Postgame Spread
You guys hangin' out? I'll hang out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kobe Finally Scores Some Points With Me    

I never thought I'd say this, but I applaud Kobe Bryant's latest efforts.  It may not be enough to even out the whole "psychotically violent rapist" thing, but elbowing Manu "Lava Gina" Ginobili in the face is a good start.  Wish I'd seen it, but knowing that Ginobili got it bad in the face is enough for me.

Kobe's brand of frontier justice reminds me of Valeri Kamensky's unbelievably beautiful sucker-punch of Ulf Samuelsson back in the day.  I'm surprised there's no picture on the Internet of that, since I'm clearly not the only person in the world who hates Ulf's guts with a passion, and wishes nothing but the most excruciating non-fatal diseases upon him.  Instead, you'll have to settle for a photo of Cam Neely executing his revenge in dramatic fashion.  I will never, ever forgive Ulf for taking the ultimate hockey player away from me.

Long story short, I'm happy Kamensky did what he did, which is why Kobe scores points with me for fucking up Ginobili, accidentally or no, in a vaguely similar fashion.

Although I kinda wish Kobe hadn't laid it on so thick in his own defense.  It almost negates the good he did by smacking that gutless piece of shit in the chops.  But even breaking even is an improvement for Kobe.  Maybe I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Todd Helton Not Joining Alternate Evil Empire    

The Todd Helton trade talks, tenuous as they were from the start, are officially off.  The Red Sox appear to have been interested only to the extent that the Rockies were offering Helton at cut-rate prices; once they established that this wasn't a salary dump, and that Colorado would insist on a top prospect, there wasn't really anything in it for them.  Pretty wise, considering how thin the Sox are in terms of bullpen talent.

I could go either way on it.  Helton at his best is not only one of the most productive hitters of the last decade but also is exactly the kind of player the Sox are after... a patient and versatile bat to go along with three Gold Gloves.  If he does return to the top of the OPS charts, the Sox will look awfully silly for wanting to hold onto a reliever like Craig Hansen or Manny Delcarmen instead of going after a guy who would make the Yankees' vaunted lineup look like a bunch of hobos.

The above, though, is the best case.  The worst case (and likeliest, based on the trade talks happening at all) is that Helton's legitimately on the downswing, leaving him as a merely competent hitter... good in the field, 15-20 HR power.  In other words, he's a left-handed Mike Lowell, who we already have for half the price.  Why throw Tavarez and either Hansen or Delcarmen down a hole if you're not going to improve that much?  In fact, if they are indeed comparable within a reasonable margin, I'd almost prefer Lowell's right-handedness to Helton.

Another thing to remember is that first base is such an odd position for the Red Sox.  David Ortiz plays in the field at National League parks, forcing the Sox' regular 1B to the bench.  That means any Helton trade would not improve that lineup at all for any interleague or World Series games on the road.  Of course he'd help win a shitload of games in the interim, but it's not nearly as prudent for the Sox to improve a disappearing lineup slot as it would be to, say, upgrade in CF or at 3B.  Paying market value for Helton, in terms of talent sacrificed, thus becomes an inefficiency.  It would be an insignificant point if there weren't so many other negatives lined up alongside it.

Anyway, much ado about nothing, and just as well.  I'm fine with a non-move.  With the Pats, Celtics and Bruins either inactive or irrelevant, Boston fans are dying for news, substantial or otherwise.  And it was fun while it lasted.


Monday, January 29, 2007

HOF Class of 2016: David Eckstein!    

An old-ass post on Fire Joe Morgan (which I've been catching up on today) contains Ken Tremendous's Children of Men-like horror vision of the future, in which dumb crusty half-witted fuck-headed sports columnists argue in favor of David Eckstein's Hall-of-Fame credentials.  According to FJM, these not-as-imaginary-as-we'd-like authors are likely to title their columns like so:

  • "Little Man with the Big Heart Has a Tiny Chance of a Huge Honor"

  • "Big, Small, Big, Small, Small, Big, Small: Those Are the Sizes of David Eckstein's Heart, David Eckstein Himself, David Eckstein's Hustle, David Eckstein's Chances to Get Elected to Cooperstown, David Eckstein's Skin Pigment Count, David Eckstein's 'Talent,' and the number of Reasons David Eckstein Should Not Be Elected to the Hall of Fame Today, Respectively"

  • "Smig: That is Small Plus Big, Which is What Eckstein Is"

Shiver me timbers!  What's really terrifying is that some self-fellating ignorant piece of shit will do this.  "Two rings with two teams?  But he's so tiny!"  The thought makes my sack shrivel.  Much as I question the stats-are-everything, context-matters-not point of view, and much as I advocate a world-view in which stats and observations are used in concert and in moderation, I cannot help but think that a world with nothing but sabermetrics would have kept Eckstein exactly where he belongs... the International League.

God, I can't believe that little piece of shit won the World Series MVP.  What a travesty.  I'd wish a dozen league MVP's upon Derek Jeter before approving of Eckstein getting his goddamn paycheck, let alone an MVP trophy.  As I said whilst rooting against the Mets in the 2000 World Series, at least when the Yankees win there's a consistency to the injustice.  Anything can be blamed on the fact that it's the Yankees.  When you let non-Yankees start winning things that they don't even remotely earn, you risk setting a dangerous precedent.

Jesus... three weeks until pitchers and catchers, and I'm already pissed about both the Yankees and the Cardinals, and everyone who makes a living by writing about baseball.  At this rate, I'll be in full-blown 64-oz. Haterade Big Gulp mode by the time Daisuke Matsuzaka shows up for camp and asks his translator how to say "my rotator cuff hurts" in English.


DFA? A-OK!    

Ok, Jesse... defend this one. I dare you.

Or is this sufficient?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Raise Your Hand, Raise Your Hand If You're Sure    

I bet if J.D. Drew raised his hand, the whole arm would fall off.  And then steroids would spew all over Scott Boras' suit.  ("Oh, sure! Sure! Sure! Like the guy in the $9000 suit is gonna pick your arm up off the floor!  COME ONNNNN!!!!!")

To recap, the J.D. Drew watch is now at Day 51.  Agreement reached on December 5th, still unsigned on January 24th.  The bum shoulder appears to be the sticking point in finalizing the deal, until further notice.  I seem to recall making some kind of argument against signing Drew on the grounds that he's injury-prone... that notion is corroborated by this delay, as well as by the fact that nobody else is swooping in with a better deal.  So Drew probably ends up with a Pudge/Magglio deal... if Drew misses time b/c of the shoulder, he loses salary.

If Drew actually does get hurt, he's gonna look awful stupid for opting out of his totally-guaranteed Dodger contract.  Gotta think the opt-out was done at Boras' insistence, based on how that market looked and based on all of Drew's previous adventures in negotiating obnoxiousness.  I wonder if Boras will accept the blame if Drew ends up with a raw deal out of it...

"When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?"    

From the marketing geniuses at Red Sox Nation who brought you such hits as "Fever Pitch", comes another brilliant strategem.

If Pats over Rams was David and Goliath, Red Sox 2004 would have to be Jezebel.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Department of Shut Yo Mouth    

Via ESPN comes a report from a Trenton newspaper that McNabb's angry with the Eagles.

This is ridiculous on four levels.

1) The sources are the least reliable I've ever seen in an article. The reporter needs to shut his mouth.

2) The source being so unreliable, this doesn't remotely qualify as news. ESPN needs to shut its mouth.

3) If McNabb really did say those things, he needs to shut his mouth. Especially the supposed gripe about people dissing his mom, who definitely needs to shut her mouth.

4) Any Eagles fans calling for Garcia to replace McNabb as the starter permanently need to shut their mouths.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pats-Colts Lovefest    

A few thoughts on the game yesterday...

It was far from the best playoff game ever, as people are trying so hard to argue for.  Those people should have their testicles fed through a cotton gin.  It was an undeniable classic, and definitely one of the better games I've ever seen, but I think what's really going on is that the game was As Advertised... which is about as rare as a hook-and-ladder play.  So a playoff actually lives up to its hype, and everyone gets so excited by the game's effect that they overestimate the game's quality.  In other words, enjoying the happy ending means more, in this case, than watching the game unfold.

Yes, I said happy ending.  I'm actually happy, even though the Pats lost.  There's plenty of reasons for me to be bullshit right now, but I'm not feeling them.  How could a Red Sox fan like me not sympathize with what we just saw?  The Pats didn't blow the game as much as the Colts refused to let the Pats wrestle the game away.  The Colts earned every inch of it, and tore their reputation to shreds in the process.  It even seemed that they'd learned a lesson from the Patriots, and ultimately beat them at their own game.  They tried, failed, learned, and succeeded.  The better team clearly won.  Who couldn't respect that?  The proteges took down the master.  If the Pats were gonna lose, that's the way to go down.  I'm almost proud, for God's sake.  I want to run out and buy a flag or something.

But seriously, America's a better place now that the Colts aren't chokers anymore, don't you think?  One fewer tale of woe, and one more tale of perseverance leading to success.  And I don't despise Tony Dungy or Peyton Manning enough to wish Dan Marino Disease on them... I don't wish them ill.   I think they have to be the sentimental favorites.  Dungy in particular seems like a good guy who never deserved the reputation he acquired.  Manning's still a big dork, but all the Peyton Hatin' from Patriot Nation was the result of his lack of clutchiness.  In my opinion, no choking = no reason to pick on him.  I feel bad for anyone who can't own up to that.  My point is that neither of them is a particularly evil person.  This is not Shawne Merriman going to the Super Bowl.  This is a couple of hard-luck guys who seem to have finally figured it all out.  And I'm happy for them.

As for the Patriots, I'm still pleasantly surprised by their run.  They got way further than they deserved to get, given their secondary and their receivers.  (All praise be to St. Marty.  Amen.)  They had a great year, proving that the franchise is still alive and well, and there is no shame in having lost when they did.  Not that the loss wasn't avoidable (does anyone think Deion Branch wouldn't have bailed out Tom Brady on a couple of those third-and-longs?) but there's definitely no hard feelings from my end of things.  It's a good note to end on.

This is also as good a time as any to appreciate just how special Tom Brady is, and how far he's brought this franchise in just six seasons.  His presence is a gift that I certainly don't appreciate as much as I probably should.  It's partly because he's set the standard so impossibly high, but even a half-assed Brady performance like last week is better than the best we'll ever see from lots of NFL quarterbacks.  It's days like yesterday, where a nearly perfect performance wasn't enough to get it done, that make you realize how amazing Brady's performances have been.  So here's to Tom Brady.  He may not be immortal, but even Larry Bird lost to the Lakers more often than not.

I imagine that there will be plenty of stories out there trumpeting the death of the dynasty after last night, but they aren't dead yet.  This team is in phenomenal shape for next season, given its short and tidy offseason to-do list:

1) Keep Samuel, or bring in a viable #1 corner to replace him.  They have the money for it.  No excuses.
2) Find a middle linebacker.  Whoever's available that can play the two-gap and plug the run, sign his ass up.
3) Then draft another one.  Grab the top guy on the board.  Trade up to get him if necessary.
4) Seriously.  Find a wide receiver.  No more retreads.  Again, they have the money.
5) Maybe a punter who's not 'roided up and shitfaced on gameday?

That appears to be it.  Just a couple linebackers, one corner and one receiver.  And health.  This is hardly cause for wailing and/or gnashing of teeth by anyone.


Ok. I just read something that made my eyes bug out worse'n Reche Caldwell's. This infuriates me so much that I can't think, let alone write rationally about it.
MLB is selling exclusive broadcast rights for Extra Innings to DirectTV.


Help me, Obi Arlen Spector. You're our only hope.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I have nothing really to add to this story, because Salon's King Kaufman already said it all, so I'll just defer to him:

While I want to make it clear that no known instrument is powerful enough to detect my interest in whether Michael Vick smokes marijuana on his days off, I'm confident you'll join me in saying:

What the??

If Vick's guilty here, that means his need for marijuana is so great that he has invested in specialized equipment to help him smuggle it -- between Miami and Atlanta? I've never lived in either city, but I'm guessing that for a superstar millionaire athlete, it's not hard to find some nice smoke if you really need it. Miami is not exactly known as a dry town, drug-wise.

Or maybe Vick used his custom-made water bottle to smuggle drugs some other place. Into church or something, or across a border. It's unclear from the police report quote if the screeners found marijuana or just residue. That would make more sense, but still: Hello, Michael? Wash the bottle.

I'm hoping that Vick is innocent. I think the youth of America should be able to expect better than this from its sporting heroes. If you're going to smuggle drugs, at least put some thought into it.

Seriously. Good lord, how does this happen to any celebrity?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

...And Boom Goes The Chargers.    

First, apropos of nothing, the photo here made my day.

Second, I couldn't disagree more with the previous post.  I'd have left the following as a comment in that thread, but it got too long.  So sue me.  Anyway, here's why Marty Schottenheimer must be fired, and never re-hired again by anyone to do anything, ever.

Chas, Alex... I was once like you.  I once believed, once had faith in the better side of weaker men.  After watching Grady Little completely botch Game 7 against the Yankees in 2003, I laughed off the calls for his head, and was subsequently floored by his eventual firing.  I found his firing rash, stupid, and entirely political in nature.  Wild horses couldn't have convinced me it was about anything but appeasing Red Sox fans.

Well, guess what.  I was completely wrong.  The fact that the Sox had won X number of games under Little had zero to do with whether he was a good manager.  He had a track record of decisions just like the Pedro decision.  Game 7 wasn't an isolated incident... it was proof that the Red Sox should have known better than to hold onto him in the first place.

What happened after his departure isn't nearly as important as the fact that Little's maneuvers did cost them dearly, and he could be counted on to repeat those mistakes in the future.  Firing him was less about improvement, and more about knowing that they wouldn't win with him under any circumstances.  If you know for a fact that someone will ruin any chance of a championship, how can you keep him?

If Schottenheimer doesn't fit that description, I don't know who else does.

After a loss like that, with a history like his, there is no tomorrow for Marty.  He should have been fired on the field, immediately after the missed field goal, during the Pats' now-infamous Logo Dance.  Alex Spanos should have run onto the field with a microphone, called timeout, and announced Marty's firing to the crowd right then and there.  That's how badly Marty screwed it all up.  Motherfucker's dead to me.

In isolation, keeping a 14-3 coach after a playoff choke is the right move.  If this were a guy with a minor reputation for mismanagement in the playoffs, like Tony Dungy or Wade Phillips or something, then of course you don't fire the guy.  You take him down a peg or two, but you don't fire him.  After all, why send the message to your players that they aren't responsible for their actions?  They played a role in the loss, they need to understand that it's on them, and so forth.  A perfectly understandable approach, in general.

But this is Marty Schottenheimer.  Keeping him despite a loss like that is like letting Jeffrey Dahmer back onto the street because he probably won't eat anyone this time.  It's just completely, completely, completely dumb.  After Sunday, the fact that he won 14 games is totally irrelevant.  He is 100% at fault for Sunday's fiasco.  We now know, conclusively, that if you put him in that situation, he will lose every time.  If it was bad luck at first, it sure isn't anymore.  It's in the guy's head.  Anyone who thinks he can still win a Super Bowl at this point should be arrested for being so stupid.

It's not just that Schottenheimer has a track record for failure, it's that those losses are always chokes.  The typical Schottenheimer playoff game is a cavalcade of boners, and in that sense this was the ultimate Marty loss.  He's blown home playoff games before, but never with such a great team, never with the very best player in football at his disposal, and rarely with so many explicit, obvious mistakes on his part.  This team was a can't-miss Super Bowl champion, even with the resurgent Patriots and Colts in their path.  For him to lose, again, in such a predictable manner, wasn't just the last nail in the coffin... it was the nail, a gallon of super-glue, and a 16-ton weight.

In a lifetime of screw-ups, this was his masterpiece.  The granddaddy of them all.  His legacy has been stained permanently.  There's no coming back from this... I can say that because I know with all certainty that he won't win a Super Bowl.  The man's career is over.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In defense of Schottenheimer    

Looks like San Diego's hanging on to Marty. I was a little puzzled by all the talk of firing -- he did go 14-2 this season with some tough regular season wins, showing he could win close games and mask some holes (inexperience at QB, inconsistent secondary). He was blamed a lot for the loss because: (a) he lost his timeout on an obviously lost challenge, (b) he should have run down more time off the clock, (c) sloppy play goes back to the coach and (d) he has a terrible postseason record even with good teams.

Regarding "a", he lost the timeout, and it cost them. But they still had a shot at a FG at the end, even though they played lousy hurry-up (which seemed like it was just as much Rivers' fault). Also, after the way Polamalu's interception-fumble challenge went last year, throwing the red flag on a prayer doesn't seem like that bad of an idea.

As for "b", the Chargers had the ball and had been running at will all season and all game. I, for one, always find it infuriating when a coach knows that the other coach is expecting run and still lines up for 1-yard gains and losses anyway. I almost always want them to keep going for the first down, expecting that a well-timed play fake can put the game away. Obviously in retrospect, this strategy didn't work here, but I don't think it was a bad idea. I do think that Tomlinson should have gotten more touches (although not necessarily more carries) on the last drive, but understand that the Patriots might have keyed in on him in the same way they would have anticipated the run, and the same arguments about the element of surprise would hold. Moreover, by not running the ball, they managed to get the ball back with enough time to at least set up a FG attempt, so unless you think the Chargers could have just bullied the Patriots run defense (admittedly, as they had for most of the game), they were actually better off, in a way. You could say that it wasn't the final drive that was the problem, that the playcalling in the second half went too far away from Tomlinson and Turner (is it too late to call them T-N-T? Alright, I admit that's pretty bad). However, the Jacksonville game showed that a team relying on production out of only one position wasn't all that a successful second half strategy against the Patriots. And even if that isn't persuasive, I don't see why Cam Cameron, San Diego's O-coordinator who has gotten the lion's share of the praise for the offense's execution, shouldn't at least share in the blame when the team stumbles.

I somewhat agree with "c". A lot of things had to go wrong for them to lose. If he had coached the safety to knock down the ball, kept his players from committing stupid penalties, or took control when Rivers was leading the final drive, they would have had a much better chance to win. However, too many weird things happened for it to be anyone's fault, even the guy who runs the team. How many times do you see teams make those bizarre mistakes? How many times have you seen the Chargers make bizarre mistakes? The kinds of mistakes that teams always seem to make against the Patriots when New England is playing well.

"D" nullifies that argument a little bit; he's had too many playoff collapses with too many good teams for it to be chance. But did the next coach win with those teams? Did the next coach do as well or get as far with those teams? Maybe, I'm not really sure, but it's my impression that the next coach did about as well, maybe slightly worse. Moreover, he's only been in San Diego and they keep getting better every year. Right now, they'd seem to be a contender for the next few years. Why not give him at least one more chance to see if he can get the team to the next round? Why not maintain some stability for a young offense and defense? And if next year is worse, the Chargers have a better rationale to fire him. And some more high profile coaches should be available (Belichick's contract will be up, plenty of coaching changes are speculated for next year), whereas there aren't a whole lot of options right now (Bobby Petrino got a deal?!).

So, kudos to the San Diego Chargers and kudont's to ESPN.

Eeeeevil shenanigans    

Click here for humor.

All that it took was one reminder...    

hate hate hate!


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Surprise, Surprise (Beckham to L.A.)    

What is there really to say about this? Actually I should say that I am a little that way that you get when something new happens that seems completely inevitable in retrospect, but still manages to seem like only one possible outcome before it happens. Sort of like our glorious leader's "surge" in that it's been announced, it's what I always knew would happen. But before, I wasn't quite sure he actually would keep barrelling down the same ridiculous path. Or any number of events related to Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Tom Cruise over the past year or so.

So, Beckham is what we thought he was. I guess I knew that, but somehow I've always suspected he was actually a little more normal than he appeared in the public eye. Who knows? Maybe that's still true. Doesn't really look like it, though, does it? It had to be L.A., didn't it? Couldn't he have played in NY instead? Oh well.

More interestingly, does this actually mean anything for MLS? Is he going to skyrocket MLS to real-sport status in the U.S.? Big exhibition games between L.A. and Real Madrid or something? I suspect this will not be nearly the impact certain people clearly hope it will be, but it will be interesting to find out. And for the Galaxy it may not really matter. It's L.A. after, and Beckham will sell more tickets there than he would anywhere else, I'd bet. Well, good luck to them both I guess. I hope it doesn't turn out to be as annoying as it could.

Beckham to doRA: Suck it.    

So Beckham is coming to America, for the rough GNP of Micronesia. Personally, I'd prefer to have bought Micronesia.

While we're here, this article should win the Pulitzer Prize for Hyperbole.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Weekend Wetdown    

#1: Tony Romo's career is over
I give Romo absolutely zero chance of recovering.  The wheels were coming off his season already.  Devastating.  What's worse is that Carrie Underwood has probably packed her suitcase and left him.  I sure would if I were her.  (Though not if I were me!  Hubba hubba!)  But the catastrophic loss does raise a great many questions.

  • Did the Cowboys really expect to advance past Chicago or New Orleans?  Given that they couldn't, is the Romo play really that bad?
  • Who plays QB next season?
  • Will the Big Tuna retire?
  • Will Terrell Owens be back?
  • Why should anyone even discuss the review of the spot?  Could anyone who's worth a damn be stupid enough to think the review was unexpected, let alone mishandled?  It's unanimous: the initial spot was bad, and the review corrected it.

Of course, the question of whether the Cowboys will suck next year is easy.  Yes.  Moving on...

#2: E-A-G-L-E-S
The Giants got kicked in the nuts by Philly.  Now they have Akers!

There's not a whole lot to say about this game.  Divisional games will always be tight, because the teams know each other too well.  It'll always come down to who makes the bigger plays.  Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress acquitted themselves sufficiently in the end, despite their offensive line's attempts to sabotage the game... but Brian Westbrook trumped them all.  Amazing what happens when you can stay healthy.  Finally, absolutely ingenious handling of the clock by Andy Reid.  Saints/Eagles will be fun.

Since this is an undersized section, I'm slipping in a public service announcement: Duke sucks!  There's never a bad excuse to post this!!!

#3: Colts are back
The Chiefs are a one-man team and had no business being in this game, except for two little words: de-fault.  The outcome is not even remotely surprising.  They're not even a proper appetizer for the Colts; they're an amuse bouche at best.  (Quick aside: you'll be floored when you discover how many hits "NFL + 'amuse bouche'" turns out on Google.)

I doubt the win does much to alleviate Colts fans' concerns, but this has to make them believe again at least a little bit, right?  Given that the defense won that game, which is exactly what needs to happen against Baltimore, isn't that a reason for optimism?  It's not like Baltimore's offense is all that great.  If they force Steve McNair to pass, and keep Peyton Manning from getting cute against that nasty secondary, I think they pull it off.

Of course, there's the whole "defense wins championships" thing to deal with.  And that Baltimore is well-rested, and coming off a bye during which they knew they would be facing Indy.  Their defense will be ready to wreak havoc.  The question is whether their offense will have enough in the tank.

#4: The Pats don't suck.
Folks are already declaring this a vintage Pats performance, and they're not necessarily wrong.  But my optimism is guarded.  It's not a coup or anything... it's just enough to give me reason to think they can beat San Diego.  It's not enough to make the Pats anything more than the clear-cut AFC underdog.  (I do think the Pats would run ragged through the NFC end of the bracket right now... but that's off-topic.)

Despite all the good things about yesterday, which I will list later, the game was much closer than the score indicates.  A better team than the Jets (a team like, oh I dunno, the Chargers) would have taken advantage of the Pats' numerous mistakes:

  • The unnecessary roughness penalties.  Rarely has the "unnecessary" part been so accurate.  Two penalties called, both of which extended drives, and one or two more that weren't called.  Getting past the part about how cheap, dirty and unprofessional it is, it's utterly dumb.  Dumb teams make those hits.  Dumb teams that get shellacked in road playoff games at Denver, just to name one example.  Anyone want to spot LDT and the Chargers a few bonus first downs?
  • No success in the deep game from Brady and friends.  Three deep throws, one catchable, zero completions.  Jabar Gaffney's huge mistake in the end zone cost them seven points.  Gotta catch those.
  • The touchdown by Jerricho Crotchery is precisely the sort of thing that terrifies me about the Pats' secondary.  It's a brain fart.  They're not good enough to survive brain farts.  The whole point of "bend, but don't break" is to not break.
  • The Pats were 11 of 16 on 3rd down.  Which is great.  Wanna bet they'll do it again on Sunday?
  • The Jets were well within reach until the drive that culminated in Kevin Faulk's touchdown (on which he was totally unmarked, by the way).  That drive included two third-and-long conversions: the Faulk TD and Troy Brown's 10-yard catch in NE territory early on.  It wasn't exactly a series of goofs by the Jets, but a better team stalls that drive.
  • The Pats' run defense was shaky.  Leon Washington didn't face particularly stiff resistance.  Pass rush notwithstanding, I didn't see anything to indicate that Tomlinson is in for a rough game.
  • My gripe concerning the Pats' recent performances against superior teams remains unchanged.  They haven't won as a legitimate underdog since who knows when.  They should be a substantial underdog against San Diego.

That's not to say I'm not pleased or encouraged.  I saw enough yesterday to convince me that they can beat the Chargers.

  • The manner in which Pennington, Coles and Crotchery were controlled (not shut down) is reason for celebration, especially in light of Rodney Harrison's absence.  While the Crotchery touchdown was a major, major brain-fart, I thought Sanders played a pretty nice game.  And the corners played quite well, thanks to the constant pressure from the front seven.
  • The offensive line was a beast.  The running game looks awfully good.
  • The performance by Gaffney is a big reason for optimism... not because he'll continue to be a go-to receiver, but because it gives Marty Schottenheimer another thing to think about, on what had already been a huge to-do list.  Anything that nags at Schottenheimer counts as a distraction from what he should be doing.  Brilliant manuever by Bill Belichick.

We'll learn a lot about both teams from this game, undoubtedly the prestige game of the weekend... the winner looks awfully good going into the championship game.  If the Chargers win, they remain the heavy favorite.  If the Pats pull off an upset, the "dynasty" talk will resume in earnest, and the bandwagon takes on more travelers.

The question in my mind is whether the Pats control their own success.  Is it a matter of the Chargers shutting them down, or is it a matter of the Patriots not shooting themselves in the foot again?  Whose will is going to be imposed on whom?

By the numbers, you'd have to think that San Diego's so good that the Pats have to adjust to what they do.  They have the best player (Tomlinson) and the better offense.  And since nobody else has solved LDT this season, why assume that anything needs to change?  History shows that Schottenheimer will probably plan that way... whatever kind of coach he is, he's not the kind who adjusts to any situation.  He's a "stay the course" guy.

Belichick knows this.  He will exploit it by throwing the kitchen sink at San Diego, and more if he can help it.  He can do that because his roster affords him the luxury of deciding what his team will do on a game-to-game basis.  There's no such thing as a mismatch against the New England Patriots.  Their balanced, chameleon-like schemes on both sides of the ball emphasize flexibility and adjustments, so there's really no mismatch beyond the team's control.  Bad as their secondary is, their pass rush prevents them from being "soft" against the pass.

What that means for your weekend is that the Chargers are unlikely to come up with a good enough game plan to "handle" the Patriots.  If they emphasize the pass, in order to pick on the Pats' secondary, they choose to challenge a terrifying pass rush, all while taking touches away from Tomlinson.  If they try to ram it down the Pats' throats on the ground, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Ty Warren aren't exactly pushovers, and that's before realizing that Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi are waiting behind them.  Whatever they choose, they're playing into the Pats' capable hands.  I'm sure there's a good plan out there (surely based on isolating Tomlinson against linebackers in the open field) but Schottenheimer's not the guy to install it.

For that reason, I think the game will come down to whether or not the Pats execute.  Whether they avoid stupid penalties, turnovers, make good throws, etc.  I know they'll have the preparation, so it's a matter of making it happen.

(I wish I had a better reason to sense a Pats victory than "Marty Schottenheimer will find a way to lose."  But the guy's just not in Belichick's league.  Not only did Belichick nail a pretty formidable opponent in Eric Mangini yesterday, but he used the game as a message to the Chargers... "study this, and this, and this."  If there's any running theme to Marty's failures in the playoffs, it's his refusal/inability to adjust properly to his opponent.  He's got a lousy record coming off bye weeks, and the Chargers were riding a ten-game winning streak prior to the break.  Maybe they needed the rest, but I think it's highly possible that this is a case where the rested team comes out flat.)

Anyway, got a little out of control with the length.  I'd like to know if anyone actually watched the Colts game and has something to contribute.  You know, like the Colts fan on the blog.  Jesse, perhaps your eyes haven't fully recovered from the hideous sight of the Chiefs?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"my swag is phenomenal"    

Ok. I'm sure everyone has seen and read all about Arenas' ridiculous shot last night to win the game. I can't seem to stop thinking about my man.
It seems that each year, an athlete that I formerly liked quite a bit launches a PR campaign of sweetness that captures me utterly for the year.
Last year, it was Clinton Portis and his gang of four.
This year, it's Arenas.
Dude already has the best nickname in all of sports, is playing out of his mind this year, and then drops the swag quote. Fantastic.

The Darkhorse candidate for next year? Brendan Haywood. Check out his phenomenal eyewitness account of Agent Zero's performance last night. Thanks to DCSportsBog for this:

"That joint went straight through," Haywood was saying. "Remember Double Dribble, how the nets would pop up? Like that."
Then Haywood started saying "Double Dribble," in that weird voice, like the game used to say.

Bravo, Brendan "Double Dribble" Haywood.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

THAT Is What I'm Talking About    

Five words I thought I'd never say: thank you, New York Post.

While this piece of Mushnick doesn't rip ESPN the additional asshole it so sorely needs, it does summarize the issue as succinctly as possible.  ESPN has been lobotomized for some time now, to the point where they are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, unprofessional.  I get more insights from Capitals broadcaster/clown Craig Laughlin on a nightly basis than I get from all of ESPN in a day; it's the broadcasting equivalent of Jack Nicholson getting out-acted by Shaquille O'Neal.  And it's true.  Very sad.

My wish for 2007 is increased accountability for ESPN's insufferable asshattery.  Media journalists bashing ESPN left and right.  Viewers staying away in droves.  Hit counts for diving like so much rock.  Or, even better: a legitimate national competitor, one that can give ESPN a run for its money.

Will that happen?  Probably not.  But a guy can dream.

NFL Playoff Predictions    

It's that time again...

Jets at Patriots -> Patriots
Chiefs at Colts -> Colts

Patriots at Chargers
-> Chargers
Colts at Ravens -> Colts

Colts at Chargers
-> Chargers

Cowboys at Seahawks -> Cowboys
Giants at Eagles -> Eagles

Eagles at Saints
-> Saints
Cowboys at Bears -> Bears

Saints at Bears
-> Saints

Super Bowl
Chargers vs. Saints -> Saints

Talking Points
1. I haven't got much faith in the Patriots.  They haven't won a Big Game since prior to the last Super Bowl, and their performances in every big game since then has been, to put it lightly, horrifically fucking shameful.  They haven't shown the least bit of interest in upholding the franchise's reputation (smart, mentally tough, no turnovers, etc.) against the league's elite teams.  In short, they exhibit none of the mental toughness of previous editions,  so unlike past Pats teams we have no reason to think they will exceed their expectations.  I'm quite confident they'll beat the Jets, but I'd be stunned if they put forward a sufficient effort against the Chargers.  That matchup has "San Diego vacation" written all over it.  God forbid they actually try to win a game that they shouldn't.

2. Bet-hedging comment: my gut says the Ravens could rip the whole bracket apart... but the possible involvement of Kyle Boller terrifies me.

3. I have an idiotic affinity for the Saints.  And I think the Bears and Eagles have peaked.  The Saints are really the only choice on that side.

4. Marty Schottenheimer will rear his head at some point.  Based on history, it ought to be the Colts game.  But the Colts are so shaky with run defense that even Marty couldn't screw that up (right???) so I've picked him to at least make the Super Bowl.  But the Saints present too many decisions for Marty (Brees, the two RBs, the WR fleet), so it's the perfect time for an implosion.