Cubs fans - get your 2007 Cubs playoff T Shirts! The shirt says it all for your upcoming ride in the postseason with the team that gives new meaning to "finding creative ways to lose." With this shirt you'll be prepared for anything.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Cubs fans - get your 2007 Cubs playoff T Shirts! The shirt says it all for your upcoming ride in the postseason with the team that gives new meaning to "finding creative ways to lose." With this shirt you'll be prepared for anything.
The Phillies, after a start of the season that was just brutal, a starting pitching caravan where the monumentally confidence-free Kyle Lohse was an upgrade, a mid-season reassignment of the closer role to their best SP of a year ago and a genuine retard of a human being, dozens of DLed players and a fan base that's been convinced for years that they are gutless cock-teases that will end up just short at the finish... are tied with the Mets for first place with one game left to play.
Longtime Phillie fans are, of course, of two minds: delighting in the collapse of the Mets (just 17 games ago, the lead was 7 -- if it continues, this choke job will be truly monumental), and convinced that their team will, once again, come up just heartbreakingly short of the post-season. Today's game, a surprisingly lifeless loss to the back-of-the-bus Washington Nationals, is a clear case in point; they ran through pitchers like chocolate through a dog, then got betrayed by bad defense. Meanwhile the previously lifeless Mets nearly had a no-hitter in a runway win against the Marlins. Best of all, the loser in this bake-off will most likely miss the playoffs, as God intended (though if the Padres lose in Milwaukee, and with Brett Tomko on the mound that's always a decent chance, there's likely to be An Ongoing Situation).
I love pennat fever. It's the best value in major-league sports, the last sprint in a marathon, and it's so good that it covers even the glaring holes that a team has, or the fact that in the NL, if you're just a few games over .500, you were in the mix. If you're a fan of competitive balance, it's your year; no team in either league will win or lose 100 games.
But I can't get into this Phillies team, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I haven't earned the right to care about them in a pennant race. I gave up being an MLB fan entirely with the strike; only the Pure Fun Oakland A's of the early 00s, along with the fun of taking my kid to games, got me back. Secondly, I don't actually like the new yard, I've been to a game or two in the Phillies' new yard, and it's just another overpriced new stadium, filled with the same old classless yahoos. Third, the GM situation is as horrid as its ever been; if this team doesn't make it to the playoffs despite having ridiculously good years from 3/4s of the infield, as well as found money years from a bunch of OFs who really aren't that good, and a drop-dead good year from emerging star Cole Hamels... well, let's just say that it doesn't exactly provoke confidence in their future efforts to get better. They've collected washed-up closers like an outdated fantasy team owner, and the injury excuse only goes so far, really. (Having said all that, last year's Cardinals team proves that Anything Can Happen In The Playoffs. So...)
So to all of you out there who think that today's sporting events (i.e., the Eagles in New York to face the Giants in a battle to see who will be 1-3, and the Phils/Mets/Padres situation will also resolve itself) has the potential to be another Shattering Event to the Philly Fan Psyche... please get over yourself. The Phillies have not been to the postseason since 1993, despite being over .500 in each of the last five years, and they are relying on a 44-year-old soft tosser (Jamie Moyer) with a 5.15 ERA to punch their ticket tomorrow with win #230 for his 20-year career. The fan base, believe it or not, really isn't going to jump off a ledge if they don't make it. They're kinda used to this by now. And it's just not a baseball town no more.
Posted by DMtShooter at 2:30 AM
Friday, September 28, 2007
I hope that isn't true. I'd much prefer to see the Cubs make the playoffs and then go down in flames. In a perfect world, they'd make it to the World Series and implode on a national stage. Plus, there's nothing worse than making it that far and losing. And I'm sure there are one or two jinxes left to catch up with the Cubs. I was delighted to see this story on Deadspin earlier in the week. Basically the story tells of how the Cubs have already sold and printed up World Series tickets. Always a good idea for a team like the Cubs to taunt fate. I mean, I know the ball club itself makes dumb moves but it must be contagious.
Time for this week's NCAA football picks. For the season we are 12-9 and up 231.75 units. We had a rough week 4 going 2-4, but what do you expect when Syracuse wins on the road as a 30 something point dog. But we’re still up for the year and feeling great about Week 5 games.
Cal +6.5 at Oregon. Something’s not right with this line and I could be on the receiving end of it. To be safe, buy that extra half point to push the line to +7. Cal has lost the last two times they’ve played in Eugene, but never by more than 7 points.
THE I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SPREAD LOCK OF THE WEEK
This story kind of boggles the mind and palate, but if it takes off, I can see many spin-off flavors... Lions Taint, Giants Flopsweat, Raiders Musk, etc.
And as always, I lament the fact that when Sprite had Kobe during AnalGate, it didn't do more with Obey Your Thirst. The opportunities were, um, endless.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Every gambler, of course, likes a feeling of certainty, that what he or she is throwing their money on actually has a predictive quality. If you're gambling on coin flips, you've got real problems and a distinct lack of life; the goal is to get in a game where your mind or gut can give you an edge that counters the house's inherent advantages. (This is, of course, a complete bullpoop story, but there is no greater source of bullpoop stories than a casino.)
Every fan, of course, likes a feeling of uncertainty, especially when it comes at the expense of a high and mighty favorite. Neutral observers at an NCAA basketball tournament game will always pull for the underdog, and there's nothing duller than a game where you know from the opening whistle that the only way the favorite is losing is via an act of God.
So here, as in many things, the interest of the gambler conflicts with the interest of the fan, and there's even a little bit of animosity between the two camps. This is also, I suspect, something that will eventually cause the NFL to lose popularity... because with the rise of fantasy sports, we're *all* gamblers on some level. And the league has never been more random.
Take the Packers, for instance. Is this really a 3-0 team that's going to run roughshod over the NFC Central, and winners of 7 of their last 8 regular season games... or are they a prime candidate to come back to .500 fast? I've seen a lot of them, and they look to me like they have a weak OL, bad blitz pick up from young RBs, a QB who will keep each team in the game, and no good WRs not named Driver (and he doesn't exactly terrify you as a #1, either). And yet here they are, a road win away from a perfect first quarter of the season, on top of a division where it looks like they could run the table, assuming that the Grossman to Griese change doesn't completely invigorate the Bears.
I don't know, you don't know, they don't know. It's as close to a coin flip as you'll ever see in a sportsbook. And there are a half dozen more teams just like them.
One last word before we get to the picks -- I'm writing this while feverish. So if I finally break through the magic .500 mark this week, root for the illness to linger...
* * * * *
Packers covering (1.5) over VIKINGS. Here's how random the NFL is this year: there are 9 road favorites, as opposed to five home, this week. Only four games have a 7-point spread. So in the first of way too many pick'em kinda picks, I'm going with the Pack, under the theory that Brett Favre's career hideousness indoors will be covered by his defense and his (shh) special teams. Besides, after last week's unwatchable Vikes game, it's hard to take them to win a boat-riding contest.
Houston covering (3) over ATLANTA. Does anyone still care about the Falcons, and if not, why wouldn't you go with Byron Leftwich sooner, rather than later? In what basically amounts to a random game, I'm going with the mild vengeance of Matt Schwab overcoming the probable absence of Ahman Green. Besides, after DeAngelo Hall's meltdown last week, the Falcons have no one to stay within five yards of Andre Johnson.
New York Jets covering (3.5) over BUFFALO. Have Lee Evans' fantasy owners hung themselves yet? Keep a close eye on the rafters if the consensus top 10 WR who hasn't even been ownable yet this year doesn't get loose. In fairness to Evans, it's tough to shine when you might be the only good offensive player on the team. This will be one of those games that convinces Bear Fan that they traded the wrong RB. (The other of those games would be, well, the Bears game.)
CLEVELAND beating the spread (4) against the Ravens. Well, well, well, what do we have here, Ravens Fans? The beginning of a QB controversy, as it seems that Coach Ego feels his team has a better chance to win when Kyle Boller comes in late for Steve McNair. Long-time readers will note that I've thought the Ravens had a better chance to win with Boller than the broken-down McNair for weeks. Expect more of the same in this one, and maybe even a little Vengeance for ex-Raven Jamal Lewis, who might still be running for that big TD run he had against the Bengals two weeks ago. (We're not saying that Jamal has lost a step -- it's more like a foot -- but when he breaks one, his teams win the time of possession battle.)
St. Louis beating the spread (13) against DALLAS. The Rams are without Stephen Jackson, Marc Bulger is playing with broken ribs, the Cowboys are the clear class of the conference, and they're playing at home. Guess what? They aren't coached well enough to squash a team, even one with as little going for it as the Rams, flat. Expect a late cover and extended garbage time, but this Cowboy defense isn't quite good enough for this number.
Chicago covering (3) against DETROIT. I'm kind of expecting a Bear Renaissance as Brian Griese seizes the job with actual competence, instead of brain-busting Rexosity. For the Lions, they come in with the NFL's highest ranked passing attack against a banged-up Bears secondary... but the thing about those stats is that they are filled with a lot of hot air and bad opponent defenses, because people rarely look at NFL numbers in context. The Bears will know what to do with Jesus Kitna, but the sure bet here is actually the over.
Oakland beating the spread (4) against MIAMI. This Raiders team is going to be playing close games all year long, because they actually can run block a bit now. I even like their chances for the upset against a frankly terrible Dolphins team. Finally, there's the very real chance of Culpepper Vengeance in this game. (What's with all the vengeance this week? Ah, what the hell, run with it.) Oh, and one last thing: this will be the ugliest game of the week, as neither team has much of an offense to speak of.
Seattle covering (2) against SAN FRANCISCO. What's wrong with Alex Smith? Nothing that a home game against a bad defense wouldn't fix... but that isn't this week. Meanwhile for the Seabags, Matt Hasselbeck is quietly having one of the finest starts to the season in the conference, and he should be able to keep it going against a Niners defense that actually considers Michael Lewis at safety to be an upgrade. Keep an eye out for thwarted vengeance against Niner WR Darrell Jackson.
Tampa Bay beating the spread (3) as a road dog in CAROLINA. I'm not sure about this line, really; it seems 100% wrong to me. Delhomme is probable, and David Carr against a smart veteran D doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Besides, the Bucs have been looking downright frisky, especially after treating Marc Bulger like a pinata last week.
Pittsburgh covering (6) against ARIZONA. This is one of those games were an AFC bully exerts its dominance, especially with the Steelers defense looking quite good so far this year. Expect more Kurt Warner sightings this week, but this will actually help Leinart's cause, as Brenda's Husband will do little more than the starter.
SAN DIEGO covering (11.5) against Kansas City. In a colossal battle of coaching genius, I'm expecting LaDanian Tomlinson to silence the critics, even if it means he has to take over at QB by force. But the real Charger to watch in this game is Antonio Gates, who always seems to elevate his game in the weeks when Tony Gonzalez is on the other sideline.
(Am I really happy with taking Norv Turner and giving up 11.5? No, of course not. Am I really happy going against Herm Edwards in a road game? Of course. Ladies and gentlemen, the Resistable Force meets the Movable Object!)
INDIANPOLIS covering (9.5) against Denver. In a shocking development, four weeks into the NFL season, the Broncos seem to be going into a committee situation at RB. How does that taste, Travis Henry owners? The lesson, as always: Mike Shanahan will gladly hurt his chances to win just to mess with fantasy football players. He's a bad, bad man. Meanwhile for the Colts, they are doing what they do -- win the games they're supposed to win, grind it out ugly more often than you'd expect, and go run out and hide from the rest of their division. In the long run, what winds up helping them here is that while Champ Bailey can limit one of their WRs, he's failed to clone myself for the other three.
Philadelphia covering (3) against the GIANTS. In a brave moment, I'm going to take the Eagles even though this means they'll likely choke the bit; I have not been able to pick a single game right for them this year, so why start now? In a battle between two teams that are trying to stay relevant near the Cowboy Menace, I'm always loving the edge the Birds have at coach. Besides, Derrick Ward is not Tiki Barber, so maybe the Eagles can finally play the Giants without getting ripped apart in the running game. (To be fair, Giants Fan has similar unhappy feelings about Brian Westbrook.)
New England covering (7) against CINCINNATI. WHAT? This is an OUTRAGE. How is the ONLY GOOD TEAM IN THE NFL only getting seven points on the road against a Bengals team that can't get defensive stops? Doesn't Las Vegas understand that the Patriots are going to go 19-0, with an average margin of victory over 20? Seriously, stop the season right now, give the Patriots their trophy, and maybe Coach Nixon won't have us all killed. And if you don't pick the Pats, remember, in the words of Our Friend Bill Simmons, YOU REALLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. Oh, and if you don't watch the game, you're lying and hate sports and excellence and shouldn't watch football at all, so that Bill and his little friends can have more face time. More Bill in the monitor, please!
Last week: 5-8-3
Season to date: 18-24-6
Sharp-eyed readers will notice a certain resemblance to an infamous recent editorial by Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News. Having had the, um, pleasure of actually meeting Bykofsky once upon a time, I can tell you that he fulfills all of the pre-conceived notions of what a hacky journo is like... and that while he used to write kvetchy gossip columns for the PDN, he's now clearly moved on to artless agitprop.
Anyway, go read the piece and then come on back. I'm going to try to clear through a bunch of stuff today.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
So the other day, The Shooter Eldest, who is now 7, was down in the Man Space trying to fathom football... but the tone to the questions gave her away; her heart really isn't in it. Or the baseball games I've taken her to, or the basketball games that are occasionally on as well. She likes going places, spending time with me, gets what fantasy leagues are, and knows who Dad's favorite teams are. She's also smart enough to give me space when things aren't going well. But actual interest in the game? Not so much.
Independent of my questionable parenting skills, I'm wondering if there isn't something more widespread going on here. When the Ninja comes over to watch games with his kids, none of them are showing a great deal of interest in the game, either -- even the eldest, who has a fantasy team in a Dads and Kids league that the Ninja runs. The grown-ups are reacting to plays, yelling at the television, giving fist pumps and high fives... and the kids are either looking on bemused, or finding something else to do.
And that's the gist -- they're finding other things to do, and they're going to keep doing that. In the next 20 to 30 years, these kids are not going to have the same sense of overwhelming urge to root for their team. Some will, of course, but others will keep it at arms distance with video games, social networks on the Web, music and, um, porn too, since they'll be teens and grown ups with all of the usual stuff going on.
Watching sports is a habit, possibly even a vice. It feels like more than that, because it's a shared and communal experience that acts as social glue; the biggest meathead in Philadelphia and I can get through five minutes of not completely awful conversation if we just keep it to Da Iggles.
But if you had given me the same access to everything the world had to offer, via the Web, as a teenager... well howdy, I was online during the 300 baud dial-up modem days when doing so meant that I was always on the phone, driving up my mom's bills and really annoying the rest of the family, and all for the joy of text messaging on bulletin boards in a slower and less exciting version of CB radio.
So what does this all mean? That the seemingly perpetual explosion of interest in sports has a real and definite end date, at least in the US. That the ads you see will start creeping upward in age, from college-age beer and car ads to middle-aged prescriptions and financial services. And that leagues will, as the demographic numbers start looking less robust, will start to truly embarrassing and regrettable Youth Outreach efforts at the ballpark.
Wifi? You betcha. Team-mandated MySpace pages for every player? Oh yes. Wince-inducing "rap" sessions where the youths are magically transformed into football fans forever through the simple touch of a messianic quarterback?
To the point where you can parody it, but yes, yes, yes...
The list is here, and I'd have more to say about it, but we are talking about a guy who is only really good if you're in a fantasy league... and as the NBA did everything short of make keeping stats illegal last year in their quest to kill any fantasy sports interest... well, it's hard to work up much more than ten things to say.
Oh, and there's also this: Jazz owner Larry Miller is a sad little wet fart of a man, and I'm glad when his team loses. So there's that.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Your list is here, and the sharper-eyed Eagle-haters out there are wondering, of course, why I didn't use Donovan in any of these hypothetical conundrums... and they can, of course, go bite themselves.
Oh, and Patriots Forever Undefeated For The Rest Of Time, Because We Should Have Known Better. Heil Bill!
Monday, September 24, 2007
In this recent post by FTT's own The Truth, we were able to show how, in a single-elimination tournament, your own Jamestown Jimmies swung the most pipe in all of college sports nomenclature.
Since that momentous moment, FTT has received more traffic from North Dakota -- which, as you can see from this actual photo from our site measurement service, is so far north as to be in permafrost -- than could easily be imagined. By our calculations, 48% of the student body has already came to the site, and that was just in the morning, before getting on with their day.
It's also no surprise, of course, that the Jimmies have continued to give the high hard one to their opponents on the actual gridiron, too. In their last win over the stinky Beavers of Minot State (why did they even bother to show up -- didn't they realize that Jimmies always pound Beavers?), the Jimmies rose to the occasion with a 28-16 jackhammer of a win. This leaves the Jimmies at 3-0, undefeated, unbowed, and damn near invincible, at least to our one good eye.
Jimmies Nation, FTT wants to maintain its staying power as your One True Blog. But we can't do it without your help. To that end, we're officially announcing our Jimmies Only FTT Shirt Giveaway.
It's very simple: to enter, post your comments to this entry as to why you should be First Among Jimmies. Then, check back see if the judges have deemed your entry the winner, and we'll do the hook up to get your own FREE Garment of Greatness. (Of course, if other Jimmies want to be complete dicks about the contest and order their own shirt before the contest ends -- well, you can't keep a good Jimmie down.)
That's all there is to it: some lucky Jimmie is going to take us for a 100% FREE shirt. Your deadline is 6pm EST on this Friday, September 28 (and yes, it used to be earlier -- I'm giving you people a few more hours to get your permafrosted asses in gear). May the best Jimmie win!
Your list is here, and my condolences to the Shooter Brother (who has lived in SoCal long enough to commit football bigamy with the Chargers). Here's a simple rule of thumb for NFL GMs going forward: if your candidate has ever been fired by the Raiders, cross him off your list. (I realize this will also keep Art Shell out of the league, which is a huge disappointment to the gambling community. Sorry, fellow degenerates.)
Forgive me, FTT Nation, for the following bit of non-sports. I promise it'll route back to something you might care about in a little while.
Yesterday, the Shooter Family was out for the day to do a couple of different things, the first being to find a replacement dog for the Shooter Eldest. As you'd expect in finding a puppy, we didn't want to just get the first available mutt; there was a lot of consideration of breeds, condition, price, and how the newest member of the family was going to interact with the kids. (We eventually found one, and no, there won't be pictures. It's a nice animal and all, but it's a little girl's puppy, and I get enough grief from my Toolmates as is for being a big damned girl.)
As we were looking, the Shooter Wife pointed out that if we didn't find the right animal today, we could always go out again -- and I interrupted -- next Saturday. "Why not tomorrow?" "Um, sorry, the game's on."
Because I have the kind of spouse that enables rather than denies, she just rolled her eyes and moved on. But it's telling, really.In the last few weeks, I've reconnected with an old friend that lives several hundred miles away. In different circumstances, I could have been in the car this weekend. It was a beautiful day outside; I could have done the yard work and the garage clearing and the basement shuffling that needs to get done at some point. Hell, I've got an outline for the next book to write, a business project that really should get off the ground, and there's always more to do at my job. I could just spend time with my kids; I like doing that, too. There are, simply, a lot of things that I could be doing with my Sunday, rather than watch an 0-2 team try to save their season.
But, of course, I was in front of my set, as I have been for over 30 years, watching my team play, as if my viewing has any actual impact on the games (or, for that matter, my 1-2 fantasy team). And since the Birds put up touchdowns on their first five possessions, with Kevin Curtis setting a career high in the first quarter, with the Shooter Mom here to root it all on, it all seemed worth it. But the end result was the same as when they lose; time out of life, and whether or not you feel good about the payment is up to you.
The point, if there is one, is that the things that you do in life that are habit and routine need to be chosen from time to time, rather than just done. I wonder, on some level, just how often some of my fellow Eagles Fans (you know, the ones that were jumping off buildings before today's game) choose to watch, rather than just do it.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Time for this week's NCAA football picks. For the season we are 10-5 and up 390.85 units – bringing our total units to 690.85. Come on folks, it’s easy money, er, I mean units. Why pay for advice or roll the dice on your own? FTT is giving you sure fire winners each week.
Big game this week – South Carolina at LSU. Team whose fans average the most teeth per fan wins. I kid, I kid. I grew up in Baton Rouge. As always, first four picks are laying 50 units and the lock of the week is laying 100 units (which FTT is a perfect 3-0 on this season). This week, because we like you, FTT Nation, we’re throwing in a bonus pick. And to prove our skills, we’re only taking one home team.
Michigan State -10.5 at Notre Dame. Some interesting things to note here. This line has moved down 2.5 points since it opened at 13. Just as the Nebraska fans drove down the line last week, the Notre Dame fans are doing the same. Thanks suckers. The money line is also interesting. Notre Dame’s line is +325 and people are all over this with 96% of the total wagering on the money line going to ND. That’s a nice payout if the Irish win, but let me throw some numbers at you on why they won’t. In three games so far this year, Notre Dame has averaged: 4 points per game, 34 points allowed per game, and -5 yards rushing. Don’t throw away your money on this team.
Oklahoma -22.5 at Tulsa. This is really a home game for the Sooners as 90% of the crowd will be pulling for OU. Tulsa has nothing and this should be a laugher early on.
Nebraska -22.5 at home vs. Ball State. What do you do after a tough loss at home against USC? You schedule Ball State and beat them by 40.
Penn State -2.5 at Michigan. I’m not sure why everybody thinks Michigan has corrected their problems. They beat up on Notre Dame last week, not LSU. Yes, the Big House is tough to play in as a visiting team. Most years. How is this only a 2.5 spread?
South Carolina at LSU OVER 46. Two top ranked teams battling it out in Death Valley. Typically when 2 top SEC schools meet it’s a low scoring event (unless it’s Florida vs. Tennessee). But LSU’s offense scores at will and I think South Carolina will get a couple TDs.
THE I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SPREAD LOCK OF THE WEEK
Georgia Tech -3.5 at Virginia. The Jackets rebound from a tough loss to BC last week to take on a Virginia team that barely beat Duke and North Carolina. This one should be over at half time. But if it’s close at halftime, bet the house on Georgia Tech for the second half line.
You are looking LIVE! at what your Philadelphia Eagles will be wearing this Sunday as they confront God's Concussed QB and the rest of the Detroit Football Lions. Your list of rejected throwback ideas is here, but just look at this thing for a minute, and wonder...
At some point, which NFL team just comes out in pure women's wear colors and stuff as their "throwback" / "special commemorative" jersey, just to make a quick and greasy buck from the merch sales? As a father of little girls, I've already seen them receive the pink Eagles jerseys (they love 'em, of course)...
(At right, NFL contact lenses, for the ultimate in sports fan myopia.)
In the first two weeks of the season, the Giants, Jets and Eagles have combined to go 0-6. A major cheating scandal has erupted in one of the league's marquee teams, the Patriots. Last year's feel-good story, the Saints, have also gone 0-2 and looked bad doing it. The league is filled with parity, with 2-0 teams like Houston, Denver, Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit and Washington looking like they have glaring holes, and suspected powerhouses like San Diego and Chicago looking much worse than last year. Offenses have been behind defenses for the most part, and many of the league's showcase games have been something of a snore.
If this were the NBA, I am utterly certain that the stories in the mainstream media would be how the league was in turmoil and in trouble, especially with the vital New York / Philadelphia megalopolis having no good teams, and how the league has never recovered from ten years ago, when Big Star X walked the earth like a god. Oh, and that foreign or young players are ruining offense, and that the players were Out of Control.
If this were MLB, the story would be how incompetent commissioner-for-life Bud Selig was failing to confront a cheating scandal that is rocking the foundations of his sport, and how this just proved there was a double standard between rich cheaters and poor teams that didn't have enough money for video cameras and operators. Also, that too many teams had weakened talent to the point where any team could get off to a fast start.
In the NFL... it's wild and unpredictable! Low scores are proof of strong defenses! There can never be anything but a continuing happy talk of coverage, because we just love football so much, we're positively Pravda-esque about it! And that's a good thing! Wear the merch contact lenses and see the happiness all around you!
OK, maybe there are faint stirrings of discontent, most of them circling around resentment of the Patriots. But if the New York teams stink, the world and league will go on; they don't even have a team in Los Angeles, so what do they care about markets for? Green Bay has a team in a city with fewer people many suburbs. It doesn't matter. Put a team in Antarctica if you like, so long as they play their games on Eastern or Pacific time, and their players' numbers count the same in our fantasy leagues.
That, Nation, is a double standard, and violates the law of markets: things that can not continue will not. But then again on the Pravda tip, let's also consider how complicit the media that covers the NFL is. Will ESPN, NBC, CBS or FOX slag the game that drives their biggest ratings? Will ABC, which owns ESPN? Consider, as well, the media tentacles and consolidation, where seven companies control 95% of the stuff you'll read or see on the television.
No, folks, the sad fact is that the only people who will tell you that the NFL season so far has been a dry and chokey biscuit made out of something you don't want to think too hard about are, well, your fellow NFL fans. Also, blogs like this one.
And those blogs are much more likely to notice if their team is 0-2, and their picks record is sub-.500 against the spread. (Whistles loudly, looks around sheepishly)
Anyway... it's not like the badness is going to keep us from watching now, is it? On with the picks!
* * * * *
Colts covering (6) over TEXANS. Will the earth cease to rotate on its axis with a 3-0 Texans start? Is this really what the AFC South is going to consider as a Big Division Game this year? Or will the home team get a bit exposed, as they usually do, to Peyton's pre-snap machinations? We're taking just the latter, thanks, under the theory that if Matt Schwab was really this good, he's have done more in the games he played in Atlanta. But as one of the last best hopes for the Western World to avoid the Cheatriot Menance, it'd be nice to see the defending champs show up and kick sand in the home team's faces.
NEW ENGLAND covering (16.5!) over Bills. Should any NFL team, in any matchup, get a 16.5 point spread? Probably not, but this is the 19-0 Patriots we're talking about here, the team that Bill Simmons says that anyone who bet with the Chargers last week "you should have known better." You're gosh darn right, Bill -- anyone who goes against your team isn't only stupid, but shameful. And I, for one, am never going to let it happen again. From now on, Any point spread, any game, we're taking the Pats, because they're just an epoch-shattering orgasm of football goodness and proof that there is no comeuppance for the wicked in this side of the grave. 19-0, baby! Cancel the rest of the season now, so the team has more time to enjoy their Super Bowl Rings!
(Also, this -- the Steelers could have been up 20 on this Bills' team in the first half last week, and teams have finally figured out that covering that Evans guy is just about all you have to do to stop the Bills. Finally, there's this: if Coach Nixon is so beyond the pale as to cheat in every possible way short of having his players tackle opponents near the sideline like heel wrestlers in a lumberjack match, you think he's not going to run up the score, too? Let's face it: Bill is a gas mask away from being the football equivalent of Dennis Hopper's character in "Blue Velvet" right now.)
JETS covering (3) over Dolphins. What do the Dolphins have to do to convince the oddsmakers that they are, in fact, a terrible team? Let's see, we've got the rookie head coach who is burying the only possible plus RB on the roster, the most overrated WR in football, a washed-up and not mobile QB, and a defense that while good, is not looking too spry. They've got six wins written all over them, and yet they are only a three point road dog to a team that was a drop or two away from beating a tolerable Ravens team on the road last week. I don't get it.
Besides, some New York team has to win this year, right, or has the Mangenius angered some supernatural element (no, not God -- I'm thinking Satan, really) for daring to blow the whistle on the Cheatriots? In any event, we're taking the Jets.
Lions as an (6) underdog against the EAGLES. This is my official Costanza Pick, where I do the opposite of what I want because going with my worst idea seems to be the only way to get above water. Besides, God healed Jon Kitna last week in time for Him (Kitna that is, though if God was personally involved, perhaps Jon is now better addressed as The Lion Messiah) to beat the Vikings in a game that we're thinking the Allmighty was watching because He (God, that is, and not Kitna) clearly enjoys slapstick.
Anyway, the Eagles can't get much worse in the red zone then they've been so far this year; maybe they'll remember that they have the only really good RB in this game and use him. I'm still not taking them because they've got the shorter week and the Linc is not a good place for an 0-2 home team. BOOOOOOO.
STEELERS cover (9) against the Niners. Our second Big Undefeated Exposure game comes when the Niners bring their one-point wire winning act to Steely McBeamy town. While the Bay team may enjoy the radical tolerance showed by the Steel City (keep chasing that rainbow!), they're not going to enjoy a Steeler attack that would have really wiped the floor with the Bills last week with only marginal competence in the red zone. The best realistic thing that can happen for the Niners in this game is to lose but score points, and start to get some of their confidence in Alex Smith back. It just doesn't seem very likely to me.
TAMPA BAY covers (3.5) against the Rams. St. Louis is 0-2, doesn't have their dominant offensive lineman, and is facing a suddenly explosive Garcia-to-Galloway tandem that shocked the Saints last week. Expect more of the same here, as the Bucs defense enjoys the September good times and keeps Stephen Jackson in check, and the Rams WRs are confined to underneath routes against the aging but still effective 2 deep zone. This is one of those games that if they played it in December in St. Louis, I'd think the Rams would win by double digits... but on a slow grass track while the Bucs defense is still feeling like football players instead of glue factory nags, this is not the right matchup for them. And with every game like this one, Jon Gruden buys more time to torture Chris Simms.
San Diego covers (5) against GREEN BAY. Yes, we know, Norv Turner Is So Stupid, He Can Even Ruin LaDanian Tomlinson, and the Rivers/Brees combo that looked so good last year is shinola now. Brett Favre has clearly drank from the Fountain of Youth, and the Packers defense has spent eight quarters on the field making the NFC East curl into the fetal position. But remember, kids, the NFC is the junior league, and since the Packers' biggest strength this year is at CB until Woodson and Harris start slowing down with wear and tear, even Norv Wiggums will get the hint and work on getting Antonio Gates going this week. I see a lot of Chargers sacking Favre and forcing turnovers, and the Chargers looking like themselves again. If only for a little while.
Arizona covers (8) as a road dog against the RAVENS. I may be the only person in America not named Boller who feels this way, but I don't think Steve McNair gives this Ravens team their best chance to win this year. At this point in his career, he's a caretaker quarterback, which should be enough when you've got a dominant defense like the Ravens do... but there's one problem with that, which is that the Ravens haven't played all that great on defense yet. I don't think the Cards are good enough to pull off the upset, but a cheap late TD to make the number? That's why all the fantasy nerds in the house love the Cards.
Minnesota as a (3) road dog against the CHIEFS. The Vikes are a single player away from playoff contention. Unfortunately, that player is at quarterback, which is a real problem in a tough setting at Arrowhead. Maybe LJ finally breaks out and does something in this game, but I'm betting this one will be ugly all over, with the Vikings DL eventually making the turnover play that winds up making them a cover-your-eyes winner. The Vikes are kind of a control study to see how good a team can be without WRs or QBs - fascinating, but only if you don't have to actually watch it. (See the Atlanta Falcons for past precedent.)
OAKLAND (3) as a road favorite over those always entertaining Browns. The Raiders are maybe the best 0-2 team on the board in terms of line play, with a defense that could be dangerous if they ever got help. In both Raiders games this year, their offensive line did enough to move the ball on the ground. So why haven't they run more? Because NFL coaches are a stubborn lot who need to win Their Way... and possibly because Monte Kiffin knows he's playing for next year anyway, so he might as well call plays that are more developmental than Lamont Jordan left, right and center. Meanwhile for the Browns... I have no idea which offense shows up in this game, but my head tells me that Derek Anderson is not Dan Fouts. Expect this game to be in the teens.
SEATTLE (3.5) as a home favorite over the Bengals. Which Bengals D shows up - the ridiculously generous folks who burned the canny types that played them against the moribund Browns, or the Week 1 ballhawkers that made Steve McNair look old and obsolete? Probably closer to the former, especially in a road game against perhaps the best home crowd in the NFL. The number looks low until you realize that the Hawks gagged up a game at home last week to those ever imposing Cardinals. NFL Parity Is Fantastic!
DENVER (3) covers at home against Jacksonville. Last week upset special (Falcons to cover and possibly win on the road in Jacksonville) actually came to fruition, as the Falcons hung tough all day against the play-at-your-level Jags. The Broncos have been more lucky than good with two game-winning FGs in their first two games, but against a Jags team that has shown no evidence of good coaching in close games to date, we're going with the home team. This is also about the point in the season where Maurice Jones-Drew is going to come very cheap from the guys that reached for him in their drafts...
ATLANTA (3.5) working as a home dog against Carolina. Possibly the last game of the Harrington Era in Atlanta, who signed Byron Leftwich this week to a deal where he promises to not become fast, inaccurate, or a sadistic and pathologically stupid criminal. Lord Byron's turn will come, but not this week, as the Falcons use home field and a patient play calling attack to take and keep an early lead. How the Panthers still get the ball to Steve Smith is nothing short of a miracle, really... and while CB DeAngelo Hall is overrated, he's not untalented. I'm thinking it's time for Jake Delhomme to blow a game and remind everyone that he's, well, Jake Delhomme.
WASHINGTON (3.5) working as a home favorite against the Giants. How are you supposed to take the Giants when they drop their home opener by 20+ points to the Brett Favre Packers? You don't, especially when all of the Giant QBs seem to be wearing the latest in Opposing Blitzer for this fall's hottest new accessory. (And as a side note, the Jared Lorenzon bangwagon still has good seats available.) After this game, expect the always sober DC sports (and blogger) media to anoint Jason Campbell as the greatest QB Messiah Not Named Kitna.
Dallas covers (3) as a road dog in Chicago. Another in a series of "Gosh, if Rex Grossman can't score a lot of points in this game, can Chicago ever win with him?" games. Right now, they win more with Devin Hester than anything else. As for Dallas, they look to be the class of the NFC East, but they don't award titles in September, and they one inevitable TO Incident away from having a lot of problems. But for now, it's time to throw your guns in the air and get down with your bad selves. (Oh, and keep a special eye on Tank Johnson's performance this week. You'll need to, because he actually kinda sucks, not that anyone should, you know, tell him. Not a good man to annoy, really.)
NEW ORLEANS (4.5) as a home favorite against the Titans. It's getting late in the day for the Saints to look worthwhile, but a little home cooking against a Titans team that I just can't believe in, under the MNF lights, sounds like a cure for what ails them. Then again, so did a Bucs game last week. I'm just going to keep picking against the Titans until someone gets it right. And if there was anyway where I could beat the over on Hurricane Katrina mentions in this telecast from the pathologically not present Tony Kornheiser... that's be my lock of the week, assuming the number was 20 or less. Hell, make it 30.
Last Week: 6-9-1
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Your list is here, and here's a quick question to the bloggers in the house (and some days, I wonder if every FTT reader is writing their own blog)...
Do the rest of you throw a secret joke into the name of your image uploads? Today, mine is "Oui, I have, how do you say, anomie" -- which I note here just to spur The Truth into posting, because waving French in front of him is like tossing a live grenade. You may not like the response, but there will be one.
It's like putting on a bonus track into a CD 20 minutes after the song is over; complete wankery, the tiniest little Easter egg you can get. I do it out of some witless sense of finishing the job the right way. I'm genuinely curious: is anyone else so anal?
So there's a minute or so left in the Eagles Redskins game on Monday night. Despite a third quarter intervention from the great, but not particularly relevant, Charles Barkley, I've been down with the efforts of the MNF crew. Ron Jaworski has shown me some stuff I wouldn't have noticed otherwise, Mike Tirico has been matter of fact and OK, and while I still have no real use for Tony Kornheiser, he's miles ahead of where he was last year with Joe Theismann and Mike Patrick, when the announcers actually made me watch fewer games. They're chatting about stuff other than the game, which annoys me, but the game is kind of dull. It happens.
But then Kornheiser starts making my teeth grind -- and he's doing it in a classic, endemic way that has become so ingrained in sports broadcasts practice, I bet most of you reading this didn't even notice.
"Wow, this would be such a great win for the Redskins."
OK, fine, and true -- I know Skins Fans, and they are legitimately excited by their team. For once against the Eagles, their quarterback situation seemed equal or better; if I rooted for that team, I'd be pumped too. Meanwhile, McNabb is starting to find his rhythm and the Eagles offense is looking a little frisky. Anyone want to point out why for me?
Game continues, and now it's starting to creep in more and more... the disease of Announcer Is No Longer At The Game.
"How long until McNabb leaves?"
Um, probably when the clock hits 0:00, unless there's overtime. Same as everyone else, really, unless the ambulance or the aliens come for him. (The later with the probing, he's probably used to, given the fun of dealing with the Philly media. Ever been in a room with Bill Conlin and Howard Eskin? Not even light can escape the douche baggery. But I digress.)
Now, I can understand -- very begrudingly understand -- the need to add Narrative to a game. I get that we all add stories to fact, that we all live in the world of our choosing, and that the race to What's Next is true for all humans.
But, um, THERE'S A MINUTE LEFT IN A ONE POSSESSION GAME, and the Eagles are driving. What you are saying... could be said in the six DAYS until the next week's slate of games. So, for the love of the moment and actually feeling some honest amount of excitement over the outcome of a game and all of the other reasons why people, you know, eat or have sex or drink or go to movies or read or ENJOY LIFE ON THE PLANET... can you please, pretty please, pay attention to the freaking game?
If you took this same approach to the other things in life that you take sensory pleasure from, you'd be an irredeemable twerp, insufferable in the extreme, and seem like you're suffering from some kind of psychological affliction. In broadcast sports -- you're a sharp. A guy in the know. An expert. A noted pundit.
And an insufferable twerp. TALK ABOUT THE FREAKING GAME THAT'S IN FRONT OF YOU!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
10) Donovan McNabb will never be good again (while wearing an Eagles uniform)
9) God Hates Us, and for no good reason
8) Andy Reid's Kids have worried their dad so much, they've made him turn stupid
7) We haven't had home field advantage since the Vet Stadium turf struck terror in the hearts of opponents
6) If only Jerome Brown had lived, we'd have won every Super Bowl for the last 15 years
5) The rest of the division really sucks (hey, we're right sometimes)
4) The team hasn't had a quality WR and individual since... Irving Fryar? Mike Quick? Harold Carmichael? Nope -- try Tommy McDonald
3) All of those other Eagle Fans are knee-jerk bedwetting lunatics -- but if they lose to the Lions they'll be 0-3 and Everyone Involved Will Have To Die
2) This would have never happen if Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Andre Waters were still on the team
1) Anyone who isn't an Eagles Fan that talks badly about our team needs to have their ass kicked
Forgive me the repeat YouTube clip of Paul Anka's immortal greatness, but please be advised that we're now selling T-shirts with the site's logo for $18 (that includes shipping).
These are 100% cotton, available in M, L and XL, guaranteed to get you noticed, and, without a doubt, the very finest piece of merchandise ever to bear the FTT brand. To order your own, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll figure out the logistics.
Also, if you're a smoking hot babe and want to model for the site / Earn FTT Cred The Hard Way... we won't say no. And bring your friend, you know, the one that does That Thing With The Tongue.
If you are too strapped for cash or prurient interests to slice like a hammer and get your own Garment Of Greatness, there is Another Way... which is to say, be the FTT Reader of the Month. You can do this by either:
(a) Contributing comments like our first Big Winner, FTT Comment Hall of Famer Tracer Bullet. The Bullet's shirt rewards a lifetime of achievement, and the gift is the only thing that's keeping him from offing himself after Eagles-Redskins.
(b) Providing some exceptional service to the blog (this would include whoring out our links, getting us traffic from other sources, or getting us invited into cool events or other access)
(c) Shamelessly begging for it in a particularly effective fashion.
The decision of the judges in these matters is final. AND THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS!
The list is here, and if you are expecting some words about the Redskins-Eagles debacle tonight... well, you're not getting them from me. Eagle Nation as a whole would do better to not talk about these things for a little bit of time. See me in a few days, really.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Over the weekend, there was a blogger fight over at the group place where I hang, Epic Carnival. (You may know them for the quick hitter list work I do there five days a week, which gets a link every morning.) The gist of the slap fight was that a couple of guys who write "edgy" where bent because the publisher made the executive decision to not allow profanity, so he could better monetize the site for advertising. So they wrote a series of posts where they more or less tried to get canned, and then they got canned, and wrote about that, too.
I don't much care to discuss the choices being made. Instead, I wanted to hit the double standard that's present when you work on controversial topics.
Here at FTT, we did something similar when we added ads on the site, and considering that the site had maybe a dozen uses of profanity in the first 350+ posts, it really wasn't a terribly hard sacrifice to make. Frankly, you get more people bent at you when you make a joke in borderline or questionable taste, or you wave a stick at a particularly rabid hornet's nest of partisan fans, then when you work blue.
Something struck me as I waded into the timewaste (because, no matter how you slice it, nothing about one blogger arguing with another blogger has a thing to do with sports) -- if you want to go for edgy / extreme / "real" and antisocial stuff in your blog, there isn't anybody stopping you. You might lose your advertisers (really, at this level, not such a big deal in the short run), and also get blowhards getting on a soap box about you and your awful, awful mind. But really, it's all about whether or not you've got the chops to work without a net.
This blog is unabashed in its manlove for Big Daddy Drew, the first among equals at Kissing Suzy Kolber. BDD's small email of encouragement, along with the kind words of a few others, kept us going in the "Is Anyone Out There" stage. Today, he wrote a remarkable piece where he was offering up a bounty on Tom Brady's knees. Tasteless? Of course. Morally objectionable? Definitely. Something he may regret if, next week, Brady goes down with a gruesome injury? Well, probably not -- BDD has thick skin, and his hatred of Bill Simmons is so great right now, I'm amazed he didn't offer up the $20 to anyone who'd take out Billy's typing fingers.
Was what BDD wrote more tasteless than what the guys who are no longer with Epic Carnival wrote? Probably not, but only by a matter of degree. But since BDD is, simply, a better writer, he's one of the best-read writers in the sports blogosphere, and if KSK took ads, he'd probably be making reasonable coin from his stuff.
Because, independent of what was written, the plain and simple fact is that BDD's piece is freaking funny. It reads well, rips through the paragraphs and ends when it should, rather than overstaying the welcome. In the hands of a lesser writer, the idea would've been a big Eh, So What. With BDD, it's something I'm forwarding to friends and hype in this here blog. The other guys? Not so much. (And if they take this as a reason to have another blog to war with, well, whatever. I haven't taken their bait before.)
And that's it a nutshell. Life isn't fair, because talent is not evenly distributed. Good writers can take more chances, and will. Charismatic people can get away with more questionable taste. And if you're in the position of looking up at someone else, getting bent, and thinking it's not fair.. you really need to work on your craft some more. Or just learn to live with it.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Here's a statement that you're not going to read too often... Opening Week in the NFL, um, kinda sucked. And not just because my Birds stayed to the script of last-second field goal loss where they were the better team and I was there (pay me now, Andy, or I'll start going to more games). But when the defenses are clearly ahead of the offenses to such an extent that most games were beating the under without a second thought, there's clearly something that needs to be done.
First off -- enough with pre-season games. The NFL has enough money now, for heaven's sake, and everyone manages these things as if they were protecting fine china. The end result is offenses that are so not in shape, because they've been used to "vanilla" packages and substitute personnel taking up the coaches' time. Scrap the pre-season, and let coaches tune their teams in private for an extra four weeks without distraction. I guarantee you would see better offenses in the first few weeks.
Secondly, stop spreading the product all over every night of the week. Does anyone really need a late night Monday game? Was the Thursday night kickoff game so meaningful to your existence, especially when it fell apart in the second half and provided little, if any, drama? The dirty little secret of pro football games is that many of the games, especially in the second half, are of little interest to anyone but the fans of the teams and fantasy nerds. Like the NCAA tournament, the NFL works best when there's a little too much going on, like it's just past the realm of things you can process at once. Spreading out the schedule during the regular season gives these games the weight of a playoff or special event, and they are just not. No matter how much hype you load them up with.
Now, having said that, on to hype this week's picks!
Texans cover (6.5) at PANTHERS. Huzzah! The Texans had a QB and a RB and an OL and an actual football team and everything! Yes, but they also had an opponent where the coach eats paste, the RB was too busy spending his off-season reading about how he was going to explode from overwork to go to training camp, and the OL has fallen and can't get up. The Panthers, fresh off an impressive road throttling of the Rams, won't prove to be so accommodating. But it'll be close enough to cover.
Falcons cover (10) at JAGUARS. In our upset of the week, Joey Harrington and the Falcons running game keeps things close against the dramatically inconsistent Jags, who are about two weeks away from a crises of confidence in their coach and QB. Despite superior line talent and a championship level running game, this Jags team has never really achieved to the level that they should, and at this point in the proceedings, the finger can only really be pointed at the coach, Jack Del Rio. To be fair, maybe you can't win with either of the QBs he's had at his disposal... but they've mismanaged their assets. Someone else can win here, and soon, but this year won't be pretty.
Colts (7) over TITANS. "All Vince Young knows how to do is win football games!" Yeah, funny thing about that kind of leadership / mystique / bull poop. It goes poof when faced with cold hard reality, and the reality is that if the Colts defense could make the Saints look silly, what do they do with a team that has no good wideouts at all? Answer: load the box and stop the run, putting Young into third and longs, then go max protection in the secondary and let him try to pick up first downs with short passes against the zone. That adds up to a lot of punting, a lot of Manning, and the Colts grinding out a safe but boring win on the ground. Take the points nervously, but take the points.
RAMS (3) over Niners. Two very ordinary teams, one coming off a win at home, the other a loss. So why am I going with the losers? Because in a pick 'em kinda game from two teams that really haven't shown what they are offensively yet, I like the team that has the extra day of rest and the home cooking... especially when both clubs are way too invested in the success of one star RB to succeed.
Packers (0) over GIANTS. Hopefully, Brett Favre will adjust to the fact that he doesn't have a veteran team with a lot of ability to digest complex pre-snap line calls. The G-Men looked kitteny soft agains the Romosexuals last Sunday night; the only good unit on the field will be the Pack defense. Expect the Giants to keep things on the ground with Droughns and Ward in an attempt to manage the game with hefty lefty Jared Lorenzon. This game has the potential to be cover your eyes awful.
STEELERS (9) over Bills. In the role of who's going to threaten the biggest cheaters in NFL History, things are looking up for the Steelers, who clowned the Browns in one of the few good offensive performances of Week 1. Now, they get a Bills team that can't get the ball to their only good WR, with a rookie RB on the road. If this one's a game in the third quarter, blame Steely McBeam, who will be making his debut in front of the home field faithful. It's an open question who will be in worse shape by the second quarter -- JP Losman from the Steeler blitz, or Steely from the Yinzer faithful.
Bengals (6.5) over BROWNS. When you think about this Bengals team, there's a very real difference of opinion on just how good they are. They just managed to hold on against a Ravens squad that couldn't stop turning the ball over, the WR and RB depth is very suspect, you would think the defense would be better after so many years of Marvin Lewis at the helm, and with so many of them visiting the hoosegaw, they're tough to root for. On the other hand, their skill players are pretty great, and you'd have to think that the special teams blunders and bad luck moments from last year's team evens out.
There is no debate, however, that the Browns really, really, really suck. This is the game where the guy that took Carson Palmer over Peyton Manning in your fantasy league starts to talk a lot of crap. It won't be the last week, either.
Saints (3.5) over BUCS. Classic bounce back game potential for Brees and Company, who get an extra couple of days after the Colts thumping to prepare. Expect Reggie Bush to look unstoppable against the aging by the minute Bucs LBs, and for the Bucs to try to shorten the game with a steady dose of Cadillac Williams. As anyone who has watched the last 20 or so Bucs games will tell you, that really doesn't work that well.
LIONS (3) over Vikings. The winner gets the early lead in the NFC North, as well as the fast early start they need to keep doubts about their talent level at bay. Despite the bad idea that is Tavaris Jackson at QB, I am very scared of the Lions here; this looks like one of those games every year where Jon Kitna reminds you that, good fantasy numbers or no, he's still Jon Kitna. It's a coin and stomach toss of a game.
Cowboys (3.5) over DOLPHINS. For the life of me, I don't know why the line is this way. True, the Cowboy defense didn't look good, and Miami does have a big homefield advantage in late summer heat... but it's not like the Cowboys are dome flowers, and the Fish Stink. Look for my preseason sleeper pick, Patrick Crayton, to break out in this game as the Dolphins double up on Owens.
Seahwaks (3) over CARDINALS. In the development of every NFL quarterback -- or, more importantly, the lack of development as hype and promise fade to the sad reality that not everyone gets to be a star -- there are telling moments. For Cardinals QB Matt Leinart in week one against the Niners, there was such a moment. Faced with a tight game where his running game wasn't awful, his defense gave him chances, and his wideouts should be able to hold their own... he was unable to deliver his team a road win. I'm not saying it's time to stick a fork on him and turn the Cardinals back over to Kurt Warner; we all know that it's more important for the Cards to learn what they have in Leinart than to waste their time on a guy who will be out of the league in another year or so. But I do know this: guys who have long careers in the NFL win that game in their second year. Leinart didn't, and he won't win this week either, against a Seahawks team that looked frisky last week against the Bucs, and is clearly (yawn) once again (stretch) the class of a (eyes... so... heavy) weak division.
New York (10) shocks BALTIMORE. This will (probably) be a Ravens win, but it will also be more of a fight than a 10-point spread dictates. This Ravens team is too prone to putting the ball on the ground, and one suspects that the Jets are better than they looked against a team that's filled with disgusting, abominable, horrific, vile, please rip out their intestines slowly and show them to them before they die... Patriots.
Anyway, take the points.
BEARS (12) over Chiefs. Is Rex Grossman a mental midget? Yes. Is Cedric Benson a gutless pussy? Mais oui. Will the Chargers regret their post-gaem open mic night comedy stylings? Eventually.
Meanwhile, count on the Bears to get off (sorry) early and often against a terrible Chiefs team. This is one of those games where Sexy Rexy puts up huge positive numbers, and the fearless / insane people who have him in their fantasy league will then turn around and try to trade him. (By the way, this was me last year. The Rex Cannon netted me Kevin Jones and the ire of my league mates. Jones got hurt later, I won anyway, and all of you just had your eyes glaze over and skipped to the next game preview. While I've got some privacy, I'd like to share with you my thoughts on coffee and Things My Wacky Friends said.)
BRONCOS (10) cover Raiders. I miss the 2006 Raiders, the punch line to every joke you could ever make about an offense, a team that somehow managed to get on national television three times despite being, quite possibly, one of the worst teams in NFL history. Those 2-14 (and how, again, did they get the two?) players, when faced with a situation like last week against the Lions, would not have fought back to make a game of it. They wouldn't have gained the smallest measure of a moral victory by having Lamont Jordan look less than completely washed up, or having Josh McNown play well enough to be fantasy relevant. No, that Raider team would have folded like a wet noodle, gotten their hapless QB sacked a dozen times, all while "coach" Art Shell did his Easter Island impersonation.
Why do I miss that team? Because I drafted defenses that face them.
Anyway, the Broncos escaped Buffalo last week like Travis Henry's sperm escapes condoms (we are required, by law, to make a Travis Henry's Sperm reference every week; it should be a team name in every fantasy league), and they'll play better at home. Jay Cutler isn't quite ready for prime time yet, but the thing about young QBs is that they always look closer to done at home. Also, there's this: Mike Shanahan treats the Raiders like they once did something bad to him or something.
San Diego (3.5) over NEW ENGLAND. Will the Cheatriots even be able to play football again without their cheating advantage? We kind of doubt it. We're betting that this team goes 0-15 the rest of the way, with 20+ point defeats in every game, and the NFL decides to strip them of every win they've ever had. Patriot games will be attended by 13 people, Bill Simmons will never write about them again, and the league will move them to Los Angeles to try and cover their shame. (And yes, I hate to bet on Norv Turner as a road dog, because he is frankly terrible... but I can't see even New England keeping its focus this week, and the Chargers have a great deal of talent.)
EAGLES over Redskins. Oh, this time, Lucy's going to hold the football, Redskin fans. This time, she's going to hold that football down nice and tight, and you're going to come into Philadelphia with your young QB and your college of coaches and take your rightful place as top dogs in the NFC East. Andy Reid's reign of divisional terror is over! Lord Voldemort Snyder rules the day!
The Skins won, at home, on a field goal over a Dolphins team that's going to win 5 or 6 games this year. The Eagles lost, on the road, to a Packer team that's going to win 8 to 10. The Skins took advantage of Trent Green playing his first game in a new offense with bad weapons (Chris Chambers may be the most overrated WR in the NFL, Ted Ginn Jr. is not a football player, Reggie Brown is getting run out of town by his coach, and they actually miss Randy McMichael -- phew). The Packers took advantage of the Eagles committing monumental brain farts in the punt return game. (Andy, for the love of God, would it have been so bad to have Westbrook go back there and catch the ball in the fourth quarter? Just catch it?)
Here's what Skins Fan doesn't want to know -- the Eagles defense was in Favre's grill all day. They would have pitched a shutout with any kind of help from the offense, or without back to back miracle improv plays by the Big Old Stinky Cheese Man. McNabb will shake off more rust, the defense will force turnovers, and Westbrook will torture the Skins late. There's a reason that Vegas made this a 7 point line, and that the NFC East is Andy Reid's bitch.
But don't worry, Skins Fan. There's always next coach.
Last week: 7-9
Big game this week – Notre Dame and Michigan. Who gets to start 0-3? FTT will be staying away from this game as there is already a show called “The Biggest Loser.” Oh, and check out the newly launched NDSPN site to read up on everything Irish. As always, first four picks are laying 50 units and the lock of the week is laying 100 units.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
The list is here, and here's the extra super-exclusive backstage thought process / angry ranting for FTT Nation...
Maybe I'm just a bitter ex-employee of Blazers owner / Seahawks owner / Hendrix Fondler / Microsoft Hanger-On / True Idiot With Money Paul Allen, but I'm not feeling *too* sorry for the fans in Portland today. (How bitter? Quite bitter. Let's just say that Paul's need to suck the dead dong of Jimi (with the Hendrix Experience Museum -- is that still around, or has someone turned it into a Planet Hollywood yet?) made me suddenly job and income-less at a time when The Shooter Wife and I had a six-month old baby and one source of income. But I digress.) Here's why.
1) Their team, in the very recent past, has employed some of the very worst human beings ever to play in the NBA. And that's saying something. They still filled the building. Morality only came into play when the team started to suck.
2) They ran off Maurice Cheeks, which allowed the Sixers to hire him, therefore comprising my past wonderful memories of Mo as the best point guard in team history with the current, mostly clueless, coach.
3) Bill Walton. I'm sorry, but everyone connected with this man being on my television set needs to suffer. As we all have.
4) Paul Allen. OK, let's get this straight. You've got more money than thousands of people could figure out how to spend. You're going to keep making money, assuming Microsoft doesn't go the way of Commodore, for the rest of your life. Everyone you've ever loved or been related to is taken care of. And you hold up the city for stadium ransom and corporate welfare?
Say what you want about the Borg-like nature of Bill Gates, but at least he's doing something with part of his money to make the world a little less crappy. Allen wants to steal from taxpayers rather than compromise any part of his vision of a world where he's got the most toys. Douche. Bag.
5) Residual bitterness over 1977. Dammit, they owe me one!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The list is here, but I'd also like to take a moment to throw something out there for everyone who, like me, keeps reading Bill Simmons under the Can't Stop Touching The Bad Tooth school of thought.
In the latest incident of You Can Predict Every Word Before You Read It, our favorite punching bag puts out the idea that Media Saturation is what causes everyone to hate on various teams (especially his favorites). I always love being told why I think things, don't you?
For the record... I don't hate the Patriots. I don't hate the Red Sox. Or the Yankees, the Colts, the Mets, the Giants, the Cowboys, the Redskins... and I haven't for a very long time.
A big part of this is fantasy sports. Once you've crossed the Rubicon of hard numbers for dollars and acquired the gambler's callousness (and let's face facts, fantasy sports *is* gambling -- just a less serious version of it, with plenty of levels between you and the pathetic no lifers at the dog track), you really do lose the ability to hate guys.
If my football leagues had all adopted a strict No Terrell Owens policy, I'd draft him more or less where he was slotted in my rankings, and take the dirty money. I've owned Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and a great many disagreeable others from teams that have ruined my team's dreams; it's not that big of a deal. If his team wins and beats mine, that really sucks, but it's not like I've got a dartboard in my basement with every team that ever took out mine in the playoffs.
No, what I've come to hate now are the actual fans.
The Masshole, with his bipolar insufferable arrogance / melodrama. The Yankee Fan, who seems to punctuate every disagreement with a call to violence or Ring Taunt. Cub Fan, who is just a championship away from being as bad as the Massholes. Giants Fan, with his painful to watch justifications for the Bonds Problem. And, yes, even my own fellow Philly Fans, who can't appreciate anything, even as they watch generally competitive teams, in brand new stadiums, with significant money to spend on their own athletes and free agents, and a not inconsiderable amount of success / watchable teams.
To all of you -- every single last one -- I have this time-honored advice.
Get On A Plane. Then, get off it, and don't get back on for a while.
Discover what it's like to not be in the warm cocoon of your hometown bubble. See a game from another venue without being part of an obnoxious army of invaders. Develop, for even just small moments, the perspective of having different problems than the ones you currently have. (And if the plane isn't feasible, just turn off your radio and your local Web sites and go spend some time in someone else's cyberhood.)
You'll find that life out here, beyond Red Sox Nation and the Yankee Empire and whatever other marketing slogan you've come up with to embrace groupthink douchebaggery, is actually kinda nice.
And it might also let you call a cheater a cheater -- regardless of the laundry on his back.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Before the season began, Commissioner Goodell warned all the teams that this type of behavior would not be tolerated this season. It’s time for the Commish to come down as hard on owners/coaches as he has on the players.
The talk is that multiple draft picks could be taken away from the Pats. That’s a good start but Goodell needs to do more. You want to hit Coach Sweatshirt where it hurts? Suspend him for a week. Not a game, a week. Meaning, he cannot be part of or present for any game week preparation for the next game. The suspension would run Sunday immediately after the game through the following next week’s game.
And just when you thought Coach Sweatshirt was the biggest ass in the Patriots organization, owner Bob Kraft had this little nugget to say,
When you're successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things. We understand that.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Eagles stink. Or I should say, the Eagles offense stinks. 13 points against Green Bay? The same Green Bay that ranked 25th last year in points allowed per game at 23? The Eagles D was solid, but that offense is something to worry about. And Eagle Fan – you can think all you want that you lost that game because of fumbled punts, but if you can only put 13 points on the board against the Pack, expect more of the same all year long.
Take the “over” on the Cowboys all year. Prolific offense, Swiss cheese defense. Should amount to a lot of points put up on the board each week.
Any doubts about letting Thomas Jones go have not been erased in Chicago. Ced Benson slacked his way through the preseason, and now it shows. Yes, they were playing against one of the toughest defenses in the league, but 2 yards per carry and a costly fumble makes Bear fan miss TJ. Oh, TJ fumbled only once all last year.
Kansas City is in for a long year. Sorry all you fantasy geeks that drafted Larry Johnson. There is no line to block for him and no passing attack to keep the opposing defenses from stacking the box. KC did muster one field goal against the Texans in week 1. One measly field goal. Add KC to the race for the number one pick.
So this last weekend, as you may have read, I took the Shooter Mom to see the Eagles' opener -- on the road in Green Bay for her birthday. My mom is a huge football fan, a strong pool player, knows her stuff and has been watching the team since they won their last NFL Championship -- 1960, with Norm van Brocklin leading a prehistoric version of the West Coast offense to a win at home against the young and emerging Green Bay Packers. (The last time anyone beat Vince Lombardi in a championship game.) Here are my notes on a trip that was a few punt return attempts away from being so much, much better.
I left the Five Tool Ninja's place (did you know we were all friends? did you care? should I write up funny things he says and make you want to hurt yourself with smug douche baggery? OK, moving on) to pick up the Shooter Mom. The plan is an afternoon flight to Milwaukee, and overnight stay there, and a morning drive up. We'll see the game, then fly back that night. Things go smoothly, save for some plane turbulence, and we got in on time.
For car rentals, I like to use Priceline; I don't care who rents me the car, really, and it's especially good if you want to with an exotic request (in this case, a convertible). We got the car for 40% of the list price, and after some good-natured trash talk from the counter person, we were off to downtown Milwaukee, about 12 miles from the airport.
Downtown Milwaukee reminds me of Seattle (some similar architecture) crossed with New York, on a small scale, then remove 99% of the people. It is, of course, not fair to judge a downtown on a Saturday when the office commuter folks are all gone, but I work in New York, where you could go outside at 4am on a Tuesday and find enough people to to play a full football game. In Milwaukee, we walked around for an hour and saw, at most, a half dozen people. Of course, it may also be that people don't walk anywhere in all of Wisconsin, which, given the food they eat and the quantities in which they eat it, may be entirely true.
We wound up in a classy steakhouse, where the Shooter Mom was worried about us being underdressed. As we walk in, we saw two guys in Eagles jerseys, and stopped feeling self-conscious. The smallest steak on the menu was a 16-ouncer, and I swear I was still full 36 hours later. Crippling Obesity and Heart Disease: Catch It!
Being a Road Fan is an interesting experience. Since it costs serious cash, you don't get the same kind of complete yokel doing it. But to pull it off also means a certain monomaniacal focus -- along with a distinct Lack of Life, since you're giving up time along with the money. I'm not saying it's a bad way to blow cash and time, but it does attract a different kind of fan.
It takes about 2 hours to drive from Milwaukee to Green Bay; it's a pleasant enough drive, assuming you are OK with the smell of manure. As Eagle Fans through the Kotite Era, this was nothing new.
About halfway up, the weather starts to cloud up and threaten rain, so I pull over to put the top of the convertible up... only to discover that the right side isn't quite airtight, due to a missing piece. We wind up stopping at a convenience store and getting electrical and duct tape to make sure that the rental returns in more or less the same condition we got it.
Green Bay is, honestly, a small suburban town; you may know it's a little place, but actually driving to the stadium brings it home in a way that television does not express. How small is it? There really aren't signs on how to get there. Seriously; you go north on 43, and if you don't know to go towards the airport, you miss the stadium. Think about that -- there isn't a sign. Why would there be, really? Everyone's from here, so... yeesh. Luckily for road fans, the locals are really mellow and nice, and will tell you how to get to the stadium -- it's over that way, past the mall. (Honestly.)
As you get closer to the stadium, you see people waving flags and selling spots in their front yards. So why not? We pull in and walk for about ten minutes to the stadium, drinking in the atmosphere. As you walk to and from the stadium, you are literally in the back yards of people who live there; it's like Wrigleyville for pro football, and as far as I can tell, completely unique to Green Bay. There's something to be said for community ownership.
The lesson of Green Bay is this: you really could have an NFL franchise just about anywhere. If you can have it here, you can have it anywhere. Brooklyn? Sure. Portland? Absolutely. Vegas? Of course. Birmingham? Green Bay south. Sacramento? Bigger than Green Bay. Syracuse? I went to school there; definitely. The taste for pro football in this country is under served; the amount of talent produced at the college level is sluiced down to an extraordinarily sharp level. Are there enough quarterbacks to go around to fill 60 to 100 teams? Probably not. But there are more than enough of everything else, most especially fans. You are telling me that everywhere there isn't a big college football team, there could not be a pro one? I call manure.
Football stadiums do not really matter that much; you don't hear about people making cross-country pilgrimages to see them all. And then there's Lambeau. Opened in 1957 and the longest continually occupied stadium in the NFL, it is a perfect jewel; there is no waste space, no seats are really bad, and the luxury boxes are where God intended them -- in the upper reaches. According to Wikipedia's page on Lambeau, over 74,000 people are on the waiting list for season tickets. I can see why.
We got there about 90 minutes before the game, and wandered around until game time. As with all NFL places, there's plenty to eat and buy, but it's a very different environment; it all feels very local, with a strong definition of space. There's no franchised food, and while stuff at stadiums is never going to be good for you, Green Bay takes it up a notch. Triple cheese pizza. Bratwursts the size of your lower intestine, unwrapped. Sodas with extra cheese. Complimentary EKGs at the end of every aisle. I'm only making some of this up, along with the fact that the only non-obese woman at the game was fronting a rock band. (The obese ones dancing to them? Oh dear.)
As the game started, we headed up to what we thought were our seats -- and found ourselves at the 50 yard line. Huddled in a Lambeau Field pullover and hoping that the rain would stop, we watched as dozens of surviving Congressional Medal of Honors winners were applauded, then given bratwursts and monstrous steaks to finish them off. Next was the de rigeur military jet flyover, to see if any of them got flashbacks. I've been to a dozen games that did that, and still don't understand why the hell people like that. But I'm clearly Un-American or something.
As the Eagles were introduced, there was a strange moment -- beeping through the PA and technical problems. We thought it was just gamesmanship from the Packer management, but then the PA started asking people to evacuate in a canned voice, repeating the same message over and over again. Some folks started to move, but I looked at the field -- and as the millionaires down there weren't being hustled out, it seemed obvious to me that this was false alarm. And it was.
As for the defining play of the game -- which is to say, the Pack's only touchdown -- of course, the returner (Greg Lewis) should have called for a fair catch. But how this isn't interference, I'll never know... and the fact that the replay was never shown in the stadium seemed Highly Suspicious. From what I understand, it was all Tony Siragusa's fault.
After falling behind by ten from a bad McNabb pick, the Eagles seemed to get their bearings; they stayed patient enough to gain some good yards running, completed their only real long ball of consequence, and then got the touchdown to Avant. By the half, the Birds had outgained the Pack by 100+ yards, Favre looked like he had never met his teammates, and while the Pack defense was playing well, they were also starting to look worn down.
At the half, we got our bratwurst, then headed back to the seats... only to discover that we were, in fact, in the wrong ones all along. Moving down to the 30 seemed less difficult to take, as the Eagles were driving, but in retrospect, this was really where the game was lost, because this was where the Eagles brain trust lost patience in running the ball, and when McNabb started looking good enough that the team started putting the ball in the air too much.
The Akers field goal gave the team its first and only lead of the day. Packer Fans, to their shame, started doing the Wave. This is always sad, and the crowd's interest in that actually helped the Eagles, who seemed to have a quieter field to work against. (On the whole, the Lambeau crowd isn't nearly as loud as Philly, actually. They also say bad words a lot less; I wouldn't bring my kid to a game here either, but if I did, it would be much less obvious child abuse.)
Newly settled at the 30, we had a pretty good view of the Favre Schoolyard Plays that led to the Pack's only real drive for points of the day. How either of these didn't result in a turnover is, frankly, big luck for the home team. The Crosby field goal tied it, and we were knee-deep into the stomach turning fourth quarter, as the sun came out and I started to feel my sunburn rise.
Packer Fan wasn't enjoying this game much, either. Exhorted to wave some giveaway towels, they did, but when your offense consists of Favre trying to pull stuff out of his ass, it doesn't breed happy confidence. My takeaway from the game, and from talking to more than a few Packer Fans, is that they really don't worship the ground that he walks on. There's just been too many interceptions for that. They know they'll miss when he's gone, but judging from the number of Hawk and Barnett jerseys in the crowd, a strong percentage won't miss him that much. It's not like they won't sell out the place after he's gone.
Also, Favre's play in this game was kind of befuddling. He kept taking long counts and motioning people around like a Peyton Manning impersonator... which really doesn't work when you've got an incredibly young offense around you. The Pack will be a false start nightmare on the road if Favre doesn't adjust, and quickly.
Besides, this whole Retire Or Not thing? Really not a Midwestern move. There no team in retirement, but there is an I in Quitter. The unconditional lovefest for Favre begins and ends with the national media.
With four minutes or so left, I remember saying to the Shooter Mom (quietly, as the seats at the 30 had many more Packer fans, and many of them were casting dark glances at our restrained rooting) that the defense was going to have to win this game. And they nearly did. Trent Cole and Jevon Kearse combined to separate the Favre Legend from the ball, giving the Birds the ball at the Packer 40... and then, finally, the team decided to run it. Right into the line with their backup running back (Buckhalter), and then again with Westbrook. A holding penalty, an incomplete pass, and a bad punt later, the team's best and last real chance to win the game was gone, and the Sense of Doom was heavy upon us.
Once again, the defense held; had the Eagles simply decided to not try to return punts today, they would have won 13-3, and maybe pitched a complete shutout without the two Favre Sandlot plays. But since they did, and JR Reed and Greg Lewis did the impossible and made Eagle Fan long for the return of Reno Mahe, it was all over. In 30 years of watching football, I've never seen a team lose for the sin of trying to return punts.
We got out of there as best we could, listened to the Chargers take out the Bears on the radio, and caught the flight home without incident. My sleep schedule is still kind of out the window (I'm writing this at 5am), and it would have been a much better memory with a win.., but hey, there's no script in sports. Bad things can happen too.
Despite the loss, I still feel good about the team for the following five reasons:
1) The defense. Green Bay's not good, but it was their home opener and they still got more or less trashed. Kearse looks like his old self, and so long as Lito Sheppard isn't out for a long amount of time, they're going to be very, very good. For once, I really liked the linebackers, and I can' tell you the last time that was true.
2) The coaching staff. I'm still kind of astounded that Brian Westbrook wasn't back to fair catch every ball in the second half, after it became obvious that nothing good was going to happen on punts today, but the Reid Era has never seen a Dumb Problem like this stay unfixed. It's ridiculous to lose a game like this, but when you look at their track record, they won't keep this up.
3) Donovan looked bad, but he looked ordinary bad. He wasn't limping, favoring the leg, or missing in a way that was out of the ordinary. He played a terrible game, but he played his game. I think he bounces back; I don't think he's gun shy on the knee at all.
4) Luck. When you look at last year's team, they had unlucky losses (New York, Tampa Bay) in the first half that were balanced out by fortunate wins later (Carolina, the second Washington game). Most fumble recovery is a 50-50 luck game; had the Eagles recovered either of the muffs, the game is very different.
5) The schedule. Next week, they've got Washington, in Philadelphia, on a Monday night. It's a huge game, but if they get it (and as always in the Reid Era, I don't really fear the Skins), they'll have Detroit and the suddenly crippled Giants before the break. With a better game from the offense, they'll be 3-1, which is where you'd have to think they were going to be at the start of the year. (Besides, it's not like we haven't seen this team crap the bed on Opening Day before -- in 2002, it was a three-point loss at Tennessee, in 2003, it was the sloppy fart of a game in Atlanta.)
The Reid Era has been about bad losses that create drama, then division smackdowns to get right. If the same pattern holds, Eagles Nation will get off the ledge and move on.
A final word: if you ever have the opportunity to take in a game at Lambeau, you just have to. It may ruin the Linc for you, though. And I'm out. (Pictures at some point with luck. Thanks for indulging too many words.)