Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bobolicious

So the DC Slurs finally did the deed today, and admitted what the Internets have been saying for days: Kirk Cousins, who will commit turnovers in the air rather than on the ground, will be the team's QB in 2015, or at least, the only part of the 2015 season where the fan base, such as it is, will pay attention.

And from a very limited perspective, it makes sense. If you want to lose the least this year, Cousins gives you the best chance to do that. He's young enough to maybe even get to a point where he belongs in the NFL, and unlike Colt McCoy, he hasn't shown that he can't do the job at other stops yet. Erstwhile QB1 and Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III just looks utterly lost right now, like he's just waiting to get hurt, or he's just lost interest in playing football anymore, and honestly, I get it. The offensive line are turnstiles, the coaches have had it in for you for years now, and only the ownership that gave up a king's ransom wants you around any more. I doubt that I'd be a cheery soul in meetings and huddles, either.

The bigger issue, as it is with every dysfunctional franchise, is how they've taken an asset and ran it into the ground. Griffin should never have gone for everything that DC gave up to St. Louis to get him -- this franchise has had paiper-maiche over holes for so long, they've forgotten the existence of the holes -- but he still was a clear pick where he went in the Andrew Luck Draft, and looked for all the world like a comparable player early in his career. It's really hard to say who wasted this asset more, the team or the player, but considering what the franchise did in racing to get the man back on the field after injury in a playoff game, it's not that hard, really.

So what's next? Well, expecting Cousins to keep the job all year is nuts, as this is a bottom five roster in terms of talent, and nothing makes QB1 more expendable than playing out the string. Griffin is likely to get another shot at this, probably with another coach, because that's just how bad teams work. From what we can tell, Griffin has lost his coach and the locker room, but not the owner, which is to say, the only thing that matters. I suspect he'll go from 3 to 1 by Thanksgiving, and maybe even win a game or two down the stretch, just to make it look like the entire bad year has been self-inflicted.

But you're not supposed to look like you have figured out the most important position in American sports, then have it all go horribly backward. That's just a special level of bad that only DC gets to go to.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Golfing Diaries: The Eyes Have It

Golf Aid
Now it can be told, as we're six months past it ending: the last job was one of the worst gigs of my life. I rarely slept, had anxiety nightmares, kept running into block after block after block, and saw the end coming for years before it happened. Such was the level of stress that I never even got around to visiting the eye doctor, because, well, time. Either I was doing the gig or looking for the next gig, and honestly, there was no time for much of anything else.

So this past week, now that a new gig has been secured (I've been there a month), I finally scheduled a check-up. And discovered much of what I already knew, which was that the prescription had changed by a lot. New glasses ordered, then re-ordered because the right eye wasn't quite working out as expected, and the other day at the range, things seemed to be better.

So today at the course, I had hope of being better, but we weren't exactly picking a pushover. Mercer Oaks West is 6200 from the whites (I'm well over a 30 handicap, which is to say, I stink), with a fair number of holes where my top out at 225 driver / 150 5-iron game doesn't really work in terms of getting into prime scoring positions. A good day for me there is under 110, and bad days have been over 120. It's not a bad place to play, and it's kind of fun to see loads of deer, groundhogs, geese and wild turkeys wander out into the course at times, but I've played many easier courses. Add in 90 degree heat, and yeah, not setting up as a great day.

The first hole gave me a small clue that things were going to work out, with a nine iron from 110 being pin high on the fringe, leading to a tap-in bogie. Second hole was a disaster, but the third, a 375 par four, saw a drive right to the 150 stick, then the 5-iron to the fringe; two putts and par, like I'm a golfer or something. Two holes later, a 4-iron at a 170 par three is just short of the green, and the chip leads to a 20-footer. And hey, eyesight helps when putting! I hole it out and hey, Golf Can Be Fun.

It's not for the next two holes, which stink out loud, but a 132 par three is fringed with a 7-iron, then saved with a chip and putt, and that's 3 pars in my first 8 holes, or more than I usually get in 18. I've alternated enough crud work with the competence to card a 52 for the front, with low comedy coming on the 9th when the sprinklers start to fire on the green while we're putting. More of a problem due to the pressure, given the temperature.

I play the first four holes of the back nine at 3 over, which is honestly scorching for me. Shots are lining up with the 150 stick off the tee, getting to the green on the follow, and the only club in the bag that's not working is my 60 wedge, which just means more time with the bump and run 8 iron that I prefer anyway. I drain another good long one on the 380 par-4 11th to make four, and then get flat out lucky on the 108 par-3 13th, where a terrible hit in the trap takes a crazy bounce and stays on the green. Hey, better lucky than good, right? I save double on the 14th with a 30-foot putt off the back fringe, and at this point, the ones that stay out seem like the outliers, not the ones that go in. The last par of the day comes on the 182 16th, where the 3-iron just stops before the green, and the putt leaves me a three-footer for the score.

I'm now close enough to the finish to truly dream of breaking 100, but the game has gotten shaky enough to make it dicey, with drives and irons either staying true or duffing. The penultimate hole is a disaster 8, which means I need to make par on a 510 yard par five to get it done. The drive dances just out of the fairway bunker, the 5-iron sets me up for 150 to go after two shots, but the third shot is chunked. I need to chip and get down, and just miss the landing spot, and watch the ball run through the back. My chance at 99 is a chip that stops two feet from the cup, and that's that. An even 100, with 5 pars and 4 bogies, or half of the course played to damn near the best of my ability.

The most encouraging thing? The putting (on aerated greens, no less), and the possibility that my level today is really more what I should be doing, now that my vision has been corrected. Lots of good drives today, too, and some just bounding out to nearly 250. I don't know how many more times that I'll get out this year, given the changing of the seasons and how playing while cold is a non-starter for me... but this was one of the five best rounds for me in the last ten years, and makes me eager to play more. But just the idea that a new level might have just been a trip to the eye doctor away... simultaneously encouraging and maddening. I could have been putting like this all along?

Tim Tebow, Donald Trump, and Clickbait Nation

One Nation, Under Trump
Mostly off-topic, but some sports.

So when I started this column, I was watching the tale end of the Eagles-Packers preseason game, which meant the entrance of Jebus Tebow at QB for the Eagles. Tebow has, of course, no business being on an NFL roster, but he gets clicks, and QB3 Matt Barkley does not. Tebow's admirers talk about his versatility (which does not, unfortunately, extend to throwing), his charity work, his intangibles. I see a guy who can not throw a football or make good and fast decisions, and haven't seen much else in the preseason to make me think either of these conditions have changed, or that it will in the future. But again, clicks and jersey sales to very stupid people, and no real harm done, right? It's just preseason.

Well, no. Damage is done by even entertaining the notion. Damage is done by lowering the standards. Damage is done by giving idiots the possibility of hope that they might get what they want, which in this case is an evangelical run-only QB who also, let's be honest about this, would never get even a first look at an NFL roster, let alone this fourth one, if he were black.

Which brings us to where this becomes Not Sports, and the Donald Trump Experience.

There is now, and there has never been, any real merit to the notion that this man should become the President. If it were to happen, it would signify that the nation has become no better than Italy, because there is no difference between Trump and Silvio Berlusconi. It would also show that the deification of the wealthy is now complete, and that the corruption of the media by moneyed elites was now total. Also, well, more.

I understand the desire for simple solutions, digital thinking, yes and no answers. They allow us to move along to the next decision, or to just stop thinking and get to the fun. But at some point, even the simple have to understand that some things in life are hard, complicated, require reading and compromise and nuance and so on. You can't make every decision in life based around a price tag, your gut, or whether it's shiny or easy or sexy. Sometimes, you have to do the hard thing and accept that life is complicated, and that there are people who might be better than you at some stuff, and that stuff might be important.

This is not how we want to see the world.

People like to disregard what hard work, or education, or intelligence, might produce. That's nerdy, or not important, or missing some bigger picture. The idea of doing something for 10,000 hours before you can really feel good about your chances... well, hell, isn't there an app for it? Don't give me all the details, just cut it down to a few bullet points. Can't you make allowances, or a compromise, or grade on a curve, and so on, and so on? Why aren't there more pictures? No one wants to read all that. Etc.

Here's the thing that no one wants to admit... some people who work in government are actually quite good at their jobs. They might have taken those jobs because they were looking to avoid corporate pressures, or because they truly liked helping people without having to worry about a bottom line, or anywhere in between. Just assuming that they are lesser workers then someone who worked in the private sector is a crap generalization, just like, well, nearly all generalizations.

I may not agree with most of the candidates for the Presidency on many things, but I don't deny that most of them have, on some level, proven their worthiness to take a shot at getting the gig in the first place. If you've been a Governor or a Senator, or held a high office, you've shown that you could manage a campaign, get elected, convince people to work for you even without a paycheck, and so on.

Trump has none of that. What he has is an ability to draw eyes like a carnie barker, while being rich, and with the willingness to offer simple solutions to complex problems. Middle-class not doing well? It's not a matter of poor tax policy, technology and world trade issues; we just need to build a wall on the Mexican border, which will magically improve everyone's wages because they stealing jobs. The pace of change in the modern world makes you uncomfortable, what with having to allow marriage equality and LGBTQ tolerance and a rapidly changing racial demographic? Deny citizenship to children and decry "political correctness", so that you don't have to change anything about your worldview. Tired of electing people who don't seem to really change much? Elect someone who has never ran a public sector operation, because he'll fire people on camera and magically change things. Think that other countries aren't doing the right thing? Elect a bellicose bully who will make them. And so on. Magical thinking that the get it done rich guy will solve all issues.

But hey, it's preason / preliminaties, lookit all the funny things that late night comedians get to say about him, no real harm done, right? No; see above.

If the Eagles keep Tebow over Barkley, they are stupid and deserve what they get, but the downside of that is that their fans get it too, and they don't particularly deserve to get thrown in the same bad boat. If the GOP, and later America, elect Trump, they are stupid and get what they deserve, but those who didn't vote for him get the same problem.

And the only reason why anyone would have the conversation in the first place? Clickbait metrics, and the thirst for simple answers -- in this case, page views and television ratings -- to complex questions (who would be the best option to have the job).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 NFL Predictions

Nostra Dumbass
AFC East

New England 11-5
Miami 9-7
New York 7-9
Buffalo 6-10

Sure, there will be anxious moments in September -- there almost always are in the most martyr-riffic region in the U.S. -- but New England will tread water early and dominate late. Miami has trenchy goodness and an eternally improving offense, but the crest of that hill isn't high enough to get it done. New York's offense is going to be better than expected, in that they will be tolerable, and Buffalo will be a hot mess. The bottom of this division, as always, proves that if you don't have a QB, or an ability to scheme around that, you are absolutely sunk in the NFL.

AFC North

Cincinnati 10-6
Pittsburgh 10-6 (Wild Card)
Baltimore 9-7 (Wild Card)
Cleveland 6-10

The conference bloodsport division will do what it usually does; destroy each other in the regular season and kill off any chance that anyone here will go deep in the playoffs. I liked Pittsburgh before pre-season injuries made things difficult, but now the coin flip goes back to Cincy, who have the best balance and most to prove. But honestly, picking one of these three teams without having an injury report before December is pointless. The Factory of Sadness stays where they always go, despite the division's best offensive line, because QB matters. A whole lot.

AFC South

Indianapolis 12-4
Tennessee 7-9
Houston 7-9
Jacksonville 5-11

The Season of Luck begins with the league's most pinball-riffic offense clinching their division by Thanksgiving, and coasting to top seed status. It's not that they are that good -- they never are, really -- but the home field and offense will mask the defense for a very long while, and Frank Gore gives them 3-down competence in the backfield when they need it. The Titans will be the feel-good story of the conference, as rookie QB Marcus Mariota will be the sensation, along with beastly WR Dorial Green-Beckham, but the rest of the team won't be quite ready to get it done. Houston will continue to squander JJ Watt's career, while Jacksonville will be the tough luck loser. They're building something, but it's not ready yet, and the downside of the NFL now is that slow build doesn't look good enough anymore.

AFC West

Denver 11-5
San Diego 9-7
Kansas City 8-8
Oakland 5-11

The Broncos are trying to do the Last Years of Elway Replay by shifting to a better running game, and while Late Era Peyton Manning is a fine approximation of the QB, it's an open question whether CJ Anderson can pull off the Terrell Davis part of the equation. The regular season won't answer the question, because the rest of this division just isn't enough of a threat. San Diego draws the second slot with their usual mix of world-beating mixed with inexplicable, while the Chiefs squander talent with risk-adverse QB play and the worst game management in the league. Oakland will be better, but not good enough, and if you mistake them for the Jaguars, that's pretty spot on.

AFC Rookie of the Year: Mariota
AFC MVP: Luck

AFC Wild Card: Baltimore over Cincinnati, Denver over Pittsburgh
AFC Divisional: Indianapolis over Baltimore, Denver over New England
AFC Conference: Indianapolis over Denver

NFC East

Dallas 10-6
Philadelphia 8-8
New York 8-8
Washington 6-10

What a train wreck this division is going to be. Dallas had a chance to pull away, but suffered a massive loss in CB Orlando Scandrick, just about the last guy they could have afforded to lose. Philadelphia will get off to a hot start, then fall apart as soon as the injury-prone start falling off, because this roster is paper-thin on the offensive line, and it will have a domino effect on the skill players. Besides, we all know what happens when they need Mark Sanchez has to win games. New York has tools all over but lacks the line, and DC is, well, DC. None of these teams would win more than the NFC North or West, of AFC North, but since they are in major media markets, we'll hear about them all year.

NFC North

Green Bay 11-5
Minnesota 9-7
Detroit 7-9
Chicago 6-10

Green Bay took a serious hit with the loss of WR Jordy Nelson, but they were far and away the class of this division before that, and the drop won't be felt before the playoffs. Minnesota is on the rise behind QB Teddy Bridgewater, but the defense isn't far enough along yet. Detroit could be a lot better than this, particularly if the defense spends the year trying to prove they didn't need Ndamokung Suh and Nick Fairly, but my guess is that they won't be able to use the motivation all hear, and Haloti Ngata won't hold up. Chicago is trying to win with Jay Cutler as their most important player for yet another year, which is a special kind of persistence. Especially with a worse situation at WR, and a defense that's still not up to franchise standards.

NFC South

Atlanta 9-7
Tampa 8-8
New Orleans 7-9
Carolina 7-9

A low ceiling division of wildly flawed teams that beat the hell out of each other, the South is a tasty but entertaining mess. I like Atlanta to get it done because the defense is a hair better, the RBs are a lot better, and they have the division's best QB (shh). Tampa is an offensive line and QB experience away from being quite dangerous, especially with the conference's tallest and most athletic set of pass catchers, but it's too soon to be over .500. The Saints still have an unfair home field and some players that can fill up the stat sheet, but QB Drew Brees is going to miss TE Jimmy Graham a ton, and the defense doesn't win games, no matter how often we show Rob Ryan grumping around the sideline. Carolina brings up the rear due to injuries, but still has the conference's best front 7 on defense. They'll put up a lot of fight, and be the league's best fourth-place team. Woo, that.

NFC West

Seattle 11-5
Arizona 10-6 (Wild Card)
St. Louis 9-7 (Wild Card)
San Francisco 3-13

Seattle breaks the mold for Super Bowl losers despite a troublesome offensive line, because Graham helps overcome the still-lacking WR set, and QB Russell Wilson overcomes the gap. Arizona and St. Louis will fight them every step of the way, and if Rams QB Nick Foles can establish a rapport with WRs Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, they might break through. I'll pick the Cardinals because I think the defense is going to be better. Taking up the rear is the NFL's worst team, the Niners, who just have the stench of death on them now. Sure, there's still some good pieces here from the not so long ago glory rays, but I don't think you overcome this much self-sabotage.

NFC Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley
NFC MVP: Wilson
NFC Wild Card: Dallas over St. Louis, Arizona over Tampa
NFC Divisional: Green Bay over St. Louis, Seattle over Dallas
NFC Conference: Green Bay over Seattle

Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indianapolis

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy Football Fallers and Risers: WRs and TEs

Go right
No need to explain this; it's a pretty simple exercise, and we've already covered the basics with QBs and RBs. Three fallers, three risers, from players that are going to be drafted anyway.

Wide Receivers - Fallers

1) Demaryius Thomas.
FBB's #2 ranked wideout has a magical combination of discouragement. First off, he got paid in the off-season, and that's never good news for getting every bit of fantasy goodness. Denver's gone to run-heaviness in an effort to be more playoff-potent, and to keep Peyton Manning's workload down. With the swap of Julius Thomas for Owen Daniels, the TE isn't going to stretch the field. He's still a WR1, but more along the 8 to 10 range, not 1 to 5.

2) T.Y. Hilton. Just too many weapons in Indy now, with credible threats all the way down to WR3 and WR4, and QB Andrew Luck is smart enough to spread the love. Hilton will get his, but it will be in fits and starts, with too many mouths to feed.

3) DeAndre Hopkins. Maybe I'm missing something, but why should the only WR of note in a run-first offense with one of the worst QB situations in the league... should just be as good as last year, when he delivered WR2 value? Maybe Andre Johnson, particularly in 2014, wasn't exactly motivated to destroy the world, but he's still better than Nate Washington or Cecil Shorts III. Hopkins is in for a world of double coverage and QBs who don't get him the ball. Avoid with all speed.

Wide Receivers - Risers

1) Alshon Jeffery.
Every year, you have to balance a fear of injury from a player who is otherwise just going to be a stud. This year, it's Jeffery, the top target for a Chicago team that will be down often, throwing it a lot, and, well, he's good. A top 5 season awaits.

2) Keenan Allen. So what's real -- the 1K / 8 TD rookie machine, or the 800 / 4 TD sophomore slumper? Let's go to Column C instead, where he puts it all together and goes to 1200 / 10. Why? Because Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates are old, Ladarius Green is too good at blocking to just go out on patterns all the time, and QB Philip Rivers will get him the ball. Remember, no Eddie Royal now, either, and while Stevie Johnson isn't horrible, he's not going to go as much as Royal did last year. Allen's going to be a target magnet.

3) Jeremy Maclin. We get it; Alex Smith stinks. But Maclin's a lot better than Dwayne Bowe, Andy Reid will scheme to get him looks all over the field, and Smith is tired of hearing how he doesn't have the sack to feed a WR. Maclin won't get to the 1,300 / 10 range that he saw last year in Philly, but 1,100 / 8 is completely possible, and for where you will get him, you'll be happy.

Tight Ends - Fallers

1) Jimmy Graham
. TE2 really fell off a cliff last year due to health, and now goes to a run-first offense with bad outdoor bad weather, instead of the pass-happy dome that was his domain. He probably doesn't slide past TE6 range, but he also does not make you very happy every week, and for where you would need to take him, he should.

2) Jason Witten. Beware the Name Brand. Witten is 33 now, has scored 5 TDs or less in three of the last four years, and projects more as a 600 / 4 matchup play, rather than a set and forget guy. He's still good, and the best the franchise has seen at his position, but Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley will move the sticks a lot more on third down this year.

3) Kyle Rudolph. Career high in yardage: 493, two years ago. Career high in TDs: 9, same story. Last two years: 17 games played, 15 games missed, and in the games played, the meh-ish totals of 544 / 5. He's not getting drafted in many leagues, but any is too much, especially with the Vikings developing other weapons.

Tight Ends - Risers

1) Greg Olsen.
OK, it's chalk to go here with Kelvin Benjamin out, but Olsen might be the only fantasy relevant pass-catcher in Carolina this year, and will not disappoint with a very heavy target load. He's been good for 800+ yards and 6 TDs the last three years; pencil him in now for 1K and 8, and likely TE2 status when it's all said and done.

2) Julius Thomas. Kind of the TE equivalent of Maclin, in that everyone has smashed his draft value with the move... but Thomas is a TE, and going to get all kinds of security and red zone love from QB Blake Bortles. I realize the injury concerns are real here, but he's got 800 / 10 potential, and maybe even more than the latter number if things go well. It's not as if he went to a murderous division.

3) Delanie Walker. I've seen enough of Marcus Mariota this off-season to think he's going to turn the Titans into an actual NFL offense, and all of the love can't go to the wideouts. Walker's never going to be convinced for a guy with great hands, but he does damage when he does catch the ball, and he'll get consistent targets. Draft and smile.

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