Friday, November 11, 2011

More Asinine Predictions!

My predictions so far this year have been laugh out loud wrong. Rams going to the NFC Championship? Chargers winning the Super Bowl? The Vikings 8-8? Yeah, no. Naturally, that means I should do more useless non-forecasting...

Prediction #1 - Bengals Make The AFC Title Game

Every year there's a team that's not nearly as good as their record reflects because of an easy schedule. That was the Bears last year, and the Bengals are shaping up to fit that mold in 2011. Here's who they've beaten so far: Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indy, Seattle, Tennessee.

Their schedule does get a lot tougher from there: Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore twice, and Houston. But they also have Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona, three very winnable games. So all they have to do is go 1-3 against Pitt/Balt and they're a 10 game winner. Here's the thing though...

The Bengals really aren't that bad. They remind me of the Jets the past couple years: young but competent QB (giving too much credit to The Sanchize here, I'd rather have Dalton), a top 5 defense against the run, a shut down corner (Leon Hall), some receivers who can do some things, and a competent running game. There's not much flash with the Bengals. They're all meat and potatoes. I'd argue the AFC is as wide open as its ever been since the Raiders made the Super Bowl in 2002, and a meat-and-potatoes team is good enough to get it done this year.

Look at the rest of the AFC this year. San Diego's offense blows and their defense isn't good enough to bail them out. Oakland is the most penalized team in the league (again) and their quarterback just came off the street two weeks ago. New England's defense can't stop anyone. The Jets make too many huge mistakes. Houston is soft and their defense may be a mirage considering they've barely had to play from behind at all this year. Baltimore still has Joe Flacco. I would not be surprised to see a Pittsburgh/Cincy AFC title game.

Prediction #2 - Bears Make The NFC Title Game, Again

Again, this is more of a statement on the rest of the NFC than it is an endorsement of the Bears. The East is awash in mediocrity (don't sell me the Giants, too many injuries). The Saints are your classic "good at home, lousy on the road" team. Atlanta's defense is not good - Chicago already kicked their ass this year 30-12. The only other serious teams out there are Green Bay obviously, and San Francisco, who are a complete wildcard thanks to Alex Smith and the offense. I'm going with the more experienced team and banking on a NFC Championship rematch. And maybe another appearance from Caleb Haine, just for comedy's sake.

Prediction #3 - Lions, Eagles Miss The Playoffs

Detroit looks to me like a classic case of a team that peaked too early. They looked great against the Bears in a playoff atmosphere at home on a Monday night, but the next two games against San Fran and Atlanta were lardass ugly. Granted they did just destroy Denver 45-10 as they were supposed to, but I think that's their destiny - beat bad teams, lose to good teams.

As for the Eagles, what more can you say about those frauds at this point? Name a linebacker on that team. I watch an obscene amount of football (and play an absurd number of trivia quizzes on and I have no idea who any defenders are beyond Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and their "rock star" defensive backs, who have all looked like a bucket of horseass so far. Their offense has to be clicking 100% every game for them to have a chance, and so far that's only happened a handful of times.

Prediction #4 - Vikings Beat Packe--Nope, can't do it. I'll only go this far...

Prediction #4 - Vikings Cover -14.5 Spread At Lambeau

Final score - Packers 41, Vikings 31

Monday, October 31, 2011

Christian Ponder On Third Down

In the interest of continuity, I want to continue the third down stat analysis I had going with Donovan McNabb to see if there would be some marked improvement from Christian Ponder. Yeah I know it's only two games, but I can't help myself.

Note:  This is only counting his two starts, not garbage time against the Bears.

vs. Green Bay

3-7-GB44    (4:25) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete short right to L.Booker.

3-4-MIN11    (:35) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete short right to P.Harvin (C.Woodson).

3-3-GB32    (13:43) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short left to P.Harvin ran ob at GB 26 for 6 yards.

3-6-MIN24    (4:12) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short left to V.Shiancoe to MIN 33 for 9 yards (D.Bishop).

3-8-MIN35    (2:20) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short right to P.Harvin to MIN 44 for 9 yards (T.Williams).

3-12-GB34    (1:04) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete short right to D.Aromashodu.

3-5-MIN25    (13:27) (Shotgun) C.Ponder sacked at MIN 25 for 0 yards (B.Raji).

3-4-MIN40    (8:07) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short right intended for V.Shiancoe INTERCEPTED by C.Woodson at MIN 46. C.Woodson to MIN 45 for 1 yard.

3-12-GB28    (13:59) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete deep right to M.Jenkins.

3-6-MIN11    (11:20) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short left to V.Shiancoe to MIN 33 for 22 yards (M.Burnett).

(8:23) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short middle to G.Camarillo to GB 39 for 16 yards (D.Bishop). PENALTY on GB-C.Matthews, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at GB 39.

3-7-MIN5    (4:49) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short right to V.Shiancoe to MIN 17 for 12 yards (E.Walden).

3-10-MIN36    (2:42) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete deep left to V.Shiancoe.

6 first downs on 13 attempts. 6 completions on 12 pass attempts for 74 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack. 10 short passes, 2 deep.

at Carolina

1st quarter, 3-10-CAR27(14:09) (Shotgun) C.Ponder sacked at CAR 27 for 0 yards (T.McClain).

1st quarter, 3-15-MIN6    (5:58) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short middle to A.Peterson to MIN 28 for 22 yards (J.Anderson, S.Martin). Shuttle pass

1st quarter, 3-8-MIN43    (3:26) (Shotgun) C.Ponder sacked at MIN 42 for -1 yards (C.Munnerlyn).

2nd quarter, 3-8-MIN22   
(12:33) (Shotgun) C.Ponder scrambles right tackle to MIN 27 for 5 yards (G.Hardy). PENALTY on MIN-P.Harvin, Personal Foul, 13 yards, enforced between downs. (Penalty came after the play.)

2nd quarter, 3-9-MIN 21 *** play under review ***  (Not listed officially on the play-by-play for some reason, but this was a 12 yard completion to Shiancoe for a first down.)

2nd quarter, 3-6-CAR39    (7:24) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short left to K.Rudolph to CAR 26 for 13 yards (C.Godfrey).

2nd quarter, 3-11-CAR17(4:47) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short middle to P.Harvin to CAR 5 for 12 yards (C.Munnerlyn). FUMBLES (C.Munnerlyn), RECOVERED by CAR-C.Munnerlyn at CAR 5. C.Munnerlyn to CAR 5 for no gain (P.Harvin). Minnesota challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1 at 04:37.)

3rd quarter, 3-13-MIN17(9:56) C.Ponder pass short left to D.Aromashodu to MIN 22 for 5 yards (R.Stanford; C.Munnerlyn).

3rd quarter, 3-10-CAR42(4:29) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short middle to V.Shiancoe to CAR 30 for 12 yards (O.Gaither).

4th quarter, 3-10-MIN26(14:36) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short left to V.Shiancoe to MIN 39 for 13 yards (C.Godfrey, J.Anderson).

4th quarter, 3-11-CAR48(11:38) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass incomplete short left to K.Rudolph.

4th quarter, 3-7-MIN18(8:42) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short right to P.Harvin to MIN 29 for 11 yards (O.Gaither).

4th quarter, 3-5-CAR16(3:04) (Shotgun) C.Ponder pass short middle to A.Peterson to CAR 13 for 3 yards (C.Godfrey). shuttle pass

7 first downs on 13 attempts. 9 completions on 10 pass attempts for 108 yards, 2 sacks, 1 run for 5 yards.

13 first downs on 26 attempts (50%). 15 completions on 22 pass attempts for 182 yards (8.2 yards-per-attempt), 1 INT, 3 sacks. 1 scramble for 5 yards, 0 fumbles.

Here's McNabb's again for comparison, through 6 games:
18 first downs on 60 attempts (30%, bottom 5 in the NFL), 21 completions on 49 attempts (42.8%) for 194 yards (4.0 yards-per-attempt), 4 scrambles for 35 yards (1 rushing TD), 2 TDs, 1 INT, 0 fumbles, 6 sacks.

So yeah, I'd call a 20% jump an improvement, to say the least. And a 100% improvement on the yards-per-attempt is nice. Hard to do worse than 4 YPA but still. Some things worth noting however...

- The Vikings seem intent on creating as many third-and-longs as possible. It's really strange. It hasn't bothered Ponder though, as most of his 3rd down completions are to receivers that are at or beyond the sticks.

- Notice the yardage lost on Ponder's 3 sacks: 0 yards, 0 yards, -1 yard.

- Am I crazy or has the pass protection been a lot better the past two games? Is it Joe Berger playing for Anthony Herrera? Is it Ponder's mobility? Or is the Packers/Panthers pass rush that uninspiring?

- Speaking of which, yes I'm fully aware that A) the Packers defense isn't that great, and B) the Panthers defense is even worse, as if their statistical incompetency served only to make Ponder look better than he really is. This point always irritates me, because if those defenses are indeed not that good, isn't Ponder SUPPOSED to do well? And he did. So what's the problem?

- Again, only a two game sample, but it's beginning to look like Ponder may never be a high completion percentage guy. He's not a dump-off machine like Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez. Yes, there will probably be some short passes by design to Peterson and Harvin since they're the only guys on the offense that can make people miss (we saw a couple shuttle passes to Peterson, for example) but other than that, Ponder is going to throw beyond the sticks.

- The only throw that I'd describe as McNabbian was the totally hopeless 5 yard dumpoff to Aromashodu on 3rd and 13. Throws like that seem to be the exception and not the rule, thankfully.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why McNabb Ultimately Failed

Here's a look at every single throw Donovan McNabb made on a third down this season. The summaries are in bold if you want to skip the mundane play-by-play stuff (courtesy of

Note: "Short" indicates a pass that traveled less than 10 yards in the air. "Deep" indicates more than 10 yards in the air.

at San Diego

1st quarter, 3-9-MIN35    (9:51) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to A.Peterson to MIN 39 for 4 yards

1st quarter, 3-3-MIN15    (4:15) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to M.Jenkins to MIN 27 for 12 yards (A.Cason). Penalty on SD-A.Cason, Defensive Pass Interference, declined.

2nd quarter, 3-3-SD30    (15:00) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to M.Jenkins to SD 19 for 11 yards (M.Gilchrist).

2nd quarter, 3-6-SD15    (13:04) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to P.Harvin (A.Cason).

3rd quarter, 3-7-MIN23    (9:58) (Shotgun) D.McNabb scrambles up the middle to MIN 33 for 10 yards (S.Gregory).

3rd quarter, 3-6-MIN37    (8:34) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to B.Berrian (A.Cason).

3rd quarter, 3-10-MIN43    (:05) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to A.Peterson.

4th quarter, 3-8-MIN30    (8:25) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep left to B.Berrian (A.Cason).

4th quarter, 3-10-MIN20    (3:42) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at MIN 10 for -10 yards (A.Barnes).

Summary: 3 first downs on 9 attempts. 3 completions on 7 pass attempts, 27 yards, 1 scramble for 10 yards, 1 sack. 6 passes are short, 1 deep.

vs Tampa Bay

1st quarter, 3-10-TB43    (11:12) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep middle to V.Shiancoe (A.Clayborn).

1st quarter, 3-5-MIN15    (5:32) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to P.Harvin to MIN 26 for 11 yards (R.Barber).

2nd quarter, 3-12-MIN36    (9:44) (Shotgun) D.McNabb scrambles left end ran ob at MIN 49 for 13 yards.

2nd quarter, 3-4-TB4    (5:15) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to V.Shiancoe.

2nd quarter, 3-16-TB46    (1:45) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to T.Gerhart to TB 4 for 42 yards (E.Biggers).

3rd quarter, 3-8-MIN22   
(13:10) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to V.Shiancoe to MIN 26 for 4 yards (S.Jones). PENALTY on MIN-A.Peterson, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at MIN 22 - No Play. (I'm including this even though it was wiped out by penalty because it was an awful call by the official. Judgement call on my part.)

3rd quarter, 3-13-MIN44    (6:11) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at MIN 34 for -10 yards (S.Jones).

4th quarter, 3-11-TB11    (9:46) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to L.Booker.

4th quarter, 3-6-MIN26    (4:25) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep right to D.Aromashodu (E.Biggers).

Summary: 3 first downs on 9 attempts. 3 completions on 7 pass attempts, 57 yards, 1 scramble for 13 yards, 1 sack. 5 passes are short, 2 deep.

vs. Detroit

1st quarter, 3-8-DET18    (11:35) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to M.Jenkins to DET 9 for 9 yards (C.Houston).

1st quarter, 3-14-DET14    (9:47) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to A.Peterson [N.Suh].

1st quarter, 3-3-DET35   
(6:30) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to P.Harvin [Sa.Hill]. PENALTY on DET-Sa.Hill, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at DET 35 - No Play. (Not including this as a gained first down, penalty occured after pass was thrown incomplete.)

1st quarter, 3-4-DET14    (5:43) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at DET 23 for -9 yards (N.Suh).

1st quarter, 3-8-MIN44    (1:26) (Shotgun) D.McNabb scrambles left end to DET 48 for 8 yards (J.Durant).

2nd quarter, 3-5-DET43    (14:30) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to T.Gerhart [L.Delmas].

2nd quarter, 3-5-DET8    (:15) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to V.Shiancoe for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

3rd quarter, 3-5-MIN25    (11:16) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to B.Berrian. Penalty on MIN, Illegal Shift, declined.

3rd quarter, 3-18-MIN16    (8:27) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to M.Jenkins.

3rd quarter, 3-1-MIN29    (2:01) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to P.Harvin (B.McDonald).

4th quarter, 3-9-DET25    (12:11) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to M.Jenkins to DET 17 for 8 yards (E.Wright).

4th quarter, 3-14-MIN14    (4:28) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep right to B.Berrian.

4th quarter, 3-5-DET31    (1:22) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep right to B.Berrian.

Summary: 3 first downs on 13 attempts. 3 completions on 11 pass attempts, 25 yards, 1 TD, 1 scramble for 8 yards, 1 sack. 9 passes are short, 2 deep.

at Kansas City

1st quarter, 3-5-MIN25    (13:34) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to B.Berrian.

1st quarter, 3-3-MIN27    (6:10) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to V.Shiancoe to MIN 33 for 6 yards (Do.Washington).

2nd quarter, 3-1-KC35    (11:25) D.McNabb pass short right to K.Rudolph to KC 37 for -2 yards (D.Johnson) [T.Hali].

2nd quarter, 3-15-KC20    (7:56) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left intended for T.Gerhart INTERCEPTED by B.Carr at KC 21. B.Carr to KC 35 for 14 yards (D.McNabb).

2nd quarter, 3-8-MIN42    (2:38) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to K.Rudolph.

3rd quarter, 3-2-KC38    (11:53) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to V.Shiancoe to KC 33 for 5 yards (J.Belcher).

3rd quarter, 3-4-KC15    (9:22) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to P.Harvin [T.Hali].

3rd quarter, 3-11-MIN19    (4:21) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to D.Aromashodu (B.Flowers).

3rd quarter, 3-6-MIN24    (14:52) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete deep left to B.Berrian.

4th quarter, 3-7-KC30    (10:31) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at KC 37 for -7 yards (T.Hali).

4th quarter, 3-1-KC1    (5:55) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to M.Jenkins for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.

4th quarter, 3-10-KC41    (1:50) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to B.Berrian (B.Flowers).

Summary: 3 first downs on 12 attempts. 4 completions on 11 pass attempts, 10 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD, 1 sack. 10 passes short, 1 deep.

vs. Arizona

1st quarter, 3-6-MIN46    (13:17) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to V.Shiancoe (S.Acho).

1st quarter, 3-4-ARI4    (6:31) (Shotgun) D.McNabb scrambles up the middle for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

2nd quarter, 3-8-MIN4    (14:06) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to V.Shiancoe.

2nd quarter, 3-9-MIN35    (8:58) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to D.Aromashodu (S.Bradley).

3rd quarter, 3-4-MIN28   
(6:40) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to V.Shiancoe [C.Campbell]. PENALTY on ARZ-R.Marshall, Defensive Pass Interference, 6 yards, enforced at MIN 28 - No Play.

3rd quarter, 3-12-ARI18    (4:22) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to L.Booker to ARZ 8 for 10 yards (P.Lenon; R.Marshall).

4th quarter, 3-7-ARI43    (14:28) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to L.Booker to ARZ 28 for 15 yards (D.Dockett).

4th quarter, 3-10-ARI28    (13:04) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to M.Jenkins to ARZ 25 for 3 yards (A.Jefferson).

Summary: 3 first downs on 8 attempts. 3 completions on 6 pass attempts, 28 yards, 1 scramble for 4 yards, 1 rushing TD. 6 passes short, 0 deep.

at Chicago

1st quarter, 3-7-MIN23    (13:43) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to V.Shiancoe.

1st quarter, 3-5-MIN25    (11:37) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to B.Berrian.

1st quarter, 3-6-MIN42    (1:37) D.McNabb pass short middle to P.Harvin to CHI 47 for 11 yards (D.Moore).

2nd quarter, 3-3-CHI40    (15:00) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to P.Harvin pushed ob at CHI 26 for 14 yards (C.Conte). Penalty on CHI-C.Tillman, Illegal Contact, declined.

2nd quarter, 3-10-CHI26    (13:23) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to V.Shiancoe to CHI 18 for 8 yards (D.Moore).

2nd quarter, 3-7-MIN12    (8:50) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to B.Berrian to MIN 16 for 4 yards (T.Jennings).

2nd quarter, 3-1-CHI33    (4:05) D.McNabb pass short left to V.Shiancoe pushed ob at CHI 22 for 11 yards (C.Tillman).

3rd quarter, 3-13-MIN20    (9:02) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at MIN 10 for -10 yards (A.Okoye).

3rd quarter, 3-8-MIN29    (4:36) (Shotgun) D.McNabb sacked at MIN 19 for -10 yards (I.Idonije).

Summary: 3 first downs on 9 attempts. 5 completions on 7 pass attempts, 47 yards, 2 sacks. 7 passes short, 0 deep.

18 first downs on 60 attempts (30%, bottom 5 in the NFL), 21 completions on 49 attempts (42.8%) for 194 yards (4.0 yards-per-attempt), 4 scrambles for 35 yards (1 rushing TD), 2 TDs, 1 INT, 0 fumbles, 6 sacks. 43 passes short, 6 deep.

More than a few things really stand out. 1, FOUR YARDS AN ATTEMPT??? Every time McNabb drops back to pass on a 3rd down, the average yards gained is a whopping 4 yards. League average hovers around 6.

2, the number of times they throw on third-and-4 or less, 15 times in 6 games. So, at least twice a game, on 3rd and short, they're NOT giving the ball to Peterson.

3, the sheer amount of short passes. That short-deep ratio is crazy. Notice the 0s the past two games. This isn't all on McNabb obviously - it's playcalling and shitty receivers. But, after several losses, you'd think these problems would at least be addressed somewhat. Like for example, getting rid of Bernard Berrian, their "deep threat." But still, McNabb has shown zero inclination that he even looks to throw downfield and stretch the defense.

Take some examples from other quarterbacks this past Sunday: Josh Freeman iced the game against New Orleans on a deep out on 3rd and 9 for 12 yards. Stafford's TD to Pettigrew was a deep throw over the middle on 3rd and 10. Say what you will about Jay Cutler but at least he THROWS DEEP on 3rd down when its called for. Even watching highlights of Baltimore at Houston, you see both quarterbacks (Flacco and Schaub who are average at best) THROWING DOWNFIELD. Imagine that!

4, the four times McNabb ran, he got a 1st down every single time. He needed to run more often.

5, one turnover on 60 attempts. That's outstanding. But it's hard to turn the ball over if you take zero risks by THROWING DOWNFIELD. Sense a theme here?

6, most importantly (and most nauseating) how godawful the stats are in the 2nd half:

1st half: 13 first downs on 32 attempts (40%, around league average) 14 completions on 28 pass attempts for 149 yards.

2nd half: 5 first downs on 28 attempts (18%) 7 completions on 21 pass attempts for 45 yards.

That's pathetic. PATHETIC. I'm not sure it's even possible for Ponder to do worse than that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Random 2011 NFL Thoughts

To get it out of the way, here's how it'll break down. (No, I haven't calculated win-loss totals to reflect accuracy, this is just a general idea of how I think teams will fare.)

NFC North
Green Bay Packers, 10-6
*Minnesota Vikings, 9-7
Detroit Lions 6-10
Chicago Bears 5-11

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys, 10-6
Philadelphia Eagles, 7-9
New York Giants, 7-9
Washington Redskins, 6-10

NFC South
New Orleans Saints, 13-3
*Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 10-6
Atlanta Falcons, 9-7
Carolina Panthers, 7-9

NFC West
St. Louis Rams, 9-7
Arizona Cardinals, 8-8
Seattle Seahawks, 6-10
San Francisco 49ers, 2-14

NFC Playoffs
Rams over Buccaneers, Vikings over Cowboys
Saints over Vikings, Rams over Packers (ehhh, what the hell)
Saints over Rams

AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-5
*Baltimore Ravens, 9-7
Cleveland Browns, 8-8
Cincinnati Bengals, 3-13

AFC East
New England Patriots, 11-5
*New York Jets, 9-7
Miami Dolphins, 6-10
Buffalo Bills, 5-11

AFC South
Tennessee Titans, 9-7
Houston Texans, 8-8
Indianapolis Colts, 7-9
Jacksonville Jaguars, 5-11

AFC West
San Diego Chargers, 13-3
Kansas City Chiefs, 8-8
Denver Broncos, 8-8
Oakland Raiders, 3-13

AFC Playoffs 
Jets over Titans, Ravens over Patriots
Steelers over Ravens, Chargers over Jets
Chargers over Steelers

Super Bowl
Saints over Chargers

Now, some random bits...

- The NFC is loaded with really, REALLY good offenses. The Saints, Packers, Falcons, Cowboys, Eagles, Lions and (I think) the Rams all have weapons and will put up tons of points, so I think the teams with the better defenses will win out. That to me means the Eagles, Falcons and Lions in particular are in trouble.

- Philly did sign Asomugha, and their secondary looks great, but their pass-rush is one guy (Trent Cole), and their dollar-store linebackers seriously might be the worst in the league, if not bottom five. They might give up 6 yards a carry. Also, their new defensive coordinator is last year's offensive line coach. Uh, what? If Jim Johnston were still there, I'd think they'd do well. Instead they're stuck with Some Guy for the 2nd straight year. Too bad for them.

- Atlanta is in even worse shape. Their pass-rush is also one guy (John Abraham, who's not getting any younger), their linebackers are average, and their secondary is the same group that got systematically destroyed by Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs last year. They have a lot of nice looking players on offense but they're not going to stop anyone.

- Other disappointments: I do not understand the Detroit hype. Their secondary is even worse than Atlanta's. Two defensive tackles does not make an entire defense. They are going to get torched by every decent quarterback they face. (Including McNabb and probably even Cutler.) And every single skill player they have, including the quarterback, has dealt with injury problems in the past two years. Stafford, Megatron, Best, Burleson and Pettigrew (who's already banged up) have all missed significant time. I don't expect this to change.

- As for the Rams getting to the NFC title game... I love their head coach Steve Spagnuolo (the old Giants defensive coordinator who figured out the record-setting Pats offense in Super Bowl XLII). The Rams defense was a classic case of "chicken salad from chicken shit" thanks to him, and they're only going to get better this year. Fred Robbins is solid inside (10 tackles for loss last year to go with 6 sacks), former 2nd overall pick Chris Long is a monster at DE (league high 42.5 hurries), MLB James Laurinaitis is outstanding against the run and can rush the passer, and FS Quintin Mikell was quietly a very good signing for them. He should help cover the middle allowing Spagnuolo to dial up some crazy blitzes.

The offense now has Josh McDaniels calling the plays, Sam Bradford with a year under his belt, Stephen Jackson's usual understated and reliable contributions, and possibly Wes Welker 2.0 in Danny Amendola (obligatory comparison between white WR and white WR). They're a young team (save Jackson) that'll get better as the year goes along.

- To me, the team to beat remains the Saints. They made a series of great moves that made their roster even better. They dumped Reggie Bush for Darren Sproles, making them imminently more likable. They made the best signing of the offseason, nabbing DT Aubrayo Franklin from the 49ers to help stop the run and enable MLB Jonathan Vilma to roam the field. (Just ask the Niners MLB Patrick Willis how valuable Franklin is.) They also picked up pass-rushing DT Shaun Rogers and drafted RB Mark Ingram. Upgrades across the board. If all those guys play the way they're supposed to, that means the Saints should be able to run the ball just as well as they did their Super Bowl season (nearly 5 yards per carry) as well as being able to stop the run. Plus, they still have Drew Brees. That doesn't hurt.

- But what about the Packers? People forget they barely made the playoffs last year. "Barely" for a reason. This is going to sound like total anti-homerist anti-Packers stuff, but just because you win a Super Bowl, that doesn't absolve you of your flaws. The Packers are still going to be in the top 5 in penalties, they're still going to lose games the way they lost to Chicago last year (18 penalties, 2 special teams TDs given up), they're still going to make a lot of boneheaded game-clock mistakes, and unabashed morons like Colin Cowherd are still going to blame it on Aaron Rodgers.

- The AFC will have the same quality six teams in the playoffs again this year, save Indy who looks atrocious without Peyton Manning. I think the new kickoff rule benefits the Chargers the most, as they're prone to less special teams disasters (and less bad luck) as a result. Norv Turner is still their head coach, I know, but I think talent wins out in San Diego this year. I'm not buying the Ravens hype, Joe Flacco is what he is at this point. That's not a good thing, that's a bad thing. Same could be said about the Jets and Mark Sanchez, who I expect to regress with that awful receiving corps (and the lack of the vastly underrated Brad Smith).

I think the Titans are in a good position to take advantage of a weak-as-hell AFC South, thanks to a half-decent Matt Hasselbeck, a hopefully-not-incarcerated Kenny Britt and the 2nd best RB in the NFL, Chris Johnson. The Patriots are the Patriots and the Steelers are the Steelers (hard hitting analysis only found here at Tiger Woods Fist Pump!), they're the same quality teams every year. I just think Phil Rivers makes the same leap Drew Brees made in 2009 and Aaron Rodgers made last year. Tons of continuity on offense, an easier schedule, a full year of Vincent Jackson and a return to the mean on special teams, and I think this is the Chargers' year.

- Now, for "my" team, the Vikes...

I think they're a classic 8-8 team. They'll beat who they're supposed to, they'll lose to who they're supposed to. (They'll get crushed by the Chargers in Week 1, guaranteed.) But my homerism won't allow them to not make their usual one-and-done playoff run. (Sorry, I can't help but phrase something like Troy Aikman once in a while. "I'm not sure that won't not happen, Joe.")

However, the secondary is bad. Really bad. They WILL get torched by good passing teams. It's pointless to say empty phrases like "They have to get better," because they just are what they are, a group of slow corners and non-descript safetys. The only way they're going to have a chance to do well is if the rest of the defense does their job. Meaning, stop the run and force other teams into third-and-long to allow Frazier to unleash crazy blitzes left and right. The best way to hide a crappy secondary is with a great pass rush.

There's no reason to think established guys like EJ, Greenway, Allen and Williams won't have their normal, solid-if-not-Pro-Bowl seasons. That means Erin Henderson, Remi Ayodele and Brian Robison are on the spot. If those guys can't at least contribute in stopping the run, the Vikings defense is going to be on the field a lot. Or maybe not, since they'd be giving up 80-yard touchdowns practically every time out.

The offense will be fine though. McNabb will be solid until his inevitable injury, Ponder will see some action, Peterson will be his usual awesome self, and hopefully the offensive line won't make me jump into a swimming pool full of razor blades.  I expect lots of shoot-outs, much like the 1995 team under Warren Moon. (Obligatory black QB vs. black QB comparison.)

And... that's all I got. Expectations are low. Just win the games you're supposed to and beat the Packers. That's all I ask.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Randy Moss

Not much to say about possibly my favorite player ever retiring, other than I could've sworn he actually retired last year. I just wanted to post some highlights, how I remember him best...

(Warning: the audio on these is really shitty and LOUD, so you'll probably want to keep your volume down)

Touchdown #1 vs. Dallas, Thanksgiving '98

Touchdown #2 vs. Dallas, Thanksgiving '98 - "Hey dawg, just chuck it in the end zone!"

Touchdown #3 vs. Dallas, Thanksgiving '98 - My personal favorite bit here is Summerall saying "He is incredible!" When did Summerall EVER say that about anyone?

Last but not least, MNF at Lambeau '98

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Anyone familiar with Sports Illustrated senior writer Joe Posnanski knows that if he's writing something about someone he doesn't think highly of, he starts the piece off with, "I like (whoever it is)." I'm about to do the opposite.

I don't like Donovan McNabb. Granted, I think he's had a pretty good career, an above average player who was "elite" over a couple of stretches. He was my starting fantasy QB in 2006 - first 7 weeks of that year: 59% completion, 2151 yards (307 a game), 16 TDs, 5 INTs, 163 yards rushing (7.1 yards per carry) and 3 rushing TDs. He was a top 3 quarterback however briefly, until injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.

I've never liked McNabb because controversy and bullshit has followed him everywhere he's gone - some can be blamed on others (TO, Philly media, Rush Limbaugh) but it's become so frequent that it can't be a coincidence at this point. The way he handled the Kolb changing-of-the-guard situation in Philadelphia was beyond stupid, especially considering he obviously has the self-awareness and smarts enough to understand the right things to say in that situation, and why.

But that didn't stop him from glowering and pouting like a dipshit, oblivious that he's going to lose in the court of public opinion and undermine his replacement. Lo and behold, we're going to be presented the same situation with the Vikings. Based on what we know about McNabb, there's no way this is going to end well, right?

But despite all that... this trade is pretty much perfect for the Vikings.

First of all, they're getting him for almost nothing, which should hopefully send a loud enough message to McNabb that says, "HEY ASSHOLE, NO ONE ELSE WANTED YOU. DEAL WITH IT." It's even been revealed that McNabb was the Vikings 2nd choice, after Tyler Thigpen. That's humbling. So, he's got next to zero leverage now to pout like a dick, since he's lucky to be a starter somewhere.

Second, he was the best realistic option. Philly wanted too much for Kolb and Denver wanted too much for Orton, but besides that, both of those guys are too young to be "transitional" quarterbacks. You don't use a 1st round pick on a QB then willingly trade for and give up a ton for a guy still in his prime.

The other options were Thigpen, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Vince Young and Bruce Gradkowski. No matter how you spin it, like him or not, McNabb is decidedly better than all of those guys.

What I don't understand is how there are still Vikings fans out there that are still in the "WIN NOW" mindset. That's not happening. This is an OLD team, with a first year head coach, a major transition season. The front office made up their minds the direction they were going with the Ponder draft pick. If you're really thinking McNabb can lead the Vikings to a winning record or better, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

That's not why he's here. It's part of the plan, a plan every team goes through every 10 years or so. It's okay. It's just unfamiliar to most because the Vikings haven't done anything like this since they drafted Daunte. Even in that instance, we were spoiled because we had Moss, Carter, Reed, Robert Smith and an o-line full of Pro Bowlers to break him in. So really, this is the first real honest-to-goodness start-from-scratch rebuild since... the '80s?

McNabb is a perfectly competent player who can start this year, or even next year as well while keeping the team competitive and/or fun to watch. And, this is going to sound morbid, and I do not wish any ill will towards the guy, but with his track record of injury, Ponder's probably still going to get playing time anyway.

I guess what I'm ultimately trying to get at is... it really doesn't matter who the Vikings get as a stopgap QB this year. This team isn't going to the playoffs, they're not supposed to. It IS nice that they were able to get the best available guy though, which lessens the odds of being a Browns/Panthers type embarrassment, and gives us a fighting chance against the rest of the division.

No, I'm not buying a McNabb jersey, but I am past the point at vomiting at the thought of seeing one.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Calm Down Already

Yes, picking Christian Ponder 12th overall is ridiculous. Absurd. A massive reach. And I'm mostly okay with it.

That's what scares me the most about this pick, really. Every Vikings fan seems to be so eager to be pissed off and rage about how they didn't trade down (no one called, because evidently there was no one to trade up FOR) or why they didn't pick Amukamura (he fell all the way to 19 so maybe teams know something we don't) or Fairley (headcase) or a defensive end (you mean like Duane Clemons? Erasmus James? Kenechi Udeze? Derrick Alexander?). 

Lets forget for a second about how big of a reach this is, whining about who we didn't pick, and focus on what we actually have. Ponder is the anti-T-Jack. Quick comparison between the two:

-Ponder started three straight years in a pro-style system
-T-Jack started three straight years in a... "quarterback runs around and kinda does whatever" system?

-Ponder played for Florida State, a big-time program in a big-time conference, playing in front of 50,000+ every single week, often on national TV, with tons of pressure
-T-Jack played for Alabama State, a nothing school in a nothing conference, playing in front of nobody to a 0.00003 rating on some obscure Fox Sports Net channel

-Ponder put up good stats for said big-time program against the ACC. His junior year over 9 games: 69% completion, 2717 yards (over 300 a game), 8.2 yards per attempt, 14 TDs, 7 picks, QB rating of 147.7. His senior year stats were down thanks to injury, but still nice: 62% complete, 2044 yards, 6.8 yards per attempt, 20 TDs, 8 picks, QB rating of 135.7.
-T-Jack put up okay stats for said nothing program against meager competition. His career stats at Alabama State: 55% completion, 7201 yards (about 240 a game), 8.0 yards per attempt, 63 TDs, 23 picks.

Granted, if you're comparing the 12th overall pick to Tarvaris Jackson, you are inherently in trouble. The point I'm trying to make is regardless of where he was taken, he's a good player. He's capable, he's smart, and he's handled pressure in the past. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's philosophy is to build the offense around the players' strengths, and he's got an accurate mobile guy to start with.

He'll be handing off to Adrian Peterson, he'll be throwing to Percy Harvin and hopefully Sidney Rice. There are players around him to make him better. He has every opportunity to succeed.

The mistake the Vikings made was assuming there would be a run on quarterbacks, which obviously never materialized, but the fact is, no matter what the Vikings would have done at 12, people would have been pissed off. GM Rick Spielman said the Jacksonville's trade to 10th forced their hand, which meant the Vikings were waiting for Gabbert to fall. And people would be equally as pissed today had they taken him. People would be whining if they'd been boring and taken an offensive lineman. People would be whining about whoever they'd taken at DE. It's just the way the draft works now.

I'm not nervous if Ponder will be good, because I think he will be. I'm nervous that I seem to be the only one that sees that.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sticking Up for Joe Buck

In this column, I am going to attempt to do the unthinkable.  More outrageous than Julian Assange having the balls to post secret US diplomatic cables.  More improbable than Rex Ryan agreeing to a vow of silence.  More unthinkable than Mike McCarthy successfully managing the clock on a 2-minute drill.

I am going to defend Joe Buck.  To a certain extent anyway.

It seems most people have reached a general consensus about Buck -- he sucks.  He's dull, he's monotone, his energy doesn't meet the moment, he doesn't seem to recognize when something truly riveting is happening (see: Helmet Catch call, which was panned by pretty much everyone), and he always came across as snooty and self-righteous, especially after the Randy Moss fake-moon "incident."

Be honest, when you found out this year's Super Bowl was going to be on Fox with Buck and Troy Aikman, you did one of three things: you groaned in disappointment, you said "Oh no" as you double-checked online to see if it was true, or you decided right then and there instead to watch all 6 hours of the "Puppy Bowl" on Animal Planet.  Point is, people do not like Joe Buck.

He would at best receive begrudging praise for his baseball work, since he seems like a more natural fit -- his dad was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals for decades, after all.  But with football, he's come across as out of his element from the start, especially compared to his peers, people like Gus Johnson and Al Michaels.

Personally, I always thought Buck was trying to be a sort of throwback to Pat Summerall.  In theory, there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, and it's understandable considering his lineage.  The comparison stems from Buck's simple approach - not over-complicating what's on the screen, staying even keel, never getting too excited.

The problem with this is two-fold.  First, obviously there's only one Pat Summerall.  He had an everyman quality about him, and he came across as a fan just like anyone else watching.  Buck tries, but you can't try to be an everyday guy on TV.  You either are or you aren't, and Buck just isn't.

But most importantly, Summerall had the pipes, the regal NFL-Filmsian quality to his voice.  That's primarily what made him one of the greatest and my personal favorite announcer ever.  It's hard for me not to get goosebumps watching one of his classic intro packages to an important game.  Take this one from the '92 NFC title game - "Sooooarrring out of the darkness are the new staaaaars in Dallas."  It's perfect.  It's football.

Now, Buck's voice is fine.  It's not Summerallian, but it's fine.  It's immediately recognizable, it's memorable, it resonates, and it's good enough that I think he's got fair reason to take a similar approach to play-by-play as Summerall.

But therein lies the 2nd part of the problem with that approach - I don't think it works in this day and age.  Take Gus Johnson for instance.  People are gaga over him to the point that he's become something of a cult hero, all because of his enthusiasm that he brings to whatever he's involved with.  Some would say he's over the top, and I'm inclined to agree, but the bottom line is that his popularity is proof enough that other announcers should at least consider altering their style, change with the times and adapt.

It seems Buck agrees with that sentiment.  Listen to his call of the unreal DeSean Jackson punt return that won Philadelphia the game against the Giants earlier this year.  He NAILS it.  It's perfect.  And you know why?  Because he sounded legit excited, and his timing for it was perfect.  I have a strong suspicion that if Buck calls this play two or three years ago, it goes something like his droll Helmet Catch call.

That's just one example.  Listening to him throughout the playoffs this year has been unexpectedly refreshing.  It seems as if he's actively looking for a big play to get excited about (but carefully, not recklessly as people accuse Gus of doing), rather than letting something happen and judging as it happens whether or not it deserves that treatment.

So, I'm giving Buck full credit and sticking up for him. He's actually listened to criticism and has since changed up his style, something you very rarely see (or hear in this case) from someone so firmly entrenched in the sports media landscape

Now, Troy Aikman on the other hand?  Don't get me started...