Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Georgetown and Mizzou Played the Best Game So Far This Year

Just a great, great basketball game, featuring a huge OT from Georgetown junior shooting guard Jason Clark.  Hope you saw it, but I have no idea how many folks have ESPNU.

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: Lucky Week Thirteen

Bonus points were heaped on the Pick'em over Thanksgiving weekend. Consider it just more hot gravy for your thirteenth helping. There will be some more either/or bonuses in the future, but I fear overburdening you with too many questions. It's a balancing act.

Just ask the Amazing Blondin, seen here crossing Niagara Falls with his manager in 1859. The Amazing Blondin will be providing a Lucky Thirteen bonus question for this special week.

Check out the three-way tie for first place, with the second tier gaining momentum! And don't forget about Philly/Houston on Thursday Football.

1. Jess: 45 pts (+8)
Ryan: 45 pts (+9)
Adw: 45 pts (+12)
2. MuMan: 31 pts (+6)
3. Leftnut: 29 pts
4. Big BM: 26 pts (+5)
5. Miwacar: 24 pts (+6)
Josh: 24 pts (+12)
6. Barnyard: 23 pts

Week Thirteen
1. Your Big Shoe-In? (+2/-4)

2. Your Little Shoe-In? (+1/-2)

3. Surprise! This week's underdog list: (+3)
Oakland, Denver, 49ers, Texans

4. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses? (+1)

5. Clash of the Titans (+/-2): New York Jets at New England Patriots

Amazing Blondin Bonus: Get Both Correct for +7 extra bonus
6. Which team will Win by 24 (or more) points? +3
7. Which team will Lose by 3 (or less) points? +3

Monday, November 29, 2010

There Goes Wisconsin Again

The AP Reports:  A 100-year-old female greeter at a Milwaukee Wal-Mart was shoved by a 37-year-old female customer after the centenarian tried to stop the woman to determine if she'd paid for items that were in the lower part of her shopping cart.
Greeter Lois Speelman fell down and went to a hospital after Sunday night's incident that was investigated by Milwaukee police.

Battleaxes Over Tomahawks & the Big Blame

The less said about the Vikings victory over the Skins, the better. Though I'm sure I've invited some derision, somehow.

It was a long, ugly, boring game of football. Sometimes a low-scoring game can be a defensive masterpiece. This was not. Dropped passes and penalties were ugly for both teams, but uglier for the Skins over the course of the game.

Washington's running backs had nine carries for sixteen yards. The announcers said they only ran to keep the defense "honest." That, I humbly submit, is bullshit as a strategy and it worked like bullshit in the game. With the Vikes able to tee off on the assurance that the Skins could only pass it (even on 3rd and one, repeatedly), the rush accumulated hits and sacks at a ferocious rate.

And when the the defense had to make a stop, they were unable to prevent a broken-footed forty-something from scrambling for the game-clinching first down. That's right, Brett Favre beat Washington with his legs. Must be some sort of flaw in the 3-4 defense, no?

In other feel-good news, the sports Reformation has finally broken. For a hundred years, every winning team gave their thanks and praise to Jebus for his guiding hand. The losers? No one asked them.

But now Twitter enables people to answer questions that haven't been asked. Such is the case of WR Steve Johnson of the Bills. In overtime versus the Steelers, Johnson was wide open in the end zone and dropped the game-winner from his hands. So he did the classy thing: he blamed God.

Steve Johnson's Dropped Pass Has Caused Him To Seriously Rethink His Devotion To A Higher Power

Thanks to Deadspin for this agnostic action.

1. Packers, Bears: +1
2. Vikings, Skins: 0
3. Detroit: -2

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Did You See What Kemba Walker and UConn Did?

Whilst you were spending your Wednesday evening figuring out the best route to the various Thanksgiving meals you had available to you, I was holed up in a hotel room somewhere west of Madison, Wisconsin, watching the final of the Maui Tournament.  And what I saw should impact the College Basketball rankings as much as just about anything could.  

UConn went into that tournament as a glamour name, considering that they were a Final Four team in 2009, but totally missed the tournament this past March.  They lost Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, and AJ Price.  One of the few meaningful holdovers from that 2009 Final Four team is Kemba Walker (who didn't start many games for that team, but was a very impactful freshman).  

He's started this year with a very clear statement of purpose.  I say this as someone who has, at best, a grudging respect for UConn.  Or, more accurately, a bit of hatred.  I'm a Georgetown guy--have been since I was 6 years old, and I have just now, for example, come around on the idea that Ray Allen isn't the worst person who ever lived.

So an unranked UConn team that goes to Maui and does well does not necessarily make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I think what they did in Maui is important, and should impact your March Madness picks right now (don't get me wrong--UConn won't be unranked come Monday.  But the Big East season is brutal, and their fortunes will probably rise and fall accordingly).  But here's what you need to know--if the team UConn is playing can't contain junior guard Kemba Walker, that team is in a lot of trouble.

UConn slid by a good Wichita State team.  How good?  Both UConn and Wichita State were unranked, but Wichita State had twice as many total votes for Top 25 inclusion last week.  Walker scored 31 points, on 8-16 shooting, and 14-15 FT.  Highlights here.  In their next game, the Huskie Pups  knocked off the #2 team in the country, Michigan State.  Walker scored 30 on 10-19 FG shooting, and 6-7 from the line.  In that Wednesday final, the Huskies absolutely destroyed a young, highly praised team in Kentucky (#8 in the country before they met UConn).  Kemba Walker scored 29, and would have scored 30 again, had the game not been over before the fourth quarter. I'm not exaggerating there--the final score was 84-67, and it was never all that close.

Kemba Walker makes sophomore big man Alex Oriakhi more dangerous--and let's be clear--Oriakhi would be dangerous regardless.  He's played two games against Top 10 teams, and in those two games, he's averaged 16.5 points and 14 rebounds.  

So that's the deal for the Big East--a totally unranked team, in a conference full of ranked teams (Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Villanova were all in the Top 25 last week, and figure to still be) has now served notice that a skilled, super fast upperclassman point guard who can shoot can take an unranked team and make them ranked and real quick like.  Keep an eye on the fortunes of UConn, and regardless of what happens in the Big East, remember that they did what they did this past week.  

Broncos Fined 100K for Illicit Filming

Spygate 2 is what they might call it. The Broncos are being punished for filming the 49ers walkthrough in London back on October 30th. They're claiming that it was just the work of a single employee and the team contacted the league immediately. The 49ers won the game anyway.

The question remains, where did the Broncos get the idea to cheat? From which black heart did these instincts rise? From whence did the disregard of honor invade? Oh yeah, now I remember.

Vikings at Minnesota

A depleted yet resilient tribe is invaded by a leaderless warband ... add Darryl Hannah and a cave bear and we would have something. In a game unlikely to be enjoyed by any but the most diehardish of fans, the Vikings visit DC this Sunday.

With experts picking the Skins over the flaming Vikings free fall, I'm more nervous about this game than I was the Titans. On paper the Vikings are still a good team, and the traditional new-coach-burst is a worry. True, Minnesota has been playing like absolute garbage. But DC hasn't exactly been good.

Notable is the lack of derision from either demoralized camp. Well I might as well attempt something. The Vikings will be played by Darryl Hannah ...

Washington's D will pound Favre into mistakes, AP will get bottled up and fumble. The DC offense will show some edge and the line makes another step forward. Washington 27, Vikings 17.
Any takers?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clinton Portis

Coming back from a major injury, RB Clinton Portis was averaging six yards per carry before he re-injured himself early in the win over the Titans.

Portis was placed on IR today and there is little chance he will ever play again. He will finish as the second all-time leading rusher in Washington and was the most valuable player on the team during his seven years.

Portis's career rushing total of 9,923 yards and 75 TDs probably won't get him into Canton, unalloyed as it is with many opportunities in the playoffs. Being an outstanding player on a team with a poor record of 47-59 diminished his reputation, rather than enhanced it (see: Archie Manning). As a particularly individualistic player, his unapologetic flamboyance sometimes grated when the team was struggling.

The one constant on my favorite team for the last few years was the shifty, determined running by Clinton Portis. Through humpteen changes in coaches and a treacherously declining offensive line, Portis was a between-the-tackles horse with a tremendous nose for tiny, tender holes. But it wasn't always so.

A Florida native, Portis ran for 104 yards and a TD in Miami's National Championship win his senior year. He was drafted by Denver's Coach Shanahan in the second round. His peerless vision and strong cuts were yet another perfect cog in Shanahan's zone blocking scheme.

Portis particularly excelled at outside-zone "stretch" plays, where he took the ball outside at 3/4 speed and set up his nimble blockers before cutting straight hard upfield through any sudden hole. He ran for at least 1500 yards and 14 TDs both seasons before being traded to Washington in exchange for Champ Bailey (48th career pick on Sunday) and a second round pick.

It was in DC that he became an outstanding blocker, complementing a devastating first punch with tenacious shadowing. Under Coach Gibbs, Portis was asked to become a power back. Running quick traps and dives, Clinton's numbers dropped but as he developed he found success. With a great forward lean and quick wriggle, he avoided major collisions and torpedoed for first downs. A natural finisher, he excelled in the 4th quarter (for example). His 1,516 rushing yards in 2005 are the franchise record, and he achieved it by finishing the season with five consecutive hundred-yard games and got DC to the playoffs.

Although Portis had better games, I am inclined to agree with Philip Speake who writes that Clinton's most memorable game was the week 17 win versus Dallas in 2007.

One month after Sean Taylor's murder, Washington was on an impassioned win streak with only the hated Cowboys in the way of a playoff berth. Clinton Portis gained 104 yards and two TDs, breaking tackles and playing with true belly-fire.

After scoring on a 23 yard run which left every Cowboy lying in the grass, Portis lifted his jersey to reveal a Sean Taylor tribute shirt. This remains the only iconic moment of Washington football since the 1992 Superbowl victory.

On a team without much personality, Clinton stood out as a favorite of fan and Dan alike. As the face of the organization, Southside Jerome is less comic than Dan Snyder.

On teams lacking a good, deep offensive line, Portis demonstrated his true value by finding daylight in the narrowest openings. His career average of 4.4 yards per carry is better than that of Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen and John Riggins; Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton are his equals here.

Injuries have claimed his last two seasons and I believe Clinton Portis will walk away from football while he can still walk. Washington will be hunting for young RBs to plug into the system next year, knowing that their success will depend on hoped-for development of the offensive line.

Portis doesn't have a contract for next year and his free agent value will embarrass him. There is a chance that Snyder will work to have his favorite player remain on the team, but Shanahan and Allen feel no such sentimental allegiance. It is truly time for Washington to move on at the RB position. But how long before we see another back of his caliber in the burgundy and gold?

A true franchise tailback, Clinton Portis was quick and fierce and strong. Great footwork, balance and vision were combined with explosive hips to produce the best player in Washington since the Art Monk era. Dependable? Clinton Portis had 325+ carries in 4 of his 7 seasons in DC.

A handful of doggerel I've written over the years:
Redtails Eat the Eagles' Lunch; Player of the Week ; Fuck Yeah! ; Noble Redskins Crush Twelve-Man Viking Horde.

Hail to thee, Clinton Portis.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: Week Twelve

With Phillips and Childress gone, I finally realized that I forgot to put in a bonus question about which coach gets fired first. Surely some of us would have benefited from those points. Onward and upward: there are more points to be had.

Don't forget about Thursday Football: Jets/Cincy, Dallas/Saints, Patriots/Detroit. You can post your picks after Thursday, you just won't be able to use those Thursday games. Don't forget to offer the libation of a cup of gravy to whoever decided to let a couple other teams participate on Thanksgiving.

Everyone scored this week, thanks to perfectly-fitting shoes as well as a Clash which everyone nailed -- except for Jess, who picked up the only bonus points for the TX/Jets closest game. The march towards autographed literary memorabilia continues!

1. Jess: 37 pts (+4)
2. Ryan: 36 pts (+5)
3. Adw: 33 pts (+6)
4. Leftnut: 29 pts (+5)
5. MuMan: 25 pts (+6)
6. Baryard: 23 pts (+6)
7. Big BM: 21 pts
8. Miwacar: 18 pts (+5)
9. Greg A: 16 pts
10. Josh: 12 pts (+5)

Week Twelve
1. Your Big Shoe-In? (+2/-4)

2. Your Little Shoe-In? (+1/-2)

3. Surprise! This week's underdog list: (+3)
Cincinasty, Jaguars, Bucs

4. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses? (+1)

5. Clash of the Titans: (+/-2): Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Bonus Questions +2
6. Pick one for this week: an overtime game OR a shutout?
7. Pick one for this week: a team scores 3 (or less) OR a team scores 38 (or more)
8. Which game will have the lowest combined score?
9. Which game will be the closest?
10. Which game will have the greatest margin of victory?

And finally, the IDYFT Cup update:
1. DC, GB, Chi: +1
2. MN: -1
3. Det: -2

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lament and Lugubriation in the Land of Lakes

The Vikings fired Coach Childress today after dropping to 3-7. The move can hardly be considered surprising as the chants of "Fire Childress" could be heard as far away as New Mexico. Equally sad, the "Scuba Diver" look Childress cultivated will lose its momentum in our cultural currency.

Childress did a fine job marshaling the underachieving Vikings and brought them from the sex boat scandal to the NFC championship in just a few years. His run-first/stop-the-run philosophy was a strong foundation and when he finally found a QB in Brett Favre, the Vikings seemed to be one of the best in the NFC. Fat idiots like Peter King actually predicted a Superbowl win for Minnesota this year.

By selling out his own integrity to bring back Favre no matter the consequences, Childress sowed the seeds of his own destruction. Bringing in Randy Moss and firing him a couple weeks later sealed his fate. While Childress knows football, he apparently had worse people kills than Lee Atwater and his eroded authority made him grasp harder like an unpopular despot.

What worries me, as Washington plays Minnesota next Sunday, is the traditional one-game burst of pride which consistently buoys teams in this situation. How Washington always manages to draw a team for their single moment of defiance is astonishing, but we'll have to save that for another column.

Coming off a tough, macho win over the Titans, Washington can't relent versus the reeling Vikings team. For their players will surely respond to their new coach and they should be motivated to slam the door shut on the Childress years. Interesting note: Childress will be replaced by Leslie Visser as interim coach for the year.

Correction: it's probably a different Leslie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Aren't You Reading Field of Schemes?

I firmly believe that lots of blogs fill a niche, and that some niches, much like America's Bloated Snackhole, can always have one more item jammed into it, and it is A-OK.  For example, sporadically updated general sportsblogs with a snarky, in-your-face attitude.  America could always use another one of those!

But as far as I can tell, no one, but no one, covers the travails of bullshit Stadium issues better than Field of Schemes.  It should be the required reading of any fan, any mayor of a city with a team of any size, and certainly any legislator that is seriously thinking about raising funds for their local sports franchise.  (Helpful reminder--just because a team has your city's name in it, does not make it a public trust.  It is often (even, usually) a private endeavor.

I have personally linked to Field of Schemes a few times, but I don't think I've ever explicitly stated how important I think the work being done there is.  The blog has multiple authors, but you can go through days of posts and see one name:  Neil deMause (which is Franco-German for Neil The Mouse, of course).  Neil does yeoman's work--he will talk about the stadiums near his locality, but he'll also pop in with links about a stadium deal for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, or what towns are paying for Spring Training fields (you didn't know the owners were squeezing deals in Arizona and Florida, did you?  Neil did!)

Every legislator thinking about approving a regressive, generational tax for that new arena/stadium for their local team should read through the Field of Schemes Archives.  Whether it is proving David Stern changes his tune in Seattle, or Mario Lemieux admitting to lying to the city of  Pittsburgh, Neil and his crew have stories aplenty that should make every city representative/citizen/journalist think twice before blindly trusting the people who run their beloved franchises (and for some reason, I'm compelled to yell "Sid Hartman!" right now).

I'd go read that blog, if I were you.

Old School Thursday: Nas

Last Week on the T.Ocho Show: KLOVE!!

He's on Team Favre, as opposed to Team Childress, apparently.  He could have (and should have) answered, "Those two guys deserve each other."  Because that's factual truth, right there.  But watch the video to see who KLOVE calls the most physical baller in the NBA.

And watch the T.Ocho show to find out what famous actress Terrell Owens wants to bang this week, or as he puts it, "[famous actress] needs some Chocolate Structure."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Super Bowl as Economic Weapon

We as fans put up with a lot of built-in injustice when it comes to the Super Bowl.  World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals--fans have a chance to see their team play in their own city in those championships.  Sure--the Super Bowl is special, and isn't a series, and all that.  And we all accept that.  The NFL has always picked the site and they always will.  So it goes.  The NFL has overwhelmingly gone with warm weather venues that provide an intriguing vacation destination and guarantee as much as possible that inclement weather won't make the game a defensive slogfest--Miami and New Orleans have hosted almost half (20) of all Super Bowls, for heaven's sake.

But the new trend of new stadiums being necessary to host is getting a bit out of control or at least unseemingly obvious.  Build it and they will come, indeed--three of the next four Super Bowls will be hosted by cities who have finished construction on stadiums in the past three years:  Cowboys Stadium (2011, completed 2009), Lucas Oil Field (2012, completed 2008), New Meadowlands (2014, completed 2010).  The only exception is perennial host,  The New Orleans Superdome (2013).

Last week, in a story by Aaron Gould Sheinin for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that hasn't gotten a ton of play, the city of Atlanta had Commissioner Roger Goodell down to talk about the possibility of them hosting another Super Bowl.  The Georgia Dome has hosted two previously--one just a couple of years after it opened, and another in 2000.  Goodell made his expectations pretty clear--"the competition for the Super Bowl is really at an all-time high, in a large part because of the new stadiums. The provisions that they have for a new stadium in this great community, I think that's a pretty powerful force. We have a history of going back to communities when they have those new stadiums."

That's a kinder, gentler version of the same kind of extortion owners use when they near the end of their leases, and want the public to kick in money for a new stadium.  Make no mistake about whose side Goodell is on here--it's not that he's rooting for Atlanta to get a Super Bowl, but just isn't sure, gosh darn it, if those meanies on the Super Bowl Selection Committee would deign to have a Super Bowl in such an old stadium.  He's assisting Falcons Owner Arthur Blank in his drive for a new, open-air stadium that is financed in large part by public money.  

How old is the Georgia Dome?  Under 20 years old.  Considering that the fine tax-payers of New Jersey* are still paying for the old Giants Stadium, and will be for years to come, what fucking message does this send?  Hey, community, pony up hundreds of millions of dollars that will take decades and decades to pay off, and if you are lucky, your stadium will get rewarded once or twice before we ask you to do it all again.  

Which brings me, very briefly, to Mike Kazsuba's article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  It reports that the new Republican majority in the Minnesota House will be looking at ways to give the Vikings the public money to get them the new stadium they so desperately need.  The Metrodome is a venerable 28 years old, and obviously is no longer suited to host the Super Bowl, though it was in 1992.  Times change, Goodell will argue, and the Metrodome can't compete with the Power and the Glory that is Cowboys Stadium.  So, the story, if the parties involved get their way (and the 75% of Minnesotans who say no public funding for a new stadium are ignored) will go something like this:  

Legislature passes a bill for slot machines at the local horse track (also known as a "racino" or "the most regressive tax possible"), with a hope and a prayer that will it raise $500-$600 million dollars (that could go to infrastructure or education or something, you know, that benefits the citizens being taxed/fleeced) and the Vikings will kick in some amount of money.  New stadium gets built, gets rewarded with a Super Bowl, because that's how it works now.  But of course, it is Minneapolis in February, and the NFL won't reward it with another one for the following 15-20 years, at which point, the new stadium will be sadly lagging behind the Hologram Replays and Fellatio Booths that the Disembodied Head of Jerry Jones (kept alive in defiance of God and Nature) has installed in his brand new, $6 Billion Stadium, so if Minnesota wants the Vikings to be competitive and on the national scene, they'll have to tear down that 20-25 year old stadium that will take an additional 35 years to pay off.  It's the Circle of Life, NFL style.

note:  I first heard about Goodell's remarks about Atlanta from the excellent site, Field of Schemes.

*corrected to reflect the reality that the taxpayers paying for the Old Giants stadium reside in New Jersey, not New York.

Oh My

Qatar loses 1-0 to Uzbekistan.  Shots like this one by Khalfan Fahad may help to explain why Qatar couldn't manage to score.  When you hit the pillow this evening, thank your lucky stars you are not the 18 year old soccer player responsible for what some media sources are calling the Worst Missed Shot in the history of soccer.

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: Week Eleven

The Son-of-a-Bum bonus question totally bit me on the ass. Who knew that DC would be the biggest suck loser in the NFC? Thankfully it was none of you, because I would be experiencing an insult-to-injury situation like getting a handjob in a leper colony.

Thursday Night Football is back to screw up everyone's picks. I will continue making an effort to get this done as soon as possible to allow you, the participants, a chance to get your picks in before Thursday. You can post your picks right up until gametime on Sunday, but don't cheat with that Thursday result. I won't pick any Thursday games as the "Clash" if I can help it.

Not much scoring at all this week. Thank the Giants for stepping in a Texas-sized puddle of poo. Not only did their lack of effort destroy our picks this week, they allowed the Cowbutts to believe they are actually a football team.

1. Jess: 33 pts (+3)
2. Ryan: 31 pts
3. Adw: 27 pts
4. Leftnut: 24 pts (+3)
5. Big BM: 21 pts (+1)
6. MuMan: 19 pts
7. Greg A: 16 pts
8. Miwacar: 13 pts
9. Josh: 7 pts

Week Eleven
1. Your Big Shoe-In? (+2/-4)

2. Your Little Shoe-In? (+1/-2)

3. Surprise! This week's underdog list: (+3)
Seattle, Denver, Carolina

4. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses? (+1)

5. Clash of the Titans: (+/-2): Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

Bonus Questions +2
6. Which game will have the highest combined score?
7. Which game will be the closest?
8. Blowout: which team will win by the largest margin?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seems Reasonable, Wisconsinite


A 66-year-old man from the Town of Vermont is in custody after a tense 15-hour standoff between himself and Dane County deputies that allegedly began after he became enraged by Bristol Palin's performance on "Dancing with the Stars" and fired a shotgun at a television in the home.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blood In the Water for Sportsjack Frenzy

Well then, hot on the heels of the potential sportsjack frenzy came the true awesome tidal wave of the great lord National Television approbation

And the Lord spaketh, and he hath sayeth, "Thou shalt have a Gibbs, but then thou shalt be dark and dry for as long as the days are long."

Why is it that, when I root for my favorite team, it feels like I'm stepping in line for a cockpunch? One at a time please sir, one at a time. Boof! Step right up, sir ...

Honestly, if you can rag on the Washington Skins in a refreshing way, do it now.

One can't help but wonder if our problems from the last twenty years couldn't at all be self-prophesied. Does anyone believe that Washington will ever be a real team as long as they employ the most racist name in sports?

Don't just recycle, Washington. It's hard to root for you emotionally, politically or rationally. Give us a fucking break. For fuck's sake, give me a fucking break.

Mixed Messages

On the one hand, QB Donovan McNabb's performance this season has been criticized (passer rating 76.0). Benching him in the last two minutes of the loss to Detroit has been feasted on by the gluttonous sportsjacks. Coach Shanahan's explanations of the benching was poorly conceived and executed.

Expectations that McNabb would be one-and-done in DC were rampant; I for one considered it a fait accompli. That the offensive line was responsible for the team's ineffectiveness in running and passing didn't ameliorate McNabb's inaccuracy.

On the day of a major showdown versus the Eagles, McNabb signed a 5 year contract with $40 million guaranteed. The strategy for bringing McNabb in was to have him bridge the retooling of the team and provide cover for grooming a young franchise QB. With this contract, the Skins are confirming that they're convinced McNabb is the man to do it.

Nothing to complain about, I suppose. Hopefully this massive vote of confidence will inspire a great performance at home. If not, there will be blood in the water for the sportsjack frenzy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DC Skins 2010 Mid-Season: More Assembly Required

Back when I wrote my DC Skins preview, I pointed to this current bye week as a proper time to see if the team was in working order. Short answer: no.

But at 4-4, DC is still alive for the playoffs and are undefeated in their division. Last year they were winless in the NFC East. There is no question that the team is heading up. But they remain dogged by subpar O-line play, the Offense is not clicking, and the Defense gives up a ton of yards. Special Teams are solid, and the emergence of returner Lil' Brandon Banks is a bright spot (although he's injured for 2 weeks).

Lacking identity or precision, DC is 31st in 3rd down conversions at a woeful 24%. Running mainly to the right, RB Torain has a solid 4.3 ypr and breaks tackles. But the play-calling is jittery and pass-first: nearly 2:1 pass-to-run ratio. A strange strategy, considering how poor the pass-blocking is: 23 sacks in 8 games, 31st in the league.

McNabb has shown good presence but accuracy is low. Cooley and Moss are on pace for career numbers of receptions, but Moss's yards-per-catch his the lowest ever. Besides 3rd down woes, DC has struggled in the red zone, scoring only 40% (27th in league and lowest for the Skins since it became a stat in 2000).

This offense is clearly the work of Kyle, not Mike Shanahan. Truly committing to the run would spare McNabb's body and eventually raise passing efficiency. That 2:1 pass-to-run ratio is not working. Unless the offense emerges soon, next year DC will be starting a new QB, RBs, WR and praise Gibbs, new OLs.

More talented than the offense across the board, this D is a bend-don't-break which feasts on turnovers. For while they're 31st in yards, they only allow a respectable 21.2 points per game. 3rd down defense is 2nd the the NFL, but they yield firsts on all the other downs, including 4th down.

It is apparent that this D is in mid-transition and is struggling in predictable areas. The starting CBs are damn good but coverage otherwise is poor. Lack of discipline vs. the run has allowed huge, rampant gashes.

What this D is able to provide, however, are game-winning turnovers at critical times. At mid-season they've eclipsed their takeaways in three of the last four seasons and are 2nd in the league. LB Orakpo has 7 sacks and gets held as much as anybody in the league; CB DeAngelo Hall leads the league in INTs and has been good in run support as well.

While this unit has playmakers, individual breakdowns are costing games.

Special Teams
The only unit with continuity, special teams have performed well in most areas. They discovered sensational #16 Lil' Brandon Banks as a returner, only to lose him with an injury of his tiny knee. (photo: n.b. the defender's lost shoe)

Punting has been poor, but kick coverage is 2nd in the league. The kicker is nothing special and misses more game-winners than he makes.

Banks is a dynamic but fragile returner. Without him, the special teams can't influence games. Still, this is the best of the DC Skins' three phases.

Mike Shanahan's iron-fisted approach might be just what this team needed, but we may not see dividends until next year. It is likely that there will be more major personnel changes this off-season, and perhaps then Shanahan can install a culture of winning. Shanahan is as personable as a sea snake and his willingness to embarrass players is a turnoff that can only be ameliorated by winning.

Play-calling by the offense, as noted, has been egregious. The defense has responded well to change but hasn't nailed it down yet; coaching must continue.

For a team with so many problems, their tenacity has kept every game close. They have a tendency to play to the level of their competition, which means an entire season of pulling my hair out. This team is certainly improved and the second half of the season holds opportunity.

It's hard to know how good this team could be if they play up to their potential; whether that ever happens remains to be seen. 4-4 is an accurate reflection of the DC Skins: more assembly required.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanks For Ending That Losing Streak on the Road, Michael Beasley

Sure, it was just against the Kings, but a win is a win, and after 17 consecutive losses away from home, this one feels good, regardless.  Michael Beasley pumped in a career-high 42 points, and shot at a good clip (17-31 FG).  Don't have much to say about it, besides it is really fun to watch Beasley, Brewer, Telfair and Wes Johnson all running the court.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Nothing About Pool Hustling; Lots About Ordering Sandwiches

Thanks, AV Club and Found Footage Festival!

The world's most arrogant pool hustler will teach you almost nothing

Little Punk Might Miss Season

Little pumpkin-faced twat QB Stafford of the Lions has a separated shoulder and might miss the season. Even if he comes back, he's still a pumpkin-faced twat.

I hate this little twat. He's trying to play like a kid out there -- a spoiled, poor-sport, annoying kid. One would think that being on the Lions might keep somebody humble, but not this twat.

Classic Stafford moment: scoring on a naked bootleg, he taunts a Jets defender with the ball.

Classic Stafford moment #2: caught from behind while scrambling, he shatters like a frozen turd.
Classic Lions moment: their kicker flopped, trying to draw a roughing penalty against a stumbling Jets defender. He got the call but injured himself. The Lions missed their next extra point.

Classic Lions moment #2: up by 10 in the 4th quarter, the sludgy Jets took it to overtime on the last play and then the Jets won.

Eat shit Stafford!

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: Week Ten

With my Maritime Metaphor run aground on the quixotic coral of the 2010 NFL season, perhaps it's best to find dry land. It could offer a chance for a round of miniature golf, this shoreline before me.

A few got the bonus question of the highest combined score: 52, by both Houston/Chargers and Packers/Cowballs. Hilariously, Green Bay almost took it by themselves.

We'll be trying out a new schadenfreude-flavored bonus question, in honor of Wade Phillips, wherein you pick the biggest suck loser in the NFC and AFC for +2 each. Nail them both for an extra +3 bonus. It's called Son of a Bum.

1. Ryan: 31 pts (+6)
2. Jess: 30 pts (+9)
3. Adw: 27 pts (+4)
4. Lefnut: 21 pts (+2)
5. Big BM: 20 pts (+2)
6. MuMan: 19 pts (+4)
7. Barnyard: 17 pts
8. Greg A: 16 pts
9. Miwcar: 13 pts (+4)
10. Josh: 7 pts

Week Ten
1. Your Big Shoe-In? (+2/-4)

2. Your Little Shoe-In? (+1/-2)

3. Surprise! This week's underdog list: (+3)
Buffaloaf, Dallas, Carolina, Cincinasty

4. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses? (+1)

5. Clash of the Titans: (+/-2) New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

Bonus Questions +2
6. Which game will have the lowest combined score?
7. Son of a Bum: pick the biggest loser in the AFC
8. Son of a Bum: pick the biggest loser in the NFC

Monday, November 08, 2010

Vikings Fans: This is Why They (OK, I) Think You Are Dumb

Yesterday, the Vikings barely squeaked by a struggling Arizona Cardinals team. It was an impressive comeback,  considering they were down 14 with less than five minutes left.  But they were down 14 at home to the Cardinals, with less than five minutes left.  

That's not good football, and no one would argue that it was, or that the Vikings have righted their ship, considering the three teams they have beaten this year all have 2 things in common:  they came in to play as sub-.500 teams, and they were playing in the Metrodome.  Consider this:  The Vikings haven't won on the road at all this year (since November, 2009, actually) and have not beaten a team that was .500 or better.  In fact, the combined records of the teams they have beaten (Detroit, Dallas, and Arizona) is now 6-18.  No sane fan of a franchise would conclude that beating those three team (two very close games, BTW) at home makes up anything approaching a Playoff Contender resume.  And yet....respected Pioneer Press columnist Tom Powers says this:  

Seriously.  Beat someone good at home.  Or beat ANYONE on the road.  Get to .500.  Get to better than 3rd place in your division.  And then you can maybe renew playoff talk, OK?  This reaction, now?  It's why the rest of the country makes fun of you all.

Jerry Jones Deprives Nation

Half a week ago, Dallas Cowboys owner/crypt keeper issued a statement in support of coach Philips as unequivocal as "Read my lips: no new taxes." Just like GB, Jerry Jones flipped immediately.

After the 45-7 humiliation at the hands of the Packers, Jones fired Philips and replaced him with longtime heir apparent Jason Garrett. Be careful what you wish for, Cowboys' fans: anyone peremptorily labeled a "genius" is bound to fail. For example, Stephen Hawking is a surprisingly poor swimmer.

Taking over the defense will be the D-line coach. While these moves may temporarily inspire something in the Cowboys, the real tragedy is that we the people will be deprived of watching Philips on the sidelines. Hilarious, shameful and well-deserved. Suck on it, Cowboys!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Remember When Mike Florio Said Not To Count the Cowboys Out?

It was a little over a week ago--since then The Cowboys have gone 0-2, scoring 24 points and giving up 80.  Eighty points in two games!  With tonight's game against the Packers serving as a public wake for the Cowboys and Wade Phillips, Mike Florio will presumably now say we can count out the Cowboys.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

NFL 2010: Mid-Season Maritime Metaphor

As this might be the last season of professional football for a spell, it would be worthwhile to savor our weekly bread.

Nautically, naturally, I think that it is best to characterize the NFL in 2010 by Points Of Sail.

Broad Reach
The best point of sail: efficient, smooth and ready for a change of wind or course. Resilient stability and good leverage with the keel. Great for long hauls.

Patriots: #1 scoring Offense and perhaps their best O-line since the Superbowl wins. Defense is not spectacular but they make timely plays. Special Teams are a big contributor. The Patriots' scheme has to be considered one of the all-time best.

Colts: perfection of the draw makes this Offense a nightmare to defend. The Defense is built to play with a lead. Vulnerability to the run and unimpressive Special Teams are offset by mistake-free football.

Running Before the Wind
Although this generates speed, running has the disadvantage of chopping across the ocean swells. Stability is an issue. The full wind can push the craft off-course, but is correctable.

Jets: at times dominant, with outstanding Defense and running, this team still throws for too low a completion % and yards per catch. D needs to improve 3rd down, but ST are good.

Houston: with the ability to both run and pass, the Texans are too pass-first. Pass D is atrocious and they give up points in bunches. ST are lacking.

Baltimore: while still a top-ten D, they're not taking the ball away like they used to. The Offense is good, not great. Special Teams lack a spark.

Steelers: run defense leads the way for the #1 scoring Defense. Pass D is suspect but they create turnovers. Rushing was winning, but they're going pass-whacky with Ben back. Good ST.

Chiefs: the turnaround is compelling. Excellent top-down coaching yields fewest giveaways, few mistakes. #1 rushing but moribund passing. Solid young Defense. The ST are decent.

Falcons: great at home but poor on grass. Nicely balanced Offense. Good Defense but give up pass yards and 3rd downs. ST may have slipped but remain top ten. No penalties.

Saints: unable to overcome injuries, the Offense has only shown flashes of its former brilliance. Defense has played fairly well, but aren't forcing turnovers. ST are pretty good.

Close Reach
Making way upwind is accomplished by tacking back and forth. Although progress is slow, patient control is important, because capsizing is likely when jibing with an inexperienced Captain.

Titans: high-risk/high-reward team leads give-and-takeaways & penalties, but scores points.
Oakland: seems like a team that wants to win, a startling change. No discipline, as usual.
Giants: scoring & defense, yet penalties and breakdowns are a gaping weakness.
Eagles: talented and explosive, the team suffers from lousy in-game coaching and leadership.
Skins: very much in transition, this team plays to the level of its competition. Promise on D.
Buccaneers: though playing hard, this team lacks the talent to beat above-average teams.
Packers: although very good in some aspects, their full-game performances are lacking.
Miami: while they do some things exceptionally well, they can't handle their tough schedule.
Chargers: with the talent this team has, they shouldn't be down here. Blame the coach.

In Irons
No progress is possible at the moment. Throw some ballast overboard and wait for the wind to change. With luck, change will come sooner rather than later. Or you can paddle your way out.

Jaguars, Chicago, Rams, 49ers, Minnesota

"A shark was on the larboard bow,
sharks don't on manners stand,
but grapple all they come near,
just like your sharks on land.

We heaved Ben out some tackling
of saving him, some hoped,
but the shark had bit his head off,
so he couldn't see the ropes."
-- the sea shanty Ben Backstay
Buffaloaf, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Dallas, Carolina, Detroit, Seattle, Arizona

Old School Thursday: JJ Fad

by request!

Who the Hell is Gareth Bale?

If you are like me, and comfortably obsessed with the NFL, and looking forward to being obsessed by NCAA basketball, you might not be following early action in the Champion's League.  But if you (again, like me) have watched any of the dozens of replays of Tottenham vs Inter Milan, you may have found yourself saying, "Who the hell is this Gareth Bale kid, and why can't one of the best defenses in Europe track him at all?"

More information on Gareth Bale can be found on the Internet.  To be specific, Cardillo at That's On Point seems to have been aware of him for awhile.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Jay Cutler Calls Out Packers For Diabetic Comments

On his Twitter page today, Jay Cutler blasted Packers defenders, including Shane Matthews, Chuck Woodson and AJ Hawk for making inappropriate comments about his disease after rushing him.  In a series of Tweets, Cutler laid out what happened:

JayCutler6:  AJ Hawk landed on top of me and asked if my colostomy bag ripped.  Not Cool.

JayCutler6:  C.W. [Woodson]  hit me and asked  I didnt see him coming because of the incipient glaucoma.  Diabetes isnt funny everyone.

JayCutler6:  Shane [Matthews] asked me if my glcose had been checked.  SM sounded sincere but I don't think he was.

Charlie Villanueva Stirs Up A Bunch of Shit, Writers Go Nuts

Charlie Villanueva goes to his Twitter account, and relates a bit of trash-talking Kevin Garnett did to him, which all parties agree, used the word "cancer".  Garnett claims he called Villanueva "cancerous" to his team and league; Villanueva says that Garnett said he looked like a "cancer patient."

Add a bunch of guys who don't play professional basketball who have to write about something every day, and boom!  Controversy!  Some of the points made by the sportswriters, and quick rebuttals, if you don't mind:

1.  Kevin Garnett has long been a bully to lesser players, and thus a jerk.  (Adrian Wojnarowski:  "For years, he’s gone after smaller, younger players. He never goes after tough guys. Never. For some reason, he reveled in going out of his way to abuse European players. So many young Euros grew up idolizing him, loved the range of his versatility at 7 feet, only to have images of him shattered with cheap shots and trash talk on the floor."

Rebuttal:  This is still the NBA, right?  This is the biggest professional basketball league in the world, right?  This isn't Charles Barkley elbowing Angolans in 1992.  Also, I don't know if this counts, but I for one remember KG going right after Brad Miller, time and time again, getting after him during the Wolves best play-off run.  It was awesome.  So, "never"?  Not so much.  Regardless of who KG chooses to "abuse", they are professionals, playing in the highest paid, biggest league of their sport.  It's not his job to be nice to the rookie Europeans.

2.  Charlie Villanueva doesn't have Cancer!  He has Alopecia, and KG was being insensitive to that.  (Adrian again.  Also, Kelly Dwyer.  Also, Mitch Lawrence).  Adrian:  "Villanueva has a condition called alopecia universalis, which results in hair loss. Villanueva always has taken the time to meet and talk with kids who share the condition, and has listened to their stories of getting teased with those kinds of cutting words. Garnett is too old for this, too smart."

Rebuttal:  Garnett didn't walk into a schoolroom, and mock the little kid with alopecia.  He didn't say anything awful into a microphone.  He talked some shit on the court, which no one would have ever known about if Villanueva hadn't Tweeted it.  I had no idea that the Yahoo! Sports Community was so against the mocking of alopecia.  I suppose if I search the archives of Wojnarowski and Dwyer and Lawrence and the others, I'll find they wrote very strong commentaries during Arrested Development's run about alopecia is not funny.

3.  Garnett personally offended every cancer patient in the world if he called Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient.  Wojnarowski owns this one:  "[Former NBA player Maurice] Lucas died this week. He was 58 and lost his life to bladder cancer. Apparently, Garnett honored that memory with the mocking of the Detroit Pistons’ bald forward, Charlie Villanueva on Tuesday night. Garnett’s always gone too far, but never like this. Never this cruel, this twisted."

Rebuttal:  Get the fuck out of town, Adrian.  Garnett during an NBA game, said something that even other guys on the court didn't hear, and you're saying he insulted every single person who has suffered from cancer, or every single person who knows someone who has suffered from cancer?  Or, to put it another way, EVERYBODY.

Villanueva has heard shit like that since he was 10 years old.  Was Garnett being mean when he said whatever he said?  Sure.  But to pretend, as Villanueva seems to have, that this was the first time he had heard a "cancer patient" comment, and he just had to speak out?  Bullshit.  C'mon, everyone.  That's obviously bullshit.  NBA players should start up a site that says, "I also mocked Villanueva in that manner, and he didn't Twitter about me."  No way is Garnett the first guy to broach that topic.

Garnett didn't go into a cancer ward and mock all the kids in there for looking funny.  He insulted a guy he was playing against, on the assumption that it would stay between them.  If I hear someone I know say something I don't like, I don't wait until I'm well away from that person and then post what they said on Facebook.  Things said in private (and like it or not, the basketball court in an NBA game, unless a microphone picks it up, is basically in private) should stay there.  Charlie didn't have to fight him on the court, but he could have reached out privately, and said, "Dude, that wasn't cool."  He didn't.  And he took on the mantle of "Protector of People with Cancer" who would have been offended by KG's trash talk.  Thing is--they would have never known about it, had Charlie not blasted it through the Twitterverse.  Who hurt more people with their statement--KG saying something mean to Charlie Villanueva during a game, or Villanueva making those words available for public consumption?

4.  The weird world of cancer-related sports terminology--it's OK to call someone "a cancer" but not "a cancer patient".  This is pretty common, throughout the discussions in the sports world.  In part, because of Garnett's defense--that he said, "You are cancerous to your team and our league" is regarded as a better thing to say.  We've become so accustomed to players being called "a cancer", that we don't think twice.  Why is being the disease better than being the victim?  Who knows, but apparently one is short-hand for "a guy you don't want in your locker room" and the other is so "cruel" and "twisted" that it should make us rethink an obvious Hall of Famer's legacy.  That's odd--ESPN'S J.A. Adande thinks so, too.

Who do you think has visited kids with cancer more recently?  Kevin Garnett, or all these dumbass sportswriters piling on him because of a couple of tweets?

Local Drinking and Music Establishment Has An Opinion

via a friend, an ad found in City Pages for the 400 Bar.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: Week Nine

At midpoint, this NFL season looks like the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I'm not sure how far I can stretch that simile, but I voted today and that took most of my mental energy.

Shit-talking in the comments section is always encouraged, but it backfired on Josh and Big BM. The only way to fix that is by shit-talking more. Hey, you vainglorious diatom of lachrymose racination: your mother is both rotund and promiscuous.

Stay tuned for the upcoming Mid-Season Analysis/Therapy from Badcock Industries' Coal-Fired Statistical Integration Tumbler. Remember, this is "Bring Your Child to Work Month."

1. Ryan: 28 pts (+9)
2. Adw: 23 pts (+4)
3. Jess: 21 pts (+1)
4. Leftnut: 19 pts (+5)
5. Big BM: 18 pts
6. Barnyard: 17 pts (+9)
MMMan: 17 pts (+2)
7. Greg A: 16 pts (+6)
8. Miwacar: 9 pts (+2)
9. Josh: 7 pts

Week Nine
1. Your Big Shoe-In? (+2/-4)

2. Your Little Shoe-In? (+1/-2)

3. Surprise! This week's underdog list: (+3)
Buffaloaf, Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas

4. Your Favorite Team Wins/Most Disliked Team Loses? (+1)

5. Clash of the Titans: (+/-2) Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

Bonus Questions +2
6. Which game will be the closest?
7. Which combined score will be the highest?

and lastly,

IDYFT Cup Update
1. Washington: +1
Chicago: +1
2. Green Bay: 0
Minnesota: 0
3. Detroit: -2

The Goddamn Plane Has Crashed Into The Mountain

Jamarcus Russell is working out with the DC Skins. True story.


Why does this keep happening to my favorite team?

Shanahanagins, Childistress, Kitna Starting for the Cowboys, and the Lions Win?

All in one week? That's unpossible. I'm in football heaven.

The Shanahanagains is my favorite, because it helped the Lions defeat Washington - again! I'm really glad Shanahanagins stands by his decision to pull McNabb even though Gross fumbled his first snap which resulted in a Lions touchdown. I'm not checking the stats, but has Grossman ever had a game winning drive in the last two minutes? It's official, Mikey is off his meds again.

So Brad, you're having trouble in the locker room because of disagreements between yourself and Favre, and you expect Ranny Maw to help? Did you forget about his days with the Raiders? Did you forget he played for one of the most successful franchises of this decade and still had an attitude problem? And then you just waive him? You could have obtained something for him. Perhaps a Favre/Moss for Kitna/Williams trade? That would have been awesome.
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