Thursday, October 8, 2015

Quick and Dirty MLB Playoff Predictions

No time for thinking, thanks to the play-in games and General Life.

HOUSTON at Kansas City

I was going to take either WC winner against the Royals, who limp into the post-season with a starting pitching staff that really disqualifies them from any further consideration. Sure, they might catch lightning in a bottle again, the home fans are ravenous and the bullpen is first rate, but starting every game with a deficit is no way to live.

Chicago at ST LOUIS

The Cardinals usually roll in this matchup, but the Cubs are going to be a tough out. They've got credible starting pitching, an experienced post-season manager in Joe Madden, and enough callow starters that aren't aware that this is all too much, too soon. Unfortunately for them, once the series gets deep enough, and their terrible bullpen lets them down, they'll learn that few things in life are as inevitable as the Cardinals annoying the rest of the nation by being the organization that they wished they rooted for. Jerks.

(Earlier: TORONTO over Texas, LOS ANGELES over New York. We were 1-1 in the WC round.)

Brief And Obvious Points About Chip Kelly Saying His Team Is Two Kicks From 3-1

It's All The Kicker's Fault
You hit two kicks and we are sitting here 3-1 and everybody's happy. - Chip Kelly, seriously, no, not making this up, on 10/6/15

Hoo boy.

Well, before we get into the bedrock insanity that's far more disturbing than the gist of this throwaway lie, a few points of order. If Cody Parkey hits the field goal in Atlanta -- oh, and Parkey was hurt during preseason, and never right, and Nero the GM never bothered to find a replacement, because having a LOL LB try to kick was Moar Fun -- the Eagles are just up by a few more points. With plenty of time left in the game, and the Falcons still having that Julio Jones guy that was pretty much torching Chip's CB1 at will, facing a good QB at home, without getting much of a pass rush. Missing the FG didn't help, by all means, but it's not like the team was down 2 and iced the clock before not collecting points from a (heh heh) chip shot.

In re the DC game, Caleb Sturgis should not really be expected to make the figgie, given that he also missed a freaking PAT. And if he connects on both of those -- and he should do that why, exactly, given his track record of not keeping the job in Miami? -- you are just up 8 when the Slurs get Pierre Garcon doing his thing, and have to stop a 2-point conversion after getting pimp slapped down the field for the last three hours of perceived time. There's a real good chance that you just lose the game in overtime, rather than regulation, especially since the rest of that game showed that the offensive line might as well have gotten on the bus with a minute left, rather than bothering to take the field.

So, um, no, Nero, you are not two missed kicks from 3-1. You are two losses, both of them well and truly deserved, from 3-1. And if the Jets don't jump offsides during your trying like hell to lose end game in New York, maybe you are 0-4 instead. Honestly, from actually watching the games, this team feels a lot closer to 0-4 than 3-1. Hell, from watching the game, this team feels closer to 0-5, and yes, I know they've only played four games. This offense has been so bad, between the first half in Atlanta and DC, and the entire game against Dallas, that time no longer has meaning.

But let's ignore reality -- we have to, we're Eagles Fans, which is to say, a team with the 6th worst record in the NFL over the last half-season, and yet one where many people were talking Super Bowl after three freaking pre-season games -- and let Nero be right. Would anyone actually think that this collection of crud would be ready to win a playoff game or three, just because they had a record they did not deserve? Would you feel any better about the offense that can't run the football, the defense that can't get off the field, the special teams that have barely avoided blocked punts on multiple occasions, and actually have given up a blocked punt as well, and so on?

I don't need Nero to be odious to want him the hell away from my laundry. The fact that he's not very good at this is the only thing that matters. This is a very cut and dried business. I'm certain that there are all kinds of great people who didn't make the team; being a great person is utterly irrelevant to the results. I didn't ever wish ill of Andy Reid when he needed to be removed from the laundry. He just needed to go.

But lo, Nero is checking off every box in the I Can't Wait For Him To Go checklist. Loser? Oh yes. Liar? Most definitely; the Evan Mathis Experience, when the coach says that he wasn't going to ever show up and play without a new contract, and Mathis is tweeting the photo of his airline ticket, is check and mate on this. Fraud? Sure; Sideshow Tebow proved that, along with turning QB3 into a turnstile. Not serious about his job? LOL LB/K. Can't relate to pro players, especially if they show any sign of the Uppity? Check, check, check.

A bad team with a good record is a bad team. This team is 2-6 over its last eight games, and one of those wins was in a game where the opponent (New York) was actively trying not to win, so as to better their draft position. This is a bad team. It's got a bad offensive line, and now it's hurt. It's a thin team, and the injuries are mounting. It's a team that's simplified the offensive playbook, and become incredibly predictable. It's a team with a coach that's supposed to be aggressive, and he's not.

 3-1 or 1-3?

Who the hell cares, when the team is a terrible and unwatchable fraud?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Week Five NFL Picks: Nice People Go To Pound Town

Your Tour Guide
I am sure that you, Dear Reader, are as shocked (shocked!) as I am with the news that employees from daily fantasy leagues have been caught in engaging in the de facto version of insider trading. To think, a business that preys on the delusions of sports fans while misrepresenting itself as anything like the innocent little dork leagues you've been in might not be the nicest or most scrupulous people in the word! It's almost as if anything that the Patriots and Jaguars management gets involved with, and that gets bought in by Fox, the NFL and countless other Good People and Better Citizens, is inherently awful and corrupt. I don't know what to believe in any more!

What I do know what to believe in is that with three straight weeks on the plus side of Coin Flip, 2015 is so my year for the picks column to gain Full Redemption. You are wise to ride this bullet train to Pound Town with me. (Wait, that doesn't sound good.)

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

INDIANAPOLIS (+1) at Houston

Terrible Night Football returns with hobbled QB Andrew Luck leading the Colts into Houston, where Not Good Enough and Oh Dear Not Him are already in a QB battle that will not end in either one being, well, the QB in 2016. I think Luck eventually works his way through to enough points to win, but it's not going to be pretty, easy, or watchable. Especially with Jiiiimmm Nantz and Phil Simms on the mic. Gahhh.

Colts 20, Texans 16

Chicago at KANSAS CITY (-9)

Time for the Chiefs defense, which is better than it has shown so far, to get well on the Bears, who might be feeling just a little bit better about life after the first win in forever, albeit as a home underdog. Andy Reid is good in these situations, and the Bears on the road are apt to teddy up.

Chiefs 34, Bears 20

Seattle at CINCINNATI (-3)

This is the kind of situation where the home Bengals are supposed to spit in the face of prosperity and return to their historically frustrating form, especially with the big bad Seahawks coming to town. The only trouble is that Seattle doesn't have a working offensive line right now, or the frontline RBs that help to cover for shortfalls. They are also on short rest. It's a different year, and Cincy is going to actually prosper. Besides, there's only so many plays that QB Russell Wilson can pull out of thin air before turnovers happen.

Bengals 24, Seahawks 20

Washington at ATLANTA (-7)

If I had a survivor pick to make, I'd be using the Falcons this week. Sure, at 4-0 they look like they should ready to spit the bit, especially with a defense that's probably not as good as shown, but the Racial Slurs are just a turnover waiting to happen, and if your secondary can't stop Miles Austin and Riley Cooper, the only thing that might limit Julio Jones is drool, or a 4-TD lead in the third quarter. Besides, QB Matt Ryan feels bad about not getting in on the offensive explosion last week. I expect every Atlanta unit to score in this game, and for it to be over by halftime.

Falcons 48, Slurs 20

Jacksonville at TAMPA BAY (-2.5)

A who knows kind of game between two young up and coming teams that aren't anywhere near ready yet. The Bucs seem to be on a good game / bad game yo yo with rookie QB Jamesis Winston, and I think it's time for a good one. Besides, they also got RB Doug Martin going last week, which might carry over here.

Bucs 23, Jaguars 17

NEW ORLEANS (+4.5) at Philadelphia

For fun, because I have odd ideas of fun, I looked at the records of the entire NFL since Week 14 of the 2014 NFL season, to see just exactly the company that Nero "2 kicks and we're 3-1" Kelly is keeping. It's a stellar lineup of very exciting football teams!

Cleveland 1-7
Tennessee 1-6
Chicago 1-7
Tampa 1-7
San Francisco 1-6
Philadelphia 2-6
Jacksonville 2-6

So, um, not seeing why they are a home favorite against anyone, let alone a team with an actual competent QB in Drew Brees, which would be the first one they've faced in 2.5 games. This game will also feature the two most overrated geniuses in the game today, between Kelly and Saints DC Rob Ryan. Someone's got to stink less! (And if the Eagles win this one, I'll be 0-5 ATS with them this year, as part of Nero's Great Plan to get me to stop watching football. Try harder, Nero! I'm nearly there!)

Saints 27, Eagles 24

CLEVELAND (+6.5) at Baltimore

The Factory of Sadness continues their road trip of close but not good enough in Charm City, where the Ravens left the ranks of the winless through the great charity of the Steelers and their special teams. Baltimore will use the extra prep time to good use, but there isn't enough of a pass rush or consistent offense to give them separation for this big of a spread. Besides, AFC Central games are always close.

Ravens 24, Browns 20

St. Louis vs GREEN BAY (-9)

Time for the Schizo Rams to pull another rock from their limitless collection of Wha Happen, but at least this one has the excuse of being against the best QB in the world. The Rams might be able to keep this close with RB Todd Gurley going wild, but I don't think they'll be able to be patient enough to keep feeding him, and QB Nick Foles won't be clean enough to cover the spread. If they were coached by someone with more on the ball than career mediocrity Jeff Fisher, maybe... but no.

Packers 34, Rams 23

BUFFALO (-2.5) at Tennessee

Two fun pretenders here, but I'm going with the road team just because you usually need to suffer through early days against exotic Ryan defenses. Their lack of healthy RBs is a concern, but I think QB Tyrod Taylor has a bounce back against the Can Be Had Titan defense. (Oh, and another fun fact for Eagles Fan? Taylor could have been the Eagles' QB3, but Nero had to have The Tebow Sideshow. Great GM work, Nero.)

Bills 23, Titans 16

ARIZONA (-2.5) at Detroit

Big Red on the road against the perpetually screwed Lions, who are coming off a ref-ruining loss on the road in Seattle. Unfortunately, it's a short week and Arizona is a better team, and since the Cards are coming off their own loss, they'll be in no mood to mess around. Besides, Detroit got gift turnovers to stay in that game anyway.

Cardinals 27, Lions 17

NEW ENGLAND (-8.5) at Dallas

The Patriots come in after a bye to face a Dallas offense that's just been decimated by injury, and got punched in the mouth in an overtime loss on SNF to New Orleans. Just about the perfect scenario for the road team, and while Dallas might keep it close with the running game, they won't be able to stay with that for four quarters. Especially with QB Tom Brady being more than good at finding your worst DB and eviscerating him.

Patriots 38, Cowboys 20

Denver at OAKLAND (+4.5)

Denver's been winning close games, and Oakland at home has been downright frisky. I think the Broncos win here, but without the running game hitting on enough cylinders, they won't sustain enough drives to cover the spread. Look for the back-door cover and a day-long fight.

Broncos 23, Raiders 21

San Francisco at NY GIANTS (-7)

Wow, does Colin Kaepernick look lost or what? If you can't get it done against the pedestrian Packers defense at home, I'm not seeing your life get better with a cross-country trip and national attention. Big Blue should be 3-1 and in firm command of the NFC lEast; they'll be 3-2 and in firm command after this game instead.

Giants 24, Niners 13

PITTSBURGH (+3) at San Diego

I'm probably overthinking this one, but the Chargers are just so banged up at WR right now, I just don't see them making enough plus plays to get separation. Pittsburgh needs to stop treating interim QB Mike Vick like he was a rookie from a wishbone school, especially when you've got the best WR in the league right now in Antonio Brown to throw to. With a long week of practice and a few show 'em deep balls for gains or DPI, Pittsburgh will create enough room for wonder RB Le'Veon Bell, and get back on track.

Steelers 32, Chargers 24

Last week: 8-7

Year to date: 35-27-1

Career: 653-658-44

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MLB Predictions: Follow the Money

Amen, Dr. Nick
There is almost no point in predicting MLB playoffs. The chance of a good team beating a better team is nearly as coin flippy as it gets, and while you used to be able to do things like go with the dominant starting pitcher, even that has kind of gone out the window in the Age of Bullpens. As last year's Royals run proved, and any number of Giants wins also, Mo Mentum is All, and last night's game can matter way too much on this one. Analyzing the teams and the matchups can only take you so far, but not picking is less fun... so let's have at it. (And, shh, picking the teams that are likely to make MLB more money.)

Houston at NEW YORK

The Astros come in with a better starting lineup and might be too callow to be scared of an everything on the line game in the Bronx. New York staggered into the post-season, and might have finally burned up the bullpen that dragged them into the tournament. But I can't go against the home field advantage, the ludicrous experience edge, and a starting pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka) that just seems like he's going to pull off a better game than his opponent (Dallas Keuchel). Finally, the Yanks have the better bullpen.

CHICAGO at Pittsburgh

It's a shame one of these teams isn't going to get more than one playoff game, because both of them are just more fun to watch than a bunch of other clubs that are going to get more games. But such is life in the NL Central, which really might be the only division in baseball that deserves to have playoff games.

I'm taking the road team here, because Jake Arrieta has just been lights out to a greater degree than Gerrit Cole, and there's something Cursed about the Pirates and their annual feel-good run to one and done. Besides, they've got enough swing for the world young guys who aren't going to know they shouldn't do that in the playoffs, and one or two of them will connect. But if this game gets close and tight late, and the Pirates get Arrieta out of there, the home team can definitely pull off the comeback. Should be a hell of a game.

Texas at TORONTO

There's always a temptation to take the underdog in a series like this, because while the Jays have been the best team in the AL for a while now, all it takes is a tough inning or two for self-doubt to creep in, and the Rangers are going to feel like they are playing with house money. But there's just too much power all over this Jays roster to not think they'll eventually get the floodgates open, and David Price and Co. are just on a different level than what the Rangers run out there.


The marquee matchup in the NL between the two big market teams, and the dream matchup for TBS. Both teams throw out absurdly good starting pitching, a reasonable amount of power, and some power bullpen arms to close it all down, but I'm going to go with the Dodgers under the theory that experience matters, and the Mes have punched above their weight for the past couple of months behind the about to slump Yoenis Cespedes. Besides, I'm not rooting against Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in their attempt to win another title that they don't have any right to.

More when the matchups are made.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Dirty Little Secret About Chip Kelly As A Coach

Bad Coach Walking
Even he doesn't believe in his team, or strategies, any more.

Take a look at the game tapes from Kelly's first and second year, and you'll see faster tempo, regardless of who is under center -- Nick Foles, Mike Vick, Matt Sanchez, and even Matt Barkley. Kelly used to push tempo because he thought that he had the better team, and more snaps would show it, and even if the game was a trainwreck (see Barkley against Dallas and New York in his rookie year), he'd stay the course, because he believed in what he was doing.

Now, he's going to Detention Mode way early with leads, because he has more confidence in his defense than his offense, despite the fact that the defense was down both starting CBs, and 2 of the 3 starting MLBs. I don't think this is on Sam Bradford, either -- because if it were, Kelly would have thrown him under the bus for it. (He's done it with other QBs.)

It goes further. In Kelly's first two years, there was all kinds of exotic formations, many of which we didn't really need to see again, but the point is made. Swinging gate field goal point afters, 3-man lines with a ton of WRs, dual RBs, etc., etc. Now that six of the last seven games that both teams were actually trying to win have gone down in flaming defeat, or roughly three years worth of losing from the college game where his stuff worked without question, Kelly is coaching not to lose, with a roster filled with guys that are going to do nothing but that.

Young players used to be force-fed into situations. Now, they work limited snaps -- unless the man ahead of them got hurt, at which point they go into the exact same role and responsibility, because changing the scheme could make a sloppy team just look even worse.

To be fair, it's not as if the personnel is doing much to help him out. After WR Nelson Agholor made the first very good play of his NFL career with the one-arm grab that reminded QB Sam Bradford that throwing deep is not only allowed but encouraged, Kelly called his first trick play of 2015, and maybe his last, given how they executed it. The give to RB Ryan Mathews, who flipped to Agholor, was wide open if there was any kind of tolerable exchange. Instead, Mathews screwed it up, Agholor didn't recover, and Washington had all it needed to keep the offense bottled up for another drive. Only borderline heroism by the defense kept the game in touch at that point.

Will Kelly stop coaching to lose, especially now that many of the offensive linemen that weren't getting the job done are going down to injury, and street-level personnel is getting in the game? It's hard to say. As bad as losing to the Slurs was, it was Bradford's best game, along with Agholor's, and if the offense had done anything in the first half, or if they get a kicker that can do anything, they probably win this game. They might not later, because this run defense is going to be ground into dust as the snaps and losses mount, but so be it.

The standing joke about the Eagles has been that Nero the Coach has been killed by Nero the GM. But to be honest, neither guy is worthy of employment.

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