Friday, September 28, 2007

NFL WEEK THREE

What we learned.

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10. Rexgasm Grossman is still really, really bad.

A common factor left out of the Rexgasm equation is this: Without Devin Hester (all ready the best kick returner in league history) the Bears do not have near the same level of success. So Sexy Rexy goes to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter while routinely playing like Jake Plummer 2.0.

9. The Raiders already win the most improved player.

No team made a bigger upgrade at any position than the Raiders did trading Art Shell for Lane Kiffin. Now, it is not yet determined if Kiffin can actually coach. He is alive though, and that itself presents a monumental upgrade. The 2006 Raiders had the worst offense in the history of football. Their -60 differential between touchdowns scored (12) and sacks allowed (72) are a record that will never be touched. The -60 is on par with a 56 game hitting streak and Jerry Rice’s 197 touchdown catches. Those records will never be touched. Now the Raiders have Kiffin. They have a man whose father (Monte Kiffin) invented a defense responsible for a sweeping change in league philosophy (the Cover 2.) Yes he is crazy young. But, he has a plan and he has a pulse and that is good enough for hope of a Raiders revival.

8. The Rams are D U N.

When I mentioned the Rams as a potential Super Bowl contender I assumed their offense would be a top three unit in the NFL. I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. Marc Bulger looks like Marc Bulger should look. Stephen Jackson is now hurt. The line has been destroyed by injuries and the defense could be worst than last year. Things are looking just great for 0-3 St. Louis.

7. The Cardinals have turned a corner.

The Cardinals are not who we thought they were. This team is showing toughness, an improved plan of attack, and hope of actually challenging for the play-offs again, if not this season then next. (MOL Note: This was written before it was reported Kurt Warner will be the “No-Huddle Specialist” and that Matt Lienart is still firmly the Cardinals starting quarterback. Yep, nothing can go wrong with that.

6. Cutler to Marshall has the potential to be great.

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Brian Griese had the smarts but the personality of a wet paper sack. Griese also possessed the arm strength of a man who would have great difficulties punching himself out of said sack. Jake Plummer had the mobility, a decent arm, and occasionally would fire a pass widely down field with his left hand thanks to the decision making of…well, hell a wet, paper sack.

And then Jay Cutler faces a blitz right in his mouth, slides a step to his left, takes a hit, takes a step forward and fires a laser into Brandon Marshall’s chest. Marshall spun and juked his way to the two-yard line and even in a loss a glimpse of potential brilliance was witnessed by the world.

5. The Cowboys are the clear NFC Super Bowl favorites.

Besides the Patriots the Cowboys have the deepest team in the league. With good to great players playing at every major position the team is set for a deep play-off run. Demarcus Ware, Tony Romo, Marion Barber, and Jason Whitten are a few of the top talents in the league. TO, Terry Glenn, Terrance Newman, Roy Williams and others are all very good players. This is the best Cowboys team since 1996.

4. The Chargers probably made the wrong choice when they hired the immortal Norv Turner.

Best-case scenario: Cam Cameron stays as head coach, thus the offense stays high powered. The defense then promotes from within and continuity is maintained.

2nd best-case scenario: Wade Phillips is named head coach, the defense stays high powered, and the offense promotes from within.

Worst-case scenario (for Chargers and Norv Turner): The Chargers name Norv Turner head coach. Turner is doomed to fail and the Chargers will miss the playoffs, as they tend to do every other year.

3. Randy Moss was a really, really good pick-up.

2. Brett Favre is still really, really good.

1. The Patriots are going to be tough to beat in January.


QUICK POINTS

- The Bengals miss Chris Henry.

- The Jaguars running game is capable of winning games with time of possession.

- Eli Manning has a terrible supporting cast.

- An NFL ALL-OVERHYPED TEAM starts both Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey.

- In the right offense Jeff Garcia will win NFL games.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Feldman!

Things around my apartment were getting broken. That is often unavoidable when my team is blowing a big game. I take losses hard, mostly because I can see far in advance my favorite team is destined to lose. It’s the little things, like blown lay-ups leading directly to thunder dunks on the other end or a quarterback calmly drilling a simple five-yard pass into his fullback’s feet. I see little things like this and know I’m in for a long night and that I’ll spend the next morning picking up the pieces of what used to be my living room lamp.
But on this night, it wasn’t my favorite team blowing the game that had me chucking my lamp over my best friends head. It was the infestation of the bizarre infecting the AFC Championship game between Indianapolis and New England. I had no personal interest in either the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots going to the Super Bowl. Sure, I respect the Patriots for constantly fielding a Super Bowl contender and I really think Colts quarterback, Peyton Manning, is overrated, but it’s the unpredictability of our sports world that is driving out of my mind.
I feel like Elaine in the classic ‘Bizarro Jerry’ episode of Seinfeld. In this episode Elaine becomes friends with three men who are extremely similar her trio of friends, Jerry, George and Kramer. Elaine’s new friends (a portly, bald man that acts just like George, her ex-boyfriend turned ‘just friend’, Kevin, and a gangly Kramer-clone named Feldman) are like a better, more refined version of her original trio of friends. The real humor of the episode occurs when the new ‘better’ version of friends get offended when Elaine criticizes a slice of the human race and are shocked when she throws open the refrigerator with-out asking. Elaine soon realizes that she doesn’t belong with the ‘better’ version of friends but, rather, with original, less classy version.
That is me, right now. I’m Elaine standing at the refrigerator door. As a true sports-aholic, I’m standing with a refrigerator door handle in my hand, glancing around at a strangely familiar apartment, filled with vaguely familiar friends. Only it’s not good. It’s different, but not better. Sports are yelling at me right now for mocking people and raiding the fridge without permission. As a self-appointed expert of sports, I am suddenly less qualified to predict the outcome of a game than the lady in your office pool that makes her picks based on the color of the teams’ uniforms. What the heck is going on?!
The proof is in the results. Peyton Manning (who owned exactly ZERO big wins with championships on the line) leads the perennial play-off loser Colts to the greatest comeback in conference final’s history and a Super Bowl victory. How did this happen? What the heck is going on?!
I could say that the Patriots did not even deserve to be a championship contender with the losses of Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, David Givens, Deon Branch, and a host of others to either injury or free-agent defections. I could talk about how Manning had two potential Hall-of-Fame wide receivers and a Pro Bowl tight end. I could simply mention that the Patriots started Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell, and I could easily rant for two hours about ‘Rexgasm’ (Rex Grossman) and the Bears. I could say that Manning had been trained since he was freaking born to be the ultimate quarterback and it took a ridiculous comeback against an inferior team to make it happen, but I won’t. I will not bring up any of these things. The Super Bowl happened and Manning won.

But it’s not just the NFL that has suddenly flipped into an alternate reality. The Bizarro World of sports has taken over sports as we know it. Look at some recent champions: The Heat, Red Sox, White Sox and Cardinals. Hell, the Detroit Tigers were the best team in baseball all of last season and they lost 119 games in less time then it takes me to change apartments the year before. What the heck is going on?!

Regular seasons are now meaningless. The Cardinals win only 83 games in the regular season and are suddenly unstoppable in the World Series? The Red Sox are down 0-3 in the American League Championship and out of nowhere come back to beat the Yankees 4-3? The White Sox break a ninety-year curse after one of the biggest end-of-season choke-jobs in baseball history?

The Miami Heat sign Antoine Walker and Jason Williams and suddenly win a championship? I’ll go slower. Antoine Walker and Jason Williams were the missing pieces to championship team! That can only happen in Bizarro Sports World. To win the title Williams and Walker had to beat the defensive minded Dallas Mavericks led by clutch, cold-blooded shooter Jason Terry and the low-post beast, the nasty-German, Dirk Nowitzki. What the heck is going on?! BIZARRO!
Georgetown is in the Final Four with John Thompson and Patrick Ewing. Only I don’t hate Bizarro Ewing and Bizarro Thompson doesn’t scare the living shit out of me. This Ewing isn’t vastly overrated? This Thompson doesn’t make me protect my unborn children from being eaten? Huh? UCLA makes it to the Final Four not the selfish run-and-gun teams I grew up with, but with tough defense and selfless team-orientated players? What in the name of Bizarro Jason Kapono is happening?!
I can remember when things that happened actually meant something. When the White Sox late season collapse would have left them dead in the water. Where best teams throughout the season played like it in the post-season.
In the world I know, Patrick Ewing is a jump shooting center who rarely ventured into the paint, except to get dunked on more than any player who’s ever lived. (This is not a debate. Scottie Pippen dunked over Ewing knocking him to the ground. Michael Jordan faked two guys out of their shoes and dunked the ball with his forearm banging off the rim, right in Ewing’s eye. Patrick Ewing is the Michael Jordan of getting dunked on!) This is the world I know.
But in the Bizarro World of Sports, Patrick Ewing leads Georgetown to the Final Four, the White Sox and the Red Sox beat the Yankees and go on to win a World Series and defeat a century long curse, Rex Grossman and Peyton Manning battle for a Super Bowl ring and the evening news is more predictable than Duke in the NCAA Tournament. In the sports world I grew up in, quarterbacks who had NEVER won a big game didn’t come back and beat the greatest clutch player of his era. The Yankees won, the Bills lost and smart sports-aholics always won the office pools.
So, as I paced around my living room, punching random things, ranting and raving about Manning, it was not about him at all. I was ranting about our new Bizarro Sports World. For all the statistical sports-data that floats around in my head, I suddenly feel that I know nothing about sports. I once lived in a world where the ESPN Fanatic was King and sports were predictable, but in the Bizarro World of Sports, up is now down and down is now up. In our new Bizarro Wold of Sports we say "Hello" when we leave and "Good bye" when we arrive.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I Had a Dream...



I had a dream...

That Michael Jordan had taken Satan's offer to trade Elton Brand for the number one pick in the 2001 draft. Jordan, the Wizards general manager, passed on the trade offer from the Bull's Jerry Krause to draft sure-fire all-star Kawame Brown. With Jordan, Elton Brand, and Richard Hamilton the Wizards would have had a legitimate shot at a finals appearance. Instead Jordan was forced to carry the entire load, missed the last part of the season with tendonitis in his knee, and retired to be fired from the general manager's position.

I had a dream...


That the Denver Nuggets drafted Amare Stoudemire instead of Nickoloz Tskitishvili and drafted Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggs then signed Gilbert Arenas instead of Andre Miller. The Nuggets were the best team in the west with their unmatched trio of stars. Instead the Nuggets run in place, unable to drop back to the lottery to secure a post presence, nor able to break through their
ceiling and enter the upper echelon of the west.


I had a dream...

That the Cleveland Cavilers drafted high school super-athlete Josh Smith in the 2004 draft instead of nonathletic, injury prone, bust guaranteed Oregon star Luke Jackson. With LeBron James and Smith manning the wing positions the Cavs never considered signing the great Larry Hughes. Instead they used that money to sign a competent point guard. With Smith and a point guard who can both shoot and pass, as opposed to neither of those things, LeBron wasn't coasting during most games and wasn’t making me think of the next Kevin Garnett instead of the next Oscar Robertson/Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan comparisons.


I had a dream...

That the Atlanta Hawks had drafted DeRon Williams or Chris Paul, instead of Marvin Williams. M. Williams was a clone of several player on their roster while D. Williams and Paul were head and shoulders above anyone else on the Hawk's roster. The Hawks had Paul/D. Williams, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia, and hope of crawling out of the lottery. Instead the Hawks run in place while Williams and Paul both begin what
might be Hall of Fame careers.


I had a dream...

That the Orlando Magic had not traded Tracy McGrady for Steve Francis and Catino Mobley in the summer of 2004. With McGrady, Dwight Howard, and Jameer Nelson the Magic would be the clear cut favorites to win the weak Eastern Conference. In one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry wanted to return a sport jacket purely out of spite. For the same reason the Magic chose to get rid of McGrady. Now the Magic are desperate for a veteran leader who can create his own offense. Instead they are probably two years away from championship contention (if they fill their T-Mac size hole by then.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Perception v. Reality

--------------------EQUALS-------------------------------

The Colts are the champions! They have finally reached the pinnacle! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Peyton Manning finally has his Super Bowl title and joins the likes of Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, and Jeff Hostetler with one championship ring apiece.
A closer look at THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS, the quarterback position over the last twenty Super Bowls starting with Washington's 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

Heroic Back-ups
Jeff Hostetler 1-0
Hostetler stepped in for the Eli Manning's during the 1990 season and leads the team to a Super Bowl upset over the Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith led Buffalo Bills. More impressively, Hostetler beat the two time defending champion San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC championship. Staring only two games Hostetler holds the record for best mustache in Super Bowl history.
Doug Williams 1-0
Williams started five games for the Redskins in 1987 and led the Redskins to 35 points in the second quarter against the Pre-Mastermind Broncos. He was also the first African-American to win the championship. He never again played up to the Super Bowl level.

Overachievers
Mark Rypien 1-0
Rypien was a far less sextacullar version of recent whipping boy Rexgasm G. Rypien did lead the Redskins to a championship though. Rypien threw the deep ball extremely well and was of Eskimo decent. He beat the immortal Eric Kramer of the Detroit Lions 41-10 in the NFC Championship and Jim Kelly's Bills 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI. He threw a very low number of passes under pressure and predictably thrived. He also danced like a man suffering seizures. Quick! Don't let him swallow his tongue!

Game Managers

Unlike overachievers, game managers were not really required to make any plays. All three game managers had strong running games, excellent defenses, and very conservative game plans.

Trent Dilfer
1-0
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens allowed the fewest points (165) in NFL history. Tony Banks was the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season. The offense went the entire month of October (and five games straight) without an offensive touchdown. Dilfer defeated the best known alcoholic racist who quite a team at mid season and spent the summer backpacking in Europe quarterback off all-time, Kerry Collins. Dilfer lost his job the next season to the fantastic Elvis Grbac and spent the past six seasons as Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Fry, and Alex Smith's backup. I could go on but I'm getting sick.

Brad Johnson 1-0
The 2002 Buccaneers had another great defense though Johnson did need to make far more plays then Dilfer. With Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan MacCardell the Bucs had a passing attack. In the Super Bowl Johnson was not forced to play under any scoreboard pressure and Jon Gurden knew more about the Raiders entering the game than the Raiders did. Johnson later lost his starting job to the next John Elway, Brian Griese.

Ben Roethlisberger 1-0
The Steelers were actually a much better team the season before their championship when they went 15-1 only to loose the AFC Championship game at home to the Patriots. The Steelers in 2005 overcame an mid-season slide (where Roethlisberger was injured and Tommy Maddux played himself directly into retirement) to become the first team to win three consecutive road games to get to the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger had decent game in the win over the average Seattle Seahawks.

Traded Grocery Store Punch Card and Soul for Super Bowl Glory
Kurt Warner 1-1
Nothing else to say.

Icons
Tom Brady 3-0
If you talk to a Raiders fan (and don't kill yourself immediately) everything Brady has accomplished is a fluke and the Raiders have the best almost-dynasty in the last 20 years. Brady has been the best big game quarterback in the league since Troy Aikman, though he is routinely passed over as the choice of the best quarterback in the league. Excuse me? Even with his current Super Bowl title Manning has won a single AFC Championship and just beat REX GROSSMAN to win the Super Bowl. Give me Brady with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Dominic Rhodes and I will give you a Super Bowl champion. Give me Peyton Manning with Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, David Givens, Deion Branch (whose average ability was proved in Seattle this season without Brady) and I will give you 9-7 or 10-6.

Troy Aikman
3-0
Aikman was clutch and I hate him less and less with each passing year. He had arguably the greatest offensive line in league history. The league's all-time leading rusher (Emmit Smith,) a hall of fame receiver (Michael Irvin,) and a deep and fast defense. Aikman is a legend though for winning a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer as his coach.

Joe Montana 2-0
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty soon Cool Hand Joe will be just a memory. His two most recent Super Bowl titles included an thrilling last minute drive to beat Boomer Esiason's Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. The next year the 49ers destroyed the Pre-Mastermind Broncos 55-10 and Montana's hold as the games best quarterback was over. A hell of a way to go out.

John Elway 2-2
I did this list of the last twenty Super Bowls instead of twenty years so I could leave Elway's loss to the Phil Simms's Giants off. Elway started the most Super Bowls in the last twenty and his two wins came as the leader of one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Elway could never win a Super Bowl as the only scary option on offense, but was lethal as part of a fantastic collection of hard workers with talent. With Rod Smith, Eddie MacCaffrey, Shanon Sharpe (Hall of Famer,) and league MVP Terrell Davis (Should be in the Hall some day) The Broncos were only a huge Jacksonville upset at Mile High away from a possible three-peat. Elway's final two season would end with championships for Denver and the perfect setting for him to retire. THIS ONE'S FOR JOHN!

Brett Favre 1-1
Not yet retired, Favre Super Bowls included beating the New England Patriots led by Drew Bledsoe and Curtis Martin (HOF) and losing to Elway's Broncos the following season. Favre will probably retire with every significant passing record and will hold those for approximately seven years, when Peyton Manning will destroy them all. He was the first player to win three straight MVP awards, although his last award royally screwed Barry Sanders, who rushed for exactly 2,000 yards in the last fourteen games of the season. He also owned Steve Young like Brady owns Manning. (Still.)

Steve Young 1-0 (2-0 as Montana's back-up)
Young could arguably be placed into the underachiever category. With only one Super Bowl win leading a loaded 49ers team it could be said he failed come through. Yet, he had the misfortune of going against the dynasty Dallas Cowboys. He is an icon but it is important to remember Brett Favre absolutely owned him.

So where does Manning belong?
Most would all-ready have him as an icon and they would leave no doubt. I say hold the horses. He has only one Super Bowl title and to win he beat the ancient Trent Green and Steve McNair. Then the Colts barely won over the far less talented Brady's and struggled (in the rain) to beat the Rexgasm G for the title. So he is an icon now? I know it is foolish to not make him THE GREATEST QUARTERBACK OF ALL TIME but he has two big wins in his entire career.
I'm putting him in the VERY GOOD category and resigning myself to the fact that he will be an icon soon enough.