Friday, December 30, 2011

6 comments I Guess It Is Time to Discuss the Baseball Hall of Fame Again

It's that time of the year. The time of year when people wake up early to go online and see which MLB players/coaches have been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame and then yell at each other for hours over the Interwebs. It is getting more crucial this year because PED/steroid users are coming up for induction. So now the debates of "Do you let PED users into the Hall of Fame or not" begin. I think there are going to be five ways the voters will look at PED users when casting their vote.

1. PED users will be considered like all other candidates, based on their performance.

2. Proven PED users will not be considered at all, if a player is only suspected of PED use then he would have his candidacy evaluated on his performance like any other player would.

3. Suspected PED users will not be considered for the Hall of Fame at all.

4. Proven and suspected PED users will be considered based on whether the voter believes PED use led to the player's career being considered a Hall of Fame career or not.

5. Some random formulation on how to consider and differentiate suspected/proven PED user Player X versus Player Y. This is probably going to be one of those head scratching ways that many won't understand and isn't consistent from player to player.

I am not exactly sure which crowd I fall into. I can't imagine a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds in it, but I also can't imagine a Hall of Fame where guys like Rafael Palmeiro get in based on (I perceive) his PED use strengthening his statistics. It's hard to draw a hard line and say Palmeiro would not have been a Hall of Fame player without PED or steroid use. I don't have an answer unfortunately at this point. I will say I lean more towards voter way #1 than any of the others. Perhaps this makes me a steroid apologist. In fact, my order would go this way:

Way #1
Way #3

I will use Jeff Schultz's ballot as a template for this discussion, and of course I will do a little criticism of his ballot...because that's what I do. On a side note, I like Jeff Schultz and he seems to be a reasonable fellow. This isn't necessarily bad journalism, it's a Hall of Fame debate, which everyone seems to enjoy and is based on an opinion based on facts presented.

So, following are the 27 players on the ballot. Voters can select anywhere from zero to 10 players for enshrinement.

Schultz chooses 7 players for enshrinement. That's a pretty good number, if not a little bit high for this class. 10 players on a ballot chosen to make the Hall of Fame would really have to be a good class of candidates.

Some voters are really silly about this, like they won’t vote a guy in the first time because they don’t think he’s a “first ballot” Hall of Famer, but they’ll vote for him after. Seems kind of stupid to me.

I could not agree more. Voters like this deserve to have their ballot ripped out of their hand and given to a person who doesn't have a mental disability that causes them to create fake rules they believe should be used when casting a ballot for an award. A close cousin to the "I don't vote players in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot because the player isn't a 'first ballot' Hall of Famer" fake Hall of Fame rule is the "I don't vote for players as MVP if their team didn't make the playoffs" fake MVP rule.

Anyway, I’m voting for seven. (Prediction: Only Barry Larkin and Jack Morris get the required 75 percent of the vote to make it in.)

Jack Morris. My nemesis. I don't believe he is a Hall of Fame pitcher. This is my favorite way to look at Jack Morris' compared to Bert Blyleven of course. Morris is the favorite of those who use many traditional statistics, while Blyleven's induction was seen as a victory for the advanced statistics crowd. So they are sort of polar opposites in that way.

As always, those who’ve admitted or were suspected of using steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs generally are going to be rejected by voters.

I like how this is just throw in there. "As always," like this is an annual tradition that deserves no further review or justification for existing. Is it really right to keep suspected steroid users out of the Hall of Fame? Is it even right to keep admitted steroid users out of the Hall of Fame?

So with that, here are my thoughts on the candidates. And yes, I’m voting for Murphy.


Dale Murphy is my favorite Atlanta Brave of all-time. I had a goldfish who lived for 8 years named Dale Murphy and when Murphy was traded I cried like only a young child who has suddenly realized his favorite player will not always play for his favorite team would cry. I wanted to be an outfielder like Dale Murphy (dream ruined by the way. I was put at shortstop because I was...wait for the creativity in position selection by my coach...short) and I still have the newspaper clipping from when Murphy got traded. I love the guy. He's not a Hall of Fame player. Of course, I am the same guy who says John Smoltz shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, so that may ruin my credibility. Perhaps I am neutral to a fault.

Jeff Bagwell: No. He has a Hall of Fame credentials (449 homers, 1,529 RBI, .297 average, MVP).

Well then out of the Hall of Fame he goes. We don't want players with Hall of Fame credentials. We need players with borderline Hall of Fame credentials, which is why Jim Rice got in.

But he was well short of induction last year with only 41.7 percent of the vote, at least in part because he has been suspected of using PEDs.

I 99% believe Jeff Bagwell used PEDs. I don't think his Hall of Fame candidacy should be diminished because I suspect him of something that was never proven. All of the evidence I have is circumstantial and I don't believe he should be kept out based on suspicion. That being said, I don't think I have a problem with him being left out. I would probably vote Fred McGriff in first...or maybe I wouldn't even vote McGriff in.

Juan Gonzalez: No. Has been linked to steroids and HGH. He was named in the Mitchell Report, which detailed how he was found with a bag at the airport loaded syringes and steroids. Most meaningless statistic of all: his 434 homers.

Jeff Schultz takes the "no players who are linked to steroids will get his vote" (or Way #3 from above). Gonzalez hit .295/.343/.561 for his career and has 2 MVP trophies. I don't know if I would vote him in. I'm a Hall of Fame snob that way.

Sometimes I use comparable players to determine how good a player really was. What I found really interesting is Gonzalez's Top 5 comparable at Baseball-Reference are the following:

1. Albert Belle
2. Lance Berkman
3. Jason Giambi
4. Duke Snider
5. Jose Canseco

Three suspected/known steroid users, a non-Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame player. This doesn't really clear anything up, unless you didn't know Gonzalez is a borderline Hall of Famer and he probably used PEDs.

Barry Larkin: Yes. I can’t believe he didn’t get in last year (received 62.1 percent of the votes) but he’ll get in this year. A 12-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, nine-time Silver Slugger at shortstop with Cincinnati. Finished with 2,340 hits. Slam dunk.

I have this weird vendetta against Barry Larkin. That being said, I don't see how he doesn't get in the Hall of Fame this year. I have a slight feeling at least 10% of the voters didn't feel he was a "first-ballot Hall of Famer," which is a stupid way to look at Hall of Fame voting, so he will get in this year.

Edgar Martinez: No. A strong case can be made that Martinez has HOF credentials: .312, 2,247 hits, 309 HR, 1,261 RBIs.

I have made my past feelings on Martinez felt here and here. I may have changed my mind since then, though I am not completely sure. That's the advantage of not having a Hall of Fame vote, I don't have to make up my mind and can flip flop all around. I don't really care to look at Martinez as a designated hitter and I have no problem with designated hitters being in the Hall of Fame. Many of those who seem to vote for Martinez talk about how feared he was as a hitter, which is pretty much what got Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame. Martinez's overall hitting totals are incredibly impressive, but his candidacy is hurt for two reasons.

1. His career starting later.
2. He was primarily a designated hitter.

I am not sure I would vote for Edgar Martinez into the Hall of Fame, but I also won't hate it if he gets elected. The fact he was a DH feels pretty irrelevant to me. I always found it interesting Martinez seems to have avoided a lot of the PED use accusations. His best numbers were during the Steroid Era and he seems like one of those guys certain voters would be suspicious of with no proof. For a guy like Jeff Schultz who is keeping players out of the Hall of Fame based on PED suspicion, I feel like this suspicion could go for nearly every player who had great numbers through the Steroid Era.

But I don’t like the fact that for most of his career — 6,218 of 8,672 plate appearances — he was a designated hitter. DH is a half-player in my book.

This is a very narrow way to look at this. I don't see why him being a designated hitter is really relevant. Are players really kept out of the Hall of Fame because they were poor or average at fielding? I'm not sure they are. I didn't see the fielding percentage of Andre Dawson used to support his Hall of Fame candidacy. So I would base my opinion on Martinez just like I would base my opinion of nearly every other hitter in the Hall of Fame...and that's on how well they hit the baseball.

Don Mattingly: Yes. Over 2,000 hits, nine Gold Gloves, seven All-Star Games. One MVP. A great ambassador for baseball. A thousand times, yes.

I go with one time, "no." Gold Gloves won and All-Star Game appearances are both awards that are in essence popularity contests. As good of a defensive player Mattingly was, Gold Gloves were often won on reputation when he played. All-Star Game appearances is a popularity contest that holds as little value to me as possible. He has an MVP, which does hold some value in my opinion, and I don't really care if he is an ambassador.

Mattingly's career line was .307/.358/.471 with 222 home runs and 1099 RBI's. Jeff Bagwell's career line was .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs and 1529 RBI's. I can't live in a world where Jeff Bagwell, who was a pretty good hitter for 10+ years, doesn't get into the Hall of Fame because there is a suspicion he used steroids, but Don Mattingly gets in because...because...because...he was a pretty good hitter for six years and above average after that. Mattingly is out.

Fred McGriff: Yes. Even if he didn’t hit 493 home runs, I think the fact that the Atlanta-Fulton Stadium press box caught on fire the day the Braves traded for him, cementing their 1995 World Series championship, is reason enough to put him in the Hall.

I realize this is tongue-in-cheek, but when you don't defend your choices for borderline Hall of Fame players I generally assume you don't have a great defense other than he won a championship for the team in the city you currently cover as a writer.

I feel much the same about McGriff as I do Edgar Martinez. I won't hate it if he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Mark McGwire: No. He only finally admitted steroid use, not because of regret or shame but because he wanted to come back to coach and try to salvage his legacy. And by the way, I’m not sure he would’ve been a HOF player without steroids.

There is absolutely no way to know if Mark McGwire would be a Hall of Fame player without steroids. Considering McGwire was linked to steroids, Schtulz doesn't even consider McGwire, but to say McGwire may not have been a Hall of Famer without steroids is pure speculation. Trying to determine any player's true ability without steroids seems pretty complicated and speculative, so it would be hard to say Player X would be a Hall of Famer without knowing how long he used steroids and the exact effect it had on the player.

Jack Morris: Yes. He also should be in already (received 53.5 percent of the vote last year). Beat John Smoltz (barely) in the greatest pitching match-up most have ever seen (1991 World Series). Won 254 games, finished with 2,478 strikeouts, 175 complete games.

Jack Morris should not be in the Hall of Fame. The fact he won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series isn't irrelevant, but it is a pretty lazy way of advocating Morris for the Hall of Fame. I say it is lazy because it ignores Morris' overall playoff record to make it seem like he was some sort of playoff ace. His career playoff record is 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA, 5 complete games, and a 1.245 WHIP. It's pretty good, but it is also easier to focus on one game than look at his overall playoff record, which wasn't entirely great.

Morris did win 254 games. We all know how I feel about wins. So I won't even touch that topic since you can look under the tag "wins are dumb" for my encyclopedia of thoughts on wins. Morris had 2478 strikeouts, which is 32nd of all-time, and those complete games are also impressive. I chalk the strikeouts up to Morris' durability and pitching in the majors for almost 20 years. Tim Wakefield has nearly 2200 strikeouts and I am not sure he is thought of as a strikeout pitcher. So if a pitcher pitches long enough he will accumulate some strikeouts.

What is also important to know is Jack Morris never finished higher than 3rd in the Cy Young voting, so he was a good pitcher, but never had an outstanding year to where he was the best pitcher that year. Morris had a career ERA of 3.90 and never had an ERA in a single season under 3.05. Basically, I am making a case that Jack Morris was a good, durable pitcher for a long time but he was never one of the best pitchers in the majors at any given time. He was never an outstanding pitcher and I think only outstanding pitchers should be represented in the Hall of Fame. If there were a Hall of Very Good, I would vote for him.

Dale Murphy: Yes. Murphy won’t get in but I’m voting for him anyway — again. I’ve heard the arguments about him not having the career numbers

Who cares if the statistics don't back it up? It's what I want, dammit!

But when you win consecutive MVP awards, there’s an acknowledgement that you were one of the best players in the game.

I like how individual accomplishments are used to get Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame, but the fact Jack Morris never won an individual award (like the Cy Young) for season-long success is completely ignored. Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame despite the fact he was never acknowledged as one of the best players in the game. Why? Because he pitched a really good game in the World Series one time and was very durable.

And yes, he should get points for not juicing and representing the game the right way.

No, he probably shouldn't. Again, I love that Dale Murphy was a great guy, but his Hall of Fame candidacy shouldn't be improved by the fact he played the game "the right way" and was an overall good guy. As much as I like high character guys in the Hall of Fame, the whole idea of judging which players played baseball "the right way" in reference to the Steroid Era is too much of a convoluted argument to be looked at in black and white like it often is. Dale Murphy isn't good enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines: Yes. He was one of those players who always scared me. He played 23 seasons and had career averages of .294 with 57 stolen bases and 93 runs. He had six straight seasons of 70-plus steals and the 808 in his career rank fifth all time. For some reason, he has been kept out.

I'm not sure I could have written this better...except for the whole "who always scared me" part. That seems too subjective for me. Tim Raines should be in.

Lee Smith: Yes. But it’s close.

I generally think the saves statistics is overrated. Should Lee Smith get credit for being one of the first and most effective closers in modern day? Maybe. His career ERA of 3.03 is pretty good. I just don't know if he will get in.

But he led the National League in saves four times and his 478 saves rank third in history. Isn’t that worth something?

Possibly. I would most likely vote "no" for Smith. It isn't because he was a bad closer or I hate saves, I just am not sure saves should be the majority reason he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Larry Walker: No. Much like my aversion to career designate hitters (Martinez), I’m predisposed to giving the stink eye to guys who build career numbers in the thin air of Colorado. Walker hit 258 homers and batted .334 in 10 years with the Rockies. He hit 125 homers and batted .282 in eight seasons in Montreal and St. Louis.

To be fair, Walker played the prime of his career in Colorado from the ages of 28 to 36. Walker played in Montreal from the ages of 22 to 27 and with the Cardinals from the ages of 37-38. So while I can understand how the Coors Effect may factor into the decision-making, it is very difficult to ignore the idea Walker played in Colorado during the years when he should have been putting up his best career numbers. It doesn't ruin Schultz's point about Walker, I am just pointing out Walker put up the best numbers of his career in Colorado, which was also the prime of his career.

Still, I have to admit Walker's home/road splits are pretty tough to justify there wasn't some Coors Effect:

Home (3429 at-bats): .348/.431/.637 with 215 home runs.
Road (3478 at-bats): .278/.370/.495 with 168 home runs.

Bernie Williams: No. Another very good player, but that’s it. If his vote total becomes inflated, it’s because he played for the Yankees.

Much like Don Mattingly's vote total would be inflated because he played for the Yankees?

I want to play a game. Let's look at Mattingly's career totals next to Bernie Williams career totals. Just for shits and giggles.

Don Mattingly: 14 seasons, .307/.358/.471, 222 home runs, 1099 RBI's, 7721 plate appearances, 7 All-Star Games, 1 MVP, 9 Gold Gloves, 39.8 career WAR, 127 OPS+.

Bernie Williams: 16 seasons, .297/.381/.477, 287 home runs, 1069 RBI's, 9053 plate appearances, 5 All-Star Games, 4 Gold Gloves, 47.3 career WAR, 125 OPS+.

Clearly there is a difference in plate appearances but Mattingly would average 20 home runs and 100 RBI's 53 walks and 40 strikeouts if averaging his career statistics over a 162 game season, while Bernie Williams would average 22 home runs and 98 RBI's, 83 walks and 95 strikeouts over 162 games.

They seem to be somewhat similar hitters. I don't think Bernie Williams deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but Mattingly would essentially get in because of an MVP, five more Gold Gloves, and 2 more All-Star Game appearances. Winning personal awards is what helps a player's Hall of Fame candidacy, so this may make perfect sense. Bernie certainly has the advantage in team championships, but I'm not sure how much that should really count. I personally don't believe either player should be in the Hall of Fame.

Eric Young: No. Played for 15 seasons. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

No Eric Young? Then this is no Hall of Fame I ever care to set foot upon.

I have a question anyone who wants to answer. Wallace Matthews has given his readers a chance to talk him into Bernie Williams being voted into the Hall of Fame on Matthews' ballot. I have a hard time figuring out what I think about this.

On one hand, I think a more well-informed Hall of Fame ballot can't ever be a bad thing. Soliciting reader's opinions on Williams may help better flesh out his candidacy for Wallace Matthews. A reader could point out a fact or a comparison that would better put Williams' candidacy in a more positive or more negative light.

On the other hand, Wallace Matthews has a ballot for a reason. He is supposed to be smart and well-versed enough to be able to vote independently about Williams' credentials to decide if he gets elected into the Hall of Fame or not. If a voter needs the public to help him flesh out Williams' candidacy then that voter may not deserve to vote for players in the Hall of Fame. What's the point of having baseball experts vote for the Hall of Fame if they rely on non-experts to help them make a case for a player?

I wondered what everyone's position on Wallace Matthews soliciting the opinion of others on Bernie Williams was.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Sixteen

LOL, I just watched a show where Skip Bayless and Jemele Hill were debating sports. If that's not the definition of LOL I don't know what is. He's here saying Brian Dawkins was the engine of those wins, fucking Brian Dawkins! 38 year old Brian Dawkins! Has he not watched football in four years? And it's just so disingenuous. This is the Tebow guy! God I hate my life.

1 - GREEN BAY (-)
14-1, 1st NFC NORTH
W 35-21 vCHI, next vDET

Their defense, while not good, is not New England level bad, and they do generate turnovers (2 in this game, 34 this year, second in the NFL). It's their offense I'm more concerned about. Obviously it's still excellent (five passing TDs) but it hasn't looked quite as invincible the last few weeks. The 14 points against Kansas City, for much of the first half here they were mortal, the first half against Detroit, the Tampa game. Green Bay need to be almost perfect on offense to be the presumptive favourite that they have been all year, and I am not sure their offense is playing perfectly. They are still clearly #1, but they are closer to the field than they were after Week Ten.

12-3, 1st NFC SOUTH
W 45-16 vATL, next vCAR

Honestly, I think turnovers are all that keeps New Orleans out of the number one slot. They are clearly the best offensive team in the league. And really, it is all about the offensive line. Brees is great, but he has a fucking age behind Nicks and Evans. All the backs, how do you deal with everyone? Yes, the receivers aren't as good as Green Bay, but the extra offensive support is all that's stopping Brees from MVP this year for me. New Orleans had 7.1 YPC against one of the best run defenses in the NFL this year.

11-4, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 20-14 vCLE, next @CIN

Joe Flacco is getting worse and worse. Was reduced to 11/24 for 132 yards here, albeit with 2TDs and a pick. The AFC will be a question of what is better to have in the playoffs - a bad quarterback or a bad defense? That seems something of an obvious question but...

12-3, 1st AFC EAST
W 27-24 vMIA, next vBUF

It's amazing this team could be the #1 seed in the AFC with that's really, really bad.

12-3, 1st NFC WEST
W 19-17 @SEA, next @STL

The danger of San Francisco's slowpoke offense was on display in this game - they take so long to move the ball they just don't get a lot of possessions, and they don't get many points even when they move the ball because of their abysmal red zone offense. They had the ball just four times in the first half and got just three points out of it. Despite scoring on four of their last six drives, they were only just able to sneak by the Seahawks thanks to a fumble. If they turn the ball over at all in the playoffs they are toast - their margin for error is paper thin.

11-4, T-1st AFC NORTH
W 27-0 vSTL, next @CLE

Have held their opponents to single figures in four of their last five games. Conceded an impossibly low 68 yards passing in this game. It's taken them a while, but they are at least a fringe contender.

7 - HOUSTON (-2)
10-5, 1st AFC SOUTH
L 16-19 @IND, next vTEN

Well, if you're looking for the reason why they lost this game, look at the second half defense. Indy ran 38 plays in the second half for 204 yards. I feel for Houston without so many of their best players but there's just not enough offense here to rely on a good but not great defense, particulary in the pass rush. It does seem like they are first round fodder.

8 - DETROIT (+2)
10-5, 2nd NFC NORTH
W 38-10 vSD, next @GB

Matt Stafford (29/36 ! for 373 yards and three touchdowns) is on fucking fire of late. He has thrown for 9 TDs and no INTs in his last three matches, with 991 yards of passing. He's completed 69% or more of his passes in six of his last eight games, and with Calvin (4 catches for 102 yards and a TD) looking back to himself and Detroit putting together a rare complete game, they are an intriguing proposition in a stacked NFC.

9 - ATLANTA (-1)
9-6, 2nd NFC SOUTH
L 16-45 @NO, next vTB

A good, solid NFL team that has negative 20% chance of winning the NFC. That fact was exposed Monday night. Appeared to have regressed since their last meeting against New Orleans, but then again, that was in Georgia. They are 4-4 on the road this year where they will be playing all their playoff games.

10 - GIANTS (+2)
8-7, T-1st NFC EAST
W 29-14 @NYJ, next vDAL

Got away with one here, as the NFC East took yet another sharp turn to the left in its turbulent recent history. Didn't particulary play well, Manning completed just 33% of his throws (9/27 for 225 yards, that included a quick out to Victor Cruz who broke two tackles to take it 99 yards) but unlike previous trysts, that was not a death sentence to them. Exchanged 18 punts in total with the Jets in a game that was frequently difficult to watch. Will need to play better next week against the Cowboys to win the division.

11 - DALLAS (-1)
8-7, T-1st NFC EAST
L 7-20 vPHI, next @NYG

These teams in the NFC East seem to hate success. Both the Giants and Cowboys could have put this division to bed, but all the better for us as we have a pure elimination game to end the season. This will be fucking cool. Both of these teams are very flawed, as basically everyone knows, but after watching them play fifteen games, I feel the Giants are a much better team, who have dealt with a far more challenging schedule. Doesn't mean they will win, but a banged up Romo (again) doesn't help Dallas' chances.

12 - JETS (-3)
8-7, 2nd AFC EAST
L 14-29 vNYG, next @MIA

The Jets ran 89 offensive plays in this game. 89! No shit! Their 331 yards doesn't look nearly as impressive in that light (3.72 yards per play) and was actually less than the Giants had (by a symbolic single yard). They actually had a decent game rushing (105 yards on 25 carries) so the finger of accusation will again be pointed at Sanchez (30/59 for just 226 yards, two TDs, one rushing and two picks). From what I saw, it should be directed instead at the receivers. I know they have the names and reputations of being good, but Holmes and Burress (who I have defended on this blog before and generally a big fan) both were terrible, dropping passes left and right and doing their QB no favours. I found myself asking for someone, anyone, to make a play receiving the ball, this was not all on Sanchez. Their lack of playmaking at receiver may cost them a playoff spot. They need both Oakland, Tennessee and Cincinnati to lose next week, and they obviously need to win themselves. Doesn't seem likely.

13 - CINCINNATI (+4)
9-6, 3rd AFC NORTH
W 23-16 vARI, next vBAL

Cincy have shown that you can make the playoffs in the AFC simply by not losing games you have no business losing. They have beaten Cleveland (twice), Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Arizona for seven of their nine wins. The other two are hardly major scalps either in Seattle and Tennessee. They have lost in every test of their being anything more than an average team - Houston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh twice and Baltimore. If they can prove they are something more than what they have seemed over sixteen weeks and beat Baltimore, they will have earned their playoff position.

14 - SEATTLE (+1)
7-8, T-2nd NFC WEST
L 17-19 vSF, next @ARI

Special teams continues to be a strength for this team, with a key blocked punt nearly powering an upset victory. Marshawn Lynch not only continued his revival with 107 yards on 21 carries, but also broke San Francisco's season long shutout on rushing touchdowns.

15 - OAKLAND (+8)
8-7, T-1st AFC WEST
W 16-13 (OT) @KC, next vSD

I will say this about the Raiders, they know who they are. Palmer (16/26 for 237 yards, a TD and 2 picks) completed passes of 61 and 53 yards, the former leading to their only TD of the game. They have speed outside and live or die by it, as their running game (2.8 YPC against the Chiefs) is a shadow of its former self without McFadden.

16 - DENVER (-2)
8-7, T-1st AFC WEST
L 14-40 @BUF, next vKC

Say what you want, but Tim Tebow just wins games in the fourth quarter. With the game in the balance at 23-14 in the fourth, Tebow (7/17 104 yards with two interceptions) stepped up and drove Buffalo to victory.

17 - SAN DIEGO (-4)
7-8, 3rd AFC WEST
L 10-38 @DET, next @OAK


18 - TENNESSEE (-)
8-7, 2nd AFC SOUTH
W 23-17 vJAX, next @HOU

Where did this Jared Cook come from? He has 17 receptions for 272 yards in his last two games. Tennessee's ability to remain competitive in the passing game without Kenny Britt has really been one of the more surprising things about this season.

19 - CAROLINA (+1)
6-9, 3rd NFC SOUTH
W 48-16 vTB, next @NO

The only rookie quarterbacks I could find with a higher passer rating than Newton (85.0) were Roethlisberger, Marino and Ryan. And none, quite obviously, rushed for nearly 700 yards and 14 (yes, fourteen) touchdowns. Just sayin'.

7-8, 3rd NFC EAST
W 20-7 @DAL, next vWAS

A healthy Mike Vick (18/32 for 293 yards and a TD) might have been enough this year, but it's not like injuries to him were unforeseeable five months ago. This defense did what it promised to do - get the the quarterback (49 sacks, tops in the NFL). Sure the run defense (18th) was below average and even the general pass defense wasn't that good, but the idea was big plays on both sides of the ball. The defense did their bit, and even their yardage numbers are skewed by how often they were put on the field by turnovers. Philadelphia's 36 was worst in the league and that and Vick's spotty health are the true culprits for this most dissapointing season.

21 - ARIZONA (-5)
7-8, T-2nd NFC WEST
L 16-23 @CIN, next vSEA

The John Skelton experience finally ran out of steam. Arizona were beaten by a bigger margin than the score suggests; Cincinnati scored the first 23 points straight and the Cardinals did not get on the board until the fourth quarter. Their offensive line allowed five sacks and fifteen total hits in all.

22 - WASHINGTON (-3)
5-10, 4th NFC EAST
L 26-33 vMIN, next @PHI

Quite an entertaining game of football, considering the quality of the two teams. Let's just be glad the John Beck era is behind us, as Grossman (26/41 for 284 yards and 2TDs, 1INT) has proven this year that he is probably the bare minimum standard of quarterbacking to even give the illusion of running a real offense. Brandon Banks leads the league in kicking return yards.

23 - MIAMI (-1)
5-10, 4th AFC EAST
L 24-27 @NE, next vNYJ

Held the Patriots offense to 0 points, 4 first downs and 102 yards in the first half. They were unable to maintain the intensity as the Patriots piled on 298 second half yards, 50 plays and an unbelievable 22 first downs. The Patriots scored on every second half possession until the end of the game.

24 - BUFFALO (+3)
6-9, 3rd AFC EAST
W 40-14 vDEN, next @NE

C.J. Spiller (111 yards on just 16 carries) is having a strong run at the end of the season. I'm not sure I believe in the Jackson hype, but if he can run with anything like the strength he showed at the start of this season, the Bills will have a two headed monster at running back. God knows they won't have a quarterback (Fitzpatrick 15/27 for 196 yards, no TDs). Seeing Buffalo come up with four picks made me nostalgic for those September days when they were intecepting anyone who dared have the temerity to throw. Buffalo also enjoyed a banner day on special teams, McKelvin returned a punt for a TD and two others for a combined 55 yards. They averaged 33.7 yards on kick returns and Brian Moorman averaged over 50 yards a punt.

25 - KANSAS CITY(-1)
6-9, 4th AFC WEST
L 13-16 (OT) vOAK, next @DEN

In a game spotted by 21 penalties and incredibly, not a single sack, Kyle Orton looked much more human (21/36 for 300 yards a TD and two interceptions) than last week. Even solid rushing support (over fifty yards each from Jones and Battle at over 4YPC) was not enough to generate the necessary offense.

26 - MINNESOTA (+2)
3-12, 4th NFC NORTH
W 33-26 @WAS, next vCHI

This is pretty amazing; Minnesota had 241 rushing yards on 38 attempts, not surprising in itself, but it's fucking incredible when you consider Adrian Peterson was the weak link, accruing just 38 on 12 carries. He then missed the rest of the game (ACL) and is doubtful for the start of next season. Minnesota have a potentially fascinating decision to make early next year. While I have defended Ponder and he is likely to keep the job, a Joe Webb (4/5 for 84 yards and 2TDs, 5 rushes for 34 yards) offense could be an enthralling experiment. Could they even try a platoon long term next year?

27 - CHICAGO (-2)
7-8, 3rd NFC NORTH
L 21-35 @GB, next @MIN

McCown (19/28 for 242 yards, a late touchdown and two interceptions) was better than Hanie, but only just. The receivers still can't get seperation consistently. That's priority number one for the Bears this offseason, now that their offensive line problems are more or less behind them. The Bears conceded no sacks and only two hits against a ferocious pass rushing team. They have shut a few teams out sack wise this year and are up to below average and getting better. Get Forte and Cutler back, add a decent receiver (I'm still confused by the Olsen trade) and this is a playoff team.

4-11, 3rd AFC SOUTH
L 17-23 @TEN, next vIND

Blaine Gabbert (21/42 for 198 yards and a pick) threw for 20 completions for just the second time this year. Think about that. Also, his one defense, that he didn't throw interceptions, no longer applies, he has thrown at least one in each of his last five starts.

29 - CLEVELAND (-)
4-11, 4th AFC NORTH
L 14-20 @BAL, next vPIT

Still Cleveland.

30 - TAMPA BAY (-)
4-11, 4th NFC SOUTH
L 16-48 @CAR, next @ATL

Tampa have conceded 31 points or more in six of their last seven contests. They have 24 turnovers in those games. If that was the total for the entire year, it would rank 11th highest in the NFL.

2-13, 4th AFC SOUTH
W 19-16 vHOU, next @JAX

I have been doing my homework on draft order tiebreakers, and the bad news for the Colts is that they have had a harder schedule than the Rams (even when factoring in the Rams have the Niners next week and the Colts just the Jaguars). Again, this may be a blessing in disguise (as is Barkley's staying in school), as they may not waste a pick on a player who plays the same position as the greatest player ever at the position, who is also on the roster.

32 - ST. LOUIS (-1)
2-13, 4th NFC WEST
L 0-27 @PIT, next vSF

What are they going to do with the first pick?

Monday, December 26, 2011

9 comments 2011-2012 NBA Preview

I enjoy making predictions and I enjoy looking back and seeing how wrong/right I was about my predictions. So I figured I would go ahead and do an NBA Preview for the upcoming NBA season. I will make my predictions for the Eastern and Western Conference and then make my prediction for the playoffs and the winner of the NBA Finals. I have to say, I am pretty pumped for the beginning of the NBA season. I am actually happy it is a shortened season since I think the NBA and MLB seasons are probably too long as it is. I realize most NBA fans probably don't feel this way. I'll start first with the Eastern Conference teams. Hopefully I will remember to give each team a record based on 66 games and not 82 games.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

What concerns me most about the Celtics is they are an aging team with a mediocre or average bench. The Celtics' nucleus is 34, 35, 36, and 25 years old. Naturally, the Celtics were looking to trade the 25 year old (Rondo) this offseason. The shortened season will help the Celtics, but they have the same problems now they had before the season began. Lack of big man depth and a need for bench scoring. When Jermaine O'Neal gets hurt again, the Celtics will use Chris Wilcox or Kevin Garnett as their center. That's scary to me. Jeff Green was a huge loss, simply because he could score off the bench. I really like JuJuan Johnson, but I don't know if he is the big guy off the bench the Celtics need. This will be a good team, but I can't help but wonder how much Garnett, Pierce, and Allen will get rested and what this will mean for the Celtics' record.

Record: 37-29

New Jersey Nets

I'm assuming the Nets don't land Dwight Howard. Think the Magic were a bit nervous after reading how Brook Lopez admits he was a lazy rebounder last year? This is the centerpiece for Howard (outside of draft picks)? A guy who says basically, "Fuck it. My teammate seems to be rebounding well, I'll let him take care of it." I may be overreacting a bit, but should this be concerning? Of course, as I write this Brook Lopez is out for six weeks with a foot injury. The Nets have four guys with the last name "Williams" on the roster. I found that interesting. I like MarShon Brooks a lot. He and Anthony Morrow will at least give Deron Williams some wing players to pass the ball to who can score. I'm not real optimistic about the current nature of the roster. This Nets season is going to be judged mostly on what the Nets roster ends up looking like, not what it looks like now.

Record (with the current roster): 28-38

New York Knicks

I like the addition of Tyson Chandler a lot. Mostly because it allows Amar'e Stoudemire to focus more on his strengths...which isn't defending opposing centers. What the Knicks need the most is quality role players around Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler. The loss of Billups will hurt, but the Knicks have scorers like Toney Douglas and Landry Fields that can make up backcourt scoring. Other than that, there is a reason the Knicks want Chris Paul or Deron Williams. The Knicks may not win the NBA title this year, but they have improved since last year. Regardles, barring a Stoudemire/Anthony/Chandler injury, this is a Knicks team that will be a dangerous out in the playoffs. If they defend well, they could even make the NBA Finals.

Record: 44-22

Philadelphia 76ers

This is clearly a team on the upswing with a coach that seems to have a ton of energy. Doug Collins seems like the perfect coach to get a young team to play together. Then, once the team ages a little bit, his energy probably doesn't go over as well. Jrue Holiday will probably take another step forward this year and force people to consider him one of the more elite point guards in the NBA. That's the hope at least. They still need a quality big man and either Hawes, Speights or Vucevic has to be competent enough to cover the center spot, right? Let's call them Haeightsevic. Haeightsevic, it sounds like a Bosnian warlord. I like the 76ers this year, mostly because they seem to have two guys looking to take another step forward (Turner, Holiday) and a roster with talent which has a coach that can mold that talent. Hopefully, other players (cough, Thaddeus Young) won't take a step back and the center position gets covered someway, somehow.

Record: 38-28

Toronto Raptors

I'm not sure how to feel about a team whose top draft pick is playing overseas this year. It's not the Raptors fault Valanciunas isn't going to play in America or Canada, but this has to suck for them. Any playoff success for the Raptors this season is dependent upon Ed Davis' increased production and the rest of the NBA teams disbanding completely. Of course if Ed Davis increases his production then he will be taking minutes away from the overpaid Amir Johnson. It's like a Catch 22. Do the Raptors want Ed Davis to take away an overpaid player's minutes or do they want to prove Amir Johnson isn't overpaid? The point of drafting Valanciunas was to put Bargnani at power forward, so he is still stuck at a bad position for him and this team just isn't good enough to compete in a tough division. The good news is the Raptors should have an inside track to the #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, which doesn't seem to contain any foreign-born players. Anthony Davis should start doing research on Toronto fairly soon.

Record: 17-49

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Maybe this year the Bulls won't force Derrick Rose to do everything on the court. The Bulls needed a shooting guard and they ended up with Rip Hamilton. If this were 2005, I would probably be more excited about this development. He will help the Bulls score points, but the rest of the roster doesn't seem upgraded to me. They aren't going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference this year. Boozer got outperformed in the playoffs by his backup, who really isn't anything other than above average at very best. As good as the Bulls team looked last year, they seem to have really good, but not great, pieces around Derrick Rose. They should look good in the regular season, but unless they find a way to give Derrick Rose an actual #2 scoring option, they won't make the NBA Finals. This is a team that I believe needs to make a trade to compete with the Knicks and Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Record: 40-26

Indiana Pacers

You may ask me why I can go negative on the Bulls, but say positive things about the Pacers, when the Pacers probably need another shooting guard. I just can. I really like the Pacers starting five if David West rebounds from his ACL surgery. The Pacers have a legit center, bench scoring, and a quality starting five. Remember they gave the Bulls fits in the first round last year and the Pacers have improved. They are my sleeper team for this year because they have great bench depth with Hansbrough, Hill, and Jones, plus the starting five. Did you know Paul George grew two inches during the lockout? He's 6'10" now! He is already 6'8" and gets two more inches? That's not fair. I wish I had two more inches of height. I think David West bounces back from his injury and George Hill was a great addition. I believe they will win the Central Division, in fact.

Record: 41-25

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were a terrible scoring team last year. The worst. I did like their draft in getting Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, but I'm not sure these guys are ready to make a difference this year. Those two guys project as role players on a good team and the Bucks aren't necessarily a good team. The Bucks have a quandary with Brandon Jennings. They need scoring, which Jennings can do, but they also need Jennings to distribute the ball more effectively. For the Bucks to succeed, Jennings needs to score, but distributing the ball better will also help the Bucks succeed. This Bucks team has all the makings of the 10th best team in the Eastern Conference. They play defense well enough to beat bad teams, but can't score enough to beat the good teams.

Record: 29-37

Detroit Pistons

There are teams who know how to rebuild on the fly. One of those teams is not the Detroit Pistons. While I have a massive man-crush on Brandon Knight, I feel like the Pistons already had him on the roster in the form of Rodney Stuckey. Add Will Bynum to the mix and the Pistons are collecting combo guards. I have no idea why they re-signed Tayshaun Prince. To me, that was spending money that could have gone other places on the roster for players that would make a bigger difference in the future than Prince will make. What's even better about that Prince signing is the Pistons overpaid for Charlie Villanueva just a couple summers ago. So the Pistons signed Prince to a contract that not only helped to block a young player, but they also took minutes away from another overpaid free signing they made. Brilliant personnel move. Lawrence Frank will have his hands full trying to prevent the Pistons combo guards from taking shots, when the ball should be going to Greg Monroe or Jonas Jerebko, which is where the ball should be going. I am not a huge fan of Austin Daye, but I thought the Pistons would be better off not paying another veteran big money and seeing what Daye can do with consistent minutes.

Record: 24-42

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are in complete rebuilding mode. I credit them for taking the chance to rebuild, cut away the fat (literally and figuratively when talking about Baron Davis...speaking of which, how well did that Clippers trade work out for the Cavs? They got cap space and the #1 overall pick), and try to form a nucleus around young players. The best thing the Cavs can do is make trades to give Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Omar Casspi more quality players around them in the future. The Cavs need draft picks and cap space. The Cavs will be bad, maybe not as bad as last year, but their season will depend on further steps in the right direction on the personnel side, as well as what progress happens on the court. As much as I have knocked LeBron James for his "Decision," the Cavs team last year was pretty much the team they put around James to win an NBA title. So his decision to leave should not have been that shocking had we known then what we now know.

Record: 13-53

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

I feel like I should give them extra credit for having Magnum Rolle on their roster, but I probably shouldn't do that. It's a great name. It's almost like his parents named him after what they didn't have on their person immediately before he was conceived. Traditionally I am not a huge Hawks fan. They are always above average, but never seem to make that move that moves them up in the Eastern Conference pecking order. The Hawks lost Jamal Crawford and added Tracy McGrady, who has played 80 games in a Can you believe McGrady is only 32 years old? Either way, I think the Eastern Conference is improved. The Hawks are relying on Jeff Teague to run the offense while Hinrich is out. He played well in the playoffs last year, so I will be interested to see how he looks over a full season. I don't know if the Hawks are a bad team, they just haven't improved while other teams in their division have improved.

Record: 37-29

Miami Heat

I see no reason why the Heat won't return to the NBA Finals. If Chris Bosh can continue to accept his position as the third best player on the team and Eddy Curry continues his dominance (just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention) this is a Finals team. I'm personally not happy with Shane Battier that he joined the Heat. I thought he was better than that. He will provide leadership (whatever that is worth), as well as a competent backup at a few positions. Great get for the Heat. Juwan Howard resigned with the Heat in his second attempt to ride Wade/James/Bosh's coattails to an NBA ring. I wish him luck and can't wait to see him talk shit to opposing players as he sits his ass on the bench doing nothing. Hopefully Miami will have a healthy Mike Miller this year and they do have a better bench compared to last year. Less drama and more talent equals more success.

Record: 54-12

Orlando Magic

This is another team whose season will depend upon any trade made or not made. I'm betting Howard is gone, but until he is gone, I will assume the Magic have him on their roster. Glen "Big Baby" Davis feels free now that he isn't shackled behind Kevin Garnett, so that probably means nothing. He is a quality backup and I think more minutes than 30 per game will expose him for what he can't do. This is still a very good Magic team and I see them making the playoffs with their current makeup. Their success will depend on how well they play defense and hit three point shots. They still have good three point shooters and don't really seem like a much different team from last year. Perhaps that's why Howard wants to leave so badly.

Record: 46-20

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are much like the Cavs in that they are full committed to rebuilding. I really liked their draft and think Vesely will at least provide for a few highlight plays with Wall throwing him the ball. Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton were good draft picks as role players. They won't be stars, but hopefully they will both get minutes this year. I like the direction the Wizards are heading and they could very well surprise us a little bit. As much as I like Kirk Hinrich, I thought the Wizards stole Jordan Crawford from the Hawks. The Wizards are young and talented, but I think they are a year away from making any significant noise. For this year, being exciting to watch should be enough for the time being.

Record: 30-36

Charlotte Bobcats

I don't like the Bismack Biyombo pick still. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it is the fact he was drafted based nearly entirely on potential. Those types of picks always scare me a bit. Corey Maggette should provide scoring, but I get the feeling the Bobcats are relying on a breakout year from Tyrus Thomas. They will probably keep waiting. This is a team that has very little size, no go-to scorer outside of Maggette and Kemba Walker and they look like an expansion team to me for some reason.

Record: 20-46

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (Yes, I know these are the same teams from last year. What can I say? I don't think much has changed in the Eastern Conference.):

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:

Miami over Atlanta
New York over Boston
Indiana over Philly
Chicago over Orlando

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Miami over Chicago
Indiana over New York

Eastern Conference Finals:

Miami over Indiana

Now for the Western Conference...

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder

On paper, I absolutely adore the Thunder. In reality, I do too. They haven't added much to the roster, but they probably didn't need to. Kendrick Perkins should be healed up by the time the season starts and even though he probably won't get much playing time I thought Reggie Jackson was a great pick for the Thunder. He'll never play this year and probably ended up packaged for a 2nd round pick by midseason, but I like his game. The Thunder's year will depend on how well Perkins is able to recover from his injury and if James Harden takes another step forward. For me, Harden is the perfect #3 scorer on a great team. He can score when he needs to, but doesn't require the ball at all times so as to keep the ball out of the #1 and #2 scorer's hands. Another issue I am interested to see is how the relationship between Westbrook and Durant develops since there seemed to be some issues as to how would take the last shot last year. Otherwise, the Thunder are in great shape.

Record: 50-16

Portland Trailblazers

I really like the addition of Jamal Crawford and it would be incredibly helpful if Greg Oden could stay healthy. If the Blazers big men can stay healthy they will on track for the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, even if people do know his name now, and Gerald Wallace will have a chance to make an impact for the entire season. If injuries hold this team back, it would be a shame because they are talented. I would say the Blazers are going to miss Brandon Roy, but they have been playing without him for a while now. I just wish Greg Oden could stay healthy.

Record: 43-23

Denver Nuggets

I don't know why, but the idea of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith being stuck in China amuses me for some reason. This would make for a good reality television show. Actually "good" has a whole new meaning when talking about reality television. It wouldn't actually be good, but I think people would watch it. Somewhere we've lost the difference between a "good" show and a show that gets high ratings. Either way, the Nuggets will miss them, but maybe not as much as originally thought since they re-signed Nene and traded for Rudy Fernandez. Even when Martin comes back from China in March, I can see some of his minutes not being immediately available. I like the addition of Andre Miller, but I hope he doesn't take too many minutes away from Ty Lawson, who I think could have a full-on breakout year in 2011-2012. I still like Faried, even if he isn't much better than just a guy who can come in the game and rebound like crazy. There's a place for guys like that. This will be a good Nuggets team, but I don't see them earning more than a 6th seed in the West.

Record: 39-27

Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves have nowhere to go but up, so I see them going up a little bit this year. They will at least be fun to watch. I have no idea why they signed J.J. Barea. Not a clue. It's not that Barea isn't a decent player, but I thought the point guard position was held down by Rubio and Ridnour. I don't like a team that is rebuilding to sign veterans to play in front of potential franchise cornerstones like Rubio. The T-Wolves have collected enigmas for the past few seasons and outside of Kevin Love it seems like they are counting on Derrick Williams and their enigmas (Beasley, Milicic, Randolph) to hold down the frontcourt. This team will improve if their GM can just get the hell out of the way and not do anything stupid. This is something David Khan has proven time and again he isn't capable of.

Record: 19-47

Utah Jazz

I enjoyed the Jazz's draft. I thought Enes Kanter is the kind of player they should take a chance on and Alec Burks can score, which is something the Jazz will need. Will they be stars? Probably not, but they can contribute to the team if given a chance. I'll be interested to see if Derrick Favors steps up and becomes a complement to Al Jefferson. I doubt it will happen since Favors seems to not enjoy the spotlight and has a history of his hype exceeding his production. I hope he proves me wrong because he should get more minutes than Paul Millsap based simply on talent. This is a rebuilding Jazz team that got stuck in a bad situation last year when Deron Williams indicated he wasn't re-signing with them. How each player performs this year decides which of these players will be a part of the rebuilding effort and which ones will be used to find different parts for the rebuilding. I'm excited to see how this team does. I am predicting it will be a mess.

Record: 25-41

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

I'm assuming they won't land Dwight Howard. This statement may seem obvious, but the Lakers are really going to miss Lamar Odom. He gave them versatility that is difficult to find. That being said, Josh McRoberts was a good addition. He can play center and power forward. He's like a poor man's poor man Lamar Odom. Still, this is a Lakers team with injury issues and miles on their best player's tires. Bryant is getting older, Fisher is old, Bynum is injury-prone, Gasol is probably insulted by the Lakers attempts to trade him (I have no idea how he'll react or if he will react to the failed trade) and Ron Artest is still insane. I'm not quite on the "Lakers won't make the playoffs" bandwagon yet, but if Bynum gets injured and Gasol continues to be insulted then this may be a tough year. To make matters worse, the Lakers have a new coach and a new system. If Mike Brown felt LeBron James tried to undermine him, he probably won't enjoy Kobe Bryant desperately trying to win another championship and subconsciously comparing everything Mike Brown does to how Phil Jackson would have done it. It looks like at this point trying to rebuild the team with a new superstar through trade may have backfired, at least in the short term. Still, the Lakers are going to try to find a way to add another superstar in the long term.

Record: 40-26

Los Angeles Clippers

I'm not sure if you have heard, but Chris Paul got traded for the Clippers now. This story may have eluded you, but I just wanted you to be aware. I like the trade for Paul and it will make the Clippers much more fun to watch and also makes them a better team. The Clippers are going to miss Eric Gordon because he was their best outside shooting threat. The Clippers probably overpaid for Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan, but they had no choice in regard to Jordan since even with him on the roster they probably need a bit more height. Having traded Chris Kaman they needed a big man in the middle. The Clippers remind me of a more explosive Chicago Bulls in that they need an upgrade at shooting guard, but at least they are relevant now for something other than Blake Griffin's dunks and Donald Sterlings overt racism.

Record: 45-21

Phoenix Suns

So what's the plan? To use a Bill Simmons-type analogy, the Suns are like a Saturday night where you are having a few beers in preparation for a great night out, but haven't taken a shower in order to go out to the bars. You staying in or going out? Are the Suns rebuilding or trying to squeak another year of contention out of Nash? Well both, actually. I call this plan "failure," because that's what I predict it will be. The Suns aren't good enough to compete for the playoffs, but they also aren't going younger in an effort to rebuild. Steve Nash deserves better than this. He deserves better than to be surrounding with a supporting cast of borderline starters and quality bench players. At least they have a quality center in Marcin Gortat, but this is a team that isn't sure which direction it wants to go and it just isn't fair to run a team this way.

Record: 29-37

Golden State Warriors

The "new" Warriors are like the old Warriors. Cue "Won't Get Fooled Again" on the loudspeakers before every game. The Warriors drafted Klay Thompson because for some reason they believe they need more scoring and need guys who like to shoot. I would really like the Warriors if they could find a way to combine David Lee and Epke Udoh into one person. I'm still not sure why the Warriors took a defensive specialist who can't find the basket so early in the 2010 NBA Draft, but this is a team that drafted another defensive-challenged scorer in the 2011 NBA Draft. So for me, when guessing what the Warriors would do, it is probably the opposite of what I would do. The best thing for the Warriors is to play their younger big men (i.e. I mean "anyone but Kwame Brown) to see if any of them can play the center position with any toughness. I have my money on Udoh. Let's see if he can prove me wrong when saying he can't find the basket.

Record: 25-41

Sacramento Kings

I am tempted to predict the Kings will go 66-0. After all, they have Jimmer Fredette on the roster. Maybe Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins won't mind if Jimmer shoots 20 times per game. I really like the J.J. Hickson trade and perhaps I just don't understand why the Cavs gave up on him, even if they got Casspi in return. Hickson seems like a guy who would be helpful in the Cavs rebuilding effort. I can't decide if the Kings are on the right track or have good players that won't win games together. Cousins, Hayes, Hickson and Jason Thompson as the backup is a pretty good frontline, as if Evans, Thornton, and Fredette. It may sound silly, but that's a lot of talent, but also a lot of guys who want to prove what kind of statistics they can put up. I question how well the team will gel. The Kings will be interesting, but if only interesting won more games.

Record: 32-34

Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs

Much like the Celtics, the Spurs have an older core of players they rely upon. I feel differently about the Spurs than I do the Celtics though. I think the Spurs have younger players they can use to take minutes off the legs of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. James Anderson (who I didn't like coming out of Oklahoma State and I may end up being wrong about him), Tiago Splitter, and T.J. Ford will be able to effectively limit some of the minutes Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have to play. I liked Splitter when the Spurs drafted him 20 years ago (or it seems like that) and if Richard Jefferson ever figures out how to be a quality scorer again then it will allow Kawhi Leonard to work his way into the Spurs offense. I think the Spurs have one more year left in them. What bails them out this year is they have put a good team around Duncan, Ginobili, Parker that won't be terrible on the court when giving those three guys a rest.

Record: 48-18

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks never had a problem scoring and it was defense that led them to the NBA Title last year. It hurts to lose Tyson Chandler and I don't believe Brendan Haywood will be able to provide the defense Chandler was able to provide. I'm afraid the Mavericks are back to being that really good team that can't win a tough playoff series. Of course, I predicted they would lose the Blazers in the first round and they ended up winning the NBA Title. So what do I know? I am also concerned about the post-NBA Title/lockout celebrating the Mavs have been doing. It sounds stupid, but Dirk admits he isn't in playing shape quite yet, so I can't help but wonder if he is the only Maverick not in playing shape quite yet. Lamar Odom was a great addition for a relatively cheap price, but this isn't a NBA Finals-type team without a better defensive center. Plus, the Mavericks now have Vince Carter on the roster, so that's pretty much the kiss of death in my mind.

Record: 44-22

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are the "it" team this year because of their run last year in the NBA playoffs. I don't know if I really trust Mike Conley Jr. to be the starting point guard he needs to be. Maybe last year was his breakout year and I am wrong. He is only 24 years old after all. Otherwise, some people may not realize it, but Marc Gasol actually took a step back last year from his 09-10 season. He really stepped it up in the playoffs, so perhaps that bodes well. I worry a bit about the bench, especially with Darrell Arthur out. I feel like Zach Randolph will need to step it up if the Grizzlies will succeed since they don't have as much height as I wish they had. I think they are a playoff team, but I still don't know if I trust them. How's that for hedging?

Record: 38-28

Houston Rockets

I feel bad for the Rockets. They were trying to long-term plan what the team would look like and David Stern stepped in and stopped the Paul trade, not allowing them to get Pau Gasol from the Lakers and clearing some cap space. Who really cares if the NBA prevents NBA teams from executing a long-term plan? No big deal, right? I hate Hasheem Thabust and Jordan Hill is only a step above Thabust. So the Rockets have no center. When I said the Mavericks needed a better defensive center and the Grizzlies had height issues, I meant that, but the Rockets are in worse shape. They no one I would trust to play center for more than 20 minutes per game. Luis Scola is better off at power forward. So I think the Rockets will have a much better chance once they surround their scorers with an actual center. I'm not sure Samuel Dalembert counts either, but he is a start.

Record: 30-36

New Orleans Hornets

I don't believe the Hornets will be as bad as anticipated. I still don't believe they will make the playoffs. I would have the Hornets in the playoffs if the Lakers-Rockets-Hornets trade went down, but I'm not confident enough at this point to predict a playoff spot for them. I can't figure out, outside of Eric Gordon, where points are going to come from on this team. When Trevor Ariza is the #2 scorer on your team, that's not a good sign. I like the height this team has and I like that Al-Farouq Aminu may get minutes to determine if he sucks or not. I just don't know how they will score, but at least it seems like they are on the right track. This season is all about deciding which players will be keepers and which will be moved to clear cap space for the future.

Record: 32-34

Playoff teams: Oklahoma City, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis.

Western Conference Quarterfinals:

Oklahoma City over Memphis
San Antonio over Denver
Los Angeles Clippers over Los Angeles Lakers
Portland over Dallas

Western Conference Semifinals:

Oklahoma City over Portland
San Antonio over Los Angeles Clippers

Western Conference Finals:

Oklahoma City over San Antonio

NBA Finals:

Miami Heat over Oklahoma City

It's boring, I know. It is also how I feel. Feel free to call me stupid in the comments.

Friday, December 23, 2011

8 comments TMQ: Not a Merry Christmas to Gregg Easterbrook's Readers

Before I get to TMQ this week, I wanted to give a brief plug for a new blog that is up and running. It is called Suite Sports. Two years ago I had an idea about a blog which basically connected a group of blogs together into one site. I never acted on this idea because I am lazy and wasn't sure how to effectively execute the idea, but Suite Sports is sort of that set-up and I think it is a great idea. I don't normally pimp too much stuff I get emailed about pimping, but I thought this site had promise and wanted to give it a shout-out. Now I will proceed to ruin Christmas with a review of this week's TMQ.

Last week in TMQ, as he is want to do, Gregg Easterbrook talked about Broncos QB and poorly dissected why he is a successful NFL quarterback. Also, Gregg explained (yet again) the key to the Packers' success is the five tight ends on the roster. This week Gregg points out the drawback to having five tight ends on the roster. Though, in typical Easterbrook fashion, he isn't aware he is pointing out a drawback. Not only should the Packers keep five tight ends on the roster to ensure success, but they also need more defensive linemen in order to be successful in the future. I am guessing Gregg isn't aware their is a roster limit in the NFL. What's weird about Gregg criticizing the Packers defense is Gregg has stated several times before part of the Packers' strength on defense is their "Times Square defense" where the offensive line doesn't know where the defenders are coming from. More defensive linemen on the roster would potentially cut down on the effectiveness of this defense since defensive linemen traditionally aren't the most mobile of defenders. Regardless, let's get to some contradictions and horseshit excuses for why Gregg is wrong.

The question has been out there for generations: Why would anyone want a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas?

No one cares. Why would anyone want to read TMQ on a weekly basis? No one knows, and yet here we are reading it again.

Now if the nine ladies dancing are NFL cheerleaders, no further explanation is required.

You are a creepy, middle-aged pervert. Keep your bizarre sexual fetishes to yourself.

Which got me to thinking about what the lyrics would be if football were substituted. The result is the song and video here --

I will not click on that link. It is a hired-out group singing the 12 days of Christmas for the NFL. Gregg is so hard up for football-related material he is now producing songs and putting them in TMQ. This brings me to the point that I rarely know or understand exactly what Gregg is going for in writing TMQ. I think he wants to be a quirky, yet informative-to-the-reader casual observer of the NFL. This isn't how he comes off though. He comes off as a pervy, uneducated critic of NFL teams and coaches who works too hard to second-guess what goes on during a football game. He reminds me of my a person who is a casual fan of a sport who doesn't understand why the simple observations he makes aren't accurate or helpful.

Here's an example. Think of when you watch a football game and a casual fan of the NFL upon seeing a running back trying to run up the middle of the defense says, "why doesn't the running back just go to the outside?" It seems reasonable upon first thought. Those who watch football a lot know the offensive line sets up a specific blocking plan for a play and if the running back runs to the outside on certain running plays there is a possibility there will be a holding call or the defense will cut him off and cause a loss of yardage. Sure, it works sometimes. Then the one time a running back bounces outside the person acts like this would work every time. This is Gregg in a nutshell. He makes an uneducated observation, sees it work one time and then doesn't understand why a team doesn't do that every time. This is why Gregg sees a team use motion to gain a short yardage first down and then thinks this would work every time.

In football news, the sole undefeated team might benefit from losing, while the sole winless team might wish it hadn't won.

Very deep. Of course the sole undefeated team might not benefit from losing, while the sole winless might be glad they won a game. It doesn't sound as dramatic to say this though.

For the Colts the equation is simple: They want the first choice in the 2012 draft.

The Colts want to win games. That's what all NFL teams want to do. One of the most annoying discussions involving sports made it's way into my ear at work the other day. A person told me the Carolina Panthers needed to keep losing to get a high draft pick in next year's draft. I told this idiot it is much more important for the Panthers to win games and set up a winning culture under a new coach than to lose a few games to get a better draft pick. It isn't like good players aren't available after the first 10 picks and teams that draft well are going to (hopefully) continue to draft well. In response, I asked him if he wanted the Eagles to keep losing and get a better pick. This guy said "yes," and then continued to say he wanted the Eagles to lose so Andy Reid would get fired and then they get a better pick. This is idiocy. In this guy's mind, starting over with a new coach, losing more games, and getting a better draft pick was better than winning games. I find this absurd. I told him I hope enjoys having Jon Gruden as a coach next year and he sounded excited. Some people deserve to get what they ask for.

So, the Colts don't want the first choice in the draft specifically. They want to win games. I think a culture of winning is much more important than a good draft pick. Good teams draft well and a team doesn't have to have a top-10 pick to have a good draft.

Now, at 1-13, Indianapolis might see the 2-12 Vikings, or as a long shot the 2-12 Rams, sneak into pole position. With just two games remaining, Colts, don't mess up and win again!

Isn't it interesting how the Rams have lost all those games over the past few years, gotten better draft picks and haven't improved? Bizarre. You would think since they lost games and got a better draft pick, they would have a better team than they do. Isn't this the entire idea behind losing games for a better draft pick? So why didn't it work for the Rams? It's also weird how the Pittsburgh Steelers don't lose games and still end up with quality players even though they don't lose games to get a better draft pick? What about the Browns? Shouldn't they have turned it all around by now since they are losing games and getting high draft picks? Compare this to the Saints who haven't had a high draft pick for a few years yet seem to find quality players in the draft. It is almost as if the actual drafting of quality players is many times more important than having a good draft pick.

For the Packers, a 13-1 record ends the pressure to reach 19-0. Best to get this over with now! If Green Bay goes on to win the Super Bowl, no one outside Missouri will ever remember the Packs' loss at Kansas City.

So Gregg has reached the conclusion losing a game is good because it takes the pressure off a team.

In 2009, the Colts essentially deliberately lost after reaching 14-0, and the negative vibrations sabotaged the remainder of the season.

Now Gregg has reached the conclusion losing a game is good, unless losing a game isn't good because it sends the team on a downward spiral. Gregg can tell us this one of these two things will happen with certainty. For a team trying for perfection, it may be a good thing they lost a game or it may be a bad thing that team lost a game. Gregg will be sure to tell us for sure after the season if this loss to the Chiefs was a good or bad thing for the Packers. One thing is for sure, it may or may not be good and Gregg will take credit no matter how the rest of the Packers' season turns out.

Green Bay faithful will say the problem at Kansas City was injuries to Greg Jennings and three of the team's offensive tackles. It's more than that -- the Chiefs found some Packers weaknesses.

One of the Packers weaknesses the Chiefs found? Three of the Packers offensive tackles were hurt. The other weakness of the Packers is that it is really hard to go perfect in the NFL regular season.

On the goal-line play that gave the hosts their 19th point (they won 19-14), Kansas City fielded a jumbo set with three tight ends. Green Bay could not reply, because the Packers don't have the personnel to go jumbo on defense.

Why don't the Packers have the personnel to go jumbo on defense? Why is it that Gregg? Perhaps because they carry five tight ends on the active roster? MAYBE THIS HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT?

Of course Gregg will never bring this little fact up. He wants to compliment the Packers for keeping five tight ends and criticize them for not having the personnel to go jumbo on defense while ignoring the 53 man roster limit.

Also, the Packers can put a jumbo package of sorts in. They have defensive linemen that weigh 340, 337, 340, and 294 pounds. It's not the most jumbo of packages, but the Packers do have some weight on the defensive line. This is part of the downside of carrying five tight ends on the active roster though, there are less roster spots at other at roster spots.

The Green Bay defense is built on the assumption the Packers will jump to a quick lead and then need to stop the pass as opponents try to come back. What if the Packers don't jump to a quick lead?

Anarchy begins. That's what happens.

Green Bay carries only seven defensive linemen on its roster, versus the NFL norm of eight or nine.


I don't know how ESPN lets him writes his shit-filled column every week. I'm vexed. For weeks now, Gregg has told us the Packers carry five tight ends and that is the secret to their success. The Packers lose one game, one game is all they have lost, and all of a sudden Gregg is criticizing the Packers for not having eight or nine defensive linemen on the roster. He is completely ignoring the elephant in the room, that his own "secret to the Packers success" is part of the very reason the Packers don't have eight or nine defensive linemen. There is a 53 man roster and there isn't a way to get around this. If the Packers keep eight or nine defensive linemen, as well as five tight ends they would have 39 roster spots for 20 other positions on the roster. That's not good roster management.

Of course, because he absolutely refuses to see the connection and refuses to ever admit he was wrong about something, Gregg in no way acknowledges part of the reason why the Packers only have seven defensive linemen on the active roster. Acknowledging that reason would make it look like Gregg's "five tight end theory" is bullshit, which it is, but he can't run the risk of his crackpot theories having holes poked in them.

Now that the final undefeated team has fallen, I will reproduce from my AutoText, changing only a few specifics, the item TMQ runs annually when the final undefeated falls -- and will continue to run annually, since I believe no NFL team ever will finish 19-0. My heirs will be using this item!

This will happen unless we, as a united country, are able to prevent Gregg's heirs from ever writing a single word about sports. It's up to us to accomplish this.

This season TMQ has been noting the math showing that deliberately punting out of bounds makes a lot more sense in field position terms than booming a punt to a hot return man such as Peterson or Devin Hester.

"The math" Gregg uses assumes a punter always kicks the football 40 yards or more and always can punt the ball exactly where he wants it to go. We all know these are two large assumptions that would have to be correct in order for "the math" to work out.

TMQ Error: Last week's column contained an item that said in part, "During the runback of an interception by the Lions, linebacker Stephen Tulloch was called for unnecessary roughness for hitting Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder. Until this year, during a change of possession, the quarterback could not be hit unless he was attempting to make the tackle. Ponder was, on this down, attempting to make the tackle. But as of the 2011 season, the quarterback cannot be hit on a change-of-possession down under any circumstances. Lions' coach Jim Schwartz went nuts protesting the call. Maybe Detroit would draw fewer personal fouls if the Lions knew NFL rules."

Gregg admits he was wrong...sort of.

It turns out my description of the new rule was wrong,

Of course, being Gregg Easterbrook he was wrong, but there are other factors he couldn't help that caused him to be wrong.

ESPN's earlier article about the new rule was wrong, and Schwartz might have been right.

ESPN was wrong? I can't believe this.

I would think a person who is criticizing an NFL head coach for not knowing the NFL rules would do more research than rely on an article that says he is correct. I would think wrong. Maybe Gregg wouldn't have to apologize for being wrong if he knew the NFL rules.

Newton handed the ball forward between the legs of seldom-used blocking back Richie Brockel.

Brockel is actually listed as a tight end. In fact, the Panthers have four tight ends on the roster. If only they had five tight ends they would be 13-1 like the Packers...or 1-13 like the Colts.

Europe's population situation seems fairly stable, so building fixed rail lines between its cities is not much of a risk. But America is young and still in flux; it's lunchtime in America.

So cities in Europe are not growing and then declining in population? There isn't much population fluctuation in Europe? Why do I have a hard time believing this?

A decade ago, Phoenix was growing like mad. Now it's not. If government built an extremely expensive bullet train line from, say, Phoenix to San Diego, the line would already be a dinosaur.

Because no one lives in Phoenix anymore of course...except for the 1.4 million people that live there. None of those people would ever use a train of course. The Phoenix metro area is the 14th largest in the United States, but because it isn't growing, I guess Gregg believes this means...something in regard to trains. It's fine to argue trains are a bad idea, but to act as if there aren't many people in the Phoenix area since it isn't actively growing is a failed argument.

Unless you are certain large numbers of people will want to travel between two cities for at least several generations -- you can be certain of that for New York to Boston, can you be certain for Orlando to Tampa?

While in Europe the travel route for citizens is now set for the next 200 years. Nothing will change in that time.

Having given Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett flak for big blitzing too much, TMQ admits this tactic worked at Snoopy Stadium, two of Eli Manning's interceptions coming off the big blitz.

I could get used to this humility from Gregg. Of course, one or two weeks from now when the Redskins lose a game, Gregg will blame blitzing and completely forget the instances when blitzing worked for the Redskins. So any progress Gregg has made will be forgotten once he finds one instance where blitzing did not work perfectly.

Game scoreless, Santonio Holmes carelessly fumbled;

I guess this is as opposed to carefully fumbling?

Then on a busted play -- Mark Sanchez turned one way, LaDainian Tomlinson went the other -- Sanchez carelessly fumbled.

Sanchez could be a little more careful when fumbling the football. At least fumble the football so it bounces right back to you!

I like how Gregg says Sanchez/Holmes "carelessly fumbled," as if their intention their entire time was to fumble the football, but neither player planned well enough to recover their own fumble.

Throughout the contest, LeSean McCoy gained yards by cutting back against a Jets defense that was playing for the flashy big sack and not bothering to "contain."

Because on running plays, the defense is always looking for a good sack of the quarterback. At least when Gregg criticizes a team it should make sense. Gregg is assuming when a defense tries for a sack they always rush towards the middle of the offensive line and not towards the outside of the offensive line. Also, Gregg is simply an idiot overall for making blanket statements like this. I can understand the idea a team is looking for sacks on certain plays, but to chalk all of McCoy's running yards to the Jets simply not containing him probably isn't accurate.

That standard should include an independent neurologist on the sideline during games. My kids' public high school has a highly credentialed neurologist on the sideline during football games. A public high school can arrange this, but not the made-of-money NFL?

I can't say I disagree with the sentiment, but click on the link and look at this public school Gregg's son attended. It is a public school, but doesn't it look like it is a nicer part of the Maryland area? So it is a public school, but it certainly looks like a pretty damn nice public school. My point? My point is this school probably has the resources to have a neurologist on the sidelines while other public schools may not be as fortunate.

Justin Bauserman of Indianapolis writes, "Brady Hoke belongs among the ranks of weasel coaches. First he walked out on his own alma mater, Ball State, without even coaching in the 2008 International Bowl after the team's terrific 12-1 season. His walkout essentially doomed his team to a loss in the bowl. Hoke broke his promises to Ball State in order to sign a lucrative five-year contract at San Diego State. When more money was waved by Michigan, Hoke walked out on his SDSU deal after just two seasons. How long before Michigan fans rue the day some NFL team offers him more, and he breaks his promises and bolts again?"

While I understand that coaches look like weasels when they leave a college football team before a bowl game, I also understand these were promotions for Brady Hoke. If you were offered a promotion would you turn down the higher prestige and higher pay because you don't want to break a promise to your current staff or employer? I do get it seems pretty bad for Hoke to walk out on Ball State and San Diego State, but Hoke has taken nothing but promotions (based on going to a more prestigious program), so I also understand he does what is best for him and his family. It doesn't mean anyone has to like it or college athletes aren't mistreated because they have to sit out one year when they transfer. It simply means a promotion from being head coach at San Diego State University to head coach at the University of Michigan is a fairly large promotion no head coach would turn down.

The Bills, who haven't made the playoffs in a league-worst dozen years, look like they've learned nothing in that span and yet again require a total housecleaning.

Except for those Bills, like Fred Jackson, who Gregg said earlier this year deserved contract extensions now to show how serious the Bills are about taking care of their own players. So there should be a total housecleaning except for those unspecified players (other than Fred Jackson) Gregg talked about when the Bills were playing better that deserved contract extensions.

Next Week: They went undrafted, or were let go, or both. Tuesday Morning Quarterback's annual All-Unwanted All-Pros.

This is easily my least favorite column of the year. If I said that about another TMQ, I didn't mean it, because the unwanted and undrafted column is my least favorite. Gregg will put players like Aaron Maybin, who he would have called a highly paid glory boy first round draft pick previously, as an unwanted player. Gregg wants to have it both ways. He wants to criticize a team for giving up on a player and also be able to criticize the player as a first round bust when he doesn't play well for his first team. Gregg never thinks certain players are let go for a reason. Also, Gregg will still call a guy like Wes Welker unwanted. It's just madness.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1 comments J.S.' NFL Power Rankings: Week Fifteen

I hate the new rules regarding physical contact in the NFL. I come from a country where this happens. There are 400 tackles in a rugby league match, on average, and while, yes, it is not of the "11 guys coming for one ball carrier" nature and there is no blocking, they also play 24 regular season games a year. Without protection, you may notice.

So spare me the sob stories for football players. They are well compensated, just like miners, or acrobats, or ice road truckers or whatever. They happily take on the risk for money, and it just so happens that unlike those professions, they also get fame, adulation, and a fundamentally fucking fun job. Some calls like facemasking and unnecessary roughness I can deal with. But the roughing the passer stuff is absolutely absurd at times. So is this new ridiculous "defenseless receiver" shit. If you have the ball in an NFL game, expect to get tackled. I'm so sick of people talking about the "toughness" of QB's, like we heard non stop with Favre. He's literally playing in the position with the least amount of physical contact on the field. To the point where they actually keep statistics on the amount of time he is literally touched. Iron man for playing 200 odd games straight? Talk to me abou the defensive tackles or running backs that do the same.

While I am on a rant, bitching about rules, the new kickoffs suck so, so hard. Initially we were told that it would be fine, that returners were getting more speed up and it might encourage returns, remember that? Kickoff TDs have been cut in half. The most exciting play in the game. I still cannot believe taunting is a thing, being too happy is actually a penalty in the NFL. Just absolutely absurd.

They also need to do something about pass interference. Should be 15 yards unless it's flagrant, in which case, spot of the foul. This "he did have his hand on the shoulder for a second and a half, 47 yards!" is just obviously stupid. Anyway, please, save me the bleeding heart Costas style monologues about what this says about society, they are grown men, making a consensual decision.


1 - GREEN BAY (-)
13-1, 1st NFC NORTH
L 14-19 @KC, next vCHI

Was Greg Jennings more important to this offense than previously thought? Green Bay's receivers were awful, giving away rarely spotted offensive pass interference calls, a whole bunch of drops, leading to Rodgers going 6/17 (seriously!) for just 59 yards in the first 35 minutes of this game. The Chiefs brought a shit ton of pressure (4 sacks, 9 hits), for those looking for blueprints, but I've seen pressure on Rodgers before with minimal impact. Ditto their terrible defense (cheated up all day, forgivable in the first half, but were beaten deep time after time in the second when it became a joke), that's always there (only redzone ineptitude made the score look reasonable, they gave up 438 yards to the Chiefs - the Chiefs!). They tried rollouts, way more play action than normal, a QB draw or two. I mean the Packers ran the Wildcat in this one! The fucking Packers! Utterly bizarre.

11-3, 1st NFC NORTH
W 42-20 @MIN, next vATL

This is the carnage (Brees went 32/40 for 412!!! yards and 5!!! TDs) that ensues when the second best quarterback in football meets the worst secondary in football (yes, even worse than New England's).

10-4, T-1st AFC NORTH
L 14-34 @SD, next vCLE

I really didn't think they played that badly, despite the score. My worry remains Flacco's ineffectiveness (is he really better than Sanchez? Sanchez 82.2 vs Flacco 80.0). A lot of poorly thrown balls out there. But this was just a bad day. I've been hard on Baltimore, but I won't crucify them for this effort.

11-3, 1st AFC EAST
W 41-23 @DEN, next vMIA

What's amazing is how unprepared New England appeared to be for Denver running the ball. I know the secondary is bad, but I'd prefer to live with being beaten with Tebow throwing it than allowing runs. Just terrible reads by the defense, especially the linebackers (even you, Jerod Mayo) on play recognition. Denver had 133 yards rushing on their first two drives! How is that even possible? Dudes were running into each other, grabbing at air, it was Three Stooges like stuff at times. Aaron Hernandez (9 receptions for 129 yards) was jaw droppingly amazing, including a 46 yard grab where he made three Broncos miss, a 4th down reception and a TD (and should have had two, I was amazed Belichick didn't challenge that catch). Defense really is a big, big problem, it's embarrassing, amateurish for too many plays of every game. Loss of Carter will not help.

5 - HOUSTON (-)
10-4, 1st AFC SOUTH
L 13-28 vCAR, next @IND

Glass half full? Arian Foster ran for 109 yards on 16 carries (he also had 5 receptions for 58 yards). I had been worried about him of late gaining just 217 yards on his last 68 carries (3.2YPC), although Carolina's defense is hardly the best test. On that point, the glass half empty is that Yates threw two picks into one of the worst secondaries in the NFL and were awful containing a *gulp* running QB (Newton had 55 yards on seven scrambles). Let's...let's just not even go there ok?

11-3, 1st NFC WEST
W 20-3 vPIT, next @SEA

Seven straight possessions for the Steelers started at their 20 or worse. Andy Lee was the most valuable 49er all night (he is 6th in the league in inside 20's and 1st in net yards this year). Couple the incredible field position with the turnovers (including one in the red zone) and a Suisham missed field goal and you had the difference between these teams. Special teams and turnovers is a somewhat unreliable formula for success...we'll see. The red zone problems (San Francisco is 30th in converting red zone trips to TDs) are real - especially for a team with so little offense (25th in YPG and 14th in the more forgiving PPG).

10-4, T-1st AFC NORTH
L 3-20 @SF, next vSTL

Roethlisberger probably shouldn't have played. Was seriously restricted in his movement all night. He threw three picks and was hit 11 times (9.5 alone by the incredible Aldon Smith).

8 - ATLANTA (+1)
9-5, 2nd NFC SOUTH
W 41-14 vJAX, next @NO

Better than enthusiasm is overwhelming.

9 - JETS (-2)
8-6, 2nd AFC EAST
L 19-45 @PHI, next vNYG

Some dumb mistakes (Santonio Holmes and Sanchez' fumbles in particular) along with some dumb luck (the Holmes drop that led to an interception) made this look worse than it probably was. But what I'm more concerned about is that they still, after 15 weeks, cannot run the football. They had just 3.5YPC in this game against a team that is 22nd in YPC against (4.3). They cannot win a playoff game (assuming they can even muscle past Cincy) unless they can run the football, and there's just no reason to believe they can.

10 - DALLAS (+1)
8-6, 1st NFC EAST
W 31-15 @TB, next vPHI

Sleep walked (slept walked?) through this one and were allowed to. Hold the advantage, not only with the win, but the Eagles next week are an easier draw than the Jets (yes, I still believe that). A see saw, fascinating battle.

11 - DETROIT (+1)
9-5, 2nd NFC NORTH
W 28-27 @OAK, next vSD

Calvin fucking Johnson (9 receptions, 214 yards, 2TDs, 69 yards on the game winning drive).

12 - GIANTS (-2)
7-7, 2nd NFC EAST
L 10-23 @WAS, next @NYJ

New York is not good enough to take mediocre or slightly below average teams lightly. Particulary in a divisional contest and particulary in the midst of what is probably the tightest of all the playoff races. It does show you just how bad they are, as foreshadowed, if their passing game (Manning 23/40 for 257 yards and three picks) and pass rush (1 sack against a team that surrendered 9 against fucking Buffalo, who by the way are last in the NFL in sacks) is not there. In short, an unmitigated disaster.

13 - SAN DIEGO (+3)
7-7, T-2nd AFC WEST
W 34-14 vBAL, next @DET

A truly brilliant performance from a patchwork offensive line. San Diego's offensive line coach, whoever he is, must be great, it's always really presentable at least, and against one of the best pass rushing teams in the league, it was superlative in this game (1 hit and no sacks!). Rivers (17/23 for 270 yards and a TD) took advantage, as did Vincent Jackson (84 yards on three receptions), who has been in the middle of anything meaningful San Diego have done this season. It is a shame that San Diego don't get to play Denver head to head for the AFC West title, they are matter/anti-matter like versions of each other. Rivers really has looked incredible recently (132.2 rating in his last three games! He hasn't thrown a pick in a month), it may be too late, but they are absolutely coming after a playoff spot.

14 - DENVER (-)
8-6, 1st AFC WEST
L 23-41 vNE, next @BUF

Elvis Dumervil's sack on Brady in the fourth quarter might have been the best hit I have seen all year. Just had me shaking my head muttering "that's a great hit". Anyway, a cautionary tale of what happens to this team when they do turn the ball over. New England might be the worst team in the NFL against which to have turnovers. Obviously their offense makes you pay, but it's crushing because you know the defense is so bad (much worse than Green Bay or New Orleans) you almost know you can get points on nearly every drive if you just hold onto the ball. New England scored 27 straight points on what was a previously excellent defense. It makes me laugh that the Broncos were so dominant early and terrible the rest of the game, I am absolutely bursting with schadenfraude. While, yes, perhaps I am a terrible person, give me a break, after what I've gone through the last eight weeks with this fucking team, I've earned it. If they can't beat a bad Buffalo team, they don't deserve to win, even the shitty AFC West.

15 - SEATTLE (-)
7-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 38-14 @CHI, next vSF

Marshawn Lynch now has TD's in 10 straight games (picking up two here, though he struggled generally with just 2.1YPC). I cannot believe I am typing those words, but he really seems to be...well...good now. David Hawthorne was also notable here, making a number of very big tackles (he had 6.5 in total). Who would have thought Seattle was in the top half of NFL teams at the start of the year (I had them as the worst team in the league after Week One)?

16 - ARIZONA (+2)
7-7, T-2nd NFC WEST
W 20-17 (OT) vCLE, next @CIN

Skelton (28/46, 313 yards a TD and a pick) does it again! Each week this becomes slightly less sarcastic and mean spirited.

8-6, 3rd AFC NORTH
W 20-13 @STL, next vARI

Honestly, with every passing game, Cincinnati looks more offensively inept. They have not passed 300 offensive yards in any of their last three games. Here, Dalton was 15/26 for 179 yards with a pick and Benson and Scott combined for 29 carries for just 96 yards (3.3YPC) against St. Louis of all teams (worst in total yards rushing against). Only the Rams inefficiency on third down (2/13) and the red zone (0/2) could save them.

18 - TENNESSEE (-5)
7-7, 2nd AFC SOUTH
L 13-27 @IND, next vJAX

While this game will be pointed to as the definitive reason the Titans are not going to the playoffs this year, Donald Brown (161 yards and a TD on 16 carries) is the symptom, not the cause. Tennessee has given up 545 yards rushing in its last four games at over 5 yards per carry. The pass defense (6th in YPA with 6.5) and Locker (108 yards on 16 throws with a TD, in what should be Hasselbeck's final game) make this team viable for future seasons.

19 - WASHINGTON (+1)
5-9, 4th NFC EAST
W 23-10 vNYG, next vMIN

I was genuinely surprised by how willing people were to look past the Redskins in this game. I guess the Giants were a party to that as well. As I said last week, Washington is a much improved football team. The secondary in particular comes in for congratulations, they had 10 defensed passes and three picks in this game.

20 - CAROLINA (+1)
5-9, 3rd NFC SOUTH
W 28-13 @HOU, next vTB

Only Wes Welker has more receiving yards than Steve Smith (1,217) this year. He is on pace to have his best year since 2005 (12 TDs, 1,563 yards). He's all the way back.

6-8, 3rd NFC EAST
W 45-19 vNYJ, next @DAL

Vick (15/22 for 274 yards a pick and a TD) looked amazing in this game, quick and back to his best. His game against Dallas back in Week Eight was officially the last
vestige of hope for this Eagles team. He threw for an outrageous 12.5 YPA into an exceptional (usually) pass defense. Still too late. Yes - it is, don't do this to yourself.

22 - MIAMI (+2)
5-9, T-3rd AFC EAST
W 30-23 @BUF, next @NE

Reggie Bush ran for 203 yards. Matt Moore passed for a 122.3 rating. The Dolphins scored 30 points despite being 0 for 4 in the red zone. Guess which defense is getting a Christmas card from Todd Bowles this week?

23 - OAKLAND (-1)
7-7, T-2nd AFC WEST
L 27-28 vDET, next @KC

Oakland have led the AFC in penalties every year since 2003 (they had their usual ten in this game for 86 yards). That's incredible. To the point where I literally wonder if anyone in their organisation actually knows the rules of the game. For all the smoke and mirrors of the Palmer trade, the speed outside, the allegedly dominant front four (who are last in the league in YPC against with 5.2) Darren McFadden, no Oakland Raiders.

25 - KANSAS CITY (+5)
6-8, 4th AFC WEST
W 19-14 vGB, next vOAK

Jesus Christ, how much of an epic fucking douchebag must Todd Haley have been?

26 - CHICAGO (-6)
7-7, 3rd NFC NORTH
L 14-38 vSEA, next @GB

Hanie really had his moments here, particulary outside the pocket (as the Bears old offensive line problems reappeared, conceding 4 sacks and 9 hits, as they do occasionally). The first half was his best of the season (7/13 for 94 yards a TD and INT and 21 yards rushing)...then the second half happened. It's easy to forget (I might be guilty of this) that he has no one to really throw to. It's a really bad set of receivers. They miss Forte more as a receiver than a running back, as Barber, Colorado insanity aside, has done a servicable job running the football, but he couldn't catch a ball to save his life. The Bears could have survived without Cutler, they might have been able to survive without Forte, but without both, they needed a couple of extra wins pre-injury to stumble into the playoffs. A sad story.

4-10, 3rd AFC SOUTH
L 14-41 @ATL, next @TEN

Atlanta was missing it's top corner, as well as its talented nickel back (I bet you've never read the words "talented" and "nickel back" in the same sentence before) in this game (Grimes and Hayden) and Jacksonville still had just 24 yards passing in the first half.

27 - BUFFALO (-1)
5-9, T-3rd AFC EAST
L 23-30 vMIA, next vDEN

Tarted up the final scoreline with meaningless points in the final 3 minutes after falling behind 30-13. CJ Spiller showed some development with 166 yards from scrimmage (including 7.6YPC against a team that is 3rd in YPC against with 3.6), but this has been an eye opening season for backers of Ryan Fitzpatrick. After opening with a 97.7 rating over the first seven games, he has a 66.2 rating since. Even New England might fancy stopping him in Week Seventeen.

28 - MINNESOTA (-1)
2-12, 4th NFC NORTH
L 20-42 vNO, next @WAS

Minnesota have a functioning offense (18th in YPG) which is something very few of the 5 win or less teams can boast. They have a top flight pass rush, led by Jared Allen (17.5), but with contributors from Brian Robison (6.0) and Everson Griffen (4.0) which ranks 4th in the league with 45 sacks. Despite losing Pat Williams, they are 6th in YPC against (3.8). The secondary is just that bad, even Tebow took them apart. Losing Winfield for the season isn't enough to explain, they were bad even when he was in there. The team should lose both him and Griffin (both were always overrated anyway), who are aging and rebuild from scratch, it's cost this team way too many games. They aren't a 2-12 team.

29 - CLEVELAND (+1)
4-10, 4th AFC NORTH
L 17-20 (OT) @ARI, next @BAL

If you feel like the Browns haven't played anyone of note this year, you're probably a hypothetical interlocular in my head I have fabricated to make a point. Outside their division, Cleveland has played Jacksonville, St. Louis, Seattle (in Ohio), Oakland, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Miami and Arizona. They have won their four games by a combined sixteen points.

30 - TAMPA BAY (-2)
4-10, 4th NFC SOUTH
L 15-31 vDAL, next @CAR

Where to begin? Were dominated in every facet of the game. Dallas had 90 yards rushing on 16 carries in the first half, Romo completed 18 throws on 22 attempts for three touchdowns and 189 yards. On the other side of the ball, they had 14 yards on 4 throws (they didn't throw the ball until they were down 14-0) and 1, yes, 1 first down in the first half. This game was over at 28-0, and yet probably the worst of it all was the red zone defense. Three different receivers, Austin, Bryant and Robinson, had TD receptions, and on none of those receptions, was a red shirt within about eight yards. Horrible, looked like the worst team in the NFL.

31 - ST. LOUIS (-)
2-12, 4th NFC WEST
L 13-20 vCIN, next @PIT

They are a Phil Dawson botched snap away from 1-13. It should be noted that Kellen Clemens (25/36 for 229 yards and a TD) passed for a higher rating (95.6, against a reasonably solid Cincinnati defense) than Sam Bradford has all year in 10 games. Hmm.

1-13, 4th AFC SOUTH
W 27-13 vTEN, next vHOU

I don't want to alarm you Colt fans, and I don't know what the tie breakers for draft picks actually are, but you are one Blaine Gabbert 10/29 day away from losing that number one pick you covet so badly. For what it's worth, I agree with Ben in that the Colts should trade the pick for multiple picks. I'm not sure why you would be so keen to kick Manning out on his ass...hasn't the lesson from this debarcle been that he's pretty good? This injury being some retirement level injury seems bullshit to me. It seems you could get basically an entire offensive line or new linebackers or functioning defensive tackles for trading Luck and having a superior QB come in anyway.