their QB1, who are leading their presumably better division, and have home field, albeit one where Road Fan will make an appearance. It's a toss-up at best.

Week 9 at Houston. Who will have OLB Javedon Clowney back from injury, and if they've got RB Arian Foster healthy, could be more than a little troublesome. This one has must win written all over it, and the Texans offense should be beatable, but still.

Week 10, Carolina on MNF. Home game, which helps, against the possibly rejuvenated QB Cam Newton. Carolina's defense looks vulnerable now, but in a month, they might have some actual starting caliber RBs back in the lineup. This is looking like one of the easier games on the schedule, which is also kind of frightening.

Week 11 at Green Bay. This game last year was so much easier to take against QBs Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien. Life isn't going to go that smoothly again. The Pack isn't real good right now, but they've got a way of gelling over time, and going to Lambeau is never easy.

So... anywhere from 9-1 (as if) to 6-4, but more likely somewhere in between. Meanwhile, here's the absolute cakewalk that Dallas has.

Week 7 - Giants at home. Let's just say that Blue looks a little softened up after last week,

Week 8 - Slurs at home. Who will either start Turnover Machine Kirk Cousins at QB, or a rusty Bob Griffin. As if it really matters who plays QB for a 1-win team. I get that the Slurs games are always close for Dallas, but the talent levels between these teams is a cliff right now.

Week 9 - Cardinals at home. The only actual test in the month is at home, and by this point, Cowboy Fan will actually start showing up for games, rather than selling all of those seats to Road Fan. Not an auto-win, but the home team will probably be favored.

Week 10 - At Jacksonville. About as difficult as Week 11...

Week 11 - Bye.

 So as we move into the home stretch of the NFL season, it's going to be real hard to see Dallas as anything but ahead in the division. Which means that everything will come down to...

Week 13 - Dallas-Philadelphia, Thanksgiving Day, in Dallas, and

Week 15 - Philly-Dallas, in Philly, on SNF.

Oh, and the loser of the division has to play on Wild Card Weekend (let's imagine the NFC South winner, at home, which could easily be New Orleans), then more road work against the probable top seed in the conference. Dallas again, in Dallas.

And sure, they could get exposed by then, with an injury or two showing suspect depth... but I'm from Philadelphia.

I know how this movie ends.

And yes, I'm part of the problem.

Oh, and Foles?

Clearly not good enough to win playoff games on the road, right?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Top 10 NFL Week 6 Takeaways

10) There is something about Cincinnati that inspires ties, and sadness, and suicide

9) So much for Tom Brady's not happy and not good anymore and this is why we can't have nice things

8) Geno Smith and Kirk Cousins personally guaranteed that the spreads against their teams would be covered with last minute TAInts

7) Good Jay Cutler showed up, so the Bears won, and if you can figure out when he's around as opposed to Bad Jay, you're smarter than me

6) Green Bay won on the road in Miami with QB Aaron Rodgers getting love for a fake spike and last-second TD throw, but none of that happens if his OL doesn't bail him out on a fumble in the final drive

5) Oakland and Jacksonville had real chances to get their first win, because the league is just like that

4) Tampa started their bye week and the traffic leaving their stadium early, gifting Baltimore with a 28-0 first quarter lead

3) Cleveland cleaned Pittsburgh's clock from start to finish, so feel free to stock up on canned goods, bottled water, and ammunition for your zombie-killing shotguns

2) Teddy Bridgewater returned to the starting lineup against Detroit, who made him look like a less effective Matt Cassel, or a more polished Joe Webb

1) The national media's collective orgasm over Dallas winning in Seattle to go to 6-1 is downright unseemly

Giants - Eagles Takeaways

Hype Video Or Documentary?
> At least my laundry wore their silly all-dark unis at night, where it won't make them die in their own sweat

> Blue WR Victor Cruz answered a fluff question about his team's offensive identity with a straight face, which clearly was some kind of foreshadowing

> Green's first drive was a statement, in that RB LeSean McCoy kept going forward, and QB Nick Foles make quick and effective decisions

> McCoy's first breakout run in ages was still all kinds of terrifying with the loose ball handle

> Blue defense looked downright unsettled by the tempo, as if that should be a surprise by now

> K Cody Parkey connected from 31 to end the first drive, and while the red zone offense is still discouraging, 3-0 after 4 minutes isn't turrible

> QB Eli Manning to Cruz for instant stick moving, lots of time and a clean pocket

> RB Andre Williams for not much, and running it is not how to trash my laundry recently

> Then again, on second down Williams destroyed S Malcolm Jenkins, which was just about Blue's highlight of the game

> Third and 1 to get off the field is a strip sack from coverage by OLB Connor Barwin, and that was all kinds of manly

> P Steve Weatherford gets it away, killing the ST streak of first punt block for TD at two games

> NBC found the resident costumed freak Eagle couple, because the national media always does nice things for the town's rep

> WR Jordan Matthews with a drop in traffic, lucky it wasn't a rebound INT

> Foles to Cooper on second decision, nice ball and movement

> McCoy looking like his pre-not actually concussed self, five yards

> McCoy for 19, really nice until the awkward end, and it looks like Blue's going to waste a challenge on a non-fumble

> Blown challenge, but at least Blue's defense is able to take a breath

> Foles somehow escaped DT Cullen Jenkins to throw it away, which is one of those slow beating slower moments

> Sproles limped off early in this game before limping off again late, and that is absolutely Not Cool

> Foles to Ertz on a burned blitz for 23, and this is the best that the QB and OL has looked in a long time

> McCoy falling forward for 2, and it's nice to see him going in that direction

> Third and 6 from the 15 is critical, and Foles throws an absolutely perfect ball for the score

> Ertz with terrific body control, and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could do absolutely nothing about that

> WR Odell Beckham Jr. didn't have the best night, but his talent is obvious

> When QB Eli Manning turtles and gives himself up on a first quarter sack, as he did on OLB Trent Cole's first visit to the backfield, it's a defensible play and a key to his long-term durability, but, um, still, dude...

> After converting a 3rd and 19, Blue held, delayed, and gave up two sacks before a give-up draw, so let's not pretend they played well tonight

> I don't really know very much about Blue T Justin Pugh, other than his last name described his play tonight

> When Foles has all day, and connects with guys who aren't open, you can get fooled into thinking he's more accurate than he is

> Lost in the avalanche was the fact that P Donnie Jones might have had his best game of the year

> It's really nice to have MLB DeMeco Ryans back, as I'm not prepared to live in a world where Casey Matthews has utility

> Blue gave up eight sacks tonight, and it would have been worse if Manning hadn't fallen forward for single yards on a couple of occassions

> Part of McCoy's big return to prominence tonight was the WRs, especially Maclin, with downfield blocking

> Foles to Cooper for 6 yards, and if you get no YAC, you better catch everything and block like a mother

> Foles to TE James Casey on the rollout for the score, and that was beyond easy

> Green 17, Blue 0, and for a man with limited foot speed to get that open is just shocking

> NBC's Cris Collingsworth seemed ready to apologize to America for Blue not playing well tonight

> Parkey Touchbacks make me very happy, because I have deep Alex Henery scars

> Williams breaks a tackle for his second good run of the night

> Manning to Randle moves the sticks, and the Eagle corners are such a concern that 17-0 and porny still felt unsafe

> Blue LG Westin Richburg had one of the dumber 15 yard flags you'll ever see

> Cole got to Manning on one play so fast that he blew up a screen

> Sproles might have had another PR TD tonight, if he wasn't stopped by his own blocker

> I'm not saying that DE Jason Pierre-Paul came up small, but the only play I remember him making tonight as lining up offsides

> The refs gave McCoy a first down after a measurement that came up short, because short bus refs on prime time is now a thing

> Sproles had a facemask penalty revoked, because I guess his head is too low to the ground

> Parkey's 45-yard figgie was a mildly big play, since it kept the momentum and prevented Blue field position

> I'd like to thank Blue for their, um, innovative play calling of run up he middle, run to the side, long-developing pass

> When Manning fled from Jenkins on a clean blitz to throw it away while the S was still five yards away from him, it's a defensible football play and, um... turrible QBing

> Green STer Chris Maragos had a partial punt block, and that dude has been ridiculous

> When Blue rushed three, the Eagle OL just went head-hunting to pancake people, which was good fun

> Foles' inexcusable pick on a telegraphed screen to Sproles, and the only thing that went right here was that it wasn't a TAInt

> Honestly, if the drive ends and the clock is up, it's 23-0 and I'm so fine with that

> The refs signalled offsides while calling for holding, which is kinda special

> Foles took a coverage sack with no timeouts, which was nearly as bad as either of the INTs

> Manning airmailed the world on an out, and I suppose there was pressure, but still, yeesh

> Like Beckham, Williams is a real player, regardless of results tonight

> Watching Sproles stiff arm people is just adorable

> Foles' second inexcusable pick of the night gave him the NFL lead in turnovers, and that can't continue

> The holding call that negated TE Larry Donnell's tip drill score was an obvious take down on Cole, but still, phew

> Beckham will be Blue's best offensive player within a year, assuming health

> When Blue needed it, they went twice to Cruz... who left on an awful season-ending knee injury on the second play, so, um, not good for them

> Some good plays by the defense in that series, but make no bones about it: they got lucky, too

> Cruz leaves on a cart, sobbing and screaming in pain, and while Green Fan has never been a fan of the frequent post-TD dancing, no one wanted to see that

> McCoy for nine as Green tries to make this night end quietly

> Foles for the first, and he doesn't fumble while going down, so yay

> Foles to Matthews for 26, clean pocket, wide open WR, and sometimes it's nice to play QB

> McCoy for 28, and Blue doesn't look like they want to be here any more, not that I really blame them

> Foles to Celek for nine simple yards up the middle, then 7 more, and why not, it's easy

> Sproles for 15 and the score, and the offensive line has gotten tired of blocking just the bigs, so they are going to block everyone

> Green 27, Blue 0, and Green has more rushing yards than Blue has yards

> NBC was so bored with this game that they neglected to show us the ensuing kickoff

> WR Reuben Randle ran away from a possible fist down, because he's not exactly heady

> McCoy shakes, bakes, fakes and gets 18 more; it's like he's making up for 2 or 3 weeks at once

> I'm not sure why Green wanted to try razzle dazzle while up a ton with rookie WR/KR Josh Huff, but at least they got the fumble back

> When Sproles suffers a possible knee injury, he still walks away, because he might not be human

> Beckham muffed a punt, which was kicked out of the end zone for the weirdest gift touchback ever

> I've watched Eagle Football for 35+ years, and I've never seen 9 flags against the opposition, and 1 for my laundry

> Third and 10 is Manning pump and going into double coverage to Randle; no chance at anything good for the offense

> I get that his OL is not good or starters, but ye hads, Manning hasn't done much of anything tonight

> Kelly brought back Detention Mode in the fourth quarter, which was evidently not something that Cris Collingsworth had ever seen before

> A Green defensive shutout should count double, given the pace of play

> Jones gets off a solid kick and roll, and the refs take 5 on for the Giants while saying first down, Philadelphia, so that's the third Huh moment of the night for them

> Blue had double-digits in punts, which is what happen when you have a hurry up offense that isn't working

> Detention Mode makes NBC chuckle and Kelly wince

> Blue's effort was even lacking in post-whistle shoving late

> 30 yards in 4 minutes must feel like water torture to Kelly

> TE Daniel Fells had a fumble on a real nice play by Fletcher to preserve the shutout

> QB Ryan Nassib gave Blue a small spark, along with Coughlin calling timeouts to try to avoid the humiliation

> OLB Brandon Graham with good pressure in garbage time

> Green Fan booed Blue timeouts, because they are good at booing

> The game was prolonged for a 15-yard flag where DT Beau Allen tapped Nassib's helmet by accident, which got called as roughing the passer on a play where there was no passer

> The final sack of the night went to NT Brandon Bair, clinching Green's first shutout since 12/1/96

> My laundry is 5-1 going into their bye week, and could have been anywhere from 2-4 to 6-0...

> The NFC East looks like a two team race, and the other team is... the team that Green Fan hates way more than any other

> Feel free to ask the Blue guys who were talking last week about how legit the 2013 NFC East championship is now

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