Tuesday, September 29, 2009

IDYFT Pick'em: The Beginning of the End of the Beginning

Atlanta was crushed by New England, leaving most of our contestants without points for Week Three.  There was a shutout last week, but it was the Giants-Bucs game.  One FG from Mangina's Poo Browns exempted them from a shutout but gives the coach good footing in the race to get fired.  Other coaches also made astounding progress in that regard on Sunday.

1.  Big BM:  9 points
2.  MMMan:  7 points (this week +4)
3.  Miwacar:  4 points
Barnyard:  4 points (this week +4)
4.  Adw:  3 points
Jess:  3 points
5.  leftnut:  0 points

This week's bonus question:  Giants, Vikes, Saints, Broncos, Jets, Ravens and Colts all remain undefeated.  Pick which team will lose first (+2) and which will remain undefeated the longest (+3).

Week Four
1. Your Shoe-in? +1/-3
2.  Suprise!  +3  Underdog list:  
Kansas Shitty, Rams, Oakland, Detroit
3.  Favorite Team win/Most Disliked lose +/-1
4.  Clash of the Titans  +/-2
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Bonus Questions
5.  Which currently undefeated team will be the first to lose?  +2
6.  Which team will remain undefeated the longest? +3

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Fire away, if you are so inclined. There is nothing you can say that could ever hurt me worse than the truth.

Hey Skin's Fans!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Haaaaaa!
Haaaaa Haaaaa Haaaaa!
Hum...Ha... Oh what was laughing at.....
Oh yes, your pathetic football team! HAAAAA!

UPDATE (9/28/09):
Haaaaaaaaa Ha ha ha ha!

UPDATE (10/6/2009):
Ha! Ha! Ha! Haaaaaaaa.....hh. Oh, mercy.

Update (12/06/2009):
Suisham? HA HA HA HAaaaaaaa!

UPDATE (3/17/2010):
Gross Rexman! HAAAAaaaaaaaaa Ha ha ha ha!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, They Might Be Giants!

They Might Be Giants - Ana Ng from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

Bruce Pearl, Know Your Audience

Here's a joke for you: what happens when a Jewish coach in the heart of Tennessee suggests that some of his kids come from KKK country? Answer: He apologizes, really really fast. Here's what Bruce Pearl said:

"I've got a tough job. I've got to put these guys from different worlds together, right? I've got guys from Chicago, Detroit ... I'm talking about the 'hood! And I've got guys from Grainger County, where they wear the hood.''

Hey, Bruce Pearl--let's be reasonable! Northeastern Tennessee isn't where the Klan is from! I mean, sure it was founded by Confederate Veterans from Kentucky. But that was the first Klan. But the 1902's and 1960's Klan were from all over, and Grainger County doesn't have enough black people to really terrorize (and not least, not anymore). It is over 98% white. Normally, you have to go to places like Waukesha, WI to get white numbers like that.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Curse of Bobby Lane

Just a reminder to those suffering Lions fans out there:  

Once upon a time, you had the most electric, beautiful, balanced, broad-visioned and big-thighed running back of all time.  You went to the playoffs five times and won once.  Barry Sanders eventually offered millions of dollars to trade him to a team that wasn't cursed.  He instead retired, and otherwise would have the record for most rushing yards (fuck you E. Smith).

It's not your fault, Lions fans.  And good on you for still caring.  When (?) the Lions turn around, you will have the sweetest reward in all of professional football.  You deserve it.  

The curse of Bobby Lane, issued in 1958, gave them fifty years of losing.  They commemorated the anniversary by going 0-16.  Hit this link to "The Curse of Bobby Lane," it is jaw-dropping:  truly.  Perhaps it is time the curse starts lifting.

But the Lions aren't going to win on Sunday.  And all the pencil-necked nerds pushing their DVOAs  and all the Screaming Podjocks  who have publicly picked the Lions to beat the DC Skins:  shut yer festering gobshite.  

Sorry Lions.  This Sunday is our resurgence, not yours.  Next Sunday, Detroit goes to Chicago.  Now that's a proper winnable game.


Games of Curiosity

This early in the NFL season, analysis is premature.  Therapy isn't worth discussing until at least week 4.  But let's just say that Professor Badcock has couches ready for a few teams.

The DC Skins have the oldest team in the league and are tied with the Browns at 31st for points scored.

Buffaloaf, which ranks 31st vs. the pass, will be without both starting cornerbacks against the Saints, lords of the best offense in the league.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the 2-0 Baltimore Ravens are allowing many more points than usual, but have scored sixty-nine points in two games (2nd in the NFL).  Their rival Steelers are having trouble on both sides of the ball.  All eyes should be on their November 29th confrontation.

There are several Games of Curiosity this weekend, worth keeping your satellite eye upon.

Whippernappers Versus Geezers
2-0 Atlanta Falcons at 1-1 New England Patriots:  While the Falcons are making the steady, consistent improvements that eventually win Superbowls, the Patriots are guilty of some startling lapses.  The Patriots offense isn't running well and QB Brady is clearly aware of his knee:  they average 5.9 yards per completion, one of the lowest in the league.  Their kick coverage is also terrible, a factor in their loss to the Jets.  Most surprisingly, they are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL.

The Atlanta defense is playing well, but need to improve on third downs.  The Atlanta offense is moving the ball and scoring points, but the running isn't so potent (3.4 ypr, 1 TD).  QB Ryan is throwing a lot of TDs, and this team is impossible to cover in the red zone.  This is a classic tale: young, unproven and embattled ewoks challenge the oppressive status quo.  Note to Matt Ryan:  if coach Belicheat tells you that he's your father, don't believe him.
Whippersnappers Versus Geezers Part Two
0-2 Tennessee Titans at 2-0 New York Jets:  Just how good are the Jets, and how bad are the Titans?  Mayhaps this game will put a fine point on  that question.  Both teams feature strong running attacks, although the Jets offense leans on it heavier.  Neither passing offense is putting up a ton of yards, but in the inspired-youth versus experienced-veteran, the ceiling is much higher for QB Clean Sanchez.  

The Jets defense is solid; they stuff the run, get to the QB and attack the ball.  The Titans defense is very stout against the run but have proven hyperpermeable against the pass.  They currently give up the most yards in the NFL, and are allowing 70% completions.  The hidden factor is the excellent kickoff return team for the Jets:  in a ball-control game, field position could make the difference.

Gayest Team Colors Clash
2-0 San Francisco 49ers at 2-0 Minnesota Vikings:  When the teams played in 2007, RB Peterson had the worst game of his career.  However, the Vikes had another back that afternoon and RB Taylor romped 101 yards on 8 carries.  The 49ers defense is improving, particularly against the run (now ranked 3rd).  It is beginning to look like the team believes in Singletary, and vice versa.  QB Hill is kept on a very short leash, so they need the lead early.

The Vikings defense is improved against the pass and is getting to the QB.  However, they've been gashed by inferior running teams and seem to have lost intensity at the point of attack.  The Vikings offense is centered on their dynamic, explosive RB.   Coaches have done a good job of not over-working him thusfar, but minor injuries are already mounting.  Favre is also kept on a short leash.  The Vikings have to break their habit of falling behind early.  The running game features in a game which could have long-term repercussions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Josh McDaniels, Please Name Those 10

Mike Klis of the Denver Post has a quote from Josh McDaniels, explaining the lack of production from Eddie Royal after two weeks into the year.

"'Because there's other guys open or somebody is trying to take Eddie away,' McDaniels said. 'Eddie's patient. Eddie knows what we do with our offense. Some weeks there will be 12 balls thrown at him. Some weeks there might be three. We're not going to try and jam it into one guy when we have 10 players that are worth throwing the ball too.'"

Um, respectfully...bullshit. I'd like to hear who these 10 guys are. Especially when you consider that both Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler's numbers are down from last year. Brandon Stokely has the most yardage in the receiving corps, thanks to that ridiculous play in Week 1.

I'm not saying that Stokely shouldn't be thrown at at all. I'm not even saying that about Jabar Gaffney, or Daniel Graham or Peyton Hillis. But let's be reasonable. Royal's longest single reception is 11 yards long. The only man who was actually caught a pass on that squad and has a shorter long reception? Peyton Hillis--his one catch was for six yards.

Eddie Royal has 38 yards of receiving after two games. 34 of those yards came after the catch. 34! That means in Royal's 5 receptions, Kyle Orton aired the ball out less than (on average) 1 yard per throw. That sounds like lunacy to me.

He's not alone. Of Stokely's 157 yards, 104 of them
came after the catch (including a good chunk of that play I linked to above). Jabar Gaffney has 107 yard receiving--50 of them are after the catch. Do you see where I am going with this?

The problem isn't that there are too many talented receivers on the field for Kyle Orton to throw to. The problem is Kyle Orton is the one who is doing the throwing. Just for the heck of it, let's do some basic number crunching. Orton has 506 yards of total passing in his two games. In this small of a sample size, I think it is fair to remove the freak 87 yard play, that really should have been an incompletion at best. Knock the total passing yardage down to 419 yards in two games. So, Orton is barely throwing 200 yards per game. Those 419 yards came on 35 completions, for an average for just about 12 yards per pass, or 6.5 yard per attempt. Some 46% of those 419 yards came after the catch.

My point is this--the Denver Bronco offense is being super duper cautious, and they are probably right to do, because Kyle Orton, as everyone knows (including Josh McDaniels) is a pretty sketchy QB. So if Josh McDaniels wants to tell the world that the Denver passing attack has just too many targets for Orton to throw to, he is allowed to do that. But he's clearly full of shit. And hey, I get it, McDaniels can't go into a press conference, and say, "Oh yeah, if I hadn't blown up the franchise, and had Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall all summer long, we'd have huge numbers!"

But let's be reasonable--this club will let Kyle Orton throw deep late in a losing effort, or to a wide-open tight end down the middle, but he's not trusted to do much else. And they are right to think that way. Josh McDaniels--lying, but totally correct.

(image from Deadspin's Hall of Fame, image created by Jim Cooke)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simulated Dirty Otter?

First of all, yes, "Simulated Dirty Otter" is approaching "Home Rendered Lard" for my newest fake band name. But I also have a real problem here, Dawn Cleaning Company. When you are simulating oil, to demonstrate the cleaning power of Dawn, what are you using?

Because I've been wondering, and now I have a hankering for Chocolate Covered Otter. That's probably tasty. Thanks a lot, Dawn.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How Did This Not Kill Hip-Hop

Back in 1990, someone decided, "Hey, let's make a movie about Archie and The Gang of Riverdale High 15 years after they graduated. Let's make it live action. And let's have Jughead help his kid seduce 13 year old girls via a live performance of the classic Archies hit, 'Sugar, Sugar', but make it all hip-hoppity."

This happened. I was blithely unaware until the AV Club told me so. I assume only the lack of media penetration at the time is what kept hip-hop alive past 1990. Enjoy.

A Quick Open Letter to Tony Stewart

Dear Tony:

Hey, you have a new series of advertisements for Burger King. Good for you. You are a big famous athlete, clearly. But the premise of the ad baffles me. Yes, you implicitly endorse things that you have no use for--that's what NASCAR is all about. But are we, the viewing audience, supposed to be happily surprised that you enjoy fast food?

I am not surprised that you enjoy the Burger King brand hamburger, The Whopper (tm).

What does surprise me is that you and your ilk are called "athletes" on national TV without a whiff of sarcasm.

Consider, sir, your rather beefy appearance. If driving a car wasn't a "sport", could a man of your stature and size be considered an athlete? Just askin'.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fundraiser Tee for the Homeless World Cup

You may remember when we sung the praises of The Homeless World Cup. Our friends at SoccerPro (who admittedly, give us free stuff sometimes, in return for honest, fair reviews) have a new shirt celebrating the Homeless World Cup.

The design is fine, and the cost is actually fairly reasonable, especially for a fundraiser. If you haven't read the article, or anything about the Homeless World Cup, you may wonder if that isn't a joke. It isn't, and it means a lot to the homeless men and women who play in it. The results are pretty surprising, and I'm proud to advertise a fundraiser for it. Check out SoccerPro's shirt, and get your order in--offer ends September 30th.

IDYFT Pick'em: Throw Mama

Week two made some pundits cranky, like they had a wax ball in their ear.  A quarter of the NFL remains unbeaten, including the surprising Jets and 49ers.   The Packers lost, shoe-ing in a lot of grief for some of our contestants.  The Texans surprised the Titans in Tennessee.  One TD spoiled the DC Skins potential shutout.  Big BM scored seven points, the best round so far.

1.  Big BM:  9 points (this week +7)
2.  Miwacar:  4 points 
3.  Adw:  3 points (this week +3)
     Jess:  3 points (this week +3)
     MMMan:  3 points (this week +3)
4.  Kirk Andrew:  2 points 
5.  leftnut:  0
     Barnyard:  0

Week Three
1.  Your Shoe-in? (+1 or -3)
2.  Surprise! (+3) This week's underdog list:
Browns, Panthers, Buccaneers

3. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses (+/- 1)
4. Smell a Shutout? (+2 or -1)
5. Clash of the Titans (+/- 2):
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots

Compare & Contrast

In a drab game that felt much like last season's late-game loss to the Rams, the DC Skins did just enough to beat one of the NFL's least-regarded teams by the score of 9-7.  The Skins were ten point favorites, laughable in hindsight.  At this early stage, the offense looks as bad as the critics warned. Improvements are thawing slower than the ice caps.

Nevertheless, it was a win.  Last year, special teams and defense lost the game after a lackluster offensive performance with three lost fumbles.  Sunday, special teams had no lapses and the defense won the game after a depressingly flat offensive output with one back-breaking fumble.

 Strong Safety #48 Chris Horton became my favorite DC Skin last year as a 7th round rookie. He led them with 9 tackles versus the Rams last year.  On Sunday, he had eight tackles, one game-changing forced fumble, and two passes defended (including the game-sealing 4th down long ball to WR Avery).  Last year, that very play succeeded and the DC Skins lost.  This year, Horton had the coverage and wisely knocked the ball away for the win.

The offensive line is a critical weakness and it just got weaker.  The DC Skins were already blasphemously left-handed in the run game; losing RG Randy Thomas for the season will only further limit runs to the right side.  The results of our left-handed attack are disastrous:  Portis was not a factor.  Epitomizing Play:  4th and 1 at the Rams goal line with two minutes left.  Good call on going for it, but to sweep Portis left (short side of the field, duh) was a milk-curdling decision.

Tricky Play Note:  stop calling rusty, creaky old trick plays.  The HB pass was poorly executed and contributed to 0-5 TDs in the red zone.  Goofball plays won't do anything to kindle the confidence this offense needs.

Last year, the DC Skins "bounced back" after the Rams loss and barely beat the Browns.  Next Sunday, they face the Fudgefest Detroit Lions.  The DC Skins need to show improvement in pass protection, ball protection and red zone scoring.  If they can't get it done against the Lions, it foretells enduring difficulties for your 1-1 DC Skins.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let's All Tip Our Caps to Mikey Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer has hit a hot streak at just the right time. His numbers over the last five games?

7-20 (.350)
11 RBI
4 Home Runs

And that includes one game where he went hitless. If you choose to throw that one out, the average jumps to .436. And all those home runs were big home runs, too.

And for that entire stretch, he's been playing out of position--manning first base in relief of the out for the year Justin Morneau. That's an impressive run that helps explain why the Twins have taken the first two from Detroit, and have won six in a row for the first time all season.

Of course, the starting pitching has improved too, and the Metrodome roof played some havok on a rookie outfielder for Detroit. But offensively, Cuddyer has been the engine. Which is great and a little surprising. Tip your caps, lads.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Maxim For Tom Brady

Speaking of questionable sartorial decisions, here's a picture demonstrating a great reason to root for the Jets this weekend--Tom Brady's special Tom Brady hat, with his initials and his number, all wrapped together to make one douchey hat. Here's a maxim: if you wear a piece of clothing that advertises a product, and that product is you, the person wearing the clothing--you are a fucking dick.

The Media Cares Way Too Much About Kerry Rhodes

NY Jets safety Kerry Rhodes said that he doesn't just want to beat the Patriots, he wants to embarrass them. Wants to make sure that a win can't be considered a lucky win. He didn't say the team was going to win, just what he wanted to do. So, what's the big fucking deal? I don't get why this is even considered trash talking. The media is going nuts over it. Rodney Harrison isn't cool with it, and Rodney Harrison was cool with anything more legal than sneaking a crowbar out onto the field. Rodney Harrison was a dirty fucker.

Kerry Rhodes wants to embarrass his competitor--what athlete, facing an opponent who has beaten them as many times as the Patriots have beaten the Jets in the Meadowlands, isn't thinking exactly that?

Here's a picture of Marcellus Wiley discussing the story. Whoever out there in the world who is daring Marcellus Wiley to wear crazy ass colors together--you win. Stop it now. Faded pink/peach + olive + some sort of yellow + electrical tape black stripes? Just stop. How Marcellus Wiley can dole out advice to anyone whilst wearing this is beyond me. Better than him showing off his nightmare fingers, though.

Joe Mauer for MVP Gets Another Backer

'Duk of Big League Stew at Yahoo Sports weighs in. And he's for Mauer. And Ken Rosenthal is stupid (that's me talking, not 'Duk)

One thing that 'Duk fails to mention that should be mentioned in the Joe Mauer talk is that he is the everyday catcher with a young, young starting rotation that is still in the hunt for a Division Title.

Joe Mauer has been hitting the shit out of the ball, which tends to be what his backers talk about when they talk about his right to win the MVP. But if you don't want to get into the AVG w/ RISP and OPS and shit like that, you could easily argue that on defense, Joe Mauer is far more important than Jeter or Cabrera or whoever.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jon Rauch, Ronald McDonald House and a Mascot Attack!

You will not remember when we celebrated Mo Vaughn and his pretty cool work in his community. But we offer that link up as proof that we don't always shit on athletes.

From an inside source, I know that the relatively newly acquired Twins relief pitcher Jon Rauch visited the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis. (My source is their House Dog, Jerry, who is on Facebook. Really.)

And here's the thing--Rauch has made a habit of it--he's been a journeyman pitcher (and according to wikipedia, the tallest man who has ever hit a homerun), and he's done some good work for the teams he goes to, but not quite good enough to earn a guaranteed position in any team's rotation. Here's the other thing--if you search Google News for Jon Rauch + Ronald McDonald House, you won't get a single result. Rauch doesn't bring along local media to his visits--he doesn't care whether he gets noticed as being a good athlete community guy or not.

Local media has noticed every once in awhile. The Washington Post's Nationals blog wrote one sentence about his visit to the Ronald McDonald House there.

But for the most part, Rauch gets noted by the Ronald McDonald Houses he visits--shortly before getting traded to the Twins, Rauch was a Diamondback, and he visited the House in Phoenix. So, to sum up--Rauch has been in three cities in 3 years--Washington, Phoenix, and Minneapolis, and he has visited all 3 cities' Ronald McDonald House. And that's quietly cool work worth celebrating.

Now, Rauch very quietly visited the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis. But he made one huge mistake, according to my inside source (again, a dog named Jerry). He brought along Twins mascot TC Bear, who the kids loved, but Jerry was unsure of:

TCF Stadium Caved to the Goddamn Hippies!

Efficient storm water drainage? Recycled steel? Reducing the Heat Island Effect? What the Fuck?

Seriously, though--nice work by the University of Minnesota to design a football stadium that got a LEED Silver Certification. Good to hear that the Twins are hoping to also get certified for Target Field.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Phillies Fans Not Booing a Little Girl Now Newsworthy

Honestly? A cute little girl throws back a foul ball that her daddy caught. The Phillies crowd does not boo cute little girl, and it makes the AP newswire.

The dad even hugs his little girl, instead of beating her for throwing away a priceless relic like a Jayson Werth foul ball.

Rob Maaddi of the AP grabs a quote from the Phillies Vice President of Communications, and she says, "This was the true reflection of what Philly fans are like,"

Um, no it isn't. That's the whole point. If this happened in San Francisco, or Atlanta, or really anywhere but Philly or New York, this wouldn't be a story at all. Philadelphia fans are known to be huge dicks (rightfully so) and when they show the same kind of compassion that say, a fully fed komodo dragon would show to a small deer, it is news. Apparently.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Enjoy Robot-Activated Nightmare Fuel

BigDog, the prototype robot of Boston Dynamics scares the living shit out of me. It has spindly legs, it kind of looks like the back half of two goats fused together, it recovers on slippery ice better than I ever have. Oh, Boston Dynamics, have you not watched the Terminator movies? Don't you know that you are Cyberdyne Systems?

Enjoy the creepy look into the future of warfare, from a year ago. via Gizmodo

Why is Jake Peavy Getting a Start Now?

Jake Peavy hasn't made an appearance at the major league level since getting traded to the Chicago White Sox. Between injuries and re-injuries whilst rehab pitching in the minors, Peavy has been on the shelf for a long time. But Chicago announced that Peavy will be making his White Sox debut on Saturday.

I'm confused as to why he isn't staying on the shelf. Peavy wasn't exactly dominant in his Triple AAA stint, going 1-1 in four starts, with an ERA just barely below 3.00. Peavy isn't expecting to be great: “I don’t expect to be 100 percent. I’m not."

Chicago isn't a team looking for a veteran at 75% or 80% to get them a win--they are six games out, in 3rd place in their division. They have no shot at the Wild Card (obviously--no team in the Central does--Division leader Tigers would be 8 games out of the Wild Card if they weren't in first). So maybe that's the logic of the White Sox--"Our Division Sucks, and with a guy like Jake Peavy, we believe there's no reason we can't make up that six game ground on the Tigers."

But...The White Sox record in the division is 27-30, and they've got 15 of their remaining 17 games against teams in that very Central Division. Of those 15 games, only 3 are against the total bottom feeders of the Central, the Cleveland Indians. You may not think much of the Royals, but they are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they can beat any team any time. For example, they destroyed Detroit tonight, 11-1.

My overly set-up point is this--there is nothing in the team stats, nothing in Peavy's stats to suggest that the White Sox can make a run with him this late in the year. Peavy isn't 100%--he says so himself. So why put him out there? They've got Peavy locked up for a half-decade. They gave up four minor leaguers to get him. Do they really think that Peavy is going to come in and generate so much interest that they can trade him again and break even? Because they can't. Do they think their campaign this year isn't done? Because it is. Do they think Peavy will be helped next year by getting a few starts this year? Because I don't see how.

In short, I don't see how or why this decision gets made. Put your injury-prone veteran pitcher on the shelf, you stupid White Sox. There is absolutely no benefit to starting him this late into the year, when the rest of your team is as sketchy as it is.

A Giant Sense of Deja Vu

To open the season, the DC Skins lost to the Giants in the Meadowlands for the second year in a row. Comparing 2008's 7-16 loss to Sunday's 17-23 loss reveals disappointing similarities.

RB Portis ripped off one long gain in both but was otherwise unable to crack the defensive line: 84 yards vs. 85 yards. The offensive line was unable to provide full-time pass protection for QB Campbell. Campbell was indecisive, inconsistent and lacked awareness.

The defense lost the third-down battle 50% in 2008; last Sunday they lost 46%. They allowed 5.1 yards per play last year, this year it was 5.8. In both games, the secondary missed barrels of tackles and the DC Skins only had the ball for 24 minutes.

The playcalling in 2008 was cautious and predictable; clock management was an issue. Last Sunday, the clock was an issue; the playcalling was cautious and predictable except for the terrible decision to squander our momentum by calling a lame, tired trick play that fooled no one and forced us to punt. However, the fake FG at the end of the half was the right call at the right time and offered a glimmer of hope.

The Good Bits
There were, however, several discrete good bits. Look for these bits to emerge in next week's home opener versus the Rams. The Rams were shitty last year too, yet beat the DC Skins. That won't happen again because:

1. FA punter Hunter Smith, in addition to scoring the first TD of the season on the fake FG, did a very good job. It doesn't look like much of an improvement statistically, but he has excellent placement and control. Punting has been well-fucked for at least a decade; this is one problem solved.

2. TE Cooley and WR Randle El (back in the slot) excelled in catching first downs. Campbell repeatedly found them and they never came up a yard short like last year. Of the 12 passing first-downs collected, they accounted for 8, the majority of which came on 3rd down. The passing game shows a subtle but measurable improvement.

3. The run defense is good (3.3 yards) and the short-yardage defense is excellent. This was best part of the DC Skins day: led by DT Haynesworth, they stuffed the Giants on 2nd and 2, 3rd and 1, 2nd and 3, 3rd and 1, 4th and 1. In the goal line formation, this is defense is well-nigh invincible.

IDYFT Pick'em: Rusty Gutterballs

Most NFL teams this weekend, even the winners, looked rusty. Quite a few "shoe-in" picks nearly ended in the gutter. The horror: the Patriots, Chargers and Ravens barely edged Buffaloaf, Oaktag and Kansas Shitty.

Many otherwise prescient contestants in the NFL 2009 IDYFT Pick'em were shut out like the Rams. This should encourage anyone who missed the intro "Week One" to jump in and post their picks in the comments below. The prize is quantifiably salubrious!

1. Miwacar: 4
2. Big BM: 2
Kirk Andrew: 2
3. Adw: 0
Barnyard: 0
Jess: 0
MMMan: 0
B. Freighter: 0
"Anonymous": 0

I am also introducing a new weekly pick, something for the lottery lovers out there. Do you Smell a Shutout? If you desire, pick a shutout every week, but only if you're very sure: only about 3% of games are shutouts. This pick is not compulsory. If you're right you get +2, if you're wrong it's -1.

Next week's contests provide some intriguing picks. Several injuries will diminish a few teams ... but which ones? Speaking of injury, here's a bonus question: in which week will Brett Favre miss a game? Look closely at their schedule to see who might knock him out for the following week. "None" is a viable answer.

Week Two
1. Your Shoe-in? (+1 or -3)
2. Surprise! (+3) This week's underdog list:
Lions, Bengals, Rams, Texans
3. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses (+/- 1)
4. Smell a Shutout? (+2 or -1)
5. Clash of the Titans (+/- 2):
Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers

Bonus Question:
6. In which week will Favre miss a start?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thanks for the Bumbling Idiocy, Buffalo Bills

They had the game won. Had it won, easily. But this is Buffalo, so they gave up two touchdowns in a 1:10 stretch to Ben Watson. They (well, specifically, Leodis McKelvin) abetted the comeback by running a kickoff out of the end zone and fumbling it away instead of taking a knee for a touchback. It was so perfectly Buffalo that I can't feel bad for them. They did it to themselves.

However horrific their bumbling was, they may have provided the blueprint for a less stupid team to beat the Patriots--and that blueprint is no-huddle. The combination of age up front and youth behind makes it look that New England could be vulnerable to that style of play. We'll see if the teams coming up on the Pat's schedule take a page out of the Buffalo book, whilst leaving the whole "How to Give the Game Away" chapter alone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Vikings News

A federal appeals court ruling will allow defensive lineman Pat and Kevin Williams to play in 2009. The StarCaps scandal could have resulted in a 4-game suspension for the outstanding run-stuffers. Instead, the court issued an injunction prohibiting their suspension until the state trial -- which probably won't happen this year. A state trial favors the players, due to MN's hippie legislation. That's very good news for the Vikings, who'll need to maintain their dominant run defense because ...

Brett Favre is like a kid out there: selfish, immature, imaginative and solipsistic.

The horrific destruction of Favre's wake, like Godzilla's mighty tail, has again smashed into pristine northern New Jersey. Following Favre's self-aggrandizing news conference Wednesday, the NFL is investigating his former NJ Jets for a violation of league policy.

Favre should have been listed as "probable" after an MRI revealed his torn bicep. Favre has started 269 consecutive games, the record for a QB and only trails Jim Marshall's all-time record by one. In believing his own mythology, Favre has played through great pain in the past, sometimes to the detriment to his team. So a little knock on the ole gunslingin' arm wasn't going to halt his record. Favre will be on the field to keep the streak alive until his hip breaks.

In his news conference, Favre blamed the Jets for forcing him to play. He got very wounded-yet-unbowed-warrior, like in any Mel Gibson movie. He even mournfully acknowledged that his play maybe wasn't his up to usual Greatest Player Ever stuff:

"When we finally did an MRI and found out I had a torn biceps last year, I felt like, with about four or five games left, that even though I was making some pretty good throws and some decent plays, I felt like I was doing the team more harm because I was missing on some throws."

Gosh. Well, he did the best he could playing hurt, can't blame him if the coaches made lead the team at all costs.

Favre may not know the word "disingenuous" but he embodies it.Oh, and "some pretty good throws and some decent plays" in the last 5 games? 2 TDs, 9 INTs.

Oh Minnesota: you could've been a contender. You could have been somebody. Instead ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Least Aptly Named Segment On ESPN

Chris Berman's Two Minute Drill.

It lasts 10 minutes, and feels like an hour. I'd prefer 2 minutes of my hair on fire.

Addendum: Rick Reilly hosting SportsCenter is an idea right up there with filling a electrical-conductive dirigible with hydrogen. Let's get Larry David in there, who has the exact same grating voice, but is actually funny.

Troy Polamalu Out 3-6 Weeks

And with that, the Pittsburgh Steelers unlikely dreams of repeating take a very, very big hit. (I say unlikely because it rarely happens, and the Steelers did it with one of the worst offensive lines to win a Super Bowl. Their running game was pretty crap against the Titans tonight, so that was still going to be an issue).

And as the article I linked to noted--they don't know the extent of the injury yet--a projection of time missed within an hour or two after the game is a bit rare, and even more rare for a prime-time game. Polamalu hasn't been looked at carefully yet.

Keyshawn Johnson was on ESPN saying that Dick LeBeau is too good of a defensive coordinator to let this affect the Pittsburgh defense too much. While I'm sure Dick isn't hiding under a desk somewhere, whispering, "I don't know what to do. I just don't know. what. to. do.", he's not chomping at the bit to redesign his defense without the best all-around safety in the game. And he's going to have to.

Evidence of that? Look at the first quarter, when the Titans were backed up and Chris Johnson looked like he had found some space to run in forward towards--Polamalu flew in and shut it down--HARD. Or look at his one-handed interception later on. Dick LeBeau's defense just got a bit more predictable, a lot less explosive, and a lot less experienced.

Look for 3 to 6 weeks of opposing teams testing that secondary down the middle, and maybe single back sets with two TE's, seeing if one can run on the Steelers now.

Musical Interlude: Daytrotter

Through some close, personal Facebook friendships with bands who totally appreciate me for who I am, I have learned of a website where some pretty great bands show up, play a few songs, and the website then makes them available to us, the general public for free. That's an awesome scam, without the scam part so much that I can figure.

That website is called Daytrotter. And, like I said--it is awesome. So far I've downloaded tracks from the Rural Alberta Advantage, Aimee Mann, Andrew Bird, Dale Watson, and Blitzen Trapper.

On the decks: Brother Ali, Catfish Haven, Centro-Matic, Damien Jurado, fucking Daniel Johnston, Eef Barzelay, The Felice Brothers, Ha Ha Tonka (maybe my favorite newish band), Heartless Bastards, and the Hold Steady. And I'm only through the letter "H".

You just have to sign up, and the downloading begins. And so ends my spiel, for which I was neither paid for or even asked for. It's just a great idea, people.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

USA USA USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago -- Analysis

Let's deal with the good news first--the US won; Costa Rica and Honduras both lost, giving the US the sole possession of the top of table. Of course, Mexico won, which keeps them just 1 point back of the US, and the logjam is hardly settled.

The US looked a bit better than they did against El Salvador, especially after scoring. They continued to play aggressively, instead of sliding into a pseudo-eight man shell. There will be some who will say that Landon Donovan looked really good, and I can't argue against that. The last 3 goals scored by the US were assisted on by Landycakes, and what more do you have to say? He may be the most fit, hardest-working player in the world, and he's got great talent to back that up. Oguchi Onyewu is proving to be the a really really tough central defender, and teams are going to give up on beating the US by crossing the ball from the wing. Onyewu is proving too strong in the air. Oh, and Rico Clark, who I have been tough on, and didn't do much for the first 60 minutes of this game, had an absolute pearl of a strike to notch the game-winner. Best thing I've ever seen Rico Clark do, by a wide, wide, wide margin.

There, I said some nice things.

Now...let's get really real here, man. Really real. The US needed the help of the crossbar to keep the T&T'ers from taking an early lead. Sure, it was off a set-play--a goddamn throw-in, that bounced twice with no US player in a position to make a play, and that bouncing throw-in led a T&T'er to the top of the 18 to fire a shot that rattled the woodwork. Unacceptable defense.

Let me go fuurther, and say that a 1-0 nil result is more acceptable on its face than it is when you start to really look at it. This was Trinidad and Tobago--they are at the bottom of the table, and their home record going into this game was an unimpressive 1-1-1. They have the worst goal differential of the remaining teams, and goal differential could still play a part as a tie-break.

The US needed to beat this team by at least 2, and preferably 3. They didn't, nor did they ever really threaten to break this game open. In the first half, there was maybe one real shot on frame from the Americans. If they go into this game playing this style of soccer, this quality of soccer, they will lose to Honduras. Maybe not badly, but they will lose.

Particular venom is needed for the play of Clint Dempsey. His relatively hard-working, selfless play in the El Salvador match is beginning to feel like an accident, and not a reverse of his play prior to that game. We saw the Dempsey we've seen in many previous matches. A prima donna, who dribbles too much, loses the ball too easily, fires passes to no one, and then walks back as his turnover creates stress on the defense.

I've talked to a few people after viewing this game, and listened to John Harkes during the game, and the consensus is that Clint Dempsey isn't pulling his weight. Harkes looked for excuses--he thought that Dempsey might be sick, or gassed, or something. But as soon as Bradley moved Dempsey from right-midfielder to striker, his whole attitude changed. He became dangerous, engaged, and more willing to work.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a prescription for disaster for a head coach. Bradley can not be seen to be caving to this whining little shit. You play the position you are given, and you play it hard, especially when your country's trip to the World Cup depends on it. You don't walk back after your own screw-up, especially at the midfield position. You don't let the strikers out hustle you on defense (big ups to Jozy Altidore for his work on that front). Players don't decide the position they play, and if it seems like Dempsey can force a switch to his chosen position by playing like crap at the position he is given, the whole team could collapse. Do you think Landon Donovan wants to play on the left? He was as dominant a player as the US had.

Seeing what little he has given the US 4 of his last 5 starts, and his petulant attitude, and the continued development of Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber, Bob Bradley really, really needs to think about relegating Clint Dempsey to the bench. Or maybe leaving him off his roster of 18 altogether. A Clint Dempsey who won't play a true right midfield isn't a Dempsey we want, and we don't need him as a striker--Davies and Altidore have been proven to be a strong tandem. Maybe he'll get his head out of his ass if he's given a real message. Maybe not. He's not just a disappointment, he's a huge negative on a team that seems close to clicking. Send Clint home, and let "Deuce" record some new rap singles.

A Nerd Talks About Survivor NFL Gambling

My group of fantasy football buddies are an extraordinary collection of nerds--we've got surgeons, IT guys, professors in respected institutions, mathematicians, laboratory managers (seriously) and other sorts of nerds.

The challenge that proves that is a common sideline gamble--the Survivor NFL challenge. Pick a winner a week--you are in until the team you picked loses. You can't pick the same team twice. That's it. Whoever lasts the longest wins.

A question came up as to whether a person who waits until the last Sunday games gets any sort of advantage. Within 20 minutes, this is the answer that came back from our math guy, who I will call Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles:

Prepare to have your mind blown! Professor Stiles speaks:

I'm not so sure it gives an advantage in terms of probability...
Your theory is similar to the theory behind the famous Monte Hall paradox...one that has confused and enraged folks with extensive mathematics training.
The basics of the problem -- i.e., the gameplay of Let's Make a Deal. You have three doors, behind one of them is a car, behind the other two are goats. The game starts with the contestant choosing a door (which stays closed). Monty then opens one of the remaining two doors. If both have goats behind them, he chooses one randomly. If one has the car and one the goat, he opens the one with the goat. The question is, do you change your door or stick with the original door?
Most people (including many mathematicians) assume that there is no advantage to changing. The goat could still be behind either closed door with equal probability. However, in reality, you double your chances of winning the car by switching doors. It's completely counterintuitive (it seems that the car is behind each door with 1/3 probability). But, once you know the goat is behind the opened door, essentially, the new information changes the probability the car is behind the other door (that you would switch to) to 2/3.
For an extensive explanation, see the ever-correct Wikipedia
Now, our situation is different. In theory, each football game is an independent event (in that the outcome of an early game shouldn't affect the outcome of an afternoon game). Or, mathematically...if team A plays B and team C plays D, then the Probability of A and C winning is P(A wins) x P(B wins). If the odds for each game are 50-50...then the probability of A and C winning is .25. Or, from combinatorics...there are four possible outcomes (4 choose 2 less the 2 impossible outcomes -- A and B win or C and D win), so any possible outcome has a .25 probability.
Moving to the real situation. Say there are 16 games each weekend, with 11 of them occurring "early", and 5 occurring "late". Thus, the early picker is presented with 2^16 = 65,536 possible outcomes whereas the late picker has only 2^5 = 32 possible outcomes -- with each outcome representing a possible set of winners). So far, it looks like being the late picker would be better. However, it would only be better if you had to correctly pick the results of ALL games. In fact, it would be far better (3.1% versus 0.002%). But, we don't have to correctly pick all the games. You only have to pick one game. So, if an early picker selects team A, then there are 2^15 possible outcomes for the other 15 irrelevant games that have team A winning. So, his chance of being correct is 32,768 / 65,536 = 0.5. For the late picker...if he picks team C, there are 2^4 possible outcomes for the other 4 irrelevant games, and his chance of being correct is 16 / 32 = 0.5.  Now, all of this assumes that each game is equal and that each person picking is equal. Handicapping can raise your advantage and can change these probabilities (making this an impossibly complex problem). In fact, if the morning games are occurring and you have chosen the Patriots to win an afternoon game, but suddenly find out that Moss ran over Tom Brady with a car and neither will play today, you could switch to one of the other games...or, you could just pick the team playing the patriots that week.
Additionally, if the afternoon games have the higher point spreads, then taking a wait and see approach might be advantageous. However, if that is the case, you're more likely to select those teams right off the bat. So, with everything else being equal, there's no advantage to choosing later. Furthermore, as the commissioner pointed out, waiting until the later games limits your choices and may back you into a corner on a pick.

Why Do You Hate Me, Yahoo Writers?

Yahoo scribes Brandon Funston and Brad Evans have a newish fantasy football feature they have entitled, "Ten Players I Hate More Than You."

Apparently, they hate every single person who reads their column. Or they desperately need a copy editor to explain some basic rules of grammar, and then change the name to "Ten Players I Hate More Than You Do."

Hey Yahoo writers--nothing says Mickey Mouse operation like repeated, stupid uncorrected errors--get cracking on fixing that stupidity already. (and yes, I'm well aware that there are uncorrected typos/grammar mistakes live all over this here blog, but we are a Mickey Mouse operation, and thus it is acceptable.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

An Acceptable Profit

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports has an article on the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement battle in the NFL.

I will get into our own issues with the upcoming battle in a moment--I think this is the key thesis of the Cole article (the "all of this" referenced is players getting ready to sock money away to better fight the ownership):

All of this comes in response to the owners’ decision to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in May 2008, a move that was seen by the late Gene Upshaw, the former head of the NFLPA, as a prelude to hard-line negotiations. Upshaw had negotiated the extension of the CBA in 2006 which resulted in the players getting 59 percent of the revenue, a figure that is the largest among the top professional sports in the United States.

In the three-plus years since that agreement, owners believe that the partnership got out of whack; that too much money is being guaranteed to players. The most significant issue for owners is that the need for new stadiums has forced them to dig into their own pockets for building and upkeep while the players have profited from the additional revenue. Combined with the impact on advertising and sponsorship caused by the downturn in the economy, owners have increasingly worried about how they can maintain an acceptable profit while paying players a growing share of the pie. [my emphasis]

Who defines "acceptable profit"? The owners! Who gets to look at their bookkeeping? Hardly anyone! As I have discussed, the idea that owners paying for their own stadiums is often their own fault. The most famous new stadium, the Cowboy Stadium, cost Jerry Jones some $600 million of his own money (using the term "own money" pretty loosely there) because his stadium went some $600 million overbudget. Jerry Jones didn't have to build a $1.2 billion dollar stadium, it wasn't part of his announced public plan, and it certainly isn't the fault of the tax payers or the players on the roster that he did.

Also, it should be noted briefly that owners who have paid for a good chunk of their stadium have only raised the value of their franchise. Jack Kent Cooke paid for a good chunk of what became FedEx field, and it is one of the only reasons that the Washington Drunken Savages are one of the top 2 most valuable franchises in the NFL, and why Danny Snyder paid more money for an NFL franchise than anyone else ever had.

But let's get back to the phrase, "acceptable profit". As a fan, I'd say an acceptable profit, if I owned my favorite team, would be a couple of hundred dollar loss, if it meant that they won the Super Bowl. So what might an acceptable profit be to owners? Barnyard did a bit of research on his favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, which have an helpful advantage for Google Researchers like ourselves--they are publicly owned.

Barnyard said:

"The Packers recently renovated Lambeau Field for $295 Million in 2003. After five tumultuous years of post-construction financial uncertainty (sarcasm added), the Packers profited $20.1 Million dollars in 2008 despite spending eighty percent of "new revenue" on player costs since 2006 (from the NY Times article.)

Any business with recent multi-million dollar renovations plus significant diversions to employee salaries plus $20 million in profits is a model business, and not one that should be considering hard bargaining to the point of a potential lockout."

So here we are, with owners claiming they can't make it with the profits they are making. Meanwhile, the smallest market team in the league, on the back of a 6-10 season, with a rookie quarterback, injured starting running back, and suspect defense that was never in contention, cleared $20 million dollars in profit.

How much is Jerry Jones going to make with his $60 parking fees alone? Let's assume a conservative 10,000 cars per game, $60 a car, for 8 games--that's $4.8 million dollars. In PARKING FEES. Fuck you, Jerry Jones.

Many of us may wonder why owners would look forward to an uncapped year--and the answer is simple enough--there is a league minimum cap, too. That minimum goes away in an uncapped year, and plenty of teams, with cheap owners, would love nothing more than to jettison players and save themselves $20-40 million dollars. Would the Detroit Lions have been any worse last year if they had spent $30 million less dollars? Hard to see how. But that is because of buffoonish general management, not because of outlandish spending on free agents in Detroit. Also, that uncapped season hurts players to an unbelievable degree--it is a weapon in the hands of ownership--as Cole reports, "players would not become unrestricted free agents until after their sixth year. "

The owners are counting on shit like that to make the players buckle. But I don't see it happening. The idea of some poor rookie being stuck for six years on The Oakland Raiders is not acceptable for current players, and if veterans like Brandon Stokley are willing to take a hit to protect the next generation, the owners have already lost. More specifically, if young veterans like Maurice Jones-Drew are serious when they say things like (from Cole again) “I’m one of those guys who believes you have to fight for the good of all the players and the guys in the future, not just yourself,” the owners aren't ready for this fight. That is real labor union talk, right there.

Cole mentions that owners are throwing around the fact that the current CBA has the highest percentage of revenue going to the players. That is undoubtedly true, but it is also fair, as the NFL is the most dangerous sport in the country, and most likely to end a player's future early. Baseball features tons of guys in their late 30's and even early 40's. You will never see an offensive lineman aged 38. These guys need to get paid while they play, because they won't outlast their projected effectiveness very often.

In short, the general view of this blog is, "Fuck you, owners. If you are on in so much trouble, open up your books and prove it. Until then, how about you eat a bag?"

(hey maybe we are the lefty sportswriters Jay Nordlinger was complaining about?)

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