Saturday, January 19, 2008

Much ado...and at least one answer

There's a lot being made of the Giants 9 game road winning streak going into Green Bay, and not to take anything away from the Giants who have been road warriors this season, but the Packers haven't been slouches at home, going into this game with an 8-1 record at Lambeau this season.

How about this statistic for home field advantage - the Patriots have won 13 straight at the Razor, last losing to the Jets over 14 months ago. Also, the team is undefeated in Championship games at Foxborough, and undefeated in post-season games held in Massachusetts in sub-freezing temperatures since Bill Belichick took over the team.

The hosting teams have four Super Bowl rings in five appearances and are 6-2 in this round of the playoffs, the second loss was by Tom Brady in last season's match-up in Indianapolis. Brady is 3-0 in championship games held in Foxborough.

As for the answer...

Teresa posed a question to me - has the AFC East hosted the best and worst teams in the NFL before this season? Yes. The first time the East held the dubious distinction was in 1984 when the Dolphins and a rookie Dan Marino led the league with a 14-2 record while the Buffalo Bills brought up the rear with a 2-14 record.

All of this has inspired the final note...a note on futility -

The Arizona Cardinals, the longest active franchise in professional football - actually predating the league currently known NFL - hasn't won a championship since 1947. The team was founded in 1899 under the name the Morgan Athletic Club on the South Side of Chicago. It later became the Racine (Street) Cardinals, then the Chicago Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Phoenix Cardinals, and finally the Arizona Cardinals.

In 108 years this team has won two championships, an average of one every 54 years. Their last title was 20 years before the Super Bowl.

This team did Chicagoans a favor by moving from the Windy City.

The teams that haven't even made it to the Super Bowl include the Browns, Cardinals, Lions, Saints, Texans and Jaguars. As far as opportunities - All but the Texans and Jaguars were in existence at the beginning of the Super Bowl Era (technically the Saints for the second). The Texans and the Jags have been around for, combined, less than 20 Super Bowls (the Jags first year was 1995, the Texans 2002).

Then there are those who have made it to the big game only to lose - Eagles, Bills, Vikings, Oilers/Titans, Bengals, Chargers, Falcons, Panthers, and Seahawks. Unless the Chargers can get past the Patriots tomorrow, it means that the winner of this Super Bowl will come from the pool of 16 winners of the 41 previous Super Bowls.

Of the three active teams in the playoffs that previously won, all are multiple winners - the Giants with two (1986, 1990), the Packers with three (1967, 1968, 1996), and the Patriots with three (2001, 2003, 2004). Other multiple winners include with five each - the Steelers, 49ers, and Cowboys; with three are the Raiders and Redskins; and with two are the Dolphins, Colts, and Broncos.

Of the 41 Super Bowls already played, 11 teams account for 35 of the titles - if you're wondering why the math is off, I think it's because of the whole affair between the Cleveland and Baltimore with the Browns' move and subsequent name change, however, I might just be missing a team in there.

Either way, it's likely that a franchise that has already won a Super Bowl will be getting fitted for another set of rings come February.

Friday, January 18, 2008

AFC East...the pioneer conference

It is the history of the conference.

They are pioneers in the league. They are history setters.

The Jets were the first AFC team to beat an NFC team in the Super Bowl (they were also the first team to be named the Titans).

The Dolphins were the first team to have an undefeated season and win a championship in the NFL (twice the Bears went undefeated, but both times lost in the championship game).

The Bills remain the only team in the history of the NFL to go to four consecutive Super Bowls. The only other team to come close were the Dolphins with three consecutive Bowls in the early 1970's - the first team to go to three of the big games.

And now the Patriots are the first team in the NFL to go undefeated through a 16-0 season (not even taking into account all the other records the team set).

Yep...the history setters.

Welcome to the AFC East.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bullies and stupidity

Sometimes the governing bodies of sporting entities can be stupid, and like to enforce rules either improperly (rules in which there is no room for "interpretation," yet they still subject the rule to their own "interpretation"), or they enforce rules that don't actually exist, but one is close, so that's what they enforce.

Sure, I'm being cryptic here, but you really need to click on the links and read the stories. These are about two female athletes being screwed by the system. One being screwed due to her religion - she's Muslim, the other because she wants to play baseball, and the powers that be in Florida are telling her she can't because softball is available to her (note that her school has said that it has no problem with her playing baseball).

The issue for the girl in Florida -

Providence School is keeping the seventh-grader off the field by pointing to the state regulation, which says girls could participate on a boys interscholastic athletic team in a sport if the school does not sponsor a girls interscholastic athletic team in that sport, but girls may not participate on a boys interscholastic athletic team in a sport if the school sponsors a girls interscholastic athletic team in that sport.
The school is saying that the issue is with the Florida High School Athletic Association, about whom the school's headmaster said the following, "Since we have a softball team, the state has indicated to us that she will not be permitted to play baseball."

Of course the issue for the FHSAA is that baseball and softball are not the same sport. Different rules, different infield sizes, different names. This goes to court, the FHSAA loses. Period. And they lose because the officials at the state can't read their own rules.

Closer to home for me, in Washington DC, I don't even know where to start. It's just stupid, and local officials don't have a leg to stand on if this goes to court. Read these stories and let me know what you think - there's a lot of stupidity out there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Question and Answer: Charger stupidity

Why is Igor always the sidekick? He's got Abby Normal's brain.

Igor Olshansky (and Shawn Merriman) looks like looks to be joining the inimitabel ranks of players like former Eagle Freddie Mitchell, or current Steeler Anthony Smith. Olshansky asked reporters after the Chargers win over the Colts, "the Patriots? Who are they?" Then went on to talk trash about the Pats.

Other than run his mouth, what has Olshansky done in the league? An average of 33 tackles per year and 1.75 sacks and no forced turnovers for his first three seasons.

Like Freddie Mitchell, who ran his mouth before the Super Bowl between the Patriots and Eagles, and then did nothing, Olshansky is a first day draft pick - Mitchell was first round, Olshansky second.

Maybe it's because Olshansky is coming off a career year in his fourth year with highs in tackles (47, 33 solo), sacks (3.5), and forced turnovers for the first time in his career (one interception, 3 forced fumbles). The strongest recommendation for Olshansky is the Int and three forced fumbles. Other than that, not exactly a distinguished season.

And certainly not a distinguished career.

To put Olshansky's career into perspective - Olshansky has been listed as a starter on the Chargers Web site since his rookie year. Jarvis Green, a second day pick (4th round) has been coming off the bench for the Patriots since his. Through his first three seasons, in limited action, Green averaged 20 tackles, 2.75 sacks, and 1 pass defended per year, to go with two forced fumbles.

For my money, that means that the Chargers defensive end, one that wouldn't be able to beat out Green to play back-up on the Patriots, is talking trash.

Smooth move.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Visceral reactions

During the season I got into a few arguments on some message boards and at some blogs - particularly with Colts fans, defending the Patriots from accusations of classlessness. Honestly, I found the accusations kind of funny coming from fans of a team whose quarterback threw his offensive line under the bus after the playoff loss to the Steelers, and an owner who recently extorted over $400 million from the Indiana tax payers for a new stadium (sorry Theresa, I have to address this).

People bitch about how obnoxious we (Pats fans) are.

The truth?

We are obnoxious. But so are the fans of every other professional team out there.

The logos of our opponents create within us visceral reactions. Sometimes those reactions are uncalled for, we as fans go too far.

The Colts fans booing a 14-year old girl, winner of her division in the NFL's punt, pass, and kick competition was, indeed, a shameful moment, and Colts fans should be ashamed. It was classless and inappropriate. This was no $4 million per season wide out, or star quarterback (and yes, Phillip Rivers was just as inappropriate and classless to the Colts fans).

That said - it's not the worst I have heard. The stories of how Colts fans visiting Baltimore were treated during last season's playoffs - taking out over two decades worth of frustration over Jim Irsay's dad moving the Colts in the dead of night to Indianapolis on the fans from Indiana. It was a visceral reaction to people wearing the logo of a team that screwed their fan base. It was also inappropriate, classless and uncalled for.

When I lived in the greater Philadelphia area I wouldn't even go to Eagles games because of the horror stories I heard and read about the way the Philly fans treated small children in opposing jerseys.

The horror stories about the fans at Foxborough before the Krafts took over are legion.

There are no innocent fan bases.

But where children are involved, can we at least show a modicum of decorum?

As for Bob Kraft being classless?

The man bought the team in order to keep it in New England. He privately funded the stadium. He will have the girl who was booed in Indy last weekend on the field for the coin toss in New England, providing the girl, her parents, and two brothers tickets to the game on the team's dime. He has cultivated football in Israel, converting a life-long Giants fan. He has become the game's ambassador in China. Best of all - he was a fan first.

He was one of us.

Not to take away anything from Jeff Lurie, or Arthur Blank. But some people come to it as investors. Lurie is a Massachusetts native. Geogia Frontiere always seemed like a johnny-come-lately. Both have always tried to do right by their teams. But Bob Kraft was a season ticket holder going back almost to the great Flush (Pats fans know what I'm talking about).

And Kraft has always seemed like he tried to put the fans first. I can't say that about most owners.

So, before anyone goes off on the classlessness of the Pats and the team's fans, think about the last time your fan-base booed a 14-year old girl, or cursed out a family from out of town whose come to your home stadium, or your owner extorted money from the state's taxpayers in order to build a stadium.

We're all guilty. Get over it.

What color is the sky in his world...

In post game comments Wade Phillips said that he believed the best team lost. That might be true. However, he also said that he believed that the Cowboys outplayed the Giants.

Which begs the question...

What game was he watching?

They padded stats, but they played poorly in crunch time, and the Dallas O-line got mauled late in the game, in spite of holding the ball for 13 more minutes than the Giants. In the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys front five should have been pushing around a tired Giants D-line, they were dominated by Big Blue.

When it came time to make plays, the Giants did, the 'Boys didn't. And that should have been obvious to even Ray Charles.

By the end of the game Tony Romo wasn't stepping into his throws, but he was ducking away from the rush. He missed open receivers, he threw the ball away when he wasn't under pressure, and held it when he was.

At this point in his career Romo is not a big game quarterback. Eli Manning has two post-season wins - Romo has none.

Now, the deluded coach with his 0-4 playoff record gets to sit at home and try to figure out how his team outplayed the Giants and lost.

Somebody close to him should tell him that his team had their hats handed to them in the fourth quarter.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Weekend observations

Mister Freeze...

I love games played in the snow. I loved 'em when I played in high school. I loved 'em when I coached. I love watching them.

I have an appreciation for the difficulty that's added by playing on a slick, hard field - when the cold hurts your hands, and the idea of hitting one's opponent can become distasteful, because it inflicts as much pain on the tackler as the tackled. The game becomes a contest of wills.

That game in Green Bay was a thing of beauty. After a shaky start, putting the ball on the ground twice, undrafted free-agent running back Ryan Grant imposed his will on the Seahawks, accounting for close to half of the Pack's 408 total yards (201).

As much as Brett Favre's arm got the Pack to the game, Grant's legs were responsible for getting them through the game.

Punched in the Mouth

The Jaguars were the team that was supposed to give the Patriots fits.

Their top ranked (AFC) running game was supposed to keep Tom Brady on the sideline, and take advantage of the Patriots AARP members manning the linebacker position. They were supposed to stuff the run, take away Randy Moss and make the Patriots win with Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and Ben Watson.

Instead, Laurence Maroney became the Beast from the AFC East, rushing for more yardage (122) than the entire Jaguars team combined (80) and more combined yardage (162) than the Chargers' one-two punch of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined (129).

Even as a Pats fan, had anyone told me that Maroney would have almost as much yardage on the ground as the Jags backs had combined, I would have scoffed. Hell...combined yardage for the Pats runners v. the Jags? 207 to 129. And that was the place on offense that the Jags were supposed to have a distinct advantage.

I guess as the saying goes, on any given Sunday...

Upset Sunday...

I'm not going to dwell on the early game. The Colts played poorly on defense, struggling to beat a Chargers team that was lining up players by the end of the game that make one think more of a fourth pre-season game than of a playoff game. And the Chargers won in spite of some mind-numbingly, bone-jarringly stupid play calling on offense.

Even with the win, that game gave me no confidence that Norv Turner can bring this team a championship. The only reason they got out of Indy alive is that the Chargers defense was playing out of their collective minds down the stretch.

Texas Toast (or, The Mouths that Roared)...

Does anyone out there remember the "I love you, man," Bud Light commercials? Is it just me, or is that how Terrell Owens seemed in his postgame press conference? I can just hear Tony Romo right now..."No TO, you can't have any of my Bud go eat your popcorn."

Sincerity is not that man's forte. His defense of Tony Romo, while accurate (the Giants in the second half were beating the daylights out of Romo because the line just couldn't stop wave after wave of blue-jersied defenders), just came off as disingenuous.

And of course, the Dallas receivers just can't put their money where their exceedingly large mouths are...

Take, for instance, this tidbit from the postgame of their October match-up with the Patriots -

"If they make it to Arizona, we will see them again. Seriously, I'm not backing down from that statement," receiver Patrick Crayton said Monday, a day after a 48-27 loss to the Patriots.
Terrell Owens wasn't in the locker room Monday, but said after the game, "We'll see them down the road."

I guess they'll be in the stands?

Or how about TO's line that he'd be playing at a high level in this past Sunday's game during his interview with Deion Sanders? Four catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. During the regular season he averaged 5.4 catches per game for 90.3 yards per game. I wonder how TO defines a "high level."

Texas Toast, part II...

Well, it already appears that Roger Clemens and his handlers are backing off providing any actual denials under oath. According to reports, the Rocket and his legal team won't commit to providing congress with a deposition before the hearing, with his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, claiming that it could interfere with civil case.

The implication here is that testifying under oath to congress wouldn't, or at least, that's what Hardin would have you believe. Hardin from the AP report -
"There has been absolutely no change in Roger's willingness and indeed desire to testify under oath before Congress in a public hearing at a date of the Oversight Committee's choosing," Hardin said in a statement. "Any suggestion that he or we are having any second thoughts about that is absolutely false. All other pre-appearance issues and scheduling we will discuss privately with the committee and do not think it is appropriate to discuss those matters publicly."
A deposition is testimony, under oath (which is why it's admissible as evidence in a court case). As such, what's the issue?

According to legal experts on ESPN, and cited in other reports, a deposition would give the Committee the opportunity to investigate Clemens' defense, and to prepare specific questions in order to discredit Clemens' defense, or to formulate specific questions to ask McNamee, who appears willing to tell the Committee everything.

Hardin can spin this anyway he likes, but it's just one more chink in Clemens' so called defense.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You are what you are

Those were the words of Bill Parcells.

He was once asked about his team. The gist of the question was along the lines of "do you think your team is better than its record," or "do you feel like you got away with one?" Or some other such inquiry. His message - if your team is 8-8, then you're matter how much better you might try to make others believe you are.

The Chargers are competing for the AFC Championship.

The Patriots are 17-0 (that number sound familiar '72 'Phins?...'Cause in every math class I was ever in, 19 is greater than 17...get over it).

The Colts are officially no longer the defending Super Bowl champs - the defense of their title officially ended on the carpet at the RCA Dome, dropping Peyton Manning's home playoff record to an uninspired 4-3.

The Seahawks are not a winter weather team. The Packers are.

Soon, I'll know what the Cowboys are and what the Giants are.

As the Divisional Round is just hours from wrapping up, with match-ups getting set for next week's Conference Championship, I, as a Patriots fan, am curious to see how the injury report is going to read for the Chargers. A lot of bodies were left on the field, as the Chargers closed out the Colts without Philip Rivers or LaDanian Tomlinson lining up.

More amazing? That the Chargers won in spite of some poor offensive calls by Norv Turner. With approximately a minute and a half left on the clock, third and five, with the Colts D stacked against the run, Turner called for a run in the middle. Colts got the ball back with 90 seconds on the clock and one timeout.

Fortunately, it didn't come back to haunt the Chargers as San Diego's defense came up big - hitting Reggie Wayne so hard on third and long that it forced the Colts to burn the timeout due to an injury stoppage.