Sunday, November 19, 2017

Eagles - Cowboys Takeaways: The Beatdowns Continue

I Enjoy Seeing This Often
Top ten takeaways from a game where the Eagles played their worst offensive quarter of the season, failed to take advantage of multiple turnovers on the road, and still won going away to wrap up the division before Thanksgiving...

10) If the kicker is concussed, I guess we can give him a pass for missing a short fied goal

9) Another week, another 4-way split of fantasy points for the running backs, with 200+ yards on the ground

8) Having CB Ronald Darby back to join in the fun is officially nice

7) If this was simply a case of the Eagle offense needing a half to burn off the rust from a bye, this team is officially terrifying

6) It says something impressive to a team's depth where the backup LB is able to do a credible job on kickoffs

5) DE Derek Barnett continues to make impact plays, and might actually be the best pass rusher on the team now

4) Without RB Zeke Elliott, Blue is just not nearly as explosive as you might expect

3) If you'd like to call QB Dak Prescott a paper tiger with 3 picks in a must-have home game, I won't disagree

2) WR Alshon Jeffery might not have WR1 numbers given Wentz's Throw It To Everyone mentality, but the eye test is another matter entirely

1) We're sorry, America, this team just isn't interested in prime time games with drama

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Week 11 NFL Picks: Unsustainable

Ayup, Ayup
Second in my points league. Having the best year in picks in years. Riding a winning streak in my head to head league. My football laundry is 8-1, top seed in the conference, looking the best they've looked in decades. My basketball laundry is the most fun young team in the league.

If only the President weren't an active embarrassment, and my finances were in order, and my family on the same coast as me...

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Best of times, worst of times, nothing in the middle of times.

On to the picks!

* * * * *

TENNESSEE (+7) at Pittsburgh

DETROIT (-3) at Chicago

Baltimore at GREEN BAY (+2)

Jacksonville at CLEVELAND (+7.5)

Arizona at HOUSTON (-1)

LA RAMS (+2) at Minnesota

Washington at NEW ORLEANS (-7.5)

KANSAS CITY (-10.5) at NY Giants

Tampa at MIAMI (-1)

Buffalo at LA CHARGERS (-4)

Cincinnati at DENVER (-2.5)

NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) at Oakland

PHILADELPHIA (-4) at Dallas

Atlanta at SEATTLE (-2.5)

Last week: 7-4-1

Season:76-65-2

Career: 956-954-37

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Week 10 NFL Picks: Time Is Fleeting, Madness Takes Its Toll

Who wants an earworm?
The fun of making all of your picks early due to the continuing abomination that is Terrible Night Football is that you wind up with plainly insane things like Tom Savage as a double-digit home favorite.

Of course, given the way Life Is Right Now, I might have taken him anyway, Just Because the Colts? Also terrible.

Oh well; the Eagles are the best team in the NFL, I'm having my best fantasy season ever, and I own Carson Wentz for a minimum bid in my auction keeper league. Smile!

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

SEATTLE (-6) at Arizona

MINNESOTA (-1.5) at Washington

PITTSBURGH (-10) at Indianapolis

LA Chargers at JACKSONVILLE (-4)

NY Jets at TAMPA (+2.5)

CINCINNATI (+4.5) at Tennessee

New Orleans at BUFFALO (+2.5)

CLEVELAND (+12) at Detroit

Houston at LA RAMS (-12)

Dallas at ATLANTA (-3)

NY Giants at SAN FRANCISCO (+1)

NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) at Denver

MIAMI (+9) at Carolina

Last week: 6-7

Season: 69-61-1

Career: 949-950-36

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Eagles - Broncos Takeaways: Getting Used To Prosperity

Can't Get Enough Of This
As Eagle fans, we're really not emotionally prepared for this team.

We've spent the better part of half a century, with occasional moments of delusion (The Foles Year, moments of Bobby Hoying and Kevin Kolb, the Miracle at the Meadowlands II game with Mike Vick) and wary optimism (the McNabb Era), hoping for That QB. You know, the one that *other* teams had, the one that extended plays and made good decisions and threatened a defense all over the field. While also not getting hurt.

And now we've got that guy. Who is all of 25 games into his career, which means he's really likely to get better.

We've spent the better part of a generation remembering the way defense used to be, when opposing teams just gave up on the running game and the secondary made picks, and there was just play after play of the quarterback eating turf.

And now we've got that defense.

We've spent the better part of half a century wondering why the other teams had young guys that got better, why they had magic coaches and we had single unit savants who derped their way into playoff losses. And sure, the latter part could still happen, and HC Doug Pederson is late to the party of Trust Carson Wentz and End Teams Aggressively, but he's actually getting there. Along with all of the good stuff happening in terms of personnel development.

So. 8-1, best team in the league, going on a bye.

Are there still things to worry about?

10) All you need to know about football gross statistics: Denver's Brock Osweiler threw for more yards today than Carson Wentz. 208 to 199. Also, even time of possession

9) If you've ever needed confirmation that NFL personnel overrate height, consider how much money Osweiler has made in this league. Or that he continues to get work. Oh, and yeah, a Colin Kaepernick comment would go here, but if anyone actually thinks that isn't collusion and a screw job, I've got a bridge to sell you.

8) The Eagles' 4-man RB committee combined for 197 yards rushing today, with rookie RB Chris Clement getting the biggest fantasy win of the day (66 yards, 3 TDs).

7) Here's how good the defense has been: 226 net yards, and it still felt like one of their worse efforts of the year.

6) Nice to see TE Brent Celek looking spry and useful, with starting TE Zach Ertz out with a hamstring injury. Count me among the Trey Burton skeptics, but the dude just keeps making plays.

5) Not to be too on the nose about this, but honestly? 51 points with a missed PAT, all of the touchdowns coming on offense, against a very good defense, playing for their lives. Oh, and without your starting TE or LT. The ceiling just keeps rising for this offense.

4) I don't know if the Jay Ajayi trade is really going to be such a slam dunk -- dude has knee issues that might not be going away -- but a 4th round pick is pretty chintzy for a guy that had that level of burst for his 8 carries, and his TD was downright pornographic. I'm still pining for LeSean McCoy (and to a lesser extent, Darren Sproles). McCoy was the best RB that the franchise ever had who was traded away for a bag of crap because Chip Kelly was a quasi-racist arsonist, but four guys who all seem to do good things is also nice. And a lot less worrisome in the case of injury.

3) Today's game was watched in a mediocre sports bar where I ate too much and had to have the management switch the screen back to the game in the third quarter, because the national feed turned off the game when it become Devoid of Drama. It's downright freakish, how the best eras in Eagle history parallel my physical presence leaving the area. Oh, and no one in the Bay Area cares about football any more. Honestly, the only people who care are transients.

2) Something else that I can't quite wrap my head around: the Eagles getting the better part of the officiating. Just not something we're used to. Also, Denver played really sloppy football today, and the league's refs seem to think every game is an opportunity to audition for an open mic.

1) 8-1, best record in the NFL, and honestly starting to think more about other teams in the conference (New Orleans? Los Angeles?) than teams in the division. Just what we expected, right?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Week 9 NFL Picks: Bye Standers

Folks -- Status quo in re time, life, and the continued neglect of the picks column. And because Karmic Gods are powerful creatures, after pointing out that I had achieved perfect .500 last week... I went perfect .500 again. Hard to do with an odd number of games, but ties exist for reasons.

On to the picks!

* * * * *

BUFFALO (-3) at NY Jets

ATLANTA (+1) at Carolina

Indianapolis at HOUSTON (-12.5)

Cincinnati at JACKSONVILLE (-5)

Tampa at NEW ORLEANS (-7)

LA RAMS (-3.5) at NY Giants

Denver at PHILADELPHIA (-8)

BALTIMORE (+3.5) at Tennessee

Arizona at SAN FRANCISCO (+2)

Washington at SEATTLE (-7.5)

KANSAS CITY (-1) at Dallas

Oakland at MIAMI (+3)

DETROIT (-2.5) at Green Bay

Last Week: 6-6-1

Season: 62-54-1

Carer: 943-943-36

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Eagles - Niners Takeaways: Humdrum Beatdown

To be fair, Niner Fan said this in Week 1
For the second time in six days, the Eagles won a home game by a lot against a team they should beat by a lot. With the win they got to 7-1, on top of the football world, and it says something to the expectations involved, and today's utterly moribund opponent, that a 23-point win comes with some concerns. Here's mine.

10) Let's start with the positives for head coach Doug Pederson; he's clearly coaching up guys who weren't very good for this team just a year ago. WR Nelson Agholor is the obvious pick here, but the more important player moving forward is LB Mychal Kendricks, who is going to have to do lots of good things with LB Jordan Hicks seemingly done for the year. Kendricks was a beast today, but it was more than the physicality; he's also making plays in pass coverage that he's never pulled off before. On a day where the defense was dominant, Kendricks was one of the bigger reasons why.

9) Pederson's play calling, despite the team's 7-1 record, stills leave a lot to be desired. He always goes safe after a negative play, keeps trying to establish RB LeGarrette Blount on plays that aren't very suited to his skill set, and in general, surprises no one with the play calls. San Francisco was in this game for nearly an entire half, and really shouldn't have been. Pederson's part of the reason why.

8) If you'd like to ignore the NFL, there really isn't a better part of the country to do it outside of the Bay Area. The Niners are now off to the worst start in their history, and Oakland just got absolutely punked by Buffalo; the latter is also leaving fairly soon. I'm thrilled with how this year has been going, but living out here just means the games don't feel as exciting. No one really cares; I watched this game from a stationary bike in a gym, and very few of the monitors were on the Niners.

7) Speaking of SF, they start rookie QB CJ Beathard, and man alive, he's.. not good. I get that he's mobile and willing to take a beating, but the accuracy isn't there, and there's nothing about him that says he's more than a QB2 that you never want to see. I'm not sure the Niners have any better ideas, but at least QB Brian Hoyer has, at times, resembled an NFL starter. I'd probably start him as well, because 0-8 is 0-8. But teams that don't win games have guys who give up and free agents you don't want, and it really wouldn't surprise me if this SF team completes perfection with 8 more whiffs.

6) Not QB Carson Wentz's best day. He held the ball too long too often, perhaps trying to recreate last Monday night's magic, missed some open guys, and threw a bad pick on what might have been a miscommunication with rookie WR Mack Hollins. But it says something to his development as a QB that on a wet day with middling OL work, he winds up 18 of 32 for 211, 2 TDs, a 2-point conversion and 7 yards on 2 runs. If this is the floor now, we remain thrilled.

5) One more for the Peterson's a great coach outside of Game Day: Zach Ertz continues to treat the end zone in 2017 like it was the first down sticks. For a guy who just had the yips for his entire career before this year, this continues to be a welcome transformation.

4) Great game for DE Vinny Curry, who is really coming into his own this year as an all-around disruptive force. Curry was all over this game, isn't a one trick rush the passer pony any more, and has given this team a fantastic rotation of edge rushers. Kudos to rookie DE Derek Barnett, who seems to be catching up to NFL speed just in time, too.

3) The Eagle touchdown celebrations with baseball pantomime is downright inspired, and today's bit (Ertz throwing a bean ball at WR Alshon Jeffery after the latter's TD, and Jeffery charging the mound) made me LOL. It's really not a small thing that this team seems to enjoy each other's company to this level.

2) CB Jalen Mills gets targeted a ton, and has really held up against the pressure. SF clearly doesn't present much in the way of difficulties here, but it was still fun to see the green-topped CB take one to the house. With presumptive CB1 Ronald Darby getting close to returning, and maybe even some late season help from stash CB draft pick Sidney Jones, the team's shockingly good unit might get even better soon.

1) Put the credit for this game squarely where it belongs: on the defense. The only score they gave up was a short field TD after Wentz's lone pick, they turned the game around with turnovers in the first half, and the season-low yards allowed was even more impressive after you factor out a fair amount of Beathard just running for his life. For a dreary day against a dreary opponent, they were everything you could ask for.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Week 8 NFL Picks: Dead Solid Coin Flip

Folks -- I continue to live in a world where free time is a sad little joke, which also matches the fun sidebar of the career mark now landing at exactly 50-50 -- only after a little more than 1,900 use cases. Let's pretend that I've learned something, and am getting better. And with that, on to the picks!

* * * * *

Miami at BALTIMORE (-3)

Minnesota at CLEVELAND (+9.5)

OAKLAND (+2.5) at Buffalo

Indianapolis at CINCINNATI (-10)

LA Chargers at NEW ENGLAND (-7)

Chicago at NEW ORLEANS (-9)

ATLANTA (-5) at NY Jets

San Francisco at PHILADELPHIA (-12.5)

CAROLINA (+2.5) at Tampa

Houston at SEATTLE (-5.5)

DALLAS (-2) at Washington

Pittsburgh at DETROIT (+3)

Denver at KANSAS CITY (-6.5)

* * * * *

Last week: 8-6-1

Season 56-48-1

Career: 937-937-35

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Eagles - Washington Takeaways: Welcome to Carson City

Nothing But Blue Skies
Tonight in South Philly, the Eagles came out flat as a pancake in a division game with the Washington Racial Slurs. DC failed in the red zone, got caught up in the wash of bad flags from a camera-happy crew, and didn't play their best game either, but their offense was ripping off chunk plays, their QB (Kirk Cousins) was operating at a high level, and their running game wasn't so useless, as so many Eagle opponents have been this year, to become one-dimensional. At 10-3 DC after a walk-in score 20 minutes into the game, the road team had a 178-32 advantage in yardage, and this looked like it was getting away fast. Young team can't handle prosperity; a tale as old as time. Oh, and guys kept getting hurt, too. It wasn't looking good.

Then, safety Malcolm Jenkins made a form perfect stop on a 3rd and 1 in the flat. The offense sputtered for a first down running it, with QB Carson Wentz sneaking for one, then taking a terrible sack when he tried to make two men miss at once, rather then throwing it away.

Oh, and then Wentz hit rookie WR Mike Hollis on a warhead of a 64-yard strike. In a blink, the game was tied, the tide had changed, and the Monday Night Football audience saw what might be (shh!) the best QB in the NFL right now.

DC failed again on a third and one, showing that no down and distance would make them trust their running game. Wentz, suddenly smelling blood in the water, hit a deep ball to TE Zach Ertz, got closer with a DPI call on a corner ball to WR Alshon Jeffery, then connected with Ertz again in the flat for the score, Then he drove the home team out of the locker room on a drive, kept their heads in the game when star T Jason Peters left on a cart, and gave up his body on an absurd toss to RB Corey Clement, in the end zone at the tie. From 10-3 down to 24-10 up, in just over 8 minutes of clock time.

Oh, and no one is going to remember any of that in the long run, because it wasn't Wentz emerging from a mob of defenders to shake free for a back-breaking conversion off a scramble. That only set up his fourth TD of the night, the Eagles' second 14-point lead, and the de facto kill shot with 11 minutes left in the game.

The Eagles weren't a dramatically better football team tonight. If you look at the box score, it's pretty much a coin flip -- total yards, turnovers, time of possession, sacks allowed, penalties taken are all right in range with each other. There were also no dramatic special teams plays to sway the flow of the game.

But they had Carson Wentz, the best QB in the game right now, since Tom Brady can't run and Aaron Rodgers is hurt. He's just had the best two games of his pro career, in back to back weeks. He's the QB of the league's only team with one loss. He's 2.5 games up in the division, with a home game against a winless team next up on the schedule, with the 2nd and 3rd place teams playing each other.

You don't win anything for being the best team in football in late October. But it's sure a hell of a lot of fun regardless, and an incredible feeling to have a margin for error and flat play taking the snaps.

More stray thoughts from Carson's second straight national audience coming-out party...

10) Peters going down might be devastating, especially once this team gets back to hard games on the road. Kudos to the man for looking so calm and fired up on the cart, though. I hope like hell that's not the last time we see him in the laundry.

9) Watching TE Josh Reed shred this defense reminds one of the importance of linebackers. The Eagles were missing both of their best tonight, and won the game anyway. Useful.

8) If K Josh Elliott has to miss kicks occasionally, up 10 with 1:45 left is the time to do it, honestly.

7) The Eagle rushing attack sans QB: 25 for 64, and if you factor out the one time that RB LeGarrete Blount got loose late, it was 24 for 43. Add Wentz back in, and it goes to 33 for 127. Dude was everything tonight.

6) Is it me, or are the refs trying to justify their full-time salaries now by calling an inordinate amount of penalties? Tonight, the clubs went 14 for 110, and it only seemed like all of them came in the first half. It's getting hard to watch, honestly.

5) As good as DC played for much of the first half, they never got more than 7 points ahead, and were a bouncing fumble off a punt return from early disaster. They play hard, Cousins isn't bad and RB Chris Thompson is genuinely talented, but this club just doesn't seem to take enough advantage of good fortune to be dangerous.

4) If coming from North Dakota is the source of Wentz's super powers, as ESPN irritant Jon Gruden asserts, why don't more teams just hire guys from cold climates? Oh, right, because where you are from doesn't freaking matter. (Oh, and Jon -- if you are going to stick with this idiotic line of "analysis", please let us know which parts of the country aren't as tough as the Dakotas. Have at it, sir! Where are the wimp states?)

3) Nice to see DE Derek Barnett get into the action. Oh, and that's another fun point from Gruden -- the idea that the Eagles are the only team in football to rotate in fresh shock troops on the defensive line. As if.

2) Four guys with touchdown catches in this one, no one with more than 5 catches, because (a) the defense couldn't get off the field, and (b) HC Doug Pederson rarely wants to see this offense run tempo. Also, I think he's trying to kill your fantasy team. (Me, I have Wentz in my keeper league, and Jake Elliott wherever I can get him, and that's working out.)

1) I saw this game on an ESPN Desportes monitor in a gym while pedaling for three hours, with my phone giving me the English ESPN feed on a delay of about three to five minutes from what was happening on screen. Long story short... I've had worse times. At least the Spanish guys and teleprompter just fill my head with stuff I don't understand, rather than stuff I know is gibberish...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Brief And Pointless Rant About Locker Room Behavior

Also A Spitter
I work out, because that's what my brain and body chemistry allow, something like 6 out of every 7 days or so. I do so at any number of gyms, because I do ride share for extra money, and have a membership with a chain that has something like 50 locations in the greater metropolitan area. (When you do ride share, you can be, well, anywhere. The job flexibility isn't exactly total. Also, the gym membership means I always have a bathroom I can use within range. Moving on.)

In nearly every one of these gyms, after nearly every one of these workouts, I shower. I sweat a lot as a general rule, and to catch up to my goals for the year, I have to go pretty hard. What I encounter in the shower is, more often than not, this:

Some dude making ridiculous throat noises in some other shower. Which echo in the valley, and rattle in the dell, and happen so often that when it *doesn't* occur now, I notice.

It would be one thing if it were old guys with respiratory problems. But the folks in my gyms are 95% younger than me, because I tend to go later at night, when older guys are long gone. These are young uns who think that spitting is the new peeing to mark their territory, or maybe the ghosts of previous members trying to clear their spectral systems of unholy phlegm... no idea. It's not like I'm going to go find the perp and tell him, um, dude?

YOU ARE FREAKING DISGUSTING YOU ARE NOT IN A PRIVATE PLACE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF SOME OF US ARE JUST TRYING TO WASH OFF THE STINK AND GET OUT OF HERE WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT WHATEVER HORROR IS IN YOUR GODDAMN THROAT AND NOW ON THE FLOOR WHERE I HAVE TO WALK I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK

(breathes)

Honestly, I try to remain open minded. The older I get, the more the temptation to judge everything that is younger than you as Going To Hell In A Handbasket goes off the charts, and that way lies Grumpy Old Man Codgerdom. I don't want to be that guy. It's a daily war to fight that urge, especially when I'm driving around picking up rando ride sharing strangers and trying to be pleasant as people who are young enough to my kids pule about stuff that should barely matter to them, let alone the people who you temp hire to schlep you around. I also have a pretty low bar for locker room decorum. All I want is to get out of there before someone starts babbling about politics, or his workout, or whatever.

But... Jebus... Seriously...

Can y'all please stop treating a shared public space like it's a hated rival on the battlefield? Or maybe just learn that the rules for You Are In Public are different than No One Can See Or Hear You?

Week 7 NFL Picks: The New Abnormal

Folks -- each week I mean to get back to a long form column, and each week I just pass out around this time in the week, because that's just what my schedule and life are like now. Priorities. Also, well, picks.

* * * * *

KANSAS CITY (-3) at Oakland

Tampa at BUFFALO (NL)

CAROLINA (-3) at Chicago

TENNESSEE (-6) at Cleveland

NEW ORLEANS (-4.5) at Green Bay

JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) at Indianapolis

Arizona at LA RAMS (-3.5)

NY Jets at MIAMI (-3)

Baltimore at MINNESOTA (-5.5)

Dallas at SAN FRANCISCO (+6)

Cincinnati at PITTSBURGH (-5.5)

DENVER (NL) at LA Chargers

SEATTLE (-5.5) at NY Giants

ATLANTA (+3) at New England

Washington at PHILADELPHIA (-5)

Last week: 3-10

Season: 48-42

Career: 929-931-34

Friday, October 13, 2017

2017-2018 Fantasy Basketball Draft: Whipsaw Bone

The quick five-step process to feel like you've really boned your auction draft...


1) Get priced out on the one guy you wanted to go all-in on, then overpay for second-round talent. (For this year, for me, that was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who went for the high water mark of $86 on a $200 budget. Last year, I stuck the landing on Russell Westbrook at $85.)

2) Get fixated on guys you had last year, and (probably) pay too much for them. That'd be Green, Gobert and Johnson. (Warren and Harkless, not so much.)

3) Fight depression in the middle rounds, because you've overspent on your top 3 guys, and you haven't mentally adjusted to, duh, 14 team league, not 12.

4) Schedule the draft in the middle of a football game for your laundry. Fly, Eagles, Fly!

5) Have a 10+ year track record of finishing fairly well in leagues, so every time you get involved in the bidding on guys, other owners jump in your action.

Having said all that... might be a decent team. We'll defend, I should have nine startable guys every week, I don't have any FT% horrors, and Draymond lets you be short a point guard because he's just that way. But as always, will need health and luck and time I don't have to manage a team. (Pick that makes me very happy: Jonathan Simmons for $7 late. He looks otherworldly so far this year.)

Sexing Mutumbos
Budget$200
1.(17)Draymond Green (GS - SF,PF,C)$44
2.(18)Rudy Gobert (Uta - C)$61
3.(22)Damian Lillard (Por - PG)$54
4.(58)Victor Oladipo (Ind - PG,SG)$17
5.(91)Patrick Beverley (LAC - PG,SG)$4
6.(92)T.J. Warren (Pho - SF)$1
7.(96)James Johnson (Mia - SF,PF)$7
8.(105)Jonathon Simmons (Orl - SG,SF)$7
9.(117)Zach Randolph (Sac - PF,C)$2
10.(142)Jeremy Lamb (Cha - SG,SF)$1
11.(152)Justin Holiday (Chi - SG,SF)$1
12.(157)Maurice Harkless (Por - SF)$1

Eagles - Panthers Top 10 Takeaways: Quick And Dirty

I didn't get to see too much of this -- was screwing up my fantasy basketball league with a classic whipsaw auction draft bone job, and only saw it on my phone-- but here's what I got second hand.

10) It takes work to almost lose a game when you are +2 on the turnover score, but Doug Pederson is freaking talented. But I do have to give him props for pulling the PAT off the board and sticking the 2-point conversion with an open formation power run by RB LeGarrette Blount. That was porny.

9) Carolina's running backs tonight: 14 carries for 11 yards. No, seriously. Cam Newton will make the final numbers seem OK because he ran for 71, but the Eagle defensive line might be the best in football right now.

8) I'm not emotionally prepared to live in a world where Zach Ertz is good at the end zone, but nowhere else. It's Bizarro Land, folks.

7) Wentz's final numbers don't look that great -- 16 of 30 for 222 -- but the 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and 25 yards on the ground are damn fine, thank you. Second straight game where he's popped for multiple scores.

6) K Graham Gano didn't get a chance to hit a long figgie before the half, which really hampered the Panthers in the desperate final drive. So it's not as if Pederson was the only coach on the field with odd decision making in his wheelhouse.

5) I get that Newton had no running game tonight, but he could have been picked a half dozen times, honestly. He just doesn't look right.

4) Amazing that the defense just got the kill shot on 4th and 1 at midfield from the bad final pass. I've watched this laundry for a long time, and to get breaks like that at the close is Not Us, People.

3) The most important stat in the box score to me: 7.0 yards per pass for the good guys, 4.3 for the home team.

2) Nelson Agholor might make the Pro Bowl as a slot receiver. I wouldn't have given him a 25% chance to still be in the league last year. For all of the hair-pulling things Pederson does with his game calling, his personal development has been lights out.

1) With the win, the Eagles go to 5-1, in the top spot in the conference (!), and 4 of those 6 were on the road. It's time to get greedy, folks, and not just take this division by the throat, but ensure none of those unfortunate January road trips to bad places.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Week 6 NFL Picks: Fire

Folks -- even less time this week to write a picks column. My part of the world is filled with smoke from regional fires, work is crazy busy, I have obligations across the board, and about ten minutes to write these. But on the other hand, slapdash went 9-5 last week, and the record for the year is also, well, smoking.

Spoiler alert: this week, I think it's all about road teams covering big numbers or outright winning the game. Blame the crazy old narcissist in the White House for all of that, seeing how he's turned every home stadium into a place where people feel good about yelling at black men who don't want to be killed by police. How dare they protest in ways that remind the world about that! Protest is only OK if no one (and by no one, we mean white people) sees it!

So with that... on to the picks.

* * * * *

PHILADELPHIA (+3.5) at Carolina

Miami at ATLANTA (-11.5)

CHICAGO (+6.5) at Baltimore

CLEVELAND (+9.5) at Houston

GREEN BAY (-3) at Minnesota

DETROIT (+4.5) at New Orleans

NEW ENGLAND (-9) at NY Jets

SAN FRANCISCO (+10) at Washington

TAMPA (-2) at Arizona

LA Rams at JACKSONVILLE (-2.5)

Pittsburgh at KANSAS CITY (-4.5)

LA Chargers at OAKLAND (NL)

NY Giants at DENVER (-11.5)

Indianapolis at TENNESSEE (NL)

Last week: 9-5

Season: 45-32

Career: 926-921-34

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways: A Welcome Lack Of Drama

My favorite post-game graphic
Today, my beloved laundry went to 4-1 with a resounding 34-7 home win against a team they should beat, well, in a resounding manner, and the difference between the two teams was so vast, even Doug Pederson couldn't keep it close. Let's get into the finer points.

> What people will remember from this game is QB Carson Wentz having his best game to date as a pro, with 300+ yards on a low '30s pass count, rampant efficiency on third down, only one (glaring, but still, just one) turnover, and four touchdowns. (The first time that an Eagle QB had gone for more than two in, gulp, four years. Try not to dwell on that.) But what I'll remember is Kenyon Barner, the definition of fungible RB/STer, having his best game, with a back-breaking punt return, several key runs, and just all-around goodness. The Eagles dominated every phase of this game, and that could have been expected. Barner looking like Darren Sproles II, not so much.

> This is probably the last time we'll ever see Larry Fitzgerald face the Eagles, and I, for one, am glad to be rid of him. Dude has owned my team more than anyone in my recent memory, especially for a non-division foe, and while he was still the best WR on the field for Red today, the game was (happily) not close enough for him to call down the demons again. Amazing player.

> I don't want to throw cold water on a team that's leading its division nicely, with division rivals losing games and players left and right... but wow, the Cardinals just stunk up the place today. There's got to be something about West Coast teams just not getting their body clocks right for 10am PST / 1pm EST games, because this one was 21-0 after the first quarter, and never really got to drama after that. Arizona has major issues at offensive line, their all-world RB is hurt, their QB is ancient and immobile, and the defense is in transition... but I've seen my Eagles keep worse teams in games all year. It takes an effort to get your ass kicked this much, this fast.

> Wentz spread the love around today, with TDs to four different receivers, but the highlight reel play was to WR Nelson Agholor, who beat his man deep, showed hands that no one in town knew he had, emptied his tool box of moves to get the last ten yards and the touchdown, then did the backwards trust fall for the score. That was all kinds of nifty, and the only thing that made it hurt (a little) for me was that my opponent in a fantasy league was starting both Wentz and Agholor. Just your garden variety 22-point play in fantasy. (I think I'm still going to win, and yes, no one cares.)

> The most promising part of this game for me was the play of the secondary. With the ARI running game predictably threadbare (14 carries for 41 yards, which almost seems like an average day for both units), it was obvious that QB Carson Palmer was going to fill the air with footballs, and defensive line pressure only lasts so long in today's NFL. Gone were the last two games of bend and occasionally break, with a manageable 44 attempts for 291 yards. It could have been a much better day if multiple INT opportunities weren't dropped, but if DBs could catch footballs, they wouldn't be DBs.

> You knew the Fox crew was well and truly bored with this game from the shots we got of TE Zach Ertz's wife (he's got one! she's an athlete! who the hell cares!) and Painted Dudes with Eagle Feathers. Honestly, between the media telling us all about Lone Wolf shooters as if they were breakout characters in a reality TV show, and giving air time to drunken cosplayers, I'm ready to repeal some broadcast licenses. Stop giving airtime to terrible humans. You'd think this lesson would have been learned by now, honestly.

> The Eagle WR crew really stepped up with the celebrations today. Smith's baseball long ball routine was an exceptional use of group choreography, Agholor's trust fall was all kinds of fun, and given his yips near the end zone, I'm amazed that Ertz knows what to do after scoring. I'm also giving a pass to TE Trey Burton, who was probably too shocked after pulling off that in-flight adjustment and making the play to know what to do, either. TEs, time to practice this stuff. (Oh, and if you are a bitter Alshon Jeffery fantasy owner, not sure what to tell you. This offense is just spread all over.)

> The entire defensive line had fun in this game, but the guy I want to single out is Vinny Curry. Dude caught a lot of grief for cashing a check last year and not playing up to it, but there's a possibility that was injury related, and he just looks worlds better so far in 2017. Between him and Tommy Jurnigan, the line didn't miss a beat for not having its best player (Fletcher Cox, who should be back soon), and they continue to free up the linebackers for maximum efficiency. I'm still not sold on this defense being as good as they've looked so far -- Pederson's clock-milking helps hide depth issues, and there are too many deep balls completed for comfort -- but this has been the best that this unit has looked in the better part of a decade. (Oh, and if you do want to knock a guy, first round pick DE Derek Barnett isn't doing much positive, and that's kind of worrisome.)

> I'm probably burying the lede here, but Wentz? Pretty damn good QB. He saved his best moments for third downs early, got some deep balls working (that's been his worst feature to date as a pro, along with questionable ball security), moved in the pocket well, and just never looked like the moment was getting too big for him. He's still got some ways to go, as there are moments of hair-pulling inaccuracy and Shaky Play Sequences before turnovers, and I'm not sure if he'll ever be reliably good for your fantasy team, what with Pederson trying to play every game with the least number of snaps possible. But he's clearly the best QB in the division, and one of the better ones in the league. And he's had the job for all of 21 games.

> Next up: Carolina on the road for Terrible Night Football, and if the laundry somehow pulls that off, dangerous amounts of confidence and exuberance from Philly Fan, who really does not know how to handle prosperity. I'm not sure I do, either, but it'd be all kinds of fun to try it out. Especially with the Giants at 0-5 and suddenly bereft of WRs to go with their lack of OL and RBs, Dallas getting de-pantsed at the close at home by Aaron Rodgers, and the Racial Slurs with the eternal pain of their ownership around to screw things up. I'm not ready to start talking parades, but I am starting to think about hosting playoff games and having a bye week...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Week 5 NFL Picks: All Picks No Filler

I'm going to level with you, folks: my life right now is highly non-conducive to writing a sports blog. The details of that are best left undisclosed, but the gist is that this week, I just don't have time to do more than make the picks. So here they are, without explanation or varnish. Sorry, and I hope I don't have to do this again, but no promises.

* * * * *

New England at TAMPA (+6)

Buffalo at CINCINNATI (-3)

NY Jets at CLEVELAND (-1)

Carolina at DETROIT (-2.5)

SAN FRANCISCO (+1.5) at Indianapolis

Tennessee at MIAMI (-1)

LA Chargers at NY GIANTS (-3.5)

Arizona at PHILADELPHIA (-6.5)

Jacksonville at PITTSBURGH (-8)

SEATTLE (+1) at LA Rams

Baltimore at OAKLAND (-2.5)

GREEN BAY (+2) at Dallas

KANSAS CITY (-1) at Houston

Minnesota at CHICAGO (+3.5)

Last week: 8-8

Season: 36-27

Career: 917-916-54

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Eagles - Chargers Top 10 Takeaways: Doug Pederson Ensures Excitement

Fingers Crossed For Excitement
> If you'd like to make sure every game is close, regardless of the talent of each team, Doug Pederson may be your platonic ideal coach. Adding to the extraordinarily predictable and limited play book this week were give up runs on third and long in distance field goal range, which PK and burgeoning folk hero Jake Elliott keeps making, thank heavens, and a near repeat of last week's brain dead fourth down at midfield before halftime go for it insanity. Someone really needs to let Doug know that (a) his QB isn't a rookie any more, and (b) his team has WRs now, and doesn't need to run Alex Smith II, No Electricity and No Boogaloo, Now Go To Bed Young Man, offense. Just maddening.

> The Eagles are 3-1 with three of the first four games on the road, but I'm not sure that games against the Carson Chargers count as road games any more. When your defensive players can call for noise on third down, that's not a road game. So glad the NFL put not one, but two, teams in a city that could not care less about football.

> Second straight game in which the defense did well early, then gave up some monster plays, then pretty much fell apart late. Keep in mind this is happening with a slow as molasses offense that generally avoids three and outs and keeps winning time of possession by a lot. (Albeit, time of standing around and waiting for Carson Wentz to snap the ball with no time on the clock and the defensisve ends going off like dragsters at the raceway isn't quite as impressive.)

> Either the Charger defense is kitten soft, or the Eagle running backs got a lot better in the last month. Chris Clement was a hammer in the final minutes, Wendell Smallwood had his best game as a pro, but LeGarrete Blount was positively pornographic in running through tackles all game. If this dude wants to keep giving us flashbacks to Peak Marshawn Lynch, I don't care if he can't catch or block. (Note: I am not saying he can't do either of these things. He seems tolerable at both, honestly.)

> If there is a busier CB in creation than Jalen Mills, I haven't seen it. I'm sure the numbers will bear out to the strategy, but I don't get why opponents seem to think that his guy is the only WR that's eligible for a catch. If nothing else, he's young and getting an unreal amount of reps in which to get better.

> The Charger run game today: 13 carries for 58 yards, but keep in mind that 47 of those came on two carries. For most of this game, every handoff was a gift to the road team, and the body language from RB1 Melvin Gordon made me wonder if he even wanted to be there.

> I don't know why the Chargers seem to think that Younghoe Koo is a good idea for being their kicker. He looks afraid to be out there, his stuff has no power even though he didn't miss anything today, and it's not as if there aren't a billion kickers wandering the Earth. Bad organizations make bad decisions and then stick to them. This seems like one of those.

> Disappointing day for Wentz, who started off like a house on fire, then never found the end zone again. He also had more than a few moments of Frisky Young Guy Is Going To Turn It Over, which isn't helping Pederson pull the carbon rod out of his ass and, you know, play call as if ever game doesn't have to come down to a single play. But in the end, a road win is a road win, and his throws to help set up the running game to kill the clock on the final game ending drive were absolute money.

> This was the third straight game in which Eagle Fan got to engage in pure hatred for an Asshat Opponent. Coming on the heels of Travis Kelce and Odell Beckham was Philip Rivers, who is never so fast as when he's running at a ref to pule for PI, and looks like he's going to throw a tantrum when his coach doesn't let him go for it on fourth down. He's always been a problematic talent, given his ball's tendency to float and his tendency to screw up ball security, but on the downside of his career now, he's secretly killing his team. Both from the money he makes and counts against the cap, and the bad decisions and karma-killing whining. So glad I don't have to root for this guy... and now that the Chargers have left San Diego and gone to a town with no football fans, no one else does, either. Everybody wins! Well, everybody except Rivers. Works for me.

> With Dallas losing at home to the Rams (who scored on nine different possessions, which isn't quite as impressive when seven of them are field goals, but whatever), the Giants deader than dead after a last-second loss in Tampa, and DC having to go to KC tomorrow night, the division is definitely looking up. They get Arizona at home next week for a 10am PST start, and with the added bonus of the Cardinals playing extra time today to escape with a home win against SF. The game after that is Terrible Night Football in Carolina, then three straight home games against the Slurs, Niners and Broncos. There's a very real possibility that if the next four weeks go as well as the first four, the November 19 date in Dallas could be the division's last best chance to stop the Green Train.

Assuming, of course, that Pederson doesn't stop the train first...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 Week 4 NFL Picks: Wear A Hat On Your Ass

Coming soon: trucker models
Last week was the first loser for the picks column this year, with all kinds of beatdowns coming to roost. Any week where you'd win your fantasy league with Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Todd Gurley can't be taken seriously, but that seems to be where we are in this season. David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell are causing nothing but heartache, the entire league has been dragged into politics due to President Asshat inspiring Fan Asshat into hating black people who've earned a large payday for risking early death and disability ire and hatred, and the ratings went up (!) because the games were exciting. Also, well, Dallas in prime time. America is so, so great now. I can't handle the greatness. It's great when the politics of white supremacists gets into every damn thing. So, so great.

The lesson? We're dumb, the games are random, and Asshat's supporters can't watch anymore, because blacks are making money, people are trying to avoid concussions a teeny tiny bat, and it's un-American to protest in any way that someone might notice, unless of course you are for President Asshat. On the plus side, there should be a bunch of tickets available from all of the people who can't watch anymore.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Chicago at GREEN BAY (-7)

There are good reasons to think the Bears can cover this number. Green Bay has a poor defense and beat-up offensive line, and Bear RB Jordan Howard came back to life in last week's game. But Terrible Night Football and on the road tells me that the Pack will eventually pull away for the cover.

Packers 30, Bears 20

New Orleans at MIAMI (+3)

Hell if I know what happened to both of these teams last week, but I'm not ready to believe the Saints are a good road team yet. Yes, I believe in Jay Cutler, probably more than he does.

Dolphins 27, Saints 20

Buffalo at ATLANTA (-8)


Road dome, Falcons seem to be that rare SB loser that's better the next year, and the Bills aren't going to be able to match scores.

Falcons 34, Bills 23

PITTSBURGH (-3) at Baltimore


This game is always decided by a field goal, both teams are coming off terrible losses, and the Steeler offense sucks on the road, because their QB is old enough where that happens all the time now. I'm going with the road team anyway because the refs always seem to take it out on the Ravens, and their fan base seems to be taking the kneeling thing with so much butthurt that they might not have a home field advantage anymore. But count on it being a 3-point win and a push anyway.

Steelers 20, Ravens 16

CINCINNATI (+3) at Cleveland


Ohio Football is irrelevant, the Browns can't run the ball, and the Bengal offense seems to be finally getting the message that they should feed the one guy (Joe Mixon) who might actually be a decent RB (and a terrible, terrible human being). I'm going with the road team because LOL Cleveland, especially when it comes to turnovers.

Bengals 27, Browns 24

LA RAMS (+6.5) at Dallas


I'm going to regret this because the Rams can't seem to handle prosperity, but their offense has been good enough this year to think they can cover a fairly big number on the road. Also, you know, kneeling plus redneck fan base equals drop of home field advantage, and Dallas barely had one of those to begin with.

Cowboys 24, Rams 20

TENNESSEE (-1.5) at Houston


Really impressive win for the Titans last week, and the Texans (still, honestly, the dumbest goddamn team name in sports: the Houston People Who Live In Houstons would be as good) are springing holes in their defense, mostly because JJ Watt isn't a game changer anymore. Not that you'd ever hear it from the media.

Titans 24, Texans 20

DETROIT (NL) at Minnesota


Another week where the line isn't on the books due to the Vikings' uncertainty at QB, but we've gotta go, so we're going to do that. Give me the Lions to bounce back from a tough loss at home, and the Vikings to fail to handle prosperity / have to use Case Keenum at QB again, only without the career day.

Lions 20, Vikings 17

Carolina at NEW ENGLAND (-9.5)


It was so nice, that brief window after Week 1 when it looked like the Patriots were going to decline because Tom Brady wasn't all that and the defense was a sieve. The defense is probably still a sieve, but Brady's gone back to pinball numbers, and the Panther offense these days looks like Cam Newton has been forced at gunpoint to make the world think Christian McCaffrey is the bestus rookie ever just from target volume. Oh, and their defense suddenly turned into turnstiles last week against Drew Brees, so they are roadkill in Beantown.

Patriots 34, Panthers 20

JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) at NY Jets


Good Lord, both of these slugs won last week, and convincingly. What a world. I'll take the Panthers on the road, because their defense might be for real, and I'm not prepared to live in a world where the Jet offense exists. Whoever wins this game is going to harbor playoff delusions. What a world.

Jaguars 23, Jets 16

SAN FRANCISCO (+7) at Arizona


The Cardinal defense looks exposed this year, they can't protect the QB, and their RBs are all single-down wonders. SF has been schizophrenic in terms of which unit shows up which week, but at least in this game, they come in with long rest and the hope that their offense figured out some stuff last time out. Besides, division games are usually closer than this line, and in this year's NFL, everybody wins eventually. (See Jets, last week...)

Niners 24, Cardinals 23

PHILADELPHIA (+1.5) at LA Chargers


This will be another home game for Eagle Fan, who travels well and won't mind going to SoCal for a football game in close quarters. LA has two teams, wants none, and the Chargers aren't exactly good at protecting the football. So long as Philly can dominate at the line, they'll generate some in this one, and QB Carson Wentz is going to shine if his coach ever lets him.

Eagles 27, Chargers 24

NY Giants at TAMPA (-3)


I think the Giant defense is starting to show cracks from 2.75 games of offensive ineptitude, and the Bucs are much less ready to write off the year. Both teams should be desperate, though, so this isn't exactly a pick of high confidence.

Bucs 24, Giants 20

OAKLAND (+2.5) at Denver


WTH, Raiders -- that road "effort" in DC last week was putrid, and the Broncos getting punked by Buffalo was also unexpected. I'm giving Oakland one more shot under the idea that their offensive line can't foul the bed as bad as they did last week. Also, I don't trust the Bronco offense in the red zone.

Raiders 26, Broncos 23

INDIANAPOLIS (+13) at Seattle


Something's not right in Seattle, and until it is, covering big numbers just isn't in the cards. The Colts are going to move the ball a bit with their mobile QB, and the Seahawks are going to focus on their running game to the point of taking some of the air out of the game.

Seahawks 20, Colts 10

Washington at KANSAS CITY (-7)


It's time for the Chief defense to step up at home, which they pretty much tend to do, especially against teams with ball security issues. I also think you can run on this DC defense, and that QB Alex Smith has an under the radar tendency to play well under the lights.

Chiefs 31, Racial Slurs 16

Last week: 6-10

Season: 28-19

Career: 909-908-54

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Eagles - Giants Takeaways: Escape from New York

Snaked 'em but good
> First things first; what we will remember from this game is just the game's final play, when rookie PK Jake Elliott, who is only here because of injury, sneaked a 61-yard field goal over the left upright to pull off an utter escape of a win. Everything else is going to be lost to the sands of history, because great moments are like that, but give the kid his due; unreal kick that he probably makes 1 time out of 20. That's football; random plays matter. Probably too much, really. (And if he had made the earlier kick from 52, he's not in this situation. But you'd have to be a total killjoy to hold that against him, especially when he hits from 47 to tie the game late.)

> I don't want to beat the same drum every week, but good God, HC Doug Pederson should not be trusted with sharp scissors. Going for it on fourth and long deep in the second quarter gave NYG life that they didn't deserve, and at some point, it really would be nice if obvious blitz situations had, say, someone in the backfield to help prevent QB Carson Wentz from having to make three guys miss. Oh, and let the kid snap it at something other than 0:01 on the clock, Doug E Stale. The current method is pretty much given the opposing DEs a baton and a starter's pistol.

> For every game where Eagle Fan rails about the refs -- which is to say, like damn near every fan of every team, every game -- they really got the better of things today. From an almost never called delay flag on an offensive lineman for impeding a defensive player prior to a 12 men call, to actual OPI getting called on enfant terrible WR Odell Beckham Jr., to a massive DPI call on CB Eli Apple on a ball that probably wasn't catchable, the road team got more than a little shafted today. It's hard not to see how that might just be refs getting well and truly tired of Bex's act. Something to keep in mind, really.

> This thing the NFL did when it let the genie out of the bottle on touchdown celebrations... really isn't working. Eagle RB LeGarrette Blount got the same 15 for dropping the ball in the general direction of a Giants defender after scoring (truly, the most devastating diss in the history of disses, that) that Bex got for pantomime peeing. I didn't realize that the league wanted to make the Hingle McCringleberry "Key and Peele" sketch a documentary, but, well, they've done it. Three pumps next time, Bex.

> Speaking of Bex... good God, what a train wreck this guy is. I'd call him the Donald Trump of NFL WRs, but I suspect Trump finds Bex a little too desperate for attention. The fact that no one from the Giants came over to try and break up his stand-up routine with the Linc crowd speaks volumes. They clearly have to put up with him, and both of his touchdowns were amazing feats of athleticism, but the second he needs back up and/or this team is eliminated from playoff contention, all bets are off. There's only so long that you get to be this big of an asshat in team sports without someone freaking out about it.

> This was a very weird game, because of the vast portions of it where one team offered little in the way of resistance. The Eagles were lucky not to fall behind early due to three and out offense and the all-day bend don't break nature of the corner coverage; defensible given how banged up the roster is, but still terrible to watch. NY's misfires at the QB level (more on that later) and utter lack of spark from the running game helped loads, as did sound tackling after the catch, but it's not a good sign for an offense in its first home game to come out with so little fire.

Then in the fourth, once the Giants popped their touchdown cherry, it was as if all of the air had left the balloon, and the home team was the one with the defense worn out from early fall sun. Maybe you can pin it on a simple lack of personnel, but DC Jim Schwartz didn't make adjustments, didn't bring any different kind of pressure, and just seemed to call the same approach that had worked for the first three quarters. If you have confidence in the Eagles coaches after the first three games of this season, you are far more trusting than me.

> The stat sheet is going to say TE Zach Ertz had another good day, but the raw numbers lie. He dropped a touchdown before a redemption moment a play later, fumbled the ball with terrible security and awareness in the fourth quarter nightmare section, and just didn't seem to have the same spark that he showed in the first two games. He's never been good the whole season, and also gets banged up pretty often. If he falls off after this game, consider it a trend.

> It was nice to see Blount get some touches and do good things with them, but for a physical battering ram to have his best moments early makes me wonder if he's just too limited with his skill set to stay effective outside of certain roles. I get that his job is short yardage, but if that's all you can do, it makes scouting pretty easy. But all of that's quibbling. His big first run really changed the game, since it reminded Pederson that Run Plays Matter.

> Watching RB Darren Sproles leave, and also RT Jason Peters for his more often than not play off, should remind everyone of how close to metal on metal this team is, in terms of talent evaluation. They can't afford injuries. No team in the NFL can, really, but especially not this team. And it's not as if Sproles and Peters are, um, young.

 > The numbers aren't really there yet, and I'm sure that I'm just overreacting to last year's collection of circus animals, but it's nice to have actual NFL WRs again. Jeffery getting free for the FG winner, and getting out of bounds with 0:01 on the clock, was special. Torrey Smith also had moments today, though Wentz still can't seemingly sync up on deep balls.

> Another game where Carson Wentz, Mobile QB, made plays and put tape on the board that should concern opposing DCs. Having a big and mobile guy there helps loads on sneakery (the Eagles haven't had a QB that's been good at that since Donovan McNabb, and yes, I am impugning Mike Vick's legs, at least in short yardage). I'm worried that he's going to do this too often and take a nightmare of a hit, because no one wants to watch Nick Foles again, but the kid competes. You take the good with the bad on that.

> If I were Blue Fan, I'd be *seriously* worried about my QB. Eli just looks befuddled and sad back there (yes, even more than usual), and it's not like he's going to be able to rely on his arm strength or his quicks to get him out of this. With a bad OL and no running game, he's getting exposed for what he is; an aging turnover machine that knows football well enough to start, but will also get you killed against a good defense. Today, he had any number of chances against a decimated defense that never changed schemes, and it took him 3+ quarters to do a damned thing with it. The fact that he doesn't get hurt might not be such a good thing, too. I get that his line stinks and he has no running game, but that's true for any number of NFL QBs, and they don't get to throw to one of the better WR corps, either. Dude has rings; dude has tenure, but he might be nearing the end... especially since his career pattern is to fade with bad weather, not get better.

> Final point... I saw the game from the local meh sportsbar -- it's close to my gym and supermarket, so it works for the rest of my day, but Lord, I should just start bringing my own silverware -- and had the pleasure of multiple Giant Fans in the vicinity. One of them was a deaf fellow with another deaf guy who was an Eagle Fan, and you've never heard a guy that didn't talk make so much damn noise. Wild gesticulations, high fives for the other enemies, lots of finger pointing at his fairly sedate friend, etc.

Winning this game the way that the Eagles did doesn't speak much for their long-term chances; NYG is a bad, bad team this year, and even while desperate, didn't play a very good game. But watching the kick in the teeth happen to their fans in real time, then giggle my way out to the parking lot? Freaking awesome.

President Troll

Deplorable
So this weekend, the most powerful person on Earth did the following.

> Saw parts of his nation devastated by weather-based disasters that are exacerbated by climate change that he, personally, denies to the extent that he's caused his country to become the world's pariah

> Continued to play Countdown to Wrestlemania with the leader of a country that probably has nuclear weapons, and might not be aware that this is all a show for the marks

> Took back an invitation for a picture opportunity visit to one of the most popular basketball players on the planet, after said player stated that he wasn't going, then

> Declared that the peaceful exercise of free speech by NFL players who aren't particularly thrilled with being part of a racial demographic that keeps getting killed by police officers who never, ever get prosecuted for their crimes is a firing offense.

(Deep breath.)

First, the obvious. Free speech isn't free if, by exercising it, you no longer get to make a living. Where people get tripped up is to believe that what the athletes are saying and doing (trying to get police to stop killing people because of their skin color) is equivalent speech to what the other side is doing (propagating a system in which things like people getting killed because of their skin color is just something that happens and keeps happening because yay cops).

You have the right to free speech in this country. You don't have the right to cry fire in a crowded theater, organize with the objective to commit criminal acts, or intimidate others into not speaking because what you say is *designed* to stop the speech of others.

I realize this is all Too Long Don't Read, and that noting any degree of nuance is no sale.

I realize that reading is, on its face, something we don't do, along with thinking, or confronting the people in our lives who act as if reading or thinking or not tolerating hate speech makes you a Big Nerd and No Fun and Chill Already Dude, Trump's Funny.

It's pointless to point out that the President of the United States might be the most unfit person in the country to hold the office. It's also pointless to get him to try to change his behavior for any significant period of time, because the only way to get that to happen is to keep him in front of an audience of sane people at all times. And sane people do not want to be in his presence, because being in the presence of an insane person is upsetting and contagious.

Rather, it's time to look to the people who might not be way too far beyond the event horizon. It's time to work on the people who enable him. Every single person at his rallies, every single person in his political party (and yes, it's his political party; on policy matters, he's right in the pocket of the untrue things they believe), and every single media person who has gone for false equivalency or covered this train wreck because hey, ratings money whatever.

It doesn't matter what he says, because he'll say anything.

It doesn't matter what he does, because he'll do anything.

You can't talk away crazy, and you can't listen to it without possibly also going crazy.

What you can do is try to quarantine the disease, and punish those who would choose to spread it for financial gain. Or tolerate it because they like Show, and Trump gives you that.

Those people need to start answering for this 24/7/365 shitshow. Those people need to understand the damage they are causing, need to start having their professional and personal opportunities curtailed, need to come to understand that decisions matter, and that personal nihilism has consequences.

Namely, that sane people who don't use free speech to ruin the world aren't going to put up with their nonsense, or choose to work or associate with them.

And no, this isn't optional for the sane, because if they don't... they are condoning it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 Week 3 NFL Picks: Next Stop Niche

Enjoy that little slice, NFL
The further along we get into this NFL season, the more that I'm struck by the following.

1) The NFL's popularity is on a clear and likely permanent downturn, and

2) There are just an inordinate number of teams that are terrible to look at, even if they are not all that terrible.

I've spent most of the first two weeks of NFL football putting up with drunken Browns fans, pedalling my way to fitness on a gym bike, or listening to the game on the radio in my car... and getting lost in the game? Just not happening. Maybe that's going to come back at some point, and maybe not, but it's hard to see how the league is attracting anyone but the addicted right now.

This week's slate? Not going to help that situation. But as I'm off to the best start in the history of the column... on to the picks!

* * * * *

LA Rams at SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5)

Terrible Night for Football returns with a California game that seems almost designed to impact as little people as possible. Give me the home team to actually score a touchdown (gasp!), and the road team to continue to not handle prosperity.

Niners 17, Rams 16

BALTIMORE (-3.5) at Jacksonville


These teams might have good defenses, or good offense might have just become like unicorns in the NFL. I'm going to assume that the Raven fan base owns this game, because after a decade of incompetence, who roots for Jacksonville?

Ravens 20, Jaguars 14

DENVER (-3) at Buffalo


Buffalo management is already making noise about not starting QB Tyrod Taylor, as if he's the reason why they have the worst group of wideouts in the league. You have to love Buffalo. Oh, wait, you don't? Yes, you don't.

Broncos 23, Bills 17

New Orleans at CAROLINA (-5.5)


This looks like it's going to be the last year for Drew Brees in New Orleans, and the big hope is that he survives it. This road matchup hasn't been a good one for him in recent years, and the Panther defense is looking like one of the best units in the NFL this year. Notice how all of these games are sliding under the over/under total so far? Might have something to do with the bad ratings...

Panthers 24, Saints 17

PITTSBURGH (-7.5) at Chicago


The Steelers aren't a great road team, but the Bears are just a train wreck right now, and this is a relatively easy road game for Steeler Fan to come out and own. Feel free to start the Mitch Trubisky Countdown Clock.

Steelers 26, Bears 16

Atlanta at DETROIT (+3)


Is it time for the Lions to actually look like they can, you know, beat a playoff team? I want to believe, and the Falcons are due to fail soon, what with the hangover of the Super Bowl loss and the historical record of what happens to those teams. But this isn't exactly a high confidence pick, especially on a short week.

Lions 27, Falcons 24

CLEVELAND (-1) at Indianapolis


Probably two of the worst six teams in the league this year, but the Browns are due for a big running game, not to mention one where their QBs don't commit LOL INTs.

Browns 24, Colts 20

Tampa at MINNESOTA (NL)


This one seems to be off the books because no one knows whether Vikings QB Sam Bradford will play. I'm thinking he will, that Bucs QB Jamesis Winston will continue to frustrate with inaccuracy, and that the loud home dome will come into play. But it'll be close.

Vikings 24, Bucs 23

Houston at NEW ENGLAND (-13.5)


The Texans come into this one with a stout defense, a long week of prep, and the knowledge that their offense is probably going to enjoy playing against the suddenly terrible Pats' defense. It won't matter, because their offense is just that bad, and NE needs the game. Oh, and they've got the game's best coach, rather than whatever Bill O'Brien is.

Patriots 34, Texans 20

MIAMI (-6.5) at New York Jets


How bad is New York Football right now? Nearly as bad as Los Angeles Football. Suddenly the ratings problems seem even more understandable. The Smoking Jay Cutler hype train will roll until they actually play a good team.

Dolphins 30, Jets 17

NY GIANTS (+6) at Philadelphia


The Eagles are the much better team, on longer rest, at home, and could spend most of this game smacking Eli Manning around. So why am I picking the Giants to cover? Because they need the game more, and because Eagles HC Doug Pederson manages games not to lose. He's a force to be worried about, honestly.

Eagles 27, Giants 23

SEATTLE (+2.5) at Tennessee


Expect a big game for both running backs, as neither defense is great at stopping the run. Seattle has only scored one touchdown so far this year, which hardly screams out pick the road team, but I just don't see the Titans as ready to win this game yet.

Seahawks 24, Titans 20

CINCINNATI (+9) at Green Bay


The Packers are really beat up, the Bengals had the longer time to prepare and need the game more, and NFL games just feature lower scoring and less easy covers than they used to. The Bengal defense is also better than given credit, and QB Aaron Rodgers isn't the same without WR Jordy Nelson at full speed.

Packers 24, Bengals 17

KANSAS CITY (-3) at LA Chargers


The Chargers can't draw to the NFL's smallest venue. How's that move working out for you, Dean Spanos? It couldn't happen to a nicer piece of human garbage. Oh, and the Chiefs are actually good, and will exploit the Charger secondary.

Chiefs 26, Chargers 20

OAKLAND (-3) at Washington


Listening to Raider Radio this week in the Bay Area is making me dislike this fan base, honestly. You'd think that defensive coordinators are just ready to slit their wrists rather than play the game against a team with So Many Weapons, and that the roster has So Many Character Guys. I get it, you are all very excited to be 2-0 in a region where the other team is unwatchable. Having said all that, it's going to get worse after this week, because DC under the lights is usually a train wreck.

Raiders 30, Racial Slurs 24

DALLAS (-3) at Arizona


Obvious bounce-back game for the Cowboys after last week's de-pantsing in Denver, and the extra day will help them rev up the Us Against The World mindset that makes for road covers. Oh, and the Cardinals are missing the game's best running back. That matters too.

Cowboys 24, Cardinals 20

Last week: 11-5

Season: 22-9

Career: 903-898-54

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Egles - Chiefs Takeaways: Inevitable And Still Disturbing

Get used to this face
Some stray thoughts about the Eagles' road loss to the Chiefs today, viewed once more through the pleasing prism of 10am PST start time...

> If you're looking to lose a game with better talent and play, Doug Pederson may be your ideal game day coach. For a second straight week, Pederson managed to play a loose conservative style that would be comically predictable if the results weren't so tragic. He's going to abandon the run early, rely too much on aging smurf RB Darren Sproles, allow his defense to blitz on utterly predictable downs, try the big plays between the 40s only, and reduce the impact of special teams by never calling anything that isn't by the book. Oh, and he's going to change offensive tempo only at gunpoint, and give the opposition as much time as they like to swap in ideal personnel on defense. The one saving grace of it is that it allows the Eagle defense to look better than it is, because it's rested, but man alive, is it maddening to watch.

> QB Carson Wentz authored the signature play that put this game out of reach, a fourth quarter deflection to pick that was bad luck at the end of bad execution, but he's still clearly the answer at QB, and developing nicely. The improvisational skills are developing, he makes plays with his legs when needed, he gets to secondary and tertiary wideouts on reads, and he just looks the part. He's not yet ready to win games like this in his second year, and his Q4 performances to date are concerning, but the Wentz Era took another small step forward today, and I like my laundry's chances a lot better in the long run than, well, whoever is employing Alex Smith.

> The final numbers are going to tell you that Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt was a monster, but that's where the stats mislead; he was pretty much bottled up on everything but a major run, in what was a fairly dull defensive game for most of the day. He's still very good, and will win a lot of people some fantasy money this year, but if/when he doesn't keep up world beater numbers, you'll have seen it coming.

> WR Mack Hollins made some plays today and looked utterly at home doing so for the Eagles, and as WR Torrey Smith seems to have bricks for hands at times, might see an increasing amount of snaps later in the year. It's clear that Wentz trusts him, and also clear that Wentz has, like all of the great QBs, no set inclination to force the ball to WR1. If the Eagle RBs had as many solid talents as the WR corps, I'd feel a lot better about this team.

> If you really want to point a figure at who lost this game (besides, of course, Pederson), look to the offensive line. Wentz is bailing them out time and again with good pocket presence and moves, and it also doesn't help that none of the RBs seem capable of picking up a blitz, but this line is really not winning on running plays, and might need to start considering a shake up now, rather than wait for the inevitable injuries. It's also worrisome that when the opposition knows you have to throw, the QB goes down. That's not exactly a sign of a playoff team.

> This club really needs to stop having DBs get hurt. With the possible exception of RB, it's the worst personnel group on the field, even when they have all their bullets. Short players, it's getting officially worrisome.

> There may be no more annoying player in football than Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. Have you ever heard a player described as "emotional" and have it mean anything more than Complete Asshat? Me neither. Great player, but what a drama queen.

> The upcoming schedule (hosting the Giants who will have a short week, then at Chargers, and home for Arizona) is when this team needs to bank a margin. After Halloween, it gets hard, and December is absolutely brutal. At least they close at home. This year is all about Week 17, on New Years Eve, hosting Dallas. If that game means something, the year is a success.

> Finally, this. There were two games on the calendar when the schedule was announced that I pretty much assumed were automatic losses: this one, and December in Seattle. The Eagles led in the third quarter, had the better of line play for most of the game, had the better QB, and didn't let WR Tyreek Hill own them. They lost anyway, because they didn't game plan to win, and they made the big mistake late. They really could have won this, and in some not small way, that's surprising and progress.

Oh, and Dallas got absolutely wrecked in Denver, which means the team didn't lose ground to their likely rival for the division crown. We've all had worse days.

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