Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And now for the AFC…

AFC West

Preseason picks 1. Broncos, 2. Chargers, 3. Chiefs, 4. Raiders

1. San Diego – Rivers has come as advertised in the pre-season. I have been impressed and surprised by both his poise and consistency…now if there were just a way to avoid “Marty-ball” come January.
2. Chiefs – With the problems at the beginning of the season on the offensive line, I didn’t think this team was a playoff contender (and they still might miss out). I was wrong.
2. Denver – Like the Redskins, but better. I expected this team to compete for a wild-card spot, but now I don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe if Mike Shanahan went to Jay Cutler earlier, but not now.
4. Oakland – Better on defense than I expected, but a special sort of horrible on offense…so bad that front offices of other teams have doubts about taking on skill players like Randy Moss – often referred to as “unsalvageable.”

AFC South

Preseason picks 1. Colts, 2. Jaguars, 3. Titans, 4. Texans

1. Indianapolis – Beginning to show signs of wear with a narrow escape against the Bills, and losses to the Cowboys and the Titans all within a four game span.
2. Jacksonville – Too erratic to call a playoff contender. Could do it if they get on a roll, also could crash and burn in the last four games.
3. Tennessee – Could legitimately claw their way into the second spot in the division, though not into the playoffs.
4. Houston – This perennially underachieving team is only one game behind the surging Titans in the standings and three behind Jacksonville with only four left to play. It’s unlikely that this is the season they climb out of the South’s basement.

AFC North

Preseason picks 1. Bengals, 2. Steelers, 3. Ravens, 4. Browns

1. Baltimore – I honestly thought this was going to be a rebuilding year for the Ravens. Obviously, I was wrong.
2. Cincy – Possibly getting hot at the right time after sliding mid-season. Will likely have to compete with the Jets and Chiefs for two playoff spots (Denver and the Jags as well, IF those two can find that elusive winning formula on offense for the stretch run).
3. Pittsburgh – Statement is September: “IF Pittsburgh has to ride the arm of Roethlesburger all season, they might not even make the playoffs.” Guess who’s had to put the ball in the air more than any time in his professional career?
4. Ceveland – If they can get the middle of their offensive line back and healthy next year, could move to the middle of the pack. Only a game behind the Steelers with one to play against them, the Browns could move up in the division, causing the Steeltowners to go into that dreaded first-to-worst one season turn around.

AFC East

Preseason picks 1. Patriots, 2. Dolphins, 3. Bills, 4. Jets

1. New England – Still making too many mistakes right now to be considered a serious Super Bowl contender, but has time to straighten that out. Like the Ravens, are in position to fight for one of the first round byes but has to rely on other teams to make it happen.
2. New York – A solid year ahead of where I thought they would be this time of year. Could make some noise in the playoffs.
3. Buffalo – Locked in a battle to stay out of the basement. Still not sold on Losman, possibly the fourth best signal caller in the division.
3. Miami – Not going anywhere this year, but could spoil the Pats bid for a first-round bye.

Dropping the ball…literally

During the last three weeks the Patriots have turned the ball over more times than during any three game stretch under Bill Belichick. It has been ugly, sloppy, careless football. On top of the turnovers, there have been a number of times they have put the ball on the ground when they were lucky enough to recover themselves.

Not to take anything away from the defenses that the Patriots have been playing, but almost all of the Benjamin Watson related turnovers could have been avoided with better ball protection. That accounts for at least three turnovers (giving Chicago the benefit of the doubt on their first interception and leaving that as a turnover). Corey Dillon’s fumble against the Lions – avoidable. Going back to the Jets and Doug Gabriel – avoidable. Patrick Pass fumble? Avoidable. Just a small sampling here of the last four games, but that’s at least a turnover per game less.

If the Patriots don’t solve the turnover issue, they will likely be one and done in the playoffs, because in the AFC playoffs they won’t face a team with Rex Grossman at the helm.

Dropping the ball II

The NFL has seen fit to suspend Saints defensive tackle Hollis Thomas for testing positive for steroids. Both the Saints and an independent doctor have come to Thomas’s defense in regards to the issue stating that the positive test was due to a change in his asthma medication necessitated by the climate change from Philly to the Bayou, but Thomas is still to serve a suspension.

I am normally a vocal proponent of the league’s steroid testing policy (see my blog entry regarding Shawn Merriman), but this is a case where I think, if the man really has a history of asthma, then I think this either needs to be revisited now, or, if agreements prevent it, then when the league and the players have a chance to discuss the collective bargaining agreement.

The league is likely thinking that this is opening the door to a whole new excuse that will allow legions of players to cheat the system. I think as long as proof of a history exists, they have a way around that.

Dropping the ball III

I’m going to ask around, but it seems to me that with the advent of officiating teams that stay together for the course of the season that officiating has gotten worse. I feel like the number of questionable calls I have seen this year has been mind bogglingly high. For every blatantly bad call I’ve seen go against the Pats, I could probably point out one that has gone against an opponent, or a team in another game.

These haven’t been the five yard, oh well variety either. Some of them have had potentially game changing implications.

I will, however, use two calls against the Pats as an example. Against Chicago the Patriots were called for two long pass interference calls. Both calls came on plays where the defensive backs both had position on the receiver and were playing the ball. In fact, on at least one of the plays, the receiver appeared to be trying to turn the defensive back (the wonder of TiVo…I did indeed replay these plays several times to make sure I could see what the refs did). As I said, I’ve seen others go against other teams, those are just two of the more glaring examples I could think of.

I would love to get some feedback on that last observation.

Made Mike Silver's mailbag...

Written before the Chicago game and published on 12/1...

"You cited the following in your article -- 'It is true that none of the Pats' seven victories has come against teams that currently have a winning record, and New England was defeated by fellow AFC contenders Denver and Indy...' an item typically cited by reporters in hindsight (I've done it myself). But that discounts what records were of opponents at the time and the consideration of the impact of a particular game on the rest of the season (a little film exposing a flaw goes a long ways, doesn't it?). To wit: The Bengals were 3-0 when they hosted the Pats. Not including the loss to the Pats they are 2-4 since (NOTE: This letter was written before last weekend's games), with one of those wins eked out over the Panthers. The Vikings: 4-2 at the time, 0-3 since the loss to NE. Discounting the loss to Denver, because the team went into a bye immediately after they faced the Patriots and discounting Green Bay (whom I would pick against this weekend based on the following alone), no team that has faced the Patriots this season and had a game to play the next weekend is better than .500 in its subsequent two games. Indy is 1-1 (getting away with a win in Buffalo they easily could have lost), the Bills are 1-1 after each of their losses to the Pats and overall, the winning percentage of these teams .357 -- 5-9 (5-10 if you include the Jets from this past weekend dropping that to a dismal .333). Just some observations that I thought bore some consideration. BTW, as a Pats fan, I am wary of how Brady has played against some of the smaller, faster defenses this year and believe that this game could be seen as a real measuring stick.
-- Kevin Smith, Brunswick, Md.

I think what you're saying is, basically, "All my ex-girlfriends got really fat after we broke up"? Got it. I'm now a lot more interested in seeing how the Bears do against the Vikings this week.

Incidently - Chicago did win with its offense managing to score only 7 of the 23 total points scored on a 24 yard romp by Cedric Benson. The only thing that kept Minnesota from winning this was the fact that Brad Johnson was more incompetent this game than was Rex Grossman.

AFC updates and my rants on sloppy football later today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

NFL Quarterly update and other thoughts...

Before I get started on the quarterly update - nice to see Jon Lester declared cancer-free. That being said, I am related to cancer survivors and have one thing to say to Lester - Take care of yourself and get checked regularly, this is something that will be with you the rest of your days. Good luck, I look forward to seeing you pitch again next season.

Onto the update

NFC East

Preseason picks 1. Cowboys, 2. Eagles, 3. Giants, 4. Redskins

1. Dallas - getting hot at the right time.
2. NY - Crashing and burning. With upcoming games against Carolina, Philadelphia and New Orleans, I don't like the Big Blue Wrecked Crew's chances, even with the injured returning.
2. Philly - Still could finish in second, but I'm not convinced at this point that we're looking at the division that will produce one of the wild card teams.
4. DC - About what I expected at the beginning of the season. This is a team that can barely begin the deal, let alone seal it. Gibbs went to Jason Campbell way too late.

NFC North

Preseason picks 1. Bears, 2. Vikings, 3. Lions, 4. Packers

1. Chicago -This could be one and done in the playoffs for the best record in the NFC if Grossman doesn't learn to protect the ball.
2. Minnesota - Haven't been the same since the beating they took from New England
3. Green Bay - Not quite as ugly as expected....but close.
4. Detroit - I think Marinelli needs to be given some time, but this is a team still in serious disarray.

NFC South...boy was I off here 1. Panthers, 2. Bucs, 3. Falcons, 4. Saints

1. New Orleans - Quickest rebuilding year ever. Along with Dallas, I think the most dangerous of the NFC teams heading to the playoffs.
2. Carolina - Too Jeckyl and Hyde, could make the playoffs, could be sitting at home. Seldom seem to play as if their season is on the line.
2. Atlanta - Sure the receivers have dropped a lot of balls, but Vick still isn't that good a quarterback either.
4. Tampa - When depth problems in the NFL are discussed, this is the NFC team that should be looked at.

NFC West 1. Seahawks, 2. Rams, 3. Cardinals, 4. 49ers
1. Seattle - At 8-4 the 'Hawks are running away with the division...and not looking good doing it.
2. San Fran - In a weak NFC has fought its way into playoff contention with a rousing record of 5-7. Even so, still better than I expected.
2. St. Louis - After a strong start, has crashed and burned.
4. Arizona - As I wrote back in September, a team with a suspect O-line isn't going anywhere.

Tomorrow the AFC.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A little contest...

So my sister-in-law has snared my me, my wife and her husband in a shedding pounds contest. Here are the details:

Deadline April 1
Teams-so we have accountability in and outside of the home

Scale: We are not trying to get to the same weight, so it doesnt matter that our scales are off. whats important is the weight lost.

Also, we should get measurements-perhaps even do a separate prize for inches lost(25 for most lbs, 25 for most inches?). If you want to do this, we will need to get thigh, hip, waist, chest, and upper arm measurements from all participants. I think this would be a good idea since weight loss is not always apparent in numbers. Michael and Kevin, in theory, would gain more muscle than lose weight.

Starts tomorrow.

After a particularly debauched weekend of football and feeding, I am starting from 193 pounds. I will post updates here on a weekly basis.

Also, tomorrow, the three-quarter mark observations, and a few rants about sloppy football...