Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beat Me, Whip Me, Watch Me Play Poker

Another in the Poker Diaries. Enjoy or not.

So tonight, I have a freeroll for a big tournament at Parx, the closest casino to me in Bensalem, PA, and a place where it's just damned near impossible to get a sense of what will happen from moment to moment. If I can get deep in this, I can save what's shaping up to be a pretty blah holiday, as accounting troubles have left me short in the one month of the year you don't want to be short. So I'm already pinning way too many hopes on this as is, and when the Shooter Wife and relentless rain and traffic cause me to get to the table 15 minutes late, I'm none too thrilled...

But then the hands start, and hey, I'm getting cards and even hitting some flops. A-K offsuit before I can even give the dealer my receipt; I limp, the flop misses and eventually goes to the river before someone makes a min bet on a board of five undercards. Hey, not the worst start in the world: I didn't go broke or nothing. Ten minutes later, I read a player as weak when I have top pair with a good kicker, and my reckless gut play of all-in gets me up 50% on the starting stack. Hey, maybe it's my night!

We reach the break and I'm up to 15K at the break, and feeling like I'm (a) catching enough cards to go deep, and (b) showing enough to make a c-bet stand up later. I catch Broadway on the river, I spike my ace in early position, I don't get hurt in any hands, and while no one at the table looks particularly weak, they are looking vulnerable. Now in Level 6, I'm up to 18K.

And lookie here, pocket queens in early position. Let's not get into a crazy race situation here, right? Not when people will stay in for ace-rag, and any flop that's got an ace is one you are throwing away...

My min bet (WARNING! WARNING! BAD POKER STARTS HERE!) gets a tight woman on my left in, and the big blind. The flop comes out 3-6-9 rainbow, no straights or overcards, as pretty as this can be without actually improving my hand. Neither of them look happy with it, so I'm not putting anyone on trips, and calling any bet to make two of those pairs just isn't in keeping with how the table has played. I make a pot-sized bet for a sixth of my stack, hoping to end things here and get to 20K, and the woman to the left folds. The big blind... calls. That's not good. I was putting him on some mismatched over-under, where he's just hoping to catch a Jack or King to make his priced min raise bet hand OK. Maybe not.

The turn is a 2, and he shoves. Really. Snap shoves, as if there's no chance in the world that he has anything other than 4-5 for the straight, and can just tell by looking at me that there's no way I'm going to potentially go home with anything on the board that's better than my overpair. Just throw it away, count your 13K, know that you are over the average and make a move later.

But why so much, really? If he's got trips -- and I didn't put him on that before -- he'd be better off making value bets. If he's got the straight, he'd be better off giving me a free card to double up or get trips, and make a bad snap call on his river moment.

The all-in just smells like buying it with air, or that he thinks I have air, and his Ace-rag which is now a pair of rags with a high kicker is really good here, but might not be for much longer.

So. If he's got squat... I'll have 35K in chips. 3x average. Deep run worthy. 3x chips. Chip leader at the table. Deep run worthy.

I don't put him on the straight. I don't put him on trips. Which means two pair or air... and to get two pair, he'd have just had to call 3K where a deuce gives him his second pair, on a board of over. He'd had to have 9-2, 6-2 or 3-2. And who calls raises with that, against a player who has to look pretty A-B-C tight by now?


Well, as you might have guessed by now, he's the kind of guy who plays cards like those from the big blind. He flips over 3-2 suited spades -- no, there was no flush draw for him either, just the most easily counterfeited two pair in poker. Which is why he went all in, of course; he didn't want to see his luckball lowball evaporate. My 8 outs (2 queens, 3 sixes, 3 nines) miss on the river, and so much for that.

From 17K in chips to zero in one minute of chained stupidity, starting with the failure to make the early raise at least 3-4X, or the flop an all-in moment when I was sure as hell as I was ahead, or just getting away from the freaking hero call on the river. Had I folded, I still have an above average chip stack, and wouldn't feel like poker is something that's just going to add to feelings of inadequacy for, oh, the rest of my life.

And no, it's no comfort to me to know that I was 80-20 to win this hand pre-flop, and 80-20 to win it on the turn, or that having the stones to make tough calls is kind of necessary if you ever want to win. The only comfort is that I got out of there in time to read my kids to bed. That's worth something. Probably more than the rest of the night, really.

Five Unrealistic But Fun NFL Changes

You should know this about me, folks: I'm a dreamer. I dream of a world in which my laundry wins a meaningful game at the end of their season, where professional football actually satisfies the marketplace, and games end on time. So dream a little dream with me, will you?

5) The penalty amnesty flag.

Similar to the replay challenge, this gives coaches the option of one play per half where a flag is picked up and the play is done over. Imagine, if you will, the strategy involved in when you use this -- the holding call in the first quarter, or keep it in your pocket to use on defense late in the half? etc., etc. -- and the fun of having one in hand late in a game, when you can do things like go after a punter or place kicker will full abandon. Either that, or you could actually have a taunting flag wiped off the boards, or a questionable bailout pass interference that doesn't change the whole game. I just made Ravens Fan wildly excited by life, and given Eagle Fan a whole new reason to hate Andy Reid, since he'd use it to counter a delay of game in the first five minutes of the game. The only people that don't love this are coaches, and even they would get into it, if only to tell a ref that last call didn't happen. Do this. With a quickness.

4) No pre-whistle in-game replays.

The single greatest moment of home field advantage occurs in nationally televised games, where teams get the benefit of long commercial breaks and partisan Jumbotrons to overturn plays that they would never think of challenging on the road. And all of that is just adding the worst minutes in sports -- i.e., the time when everyone stares at a middle aged man staring at a sideline peep show -- to just about every single game you watch. No one should spend 2-3 hours a year waiting for a ref to make a replay call, have their team lose a game because they had the poor fortune of playing in front of too many cameras on the road, or give hurry-up offenses even more advantages than they already have. If you aren't throwing a replay challenge flag without seeing a replay, you should not challenge. Next.

3) Split the kickoff difference.

I hated the move from the 30 to the 35 for kickoffs this year, and while it hasn't been as bad as expected -- more returners are just taking the ball out from deeper in their end zone, which has made for some amazing returns and a little more strategy around your personnel -- it's still a situation where more than half of the time, especially at altitude or indoors, you are watching a guy take a knee. Woo. Also, no one can say that this has actually led to fewer concussions, which was the alleged point in the first place. So move the ball back to the 32.5 line, and make the touchback a meaningful accomplishment for the kicker again. It's really not asking for that much.

2) Audio feed freedom.

The NFL is a wildly profitable league that enjoys near complete hegemony over the sporting consciousness. There's a lot of money involved here, a lot of coverage and a huge chunk of the populace that's been following the game for decades now. Also, the fans tend to skew high on income, or at the very least, have a large portion of the audience with people of means. So why, dear God why, does everyone have to put up with the same audio feed?

Think about it; no matter how much or little you make, you are getting Tony Siragusa, Phil Simms, Jon Gruden and a cavalcade of yammering twerps that just can't be avoided. If someone gave you the ability to opt out of that, say for $99 a year, and instead get field level audio, coach chatter and/or an expert level analysis from people who aren't afraid of advanced statistics or explaining what a Cover 2 is... wouldn't you go for that? I'll up the ante; for $199, I'll take commercials out of your mix as well, and won't censor the field audio so that you can hear every curse, scream and insult. I'm sold. And I'm not even a guy who ponies up for NFL Network, or NFL Sunday Ticket.

1) Second and third tier leaugues, year round.

In another ten weeks or so, you won't have any more football until next September. (As an Eagles fan, I'm strangely OK with this.) The NCAA can not be trusted to help satisfy your needs; I don't really know squat about child slave ball, but I do know that there is no playoff and the games next week don't seem to matter, which is all kinds of joyous. There's also clear evidence that people do get better at this game with some time and development; there are any number of QBs that have grown out of minor leagues after not showing much in college, and as the Tebow Experience is showing in Denver, you might not even need to have your QB be able to throw a football to win. (I keed, Tebow Lovers, I keed. Your man is going to be able to do this for the next 20 years, because 22 carries a game from the QB is sustainable, and can't possibly end in multiple concussions. Moving on.)

So... why isn't there a spring league? And a summer league? In small towns and underserved areas, with franchises that are either feeders to existing teams, or entirely as their own entities, with relegation and ascension and year-round fantasy sports goodness and...

OK, I'll stop. But this is a football nation, and it only gets real games for less than half of the year, and for most market, it's more like a third. The market will correct itself. And not with arena stupidity, or games on top of games on top of games (high school and college) all at the same time. The market will correct. So why not sooner, rather than later?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Fixed Bob Costas' Halftime Monologue

For those of you too busy keeping up with things of actual importance to notice, we live in a culture that in many ways grows more stupid and graceless by the moment. Sports coverage both reflects and influences that sorry trend, so on television networks everywhere, true style is in decline, while mindless exhibitionism abounds.

In the late ’80's, NBC had a personality named Bob Costas. He invented nothing that was great; but he did show up on Letterman and seem to not take life too seriously while having an education, so people who were not meatheads who watched sports tolerated him. He has somehow devolved into this…(video of cranky old white man taking athletes to task for showing any semblance of personality)

Given the tone of the times, it's probably too much to expect that most media gasbags would appreciate that back in the day, this guy (Bob Costas back then) was much cooler than this guy (Bob Costas right now), or that there is a difference between spontaneous and/or good-natured displays of enthusiasm and calculated displays of obnoxious self-indulgence. No, that train has already gone so far down the wrong track, there's probably no turning back.

So our suggestion here is a more modest one: hey, knuckleheads, is it too much to ask that you confine your buffoonery to situations that don't directly damage the viewing public? Week after week, game after game, we see guys who think nothing of wasting our time with pointless curmudgeon behavior, costing their viewers valuable brain cells, even late in close games.

Today's most conspicuous culprit: NBC's Bob Costas, who weighed in with the incredibly tedious point that Buffalo's Steve Johnson was wrong wrong wrong for making fun of Plexico Burress, who did nothing more than shoot himself in the ass during a felony. But in this case, it was Costas who shot himself in the foot, as his display cemented his reputation as a humorless drone, corporate suck-up, and defender of a questionable at best morality that allows for 15 yard penalties when you hurt someone's feelings.

Which raises this question: where are the networks in all this? Analysts are routinely fired or suspended for profanity, racist, sexist or homophobic statements. When is a network going to make an overdue statement and sit a gasbag down on the grounds of pure selfishness and unprofessionalism detrimental to his network?

By the way, late in his screed of the obvious, Costas made everyone under the age of 65, or people of color, drop any good feeling they might have had about him. Shockingly, he didn’t follow it with a rehearsed “my bad” dance of apology. Maybe he just forgot.

Chant Louder

Coach For Life Andy Reid says that he couldn't hear the fans chanting "Fire Andy" today at the Linc.

Which means just one thing, all of you masochists who intend to go to one of the two remaining home games this year (December 18, the Jets in the What Never Was Bowl, and Jan. 1 against Rex and the Skins for the right to see who can pay more for less)...

You Must Chant Louder.

Consider it a challenge.

50 Eagles - Patriots Takeaways

On a ridiculously balmy late November day in South Philadelphia, the season is, once again, all on Vince Young. Just how we all dreamed it up back in August, right? Let's wallow, one last time.

50) Young to Riley Cooper on deep balls should only work in preseason, if at all

49) LeSean McCoy's touchdown run took about five seconds longer to signal than it should have, and was our first sign that the refs were in the tank for Team Dreamboat

48) Rob Gronkowski and the TE-centric Patriots passing attack might be the living definition of a bad matchup for this defense

47) Whenever Dreamboat gets hit without a flag, we need to be thankful, and it needs to be shown, over and over again

46) Jamar Cheney had excellent coverage on one play by falling down

45) As the season has gone on, Alex Henery has looked a little less suspect

44) The Eagles had 12 men on the field to stop a third and two running play, and still didn't have enough

43) If you had 3:27 left in the first quarter and on defense in this week's inexplicably wasted timeout pool, you win

42) The extended conversation before the Derek Landri offsides call was clearly more important than, say, showing us a replay and giving us all another point of evidence as to how the refs were in the tank for Team Dreamboat

41) The Patriots offense against the Eagles defense in the red zone is kind of a foregone conclusion

40) When Evan Mathis commits a holding penalty, you can grab Young's facemask without any kind of retribution

39) As we've learned over the years while watching Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, doing illegal things to athletic black QBs is just OK

38) Mike Patterson's sack on Brady made us all far too happy, but when you root for this laundry, it's all about moments, since actual games don't much happen

37) Tiquan Underwood made Patriot fan long for Chad Ochocinco, not that it mattered for long

36) The fourth quarter blown lead came really early this week

34) Pushing the WR out of the way to make an interception isn't defensive pass interference if you are a Patriot

33) Stephen Gostkowski's missed 39-yard-figgie appeased karma, if only breifly, and made Dreamboat curse like the mean girl he is

32) Chad Hall got a carry, which was as pointless as ever

31) Hitting the punter is OK if you are a Patriot

30) If the Eagles don't sack Dreamboat, and the Patriot receivers don't drop the ball, this defense isn't making "stops"

29) The Dreamboat touchdown pass to Welker in the second quarter redefined easy in our time, and should be a prominent part of any Juan Castillo highlight reel

28) Bill Belichick challenged a kickoff return to get eight yards, which is just the kidn of dickish twaddle that we've come to expect of him

27) Brent Celek nearly pulled a DJ after catching a ball in the red zone

26) Why Coach For Life Reid calls so many passes in the red zone with an INT-prone backup QB, when he has the best RB in the NFL, is one of those mysteries of life, really

25) Oh, and by the way, those three passes happened with 2+ minutes left in the first half, and a white-hot Dreamboat against a terrible defense on deck

24) Eagle Fan isn't going to miss DJ very much when he drops this many balls

23) When Dreamboat slides, he bring up a five foot divot, because he is actually made of lead

22) When you move from your stance, it's always defensive offsides, if you are a Patriot

21) Brady snuck for six yards, because once again the Eagle defense forgot to do something done at the Pop Warner level, which is to say put a man opposite the center so that the QB can't just stroll forward for easy yards

20) Keeping track of down and distance with this defense against Brady just seems kind of pointless

19) Gostkowski hit from a longer distance, because long field goals always work against my laundry

18) Young promised to run more this week, which really wasn't helpful

17) The CBS analysts chided Eagle Fan for being too negative, since teams that lose 8 out of their last 9 home games need to be shown a lot of love

16) The coverage teams took a step backward today, which is like saying that the wine list on the Titanic started to suffer late in the voyage

15) The nice thing about the soft Eagle coverage is that when they don't tackle, it's also first downs, too

14) It's not offensive holding if you are a Patriot

13) The Eagles' best defense against Brady might have been the turf

12) The Eagle defense started faking injuries, which is always a confidence builder

11) You will forgive. I trust, Eagle Fan for leaving at halftime, since the game was more or less over in the first quarter

10) I'm very glad that the team got so many great CBs to stop WRs like Welker from scoring multiple TDs

9) Dan Dierdorf chided Young for not leading Jason Avant on a pass, giving him a chance to do more with the play, which plainly showed that he's never watched Avant run after a catch

8) Whenever Julian Edelman makes a tackle, grown men weep, since special teams WRs can never tackle

7) Young's fourth and 1 throw out of the back of the end zone more or less typified the season: an inexplicable play call from a clueless coaching staff

6) Watching DJ coast on plays in the late going, then drop another ball in the end zone, gives us all kinds of encouragement for his long-term pay grade

5) Third and 10 wide receiver screens should not work against any defense, but that involves actually caring about your job and stuff

4) Gronkowski was too bored on his touchdown to really give the spike the usual effort

3) If Chas Henery hits an 18 yard punt when no one is left in the stadium, does it really happen

2) It was nice of the refs to even up the penalty flags after the game was over

1) Poignant shots of sad Eagles on the sideline are kind of hard to come by when so few players actually seem to care

Top 10 NFL Week 12 Ad Questions

10) If I buy Christmas presents from Target, will I become an incurable douche bag, a wildly oversexed senior, or some other form of social pariah?

9) Why did Chevrolet accept government bailout money when Santa Claus is an employee?

8) Will using Old Spice cause everyone in my world to fragment and fall apart?

7) Is anyone else a little insulted by the idea that Vince Lombardi equating football with battle should be used for an ad praising the military?

6) How does Southwest's baggage handlers throwing penalty flags help anyone?

5) Why is Honda selling cars to pre-pubescent Asian girls with reckless driving issues?

4) When Chrysler tells us that its cars are imported from Detroit, doesn't that imply that Detroit is a foreign country, and does anyone from the rest of the U.S. have a problem with that?

3) Are Wal-Mart's shoppers all odd trash talkers that are operating under the delusion that anyone cares about their shopping status?

2) Now that the NBA lockout is settled, can Nike stop shining spotlights on random Americans?

1) Is Jared the choice for gap-toothed closet cases?

Six NBA War Is Over Takeaways

Lost in the general goodwill or outright apathy greeting the news that the NBA will save its season via a last-minute agreement, the following points...

1) Note that nothing happened before the players went to court.

This isn't being said loudly enough, really -- but once the owners were faced with the first hint of player leverage (in that damages are trebled in a federal court, and that they could have clearly lost that decision), the deal got done. And even if they had found a court to their liking, they would have been out serious coin for all of the myriad lawsuits that their actions over the past six months might have inspired. You know, relatively simple matters of antitrust, collusion, unfair bargaining, etc., etc.

A more cynical mind might even want to consider their speed to settlement a wee bit suspicious. Almost as if they were, you know, quite aware of how badly legal discovery or any other matter might have looked. (Oh, and the fact that the players did not go to this card back in June, rather than now? That's either terribly naive or tremendously insightful, given that they wound up getting more than was being bandied around.)

2) To all of the corporate geishas who were ready to tell the players that they would never recover in salary what they were giving up... well, the graves are filled with Pinkertons and hired goons and spin doctors, just are they also filled with the righteous. The latter group might, one hopes, sleep better at night, live longer lives, raise better children and have, on the whole, a better time of it in the next world. But such thoughts are what the rest of us, the ones that aren't bought, tell ourselves. You all just go back to your masters now, content that the public won't remember who was toeing the puppet line back when things were bad.

Oh, and David Stern? You can go away now. With a quickness, please.

3) The public, for the most part, still does not care, and still believes that both sides are equally guilty.

Well, on the first part, the great mass of the sporting public has not given a damn about the NBA for a very long time. Why? I don't know, because I like the NBA and do not quite get why the college game is beloved while the pro game is reviled. It's the same game, except that in one, the payments are out in the open, the three point line isn't a joke, everyone is athletic enough to play defense, and the players aren't adolescents. But I'm not convincing anyone with this line of reasoning, so. Shrug.

As for the second part, if you don't want to ascribe the majority of blame to the people that enforced the work stoppage, we're just not going to agree on most things. Like, say, the color of the sky in your world, or why NBA franchises continue to sell for a profit despite all of the doom, doom, doom that the league has been pitching for years.

4) If the players have any sense of collective memory over this, and they probably do not, the Charlotte Bobcats are going to suffer. Big time.

Michael Jordan's actions in this standoff weren't just bad; they were outlandishly bad. For the living legend to come out so fast and so over the top for the hard line faction, on top of the fact that Charlotte isn't exactly the place where guys want to play in the first place... well, let's put it this way. Guys should be more willing, much more willing, to become Clippers than Bobcats right now. And maybe even T-Wolves. I didn't particularly believe that the NBA had to contract before the lockout, but I certainly do now.

5) As always, the idea of winners and losers in the immediate aftermath is more than a little repugnant.

Let's not put too fine a point on this: the first two months of the season actually do have meaning. It is rare that a team rises from nothing to contend in the second half and playoffs without showing something. Basketball at the highest team level requires time together, requires cohesion that can only be achieved through long practice hours and game after game. Year after year we see teams add talent in the off-season and falter at the start (witness last year's Heat, for one), simply because nine out of ten teams require time to jell.

6) This will matter. Just as the NFL lockout did.

What we've done this year isn't just to throw 16 games out that no one will ever miss. We've also gone without player movement for five months, which means that crazed moves and flurries of signings will all happen in the next 2-3 weeks. That's going to make for a lot of blogger fodder and writing about how awesome it is (you know, just like the NFL lockout end) to have all of this GM / fantasy nerdasms all at once. Well, think back to the start of the NFL year. Did any of that make for better ball? Of course not.

So what we're going to see is a few teams -- mostly the ones that made minimal changes, or went deep into the playoffs and benefited from more time off -- racing out to the lead. Then, in the second half, we'll see teams that made deals start to gain their footing, but probably without the games required to get into the playoff race, or achieve a good seed. Maybe, if we are very lucky, cohesive ball will happen by April and May, and the playoffs will seem as good as ever.

Don't get me wrong; I'm pleased to have ball again, pleased to have something to write about, pleased to be making immediate and frantic moves to get my fantasy basketball league up and moving. (Might be a space open there, by the way. Ping me if you want into a live draft, keeper league, auction, eight categories, up to 12 teams where we're just trying to get the 12th guy in, now in it's tenth year of operation. I geek hard.) And I know that history will little note and not long remember the five months when it seemed like the NBA owners were willing to utterly destroy the league for no reason other than some owners make more money than others.

But that's not what today is about. Today is about puppies and kittens and repairing the damage and sitting at the table and smiling at each other.

Not about the Asterisk Year (ah, Phil Jackson, we miss you already) that's about to come. (What, you thought this was all going to end happy?)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FTT Off-Topic: The War On Thanksgiving

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big wide Internet and this isn't going to be sports. Read or bail.

A funny thing happens to you -- well, OK, a million funny things, but this is the one that's in my head today -- on holidays when you get older and have children; they matter to you in ways that they didn't before. I always have liked Thanksgiving, since, well, what's not to like? The meal isn't usually that expensive, you don't have to go anywhere, there's football and no work, there's nothing to divide the country more than the way you prepare your food, and the happy sentiment is pretty universal. So long as you are above the ground and breathing, with some semblance of your mental faculties and nothing particularly agonizing going on, you give thanks. You live in an economically advantaged country in a time where technology allows for amazing things, with relative security and opportunities. It's not that hard to find things to be thankful for.

Of course, being a nation of people who compete in all things and multi-task and can't leave well enough alone... we are well on our way to ruining it.

I'm talking, of course, about the encroachment of Christmas (specifically, Black Friday) on this holiday, if indeed Christmas can be said to still be encroaching on anything less than back to school sales.

As I write this, in another 12 minutes, my gym will open, for no reason other than they want to get in on the Black Friday madness. Stores across the country will open, filled with bleary-eyed workers that will console themselves with the fact that they have a job, even if it's a crappy one that causes them to leave their families on one of the few days of the year when politics and wealth and the politics of wealth go away, for just a little while, for the relatively simple joy of a shared meal.

People talk about the War on Christmas, as if this is actually a thing -- when what's really happening is a war on Thanksgiving, with Christmas on the other side. Christmas is too important now to our economy, too important to convince people that don't have enough to spend anyway, and to get our kids into teenager status as quickly as humanly possible, and to keep adults there, because no one spends money faster or with less critical thought than a teenager.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Was Ndamukong Suh's Ejection Unwarranted?

He says so. I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 12 NFL Picks: Bizarro Land

Just in case you haven't realized what a weird time this is in the NFL...

Tim Tebow is 4-1 as a starter, just this year. Vince Young is 32-17 as a starting quarterback, and the only Eagle QB to throw a TD in the fourth quarter in 2011. (OK, I made that last stat up. But it's probably true anyway.) The Thanksgiving games, all three of them, may be compelling for the first time ever. I went 10-3-1 ATS, and led my fantasy league in points... but only after giving up on the latter and trading away my best player for keepers, and not getting to the casino to make parlay bets. And since I'm not making any bets again this weekend, they will crush. Take it to the bank, and pay off your bills for the best holiday of the year that isn't Fall Back Daylight Savings Time. (Oh, how I love that holiday -- no cash, no relatives, no cleaning, all benefit.) And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Green Bay at DETROIT (+7)

The Lions come into this one with pinball game back online, a freshly rejuvenated Kevin Smith, and a Packer team that just got dragged through the mud by the Bucs' power running game. The 10-0 team will still win, because it's a national game and the Lions aren't going to have the horses to protect the lead late. But they'll have to come from behind to do it, which means a Lions cover. And maybe, just maybe, something more.

Packers 38, Lions 34

Miami at DALLAS (-7)

The Dolphins come in hot, and the Cowboys looked downright mortal in their could have easily been a loss to the moribund Redskins last week in DC. But home games on Thanksgiving are the Cowboys' annual gift from the league, and RB Reggie Bush and QB Matt Moore were freely available talent for a reason. It's time for DeMarco Murray to become overrated, and for the Cowboys to waltz home with the NFC East crown (and first round wild card loss).

Cowboys 31, Dolphins 20

SAN FRANCISCO at Baltimore (-3)

Every other week blues for the hometown Ravens? Partly, and the other part is that they really could have lost last week's game to the not quite ready for prime time Bengals. The Niner defense is for real, and the Ravens just aren't as stout defensively as you might expect. Besides, any team that gets away from its best weapon as easily as the Ravens do has some confidence problems.

Niners 24, Ravens 20

Minnesota at ATLANTA (-9.5)

Last week, WR Roddy White finally broke out of his season-long funk, and the Falcons looked like the team we expected. This week at home against a Vikings team that won't have RB Adrian Peterson, they'll cruise. I still don't like them to go deep in the playoffs, but rest assured, they are going there.

Falcons 31, Vikings 16

Cleveland at CINCINNATI (-7.5)

A big number, but the Bengals have a QB and the Browns have a Detmer. I also like the tabby defense, especially at home, against a team that's been punchless in every year of their existence where Derek Anderson didn't go to the Pro Bowl. Woof.

Bengals 28, Browns 13

TAMPA BAY at Tennessee (-3.5)

It's amazing to me how the Bucs can get away from their running game and look horrible, then look good running the ball... and then just get right the hell away from it again. Against a Titans defense that has been hurt on the ground, the road game helps them by pushing them towards profitable conservatism. Also, RB Chris Johnson has gone back to sucking, which isn't helping the Titans much at all, and they might have QB health issues.

Bucs 30, TItans 12.

CAROLINA at Indianapolis (+3.5)

I want to take the Colts here, I really do; they probably aren't going winless this year, and the Panthers run defense offers less defense than a never drank before girl at Prom. But QB Cam Newton to WR Steve Smith can end this by their own selves, and the Colts have well and truly quit.

Panthers 31, Colts 24.

Arizona at ST. LOUIS (Pick 'em)

The Cards come in with QB uncertainty, a historically weak road record (Eagle game notwithstanding), and a defense that was looking good before the Niners worked them. The Rams come in with the seeds of a decent attack, but no OL, and a home crowd that doesn't exactly intimidate anyone. In a flush bowl, I'll take the home toilet.

Rams 23, Cardinals 16.

Buffalo at NY JETS (-9)

Nobody circles the drain like the Buffalo Bills. And on the road against an angry Jets team that spent 55 minutes putting boots to Bronco butt, only to prevent defense their way to another Tebow Miracle, it's going to get ugly. Actually, it'll start ugly, too: the Bills have been blown out in every first half of this tailspin. Sadly, this is their true level.

Jets 30, Bills 9

HOUSTON at Jacksonville (+3.5)

Are you ready for the Matt Leinart Renaissance? It's coming, folks, because our favorite trustafarian QB is walking into the hammock job of all NFL QB jobs. He's got a feisty defense, outstanding running game, good weapons and cushy division; so long as he doesn't throw picks or turtle up in the occasional long down and distance, he'll be receiving long media mouth jobs for his new found dedication to the game. That is, until he actually faces a good team. It'll be a while before that happens. Oh, and the Jaguars offense is so bad, Jag Fan actually misses David Garrard. No, seriously.

Texans 24, Jaguars 10

CHICAGO at Oakland (-4)

Having seen a mobile QB (Tebow) demolish this team at home just a month ago, I'm having a hard time seeing how a Raiders team that will still be missing RB Darren McFadden is a sure bet against an opportunistic defense and best in the game special teams. I think QB Caleb Hanie can make some plays here, and also wouldn't be surprised if the Bears can get QB Kyle Orton in with a quickness for some utility. Besides, the Raiders are a terrible favorite, and K Sebastian Janikowski still isn't healthy. I think he hits one at the buzzer to win it, which is still a road cover.

Raiders 24, Bears 21

Washington at SEATTLE (-4)

I *like* this Seahawk team, especially at home; they run the ball, defend, and move the sticks, especially when QB Tarvaris Jackson can operate out of the hurry up and don't think. The Redskins are back to deluding themselves with QB Rex Grossman, which is to say they are back to being a more entertaining joke. Don't be surprised if they don't win another game this year.

Seahawks 27, Redskins 17

NEW ENGLAND at Philadelphia (+3)

Bill Belichick has had Andy Reid's number for years, and while the games are usually close heartbreakers, they still go for the Hoodie. The Eagles actually showed heart in a road win last week in New York, but heart doesn't count for much against a QB with touch, and QB Tom Brady is the best they have faced so far this year. It'll be close, but you don't bet the 2011 Eagles to win when it's close, and this offense hasn't been very good for a while now.

Patriots 26, Eagles 20

DENVER at San Diego (-7)

Regardless of the Tebowisty here, what exactly have the Chargers done this year to merit being a 7-point home favorite against anyone, let alone a blessed Bronco team that has strong special teams, running game and defense? QB Philip Rivers showed some good signs last week in Chicago amidst all of the unforgivable turnovers, and the home team should win. But they won't make it easy. The wide talent gap that used to exist between the Chargers and the rest of the division is gone now.

Chargers 24, Broncos 20

PITTSBURGH at Kansas City (+10.5)

Wow, Tyler Palko isn't good, and the Steelers with a bye at this point in their football lives is a very, very good thing. Look for the road team to have more fans and an easy time of it in this one.

Steelers 31, Chiefs 10

New York at NEW ORLEANS (-7)

As much as I'd like to take the Giants for the bounce-back game after what the NY Times not so kindly called "football emasculation" at the hands of the Eagles, there's just nothing good about a MNF game in the Bayou, especially against a rested Saints team that still might be the second-best team in the NFC this year, simply because they are more experienced in playoff games than the Niners. And when Blue can't run for 30 yards against the Eagles, that's not an indictment of Brandon Jacobs and the line; it's a verdict. Guilty, guilty, gone.

Saints 30, Giants 21

Last week: 10-3-1

Year to date: 81-72-5

Career: 486-477-22

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Is Taking Over For The NBA

So what have you been watching instead of the NBA?

For me, it's been work, work, work and a big side dish of work, but the bigger point is this: no one, and I'm wildly beyond the pale in terms of liking pro hoop, seems all that put out from the lack of ball. The NFL spreads their product out over so many days now, and there's so much more to see and do with social media and Internet-ready entertainment (and yes, I consider Netflix instant to be in that camp), that the loss really isn't as striking as it might have been.

So after a lifetime of locking into teams and rivalries and draft picks and free agent movement... um, what? Sure, I guess I'd snap right back into all of the usual teams and obsessions and fantasy rosters and yada yada yada. But are there people, outside of Boston Fan and Laker Fan and Heat Fan and Bulls Fan, that feels like if they don't see what happens in the league under the current teams in 2011-12, they'd be cheated?

Personally, I'd be more interested in the entire league if they re-started the league from scratch. I wouldn't feel like anything had been lost, or that the league was any less appealing, and whatever disjointed nature of ball happened would be easily overcome by the feeling of hope and fascination I'd have for trying to figure out what the league was like now.

Football isn't like this. Even baseball isn't like this, and I root for an MLB- franchise that will be about as interesting to watch in 2012 as watching paint dry. If I didn't have a fantasy league that's just hanging in limbo, with a trophy that sits and looks at me as I write these things, I doubt I'd have even written as half as much about the matter as I have.

So stay out, NBA owners. It's all hurting us so, so much. Can't you tell from the reaction you are getting from the public over your absence?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

30 Eagles - Giants Takeaways

I got to tell you, folks... I wasn't looking forward to watching this game. I had no faith in this team, still have no faith in this team, and watching a night loss is just irritating. But missing games just goes against my DNA... and then the game happened and wasn't even bad. Kind of. Let's dig into it, shall we?

30) We have finally found a player who can stop LeSean McCoy... Vince Young

29) Riley Cooper was called for offensive pass interference because he couldn't get separation from a DB

28) Jake Ballard's wide open drop counts as one of the better plays made by the defense against a TE

27) It's very important that the WRs can tackle when Young is in the game, for obvious reasons

26) NBC chastised DeSean Jackson for worrying about his $600K a year contract, right before he went down with an injury that could have cost him tens of millions of dollars, in a game where the Eagles paid Steve Smith 10X his rate

25) When you say Young and Cooper aren't on the same page, that assumes either of them can read

24) DeSean Jackson got the worst penalty of his life, and that's saying something,...

23) But, um, isn't taunting after you run out of bounds, by definition, after the play?

22) Giant Fan really isn't going to mourn the end of the Brandon Jacobs Era

21) Eli Manning kept learning that even though he's the only live Manning, he can be hit

20) It's seems really obvious that you don't want to kick it to a dangerous punt returner, but to be honest, Jackson is dangerous to both teams when returning kicks

19) The first good play of Steve Smith's Eagle career happened against the Giants, because God enjoys hack irony

18) Cullen Jenkins killed DJ Ware, but that's OK, because Ware's a RB

17) If there's a worse development in football than the post-incomplete five second puling for PI, I don't know it

16) Nothing excites announcers more than when a back up QB appears to be managing a game, especially when does it with multiple INTs

15) If you had 6:33 in the third for this week's Pointless Offensive Timeout, congratulations

14) If you are wondering why Coach For Life Reid was still calling passes on every play when Young had multiple picks and the team needed a field goal to take a two possession lead... you just haven't watched enough 2011 Eagles

13) Jake Ballard, you are no Kevin Boss, or any other TE that has crushed my laundry for the past decade

12) Trent Cole's obvious non-holding call changed the game, not that the resulting 47-yard pass play surprised anyone in Eagle Nation

11) This week's shocking Nnamdi Asomugha breakdown, shockingly, came in the fourth quarter

10) When Jackson flips the ball to a coach on the sideline, it's taunting, but when Victor Cruz does a synchronized dance routine, that's all just funsies

9) The subsequent marathon Eagle TD drive almost made Eagle Nation care about this team again, and ensured that we'll have at least 18 more months of CFL Reid

8) Young's QB sneak with five minutes left shows why he should have a short yardage role even if Michael Vick is healthy

7) Honestly, I broke up laughing on the TD pass to Cooper, after his entire game of bleh

6) Mike Carey took a half a minute to call intentional grounding on Manning in the late minutes, which set a new record for a post-whistle flag

5) The coverage breakdown on the Cruz play was more than a little startling, even by the 2011 standards...

4) But in the last meaningful play, Eli Manning proved that his pocket presence is just that special, and that the late-season Giants collapse might be coming early this year

3) McCoy failed to pull a Westbrook on the kill shot breakaway run

2) The Eagles held the ball for over 35 minutes tonight, all of it in the fourth quarter

1) Horribly, we still have to watch this team for another week

Top 10 Week 11 NFL Ad Questions

10) How does Dodge reminding me of my mortality help to sell cars?

9) Why does Acura think that equating their products with extravagance is a good idea?

8) Is anyone else scared at the prospect of shopping at Target, now that we've seen freakish aerobics woman working out in preparation of the event?

7) Are Steeler players just growing hair for money now?

6) Do I need to learn the word "Leo" before I learn the word "pre-nup" or "beard"?

5) Is Toyota competing to see how many celebrity douchebags it can fit in one sedan, and how exactly does that sell cars?

4) Why is Wal-Mart leading the war on Thanksgiving?

3) Once more with feeling... how is obsessing about the taste of your diet beer in any way indicative of masculinity?

2) Does Burger King really have an executive chef, and if so, can we learn more about their credentials, compensation, and criminal history?

1) How do dancing mailmen have anything to do with satellite television service?

A Brief Point About The Average Pro Hoop Salary

"No American professional sports leagues ever had a higher average salary." - Bill Simmons

And... no American professional sports league ever has 12 players play 100% of the games, and stars that play up to 80% of the available game time.

Imagine how much Roy Halladay would make if he pitched, say, 800 innings a year -- well, that's simple, actually. Just take his current salary and multiply by 3; $60 million a year. Maybe more, since you'd have greater competition for his services, so let's call it $75MM. Or how much Tom Brady would make if football was a 5-on-5 game; by the simple math, $40 million, since we're cutting the payroll in half by dropping so many players off the roster. And once more, I'm undercutting him; Dreamboat would probably sign for $50mm, easily.

So why would Prince Willy fail to note such an obvious and ridiculous easy point? Because, well, he's paid by a corporation that broadcasts NBA games, and can only go so far to biting the hand that feeds? Or that he's just totally invested in his Celtic laundry, since the NBA has done little in its history other than bend over backwards for that team? Well, um, duh.

"The players claim it's not their fault that owners keep handing out lavishly dumb deals to forgettable players, and yet they ignore that their fans — the people who pay their salaries and keep their league afloat — hate nothing more than seeing overpaid assholes jogging through games, faking injuries, showing up for camp 20 pounds overweight, clogging their team's salary cap and making it harder to improve their team's roster."

Actually, what we hate nothing more than not having games. That's kind of more important than if some player is dogging it. (I kind of enjoy players that dog it, particularly if they aren't on my team. And so does the Prince.)

Here's a small question to the rest of us who work in the real world: have you *ever* been at a company where there were no overpaid assholes? Or people who take sick days awfully easy? How about folks who are overweight and/or smoke, driving up the cost of *your* health coverage, assuming you want to be that kind of glibertarian assmunch? Or others who don't perform at the best of their abilities, at whatever time and for whatever reason?

Right now as I write this, it's 4am on a Sunday morning. I'm taking a small amount of time away from working my day job to post this. No, seriously; I work from home and there's a flood of stuff that needs to be done, and, well, I'm just stupid enough to do it now, because there aren't enough hours in the week. Should I spend my time railing against co-workers who might not be willing to pull my hours, or just get it done? Yeah, the latter. And will.

You see, the number of bad contracts or unmotivated players is a smokescreen. They happen on every team, in every organization, and are a problem for every manager. The only difference between your company and the NBA is that there are only about 200 people on the planet who can do the NBA job at the highest level. And if you don't motivate those players, or choose the guys that are just looking to cash out after winning the lifetime athletic lottery, that's a management issue. Thinking that an ownership proposal will fix that is like thinking that if you only cut labor salaries enough, you can repeal laws of gravity and inertia. But of course, what would Prince Willy know about working in the real world anymore?

We now return you to a world in which professional basketball is not played by the best players in the world, and might not be for years. It is also a world in which people can view games via the Internet with comparative ease, and care more about players than teams.

Finally, these players will not now, and will not ever, take the initiative of starting their own league, and will gladly sit out for years while the whole matter is decided in court.

Seriously, can't someone start their own league already and end this nonsense?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Can Vince Young Pull A Tebow?

I got to see the Jets vs. Broncos game tonight, since I'm close enough to the New York region to get a local feed out of the NFLN TNF telecast. (A brief word on this: the game is always easier to take then ESPN's MNF, mainly because it is not telecast by ESPN. Moving on.) And in the game, as you might have heard by now, The Last Five Minute Man, Denver "QB" Tim Tebow, led the hometown Broncos to a last-minute win over the Jets with a 95-yard drive after being a tackling dummy for much of the game. Just like that Miami win, but this time, against a presumably real defense.

The game was striking, mostly because of everything that Tebow *doesn't* do for his team. He misses open men, looks painful all over the place, doesn't sustain drives and doesn't look anything like an NFL QB... but then there are the things he *does* do. On one scramble for yardage, Tebow ran to the sideline, pursued by CB Darrelle Revis... then cut inside, taking on the smaller CB physically, and drove for extra yards. Players on his own sideline eat this stuff up like anything, really; whenever the QB doesn't behave like he's above the fray, it sells. It sells hard.

The other thing that Tebow does is this: he doesn't give the ball back to the other team on a short field, or right away, even when the Broncos go three and out, which they did a lot of tonight. Compare this with the winless Colts, who were still trying no-huddle against the Saints in that SNF debacle a month ago; that club went 3-and-out and put their defense back on the field in less than a minute. Any wonder why the Denver defense looks so much better when Tebow is their QB? (Well, because they got to face the Jets tonight. But still.)

The cold and simple fact of it is that the QB gets too much credit when a team wins, and too much blame when they lose... but they have more impact on the game than any other player. And in Tebow's five starts -- four of them Denver wins -- he's thrown six TDs, had just one INT, and hasn't lost a fumble. 20 quarters, one turnover. You can win games doing that. And make your defense a lot happier.

Which leads us to Vince Young, your likely starter in this week's Please God, Let It End Already Eagles "Must Win" game.

In 56 NFL games, Young has 43 picks and 21 fumbles, for an average of 1.14 turnovers per game. In 107 NFL games, Vick has 69 picks and 29 fumbles, for an average of 0.91 turnovers per game... but in 2011, that's 11 picks and 6 fumbles in 9 games, or just under 2 per game. And even when this Eagles team has been moving the ball, it hasn't exactly chewed a lot of clock.

So if Coach For Life Andy Reid watched tonight's game with anything other than abject horror at all of the running plays... maybe he noticed that winning with a less talented QB basically comes down to not putting your defense in a hole. Then watching as they play a hell of a lot better.

This Denver team isn't a great defense; they start Brian Dawkins and Broderick Bunkley, who didn't do all that much to impress in their final days in the laundry. (Though they do have some pieces outside of Dawk and Bunk.) But when you keep them off the field and give them a QB who looks like he's ready to kill himself -- without turning the ball over?

They can play. They can win.

And if Young can somehow do something similar, and prolong this sad season?

Well, I doubt they throw Vick overboard right away. But they'd take their own sweet time in making sure he's "healthy" enough to play again...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NFL Week 11 Picks: The Innovative Brilliance Of Ugly

This week, Jets CB Darrelle Revis talked openly about the danger of becoming bored in facing the Broncos, because all they do is run the ball. It's an interesting complaint, given that the Jets' best chance seems to come against teams that try to throw against him, and underscored the utter insanity of Andy Reid's play-calling in last week's Waterloo loss to the Cardinals. With starting QB Michael Vick possibly suffering broken ribs on the second play from scrimmage, in a game they led most of the way, in a year when they have only won when they ran for big yards, when they have the best running back in the league in Shady McCoy... they still went pass happy. With neither starting wideout, against a team that you were having success against on the ground. It's pathological, and not all that uncommon.

It's not that NFL coaches are stubborn; of course they are. You don't get very far in this world without a heaping helping of that. It's more that there are folks out there, Reid most prominent among them, that would rather lose looking innovative than win in retrograde.

Well, that's not John Fox. The Broncos are happy to run it 50 times a game and kick your teeth in with an offense that only looks good when viewed in black and white. And in this era of light in the loafer defensive ends, zone blitzes and wide whatevers, it works. It works because of simple physics, and the fact that no one else does this. It doesn't work enough to make you a champion, but it works better than being just yet another chuck and duck schmuck. It works because your defense is sitting on the sidelines, chuckling and taking deep breaths of air and defending long fields. It works because winning this way amuses everyone but the wideouts, and Denver shipped all of those guys out anyway. And it works because John Fox does not care about looking good.

Neither, of course, does this column.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

NY Jets at DENVER (+7)

I am, of course, overreacting to last week's games, in which the glory of the One True Tebow completed two passes and won going away against the Chiefs, while the Jets were spitting the bit to the point of making their fans pantomime suicide. And I get that the Jets are much more talented, and that Rex Ryan can devise a game plan to make one-dimensional offenses look sad. But I'm having a hard time seeing how New York sustains so many drives as to make the back door cover impossible, or how the road team with a short week should be getting this line when it isn't, you know, all that great. Denver could even pull the upset, but I really like their chance at the cover.

Jets 16, Broncos 13

Jacksonville at CLEVELAND (+1)

Does anyone really want to see this game? No, I didn't think so. There isn't a single player in this game, on either side of the ball, that should sell a ticket, and both of these fan bases are too depressed to do much more than look for hopeful signs, like it's a preseason game. So. WR Greg Little is still healthy, and RB Chris Ogbonnya didn't look horrible last week against the Rams. Jacksonville might have a defense. Someone might watch. But it won't be anyone you know. So... go, home team cover? Woo.

Browns 20, Jaguars 17

Carolina at DETROIT (-7)

Boy, this game would have been a lot more fun to talk about a month ago, wouldn't it? Instead, the Panthers run defense has turned wretched, Detroit went back to historic form in Chicago, and now it's looking like the game we expected at the start of the year. I'll take the Lions, mostly because I don't think their home crowd is ready to let them roll over and die, and the Panthers aren't good enough on defense to make the Lions one-dimensional. Everyone else is, sadly.

Lions 31, Panthers 20

Tampa Bay at GREEN BAY (-14)

Well, I've learned my lesson; no line is too high for the Pack. And especially not the Bucs, who have become the softest team south of Philadelphia this year, with a defense that looks like they are all very aware of the costs involved in hitting people. As for the Packers, the only way they are not winning the Super Bowl is bad luck, injuries, and a referee conspiracy. Yes, all three. And I'm kind of rooting for them to run the gauntlet, just so we can all stop hearing about the '73 Dolphins. (If that isn't a jinx, I have no idea what is.)

Packers 34, Bucs 17

Buffalo at MIAMI (Pick 'em)

Oh, Bills Fan -- there's no year crueler than the False Hope Year. And that's what you were sold, what with that turnover win against the paper Eagles and that turnover win against the erratic Patriots. But your defense can't stop anyone without turnovers, and your offense isn't quite talented enough to win shootouts. This week, against a Dolphins team that's clearly missing the memo to roll over and die already, it ends in heat and humidity and punishment. Sad.

Dolphins 27, Bills 20

OAKLAND at Minnesota (+1)

The Raiders come in on a high note with extra rest, and lots of it -- four whole days, since they played Thursday Night while the Vikes played on Monday. This is the kind of game the Cowboys always enjoy from their unfair annual Thanksgiving fight from the league. With QB Carson Palmer actually showing some zip on the ball to combine with a good running game, it's enough to overcome even the Raiders' historic tendency to lose winnable road games through penalty and miscue. There's also this: it's just about time for RB Adrian Peterson's annual fade job, so even the Tebowized Raider defense will contain him. Somewhat.

Raiders 23, Vikings 16

DALLAS at Washington (+8)

Are you ready for the anointing of the Cowboys as Serious Contender yet? It's coming, just like every year; a rally around the T-Day gift, then the collapse late when teams realize that Dallas is, as always, a lot of pretty skill players without lines. (Yes, Eagle Fan, there's a reason you really, really hate your team this year: they are the Cowboys in disguise. GAHHH.) But against the DOA Redskins, who are wll on their way to disgracing yet another big coaching name, DeMarco Murray will continue to run wild, and everything will seem fine, fine, fine. This team has more important games to lose than this one.

Cowboys 27, Redskins 16

Cincinnati at BALTIMORE (-7)

Pity the poor Bengals. They stayed in it until the end with the Steelers, and should have one of those under the radar games with the schizo Ravens, where Fat Ced Benson does improbably well and the home team pules at the refs for 3+ quarters before getting into panic mode late. But instead, Baltimore spent all of its Snooze in Seattle, getting curb stomped by the improbable Marshawn Lynch and Tarvaris Jackson, and will come into this one good and angry and good. Such is the state of the AFC that its best team might be a club that can't put good games back to back, but this will be one of those Baltimore Rising days.

Ravens 31, Bengals 20

SEATTLE at St. Louis (-1)

Don't look now, but the NFC West isn't horrible anymore. Seattle's got a decent run defense and a better offense than anyone could hope for. St. Louis has gelled a bit in the last few weeks, especially now that they actually have something that resembles a WR1 in Brandon Lloyd, which means that RB Stephen Jackson isn't looking up at 11 in the box anymore. On talent, I prefer the road team, who is usually awful on the road... but they've been better this year, and in a close game, look for the Rams special teams to falter.

Seahawks 23, Rams 20

Arizona at SAN FRANCISCO (-10)

A big number to put on a team with a game management offense, especially when the opponent has WR Larry Fitzgerald... but these Niners just keep looking more and more legit to me. Especially now that secret albatross RB Frank Gore is down; Kendrick Hunter has a burst, and gives them more juice to the play-action pass that's making QB Alex Smith seem competent. Besides, the Niners always get up for this game, even when their team is terrible. They can smell that #2 seed, and a December that will be spent doing very little football-related activity, at least for the starters.

Niners 24, Cardinals 13

TENNESSEE at Atlanta (-7)

I just don't see a team bouncing back from their coach pulling a 4th and Belichick brain fart, the way that Dumb Bird Mike Smith did last week to cost his team in overtime against the Saints. The Titans have gotten a pulse from RB Chris Johnson in the past few weeks, and the offense has been useful. As for the home team, they are good when RB Michael Turner and WR Julio Jones are making plays... but the former is getting on in years and carries, and the latter can't stay healthy. When he's not right, the down year from WR Roddy White gets even more noticeable. Don't be surprised if the road team wins this game; that's been happening a lot this year, even from big spreads like this one.

Falcons 24, Titans 20

San Diego at CHICAGO (-4)

I get it; the Chargers have extra days here, and we all know that the Bears are due for a turd or two. But I'd take Chicago at 2X the spread happily. The Chargers are turning the ball over at historic rates, have poor special teams, haven't been a good road team, or a good cold-weather team in forever, and might be ready to just up and quit on Norv Turner, who has to have some powerful photographs in his collection to justify still drawing a paycheck. Basically, this is a weaker version of the team that the Bears just clowned, so why should this game be close?

Bears 30, Chargers 20

Philadelphia at NY GIANTS (-5)

I'd take the Giants at -20, honestly, and that's without even getting in to the mess that is QB Michael Vick's health. The Giants controlled this team on the road earlier in the year; why should a game in Jersey be different? How on earth are the Eagles supposed to rally around a coach that deactivated their WR2 not for a series or a quarter, but for the entire must-win game? Why should the Giants defense have any issues in controlling an offense that refuses to ride a stud RB? How does the Eagles defense suddenly contain the RBs and TEs that have been its undoing for game after game? And how does Philly win any kind of close game, given that they've blown fourth quarter leads in five -- FIVE! -- game this year? And why would anyone think that Nnamdi Asomugha, even if he has a good game, will be on the Giants' best WR in the clutch? After all, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo certainly gave everyone a chance to keep up with Larry Fitzgerald in the end game last week, despite the fact that Asomugha was the only guy doing anything with him...

The answer, of course, is that the Giants will win, and win handily Coach For Life Reid may be the Rasputin of NFL head men, but take heart, Eagle Fan: Rasputin was killed, after many attempts, by multiple gunshots. Consider this game the one to the forehead. Now, don't you feel better? I know I do...

Giant 34, Eagles 13

Kansas City at NEW ENGLAND (-14.5)

A few weeks ago, I would have thought that the Chiefs might give the Pats a game here. It does have Trap written all over it, and KC was looking spry. But then they got the Bronco Two Step all over them, lost their starting QB, and saw the Pats right the ship with a definitive beatdown of the Jets. There's still plenty of things wrong with this Patriot team, and they aren't going nearly as far as their fans' think. But this won't be the week to cure them of any delusions.

Patriots 31, Chiefs 10

Last week: 7-9

Year to date: 71-69-4

Career: 476-474-21

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Better World Of Hoop

Indulge me for a few minutes, will you? My baseball and football laundry are wretched, my only playing fantasy team stinks, I'm on a losing streak in poker and the day job is never-ending and today wasn't a good day. So I'm going to get all metaphysical on you.

People tell me that the players have no leverage, that they can't start their own league, that there are no venues or backers or people willing to charge down the uncharted mine shaft of their own league.

People tell me that the owners always win these things, and that it doesn't really matter, because as soon as they win them, they go back to finding the loopholes and fighting each other for the best talent, which means cheating each other as badly as they are currently trying to cheat the players and the dwindling number of people who actually care.

And that's probably all true. It's certainly how you'd bet.

But imagine that the whole thing goes wildly overboard. Imagine that the owners get well and truly punished in court. Imagine that if and when they do settle, the public stays away, the foreign-born players stay home, and a solid number of players, a la Shawn Kemp during the last lockout, are never the same afterward.

Imagine that it's actually the end of the league. Or, at the very least, the end of the league being the best league.

It's actually not that impossible. As the FIBA results show, especially in the off-year events that aren't the Olympics, the U.S. isn't the be-all and end-all of hoop now. Like soccer, the game is played on six continents and draws from an incredible pool of talent; if North America goes offline for a while, the game will continue. And college basketball ratings are going to go through the roof this year.

Basketball does not need the NBA.

It really doesn't need David Stern, Michael Jordan, Ted Dolan, Donald Sterling, Paul Allen and all of these other people that are putting themselves in front of the game.

No one, really, does.

Now the public? Many of them, particularly in plus and blessed markets like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and so on, need their teams, and their rivalries. They care about these things much more than the players or owners do, of course.

But that can change.

If there were no NBA, and well, that could happen... what could arise to replace it? Because pro hoop has too many players and too many fans, with limited barriers to entry; it will exist. And on some level, I'm more excited by that than another year of the current system. Maybe because I've been watching the Sixers for too long, but still.

Consider a system more or less like independent pro wrestling circuits -- small, concentrated leagues in regions, with some players that you've heard from, and many others that you have not. Playing in small gyms for not very much money, with questionable refs and wild home-court advantages, tons of Internet streams and wackiness, with minimal commercial interruption or endorsement.

How bad does that sound, really?

Give it to me with a side of unfortunate uniforms, crazy rule changes, low prices for seats and an English Premier League system of relegation and ascension, and I'd take it in a heartbeat over the current system. It would ruin my fantasy league, make watching games a chore and an inconvenience, open the players up to ridicule, end gambling, and spawn an awful lot of thugging ball...

But it would serve the game more. It would give more markets a team they can care about. It would eradicate so many of the current sins of the system, teach a glorious and resounding lesson to the 1% management, safeguard MLB and NFL and NHL fans for time immemorial, and maybe even help to curtail the corruption of the American educational system, aka how colleges serve as de facto major sports league owners, rather than institutes of higher learning.

So, NBA owners?

Keep the lockout going. Don't give an inch. Show the world what you are made of. Follow up on Stern's insane threat of making the terms worse over time. Hire scabs and charge full price. Screw public relations into the ground, and play your game for the short-term win that is the limit of your imagination and interest. Fire all of the little people that work for you. Continue to sell the merch at full price. Gouge your season ticket holding methadone addicts for all that they are worth. Continue to believe that your league is a necessity to American life, rather than a subsidiary diversion in an era with an exploding amount of diversions, and a generation growing up that will happily change brands once they stop being entertained.

Burn the village and dance as well as your pampered and pestilent asses can, around the flame. Make sure that you win; accept nothing less than total and absolute victory, of a fashion that would make a Chinese sweatshop owner proud.

Because the more damage you do, the better it is for the game in the long term. You are nothing more than abusive and inefficient stewards. The land will outlast you, and be richer for your failure.

And it's not as if any decent or thinking human being can think any less of you, after all...

Top 10 Most Disappointing Eagles Teams

So after nine games of watching this laundry, I'm pretty well convinced that this is the most disappointing team in the franchise's history. But that history goes over 70 years... and this is a franchise that starts 12-40-2 in its first five years, and hasn't ended their season with a meaningful win in 50 years. So maybe I'm being unfair. We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

To be clear, vast portions of the franchise history -- the '30s, '60s and '70s, mostly -- don't qualify under the aegis of disappointing. Those teams either stunk or were plucky building projects. And fans don't mind the young team that can't get over the hump in a playoff game; they can break your heart, but they can't disappoint.

So let's wallow with perspective, shall we?

10) 1990. OK, we knew that Buddy Ryan was a sideshow coach that could not possibly win a playoff game, but what a defense -- Eagle Fan can still rattle off the names without any prompting. It ends with a home playoff loss to a Joe Gibbs Redskins team that does nothing but play a vanilla zone all game long, because that was just all that you needed to do to beat Buddy Ryan in the playoffs. But remember, folks, Philly Fan is bitter for no reason. No reason at all.

9) 1950. Just to show you I did the research. This team defended a championship (yes, the Eagles occasionally won those back in the day) by going 6-6 and having their coach retire. A four game losing streak ended it, despite the presence of a young Chuck Bednarik. And if anyone reading this wants to weigh in on how hard that year is, I'd love to hear it.

8) 2009. Donovan McNabb's final season in the laundry ended with back to back curb stompings at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. which more or less erased any good feeling you might have had from a six-game midseason winning streak. Following a miraculous run to the NFC Championship against the Cardinals, it was, in the final analysis, just another year in the later days of Coach For Life Reid; a good enough team, doing it with mirrors, that folded when you lined up and ran it straight at them. So not a historically bid disappointment, and when they finally moved McNabb in the off-season, it took most of the taste away. Most.

7) 1995. The final year of the Buddy Ryan Talent Era, this one ended with an unprepared Randall Cunningham coming in to relieve on a road playoff loss in Dallas. At the time, we all thought that simply getting Rich Kotite out of our lives would solve all problems, and a seven of eight streak under Rodney Peete felt like found money. Even more found money came in the wild card round, where the last Detroit Lions team with Barry Sanders that made the playoffs got absolutely destroyed. But that ending? Oh, that ending. Pain.

6) 2003. It started with a revenge game gone wrong -- the team lost its opener at the Linc to the Bucs, who beat them in the NFC Championship Game the year before. And maybe it's harsh to consider a year in which 4th and 26 to Fred Mitchell happens, but the simple fact of the matter is that beating Brett Favre in a playoff game in the last five years of his career turns out to not be that big of a deal. This year ended with their third straight NFC Championship game, this time to the utterly underwhelming Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers. Yes, seriously.

5) 1989. Here's how silly the Eagle defense was in this, probably the most spectacular year of the Ryan Era, in that we had no idea at the time that playoff wins were not going to be part of the equation -- they sacked the QB 62 times (!) and forced 56 turnovers. No, seriously; in 16 games, nearly four sacks and 3+ turnovers a game. It all rolled up to an 11-5 record, a wild-card berth, and a stunning home playoff loss to the Jim Everett Rams. It's hard to believe that even now, isn't it?

4) 1982. Following their first Super Bowl appearance and that startling win over the Cowboys, it seemed like the conference should be theirs, and all looks well after a 9-2 start. And then a four-game losing streak that came completely out of the blue, punctured any air of inevitability and rising momentum. It ended with fumbled punt returns in a road loss to the Giants, and the sense that the window had passed. It had. (And if you want to make Eagle Fans of a Certain Age cringe, just say these two words: Wally Henry. It's been 30+ years, and it still gives me hives.)

3) 1992. Probably the most excited the fanbase had ever been coming into the season; a historically great defense, the return of Randall Cunningham after injury, and more star power than you could easily imagine. We didn't really know how bad Rich Kotite was yet. And then Jerome Brown, the best interior defensive lineman in the team's history, has to die for no damn reason at all, and the team spends the year trying to win for his memory. It ends in Dallas, after the only playoff win in the Cunningham era in New Orleans... and immediately after this, Reggie White's God tells him to go to Green Bay. Kind of a rough year.

2) 2005. The Terrell Owens Hangover Year; it finished 6-10, with McNabb hurt and the team more or less giving up. The really amazing thing about this year? They started 4-2. Next question, please.

1) 2011. In looking over the history, it's really striking how high the hopes were for this team, and how poorly they've played. For the most part, when we expected them to be good, they at least teased us with the possibility well into December, usually with a mid-season winning streak. And then there's this team; gutless beyond reproach, apathetic beyond recrimination, flawed on top of flawed.

So... yes. It's theirs. They've won something after all. Start carving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Top 10 NFL Week 10 Ad Questions

10) Given the spate of recent protests, does Bank of America really want people associating them with counting the number one a lot?

9) Shouldn't "Orakpo" be another word for "Inexplicable Commercial Endorsement Deal"?

8) When you hear the phrase "Man Card", how does that involve diet beer in any way that doesn't hurt the sales of diet beer?

7) How long will Alec Baldwin have to do Capital One ads before everyone forgets that he was ever in anything funny?

6) Does everyone who use an AT&T Blackberry deserve to be fired due to gross negligence?

5) Why are Ford buyers speaking in rhyming cliches?

4) If I win the X Factor travel contest with Pizza Hut, do I actually have to go see the show?

3) Are all NFL.com shoppers creepy fat guys who cut in line to sit on a mall Santa?

2) Do I have to subdue a bald man to get a Droid, or can I just, you know, go buy one?

1) If Subway is where winners eat, why are they endorsed by such gap-toothed losers?

50 Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways: The Most Hated Team In Eagle History

There was a story this week over how Michael Vick is the most disliked player in the NFL, which is hardly surprising given the felony past. But the nasty little secret is that Eagle Fan feels the same way by now. Let's wallow, shall we?

50) On fourth and two in the first quarter to set the tone of the game, it's not like you want to have your best player, LeSean McCoy, get anywhere near the ball

49) Shockingly, the Cardinals targeted Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, seeing how they have seen him play and all

48) Jay Feely's field goal kicking is nearly as good as his politics

47) With Jeremy Maclin down due to injury, DeSean Jackson suspended for the game in what promises to be a season-ending move if he's got any brains, and Vick throwing the ball like his Bad News days, Coach For Life Andy Reid felt compelled to... throw every down

46) Back to back 3 and outs with drops and wide-open missing passes, and a 3 for 9 start from Vick, means you really can't possibly call running plays

45) If you have 1 minute left in the first quarter in today's pool for inexplicable offensive timeout, you win... and the subsequent false start for the bonus also paid out

44) Under the header of silver linings, the coverage units seem solid now

43) The Wide Nine technique clearly causes defensive ends to jump offsides

42) DRC actually got a sack, since it's not as if he's got any business staying downfield and running with WRs

41) Steve Smith tried to get out of a fumbled punt by punching it out of bounds from the middle of the field, and no, I am not making any of that up

40) In related news, Smith is now back in contention with Ronnie Brown and Vince Young for worst free agent signing of 2011, though to be fair, every single free agent signed is still in the running

39) After blowing a fourth down early, Reid called for a punt from the Cardinal 40, which kind of underscored the correct level of confidence in the offense

38) Asante Samuel's TAInt was really more about John Skelton, but beggars can't be choosers

37) That's the second straight game where the Eagle defense has scored a touchdown, if you are still in the business of looking for hope, and if that's the case, please stop abusing prescription drugs

36) On the bright side, we'll all be able to stop watching ths team in the minimum amount of time required

35) Perhaps covering Larry Fitzgerald with a LB in the red zone might not be the strongest indictment of Juan Castillo's prowess as a defensive coordinator, but it's pretty high up there

34) Dick Stockton noted how quiet the crowd was, failing to realize that most Eagle Fans are not idiots, so we stopped caring enough to yell about this team a long time ago

33) Vick's day would have been even worse, if not for a bailout holding call and the best challenge of CFL Reid's life

32) Jason Avant must be very happy by now, since there is absolutely no bandwagon fans left

31) McCoy continues to be the single unquestioned positive for this club

30) I've seen Vick play worse games in the laundry, but never against this weak of a defense

29) You know the game has turned into a snoozefest when the analysis goes to how tall King Dunlap is

28) Ken Whisenhunt's prolonged monologue got an intentional grounding call on a play where the Cardinals jumped offsides, on yet another Green 3 and out

27) Derek Landri's two-hand shove sack technique isn't sound, but it's what passes for fun in this laundry

26) Vick goes for a hard count on every third and 1, which really isn't helping anything in its predictability

25) Keeping Vick in the pocket also means that you have a short QB who's prone to turnover issues where the largest players are

24) The red zone pick late in the third quarter meant that this week's late defensive collapse won't take as long

23) The tall lineman matchup was referenced to something called the NBA, which history books tell me was a pro basketball league that played in this hemisphere

22) Jaiquan Jarrett showed why he's a DB, and not a WR

21) This week's awful Nnamdi Asomugha play in the fourth quarter is lining up offsides on what would have been a stop

20) Given that this happens every week, you'd think the Eagle defense would look less surprised by the fourth quarter collapse

19) Since Feely missed two easy field goals early, this fourth quarter blown lead really isn't as notable as the others

18) Dick Stockton called the Philadelphia crowd stunned, when the better description is apathetic, resigned or disgusted

16) After the second Vick interception, I honestly wondered if we might be better off with Vince Young or Mike Kafka... but in the continuing signs that we're living in Bizarro End Times, he got bailed on by the best replay challenge of Coach For Life Reid's career

15) Smith's inability to just turn it upfield and get a first down was grounds for immediate release, as if he hasn't given us ample cause before that

14) Asomugha got an absolute gift on his pick late in the game

13) The Cardinals would have won this game without drama if they had a kicker or their starting QB

12) Amazingly, the Eagles had Young hand off, rather than throw an awful pick

11) Jamar Cheney's sack was the first by a linebacker this year, and no, I'm serious

10) Going for it on fourth and two with 3:45 left seemed odd, but Whisnenhunt had clearly seen enough tape of the Eagle defense in the fourth quarter

9) The fact that Fitzgerald was, once again, not covered by Asomugha with two minutes left tells you all you need to know about Castillo's prowess

8) At this point, you have to wonder how the Eagles care enough to get a fourth quarter lead in the first place

7) Given an Eagles Fan a ticket to a game right now constitues a hate crime

6) Now that the season is over, I'm hoping we can start playing backups, since that's always fun

5) Brent Celek gets called "the normally reliable" every time he drops a ball, which is to say he's called that every game

4) Vick's arm punt pick to end things was apologized for by John Lynch, for some reason

3) Though to be fair, Smith jogging after that ball was also awfully inspiring

2) CFL Reid called a timeout to make the Cardinals kneel twice, and to give the remaining diehard sadoo-masochists a little more time to boo

1) There's no danger of CFL Reid losing this team, since he never actually had them in the first place

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Completely Irresponsible Advice For The NBA Players

Walk away from the table.

Walk away from the Association.

Walk away from your teams, your cities, your teammates, your contracts, and your security.

And embrace the freedom that's been earned by your hard work, your training, your skills and your dedication.

In short, start your own damn league.

Pool together the best couple hundred of you. Invite as many startling talents as you can; forget about all of the guys that are just organizational soldiers, hanging on for a paycheck, or coach wannabees. If a guy doesn't have handle or just exists to take hard fouls, forget him.

Arrange to meet at one place. Hold a secret ballot where each man votes for a team captain, and can't nominate himself. Take the top eight of that list, determine an order by lot, then have each guy pick a name from the remaining player pool in a live event. Make it like the ultimate playground pick 'em game. Enjoy the otherworldly ratings this event gets, and encourage players to take reality show levels of umbrage at where they were picked.

Televise all of this, of course. Stream it on the Internet. Call Versus or Spike or BET or whatever cable company decides to give you the most money for it. Feel free to cut every channel that the NBA is currently working with to choose between the new league and the old empty laundry. No middle ground.

Then, have these eight teams train together for a week. Hold a two-month season, followed by a single elimination tournament. Put it all in a small college arena, maybe in Vegas. Have your hottest women on the sidelines. Have fun playing the games, but hire the best refs you can -- you can decide who they are, since the Association won't be paying them, either. Crowdsource the uniform designs, and sell the hell out of the new gear.

In short, have the guts to walk away from everything these lying, parasitic scumbags are *not* offering you, and make your own world. For better or worse. This isn't baseball, where you need a ton of guys, or football, where the players don't have a long enough career to hold leverage. This is hoop; it requires very little in the way of a setting, and has the most superstar-affiliated fan base outside of pro wrestling.

Be men.

If, for no other reason, then to watch how fast these tinpot tyrants cave and go back to the status quo...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Top 12 reasons why Jim Harbaugh called Alex Smth an elite NFL QB

12) Also believes all of that stuff he told Jim Schwartz

11) Given his past DUI record, could possibly have been drunk at the time

10) Does not really know the meaning of the word elite

9) Also believes that all of the Harbaughs were also elite NFL QBs

8) Dominating the weakest division in football has caused his mind to snap

7) Knows that, going into this weekend's matchup with Eli Manning, that the line between ordinary and elite can be just a helmet catch away

6) Believes that, since Smith has gotten lucky in avoiding interceptions so far this year, that makes him elite

5) Clearly is not familiar with any of the '80s and '90s footage from the franchise vaults, or from before he took the job

4) If you are drafted #1 overall and have the starting job as the QB of a playoff-bound NFL team, you must be elite

3) Thinks that being on pace to throw for around 3,000 yards and 20 TDs in a season makes you elite, since that was good enough in the mid 1970s

2) Has seen enough of Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien to know that pumping up Smith is his only real option

1) Wanted to see if he could say it and keep a straight face

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