Saturday, September 29, 2007

They always say the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. I'll admit it feels like a marathon when your team sucks, but really, when all other reasonably major sports play 50+ games, is it an accurate statement? Where am I going with this? I have no idea - let's just move on to the picks....

HOU at ATL: Part of me is really hoping Matt Schaub has a big game here, further exacerbating the pain of Falcons fans. But most of me is just hoping to watch Joey Harrington get outplayed once again. HOU.

NYJ at BUF: For all I know, Todd Collins is currently quarterbacking the Bills. NYJ.

BAL at CLE: Last week did nothing to disprove the "Ravens = AFC Bears" theory, but luckily for them, they don't have to pin their hopes on Brian Griese this week. BAL.

STL at DAL: I've been having a hard time hating one of the Packers' traditional enemies, the Cowboys, recently, what with their Bears bashing, and their "Aw shucks, I can't believe someone put me in charge again" head coach, Wade Phillips. Oh, wait, I just remembered T.O. plays for them, scratch that. DAL.

CHI at DET: I was surprised that everyone else was surprised at the Eagles' success against Detroit's D last week. People completely forget that Detroit's wins this year were against Minnesota and Oakland, two of the most ineffective offenses the league has seen since the dead-ball era. CHI, in the weirdest upset special I've ever picked.

OAK at MIA: Oh no, oh no, oh god no. GIDCAOTW. MIA.

GB at MIN: At some point, I will no longer be ridiculed for picking the Packers every week. GB.

SEA at SF: The sad thing here is that one of these two teams will win the horrific NFC west. Perhaps even more sad is that the NFC west has been consistently this horrific for over a decade now. SEA.

TB at CAR: If you've jumped on the Bucs bandwagon, I hope you kept your receipt. CAR.

DEN at IND: As predicted right here, the Broncos were shown up as the frauds they are last week. This week I'm predicting 35+ from the Colts in another embarrassing loss. IND.

PIT at AZ: Yes, I know that everyone is playing the Arizona coach revenge angle, but c'mon, they're using situational quarterbacks. PIT.

KC at SD: The only reasonable explanation of why Norv Turner was hired by the Chargers is that it was the direct result of a drunken boast by A.J. Smith, e.g. "I've put so much ****ing talent on this team that we'd win with Norv ****ing Turner as our head coach!" Sorry, but you underestimated Norv's powers.... SD.

PHI at NYG: I've seen both these teams already this year, and the Giants are unquestionably worse. PHI.

NE at CIN: The Patriots offense vs. the Bengals defense? Are you kidding me? Tom Brady might beat Peyton Manning's season touchdown record by the end of the first half. NE.
As promised, here's the lengthy "Point-Counterpoint: Belichick's a Jerk" discussion. If any further discussion follows I'll update this post with it. Picks follow.

LF: It's funny - I was going to start this week's picks with a diatribe on the Patriots. Specifically, about how for many years I never minded them even as they won their championships, swayed by the media portrayal of them as scrappy overachievers and the lionization of Brady and Belichick. In this space, I was going to write about how it was becoming increasingly clear that the team in New England was in fact a really unlikable group.

I was planning on doing this before the sign-stealing scandal broke.

Certainly, it seems like the argument is no longer necessary. Now that everyone hates the Patriots, it's safe to say, mission accomplished.


To me, the most amazing thing about the Pats scandal is the number of players from other teams across the entire NFL coming out to tell stories about the patriots having their number. If this was really a situation where everyone was doing at least some form of sign-stealing, I don't think you would see this.

CH: I was planning on writing about something other than football to introduce my picks this week, but then the whole Patriots sign-stealing scandal blew up so I guess I must offer my opinion on that. I'll let Lucas yuk it up over there and pretend to be horribly outraged like the rest of the mainstream media, but I will attempt to be fair and even-handed unlike most everyone else.

First of all, I am embarrassed for my team, not because they stole signs, which I'll get to in a moment, but because of how they did it. A guy in a Patriots shirt, who had previously been caught at least once with a video camera on the opposing sidelines violating a rule that had been emphasized 12 months ago. In the immortal words of the Simpsons: "Sometimes I think you *want* to fail!"

But that said, I think that the whole competitive-advantage thing is overblown for 2 reasons:

1) I would cite my source on this, but I read so much about it all this week that I have no recollection which online columnist wrote it. Basically, in response to everyone claiming that that Patriots should have to forfeit games or Super Bowl rings because of the sign-stealing incident, a columnist pointed out that the signs in question are performed by a man standing on the sidelines of a football game witnessed by 60,000+ people. This is not a secret! Even if a team doesn't have a cameraman on the sidelines, they could have a cameraman in the stands zooming in on the coaches across the field just as easily. Even if they have no cameras, a trained observer could most likely pick up the defensive signals just by watching the game in person, assuming a team blitzes enough to be able to see that sign repeated. It's just like in baseball, where the 3rd base coach stands in the field and tells the batter whether to bunt or the runner whether to steal. If a team stole enough bases during the game where you could get a look at the steal signal enough, you could pick it up easily. The reason most teams can't is that stolen bases and bunts are rare enough that the sample size is too small to make correlations (especially in the American League, where you're more likely to see a triple play than a bunt).

2) As Lucas pointed out, we are all of a sudden subjected to the collective whinings of players beaten by the Patriots in the past. I find the Packers reference particularly funny, since the Pats won that game 35-0. Even if you assume that they scored all 35 points because they were able to pick up blitzes (which, as everyone admits, is really the only advantage you get from stealing defensive signals), that still makes the score 0-0. The Packers still don't win the game. But at least in that case it was a defensive player complaining. I've also read a number of stories about offensive players complaining about the sign-stealing. I'm not sure how the Patriots defense would have an advantage by knowing the opposing team's defensive signs, but by all means now you have an excuse for why you got sick in the huddle during the Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb.

The most absurd thing I read this week was that the sign stealing is worse for the sport than HGH/steroid use. One of these 2 things is a federal crime and potentially causes bodily damage to yourself and others (see: Benoit, Chris). The other may or may not even provide a competitive advantage at all, as the stats bear out (in multiple ways). But by all means, lets all knee-jerk overreact so we have something to write about all week.

LF: Ok, Chris, I figured you would take the apologist route, and that's just fine - it's your right as a normal, illogical NFL fan. But the one thing I can't take lying down is being lumped in with the rest of the media. So if you're looking for a rebuttal, here it is:

1) I never made any statement about the punishment being too lenient. Of course asking them to forfeit games is ridiculous.

2) I never made any statement about competitive balance being significantly altered, or any statement that the outcome 35-0 game would have been significantly different (nor did the article in question).

3) I never expressed anything close to "outrage". Pure amusement at their hubris, nothing more.

Out of the two articles you cited, the first is written by a Patriots fan (don't think I don't read Bill Simmons too - I agreed with most of Bill's points in his column, particularly the Nixon parallel, but Mr. Aaron Schatz came off looking like a complete homer), and the second is entirely based on the theory that "If the Patriots have been exploiting signal stealing regularly in past years, we would expect them to have an advantage against teams they play more than once in a season", which is shaky at best.

I think you need to re-read my post, because the only point I was making is that the Patriots have turned in to an unlikeable organization, and deserve to be disliked by opposing teams, players, and fans - basically anyone who isn't a Patriots backer. If you're really trying to dispute me, you're going to have to show me that Belichick is actually a nice guy who doesn't deserve to be loathed, so have fun with that.

CH: OK, I'll admit I took out my anger at the media in general (Tuesday Morning Quarterback this week, what the hell?) on you, but you bring up an important point in your comment. What does Belichick's personality have to do with whether or not a team deserves to be liked or disliked? Belichick's job is to win as many games as possible.

All of the things he does with regards to the media further that goal, be it purposefully misrepresenting his team's injury situation (this I think is worse than the sign-stealing in terms of competitive advantage and it seems like this year in changing the rules about reporting injuries the NFL is at least attempting to regulate it), parroting the same boring messages every week at press conferences (in order for the team to keep an even keel and remain only focused on the next game, he needs to set the example himself), and not allowing himself or his players to trash talk to the media (Tomlinson may have gotten upset about the situation at the end of the Chargers playoff game last year, but that was an isolated incident). As a person, is he likable? No one really knows. Reporters who do talk football with him during the offseason have reported that when discussing game strategy he is friendly and engaging. In reality you can't really judge a person by how the media portrays them (Britney Spears excluded).

As for the team itself, like any team they have likable and unlikable players. I would argue that Tedy Bruschi is extremely likable, Rodney Harrison not so much (although he is an excellent veteran leader). Even the Bengals, with all of their criminal problems, have likable players (Chad Johnson, although occasionally crazy).

In closing, I heard the funniest condemnation this week (not of the Patriots, but Tank Johnson) come from Troy Aikman on PTI, who referred to his Cowboys Super Bowl teams as being a team full of high character guys. Let's see, Leon Lett, Nate Newton, Michael Irvin...

LF: Wow, Troy Aikman actually said that? That's the stupidest football-related quote I've heard in a long time, and I hear a lot of stupid football-related quotes. Don't forget Deon Sanders on your list of infamy.

Anyway, I'd like to first mention you made a good point when you questioned whether Belichick's personality should have anything to do with whether a team deserves to be liked or disliked. I would agree to a point - for you, as a Patriots fan, no it shouldn't. For someone who isn't a Patriots fan, either the fan of a rival or a neutral NFL watcher, it's a perfectly good reason to be disliked.

I could have ended on that note, but then, despite your previous statement, you proceeded to make a set of arguments defending his personality anyway, so I'm obliged to reply to those.

Now, I can't make judgments personally, and what the media has put out from anonymous sources about other Belichick misdoings are (at this point) just that - rumors, but the other side of the coin is that you have to dismiss positive media accounts, too. Those are from situations where Belichick is dictating the terms, not the writer. Actual actions, like the videotaping, or my favorite, the waiver claim shenanigans, are the closest thing to evidence that regular fans like you or I can go on. When you 1) try to tell other teams to not sign players you've released despite the fact that you already have the most talented roster in the league, and 2) retaliate when someone dares to disobey you and claimed a player that they had every right to acquire, by revenge-claiming one of their players out of spite, that's pretty strong evidence that you are acting, in the technical sense, "like a jerk". Yes, Brad Childress is a dope who routinely mentions personal stuff to the media when most coaches (justifiably) would keep it "in house", but the side effect of his loose lips is that he gives one of the most unfiltered pictures of Belichick that we have to go on, and it's not pretty. (Side note: If the NFL was a mafia movie, Childress would be the first guy to get whacked)

In closing, I think you're slowly drawing asymptotically closer to the argument that "I don't care if he's a jerk, because he helps the Patriots win games", which is different (and entirely more defensible) than your "he's not a jerk, because he helps the Patriots win games" line of responses. The funniest part of this whole situation to me is how Patriots fans, like you and your buddy Bill Simmons, somehow believe that rationality is on their side, and that it's everyone else on earth who alters the facts, because they're out to get you. Well, the part about us being out to get you is true, but the rest isn't, as far as I can tell. Heaven save us from a world where fans actually admit their irrational love for a particular team. I wanted to again stress that I'd have no argument with you taking the irrational approach. You could go disputing what everyone outside of New England sees as a forgone conclusion and I wouldn't be able to say anything contrary. Heck, I don't think you'd be a good Patriots fan if you didn't.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On we go to week 3 picks. I was going to lead in with another rebuttal of Chris's latest tapegate comments, but instead I'll be continuing that discussion in the comments of his original post. I'll then post the whole conversation here next week, because I think it deserves it own post, being significantly more thought-out on both sides than any discussion you'd see on even the best of the "loudmouth sportswriters arguing" shows (i.e PTI). In fact, I'd go as far as suggesting that Chris and I should similarly duke it out on other sports topics in the NFL offseason, just to keep things interesting around here. We just need a good format for people to submit Point-Couterpoint topics (e.g. "Point-Counterpoint: Belichick's a Jerk")

ARI at BAL: Chris couldn't manage to take the upset special bait, but I will, after coming to the realization that the Ravens are the Bears of the AFC (horrible offense, especially at QB, overrated D led by a superhyped MLB)and should be likewise rooted against. Upset Special. ARI.

SD at GB: A Green Bay win seems like a pipe dream here, but Norv Turner can make dreams come true. GB.

STL at TB: Remember when these teams were meeting up in significant playoff games? Neither do I... TB

SF at PIT: I don't have time to do the research, but I'd like to try finding a 2-0 quarterback from the last 50 years with worse numbers than Alex Smith. Unless a string of injuries forced a punter to take his team's offensive snaps, I don't think it's been done. PIT.

DET at PHI: I was feeling pretty stupid after proclaiming that McNabb was recovered from his injury last week, and then watching him push out the mother of all stink bombs against the Redskins. Thanks for supporting my rare show of faith, Donovan. Anyway, the Eagles need this game so very much more than the Lions do. PHI.

MIA at NYJ: This here sounds like a GIDCAOTW, doesn't it? NYJ.

BUF at NE: My contacts deep inside the Patriots organization are telling me that, heartless as always, Bill Belichick is putting together a gameplan specifically designed to make an already emotionally torn Bills team feel even worse about itself, entitled "Operation: Insult the crybabies". Now that I've dropped this bombshell, prepare for another media firestorm. NE.

MIN at KC: Chris has already broken from his intention of picking against the Chiefs for every game this year, but I don't blame him one bit for this one. Minnesota, welcome to Embarrassmenttown (current population: Bengals). KC.

IND at HOU: Every year I talk about how part of the Colts' record is due to them playing Houston at least 5 times a year. And yet I am ignored - blacklisted, if you will - by the media, the schedule makers, the league office, and even the commissioner himself. Somebody should be losing draft picks here, Roger. IND.

CIN at SEA: Where does "being absolutely shredded by Derek Anderson" rank on the list of all time most embarrassing NFL moments? My vote: right behind a rarely mentioned 1983 Eagles-Saints matchup when the entire New Orleans offensive line somehow forgot to wear pants. SEA.

CLE at OAK: Meanwhile, the Browns are obviously way too full of themselves right now, but the alternative would mean picking the Raiders, which is simply unacceptable. CLE.

JAX at DEN: The Jags, no matter how mediocre in reality, always manage to put together a few very impressive wins per year, and I feel one coming on now. JAX.

NYG at WAS: I was absolutely shocked when the Giants quit midway through the third quarter last week. Shocked. Quitting on Tom Coughlin. Shocked. WAS.

CAR at ATL: I laugh in your general direction, Bill Simmons and all others who inexplicably showed faith in Joey Harrington. Why haven't you been reading this site for the past three years? CAR.

DAL at CHI: Ah, the team I hated most a decade ago vs. the team I hate most now. As you know, I've never had issues with my current personal sentiments affecting my picks, so DAL.

TEN at NO: I'm pretty sure that ESPN has spent all week preparing fancy introductory graphics for Reggie Bush and Vince Young, since they're the only two players participating in this game, according to their crack research team. Incidentally, the crack research team had an entirely different function when the network employed Michael Irvin... (rim shot) NO.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's funny - I was going to start this week's picks with a diatribe on the Patriots. Specifically, about how for many years I never minded them even as they won their championships, swayed by the media portrayal of them as scrappy overachievers and the lionization of Brady and Belichick. In this space, I was going to write about how it was becoming increasingly clear that the team in New England was in fact a really unlikable group.

I was planning on doing this before the sign-stealing scandal broke.

Certainly, it seems like the argument is no longer necessary. Now that everyone hates the Patriots, it's safe to say, mission accomplished.

CIN at CLE: Brady Quinn, human Panic Button, prepare to be pushed. CIN.

ATL at JAX: My expectations for the Jags have never been lower after their showing last week, but they have to win at least a couple games. This seems like as good a place as any. JAX.

GB at NYG: The Giants are playing coy with all their injuries, but as long as Tom Coughlin is around it won't matter much. GB.

IND at TEN: I'm already kicking myself for going against Indy last week. I'm now at least convinced they'll be dominant at home this year, and good enough on the road to beat dregs like the Titans. IND.

NO at TB: Drew Brees looked like he spent the offseason training at Tony Banks' quarterback camp. TB.

SF at STL: Ah yes, the "overrated fantasy running back whose upright, hard charging style will certainly lead to an early career burnout, and who isn't that great even when he's healthy" matchup of the year! Pick: STL.

HOU at CAR: If you're excited about the Texans, I really admire your optimism. Pick: CAR.

BUF at PIT: I feel like I gotta have an upset special somewhere, and this seems best to me. If you've detected some uncertainty here, I have two letters for you: J and P. BUF.

SEA at ARI: Bold prediction: after Matt Leinart's career is over, he'll have at least one Joe Namath - Suzy Kolber moment on national TV. Pick: ARI.

MIN at DET: I can see it now, Adrian Peterson gets another hundred yard game in garbage time against a horrible Lions defense and the media practically wets their pants, crowning him the league's next great offensive player. Remember what I said about upright, hard-charging running backs? Oh, and yes, that means Detroit wins, and yes, that makes me sick. Pick: DET.

DAL at MIA: The Cowboys' secondary is a disaster, but don't count on Trent Green being able to exploit it. Pick: DAL.

OAK at DEN: Last week Detroit, now Denver: beating the Raiders may count as a win in the standings, but it tells you nothing about your team. DEN.

NYJ at BAL: Wow, I just realized that the Ravens haven't had a single good quarterback in the history of the franchise. Ray Lewis, if you want to kill a few people (or at least be accessory to killing a few people), I'll understand. BAL.

KC at CHI: Chicago on their first bye week of the year. Pick: CHI.

SD at NE: To me, the most amazing thing about the Pats scandal is the number of players from other teams across the entire NFL coming out to tell stories about the patriots having their number. If this was really a situation where everyone was doing at least some form of sign-stealing, I don't think you would see this. SD.

WAS at PHI: Donovan McNabb actually looked all the way back from his injury running and passing last week, it's too bad for the Eagles that they didn't have him returning punts as well. PHI.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So, I see Chris is back, and ready to start the season with a low blow. I guess he's still just bitter after my come from behind victory (over him, at least) in the final week last season.

TEN at JAX. I actually think that David Garrard will flourish without Lord Byron breathing down his neck, but at the same time, I've learned that the Jags can be counted on for absolutely nothing. JAX.

ATL at MIN. Wow, can't wait for the quarterback matchup in this one. ATL.

PIT at CLE. Although I care about more games than normal on the first week of the season, picking a GIDCAOTW still wasn't that tough. GIDCAOTW. PIT.

KC at HOU. KC gets the early lead in the chase for worst in the AFC. HOU.

PHI at GB. I honestly think the Packers will have a pretty decent team, but when I look at their schedule, I just want to dial M for Murderousness. GB.

NE at NYJ. With the amount of hype the Patriots have received this offseason, not declaring them overrated would be a breach of the laws of physics. Upset special. NYJ.

DEN at BUF. Can someone explain to my why everyone thinks Jay Cutler is a top 10 NFL quarterback right now? Ok, I'll admit he's in the top 25, which makes him better than J.P. Losman, who just managed to crack the list of top 25 quarterbacks who go by their initials, right between A.J. Feeley and T.J. Rubley. DEN.

CAR at STL. Before you anoint the Rams as the NFC West frontrunner, try naming one person who plays defense for them. CAR.

MIA at WASH. You know you're in for a long season if you're expecting Trent Green to be your savior. WASH.

TB at SEA. If you still don't think that John Gruden is a fraud, this year should be your proof. SEA.

DET at OAK. I really hope Al Davis manages to stay alive for another decade or so, because if his craziness continues to progress at the rate it has been recently, we could be in for quite the treat in 2015. It will probably be something like how Matt Millen is behaving now. OAK.

CHI at SD. Two talented teams that will have to come back from big disappointments last year, but only one has Rex Grossman. SD.

NYG at DAL. Want a challenge? Try writing a 300 word essay about why the Giants made a good decision by bringing Tom Coughlin back for another year. I'm pretty sure it can't be done. DAL.

BAL at CIN. I'm sorry, but I just can't see a broken down Steve McNair leading the Ravens anywhere significant this year. CIN.

ARI at SF. The trendiest team of the year vs. a team that hasn't been trendy in at least 30 years. ARI.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm not sure who else is officially "in" for picks this year, but I figure that I could get the ball rolling. I'll do the full slate before Sunday, but here's the appetizer game:

NO at IND. Everything I see seems to point to Indy being a classic one-and-done champion. Their already poor defense lost some good players, Peyton Manning will definitely miss Tarik Glenn, and they won't face Rex Grossman every week. I'm not sold on the Saints but I think the Colts may be headed for an 8-8ish season or worse. NO.