Thursday, October 29, 2015

Week 8 NFL Picks: Runaway Blimp

Blimpin' Blimpin'
My youngest is now in fourth grade, and had to do a current events project. She asked me for help, so I offered up today's runaway blimp story, because what little kid doesn't love a runaway blimp story? So I gave her the 5 Ws, but could not leave well enough alone at the close of it.

"Here's a bonus for you. Who owns the blimp?"

"The Army."

"Right, honey. But who paid for the blimp?"

"The President?"

"Nope. We did."

"I did? I did not!"

"Well, you kind of did..."

So then I explained taxation, and also gave her the understanding that adults don't always know what they are doing, and that the military spies on people with blimps. All in fourth grade! Who says the kids don't learn important lessons from homework?

Important lessons have also been learned in the picks column this year, and that lesson is that six out of seven winning weeks was all I needed to get past coin flipping for the career. Let's keep the momentum going, shall we?

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

MIAMI (+7.5) at New England

What a difference a coach with a pulse makes. The Dolphins have been slapping down fools ever since moving on from their own fool, and while I doubt that they've got enough to quell the Empire in their own domain, covering the spread with late tempo action seems possible. Besides, they are physical enough to force some drops, which is the key to slowing this offense down. (Because you can't get to the QB with so many quick throws, and the refs tend to call any non-perfect hit.)

Patriots 27, Dolphins 24

DETROIT (+5.5) at Kansas City


Taking another road dog here, because the game is in London and, hence, isn't really a road game for them. Detroit has been better than their record, which isn't saying much, and KC's defense has not impressed.

Chiefs 34, Lions 30

Tampa at ATLANTA (-7.5)


The Falcons have been playing secretly bad football for a while now, and are probably due for an out and out fail... but the Bucs just spit the bit on a huge lead in DC, and this defense just doesn't put enough pressure on the passer, especially in a loud road date. I think the Falcons are going to fade down the stretch and be an easy out, but the tide hasn't come for them yet.

Falcons 34, Bucs 20

ARIZONA (-4.5) at Cleveland


I'm sold on Red as a secretly complete team, because this secondary is just exceptional, and that's the key to being a plus squad in the NFL now. Also, RB Chris Johnson's re-emergence gives them another level, and the Factory of Sadness has to mix in a loss that isn't a heart breaker. For variety.

Cardinals 27, Browns 17

San Francisco at ST. LOUIS (-8)


Road game, dome game, dominant defense and an emerging ground game. The spread is higher than I'd love -- this one has suckout cover written all over it -- but you can't bet on the suckout. This might be one of those games where RB Todd Gurley just ruins everyone's week.

Rams 26, Niners 17

NY Giants at NEW ORLEANS (-3.5)


I just haven't been very impressed by Blue for a while now, who are playing Musical Running Back, can't get push from the lines, and are banged up in the secondary. The Saints have been playing better ball as of late, and could be feisty here.

Saints 27, Giants 20

MINNESOTA (-1) at Chicago


Another winnable division game for Purple, who are setting themselves up for a feel-good, then get crushed, wild-card kind of year. Chicago's lack of healthy weapons also isn't helping them here.

Vikings 24, Bears 20

San Diego at BALTIMORE (-3)


1pm EST / 10am PST game for the Chargers, who look cursed this year, with RB Melvin Gordon putting off Trent Richardson level fail vibes. The Ravens have been in every game, and are due to just win a game flat out.

Ravens 27, Chargers 20

CINCINNATI (pick 'em) at Pittsburgh


Really tough line to select with QB Ben Roethlisberger's status still somewhat up in the air, but even if he's back, you have to think there will be rust. This Bengals team is also coming off a bye, and can beat you in a lot of ways.

Bengals 26, Steelers 24

Tennessee at HOUSTON (pick 'em)


Two of the worst teams in football right now, so give me the home team with attitude about losing a QB over tardiness, and with a defense that gets to face QB2 with not ready for prime time WRs.

Texans 24, Titans 17

NEW YORK JETS (-2) at Oakland


A game that looked like Dog Of The Week in pre-season is now an old-school AFC test, with the Jets trying to bounce back from their defining loss in New England, and Oakland trying to manage prosperity. Give me the road team with the defense.

Jets 24, Raiders 16

SEATTLE (-6) at Dallas


I'm missing something here with this line. Seattle has extra rest, looked very good in dismantling the Niners, and aren't playing QB3, in that QB1 got hurt and QB2 got mothballed, like the home team. Oh, and they also don't have an undiagnosed psycopath throwing tantrums on the sideline, and no home field advantage in a ginormous palace of ego. What a train wreck.

Seahawks 26, Cowboys 17

GREEN BAY (-2.5) at Denver


Exposure Time for Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who just can't get it done often enough anymore to get past a great opponent, no matter how good his defense is. It also does not help that he's doesn't have a running game. As for the Pack, nice way to schedule your tough road game right after your bye.

Packers 27, Broncos 24

Indianapolis at CAROLINA (-7)


Hate giving up this many points for the Panthers, who really are due for a letdown game, but it's hard to see how it happens at home against a fraud club like the Colts. Besides, you have to think that QB Cam Newton is going to put up big numbers on national TV, just to show how he's better than Andrew Luck. (He's probably not wrong, especially this year.)

Panthers 27, Colts 19

Last week: 9-4

Year to date: 58-42-1

Career: 676-674-46

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In this year's basketball news you could not possibly care about

There Goes My Man
The NBA auction league went away suddenly this off-season for reasons we don't need to discuss here, so I regrouped with something simple: a redraft head to head league, serpentine draft, eight categories and simple and fun. Same stakes, more smack talk, mostly guys I see all the time, with some folks from the league's distant past. I wound up with 14 teams, 12 players, which means the waiver wire is going to be pretty thin, but that's all to the good. It's not as serious as the auction league, and that is fine, too. Not having to sacrifice a weekend of prep and cleaning to make my Cave host a draft is also time back in my life.

The only problem with a serpentine draft in hoop, and it's a major one, is that there are 6 to 7 guys that are just in a different tier than everyone else, and you should have to pay more to get them. With the 10th pick, I knew I wasn't getting one of those guys. So my early draft had to carry more of an across the board feel, with the late picks being more about dice rolls. Here's where I wound up.

Sexing Mutumbos
1.    (10)    Jimmy Butler (Chi - SG,SF)
2.    (19)    Al Horford (Atl - PF,C)
3.    (38)    Mike Conley (Mem - PG)
4.    (47)    Hassan Whiteside (Mia - C)
5.    (66)    Danilo Gallinari (Den - SF)
6.    (75)    Elfrid Payton (Orl - PG)
7.    (94)    D'Angelo Russell (LAL - PG)
8.    (103)    Eric Gordon (NO - SG)
9.    (122)    Julius Randle (LAL - PF)
10.    (131)    Harrison Barnes (GS - SF,PF)
11.    (150)    Willie Cauley-Stein (Sac - C)
12.    (159)    Tony Wroten (Phi - PG,SG)

I know this is going to sound like BS, but I was honestly deciding between Butler and Horford with the first round pick... so I was thrilled to have Big Al still available in the second. Butler was my first pick under the idea that he had the most upside of anyone in his tier, with Chicago going up-tempo and Jimmy rarely getting off the floor. I doubt that he delivers top 6 value without an injury, but he's also the second-best SG in a league where SG can be surprisingly thin on multi-cat goodness.

Horford is only limited by his smart team, which limits his minutes... but you've got a big who does a fair amount of everything, even shoot threes, and doesn't kill you at the line. I also think the Hawks will have to shorten their rotation more this year, so I see potential for growth.

In the third, I was in a terrible position; waiting a point guard before things got thin, and waiting forever for the guy I wanted (Conley) to get to me. PGs that rank below Mike kept going off the board (Bledsoe, Oladipo, Lowry, even the injured Kyrie Irving), and I was certain that I was about to get poached, with no clear next choice... but the two guys before me went for bigs, and I took Conley with glee. He's just solid, with good percentages and enough threes and assists to keep me competitive. On the wrap-around, I really wanted Chris Bosh, but he went three slots before I picked. Whiteside isn't a sure thing, but there were a few months when he was ridiculously productive, and there's no doubt that (a) the talent is there, and (b) the Heat are going to do everything possible to get him going. Too much upside to ignore.

The fifth round pick, Danilo Gallinari, made me very happy. If Danilo can stay healthy, he could easily be a top-20 value, because Denver has literally no other possibilities. He's going to get as many minutes and opportunities as he can stand, and the last three months of his 2014-15 shows he can handle it. In the sixth, with any remaining point guards looking thin, I got the last one on my board that I wanted, Orlando's Elfrid Payton. He's worrisome in terms of shooting, but multi-cat otherwise, and young points sometimes are able to grow into a touch, especially on penetration.

With the first pick of the back half of the draft, I had to start going for more upside, and D'Angelo Russell was the most intriguing player on my board. I was also frankly glad to avoid Deron Williams, who went at 91 and just feels spent, and even in a redraft league, I have to go for some young sexiness. Russ might get his minutes jerked around to start, but the Lake Show is going to be horrible, and youth will be served, especially in the second half of the year. In the 8th, I grabbed Eric Gordon, who was good for me through much of last year. He might get a bit poached by a recovering Jrue Holiday, but his game is too smart to just go into remission.

In the ninth, I hated to double up on Young Lakers, but the preseason buzz around Julius Randle was too strong to avoid, and the other Laker bigs shouldn't keep him from minutes. The tenth round was the draft's first absolute poach, in that Otto Porter's under the radar minutes and multi-cat goodness went one freaking pick before I could take him. Harrison Barnes is a tolerable consolation prize, and gives me something to do while I watch my second-favorite team in the Association. It's also a contract year for him, so there's a reasonable chance he delivers more value, in less minutes, than Porter. Still, I wanted Otto.

The 11th round was nuts, in that multiple long shot lottery picks went like popcorn in front of me -- Aaron Gordon, Nik Stauskas, Frank Kaminsky -- before I could pick. Better to have it happen late than early. Willie Cauley-Stein is supposed to start for the Kings, who also might be so horrible that they just play kids who care, rather than lose and plod with Kosta Koufos. At this point in the draft, you're just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. My draft ended with Tony Wroten, a potential volume play and still young enough that some of his horrible flaws might fade. It also gave me a guy to care about from the local laundry, and if I'm lucky, someone I can stash on the injury list. (Which turned into a stash of the Magic's rookie shooting guard, Mario Hezonja. Dude has no conscience, so he's pretty much a comp for Wroten.)

I liked my draft, and think my team will compete... but the lack of a true multi-cat star takes away all margin for error, and I'm going to need a deep pick or three to emerge. If I'm going to win, it's going to be with players seven through nine, not one through three. And by all means, get in a league if you aren't in one already. The Association is just too much fun to ignore, and having fantasy game from January to March is so much better than, well, not.

Chip Kelly Is Lying, Again

Lie and Play Harder
So in the aftermath of the latest Chip Kelly loss to an actually good team (more on that later), this small tidbit as to why Actual RB1 Ryan Mathews only got a half dozen carries, just one after scoring the longest rushing touchdown in the laundry in years...

Mathews had a hamstring issue.

No, seriously.

The RB who took it to the house, out-running DBs who were 20 pounds lighter than him... was hurt. Which is why he kept going out there in more or less the same rotation as before, because you want your hurt guy to be doing blitz protection and running wheel routes.

I don't care why Kelly can't just use his best actual RB, rather than the one who just cashes the largest paychecks. At this point, Nero making the wrong decision is just par for the course. Maybe he's just saving him to the theoretical playoffs, since Mathews has battled injury issues for most of his career. I also don't care that he lies to the Philadelphia media. If I were the Eagles coach (what a glorious two weeks that would be), I think I'd tell the media nothing but outrageous lies.

But I do care that what appears to be yet another in a series of lies (Evan Mathis, DeSean Jackson, etc.) isn't being reported as, well, anything but a freaking lie. And if Mathews was really hurt and still so dramatically faster than DeMarco Murray, that's yet another indictment of Nero GM's malfeasance. There's just no way out of this. Either Nero is lying about Mathews' being hurt -- which we were all able to see, with our own eyes -- or he's lying about a guy's health, just to try to get out of an actual line of questioning from the slowly waking media. (Oh, and Nero also claimed that Duce Staley decides who plays, and when. And if you believe that, I've got bridges to sell you, because you look like the kind of person who isn't going to settle for just one bridge.) Who said bye weeks were dull?

One final thing about the Panthers... man alive, would Philly Fan mark out huge for that club, if only they called this town home. Tough and physical defense (there's a reason why the Eagle WRs dropped so many balls, people), a stud QB who is physical enough to buy time for his sub-par WRs, and a lunchpail running back who runs through contact...

Wait, are we sure the Panthers *aren't* the early Donovan McNabb Eagles?

2015-16 NBA Predictions

Huggy Cav
When the Association left us, the Golden State Warriors had just completed a year that was so absurdly watchable and successful, it threatened to untether the league's assessment of talent. For once, the beautiful point guard was more valuable than the brutish big man, regardless of defensive and rebounding value, and the entire league was trying to find five 6'-8" guys who could drive, shoot threes, play defense,and nothing else, really. (Well, passing would be nice.)

Then the draft happened, and big men went in more or less the same ratio they usually go, perhaps because none of the guards looked like an absolute replica for Stephen Curry. Besides, if your rookie big isn't a world beater, he's still in the league. Guards that don't excel are utterly worthless, and are usually drafted by the Kings.

What will happen this year? Well, stars will try to avoid burning themselves out during the first 82 games, but as last year's Thunder team showed, that strategy isn't always wise. Everyone will try to pretend that the lEast matters, when it really doesn't. Some team will replicate the Raptors or Hawks strategy of winning a lot of games with a fully competent team, then get rolled by Star Power. Two second round picks will be good, giving eternal hope to the lie that those picks are anything but a complete crap shoot. And LeBron James will coast to the Finals, because the rest of the lEast could probably put together an All-Star Team and still lose to the man, because he's actually (shh!) the best basketball player in the modern era. (I have no idea how you'd compare him to Wilt and Russell, given that the '60s were an inflated era of pace, but the plain and simple is that in the past 30 years, it's either Jordan or James, and I'll take the guy who keeps getting to the Finals with freaking Boobie Gibson, Chris Anderson and Matthew Dellavedova.)

Anyway... on to the predictions!

East

1) Chicago
2) Cleveland
3) Miami
4) Washington
5) Atlanta
6) Toronto
7) Milwaukee
8) Orlando
9) Boston
10) Charlotte
11) Detroit
12) Indiana
13) Philadelphia
14) New York
15) Brooklyn

Chicago will spend much of the year giggling over how much fun they are having without Tom Thibodeau, and they are due for a solid half of a season of mild health from Derrick Rose before he shatters in the breeze. Cleveland will derp around for the first 30 games, then get scary when Kyrie Irving returns. Miami could be beastly, but they need health from Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside, and both are unlikely. DC looks really good with Nene going to the bench, and a healthy Bradley Beal should kick them up a gear, but John Wall is in his 7th year already, and this may be all there is.

On the road side of the playoff draw, Atlanta can't have as good of a year as last year, with Kyle Korver being the absolute poster child for regression. They'll also miss DeMarre Carroll, and Dennis Schroeder may not be willing to stay pine-bound for Jeff Teague for too much longer. Toronto is the best of the worst division in NBA history for three years running, and it matters not at all. Milwaukee needs Jabari Parker to come back stronger and better, and Year Two of Jason Kidd tends to grate, but the Greek Freak will erase many mistakes. Orlando is my pick to surprise, as I think the backcourt will develop, and at some point, Tobias Harris has to stop being under the radar and just actually emerge.

Outside of the dance is Boston, the eternal trying too hard tankers, and we're all just praying they somehow bone the billion picks they've got in the next few years, because the last thing the world needs is another reason for Boston Fan to be happy. Charlotte is built to hang just outside of the playoffs, because Jordan might be the worst GM since Zeke Thomas, while Detroit is actually going to be frisky, but won't shoot it well enough to avoid a lot of close but not quite losses. Indiana deserves points for originality in shoehorning Paul George into the 4 spot, but Monta Ellis is the definition of empty calories. I'm an eternal idiot optimist about my Sixers, who actually might get top-shelf work out of Nerlens Noel and Robert Covington, and aren't *that* far away from being a frisky 30-win team. Bringing up the rear is the abomination that is New York, where no one can play the game, understand modern analytics, or stay healthy. Burn it to the ground.

In the playoffs -- oh, it's Cleveland, it's always Cleveland. It doesn't really matter who they beat, does it?

West

1) Houston
2) Oklahoma City
3) Golden State
4) LA Clippers
5) San Antonio
6) Memphis
7) New Orleans
8) Utah
9) Portland
10) Phoenix
11) Dallas
12) LA Lakers
13) Denver
14) Minnesota
15) Sacramento

The Rockets are absolutely going to love Ty Lawson, assuming he's (a) sober and (b) not getting posted up in the playoffs. At that time, the pace of the game is going to make them give too much time to Patrick Beverly, but the bigs are too solid, and less of James Harden will actually make for much better James Harden, and much better James Harden might be illegal. I like the Thunder to stomp the earth a lot this year, but it's unlikely that they'll stay healthy enough to take the top spot. Golden State is due for some regression and injury issues, and losing coach Steve Kerr to back surgery at the start of the year will also cause issues, but if they are playing their best ball in April, no one will care. It also doesn't take much to slip from the top spot in the West, because the top teams in the West are absurdly good. The Clips have to get more from their bench this year, and I think this is the last great year of Chris Paul's career, which just might be enough to break through in the murderous West... but probably isn't. Look for Paul to get even dirtier as he enters the Wrestling Heel portion of his career, aka where Wade has been for the last five years.

On the bottom half of the playoff draw, the Spurs will do what they do; ration minutes, figure out how to fit new pieces, and be utterly terrifying in the spring. The only question is whether they can get good enough play from their point guards. Memphis might be too high here, but I always underestimate these guys, and they can ugly up teams like nobody's business. New Orleans has the guy (Anthony Davis) who will get the MVP while James takes time off because he can, but the team is slowly becoming more than him, with guys like Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon prone to grow. Utah in the 8th spot is a stab, but they can defend like mad and have a great court advantage, and I just like their chemistry. They'll miss Dante Exum, but not enough to miss getting four games of experience in the first round.

Outside but competitive will be Portland (just too much lost for Damian Lilliard to overcome), Phoenix (they kept the right Morris Brother, but they need five years ago Tyson Chandler, not right now Tyson Chandler), and Dallas (the latest team to be let down by Deron Williams). Outside and not nearly competitive enough will be the Lake Show (a tough transition from Final Kobe to D'Angelo Russell and Julian Randle, with way too much dinosaur thug time for Roy Hibbert and Metta World Peace), Denver (who will try to volume force Danilo Gallinari into All-Start status and fail), Minnesota (on the rise, but ye gads, Ricky Rubio Can't Shoot At All, and Karl-Anthony Towns isn't ready on offense yet, either), and Sacramento (George Karl's Waterloo, and probably the most entertaining train wreck in the league, because the Knicks being a train wreck is all the damned time, and the Lakers will just play kids and have fun after February).

Playoffs? I want as many games as possible, and dream of a Thunder-Dubs Conference Finals, but honestly, it's hard to hate on any of the top five teams. I'll give it to the Thunder, because a motivated Kevin Durant is nearly as terrifying as a motivated Russell Westbrook, and I can't help but think that they'll get a boost from having an actual coach this time around. But honestly, the Dubs just might repeat. It's not like they are old. (Also, the Thunder could have had three of the best six players in the NBA this year, had they just done everything to keep Harden. Ye Gads.)

First Team All-NBA: James, Curry, Davis, Harden and Durant.
Second Team: Westbrook, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.
Third Team: Marc Gasol, Chris Bosh, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LaMarcus Aldridge and Klay Thompson.
Rookie of the Year: Jahlil Okafor
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah
Sixth Man: Andre Iguodala
Coach of the Year: Fred Hoiberg
MVP: Davis

Champions: Cavaliers. (James can't lose it every year, can he?)

Games start tomorrow. Game on!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Eagles - Panthers Diary

RB Coach Scapegoat Duce Staley
> The national media is making this all about Sam Bradford, and sure, what the hell, fine. Me, I wonder why it's not all about the coach/GM that brought him in, didn't improve the offensive line, babied him during pre-season rather than give him extended reps, and paid a king's ransom to get him, when he could have just kept what he had, and had $10 million more in cap space to spend on, I don't know, an actual WR1 in Jeremy Maclin. But sure, make it about Good 'Ol Captain Cross-Eyed Checkdown. That's fine.

> You will be shocked, shocked, to learn that the Panthers are undefeated because they believe in each other and play as a team. Why doesn't everyone else do that?

> Panthers win toss, defer, touchback. It's how every NFL game starts now. Good job, NFL!

> The world's worst screen pass is routinely thrown by Bradford to RB DeMarco Murray, and this game starts with that for two yards. Why it's not a pick six, I'll never know, considering you can see it for about a three count before it happens. Murray in the middle for six with some good power, ends with violence. Third and don't start the game horribly is Murray through the hole, big nice gain, with S Kurt Coleman (we remember him!) for the stop after 12. Nice start for the offensive line.

> World's Worst Screen on first, because doing the same thing over and over again is fun. From the gun against free rushers, RB Darren Sproles goes wide for four. Third and six and keep the ball for more than two minutes is Bradford from the gun, connects with TE Zach Ertz for the first, but nothing happened due to RT Lane Johnson moving pre-snap. Gahhh. Third and 11 is a mess, with DE Mario Addison with the sack, and that won't do much to LT Jason Peters' Pro Bowl aspirations. P Donnie Jones hits one deep, PR Ted Ginn fair catches it for no real good reason, and Teal will start deep.... but LB Najeh Goode gifts them with 15 yards for derpery. Smart.

> RB Jonathan Stewart for nine yards in a moving scrum, with the ball loose, but the home team retains. Second and one from the gun is a counter for massive yardage, with CB Nolan Carroll stopping it after 36 yards. Not exactly a hot start for the best unit in Green. QB Cam Newton from the gun to WR Torry Brown (nee Philly), to the one, good throw against a mush rush and yeah, Newton is good. First and avalanche is FB Mike Tolbert in with a surge, and that's a 4-play, 72-yard, 2:36 drive that just told Green that playing their usual half-assed game is going to get them slaughtered. Big push from the Teal line, and once again, Nero Kelly is a ball of fire, albeit one passing through your rectum, out of the blocks. Teal 7, Green 0.

> K Graham Gano continues his perfect night with his second touchback. Play action, deflected ball into traffic, disaster turnover with great reaction on the tipped ball. That's yet another bad moment for WR Jordan Matthews, but the ball isn't accurate from Nero's Own QB, and Teal is set up for complete avalanche.

> Newton to Ginn, possible fumble at the end of the play, with Carroll doing yeoman strip work, and who knows what the refs will decided on the replay. Ruling is a pick, and wow, what a break/great play by Carroll. The play stands, because there isn't enough to overturn it. Green at their own 6, big bullet dodged for the moment.

> Murray for four with the possibility of normalcy, whatever that is, returning. Slow tempo, loud crowd. From the gun, long clock, Bradford to Matthews, holds on for once, 4 painful yards. Third and 2 and don't just give it back you freaking doofs is Bradford actually getting to his second read, and Teal overreacting and letting WR Miles Austin collect 22 easy yards.

> Murray outside, had a little room, goes still and dies for a yard. By all means, keep force-feeding him; it's got nothing to do with why the offense is always DOA at start. Bradford with a nice play action move, gets it to true RB1 Ryan Mathews, who gets 20 and finishes with power. That was good football. Matthews again for a yard, very much a back and forth fight between these two lines. From the gun, Bradford takes a derpy coverage sack, and if the QB ever does anything decisive, I haven't seen it. RG Matt Tobin doubled a man to let DE Kawann Short through for the sack, and it's time for the weekly Peters Is Dead moment. If and when this is for real, the team's least replaceable player is gone, so feel free to throw up.

> We're back from commerce for more commerce, with Peters still dead on the turf. Yeah, this is just the worst. Non-contact injury, leg buckled, that looks career-ending. The cart comes out, and yeah, Green players look like they are at a funeral. Dennis Kelly in at RG, Tobin out to RT, and it's jailbreak time. Bradford evades pressure, misses Murray on the checkdown, and the QB looked a wee bit terrified on that play. Jones to the 11, Ginn with the fair catch.

> Stewart outside for a yard, probably a favor to run it out wide, where S Macolm Jenkins can fill. From the gun, Newton to Ginn for 7 yards, timing route against a blitz that didn't get there. Third and 2 and keep it kind of a game is Newton keeping for a lunging two yard conversion, just what he does. LB Mychal Kendricks just not quick enough to get it done.

> Newton to TE Gregg Olson, major chunk of yardage, no idea what the coverage was doing there. 28 yards and a massive amount of ease. Stewart gets three, five after contact. Newton sacked by Kendricks, kind of a coverage play despite the blitz, as Stewart got a piece, but not enough. Third and 14 and get off the field is Newton rolling out and just missing a stupidly open Ginn. Maybe the pressure from LB Brandon Graham had an effect, but still, that's pretty much an unforced error. Sproles fields a hop and goes nowhere, and Green will have it at their own 11 at the tail end of a new variety of disastrous first quarter.

> What, exactly, do you call with a robotic QB, a leaden RB1, no good WRs, and an OL that's down its best player, and playing musical chairs? Peters is said to have a lower back issue, which is better than a knee, I guess. Murray for six on a good surge from the interior line. Bradford to Ertz for the checkdown first down, and that's the end of the quarter. A better one than most for Nero!

> Sproles, like water through a dam, six yards in the middle. Bradford has time, then very quickly does not, with LB Luke Kuechly showing his quicks. Third and four and pretend that we belong on the field is a Green timeout, because even Nero understands this isn't going well and wants to talk about it. After the discussion with Bradford Speculation, it's gun work to Spoles with good time from the line, and a first. Phew.

> The Panther line ends Sproles with a loss of two, so much for the internal line winning. Bradford to Austin, a hair behind to slow progress, and eight yards. Third and 3 is fast pressure, and Bradford gets two on a doomed lunge. Fourth and one sees Green go to the line and force a Teal timeout; smart by them, really. At their own 46, just not sure I'd go for it, but Nero is what Nero does, I guess. From under center, Bradford rolls out and keeps as his screen checkdown is blown up, two yards with a moderate amount of courage, and a big amount of relief.

> Murray for three yards on a World's Worst Screen, a little power at the close. CB Josh Norman is forced to leave for a concussion test. Heh. From the gun, Murray with a hole and even a little burst, but it comes back on a hold by C Jason Kelce, not having a great game, but a little marginal, as Kuechly fell at the right time to draw the flag. Mathews gets back six to set up third and 9. Bradford to Matthews, can't hang on yet again, and I think we can retire the narrative that the second year WR has good hands and bad luck. That should have been a first down, isn't, and you have to play better than this against a good defense on the road. Jones to the 10, Ginn a non-combatant. Twenty minutes, no points, but six first downs and 110 yards. Not Green's worst effort to date!

> Stewart for seven, much more room than usual against what is supposed to be the best part of the Eagle defense. Then goes left and gets 10, and he's got 6 for 66 already. Yikes. MLB Jordan Hicks ends Stewart with violence after 3. Newton forces one to Olson, CB Byron Maxwell with the near pick, have to have that. Third and get off the field is long clock, and an awkward screen to Ginn that doesn't get the first, and honestly, Teal is just doing favors by getting away from the running game. P Brad Nortman with a weak effort, and Green starts at their own 28.

> Telegraphed slant, Norman blitzes, deflects, and nearly has a pick six. Remember the narrative of how Bradford just needed a good offensive coach? Those were good times. Mathews for four, then Bradford makes LB Thomas Davis whiff on a blitz, and connects with Ertz for 10 and the first. Big play for the QB, honestly. Johnson false starts to end the good feelings. Mathews with true burst for 22, and wow, that was a great run. Bradford rolls out, heaves it hard to avoid grounding, screen got blown up with no other option. Bradford to WR Josh Huff for six on a sit down route agains the zone. Third and four and avoid the long figgie miss is Bradford to Huff, the WR drops it, doesn't get the call. From the Teal 34, the defense has to call time to avoid 12 on the field. After commerce, K Caleb Sturgis connects from 51, and give the scrub his due; that would have been good from longer. Peters with X-rays, still on the cart and slow, But Not Dead, and might get back after the bye, basically. Sturgis with a kick out of bounds, and that's more like it, scrub!

> From the Teal 40, Newton from the gun to Olson for nine; immediate down, but still. Razzle dazzle flip to Ginn for 44 yards, and that was just absurdly easy. First and goal from the 8 is the final Teal timeout of the half, which also means they can't challenge for the next three minutes, so, um, woo. We get footage of Jerry Richardson, because Life Under Nero isn't depressing enough. Fake counter, keep to Stewart, loses a yard with the defense reading it well. Second and goal is jumping and Newton taking a dive; the refs call it encroachment on NT Bennie Logan, and Newton is laughing like a soccer player. From the four, more derpery, and two more yards on Logan. Just make it easy on them, Bennie. Six flags to zero for the home team. From the 2, Newton keeps and scores with the dangerous single arm with ball lunge, and that drive was absolutely gift wrapped. Teal 14, Green 3.

> Three and a half minutes left in the half, and Teal gets the ball to start the second, so this isn't an inconsequential possession for Green. Murray for two, no great urgency, then mucks into the line for nothing. Pretty much the game on the line for third and seven, and Bradford from the gun takes Sproles on checkdown, and Davis ends him despite a spin. Just the right time for a three and suck. Two minute warning due to Teal not having timeouts. Jones gets a good roll to eat 10 seconds off the clock.

> From the Teal 30, Newton to Ginn, 12 easy ones. Newton to Brown, committee meeting, out of bounds before the catch, should be a flag but NFL refs are the worst. Clock derpery as well, and we get a review for the obvious call, because the refs can't make an obvious call quickly. The crowd doesn't know the rule, so five yards happens for funsies. Everyone Can Feel More Stupid Now.

> From the Teal 42, first and 15 and I guess we're still playing football, it's Newton with time, tipped ball off Newton, no pick. Cox with near mayhem. Second and 15, Jenkins with the pick of the year, a lunging catch on an out route where he had great coverage, and that's the kind of play that's going to get him a Pro Bowl invite. Wow, wow, wow.

> From the Teal 39 with 73 seconds left and two timeouts, we might have a game if the offense can do anything. Bradford to Matthews, thee yards and clock running and pointless. Bradford tries the wheel route with Matthews and gets DPI on a badly thrown ball on luck. From the Teal 23, Bradford gets tipped and nearly picked, and yeesh. Bradford to Ertz, open on a cross to move the sticks, and it's first and 10 from the 11 with 28 seconds left and one timeouts. Everything in the playbook open.

> Bradford tries Sproles, and the RB makes a hash of it; Davis might be the match for him. Bradford to Matthews, can't get both feet down, nearly a great play, but not. Third down, Norman recovers and denies Ertz, and yeah, he's the best CB around. Simply great play by the DB, and impressive work by a real defense. Sturgis connects from 29, and it's 14-6 Teal. Sturgis squibs, with Teal sitting at the 29. Newton kneels, and that's the half.

> Sturgis gets lucky with KR Fozzy Whitaker dropping a returnable ball, so Teal starts at their 20. Ginn with 15 on the easy smoke screen. Slow weak keep for Stewart is a loss, with Newton taking too long. Simple cross and first for WR Jerricho Cotchery, and that was bad defense. Tempo for Teal, then long count for another slant to Ginn, and it's knife through butter drive again; 20 yards on a nice catch of a speed ball. Newton is bothered not at all by a blitz, and Olson  gets 28 and punishes Carroll at the close. First and about to not be a game any more is Tolbert for a yard as Carroll returns. Second and goal is long clock, then Tolbert breaks three tackles on a covered screen for the touchdown. Men against boys, with Jenkins not wrapping up and Maxwell completely whiffing on a freaking fullback. Gano converts, and it's 21-6 Teal.

> NBC runs the stats to show how fading the Green offense goes under Nero, as if we needed numbers to know this. Bradford nearly takes a strip sack, then stumbles for two. Murray for a yard, and no one in Teal covers Bradford for the keep, because that will never happen. Third and six from the gun is Bradford to Ertz, nice work by the line to stop the rush. Murray for four and borderline assault; TE Brent Celek not able to clear a hole on Davis. True RB1 Mathews goes 63 to the house, and wow, is he so much better of a RB than the addled mule that starts ahead of him. Kuechly overran the play, but the ability of the RB to out-run the DBs to get all the way there was impressive. Sturgis converts, and still, somehow, a game. 21-13 Teal.

> Sturgis touchback, then jailbreak pressure on Newton, just gets it away for an incomplete, and maybe the defense's head is back in this. Stewart for five, and third and dream about Mo Mentum is Newton from the gun, tipped ball, and Maxwell gets the pick and even a return. Poor throw by Newton, big break for Green, and Maxwell is just plain lucky, but better lucky than good...

> From the Teal 18 with the game very much in question, Murray loses a yard with his trademark poor vision. Bradford takes Celek on a rollout for seven yards, and it's third and four and a big damned deal. With tempo, Bradford to a very covered Celek, but it's ahead of the sticks for the first; good accuracy into a tight and very covered space, and the line is winning more of the battles. With NBC counting plays and the Panthers losing bodies, it's Murray for a yard, then another one on a long right run, and again, QB can keep for green space, and why is the roster's worst RB getting all of the meaningful touches. Third and goal from the six is Bradford to Huff, and the WR can't catch a ball on the hands. Tough catch behind him, but good players make that play, especially on the road against a real defense, and Huff just isn't a good player. Sturigs connects, and it's 21-16 Teal with 21 minutes left.

> Whitaker to the 25 as NBC shares more of Nero's lies about the salary cap; he had to do all the stuff that didn't work out, honest! Stewart for 9 with the middle of the line not doing enough. The RB gets two and the first, with Green showing a little teeth in the post-whistle. Procedure for Teal makes it harder, then long clock before Tolbert gets 11 around the corner, the Green DBs not getting off blocks. Stewart runs through contact for another first, and if Teal's smart, they just do this the basic way until Green stops it.

> From their own 48 with NBC in full Nero Apology / Media Geisha Mode, Stewart for three, then four more. Third and maybe Green's only chance this drive to stop a passing play is Newton from the gun, holding against a blitz and a throwaway, and that's one of the uglier stops you'll see. The refs can't call a number or decline the flag right away, because NFL refs are horrible now, but it's eventually worked out. Nortman's punt is caught by Sproles at the 10, and the offense has a chance to get a lead. Might I suggest using your best RB to do it?

> From the gun and alone, Bradford has time to derp around before hitting Austin for 10. World's Worst Screen to Mathews for no gain, then it's a wheel route to Ertz for 24, great throw and catch, and those are the kinds of moments that keeps hope alive. From the Green 45, Bradford is lucky to avoid grounding on backfield derpery, and that's the quarter.

> 15 minutes to go and a fighting chance for the road team, Mathews wide for not enough. Third and 10 and a big damned deal is Bradford from the gun, has time and Austin, who isn't covered on the shallow cross and gets past the sticks. Big conversion. Murray for 3, then again on a much better hole for 8, and the sticks move again; best run of the night for RB3. Long sweep for 1 just to remind us that Murray can't do that well, then long clock with a free blitzer and a miscommunication before a near pick; yeesh. Third and 9 in long figgie range is another big damned deal, and clock is such a problem that it's a timeout. Twelve minutes left. Terrible smoke screen call to Huff, does not work at all, and that's the drive. That's the best you can do after a timeout? What the blue hell, Nero? Sturgis from 50 just misses, and it probably would have been good from, I don't know, 45? Great work, Nero. Just great, great work. Still a 5 point game.

> Teal with the chance to salt it away, doesn't run it, stupidly. Holding on RT Michael Oher on an overthrow screen, then Newton to WR Devon Funches, who has tons of room against Carroll fo the first. Stewart for seven to get to 100+, then Newton to Brown for a simple slant and first, and this is looking like knife through butter time again. Newton with patience for 16, and that's just simple power and easy as hell. Newton throws it away on mushy pressure, then Stewart for 2 as DT Fletcher Cox does damage. Third and keep it a theoretical single possession game is Newton from the gun, too much time, but the coverage is good and Maxwell did good work there. This secondary can cover when the opponent doesn't have all *that* much. Gano connects, 24-16 Teal with nine minutes left.

> Teal touchback as NBC hypes next week's game, because a one possesion game in the here and now isn't as interesting as something Peyton Manning will do in a week. Murray for four as Kuechly goes down, and Teal might win this battle and lose the war, but the LB jogs off. Second and 6 is Murray actually executing the sweep well (!) and getting first down yardage.  Bradford takes a sack as Short owns him and LG Allen Barbre. 2nd and 19 is World's Worst Screen to Mathews for 4 yards. 3rd and 15 with less than 8 minutes left against a team that can run the ball well with seven minutes left is a big deal, and Bradford misses Austin at the sticks. Oh well, nice effort, I guess. Jones with a good punt, coverage team does the job, and Teal can put this away on the ground after commerce.

> Stewart for 4. Long clock, then three more in the mosh pit. Third down and maybe still have a chance is Newton from the gun, blitz doesn't get there, and Brown converts on the open cross. Clock runs. Newtown throws deep, a favor, and Jenkins has Brown covered; clock stops, but a long time later, a flag is called on Carroll, so oh well. Stewart for five, even the run blitzes not mattering. Four minutes left as Stewart mushes for three. Third and two and borderline last chance moment given the figgie and clock, is Teal power, but RB Cameron Artis-Payne is stopped on slow development, and HC Ron Rivera did Green and NBC a big favor. Fourth and one from the Teal 49 is a Green timeout with 3:18 left; I guess. Nortman punts, Sproles fair catches at his own 11, and Green has to go 89 yards and convert a 2-point PAT to force overtime. No pressure, Nero.

> Bradford from pressure, sacked, fumble, Kelce recovers and a flag on the play, which is holding. Nice drive start! Resembling the end of the Slurs game. Second down from the end zone is criminally inaccurate to a somewhat open Sproles, and it's 3rd and 16 from the 5. Bradford from the end zone derps it, DPI waived off on a non-tipped ball, and if that gets Green a first down, that's the suckout of all suckouts. First down on the Green 15 with three minutes, still a game, somehow.

> With fresh downs and a letter from the governor, Bradford from the gun gets sacked again, this time by DE Jared Allen, and so much for the idea that the line can wear a team down with a lot of snaps. Second and 16 is Bradford to Matthews for 7. Third and nine is a drop by Ertz, might have had a chance in single coverage, and you just can't have mistakes like that, yada yada yada. Fourth and fail is Bradford to Austin, open WR, high but catchable, but Miles Austin is Miles Austin, and that's your ball game.

> Stewart loses, Green timeout. Two yards, clock runs. Stewart for a few more, clock down to 23 seconds left. Newton waves his arms, Teal tries a figgie rather then do something more tricky, and Gano connects from 29 for the final score, despite LB Bryan Braman doing his best Superman impersonation. Teal 27, Green 16.

> Gano touchback, and Bradford gets to come out to pad his numbers, or add to the turnover count with some lateral derpery. Some desperate fantasy honks enjoy three throws to Sproles for 25 yards, then it ends with a knock down by Kuchley. Teal is 6-0, Green is 3-4, and the best week of the season is upon us: one with no Eagle football.

> Some fun numbers from this one: Bradford threw it 42 times for 180 yards, or less than 5 an attempt. Hard to do, really. Mathews was kept from 100 yards rushing by the only men who could do that, the Eagle coaching staff. If you'd like to continue to apologize for Bradford, a lot of drops in this one; if you'd like to not do that any more, plenty of room on that bandwagon. NBC noted he was on a one year deal anyway, which sounds like one of those things that Nero would say off the record, because he's all about Culture.

> Oh, and thanks to NBC and Nero, we now know who is responsible for RB3 getting all the touches. It's RB Coach Duce Staley's fault, because he decides the rotation. Say, not to propel a tired narrative, but isn't Duce your only black coach? Way to throw him under the bus, Nero.

> Next up: relief from terrible football, also known as the bye week. Maybe Jason Peters isn't dead! Maybe the division will stink so bad that the year can end with a home playoff loss, rather than a regular season one! Much of this game resembled football, and after the bye, Murray is sure to be faster than his coach!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Top Ten NFL Week 7 Ad Questions

Shop for Smuggery
10) Can Lexus customers accept anything less than optimal life moments, and if not, shouldn't they all just kill them selves?

9) How do the Kia Optima guys afford gas and drinks and the car payments, since they've quit their jobs to drive aimlessly around the country?

8) Has anyone noticed the creeping amount of fine print on daily fantasy Web site ads, given that they happen every 90 seconds or less on average?

7) If DFS sites are so good and lucrative, why can't their spokesman afford a razor or a decent shirt?

6) Does Ford make a van that isn't windowless and stalker-tastic?

5) How did we live without phones telling us answers to questions that only an idiot would ask?

4) What details does Budweiser deal with, when they've made the same damn thing for 139 years?

3) Do Citibank users lack the ability to say something before their thoughtless offspring ruin the carpet?

2) Can Chevy talk to non-white people about trucks?

1) Does anyone use NFL Shop for anything but passive aggressive gifts?

Why predict the World Series?

Baseball's last series starts on Tuesday, with the wildly unlikely Royals playing the equally unlikely Mets, and if you are a fan of either of those franchises, I'll try to be happy for you, and fail. Both teams show the essential wisdom of not trying for years, and stocking up on as many draft picks as possible, and bottoming out in a way that would have gotten them relegated in more responsible leagues and countries. Instead, they got to load up on top tier young pitching in bulk, make a savvy move or three, get hot at the right time and hey presto! Someone's going to be a World Champion, and fail to defend it next year, and people will think that baseball needs the Yankees and Cardinals to get to the Series to get decent ratings.

Here's the problem with playoff baseball: there's too much of it. Baseball used to have a 162-game playoff season, in that its regular season was one of the few that was all-important and all-encompassing. Fall too far behind in the spring, and there was no back door wild-card way in. As few as four teams got in for all of baseball, which meant that pennant races, still the best thing about the sport even though it no longer really exists, went away.

Instead, we've got teams just making the playoffs as one of the top 40% of the league, winning small sample size series, and it's supposed to be an equivalent accomplishment. It's just not. It's like saying that a movie that comes out this year is the best of all time, because it does the most revenue, because ticket prices are higher now. The rules have changed, and will never come back to the way things were. Instead, we're going to have these random World Series, with random teams, and coin flip predictions.

So if you are a Mets fan, or a Royals fan, it's not that the rest of the world really hates your team, especially when you see bad ratings later. We just don't watch baseball unless Our Team(s) are involved, and in the case of the Mets and Royals... hell, I don't even have anyone on these teams to worry about, even in fantasy.

So, a prediction? Yeah, sure, why not. The Mets have better starting pitching, an offense that can put up crooked numbers, and a fan base that's grown suspiciously large in the last week or so. I'll take them in six, not watch much of it at all, and start thinking seriously about baseball in half a year.

The NCAA, Of All People, Tells DFS That It's Too Dirty

Thieves Of A Feather
So here's a fun bit of business; the NCAA has banned all sponsorship and advertising activity from DraftKings and FanDuel for its televised sports.

Yes, the people who bring you:

> Unpaid sports with the possibility of lifetime injury

> Punishments for rules infractions that can only be described as byzantine and/or wildly over-the-top

> A creepingly long schedule that puts further wood to the lie fire that is student-athlete

> Coaches that get to move back and forth to schools with impunity, while the kids have to honor their commitments

> Complete and utter service to the professional leagues they fill, because they know in their heart of hearts that if and when the pros declare war and expand into multiple leagues and all regions, the will be in complete peril for their remarkably cozy existence

These peope. These people, who rival only FIFA and the IOC in terms of per capita craptitude, want nothing to do with the DFS sites.

Why? Well, the FBI investigations, the insider trading, the growing drumbeat that Something Must Be Done, and the basic understanding that the only reason the NFL has any tolerance for this is cash, cash, cash. (Along with the compromised ownership situation, what with Jacksonville, New England and others having skin in the game.)

Will the DFS sites comply with the NCAA's request to just be left alone? I can't, for one minute, imagine that they would. There's nothing else going on in March to rival college basketball action. Baseball is in preseason, the NBA and NHL are in the relative dog days of their seasons, and there is no football of any kind. Sure, golf has started, and you'd be amazed how much of that gets action, but DFS sites are, basically, casinos... and you can't expect a casino to shut down tables during hours of operation.

Now, will DFS sites be in any condition to be making bank in March? That is, really, the far more interesting question. With the ads every 90 seconds or less media saturation campaign, they are just not going away. Neither will the public distaste for the sites, because anything advertised this much becomes well and truly hated. They are making themselves too big of a target, and because there are two competitors when there really only needs to be one, the saturation can't stop.

Oh, and one final thing. The NCAA's action will not stop a single DFS player, because, among other things, no one cares what the NCAA says. Unless they are forced to.

Pot, meet kettle!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week Seven NFL Picks: The Only Force That Matters

It's a sad show, too
At halftime of last week's MNF game, additional interest was added to the Eagles-Giants game with the showing of a previously unreleased "Star Wars" trailer. Which should make you wonder, really... why this media placement? And the answer is because there really isn't any other one that makes sense.

It's not that the NFL is the biggest show on TV now; it's that at times it feels like it's the only show on TV. (Quick, name me another show that's on Monday nights. See? All I could think of was wrestling, and you're not making that media buy if you are running the Star Wars campaign.)

I'm not saying that TV is bad; far from it. In terms of actual quality of work, I think television is as good as it has ever been, especially on scripted series on cable. But in terms of big audiences, nothing compares to the league.

This also means that media is, well, incredibly compromised about covering the league. Opposition to stadium construction, the DC name, concussion issues, Roger Goodell's various errors... all of these scandals seem to get major play, but it's nothing compared to what might happen if all of the biggest networks didn't pay through the nose to broadcast the games. Honestly, the biggest media outlet in the country that isn't in bed with the league might be PBS or Al Jazeera. And the people that keep challenging the NFL keep winding up jobless.

It's all just one more reason why you have to hold your nose to watch these games now... but the smell hasn't kept us from being on the north side of coin flips in picks ever since Week One, and have nearly redeemed the career mark. So we're not stopping now. And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

SEATTLE (-6.5) at San Francisco

Gut check time for the defending NFC champions, who have somehow turned a secondary with two Pro Bowl safeties into an outfit that can't cover a team with a Pro Bowl TE, and nothing else. There's also serious offensive line issues, and some aches and pains to RB Marshawn Lynch and RB Fred Jackson. So why take them and lay the points? Because the Niners have no actual home field advantage, and I just think their pedigree will show in a short week.

Seahawks 27, Niners 17

Buffalo at JACKSONVILLE (+6)


Too many points to give the Jags, who have been frisky despite just one win so far this year, and have more experience than anyone in the NFL at making the big plane trip to London. Besides, Buffalo is banged up on offense, and don't have the pass rush they expected. This game is on Yahoo, which in a related story, just announced a terrible earnings period. Enjoy this game on a new channel, folks! Probably won't happen again!

Bills 24, Jaguars 20

TAMPA (+3.5) at Washington


The Bucs are coming off a bye and have discovered the running game recently, which means they just need rookie QB Jameis Winston. There's also the possibility that the NFC South is just so much better than the NFC lEast that you should always take a team from the former over the latter. Oh, and QB Kirk Cousins is freaking awful.

Bucs 24, Slurs 23

ATLANTA (-3.5) at Tennessee


The Falcons aren't much of a road team historically, and showed that to a disturbing degree in giving the previously lifeless Saints a jump start on Terrible Night Football. But extra time and facing a Titans team with the possibility of a missing QB1 is enough to make me think they'll get it done.

Falcons 27, Titans 20

New Orleans at INDIANAPOLIS (-4.5)


Lost in the insanity of SNF's Puntgate was that the Colts actually played much of a good game, with the WRs making a lot of plays they hadn't been making, and the defense actually slowing down the Pats' Armada for much of the game. This number, at home, against this team qualifies as a very nice gift. So is the Saint secondary.

Colts 34, Saints 20

MINNESOTA (-2.5) at Detroit


Time for the up and coming Vikings to step up and win a division game in a road dome. The Lions finally got a win last week, with QB Matthew Stafford remembering that WR Calvin Johnson exists and is good at catching long passes, but the running game is still a mess, and the defense down to just one actual pass rusher. Look for Minny to grind out a win.

Vikings 22, Lions 17

PITTSBURGH (-2) at Kansas City


Hard game to figure, with the Steelers having QB issues, and the Chiefs in full desperation mode over their own disaster of a year. I think the road team gets it done in something of a coin flip red zone game, but honestly, picking this game before there's clarity on the QB situation is nuts.

Steelers 24, Chiefs 20

Cleveland at ST. LOUIS (-5.5)


The Factory of Sadness has been covering spreads for the better part of a month, but Rams RB Todd Gurley is a monster, and the Browns' biggest problem has been rush defense. St. Louis is also coming off a bye, and could be ready to do a lot of damage with their defense in this one.

Rams 27, Browns 17

Houston at MIAMI (-4)


The Dolphins are ready to do their usual routine of looking good for an interim coach, until he actually gets the gig for real. Miami should just change coaches every week, making sure to alternate between happy talk players coaches and tight ass disciplinarians. Strong possibility they win this game on defense, too.

Dolphins 23, Texans 17

NY JETS (+9) at New England


These games are either field goal affairs or Patriot blowouts, and I'm thinking the former on this one. RB Chris Ivory is playing great, the Jets should be able to sustain offense with their sneaky good WR corps, and the Jet defense should be able to get off the field occasionally. Besides, it's the only 4pm game half of the nation will see, so the refs will do everything they can to keep it close.

Patriots 27, Jets 24

Oakland at SAN DIEGO (-4)


The Chargers have been losing close heartbreakers for weeks now, and have also been losing playmakers at an appalling rate. They also get a Raider team that's off the bye, in the unofficial battle for New LA Team(s). Oakland's got some scary good young talent, but they also have a coach whose name, in Spanish, means Masturbate A River. That can't be good.

Chargers 27, Raiders 20

Dallas at NY GIANTS (-3.5)


Dallas comes in off a bye, with new QB Matt Cassel and new RB1 Christine Michael, to a Giants team that crapped the bed in monumental ways in the MNF game in Philly. I think the home team recovers and does some things on defense, because Cassel is awful and Michael isn't much better, and WR Dez Bryant still isn't back. Oh, and the NFC lEast is a dumpster fire. With the dumpster filled with human waste.

Giants 31, Cowboys 23

Philadelphia at CAROLINA (-3)


Carolina is due for a letdown after an escape in Seattle, and the Eagle defense has been doing great work for much of the season... but the idea that these are equivalent teams (which is what Vegas tends to believe when the home team is given the 3-point cushion) is insane. Carolina is undefeated, has a real QB, is at home. Philly is 3-3 without coming anywhere close to playing a full game on offense, and is also on short rest following the MNF game. I don't have any kind of feel on this one, but I can't help but think the line is cheating a small market team.

Panthers 24, Eagles 20

Baltimore at ARIZONA (-8.5)


Rough road sequence for the DOA Ravens, who just got worked by the Niners, and now have to face the vastly better Cardinals. Arizona also can't sleep on this one, seeing how they are somehow just 4-2. On the MNF stage, where the games have somehow become nearly as bad as Terrible Night Football, I think this gets ugly.

Cardinals 34, Ravens 17

Last week: 7-6-1

Year to date: 49-39-1

Career: 667-670-46

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Chip Kelly Eagles: Winning Awfully

Win Or Lose
Second time in eight days where the Eagles win by 20, at home, with a game with a weak start, terrible quarterback turnovers, and an opponent that just looked like they couldn't beat a sack of kittens. With the win, the team is 3-3, in first place of a dumpster fire of a division, and trying to tell themselves that once the offense stops derping around, Everything Will Be Fine. Without, well, much in the way to tell yourself *why* the offense will stop derping around.

Is there good stuff to think about here? Sure. Nolan Carroll is the best CB on the team right now, which makes you wonder why the hell he couldn't play at the end of last year, when Bradley Fletcher was destroying the season. The team's deep talent evaluation seems to be doing good things, with contributions coming from players like EJ Biggers and Najeh Goode; that also speaks to the coaching staff making things work out. Kicker Caleb Sturgis seems to have solidified his footing a bit, and the pass rush was a lot better this week. According to various indexes, they are in the driver's seat to win the division now, and if you do that, you get a home game. Seattle's struggling, Green Bay's banged up, and if they somehow get past the Panthers next week, it's all skittles and beer.

But all of that ignores the actual game that was played. Steve Young said this game reminded him of August at the Hall of Fame Game, and he wasn't wrong. Manning was terrible, their pass rush was non-existant, the RBBC limited, and so on, and so on. The team that could have beaten Dallas and Atlanta looked as bad as the Saints the week before, and maybe it's just Green making teams look bad...

Or maybe it's just that the league is bad now?

Think about it; what team do you have real confidence in? Cincy could run the table and it wouldn't matter until they had a playoff win. New England is a run it up machine, but the defense can be had, and rooting for them to be good is impossible. Denver's got a defense, but the offense is brutal. Carolina is undefeated without a single WR that scares a team. Green Bay is beat up, and so on. Short of just tossing up your hands and saying fine, Packers-Pats, there's not so much to look forward to as a great matchup.

And that's the problem with the NFL now; the feeling of randomness. It's random that the Eagles are in a cake division, that they turned the game around with a single INT rip, that a game that was about to go off the rails with rampant home town booing just flipped a switch and made it happen, more or less. It all seems like castles made of sand.

But maybe that's just the NFL in 2015. You don't have to like it. But you're going to watch it anyway.

Eagles - Giants Diary: Pyrite Fight

Pyrite Night
> Last year, the Eagles came into this game with all kinds of questions, and left with all kinds of answers. In hindsight, it was all because the offensive line got healthy and put the team back in balance, and that worked until QB Nick Foles went down, at which point we got the inevitably doomed Mark Sanchez Experience. This year, maybe something similar can happen. But at some point, the organization with QB stability and a sane use of available talent probably wins out. Then again, it's the NFC lEast. Who the hell knows?

> Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins in the house to honor Brian Westbrook, but by all means, ESPN, let's fellate Eli Manning. That never gets old.

> Shot of McNabb with his head down. Time's coming for that hair, Don. Drink up.

> The simple fact of the matter is that, thanks to the Dallas and DC Derpery, this is a must win for the Eagles hopes of hosting a first round playoff loss.

> K Caleb Sturgis with the touchback, using the power of the black bug jerseys. My laundry tends to play better in terrible laundry.

> RB Rashad Jennings for four, ended with violence by LB Connor Barwin. Manning from the gun, fast slant to WR Reuben Randle, moves the sticks. Tempo, then a bootleg screen to TE Will Tie, easy play and another first. Not encouraging. Delay to Jennings, who chugs for six yards with the kind of running that LeVeon Bell does better. Manning from the gun, has time to move off his first read and hit Tie for a simple first. No good plays for Green yet as Jennings gets another six yards. Stadium has the air of preseason. Manning from the gun, all day, easy completion to TE Lawrence Donnell, and this could not be easier so far.

> From the 18, long clock, then DE Fletcher Cox comes through for a free five. Why the hell not? From the 13, it's Manning from the gun, hits WR Odell Beckham Jr., and that's an opening drive touchdown that was achieved without even a trace amount of perspiration. So good to see my laundry come out with a good start for once! The Giants ran 8 plays in that drive to go 80 yards, and there wasn't a single redeeming moment from the defense on any of them. You know how teams like to say you have to play 60? The Eagles disagree. Violently. K Josh Brown false starts to add drama to the PAT, then makes it anyway. 7-0 Blue after 4.5 minutes.

> Kickoff to the 1, with WR Riley Cooper derping it to the 13. Wouldn't want the special teams changing the mood of this one. After commerce, it's the call it out predictable first down run to RB Ryan Mathews for 3, then QB Sam Bradford not throwing the wheel route that RB Darren Sproles ran. 3rd and 7 and instant death is Bradford missing WR Jordan Matthews, and yeah, THAT WAS UNEXPECTED. Punter Donnie Jones with a good effort for what is clearly the best play for Green yet in this one. Blue starts at their own 37.

> Yards are 75 to 3. And counting! Manning from long count, RB2 Andre Williams for 3. Really one dimensional back, that. Play action, all day, Manning takes the check down to Randle, and CB Nolan Carroll gently escorts him to the sideline. 3rd and 1 and cheer for the hell of it is Manning rolling to Beckham for the obvious pick play and conversion, and the refs wave off a flag after a committee meeting, because that's what's done now. Great game!

> Manning from the gun to Donnell for five, then tempo gun to RB Shane Vereen, who is ended by DT Bennie Logan for nothing. Third and five and somehow not be down by two scores really fast is incomplete to Randle, but the flag will bail Blue out, with offsides for the conversion on Barwin. It's not as if third down is a strength.

> Manning to Beckham for the long sweep screen for five, obvious play, but not obvious enough for DC Billy Davis to figure out. Manning handles a bad snap to give to Vereen, who is stopped just shy of the sticks. Third and 1 and give up just a long figgie is Manning from the gun, simple cross to Beckham for the first, and Manning is 10 for 10. Honestly, I'm not sure any QB wouldn't be 10 for 10 so far.

> Manning from the gun to Donnell, and LB DeMecco Ryans simply rips the damned ball away from the TE for a strip INT. Great play to allow us to continue to have a football game, and damned lucky, really, but in the lEast, lucky is better than good, because no one is really very good.

> Yards are 110 to 3; maybe the turnover can wake Green up to actually do something in the first half.

> The most telegraphed screen pass in the history of the NFL, incomplete; lucky not to be picked. Bradford to Matthews, doesn't hold on after a hit. 3rd and 10 and hold the ball for more than an eyeblink is Bradford from the gun to Sproles, can't make the man miss. Blue roughs the passer for no good reason at all, and wow, that was so damned stupid, I can't begin to say. Just a gift.

> From the 40, the super obvious screen works this time, with Murray getting seven yards. That's going to be a pick six at some point. Murray again, backtracks and moves the sticks, so yay him. Bradford to WR Josh Huff, running well after the catch on the smoke screen for 15, WR Miles Austin getting away with the pick. Bradford with all day, underthrows Cooper, who comes back for the ball and saves the pick for the score. The replay shows that the ball almost goes completely through Cooper, but a non drop is a non drop. Sturgis connects, and that is an actual first quarter touchdown for Green. Tie game, and lucky, lucky, lucky. But it's not as if Blue defense the pass well, either.

> This game was a cheap shot away from being a Blue runaway; let's see if the defense decides this is Mo Mentum. Sturgis with a bad kick, and Vereen shakes off contact to get it back to the Blue 27. Obvious running formation gets Jennings three yards, defense closing the hole with violence. Play action works with Manning to Randle for 15, open all day.

> From the Blue 45, Manning shifts to the gun, then misses WR Dwayne Harris, covered well by Jenkins, but CB Byron Maxwell gets nicked for a flag for funsies. From midfield, long count, then Jennings gets nine and destroys Maxwell; woof. Second and one is Go Deep Time, and Manning burns a time out while dealing with the drool. Quick commerce, then Manning tries Donnell again, who was open but can't bring it in. Third and force a fourth down conversion is power from Blue that gets marked back; hmm. Fourth and do it again is time for a sneak that always works, but Blue derps it up with a long delay to Jennings, who gets slammed backwards by LB Brandon Graham. Wow, Blue is making a lot of dumb mistakes. De facto turnover, good field position at the end of the first.

> Bradford to Murray, who gets past a man, then oddly stands still before dancing out of bounds; it comes back on holding on C Jason Kelce. Green lets the clock burn, and that might be the best first quarter of the season for the laundry. It's kind of like being the world's tallest midget, or its smartest Kardashian.

> 1st and 20, Murray with that disaster run that he's really good at. 2nd and forever, checkdown to Murray. Whoop de damn do. 3rd and 20 has to be a checkdown, and it would have been, but DT Cullen Jenkins bats it down. Great job, offense!

> Jones for 57, Cooper on the coverage, but why let football happen when we can stare at refs? Both are on Blue, so they get it at their own 4 to start.

> Williams for little, with Ryans doing damage. Manning from his end zone, Beckham falls down, so that pretty much has to be DPI. Good play by Beckham; just fall down, it's always a flag. Williams for nothing, and Blue is just doing a favor by using him, instead of a back who can do other stuff. Manning telegraphs a terrible ball, Carroll accepts the gift with grace, and it's a pick six for Green. Wow, bad time for Old Eli to show up for Blue. Sturgis hits the PAT, and it's Green 14, Blue 7. ESPN tries to give its usual Manning coverage by saying the WR slipped, but, um, no, you asshats. He telegraphed it, plain and simple.

> Given how gassed the defense is, and how guarding between the 20s is not exactly a strength, I'd kill for an onside kick right now... but Nero is actually much more conservative than you might think, and Sturgis gets it to the end zone on a line for the touchback. With the crowd in full throat, Jennings gets 9, and the run game is working more than you might expect. From the gun, it's a slant to Beckham, and 15 more is added from DT Cedric Thornton not touching Manning in the head. Man alive, NFL refs *suck*.

> From the Green 47, Jennings for 3, then Manning to Jennings, stripped on the screen, and after a massive fight, it's Green ball. Great blindside hit on the ball by Jenkins, and Blue HC Tom Coughlin is in full Rassing Frassing Mode. That's always fun. Ryans gets the fumble recovery, and he's having a hell of a night. Blue pissed off on the sideline, and that's fun too.

> Murray for 2 yards and a cloud of meh, then Bradford to Matthews, makes men miss and gets 11 and the first. Nice work by the WR, bad work by the DBs.

> Bradford with a disaster pick, and yeah, that's his seventh of the year, and I guess he was trying to get it to TE Zach Ertz, but missed him by a freaking mile. To say you can't have that happen is obvious, but we're well above a pick a game pace for Nero's Chosen QB here. It's getting more and more obvious that is what is going to happen.

> Four turnovers in 20.5 minutes of football here; there's a reason we call it the lEast, folks. From the Blue 42, Williams loses two with Logan showing ferocity. Cheap out to Randle for 5, lots of anticipation from the DBs. Third and 7 is Manning from the gun, with DE Vinny Curry timing the snap count perfectly, and that's a hell of a sack to answer the turnover. P Brad Wing on for the first time tonight, with Sproles running up to catch the ball, and pain. Green to start at their own 25, and try to overcome their offense, which has 79 yards in 4 drives, and would be shut out if Blue could avoid roughing the passer.

> RB Ryan Mathews, so much faster than Murray, for 9 on the long sweep. ESPN stops showing youth football just long enough to show a conversion from Matthews. Disaster snap from Kelce, and Bradford falls on it for an 18 yard loss. FFS. From the gun, Bradford tries Cooper on a dangerous corner route, incomplete. Third and 28 is a checkdown waiting to happen, but for variety's sake, we'll give it to Murray so he can pad his rushing totals. Six yards! Jones kills another punt, the coverage is all over Harris, and Blue has it at their 21. 96 yards in 5 drives. Woo, Nero, woo.

> Manning incomplete on a screen, probably better off on the ground, nearly picked. From the gun, Manning goes to Beckham after Barwin almost gets the ball out of there. Third and 4 with full throat is a blitz that's handled, but Cox gets his hand up and kills an ugly screen. Big three and out from the defense, again.

> Wing with another bad kick, but gets a roll and an EJ Biggers penalty for maximum yield; gahhh. From the 20, Bradford to Ertz, lowers the shoulder for 12 and that was nice. Tempo, rollout, and the QB takes five yards on no pressure. He can actually run a little. Murray for seven yards and a first on a play where Matthews or Sproles would have gotten a lot more. Terrible screen to Huff, loss of one; telegraph city. Slow, horrible run left, Murray loses more. Third and 12 with 2:30 left is a big damned deal, seeing how it can keep the ball and Blue down at the half. Blue calls time, and then it's Bradford from the gun, buys time, but shorts Matthews, and that's just another mistake from a QB who is supposed to be here for his accuracy. Jones puts it in the end zone for a touchback; disappointing, given how good he's been so far tonight.

> 2:11 left and Blue trying to tie it before the half. From pressure, Vereen can't bring it down. From the gun, Graham and Curry and Barwin make an Eli sammich, and the pass rush has been the best of the year to date. Two minute warning, Blue with a 3rd and 16 that, if they are smart, they'll give to the RB and convert, since that always works against a Davis defense...

> From the gun, Manning with the slant to Beckham, poor tackling, first down. Gahhh. Ryans out with a hamstring; gahhh. Manning underhands a ball to avoid grounding, and gets called for grounding, as Barwin is just omnipresent right now. 2nd and 20 is Manning to Harris for 11, and a Green timeout that could be a problem if Blue converts again. 3rd and get the hell off the field is Manning to Harris, bad throw but the WR bails him out, out of bounds before the sticks. Wing punts before replay can take the yards away, and it's another terrible kick. These punts are so bad, they might result in a Green turnover from not knowing how short the ball is.

> From their own 34, Bradford to Matthews for 8, clock running. Bradford to Ertz, TE shows toughness for 17. Blue injury with 46 seconds left, two Green timeouts remain. From the Blue 41, Blue defense getting thin. Bradford not bright enough to snap it fast enough to get the free play, batted ball to Matthews is incomplete. Blue jumps again, and LT Jason Peters moves to make sure the five happens this time. From the 36, Sproles with a four yard gain and a late flag. Odd call with a shaky kicker, but the call is defensive holding to help it along. Refs pick up the flag later, because why not. Bradford from the gun to Matthews as ESPN howls about the clock, as if Green would just let the clock run and not take a timeout. Bradford then clocks the ball, for no good reason, seeing how he's got timeouts to burn. Ye gads, Nothing Here Is Good.

> From the Blue 19, it's time for Bradford to throw a terrible pick, and he misses Sproles in the end zone. Jenkins freaks out about a roughing call, and I have no idea what he's yelling about; that's a clear flag. From the 9 with 14 seconds left, Bradford takes a terrible sack, and the clock runs to six seconds before the second timeout is called. Let's just say that clock management is another thing Bradford doesn't do well, really. Sturgis from 37 after the Eagles own clock operator ices the kicker hits, and it's Green 17, Blue 7 to end the half after a squib.

> Blue K Josh Brown to the end of the end zone, and Huff tweaks it out to the 21 before taking punishment. Nero is counting on Second Half Magic according to ESPN, with Huff hurt. Joy. Telegraph Screen to Murray for three yards and a cloud of kill me. Bradford for the wide open deep ball to Cooper, who hauls in a big gain, then goes down in a heap. Jebus, it's not like the WRs were good before injury.

> After commerce and clerics, it's first and 10 at the Blue 33. Cooper looks OK. Bradford checks down to Mathews for six yards, then trips for half a yard. Third and save yourself from a long figgie is another Kelce mistake; yeesh. Third and 8 instead of third and 3 is Bradford after ref derpery, from the gun, and Mathews doesn't get the first or keep the damned ball. A FB gets to the QB, the offense leaves a field goal opportunity on the ground, and does any team from the NFC lEast have to go to the playoffs?

> Not to beat a dead horse's ass, but Nero's offense has 10 points in a home game when they have been given three turnovers, and their touchdown was a gift from the roughing the passer gods. Against a team whose best pass rusher appears to be a spinning fullback, using second-string CBs. Heckuva offense, Nero.

> From the Blue 37, defense has to do it again, and Jennings gets 13 with anti-fumbling anger. From the Green 49, no gain, as LB Jordan Hicks is present and accounted for. From the gun, Manning's ball is tipped on an bad out route to Tie, with reserve LB Najeh Goode getting home on a stunt. Third and get off the field is Manning getting strip sacked, with Blue lucky to recover. Nice game for the pass rush to show up. Wing continues his night of adventure with a ball that Sproles makes a fair catch at the Green 15. This game is just there for the losing, for either side, really.

> Bradford to Ertz, easy nine, but we can't have nice things, so LT Lane Johnson jumps offsides. Murray for two yards and who the hell cares. Third and four and keep the damned ball is incomplete on a rollout, and the flag does not bail the offense out, so that's another three and out for the offensive genius. Even ESPN is calling this for what it is; poorly played. Jones nearly blocked, and Blue gives up another first down with penalty. Ye gads, what a bad game this is. Five yards and a first down. Woo.

> From the 28 after the de facto turnover, it's Murray for 12 as Peters and Austin seal their men long enough for any NFL RB to get yardage. Long stupid sweep for 3 with the same bad back, then play action to Matthews, who holds on for once and gets a gain of 19 after contact. From the Blue 39 with a trace of tempo, Huff catches the short screen that is his raison d'etre, and fights for six tough yards. From the gun, Murray runs through a massive hole for 12, and the line is starting to win. ESPN fellates Murray because believing your own eyes is stupid. Bradford to Austin, who falls down immediately for seven yards. Blue looking tired, and Mathews gets a first down on pure line surge. First from the 12 is Murray through a big hole, fights off a man and scores. I suppose it's bad form of me to note than any RB worth a damn scores on that. Sturgis hits the PAT, and Green is really good at cashing in absolute gifts. Not much else, though. Green 24, Blue 7, 21 minutes left to lead the worst division in the NFL.

> Sturgis to the end zone, Harris to the 21, ball to the 11 because Blue held. Not their best game. Williams on an awkward run for three. Manning from the gun, misses Vereen from an empty backfield, nice work by Goode on the RB. Third and seven and continue the avalanche is Manning nearly picked by Barwin, the QB just not dealing with pressure at all well. Intentional grounding, second time tonight, and Curry does a little dance because it's Party Time. Wing from his end zone fields a high snap and gets a roll to the Green 45. After that last drive, the visitors look ready to get in the bus and get warm; should be interesting to see if the Green line can just end things.

> Bradford tries Cooper deep, who stops on the route, and what the holy hell was that. Blue takes the unforced arm punt error and gets it to their own 39. In a game with a dozen candidates for worst Non Colt Fake Punt Play of the Week, that might be the worst. Is there something about Bradford that just inspires these plays?

> Jennings for 8; other than a fumble, he's been good for them. Defense looks shocked to be back on the damned field again. Manning tries WR Myles White on an open wheel route, but it's dropped; another Blue gift on a night filled with them. Third and 2 and get off the field yet again is back shoulder to Randle, no DPI because he's not Beckham, and Maxwell had it read. Wing punts again, this time to the Green 6, and Sproles can only get five yards before he takes undue punishment. The toughest man in the NFL on a pound for pound basis is slow to rise, and there's still 19 minutes left in this mess.

> Sproles getting the evaluation; oh joy. Murray for 3; he now has 56, then fumbles the damned ball because he's just that freaking horrible. Bad exchange from the QB, too. It's recovered by Johnson to avoid disaster. Blue then has 12 men on the field, and rather than throw it, Bradford takes a bad hit in his own end zone. Christ. Third and 5 and can anyone play this game is Bradford from the gun to Matthews, who converts on a cross. Murray for two, and I want Chris Polk back. Clock runs; run, clock, run. Mathews for 7 to the left, so much better than Murray in every goddamned way. Third and short is Bradford from the gun, and the true RB1 gets the first. Bradford to Austin, good play fake and throw, and Blue sold out for the run as bad as the cameraman. 37 yard gain. Another play action, but Bradford misses Ertz, open but not by very much. Timeout Blue on tempo, and with 16 minutes left, um, I guess defensible. Green nearly even in time of possession, which means they are winning, really. Mathews for seven, averaging nearly a yard more per carry. Blue with the strategic cramp before third and 3. From the gun, Bradford tries Ertz, jump ball in the end zone, INT #3, turnover #7 of the night. The TE nearly bailed out the QB, but not quite, and it's still a game, for no good reason at all. Oh, other than because neither of these teams are good.

> From the Blue 20, Manning on play action, Beckham can't stay in bounds. After the quarter change, Cox eats Vereen whole. Third and 11 is a cross to Donnell, he makes one man miss, but not four, and Manning just doesn't seem like he wants to play anymore. Wing punts to Sproles, who cares not for your concussion concerns, and gets it back to the Green 40 after a 13-yard gain.

> Murray for 8 yards, away from the run blitz for once. Slow and no go right for a yard. Third and 1 from the gun moves the sticks, as just running the ball in the middle of the line should really work now. Peters is dinged, because that happens a lot now, but stays in. Murray for four; Mild Detention Mode begins. Murray for two to set up third and five from the Blue 42. Bradford to Austin moves the sticks, no rush, everyone should find QB opportunities to be so abundant. From the Blue 26, Detention Mode to the 10 minute mark; Sproles for nothing in the middle. Fake and throw to Ertz, who gets five yards and cut at his knees, and doesn't like it. Bradford to Cooper on third and five, and that stops the drive. Sturgis from 39 is good again, and that's encouraging, at least. Green 27, Blue 7.

> Eight minutes left, and time to see if the defense can finish this off with fun feelings. Harris brings it back to the 22, STs doing their job. Manning to Jennings for 8 yards, defense in DBs everywhere mode. Manning takes the underneath gift for Jennings to convert. Clock running a lot, Manning runs for 12 with no spy assigned. Duck underthrown to WR Jeremy Davis; Carroll could have had the pick if he had his head turned. Jennings for 6 yards, then on 3rd and 4, Manning finds Randle to move the sticks. Clock keeps running, so this is mostly for stats padding still. Movement on Blue because their line can't do this work. Vereen dances too much and loses to Hicks for a 3 yard loss. 2nd and 18 is Manning to Vereen for 6 yards, and 3rd and 12 is Vereen for 11, but it comes back on OPI for the Donnell pick. 11th flag on Blue. 3rd and 22 is a sack and strip, and with any degree of sense, that should be the end of the night for Blue's starters.

> From the Green 27 with a 20-point lead, this is all about clock burning and getting out of town. Murray for 7, might get to 100 with who cares persistence. Detention Mode, then another yard. Third and 1 with clock burning to the warning is Murray finding a hole, getting 21 yards for his first 100+ yard game in Green, and sitting down in bounds. Murray adds six more before realizing that Blue isn't trying any more, and two kneels happen despite timeouts in hand. Good move, Tom Coughlin. Get the hell out of town already.

> Next week, Green takes on the undefeated Panthers in a SNF game, and honestly, I have no idea what to expect. They are 3-3 and winning the division without actually playing a good game yet. The defense was nails after a slow start, and any offense with tolerable run blocking should be able to win with those advantages. They've won back to back games by a lot despite playing really bad football, so maybe this is just a team that makes everything looks bad and wins anyway, Hell if I know, but first place in the division is first place in the division. Fool's gold spends here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Gymnast Parent Diaries: 90% Of Life

So Do That
First meet of the year was today, and it showed the value in life in, well, just showing up.

Here's the thing about being a gymnast at age 15: it's harder, I think, then doing it earlier. There's just fewer kids that are your age, and those that are doing it are kind of hardcore about it, assuming they aren't at that full dreaming of the Olympics vibe. It's either working for you because it's how you self-identify, or because you like it as a confidence thing, and so on. Just doing it for the ability to pull off tricks, or trophies and ribbons, doesn't work anymore, because it shouldn't. You are 15, for heaven's sake. You probably have other things going on.

So it goes for the eldest, who has a lot going on, and more every day, it seems. There are Grades and Relationships and Clubs and Parties and so on and so on, and all of it is just a constant matter of scheduling your time and working efficiently, neither of which, frankly, is something that she excels at. Getting her to practice three times a week has been an absolute hairpull, and probably isn't going to get any better, realistically. Neither will the cost, because we're just not doing as well as we used to, and I'm going to be a realist about that, too.

That sets the reader for this morning, where we go a half hour (fairly short, actually) for the first meet of the year, conveniently scheduled to avoid the Eagles game, and yeah, I think that was intentional. The setting was the usual gym with the usual amenities, and, sadly, the usual lack of organizational chops.

You know how you spend 3+ hours with a football game to watch 12 minutes or so of Actual Football? Well, gymnastics meets are more like five hours and 8 minutes, the last hour of which is just waiting, waiting, waiting for the kids to get ribbons and medals and prove that people who run these things can't do simple maths quickly.

That last hour is absolute punishment, by the way. You've been on crappy folding metal chairs the entire time, most of which has been in anticipation and worry about how your kid is going to do, and all you want to do is talk to your kid and leave. If I had the ability to cut the organizers an additional check to get that hour of m life back, I would do it in a heartbeat. So would every other parent in the room, I think.

Anyway, back to the actual work. The eldest has a new floor routine that isn't quite all there yet, and she wound up limiting some of the moves in it, resulting in a routine that looked OK, but didn't score well. It was also a very long time before she got to perform, which is rarely a winning moment for her. Next up was vault, the redheaded stepchild of women's gymnastics at this level, in that it's really pretty basic and more about just completing a simple move, rather than doing anything particularly intense. In the final standings, she did not place in floor, and finished fifth in vault. At this point in the meet, her body language wasn't good, and she even came over to apologize to me and her friend for wasting our time.

I wouldn't give myself kudos for any kind of pep talk, but going to the uneven bars, which to my eyes has always been her best event due to her comparative advantages in upper body strength, was a win. She did her routine to more or less perfection, showing a confidence and poise on the bars that most kids just never reach, and wound up winning the event. The final event was balance beam, also known as the unanimous winner of the Parents Hate Watching This Award. She did her difficult tricks cleanly, kept wobbles to a minimum, and overcame her hand shaking before the dismount to close it out. That got her a second place, the satisfaction of being the only person on her team not to fall during her routine, and a second place showing in the all around. Her score in the all-around was a new personal best, and with the potential of more coming from time with the new routine, a really encouraging day, and a good ending to the day.

There's an old and simple cliche, usually attributed to Woody Allen, of how 90% of life is just showing up. That's a hard point to make, especially with creative types who are able to see other possibilities than just going to work. But it applies, and hopefully today's experience will stay with my kid for a little while.

Next meet is in a month. We'll see how it goes, in terms of getting her to practice, in the interim.

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