Monthly Archives: November 2012

Week 11 Preview

I’m really sorry that I didn’t write for Week 10, but this is starting to be hard to write. Not because I don’t enjoy writing about the National Football League, I do. I love the NFL more than any other hobby I have. The reason is that, when you are a sports fan, caring about teams can change your mood. I think a great example of this is in The Silver Linings Playbook where the father, who is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, will not talk to his mentally ill son and be mean to his wife the entire week if the Eagles lose (I have to imagine if this book were true, this wouldn’t be a good season to be married to this guy). Obviously, I am not this extreme, but football turns into a painful thing when your team is not good. 

But what’s really bad is when, like in gambling, you hedge and still lose. Hedging means that you protect your bet by betting money on various other things, increasing your chances of not losing but decreasing your winnings if/when you win. In the football sense, this means supporting more than one team in the hopes that at least one of them will be watchable. I hedged this season, I fell in love with a girl who loves the Carolina Panthers and I hedged my football enthusiasm, I am genuinely a dual citizen in my support of the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. This hedge, at least for this season, has blown up in my face, because both of these teams are terrible. This week, there will be no game reviews, I’ll talk preview in a little bit, but I’m going to use this week’s blog as a catharsis for my two favorite teams. 

Carolina

Going into this week, I was starting to feel really good about the Panthers. After all, they lost close games (very close, they should have beaten the Falcons and the Bears, two clear playoff teams) and had shown flashes of brilliance. Sure, Ron Rivera is a terrible coach (he’s done by the way) and the front office has made some notoriously terrible decisions, but ultimately the talent on the field is quality. I had the great fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of being in the stadium on Sunday as the Panthers welcomed Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (which, a quick digression: the noodle arm is gone. He’s Peyton, he’s awesome, and this Broncos team is really good. Like, watch out Houston, Peyton will see you in the AFC title game good). 

Let’s start with what is good about the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart is a good runner and Cam Newton, given time, is a solid QB. Luke Kuechly is the best rookie linebacker I’ve ever seen, the defense is different with him on the field and he’s so much better in the middle linebacker than the outside linebacker position–

A quick lesson on defense: In a typical defensive package, there are 2 linebackers, a middle linebacker that will either play pass coverage on a slot receiver in the middle, defend a tight end, defend the run up the middle, or rush the QB from the middle. The outside linebacker is more often rushing the QB, but is also in some pass protection packages. On most teams, the middle linebacker serves as the “QB of the Defense”. The Middle linebacker calls the plays and is the one who reads the offense to audible. Starting the season, Kuechly was the outside linebacker and Jon Beason was the middle. Beason was hurt and Kuechly was moved to the middle. 

Now that you are caught up, if anyone in the Panthers organization suggests bringing Beason back and moving Kuechly to the outside, they should be fired and strung up outside Bank of America stadium to be made an example of. If I were the GM of this team, I’d listen to trade offers for EVERY player on the roster except Kuechly and Newton, they are the only pieces that are “must keep”.

 

The bad of this team is pretty encompassing, but let me start from the most obvious (to me). They are horrendously coached. Really really terrible. The fact that Ron Rivera can’t decide on his game plan (he’s aggressive on plays when he should be conservative and vice versa) is incredibly baffling. Here’s an example: late in the second quarter on sunday, the Panthers had 4th and 2 and were down 14-7, there was less than 2 minutes left and Rivera chose to have Medlock attempt a 47 yard field goal. On the surface, this seems a logical decision, an NFL coach will always take the points (statistically, this strategy is horrendous, but that’s another rant for another day). However, a coach is expected to evaluate their team, the defense was tired and unable to stop the Broncos and your QB is Cam Newton. You run a QB draw up the middle, 98 percent of the time it’ll be a first down. But, he’s Ron Rivera. Medlock misses wide right, Peyton leads the Broncos down for a late FG and they never recover. Additionally, Chudzinski, for being the “best offensive coordinator” in the league, really doesn’t seem to know his offense. Cam Newton is not going to throw deep passes to Steve Smith every game, its just not going to happen. What he is going to do is throw 10 or 15 yard strikes to Smith in the middle or Greg Olson. On the first drive, Olson scores an TD and doesn’t get another target until late in the third quarter. Are you kidding me? Who’s drawing up this gameplan? A drunk seven year old? Playing to your strengths is something this coaching staff can’t comprehend. 

The two big problem positions on this team are cornerback and offensive line. The O-Line is horrible. Jordan Gross is paid a lot of money and I counted him getting beat 8 times, that’s not counting the plays i refused to watch because i was facebooking on my phone or not paying attention to the horrendous action on the field. New GM Scott Pion would cut him so fast his head would spin. O-lineman are at a premium in this league and I think this is where the team needs to allocate it’s resources, especially to protect the investment in Cam Newton. 

 

Wow that was actually really cathartic, hopefully the next one will be too. 

 

The Jets

I’m not going to spend that much time with this because i’ve ranted about it enough before. Here’s the point: there’s not a player on this roster that is playing up to their potential. Shonn Greene tricked me for two weeks, but has since gone back to being Shonn Greene. Mark Sanchez can’t get protection or a receiver, but he’s still not looking like a competent QB. The receivers are horrendous (and that’s kind). Chaz Schillens and Clyde Gates? are you serious? this is our receiving core? christ. The defense looks old and tired. Bart Scott is done, Kyle wilson is outmatched, the D-line is small. It’s just not a fun time to be a Jets fan. What do I do as GM? Thanks for asking: 

1) Invest in the receiving core

2) draft the best player on the board. This seems logical but the Jets have drafted by position and sometimes that’s worked but often it hasn’t . For the record, I like the athletic d-line if they add one more piece and recover from injury.

3) look for a quality outside linebacker and move david harris to the middle. He’s now the defensive captain and he should be treated as such. Cut Bart Scott (CAN’T WAIT)

4) sign a running back. Any running back will do, i hear Steve Slaton is available. I’ll take Steve Slaton over Shonn Greene any day. Again, for the record, if Joe McKnight is healthy, I’ll take Joe McKnight. He reminds me of Reggie Bush without Kim Kardashian herpes. 

 

Anyway, the Jets are in the conversation for bottom 3, so lets look to the college ranks Jets fans, we’ll be drafting high!

 

Lets talk some game previews before we get to top/bottom and the coaches

Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit

Plain and simple, I think this is the last chance the Lions get to be relevant this season. While they are 4-5, they’ve lost all three division games so far and they are clearly the bottom of that division. If they win this game versus GB, they stay somewhat interesting. The truth is, they just aren’t all that good. The running game is improved but not good and Stafford can’t seem to connect with Calvin Johnson (making America’s fantasy football teams very unhappy). GB, on the other hand, seems to be hitting their stride and, with the potential Jay Cutler injury for Chicago, trying to take the division back. 

Pick:

GB 35, Det 10

 

Miami at Buffalo (-1.5)

Who would have thought this was the most interesting AFC East matchup in a while? So, the Bills looked competent versus the Patriots and would have won had Fred Jackson not fumbled in the endzone. Miami, on the other hand, looked like everyone expected they would look in the preseason which was clueless and lost with a rookie QB who wasn’t all that good in college. But, previously to last week, Miami looked pretty good and like a potential playoff team. In fact, a quality blog I know mighta said this in the preview of Week 9: 

“The AFC wildcard, I think, is the most interesting thing about this conference. A case could be made for Indy, Baltimore (assuming they don’t win the North) , and the Dolphins. I am rooting for Miami and Indy, but I think it’ll probably go down to Week 17 and Baltimore and Miami will end up with it (the only thing that would stop the dolphins is that they still have to play the Pats twice, but one of those is week 17 and Bellichick could be resting starters).”

So, this mysterious and awesome blogger was right, but the Dolphins are showing signs of cracking. This should be an interesting game but my money is on the return of order to the universe and the Dolphins looking good and the Bills looking horrendous. 

Pick: Dolphins 28, Bills 9

 

Top 3

I think there’s been a big shakeup at the top of the NFL. the Giants no longer look that great, they are doing the typical mid season swoon before they come back to dominate into the playoffs. So—

1) Houston

2) Falcons

3) Denver

What happened to the NFC? I think the Cutler injury hurts the Bears and I think that the Falcons might still be overrated. I don’t know what to make of the 49ers and Rams, I thought the Rams were only ok and they went to a tie in a pretty terrible game. Basically, my whole clean view of the NFL is now cloudy. I know that Houston has delivered when they have had to and been dominant, I know that the Falcons are still 7-1 and that is worth something, and I know what I saw in Carolina on Sunday. The Broncos are legit, not just at QB, but defensively as well. 

 

Bottom 3

1) KC

2) Jacksonville

3) Tie: Jets, Eagles, Bills

There are some bad teams in football. I think KC is on a different level (although looked frighteningly competent against the Steelers). I think that KC has a big problem with coaching, cause clearly Charles is a good RB and the offense can run around him. Jacksonville is scary bad, but I don’t think they are quite as bad as the chiefs. I almost wish that they had Tebow, at least people would care to watch. Finally, I think the third slot should probably be the Jets, but they can duke it out in the coming weeks. The Panthers and Browns are on the next level of bad but I don’t think they warrant this list unless some teams pull off some miracles. 

 

Coaches

So remember, we’re looking at coaches “in the hot seat”. The ones I identified last week: 

Rex Ryan-Jets

Norv Turner- Chargers

Jason Garrett- Cowboys

Romeo Crennel- Chiefs

Pat Shurmur- Browns

Ron Rivera- Panthers

I’d like to add Andy Reid of the Eagles. The only one on this list that may have saved his job is Jason Garrett. The cowboys looked pretty good and, quietly, have the schedule and makeup to potentially make a playoff run. But, beware, Sean Payton is lurking. I think if Payton wants the job, the only thing Garrett could do is make a significant playoff run to hold that off. But, who knows if he wants it. The more I watch, the more i’m convinced the other coaches will be fired. In fact, I think Rex is the only one who could potentially save himself with some quality play in the rest of the season, I kind of feel like the book has been written on the others. Norv should have been out seasons ago, Shurmur is terrible and is what is keeping the browns from being a fringe contender, Rivera is not good (see above), and Romeo is holding back a team that actually has some talent and making them the worst team in football. 

 

 

It’s been a cathartic, fun blog to write and I hope you stayed with me through it. 

 

Scott

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Week 9—let the games begin

Ah November. This is the part of the NFL season where things start to get good. The NBA has started, thus giving sports fans a full plate of viewing options and the NFL is finally real. When I say real, what I mean is that at this point in the year, we are starting to really get a handle on who’s good and who’s bad. Remember last season’s Buffalo Bills. Going into Week 9, the Bills were 5-2 but we were starting to realize that their record wasn’t that good. They’d beaten some bad teams to get to 5-2 (Oakland, KC, Rex Grossman’s Redskins) and I, and most fans, didn’t really believe in them. What followed was an epic 7 game losing streak, losing 8 of their last 9 (they did manage to beat Tim Tebow’s Broncos). This season, I feel pretty confident projecting most of the divisions. Rather than do game recap this week, I think i’d like to talk about each division.

NFC North Champions: Green Bay

I think this might be the closest division on the board right now. The Bears just didn’t look all that great against Carolina (although GB really didn’t against Jacksonville either). I just sense a Bears collapse coming.

NFC West49ers

The seahawks are dangerous, but this one is so close to locked. SF has been really good in spots, but definitely not untouchable as we saw against the Giants.

NFC East: Giants

The Giants are the best team in football. The Eagles, record wise, could still be in striking distance, but come on. The wheels are coming off in philly. The cowboys are ok at best and the Redskins are far too injured. This is the Giants’ division to lose.

NFC South: Atlanta

I hate the falcons, I still think they are overrated and will fall apart in round 1 of the playoffs as per usual. However, they’re 7-0 and they are so far ahead of tampa that I think they are untouchable. I really like what I saw out of Tampa the last two weeks. I think they might be my wild card pick (along with Seattle). I’d also love if the Bucs were the team that knocked ATL out of the playoffs 🙂

AFC EastPatriots

Sigh.

(i do like the Dolphins a lot, they punked the Jets, they are very good. They are an AFC wild card)

AFC SouthHouston

Not much to say here, this is not even a close division. Houston is the AFC favorite and all other teams are “rebuilding”. I do think Indy might make some noise as a wild card and I think the AFC wildcard race will actually be really exciting.

AFC NorthSteelers

I’m aware that the Ravens are technically a game ahead of the Steelers right now and that I’ve been ragging on the Steelers all year (with good reason, they aren’t that good and have a swiss cheese offensive line). However, Baltimore is decimated by defensive injury and the games they have won have just not been convincing. I’m off the Joe Flacco bandwagon (yes, at the beginning of the year I was wacko for Flacco, but my fantasy teams suffered enough—I’m out). Maybe the Ravens can ride Ray Rice to this division, it’s probably the closest in the AFC, but I still think the Steelers win it (and then are promptly beaten by whichever wild card they play).

AFC West: Broncos

By god, he might be back. Actually, I take that back, Peyton Manning still can’t make a deep pass and his throws are still wobbly. But man, he can read a defense. I think just being that intelligent, in this division with the Broncos’ easy schedule the rest of the way, is going to make them a strong winner of the division, maybe challenging Houston for the #1 seed. The rest of this division is garbage: Oakland is inconsistent (although pretty good when they are good), SD is a joke (bye bye Norv) and the Chiefs are the worst team in football.

 

The AFC wildcard, I think, is the most interesting thing about this conference. A case could be made for Indy, Baltimore (assuming they don’t win the North) , and the Dolphins. I am rooting for Miami and Indy, but I think it’ll probably go down to Week 17 and Baltimore and Miami will end up with it (the only thing that would stop the dolphins is that they still have to play the Pats twice, but one of those is week 17 and Bellichick could be resting starters).

 

Alright, on to this weeks games

New Orleans (-1.5) vs Philly

Can both of these teams lose? That would make me really happy. This game could go one of two ways. Brees could light up the horrendous Philly defense on the way to a lot of points, but the game is close because Vick is playing for his job and the NO defense is horrendous. Or, Vick goes out trying to save his job and throws pick after pick and loses the game huge, his job, and makes me the happiest i’ve been since July 2011. My money is, unfortunately, on a high scoring game that Philly ends up winning because their defense is marginally more competent than New Orleans. yuck.

Pick:Philly 42, NO 38

 

Giants (-3) vs Steelers

I’m a little shocked that the line is so low on this game. I really think the Giants are going to dominate the Steelers. The Steelers have no run game and their defense is so banged up (incidentally, what they should do is trade for DeAngelo Williams, in which case this game gets really interesting). This is, still, probably the best game this week because these are probably two playoff teams. I think the Giants make a statement with the game and win big.

Giants 31, Steelers 21

 

Top 3: 

1) Giants

2) SF

3) Falcons

Not a thing changed last week. These are still the best three teams and they all proved it with their performances last week. The texans are trying to get in this group and they may.

Bottom 3: 

1) Kansas City

2) Jacksonville

3) Buffalo

My biggest mistake since I started blogging about this NFL season was not recognizing how terrible this Chiefs team is. For some reason they just weren’t on my radar. But every other team, Jags and Bills included, have redeeming qualities. The Chiefs are a poorly coached team with horrendous QB play and no defense. They have a talented RB that is never given the ball and a really talented receiver that would be great if he didn’t drop every pass thrown at him. I apologize, I anticipate that they will be at the top of this list for the rest of the year (see I told you, week 9 is when we can really have a handle on the league). The Jags are just young, I actually do think they will end up being good and I’m coming around on Blaine Gabbert, although I’m far from a believer. Let’s put him in the “you have potential but I’m not sure this is the right team for you and I’m not sure you really have all the talent that appears in flashes” category. Other members: Sanchez, Mark, Rivers, Phillip, Fitzpatrick, Ryan. The Bills are the Bills, they do have the talent but the product on the field has been shit. They are horrendously coached. speaking of coaches.

 

Scott’s Coaching Crystal Ball

So I want to keep track of the Coaches who are on the hot seat from week to week and really keep track of who saves their job and who puts the nail in their own proverbial coffin. Right now:

Rex Ryan-Jets

Norv Turner- Chargers

Jason Garrett- Cowboys

Romeo Crennel- Chiefs

Pat Shurmur- Browns

Ron Rivera- Panthers

If the season were to end today, I think every one of these coaches would be fired. As it stands, I think Rivera and Ryan will probably save their jobs. However, I really could see a scenario where Rex Ryan is the head coach of the chargers next year. In any case, these are the coaches to watch for next week’s blog, I’ll post how I think each of these teams did in terms of coaching and if they helped or hurt their coach (rex, mercifully, is on a bye week).

 

Thanks for reading,

Scott