Wednesday, December 30, 2015

NFL Week 17 Picks: Drink Irresponsibly

Posting before days away from screens, which are Good Days. Use responsibly, and drink with abandon. And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

NY JETS (-3) at Buffalo - While it would be the perfect LOL Jets Fail to lose the playoffs now that they are in the driver's seat, the Bills are just too beat up. I don't think the Jets are going to beat a good team in the playoffs, but Buffalo's not good.

NEW ENGLAND (-10) at Miami - Still wondering if the Pats threw the overtime intentionally to get the Steelers out of the mix last week. No such weirdness this week. The Pats tend to struggle in Florida, but not this year.

NEW ORLEANS (+4) at Atlanta - Just a feel pick here, that the Falcons will be checked out after being eliminated by Minnesota's win on SNF.

Baltimore at CINCINNATI (-9) - I'm still shocked that the Ravens won last week with QB4, but the road is different.

PITTSBURGH (-11) at Cleveland - Browns could be playing who the hell knows at QB, and the Steelers will come in angry and throwing after last week's turdfest. They've got no one to blame but themselves.

Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-6) - Interesting game among two teams that, if you rolled their offense and defensive units together, would be downright intriguing. I'm going with the home team, because I think they are sneaky good on offense, and the Jags can make anyone look good there. Besides, home helps.

Tennessee at INDIANAPOLIS (even) - Does either of these teams still have something that resembles an NFL QB? No, didn't think so. Home team coin flip, and they still have a prayer at the playoffs, right?

Washington at DALLAS (-3.5) - DC will rest starters, Dallas will win with running and defense, and anyone that watches of their own free will should get checked. For Mind Problems.

PHILADELPHIA (+3.5) at New York Giants -
Green matches up fairly well, and will come in like the denizens of Oz now that the Big Bad Chip Is Dead. It helps that Blue has a terrible secondary and crippled pass rush. Shootout game to make bitter fantasy honks even more bitter. Oh, and the loser goes to London next year for a road game with an easier schedule, which means the loser wins in a big way, but no one ever thinks that hard in advance.

Detroit at CHICAGO (even) - Adam Gase, the Bears OC, is a hot name in coaching searches, and wants to make sure he stays that way with a rousing close to the year.

Tampa at CAROLINA (-10) - Panthers need the win to wrap up the first overall seed -- rough year in the NFC -- and Tampa doesn't have the d-line consistency to take it away from them.

Oakland at KANSAS CITY (-7) - Chiefs still have stuff to play for, and a home field edge. They are also a paper tiger team that will lose earlier in the playoffs than expected, but you knew that already, what with Andy Reid coaching them.

San Diego at DENVER (-9) - Big escape win for the Broncos on MNF, and now that the heat is a little off and they are in the playoffs, staying on point with Actually Best QB On The Roster Brock Osweiler will matter. Also, the Chargers are DOA. That helps.

SEATTLE (+6.5) at Arizona -- Just think the line is too wide, and the world is over-reacting to last week. Red has played some great games recently, but they tend to regress when Seattle's around. This is a field goal either way kind of contest, and it wouldn't shock me if it's just round 2 of 3.

St. Louis at SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5) - Just don't think the Rams will care enough, and it's not like their offense travels.

Minnesota at GREEN BAY (-3) - The winner of this game gets a much harder game, because the loser will go to DC and beat the Racial Slurs... but neither will feel that way, because they both know that winning the NFC North is the ceiling for this season. I just don't think the Packers can be helpless in back to back weeks.

Last week: 6-10

Season: 127-106-3

Career: 745-738-48

A personal aside about Chip Kelly's end

The Last Time We Use This
I'm in my mid-'40s, which means that in my formative years as a sports fan - basically, the time between age 8 and age 12, when you either get the disease or you do not -- Philadelphia was, believe it or not, the best sports city in America.

The Phillies were in a run of 100-win seasons, powered by the best third baseman and starting pitcher in the game (Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton). They broke your heart in the fall, but baseball is like that, and then when I was 11, they didn't, and it meant the world. I was too young to really remember the Broad Street Bully Flyers, but everyone else was still high off them, and they contended every year for a long while after that. The Sixers had Julius Erving and loads more, and while the endings were bitter, we always thought it might be their year. (In 1983, with Moses Malone, it was.) The Eagles built from nothing, got to a Super Bowl, and gave us all a moment of transcendent joy when Wilbert Montgomery took it to the house on Dallas in a home NFC championship game, in the coldest day anyone could remember. (Seriously, the wind chill was something like -48. Insanely great stuff.)

So at my core, I have Hope. These decades of failure and frustration, these saviors turned sad, these carousels of coaches and years of Intentional Tanking -- that's all foreign, wrong, contrary to the natural order. When I was a child, Philadelphia was a City of Champions. It will be again, because that's what I grew up with, and we all yearn, secretly or not, for what we grew up with.

So rooting against Chip Kelly for the past year has been flat out misery. I wanted the guy in year one. I doubted him in year two. I turned in year three, because the GM work was just so horrific. I didn't want to be right, even though every fiber in my being told me I was. I wanted DeMarco Murray to be great, Sam Bradford to be Joe Montana, Kiko Alonso to be Seth Joyner. Even last Saturday night, I wanted the team to suddenly flick the light switch, blow out the Racial Slurs, go on the 4-game fluke winning streak of the century, and hoist the Lombardi Trophy as everyone mocked me for my lack of faith. I wanted to have Hope, even when I had none.

And in those moments when I had Hope, I felt Stupid. Conned. Idiotic. Desperate. A First Class, Triple Bought And Four Times Sold Rube, ready to be conned all over again at the next scent of competence. I hated myself for caring. If you had given me a pill that made me not care about sports, I'd have swallowed it. Hell, I'd have paid you for it. A lot.

It made writing about, and on some level even just watching, an ordeal. I've wanted to turn off games for dramas on Netflix, missed games this year due to personal commitments that I didn't fight that hard to avoid, and thought about giving up the blog. Maybe fantasy leagues, too. Because I had no Hope, and it felt hollow, and bland, and dead.

Today, Chip Kelly got fired.

Today, I don't feel stupid for having Hope.

Today, I want to watch, and write, about sports again.

And to anyone out there who thinks that Eagle Fan was impatient, or short-sighted, or any other word that you care to throw our way...






Because not having to root for this guy, in any way, any more?

Is just that much of a god damned relief.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

20 Takeaways About Chip Kelly's Release

Hold It In Your Hands, Again
20) Note the wording: release. If you like to imagine that Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie has a stiletto wit, it's the same word used to get rid of DeSean Jackson. So Kelly didn't just get fired. He got scraped off the bottom of Lurie's shoes. With a press release that wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavours.

19)  In a side note, I don't really blame Lurie for much of this. Hiring the guy was a bold shove, the kind we want our laundry to take. Giving him the keys to the personnel file was even bolder, especially in the light of the Jackson fiasco, but still a defensible gamble. It didn't work. Taking that shot, and then moving on, does not make him the bad guy in this, or turn the franchise into Browns East. It makes him able to cut his losses and move on. I'm not going to kill the guy for trying something new, or thinking that the hire was notably worse than, say, Gus Bradley or Jay Gruden.

18)  The people in my social media feed who think the Eagles acted rashly? None of them cover the team. None of them are fans of the laundry. None of them, one suspects, watched the last 19 games, tried to root for obvious wastes of sperm and dignity like Mark Sanchez, Riley Cooper, Marcus Smith and so many others. I get that innovation in a football coach is it's own reward, but wake up and smell the coffee, people. When no one in town is doing anything but a victory dance, it's not a bad firing. Don't listen to sports talk radio; no area is entirely filled with idiots.

17) How big of a victory dance? My phone damn near exploded, for hours, with people who were ready to share in the good news. I heard Eagle fans be happy, truly happy, without reservations or conditions, for the first time in a year. Some, the ones who lost faith in the losses in Year One, more than that.

16) The revisionist history of how the first two years of Kelly, before he got sabotaged by his own damned self as GM, were Camelot? Well, good years don't end in home playoff losses and falling apart down the stretch to miss the playoffs, in dumpster fire divisions. Good years come in seasons where you, at the very least, win a playoff game. That makes you one of the last eight teams, in a league of 32. It's not an insane standard. And it's one that the franchise hasn't achieved while Barack Obama has been President. What Kelly achieved was that he got to the playoffs, in a terrible division, with another man's players. Then he got more of his players, and didn't get to the playoffs. Then he got almost all of his players, and made a dumpster fire. He was fired for every good reason.

15) Why did Lurie do this so suddenly? My guess is that he got tired of listening to lies and delusions. Either that, or Howie Roseman finally wore him down, or he wanted to throw the Chump a bone by acting with Tempo. (In a side note, if Roseman wasn't named Howie, no one in town would have a real problem with the guy.)

14) The idea that Kelly as a coach is something to be salvaged, and that it's just a matter of being a bad GM... well, um, good coaches don't make the litany of terrible play calls that Kelly made over the years. Good coaches don't trust the season on a pitch to DeMarco Murray, the play he hasn't made work all year, in the rain. Bad coaches do that. And bad coaches get fired.

13) Kelly reportedly said that he was "disappointed" by the decision. Me too. I was hoping he'd be hung from his ankles, like Mussolini.

12) Some are saying how fast the fall is, and the 7-12 over the past 19 games seems so sudden, as to not merit a dismissal. But the wins *before* that were driven by special teams, turnovers,  flukes, smoke, mirrors... and in one of the worst divisions in football. Look around. The read option isn't winning games on its own. And winning 10 games for two years in a row doesn't get your name on anything that anyone gives a damn about.

11) Or, to put it simpler: If you owned the team and watched the DC loss on Saturday, one of five utterly galling home losses this year (remember the Dallas game? How about Tampa? Miami? Arizona?) would you ever want that guy to coach another game for your team?

Hell, would you ever let that guy in your building? Even if he bought a ticket?

10) Make no mistake about it, cutting a coach before the season is even over is a special level of Get The Hell Out, And I Don't Care If The Door Hits You On The Ass. It's something every Eagle Fan should be *grateful* for, if only so we can see the team play out of its mind on Sunday in New York. (And blow draft and the schedule for next year, but screw it; they aren't winning this division next year, either.) But honestly, such was the depth of the fouling of the bed here, such was the degree of the fraud, such was the lack of return on investment, that any more minutes spent in command were a waste.

9) And for all of those geishas that claimed we were all being mean mean mean by saying the team quit on Kelly after the Detroit debacle, and that the fluke wins over New England and Buffalo showed the fraud just needed more time... look, let's not put too fine a point on this. This defense was tolerable to good for the first half of the year. Then it became historically bad. If that's not quitting, I don't know what is. You don't get blown out by so much, so often, and still have a majority of the players ready to run through a wall for you. This wasn't going to get better after an off-season of shuffling and sessions. This was only going to get more obvious.

8) As for the next guy who gets the gig? Well, my hat's off to him. No second round pick, a ton of skill players who aren't good enough, major pieces in Sam Bradford (maybe) and Kiko Alonso that are massive injury and performance risks, a home stadium that has provided no advantage, and the worst media in America, who just spent three years in the company of a guy they hated. For an owner that's been doing this for 21 years, and lost his head and heart to the last guy. Not an easy gig. Not an easy hire. Nor for the GM slot, either.

7) The new defensive coordinator should switch to a 4-3, so he can actually get Fletcher Cox back to where he belongs, and maybe resuscitate Vinny Curry. We also get one of our godawful LBs off the field that. The new DC is probably going to have to live with most of the personnel, and hope like hell that he can get them out of the mind funk that Davis preached. I suspect there are salvageable parts here, but the scheme has to be rooted out like malware.

6) Your next coach will not now, and will not ever, get his hands on the GM role. Which is how it should be. Everybody wants to find the new Bill Belichick, but you can't force it.

5) As for the guys who are gone... well, they are gone. They aren't coming back. Your only real hope is that DeSean Jackson doesn't go on to have the Cris Carter career, and stays more on that Terrell Owens path. (And can the new people in charge please do us the very small favor of not gifting stud wideouts to NFC rivals? Thanks.) It's football. Careers aren't generally that long, but it's good to see that the guys that left will be drawing NFL checks longer than the flim flam man.

4) Joining those guys very, very soon? Everyone with Oregon Duck underwear, I hope. Absolutely gone are the guys who should never have been here, which is Cooper, Sanchez, Kenjon Barner, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart, Thad Lewis, Ed Reynolds, Smith and Matt Tobin. Probably gone are iffy ducks like Josh Huff, Seyi Ajirotutu, Beau Allen, Josh Andrews, Matt Tobin and the vast majority of practice squad and IR guys, with the exception of Jordan Hicks.

3) Getting into harder choices... if I'm the new guy, I don't want to sink time into DeMeco Ryans, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles or Brent Celek, because they are, at best, declining investments. You probably can't get away from suspects Jason Kelce, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, Nelson Agholor and Mychal Kendricks, because turning over the entire roster in a year isn't possble, but I wouldn't be telling any of those guys to buy real estate until they show me a lot more.

2) And then there's the many million dollar question: Sam Bradford. He's a better fit now that no one is expecting him to run the ball like a goober, and he's the only guy in the last month whose play has improved. But he's still going to cost a lot, and lives on sad excuses for knees. I'd be tempted to franchise him, but only because I don't want to have to spend a #1 on a QB when the line is garbage, and I don't think he's liable to take a hometown discount when the only thing he has to rely on is Jeremy Matthews, Zach Ertz, and maybe Ryan Mathews. The only difference between that and his old Ram teams is the lack of a dome, and an easier division.

Which brings us to the next coach. If you want to make Bradford comfortable, you promote OC Fritz Shurmur, who had him before in St. Louis and spent the year with him. But if you want to actually build a contender for more than the clown car crown, you probably need some young and hungry no name no life, kind of like when the club hired Dick Vermeil 40 years ago. It's probably better if the guy is more about offense than defense, because offense is more consistent year to year than defense, and hence, more important to get right. But honestly, the right guy makes both sides work, and doesn't play favorites. Lurie also doesn't get to even sniff a college guy again, because that well has been poisoned for a very long time.

1) Final point, for now?

Chip Kelly is gone.

And it's OK to root for, and care about, this team again.

Fly, Eagles, Fly...

Brief and Obvious Points About Andy Reid

1) He's the best coach in the history of my laundry, and he wasn't good enough. He was also was let go of his job in Philadelphia for strong and prolonged cause. No playoff wins in the Obama Administration is mostly his doing.

2) He hasn't won anything, yet, in Kansas City. Other than the opportunity to blow another playoff game, like when his team let the fraudulent Colts off the deck to win that pinball game last year.

3) The Eagles did not choose Chip Kelly over Reid. They chose to let Reid go, then they acquired Kelly. This isn't an either/or deal; Reid was gone, for cause, no matter what.

I'm not mad about Reid's success in turning around the 1-5 Chiefs. I just mostly don't give a damn. He doesn't coach here anymore, and Kansas City is not my laundry. If he somehow goes on to have a deep playoff run, I won't be rooting for, or against, his club, any more or less than because he's the coach now.

That's the way fandom works.

And anyone who tells you differently is selling you something. Mostly a big bunch of nonsense about DRAMA, as if it were anything but stories made up about games.

For me, the game is enough. It's that way for people who actually watch sports for, you know, sports.

Chip Kelly: Deluded Or Lying?

Also, This Isn't A Violin
Gentle Reader, I was so looking forward to not paying any more attention to Nero Kelly for many, many months. With his unwatch- able team now irrelevant, and the Sixers suddenly enjoyable again now that Ish Smith is back in town, my sports time was going the hell away from the least satisfying team since the end of the Reid, Kotite and Rhodes eras, and with a quickness. Just a meaningless game where the Chump insists on playing starters so we can learn nothing and potentially hurt draft position, just like last year's finale in New York, with the only thing to watch for being if QB Sam Bradford can (a) continue to build a case for a new contract and (b) not have his knees explode, and don't watch the defense for anything other than a sign whether or not Eric Rowe is a viable CB2 next year, and we're done. Come back in a week or two for the post-mortem, enjoy the departure of whoever goes (I have a wish list, but that is, again, for another day), and get hours of my life back.

And then the dear, dear embodiment of stupidity in man form decided to talk. Among the pearls of wisdom...

> His 6-win team in the second worst division in football, that only won their biggest games of the year due to special teams and takeaway luck, who were blown out in back to back weeks down the stretch, isn't a bad team

> Tackle Jason Peters, widely reported as quitting on the team with various injuries during the year, was blameless for hitting the sidelines in the DC loss, despite not taking post-game treatment for the elbow that was said to have sidelined him, and

> He's not the GM, lightweight flunkie Ed Marynowitz is, despite admitting that he has control of the 90-man roster.

Um, Chump?

Just what the blue hell do you think a GM does, other than have control of the 90-man roster?

And as for this utter and complete bullspit of how you are not a bad team?

Well, you've given up 400 points in 15 games for a point differential of -58. That's the fourth worst in the NFC, which makes you 13th out of 16, and the 10th worst out of all 32 NFL teams.

Since when has being the 13th out of 16 not made you, and the 22nd of 32, not, well, bad at something?

Which leads us to the following possibilities.

1) He believes what he's saying, and he's deluded beyond reason, and has about as much right to decide personnel or coach an NFL team as he does to fly an airplane, or

2) He's a habitual and pointless liar who is going to go to his unemployment, in zero to twelve months, spouting the same malfeasance and self-serving nonsense that he's been singing for, well, years.

The first, while possible, just isn't as plausible. The second is far more likely.

So remember this, and consider it in the light of the DeSean Jackson character assassination. Consider it in the wake of how Evan Mathis left the team for less money than what he would have made here. Mull over how he talks about character, while wanting to draft Dion Jordan instead of Lane Johnson, giving Riley Cooper more money than any other team ever would or will again, or how many Tim Tebow jerseys the team sold while Tyrod Taylor was sent packing. Think about when Chris Polk was tossed aside like so much garbage, so that Kelly could spend 10X on equivalent or worse backs. And in the very near future, when Peters is sent out for next to nothing, when the team bungles the Fletcher Cox contract, or when we get one last year of talking about bad breaks and injuries and sloppy execution that they are just going to clean up, any second now, honest and for true.

The man's a fraud. Has been for some time.

And the lies are getting easier and easier to spot.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top 10 NFL Week 16 Ad Questions

Man Time With Fries
10) If I pay extra for my airline ticket, can I get a guarantee that I will not hear terrible Beach Boys lyrics?

9) Is there a person on the planet that didn't have any previous access to the Beatles?

8) Doesn't celebrating your love of football with beer cans betray a remarkably sad life?

7) Is one of the side effects of Crestor installing hydraulics on your vehicle?

6) Does purchasing a cell phone from Wal-Mart cause your children to become delusional?

5) How is Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill complaining about Verizon, without comparing them to Native Americans that he wants to murder?

4) Would Dan Gronkowski be homeless if he didn't have his brother's coattails to ride?

3) If the best thing you can say about the pizza is the weird box it comes in, isn't that kind of an indictment of the, um, food?

2) Does Nissan sell a lot of cars to people who hallucinate about snow?

1) Will eating Burger King buffalo chicken fries turn your ring tone into something hopelessly femme and outdated?

Top 12 consolations for Eagles fans

You Can Ignore Him Now
12) Sam Bradford didn't play well enough to get a monster contract extension before his next career-threatening injury

11) Kiko Alonso can't be any worse next year, and if he is, maybe getting back Jordan Hicks will help him get cut

10) You're going to enjoy watching Seattle tear apart Washington in two weeks a lot more than watching them tear apart Philly or New York

9) They were going to lose next week in New York anyway, because that would have irritated you even more

8) The season-ending fumble by DeMarco Murray helps everyone forget his earlier touchdown, which might have kept him in town for another year

7) If the touchdown drop by Nelson Agholor doesn't help motivate him into an off-season training regimen, nothing will

6) Giving up the most touchdown passes in Eagles defensive history will help the team flush out more DBs in a continuing parade of clowns

5) If this year didn't get DC Billy Davis run, absolutely nothing on this earth will

4) Maybe now, we can finally stop hearing about Kelly's back to back 10-win seasons

3) The team still snaps the ball faster than any other team, which is very, very important

2) In your heart of hearts, you knew DeSean Jackson was right, and secretly enjoy watching him end Chip on an annual basis

1) After one more year of this frustrating, pointless and irresponsible mess, we might get a real coach or GM

Eagles - Redskins Diary

Why Try Harder?
> First drive had a clean pocket for the early going, so QB Sam Bradford was accurate, with good work to TE Zach Ertz

> WR Josh Huff drew a DPI in the end zone, which is one of his biggest plays of the year, sadly

> RB Ryan Mathews for the score and lead, in a drive where RB Kenjon Barner hit the field, but RB DeMarco Murray does not

> Weak play-calling by the Slurs to not put pressure on the suspect DBs on two of three plays lead to a three and out

> Two inside gives to RB Darren Sproles moves the chains, and Green keeps the momentum

> RT Jason Peters with a false start, then Sproles for the same play for three yards that makes you wonder if HC Chip Kelly is feeling cocky

> Crashing fail with a sack as soon as Peters is on the sideline, and yeah, so much for momentum

> Long third down and Bradford takes the Sproles checkdown, which is defensible but far from palatable

> Poor punt sets up the Slurs at their own 31

> Blitz, doesn't get there, bubble screen, DB misses, first down as easy as pie

> Easy slant to TE Jordan Reed for 28, DB EJ Biggers not big or good enough to impede

> Play action to Reed for the tying touchdown, and there's post-whistle dumbness because S Malcolm Jenkins is a sorehead, and WR DeSean Jackson is good at irritating people

> Slurs miss the PAT, so, um, good I guess

> Murray for nothing, which is what he's worth, then gets three after contact as the fans boo, properly

> Third and 7 and offsides by the Slurs is missed, along with a blown screen and intentional grounding, for a three and out and loss of yards

> As bad of an offensive series as could be imagined, because, well, Murray was involved

> Jones with a 56-yard kick where the PR makes the first two guys miss, but not the third, for 51 yards of net

> Cousins with all day to throw and Jackson with the easy cross and catch to move the sticks

> Reed with the first as LB Mychal Kendricks continues the festival of missed tackles, and how the LBs are worse this year is a continuing mystery, other than to note that DC Billy Davis Is Magic

> Biggers with a deflection on a cross to Garcon, nice play by the DB

> Third and long figgie or better is a blitz for no effect, and Reed on the cross for 19

> LB Kiko Alonso with the blitz in name only, and we might as play Marcus Smith there, so long as we're going for worthless

> Reed cross for another score, Kendricks is nearly as bad as Alonso, honestly

> K Dustin Hopkins makes the PAT this time, and it's Slurs 13, Eagles 7

> Huff with a drop instead of a first down, because that's what he does

> 3rd and 8 and keep the game a game is the Slurs just rushing four, and Bradford throwing a perfect ball to WR Jeremy Matthews for 40

> Immense play when it comes to changing the game flow

> Tempo gets a timeout, then Sproles for two to end the first

> Sproles loses six on the toss sweep that fools or blocks no one

> 3rd and 14 for points or nothing is a sack where Peters can't even hold correctly, because he's either hurt or old or it doesn't matter any more, because it's over

> Jones to the 7 with the punt, and the defense that can't stop anything at least has field position and a modicum of rest

> Broken play as Cousins fumbles the snap, then Cousins to Garcon for four as the first contact actually gets the WR down

> Third and nine and have to get a stop has CB Street Meat Jaylen Watkins getting Garcon down; no pressure again, and I have no idea why the Slurs aren't force-feeding Jackson

> Trick return tried with Barner, who loses a yard and coughs it up after hitting the ground, and would have been flagged anyway, so Way To Scheme, Chip

> Murray for 8 on the world's worst screen, and it comes back with illegal formation by T Lane Johnson

> Another crappy procedure flag, this one by G Matt Tobin, and yeah, this is a well-coached team

> Murray for 10 with some yards after contact, then a yard as he tries to make something out of nothing, but can't make a cut

> Bradford with his first missed throw of the day misses a wide-open Ertz, and that would have tied the game

> Just can't have those kind of mistakes and missed opportunities for this kind of no margin for error team

> Jones to the Slur 8, they can end this with a score

> Cousins to Garcon for 15, and the QB has all day to throw even when the defense is supposedly fresh

> Running plays are gifts, especially with the Slurs' collection of plodding RBs

> Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox gets to the QB on good coverage on second down, nearly had the strip and gets the sack, and he's pretty much the only guy on the defense that could start for a good team

> Third and 14 is a missed sideline throw by Cousins and offensive holding, so it's still a game

> Sproles catches the 39 yard directional punt, and that's two stops in a row for the defense; need to take advantage of such unique behavior

> Mathews for nothing, throwing on early downs seems advised with this lack of protection

> Ertz for 17, then Celek off play action, recovers his own fumble, luckily

> Procedure penalty on tempo nullifies a bubble screen to Huff as an old ref takes a header

> Agholor drops an underthrown ball in the end zone, just plain inexcusable, and that's more points left on the board

> Mathews with a nice catch to get 12, the QB taking a lot of contact

> Agholor doesn't come up with a scramble ball on third, another good play by the QB for no gain

> K Caleb Sturgis connects from 33, and it's a 3-point game

> Slurs STs gift with a hold, so they start at their own 8 again

> DT Cedric Thornton does work, then RB Pierre Thomas loses to LB Connor Barwin on a screen

> 3rd and 10 and keep momentum is good coverage, then Cox to force a throwaway

> Lucky bad punt for 54, all net

> Ertz with the fumble with a review that shows otherwise, upheld as a fumble, so that's fun

> With the Slurs having the first possession of the second half, that's as bad of a turnover as you could have

> DC with an easy first as the stadium is deflated

> Reed for five as Alonso isn't strong enough to take him down by himself

> RB Alfred Morris for 8 up the gut, DC in firm control now

> Garcon can't get the second foot down against CB Eric Rowe, so the worst red zone defense in the league holds for a down

> Jenkins drops a possible pick, another play that Green needed to have

> Third and actually make a play is Garcon again, no flag on Rowe, and the lack of rushing plays gives the Eagles a chance at a matching score before the half, because Jay Gruden Also Eats Paste

> Hopkins connects from 28, and it's Slurs 16, Eagles 10

> Bounced check down to Sproles, Bradford with the miss

> Ertz for 7, then Sproles for 4 to move the chains, actually a huge play given that the Slurs still have two timeouts

> Ertz with a drop that might have helped, given it didn't take a timeout for 7 yards

> Peters beaten clean again for the sack, and if there is a bigger fraud in the Pro Bowl, I haven't seen it

> Sproles for 12 on the so obvious I called it before it happened checkdown screen to make the Slurs use their last time out

> Weak punt gives DC the ball at their own 29 with 29 seconds left; real chance of another three before the half

> Jackson for the 22 yard out that they needed, terrible defense

> Garcon walks the sideline to get it to the 24, setting up a possible killshot touchdown, because why guard the sidelines

> Delay of game against the defense when Thurmond obviously messes with the ball

> Weirdness with Cousins not spiking the ball, touching referee Walt Coleman on the head, and I have no idea what the blue hell is going on, other than it looks terrible

> Cousins takes a knee in the brain lock of the year, rather than spiking the ball, and the Slurs give up a chip shot field goal for no reason whatsoever

> Slurs 16, Eagles 10, and this division takes a bus that's getting shorter by the week

> Touchback, let's see if the defense can take gift momentum

> Morris for a yard, then Reed on the open cross for 15 as Barwin doesn't get there soon enough

> Thurmond on the not good enough blitz on first helps to force an incomplete, then Cox with a mush rush for his second sack as Cousins doesn't pull the trigger on a deep ball

> Cousins takes the checkdown to Thomas, and the defense gets off the field

> Sproles with the catch, but can't make three men miss; Green ball at their own 10

> Rain picks up as Bradford scrambles, connects with WR Riley Cooper for 42 yards, but the NFL's continuing mystery of what a catch is wastes another Eagle challenge, and Cooper shows how mad he is on the sideline in what we can only hope is his last action as a professional football player

> World's Worst Screen gets 7, but comes back on holding, and wow, This Team Is Badly Coached

> WR Jonathan Krause for the give up check down, and at least the blown review gives the ball back a little slower than usual

> Morris for a yard, then Reed works Thurmond for the first down

> Cousins takes another Cox hit on a throwaway, then Watkins drops a pick as Reed is off message with his QB

> 3rd and 10 and a big stop is a cross to Garcon as obvious holding isn't called, first down

> Jenkins stops Jackson for a bubble screen loss and lets him hear about it, because his team is winning and his coach/GM is a genius

> Cousins misses Jackson in the end zone, well covered by Watkins

> Third and force a long figgie in the rain is Thomas for the cotton-soft conversion against Alonso, who has to be considered one of Kelly's worst personnel whiffs, Which Is Saying Something In A World With Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Matt Sanchez, Brandon Maxwell and Nelson Agholor

> Garcon for four, a Kendricks deflection, and third and yet another chance is a simple cross to RB Chris Thompson for Cousins' third score of the game

> Alonso is really good at staring at people while they score, and might be attempting to develop telekinetic powers, rather than coverage ability

> Huff with a good kickoff return adds a small amount of life

> Murray for 13 on play action, defense didn't cover him for either play

> Murray for 12, defense selling out to passing, then Ertz for 15

> Bradford misses a wide open Agholor, who would have dropped it anyway

> Ertz for three, and it's third down and 7 at the 8, in what might be four down territory

> Murray gets in the end zone as Philadelphia erupts in what has to be considered as delighted surprise, in that it's still somehow a game

> Slurs 23, Eagles 17

> Cousins tries WR Ryan Grant on an out for a drop, then takes Thomas for five

> 3rd and 5 and keep the momentum is Biggers with a deflection against Garcon, and a massive stop

> Sproles fumbles a 57 yard punt, but gets on it; looks like a missed opportunity, but in the rain, that kind of thing happens

> Dropped snap, bad throw to Murray, just glad that play ended

> 8 yards for Murray, who looks invigorated, but then...

> 3rd and 2 and gotta have it is a toss sweep to Murray, who boots it for a Slurs defensive touchdown and the official end of the 2015 season

> Terrible play call, terrible execution

> I have no earthly idea why you'd call a toss sweep to the slowest RB on the roster, when you need just two yards, after putting the ball on the ground two out of the last three plays, and have actually been having some success on middle runs in tempo

> Slurs 30, Eagles 17

> Ertz twice for 9 yards, then Huff to move the chains on a play that's smarter than a toss sweep in the rain, so Kelly's learning, folks

> Bradford for four as the Slur pressure picks up, then the defense kills tempo because why not

> Throwaway on second down, then Ertz drops what should have been a first down

> Morris for three as Kendricks has bad technique, then Grant for 24 as holding isn't called and LB DeMecco Ryans can't cover

> End of the third, Slurs 30, Eagles 17, and the stadium is emptying for cause

> First down for the toss sweep, and it's a good thing that Kelly built this team with character guys, because otherwise that would look like First Class Quitting

> Thomas for 1 as NFLN decides we need to know more about the Washington coaching staff

> Another first on a cotton soft throw to Thomas, and there's absolutely no fight left in Green

> DT Beau Allen with the loss of one, and at least DC won't have enough time to rack up embarrassing rushing totals

> Thomas for 14 as Kiko Alonso Can't Play Football

> 9, 4, and it's hard to care about a game when the defense doesn't

> Jackson doesn't track a touchdown against Jenkins, just late on the back shoulder

> 3rd and just end our misery is Cousins to Garcon for the score as I laugh out loud at S Walt Thurmond biting on a double move on third and goal, because Garcon is certain to try to score on a checkdown from the 8

> I have never seen a dumber or less motivated defense, and I go back to pre-Dick Vermeil Eagles teams

> Cousins to Jamison Crowder for the coup d'etat 2-pointer, and if there has been a play more lightly defensed in NFL history, I haven't seen it

> Slurs 38, Eagles 17 with eight minutes left

> Bradford to Ertz, then takes a sack, then Sproles for 7

> On fourth and two, down 3 scores with 8 minutes left, the Eagles were going to punt, because Kelly wanted to get out of the rain faster

> After the injury timeout, Kelly reconsiders, and Bradford to Sproles moves the chains

> Ertz for 13, then Agholor for 17, and DC Don't Care

> Illegal shift wipes 7 off the board for Ertz, annoying his fantasy owners

> Barner drops a screen, because he's an Oregon Character Guy and we've got to show that Murray isn't the only flaming turd of a RB on the roster

> Ertz for 8, then Bradford makes three guys miss before missing Matthews

> NFLN noticing that Green has no tempo, because No One Cares

> 4th and 7 to Matthews gets it to the 12, in one of those Bradford Has A Chance To Be Good Throws

> Strip sack, C Jason Kelce runs through three guys for a gain after a fumble recovery, and that was kind of fun

> Bradford to Ertz, can't do a one handed catch at the back of the end zone

> Matthews on the cross and scores, because he's really good at getting in the end zone at the end of blowouts while looking pissed off

> Slurs 38, Eagles 24 with 4:34 left

> Wildly easy onside kick recovered by the Slurs, with Garcon doing the honors

> Two runs, two timeouts, just to prove Kelly still cares

> A stop on third and 4, just to prove the defense still cares a little

> Matthews for 6 yards, clock running because a tempo team needs to move slowly

> Sproles for 14 on the world's worst screen, which finally works

> Sproles for 5, Ertz for 8, then a sack with a face mask flag

> Barner loses 7 on a terrible screen, and that's the 2-minute warning

> Matthews for 12 as DC just keeps letting clock burn

> Barner drops a pass in the flat, which would have been a first down and out of bounds

> Fourth and five and stop the fantasy garbage points is a tipped crossing pass, and that's that

> For the second straight year, DeSean Jackson's team ended Chip Kelly, not that we expect the dear little idiot to notice such details

> This might have been the least satisfying year in Eagles history, which is again, a true accomplishment

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why DeMarco Murray's Fit Does Not Matter

Exit Slowly
It's one thing to say that RB DeMarco Murray is less of a fit for the current Eagles offense than Ryan Mathews. Mathews is a one-time high draft pick, a guy who has been a high fantasy choice (albeit more for potential than production), and someone who, if he only discovered the knack of staying healthy, could be a big star. Mathews can be better than Murray and not make Murray a disaster of a signing. Wasteful, perhaps, and unnecessary, but not a disaster.

It's another to say he's less of a fit than Darren Sproles. The only issue that has ever kept the unique small back from being more than a special teams and/or pass-catching Pro Bowler is that you don't want to give a guy his size too many touches, for fear that you'll burn him out. He's also got some mild issues in blitz pick up, and probably isn't your best choice in short yardage, but on a per touch basis, there haven't been many more effective players on the planet than Sproles. (Oh, and he's also pretty old for an NFL RB, but what the hey, Sproles is already on the outlier range for everything else in his career.)

The biggest issue, to my eyes, is Kenjon Barner.

To call Barner street meat is, well, simply a moment of accuracy. He was the 182nd pick of the draft in 2013, a sixth rounder for Carolina. At 5'-9" and 185, he doesn't have true NFL size. He's also not devastatingly fast, honestly, or even all that shifty. He's been in the league for three years, but didn't get off the Eagles practice squad in 2014. If it weren't for a couple of special teams touchdowns in the preseason, he might have lost his spot to Kevin Monangai, a free agent from Villanova who had better measurables, and who hasn't resurfaced in the league after getting cut. He might also just have his job in the NFL due to Kellly's nepotism for Oregon guys.

And maybe I'm making too much of a small sample size -- Barner has 23 carries for 106 yards this year, a 4.6 average, with no touchdowns and one pretty terrible fumble -- but if a guy like that can be more productive than a high-priced free agent, and a guy who had the best numbers among any RB in the league last year?

Well, that's not the system. It's the player.

If the Eagles release Murray -- an idea that seems to be gaining in momentum for reasons that seem to have more to do with preserving his fantasy league value than any real-world utility -- I really don't think he just signs to some other team and is all good again. The Dallas offensive line in 2014 made Joseph Randle look good, too. Randle didn't go much with his touches this year, got released, and hasn't been seen again. Maybe that's just because he's Froot Loops, but still, the NFL tends to put up with that sort of thing if you can help a team win. Finding that kind of historically good situation to be a RB again is really not a given.

More to the point... what team has a demonstrably worse RB situation, that Murray actually improves, right now? What team would prefer to address that issue in the off-season with an aging RB with a high price tag, going on his third team, rather than a fresh college kid with much greater opportunity for explosive gains?

Remember, Murray's longest run from scrimmage isn't past 40 yards in his whole career. That doesn't speak to a true premium talent, even during the glory years, prior to Dallas giving him 450 touches in 2014 because they knew they weren't bringing him back. People want to talk about Murray's one-cut ability, his power in the hole, his ability to fall forward, his ability to get better with more carries... and, well, none of those talents are particularly rare or important. A back with east-west speed can do one-cut decisiveness. Falling forward is a function of offensive line play. Getting better with more carries is of small importance, especially if it means that you toss away the ability to develop depth in the event of injury.

There's a reason why smart teams don't pay top dollar for RBs, or sign big names. That reason is because it's a terrible investment. (For sake of argument, we won't even get into the sideshows about how Murray's been shying away from contact, wearing ski caps on the sidelines, and going to the owner to ask for more touches. Even if it's true, it doesn't really matter for the point of staying focused on actual game.)

The first rule of terrible investments is, of course, do not make them.

The second rule is if you do make one, cut your losses as soon as humanly possible.

And to anyone who thinks that Murray will just go back to Dallas and return to wreak vengeance upon the Eagles?

Well, what part of the 2015 player don't you want on the Cowboys in 2016?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Week 16 NFL Picks: Time Out Of Mind

Yup, Yup
As I write this, it's about 28 to 30 hours before the Christmas experience happens in the Shooter House, and to say we're not ready is to utterly understate the point. The Shooter Wife has two medical visits and a gig, along with a sudden appointment, to get through, along with gift wrapping. (I'd help, but I'm hopeless at this.) The entire family is still short of a couple of presents to take care of, decorations to hang, and I've somehow got to get the eldest and youngest through the experience of last-minute shopping without succumbing to any amount of histrionics. There's the dog to walk, miles to log, three loads of laundry and a visit to my sister's house. It's all an absurd amount of stuff to do, in as short of a time frame as possible, just to make sure no one enjoys any of it, really.

It's also been, well, one long turd of a year, honestly. Illnesses, employment challenges, money worries, starting my own business, struggling to meet fitness and fiscal goals and needs... never ending, much of it not as good as what came before. That's what your mid to late '40s is like, or at least has been for me. What can you live with, what must you fight against, and trying just to make good choices.

Such as with this week's picks, written in haste, decided with caprice, and trying to recover so that we can keep what's been a fine year on the side of the angels.

And with that... on to the picks!

                                               * * * * *

San Diego at OAKLAND (-6) - A big line for an erratic young team, but the Chargers spent their emotional all last week saying good bye to their yard, and just don't have the lines or skill people to get ahead or stay close.

WASHINGTON (+3) at Philadelphia
- While DC has been a terrible road team for most of the year, it's not like Chip Kelly's minions of character and limited ability have done much to defend the home ground. In the de facto NFC lEast title game, take the team with the better skill players (especially at, cough, wideout) and the defense that hasn't given up 40+ points in 3 of the last 5 games. It won't be enough to get Nero run, but oh, Lord, it should be.

NEW ENGLAND (-3) at NY Jets - New England wants the bye, while the Jets are just trying to stay in the picture in the white-hot AFC wild card race. (Shame we couldn't just give the missing team the South crown.) While Green is just as good or better in the trenches, and the Pats are missing pieces, I'm counting on HC Bill Belichick to turn Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick back into, well, himself.

HOUSTON (pick 'em) at Tennessee -- Battle of back ups, so take the team with the best unit. That's Houston's defense, and the home field won't matter.

Cleveland at KANSAS CITY (-12) -- A ton of points to give up, but the Chiefs are on a roll, actually still have a home field advantage, and have a defense that might get the killshot score to make the number on their own.

Indianapolis at MIAMI (-2.5) - Which teams wants it least? Going with the home team with the coach who might be here next year, versus the road team who won't. Oh, and the home team has a QB who isn't on the wrong side of 40, and utterly beaten to hell.

SAN FRANCISCO (+10) at Detroit - Smelling a cover for the road team here, as Detroit's got a short week, not very much to play for, and will be one dimensional due to their terrible running game.

Dallas at BUFFALO (-6) - Do the Bills have any pride after back to back lEastern losses? Hard to say, but a Dallas team with QB4 on the road with no good WRs (Dez Bryant is a name, not a player, at least this year) shouldn't be able to do much against any defense of note. Or even this one.

CHICAGO (+3) at Tampa - Bucs haven't done nearly enough at home to stay in the race, and the Bears might have that don't care any more je ne c'est quoi. That's French for "Jay Cutler Don't Care."

CAROLINA (-7) at Atlanta - Last week was the game that the Panthers should have blown, what with all of the referee malfeasance, weird turnovers, special teams miscues and the like. They won anyway, because they've got the best QB in the NFL this year. Against a Falcons team that's only alive by a thread, they'll smell the 16-0 finish line. Besides, thanks to Arizona, they haven't clinched home field yet.

PITTSBURGH (-10) at Baltimore - A huge number by the historical standards of this alley fight of a division rivalry game, but the Ravens are crippled and starting back ups, while the Steelers are hitting on all cylinders on offense. This week, even the defense will look good.

JACKSONVILLE (+3.5) at New Orleans - Do you feel good about a home favorite with a historically weak defense, and an aging QB with significant injury issues? I sure as hell don't. Go with the Jags and their young weapons to pile up more fantasy goodness.

St. Louis at SEATTLE (-13) - Boy, does Seattle look like world beaters right now or what? Usually this division game is tougher than it looks, but going against QB Russell Wilson when he's this hot takes more faith than I'll ever have in Jeff Fisher on the road.

Green Bay at ARIZONA (-4.5) - To go with the Pack here, you have to be sold on the idea that the Honey Badger really was everything to this defense, so much that the sputtering Yellow line will give QB Aaron Rodgers enough time to match serve. Just not seeing it, especially with a Packer defense that's been erratic at best.

NY Giants at MINNESOTA (-5.5) - Big Blue is without their WR1, on the road in a night game, and could easily be playing for nothing if DC does the job the night before. Oh, and Minny's also a lot better in the trenches. Don't know why NBC flexed this game, but they are probably hating the decision hard now that Beckham's out.

Cincinnati at DENVER (-3.5) - The Bengals won't be able to run it, and QB2 A.J. McCarron isn't going to be able to get it done against a quality defense. Denver will also need the game to hold off the charging Chiefs. For once, MNF will be better than SNF.

Last week: 7-8-1

Season: 121-96-3

Career: 739-728-48

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Young Dirty Beckham

Exhibit A
Yesterday in New Jersey, Odell Beckham pretty much lost his mind during a football game. For play after play, he pretty much stopped playing football, and engaged in an escalating attempt to injure Carolina CB Josh Norman, who might just be the best DB in football this year. Norman had celebrated when Beckham dropped what looked like a long touchdown early in the game, been physical with him without getting a flag, and was otherwise doing a great job of getting the WR off of his game. The Giants were down big, in a contest that was more or less ending their season, and rather than remaining a professional, Beckham became more like a psychopath.

The footage that everyone saw was Beckham launching himself, head first, at the side of Norman's head, after a 15-yard head start, at the end of a play, after the DB had matadored past an earlier attempt at mayhem. The DB was lucky to escape serious injury, and the NFL more or less admitted that the refs blew the call by not ejecting Beckham. Today's make-good of a one game suspension, somehow getting appealed by Beckham under the principle that no appeal ever resulted in the punishment getting worse, confirms that the crew shouldn't be on another NFL game of note this year, at least.

But here's the thing about that play: it was far from an isolated incident. Beckham swung at Norman multiple times, got his hand under the DB's face mask repeatedly, and it was more or less the focus of every play, as a national audience and Fox's "A" team analysts commented on the continuing meltdown. Giants HC Tom Coughlin, on his way out the door at the end of a nightmare season, kept him on the field despite terrible behavior, because Beckham is the Giants' best player, and their only chance to come back from a big deficit against a quality defense. Despite 45 yards in unsportsmanlike calls, the WR stayed in the game, and thanks to multiple Panther giveaways and a score of his own, Blue got all the way back to tied before the defense let them down again for the loss.

What's notable here is that Beckham behaved in a way that will, frankly, endear him forever to a sizable percentage of the Giant fan base. He fought, dammit. He cared. Norman, it can be argued by people with blue-colored glasses or an interest in Beckham helping their fantasy team, instigated the whole afternoon by getting in the first lick, an innocent by comparison post-whistle wrestling move on the play after the drop. No one knows, of course, if Norman said anything to Beckham post-drop that set the powederkeg off, or if the Panther sideline engaged in chippiness, or if someone carrying a bat around in pre-game warmups made Beckham feel like he had to take the law into his own hands and head. It's football; there are no angels in the NFL.

Fans want their teams to hate the opposition, to rage against the dying of the light, to treat every game as if it were their last, and to step over defeated opponents like Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue in the 2000 NBA Championships, in the only game the Kobe/Shaq Lakers lost, and what looked exactly like what Beckham did to Norman after scoring the tying touchdown. Had Blue gotten another turnover and won the game, Beckham would have 5X more defenders today, and maybe even ducks the suspension. We'd be talking about how Blue held momentum, and might be the only NFC lEast team that could actually win a playoff game, because he's no worse than the 2nd or 3rd best WR in the game, and QB Eli Manning has two rings from previous hot winters. Besides, no one else would have beaten Carolina this year.

What happened instead was that the Giants lost, so Beckham gets to take full ire, and look like a crazy loser, especially with the hair and the super slo-mo visuals of a 15-yard charge and spear at Norman's skull. Some will defend him, most will dog pile on the narrative that he's a cheap shot artist, and in all likelihood, the Giants will continue to coddle him, because they have no better option than to hold on tight and hope that a young WR just grows out of this. (If I'm Blue management, I check to make sure that he's aware of the gun laws in NYC. No need to have Plax Burress II.)

Norman, however, isn't the only DB in the NFL who can be physical. While most players can barely stay in the frame with Beckham, Norman can... but every team can send waves of guys at him, now that it's been established that he's got a temper and will put his own situation above the team.

If I'm a Blue fan, I want Beckham suspended for the rest of 2015, because the season's lost anyway. I want him in an anger management class. I want him to get coached from some retired star WR (Is Amani Toomer available?) who gets him to realize that all of these guys are just playing the only card that, to date, seems to work against him. I want the new coach to treat him like a member of the team, rather than an opera diva. And I want the fan base to realize that football is not pro wrestling, or comic book war, and that next year matters, maybe even more than this year, especially when your defense gives up nearly 40 points at home, in an elimination game, in a season where the division winner is going to be one-and-trucked in the first round with a .500 record.

Blue's got one of the best young WRs in the game. They need to figure out how to keep him in it. Before the fans and his own ego takes him out for good. (Or, well, some defender who decides that he's not going to let a teammate take the next spear.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Top 10 Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways

Remember, AZ Is Terrible
10) If you don't think Bruce Arians really dislikes Chip Kelly, he's criminally irresponsible for keeping his starters in until the last three minutes in a 20-point blowout

9) Not only did Marcus Smith play snaps in this game, he also even got near the QB, so that first round pick is totally working out

8) Sam Bradford made just enough great throws and terrible picks to continue his amazing run of satisfying all of his critics and fans

7) Bradford also received the biggest ovation of his Eagles career by coming in to replace Mark Sanchez after one snap off from injury

6) NBC wanted to make this all about DeMarco Murray for the Eagles not using him on a fourth and one near the end of the first half that changed the game, as if the play call and blocking were worth a damn either

5) John Brown dropped enough passes to make the game competitive for most of prime time, for which NBC was very grateful

4) How this was the best matchup to flex into prime time when Steelers-Broncos exists, no one will ever know

3) Only kneeldowns prevented the Cardinals from having 500 yards of offense

2) It's amazing to realize this, but the home team was fortunate to lose by just 23, given the -4 turnover ratio and runaway offensive performance by Arizona

1) The game meant nothing to the Eagles, since they would still need to win their last two games to get into the playoffs, and get their heads kicked in, just like they did in this game

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eagles - Cardinals Diary

Horses Against Tanks, Bet On Tanks
> All healthy scratches for the Eagles (well, Jordan Hicks would be nice to have, but oh well), so all hail the Magic Smoothies

> It took all of a play for Red to terrify with wide open deep balls

> Third and 1 and a rollout shows Red has watched tape of Fletcher Cox and wants none of that

> CB Byron Maxwell got carried for 15 yards by TE Daniel Fells, because money does not buy strength

> It took four minutes for Red to show what happens when good teams play meh ones, and to call that "a little embarrassing", as NBC did, is a little bit of an understatement

> Actual RB1 Ryan Mathews is now actually RB1, and he gets six yards on two plays as Green goes quickly to nowhere

> Wildly important third and long is QB Sam Bradford to WR Jordan Matthews for 30, and still a game

> NBC seems to think we need a clock to show that Tempo Exists

> Mathews got called for holding on a perfect blitz pick up and pancake

> 3rd and 13 to Matthews to convert was massive, but Bradford on the ground afterward is a massive concern

> Most obvious moment in the game was QB Mark Sanchez handing off for his injury replacement snap

> TE Zach Ertz with the life-threatening failure to catch in the red zone

> K Caleb Sturgis connects, and it's Red 7, Green 3, guess it's still a game

> Cox missed on a sack, and the refs missed on a hold, prior to an 18-yard catch for WR / Eagle Nightmare Larry Fitzgerald

> Cox left the field, and Red immediately ran for 8 yards up the gut

> 3rd and somehow get off the field was RB David Johnson making LB Mychal Kendricks miss, and that's pretty much points

> 3rd and inches is power and ease for Johnson to convert, because one of these teams has a competent GM and coordinator, and the other does not

> Brown with his second drop of the game, both of which would have given his fantasy owners much joy

> 3rd and 5 and save four points is a sack from a 3-man rush, because Cox really wants to be the only member of this team to go to the Pro Bowl

> K Chandler Catanzaro connects from 28, and it's Red 10, Green 3, and Technically Still A Game

> Kelly's offense is faster than ever, mostly because they rarely play with a lead and go into Detention Mode any more, and even when they do, they don't sustain drives

> Mathews goes 2 for 4, then Bradford takes the 5-yard checkdown for the speedy three and out that is why this is offense and personnel is a joke

> P Donnie Jones with a decent effort, and it's on the defense to make a stop, when they haven't all night, to keep it a single possession game

> Three and out as Red doesn't get a DPI flag on CB EJ Biggers, shocking on several levels, as Biggers had good coverage and also didn't get flagged

> Mathews for 20 and the first good running play of the game for Green

> Bradford for a scrambly 4, then hits Matthews for a first, and there's no doubt that he's feeling more in tune

> Bradford missed a free play, but redeemed himself with a 22-yard TD to Ertz as Red's defense got confused with 10 players, and stumbled to boot

> This offense can look good when the defense is outnumbered

> Tie game after a made PAT, and heh, Green keeps getting lucky

> Arians wanted a timeout before that play, but, um, nope

> Third and 3 and get off the field with a chance to take the actual lead against a good team is Palmer to Fitzgerald, of course, for 19

> Down 2 DBs now with Rowe out, the defense is entirely on the pass rush

> Biggers with good coverage on a deep ball, then WR Michael Floyd drops a ball on contact; CB Byron Maxwell has to come off

> Third and 10 and good Lord please get a sack is Brown's third drop of the half, and Palmer is throwing darts

> Bradford misses Ertz, then a murder slant to Matthews for five

> 3rd and 5 and keep the ball please is Bradford missing Matthews, and that's not exactly the possession you needed

> PR Patrick Peterson with the near butt fumble, but Red recovers

> Palmer to Floyd for cottony 15 against Maxwell's absurd cushion

> Johnson for 53 yards on a play where the entire defense fails to tackle and wrap up, and while it was a hell of a run by the rookie, the back up DBs made him look like Peak Marshawn Lynch

> Red 17, Green 10, and that's the kind of play that tells you a team isn't ready for prime time, even if they keep getting flexed into it

> KR Josh Huff with a nice return to his own 44

> Matthews with a terrible drop and deflection, luckily not a pick

> Huff for 8, then play action to TE Brent Celek, in no way open, but a perfect back shoulder throw and catch for 21; lucky and good

> Sproles for 3, then Ertz for 6 on play action; tempo on third and short is Sproles on the right flip to move the sticks

> Bradford to Sproles for 5 despite pressure, then the mini-RB gets 2, with actual clock moving to maybe end the half

> Ertz stopped just short of the sticks, and instead of a tempo chance to convert, the refs stopped everything to measure

> Green timeout on fourth and inches, Kelly goes for it and ye gads, Kind Of A Big Play; Red calls timeout as well

> Green down to 2 available CBs, so, um, Not Good

> Kelly runs it up the gut with Mathews, it fails miserably, and no part of that made sense

> NBC wants to make this about DeMarco Murray, because whatevs, he's not converting that idiot play call and botched execution either

> Red drives the ball 40 yards after the fourth down fail, and wind up with 300 yards at the half, because they are, shh, a lot better

> Half ends with Palmer running away from pressure, and Green gets the second half kick, so technically still a game

> Bradford to WR Riley Cooper for 15 with some nice hand fighting for YAC by the big overpaid racist goof

> Mathews for 5, then Ertz misses a short cross that's lucky not to be a pick

> Third and 5 and keep the game manageable is a batted ball and this is in the realm of going away

> Jones to the 12 for a curious fair catch by Peterson

> Johnson for 6, then a wildly open cross to Brown who finally holds on for 19

> Floyd for 5 on a bubble, then Johnson for 19 as Red just pancakes several guys, and LB Kiko Alonso is useless

> Cox makes a play to set up 3rd and 2, and it's kind of the last play of actual drama, as Floyd makes an insane catch, with the play standing up to review

> Johnson walks in, and that should be your ball game: Red 24, Green 10

> Bradford with a pretty great play on third and long from his end zone to Huff to convert

> Cooper converts a third down before fumbling, so thank heavens for small moments

> Murray's first carry of the game, for the thrilling yard

> Bradford to Ertz for the nice play action moment, and another first

> Philly Fan is offically done with Murray, and no one can blame them, really

> Matthews with a long cross and YAC to convert another first

> Play action and offensive line fails, blind side strip sack of Bradford, and yeah, um, good night

> Johnson for a yard against a run blitz, Floyd with a drop, Palmer off for a snap with a bad finger

> QB2 Drew Stanton nearly throws a bad pick on a deep ball, and I guess it's still a game, especially if Palmer isn't right

> Mathews for 4, then 8, it's nice when the RB can run

> Ertz for 17, points notwithstanding, might be Bradford's best game

> Mathews fumbles, and yeah, none of Kelly's imported running backs are good

> It doesn't help when you have the worse team to also turn it over a bunch

> Palmer to Johnson, seems fine if a little gross, first down

> Patrick Peterson decided to dance on the sideline, because, um, whatevs

> Brown with the catch and spin for the score, and I think he was whistling Sweet Georgia Brown at Biggers during the move

> Red 30, Green 10, outclassed at every position

> Pick six for Bradford, and we are oficially in Chuckle Mode

> First really bad play by Bradford and a shame that this is going to be on the highlight reel, because he's played well otherwise

> Bradford to Matthews for a 77-yard score on a coverage breakdown, and at least the QB took a hit for some reason; 20 point game with the rest of the fourth quarter to play

> Defense can't get the three and out on Red just running it with Johnson, because their OL is just that good, and the back is also solid

> Palmer sacked by LB Connor Barwin to make it still within the realm of possibility, as NBC notes that the game means nothing to them; actual Marcus Smith sighting near the QB is officially exciting

> Bradford to Huff for 16, then Ertz gets hurt yet again while trying to get out of bounds, because we can't have nice things

> Bradford to Celek moves the sticks again, then misses Agholor deep, lucky not to be picked

> Agholor is never open, but makes up for it by having poor hands and bad maturity

> Tipped ball on second as S Tyrone Mathieu is all over the field

> Checkdown to Sproles for 6, setting up 4th and this could end it

> Bradford misses Matthews, and that's the end of all drama

> With three minutes left, Palmer was still in the game, throwing to Fitzgerald, while up 20 points, so, um, yeah, Arians officially wants Kelly fired

> Red figgie, Bradford with another pick but with Mathieu getting hurt, and ye gads, Arians is paying a price for trashing Kelly

> The safety walks it off, 4th Green turnover to 0 for Red, and yup, that's what happens when physically overmatched teams play dominant teams

> Kneeldowns, 12-win season for Red, and as ugly as this was, It Just Doesn't Matter if they beat DC next Saturday

> I'd like to initiate investigations against NBC for flexing this game to prime time

Top 10 NFL Week 15 Ad Questions

Noted Cheap Pizza Lover
10) If I give my woman Dior, will she start climbing scarves?

9) Why is Garmin so unclear about, and yet so concerned, with what I like to do?

8) Is Geico's main message with their Peter Pan ad that young people suck, so buy insurance from us?

7) Does Ameritrade feel that ads with quarterbacks only work if there's a painted moron screaming in the corner to punctuate things with a sad attempt at humor?

6) Should someone tell Citizen about smartphones, and that no one under the age of 45 is likely to buy a watch ever again?

5) Can I watch anything on an Apple TV for more than a second?

4) Isn't a charm memories gift just a pop quiz on how little you know about your beloved, or how tragically limited their life is?

3) Are Amazon Prime users prone to small horse canoodling?

2) Shouldn't we do special things for our veterans without the need to have beer companies sponsoring the activity?

1) If you are spending less than $7 on a franchise "pizza", haven't you already made many compromises?

Gymnast Parent Diaries: Unwelcome Drama

Even More Than Usual, Really
People perform at less than 100% all the time. I've done it, you've done it, everyone who has ever groaned their way into an office after a late night has done it. Athletes as well, of course, and there's been any number of times when I've played hockey or golf or poker or hoop or ran when I didn't really feel entirely great about the enterprise. As Woody Allen says, 90% of life is showing up. Showing up matters.

Of course, when you or I show up, we're not swinging from a thin piece of wood while trying to do flips and turns, while wearing a small and tight amount of clothing, as some stranger judges you.

This experience was for my eldest today, completing the second meet in six days. Even under the best of circumstances, this was not a great moment in scheduling, especially with pre-Xmas stress, but it's not as if these things are set up with the greatest amount of planning. The kids need to have so many meets to give them a fair shot at qualifying for States, and the more meets, the more money gets made by the various gyms that host the events. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Which meant that, on some level, the eldest didn't need to go to this one. She's already qualified for States, the event wasn't in any way noteworthy or special, and there wasn't any more drama attached to it than any other. But, still. You're on a team, and 90% of life is repeating cliches. Off she went.

In any gymnastics meet, there's tension for the spectator, because, well, people can get hurt. They don't, as a general rule, because the kids rarely do anything they haven't practiced to death, and the coaches are hovering constantly to make sure nothing happens, but still, bodies in motion and gravity are a potent mix. This is never more in play than when the kid is on bars or beam, since both involve more gravity than floor or vault, and the kid is very focused on not falling, which tends to, well, make falls happen more often than not.

So when your kid looks shaky *before* the event, not from nerves but from some unknown amount of illness-induced dizziness? And when she's got the usual levels of 15-year-old drama regarding competition, both within her own team and other competitors? Not exactly a relaxing spectator experience.

Anyway, she got through it, performed to her near usual levels, won two events and the all-around, and will likely spend the next 36 hours doing very little. Me, I'll be grinding through other tasks, and trying not to watch the videos that I posted of her on social media, because man alive, watching her nearly fall just walking around the mat, then getting on apparatus? Not fun, folks. Not fun at all. Even when it all works out...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Week 15 NFL Picks: It's A Christmas Debacle

Bad Santa
So I've got a 40 inch or so screen in the Man Cave here, and it's nine years old and has been a great thing. HD, works with my laptop to be a poker tournament monitor, fits the enter- tainment center perfectly, makes me happy routinely. This week, after a little over 9 years of service, it's just decided to stop showing a picture. You can unplug it and get back the power light, and you can listen to stuff because the cable and sound is still working fine, but actual video? Not so much. No warning, no options, just a sudden and unequivocal turn into a paperweight. Freaking joyous, especially since I wasn't looking to buy or upgrade the set, or spend significant coin a week before a holiday, in a year that's been a true financial challenge.

Oh, and my nose has been so jammed up with persistent crud from the El Nino non-winter that I'm ready to just cut it off. It hurts like hell every day, is a constant distraction, doesn't get better with any medication or exercise or sleep or nothing.

Also, I'm short on cash, have an exploding amount of crap work to do, can't get a full night's sleep, feel stressed at work, and so on, and so on. As you might imagine, all of this is just doing wonders for my mood, and even less for my Christmas spirit. I'm really just looking forward to the whole thing being over.

Which just seems awful and terrible and wrong, but that's the great part about middle age. You know that every Christmas does not have to be teats and beer, because that's the way the world works, and some times, you just have to slug through it. Buy the replacement set, eat the expense, know that the nose can't stay like this forever, and try to find joy when you can.

Like, say, the picks, which have been on the winning side many more weeks than not. Or the fantasy league, which actually has a chance of not losing money. (For fantasy football and me, this is a Big Deal.)

And with that... on to the picks!

                                                               * * * * *

TAMPA (+2.5) at St Louis -- Tampa crapped the bed last week, but isn't likely to do it again, while opposing a DOA team with only one guy (RB Todd Gurley) on offense who's worth his per diem.

NY JETS (-3) at Dallas -- What does the gambling public need to happen to stop giving the Cowboys short lines? The Jets have a defense, good skill people, and the ability to turn Dallas QB Matt Cassel over, which is to say, they are sentient and warm-blooded. Oh, and one team still has realistic playoff hopes, too.

CHICAGO (-5.5) at Minnesota - Hunch bet for a closer game than the line indicates.

Atlanta at JACKSONVILLE (-3) -- Jaguars put up a 50-burger on the Colts last week, and the Falcons have been roadkill for months now.

Houston at INDIANAPOLIS (even) - Bounce-back game for the Colts, plus the Texans have shorter rest and TJ Yates. Ye gads, the AFC South is horrible.

CAROLINA (-5.5) at NY Giants
- Yes, Big Blue is better than their record, but the Panthers are just as good as theirs, and they are undefeated. Plus, well, shorter rest and a monstrous defense.

Tennessee at NEW ENGLAND (-14) - A lot of points to carry, but the Titan defense isn't good, the Pats are usually deadly at home, and they've got just enough injuries for HC Bill Belichick to pull out the Super Genius Card.

BUFFALO (-1) at Washington -- Just not seeing the Bills crapping the bed in back to back weeks, or the Racial Slurs making it. In the trenches, assuming they aren't making it a penalty fest, Buffalo's a lot better.

KANSAS CITY (-7.5) at Baltimore
-- The Chiefs survived a scare game last week against the Chargers at home, so this line looks high for a road game... until you consider that the Ravens have had an injury record his year that makes one wonder if they stole the team from some other city or something. What a schedule this team has been gifted with; it's going to make their first round playoff defeat so obvious.

Cleveland at SEATTLE (-14.5)
-- Again, a lot of points, but the 'Hawks have been explosive recently, and I'm betting the Browns' run defense won't be able to stop whoever gets the carries for the home team. (Latest word is that's old friend Bryce Brown, on something like his fifth team in three years. Dude's still fast and can turn the corner against air, though.)

GREEN BAY (-3) at Oakland -- All kinds of Trap Game writ large on this one, but (a) they figured some things out in the running game last week, and (b) I don't believe in Trap Games, seeing how you always remember when they happen, and not the 12 other times when they didn't.

DENVER (+6.5) at Pittsburgh -- Just think this number is too high, and that people are overreacting to a bad drop day that cost the Broncos against Oakland last week. The Steeler defense is prone to giving up big plays, and as explosive as the offense can be, they also aren't nearly as deadly in the red zone as the were when they had LeVeon Bell. The home team wins, but doesn't cover.

Miami at SAN DIEGO (-2) - Dog teams, dog game, so give me the dog with more rest and less travel. No chance anyone will be watching this one for anything but fantasy and gambling issues. (I.e., gambling and more gambling.)

CINCINNATI (-4.5) at San Francisco - Gut check time for the Bengals, who are hearing all kinds of Choke Noises and have to win a road game with QB2. They'll get it done with an ugly grinding running game, and a defense that will treasure a game without plus weapons.

ARIZONA (-3.5) at Philadelphia - Philly doesn't really need the game, as all they have to do is win Week 16 and 17 to get the division. Arizona is a lot better in a lot of places, and while the home team might get frisky on the defense and elsewhere, that's not how you bet.

Detroit at NEW ORLEANS (-3). Just for the home crowd. Yet another terrible game for ESPN; couldn't happen to more deserving people,

Last week: 9-7

Season: 114-88-2

Career: 732-720-47

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Sixers And Jerry Colangelo Should Trade For Guys Who Will Hurt Them In The Long Run

Time Tested, Philly Media Approved
So just as we're getting to the very end of The Process, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's actual long-term plan to (a) put the team in a position to have actual assets to build a championship contender, rather than yet another middling lEastern team that deludes itself into conversations where they actually beat teams with Star Power, and (b) auditions the flotsam of the Association in the hopes that some of it will stick and be cheap and usable bench fodder for later, when the franchise is actually ready to compete...

Well, it's time to change horses, because the current team has a very bad regular season record and isn't winning games at the we're not really interested in winning games level that was previously tolerated. And we'll do that by bringing in a guy in his '70s (Jerry Colangelo), who has (shh!) never won a ring, and he'll bring in his cronies (Mike D'Antoni, last seen trying to turn the Old Kobe and Mercenaries Lakers into an 8 seconds or less team, because smart coaches know that scheme works regardless of talent). Then, the team will trade for veterans and stop being an embarrassment by winning at a 30% clip, rather than a 10% clip. Despite the fact that the fan base isn't embarrassed, because for the most part, the fan base understands what's being done, and is just hanging out until the meal is actually made.

Oh, and here's an aside: why is anyone happy, or even tolerating, the plain as day tampering that the NBA head office is said to have done here? If my GM is making the rest of the league unhappy, I don't need someone coming in and messing that up. I need the rest of the league to put on their big boy pants and stop crying to Daddy Silver about how the mean nerd made them feel bad about their trades later, and his Only Way To Build A Real Contender tankers make their marketing team work harder to fill their building. (World's smallest violin for you mooks, honestly.)

Seriously, does this make any sense to you? Well, then you must be your average sports talk radio host or guest, who have been chortling at how Arrogant Scam Hinkie is Finally Getting His, and will be run out of town on a rail any minute now, as soon as Papa Colangelo, who comes with NBA League approval, bends him over his knee and spanks. (It is best not to think about how happy it makes old sports talk radio people when a younger person, with an education and actual new ways of thinking, is laid low. At best, its depressing; at worst, nausea. Anyway, moving on.)

Now honestly, even if you're skeptical of Hinkie and think the Sixers management has been running a con and/or doing unpardonable karmic sins to the sport and art of basketball... does a mid-season GM move make any sense to you? It's not as if there are quality NBA free agents that are readily available to do better; there's a whole D-League filled with guys that the Sixers have been trotting in and out for years that prove that. Trading for some average older guys only really makes sense if you are convinced that they will add to a positive teaching environment, and you'd have to be some kind of saint among NBA players to talk yourself into that mission now. There's a reason why guys like Andrei Kirilenko never showed up after being dealt here, and why JaVale McGee wasn't long for the laundry, either, and Jason Thompson didn't exactly show up to camp with a Sixers tattoo, and Carl Landry isn't buying real estate and doing interviews about how great it is to work with the kids. Actual vets who can play want as much to do with a tear-down as they want with going back to college to play for free and the Love Of The Game. Love don't pay the bills, honey child, and hanging out with people who can't drink legally isn't exactly a fun post-game situation.

So let's call the Colangelo move for what it is. If he has no power and Hinkie is still pretty much free to do what he wants, he's a sop to saps, and some figurehead that the league foisted on naughty children who found a loophole and have exploited it for all that they are worth. If he's the new actual GM and Hinkie's a dead man walking, then he's the wrong guy in the wrong time, because we've all endured way too much for way too long to just go back to the 30-win treadmill that Ordinary GM work produces. If he's here to just reap the benefits of what Hinkie wrought, and take too much credit when Dario Saric and (please Lord) Joel Embiid actually take the court, that's nearly as big of a screwing to Hinkie as he's given to the rest of the NBA, not to mention those people who gave up high draft picks for the pyrite that is Michael Carter-Williams (not starting for the Bucks), Elfrid Payton (not anything close to a league average starting point guard for the Magic), and the moderate pain that is Nik Stauskas' rookie contract for, honest and for true, a first round pick swap from Sacremento so they could overpay Rajon Rondo. (Oh, and another note to Philly's detestable media: having the worst record assures you of very little in the lottery, or haven't you paid any attention to the last three years? Having the option to swap with the Kings in case of disaster is a very good thing. The kind of thing very good GMs do, in the midst of a teardown.)

If the current Sixers won a handful more games, and just have the worst record in the league rather than a comical single win, is Colangelo around to fill up talk radio airwaves from his assisted living home in Arizona? Does anyone really care if this team has one win right now or five? Is it so much better to watch guys that we know will never be any good, as opposed to guys who still have a chance?

People who want to hate on Hinkie remind me of people who agree to a surgery, then want to stop it halfway through the operation. Look at all the blood! The dude stabbed him a lot! He's a maniac! He doesn't know what he's doing! Stitch me back up and everything will be fine!

Um, no. The team that Hinkie took over had absolutely nothing, beyond draft picks, that was of any interest to anyone. (You might remember them as the team with Established NBA People like Billy King and Doug Collins, who went all-in for Andrew Bynum and his balsa wood knees.)

This team has a 19-year-old big man with a beautiful offensive game (Jahlil Okafor), a 25 year-old with elite three and D potential (Robert Covington), a 22 year-old big man with Defensive Player of the Year abilities (Nerlens Noel), the best player in the world who isn't in the NBA (Saric) and an absurd number of picks in next year's draft. It's also got a bunch of very athletic guys who aren't real players yet, but might be later. Along with all of the cap room you'd ever want, in a free agent class with actually useful players, and the very live lottery pick of the consensus best talent in the 2014 draft (Embiid). It might not all work together as presently constituted -- Noel and Okafor haven't exactly been Twin Towers -- but that's what trade bait is for. Whoever has the GM gig next year is going to have one of the better situations in the NBA, along with a primed to explode fan base, in a town where three of four franchises Have No Clue.

So who really cares how many wins the 2015-16 version has? And why would anyone with a shred of integrity want to run the guy who had the vision and patience to put that together? And if they blow it with a bunch of overpriced free agents with hollow numbers, who put them back on the .500ish treadmill while taking touches, money and focus away from the kids without hard ceilings?

Then all of this will have been for nothing, and the only truly intelligent plan executed by a Philadelphia pro team in the last five years will have been ruined in the last six months.

There's a reason why this is the worst sports media town in America, folks. (Seriously, it is. A relentless collection of guys who got stopped from going national or to New York, who then spend the rest of their lives taking it out on the world.) And they keep dragging every franchise down with them...

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