Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Revival of Dome Field Advantage

Before we start the weekly wrap-up, I have four things to get to:

1.) 8-2 so far. Hell yeah!! That is picking. Now, if I were only 21 and "restricting" myself to the confines of Las Vegas, I would be rolling around in that 300,000 Maybach Diddy's 16 year-old just got.
2.) I went to Subway, and was victimized by the horrible trend that has entered the Subway sector. I had two seperate people make the Sub, with the first putting in the meat, cheese and putting said Sub in the toaster, and then the other taking it out of the toaster, and adding the vegetables/sauce. Now, this seems normal, but I am always (and by always I mean roughly 99.999999% of the time) subjected to some lazy slob shitbrain to tend to the second half. This makes no sense. Like today, I had a A Class Subway Sub-Maker for that first half, and a sneezing, snivelling Latino for that second half (I mention the Latino part becuase I always feel awkward saying Jalepeno in front of them, like I'm doing some subtle joke at their heritage). The first part is the easy part, and if snivvellus manages to get some nasal fluids on the sub, the toaster will burn those little bacteriums away. Then, the second half is complicated, especially the folding and cutting. I want the pro for that half. Anyway, in conclusion, the Subway on 8th gets a mega Sub Fail.
3.) I fucking HATE Roger Goodell, the NFL commisionner. Hate him with every platelete of my blood-curling body. He hits every nerve that I contain (and even the nerves I am yet to contain). He has had this job for nearly four years now, and has done nothing to put the league in a better state than Paul Tagliabue. Under Tagliabue, there was not one labor strife, no lockouts or strikes or replacement players. Nothing but peace. Under Tagliabue, the league's revenues increased tenfold, and football cemented itself as America's true past-time (other than doughnuts). Under Goodell, the league has foolishly tried to expand to 18 games, move teams to LA and try to get Londoners to love the NFL. To put it into perspective, there is a better chance that I have a one night stand with Alyson Hannigan (yes, the "Band Camp" one) than there is of football catching on in Europe. Goodell's 18 games idea is even worse. 16 games is perfect, its a square-number for fucks sake. No one wants 18 games but greedy billionaire owner. Sure, let's appease them at the expense of our product. Finally, it's his idea of incentivitizing playing starters in meaningless games that ended it for me. How is this a good idea? First, say teams comply with this Stalinist measure, then what, you are rewarding teams GOOD enough to rest starters with extra picks. Making the rich teams richer? Great idea. Then, this year, when the Colts "pissed in the face of History" as many a sportswriter labelled it, and the Saints rested their way to three straight losses, each team took heat, and blasted back by going to the Super Bowls. It will never happen, but either way Goodell will think of another brilliant idea to fuck up the NFL.
4.) This is why the media sucks at actually reporting what happens, and goes mercilessly for stories:
  • Momentum Matters. This was the big theme entering the playoffs. The Colts rested, the Saints rested, the Vikings were 2-3 down the stretch. Those teams won their first playoff game by a combined 99-20. The Cowboys, Jets and Patriots didn't rest and are no longer playing. The Cardinals rested and then beat the same team the just rested to. Momentum matters as much as the fatness ratio of their o-lineman. Actually, that probably matters more.
  • The Chargers: 8 of SI's "experts" picked the playoffs at the start. 7 of them had the Chargers going to the Super Bowl, including lead experts Peter King, Don Banks and Ross Tucker. They were the team that couldn't lose, even though they had so many discernable flaws. They were the team that blinded the media with Phil River's fount of youth deathstare. Somehow, everyone forgot that they are perennial playoff chokers, and except for lucky, close wins over the Colts, had done nothing in the playoffs. The, as I expected, flamed out in their first game to the Jets.
  • Home-Field doesn't matter, especiall in domes. Record of home teams not in domes: 0-3 (Jets over Bengals, Ravens over Pats, Jets over Chargers). Record of home teams in domes: 7-0 (Boys over Birds, Cards over Cheese, Colts over Ray's, Vikes over Boys, Saints over Cards, Colts over Rex's, Saints over Favres). Dome's are, if anything, more important in these days where outside of a select few venues (Baltimore, Seattle) home crowds in outdoor places are utter crap. Go Dome or Go.... build a Dome (I would never say "Home" there)
End of Rants!!!!

Player of the Week - Pierre Garcon, WR Indianapolis

Believe me, I wanted to put Peyton here, but one Peyton gushing article is enough for one week. Let's celebrate the Haitian Frenchy Garcon (all Colts fans call him Frenchy, because his name is French. This is in NO WAY a dig at his Haitian roots as some stupid Jets fan claimed on the Colts blog 18to88.com). First, he is playing for Haiti, motivated to succeed by the very disaster that took so many of his bretheren's lives. It truly is tragic what happened in Haiti, and Garcon playing well does by no means diminish the problems still going on there, but makes what Garcon is doing so much more special. Here is a guy who already had the pressure of a fanbase and the legend of Marvin to live up to. True, Marvin Harrison was not great in the playoffs, but he was the most beloved Colt not named Peyton. It was essentially Garcon's job to replace him. In the biggest game in the history of Lucas Oil Stadium, the stadium that Peyton and Marvin built, Garcon played a game that would make Marvin proud. He made sick catch after sick catch. Sure, the throws were perfect, but that still does not make the catches easy. Frenchy had guys draped all over him, and caught the ball with a Marvinian-authority. Finally, the shot of Frenchy holding up the Haitian flag and draping it over the Lamar Hunt trophy nearly ended my no-cry new year's resolution. This man will never be Marvin, and that is a standard that no one should be responsible to uphold. However, for one night, he was out there, contorting himself, nabbing passes out of the air with ease. Frenchy, we all adore you.

Goat of The Week - Rex Ryan, HC NYJ

Yup, the Vikings deserve an entire section just for themselves. Rex Ryan talked all week, saying he had blitzes that "Manning has never seen in his life." When asked what they would do when the Colts went to three-wide, he said "Manning will sit on the ground." Rex Ryan was admittedly gracious in defeat, but what other choice did he had. He called the Jets the favorite in the whole tournament. He scheduled the parade down the canyon of heroes before it started. He even had the gall to say the Colts "disrespected" the Jets by pulling their starters in the Week 16 game, even though if the Colts did not pull those starters, the Jets would have been golfing three weeks ago. Rex Ryan threw blitz after blitz at Manning, and Manning, save for the first two drives, handled them all perfectly. Manning was amazing, just holding Ryan up by the ankles and beating his face repeatedly. To see Ryan helpless and fuming on the sidelines after talking smack to a team that had yet to lose gave him an automatic berth into this category.

Surprise of the Week - Tracy Porter, CB Saints

People might not know, but Jabari Greer is as shut-down a corner as it gets (Revis included), which means that the Tracy Porter side of the field is often targeted. Bernard Berrian played well, but Porter forced two fumbles and was able to make the interception that allowed the media to call Brett Favre out as the playoff choker he so very much is. Trace Porter perfectly caused that fumble, punching it out with perfect form. That saved at least a field goal. I figured Jabari Greer would be able to slow down Sidney Rice or Harvin or whoever was put on that side of the field. I never expected Tracy Porter to play that well. My Player of the Week will have a hard time beating the Surprise of the Week in Miami.

Dissapointment of the Week - Jet's Running Game

Number one in the NFL? They were supposed to run all over the Colts "undersized" o-line. The Colts could stop the Ravens, becuase Ray Rice was "shifty" and "finesse" not "power" like the Jets. So, the Jets ran for 86 yards, exactly half of their yearly average. And even before he got injured, Shonn Greene had only 41 yards in 10 carries. Not terrible, but not dominant as every J-E-T-S fan was so assured would happen. Maybe, just maybe, the Colts are much better at stopping the run when they want to, but for a team that talks as much as they do, they ran awfully.

Team Performance of the Week - Indianapolis Colts Offense

Jets Total Defense: 250.2 yards per game. Colts: 461 yards.
Jets Pass Defense: 167.3 yards per game. Colts: 360 yards.
Jets Scoring Defense: 14.9 ppg. Colts: 30.
Colts Rushing: 78.3 ypg. Colts on Sunday: 101 yards.

The Colts played like the offense that set the league on fire from 2003-2007. They were not exactly as dominant in many parts of this year, but they were vintage on Sunday, against the league's best defense just to add an extra level of brilliance. I have never seen them better against a defense that good. There is something that makes me sad, as I may never see the Colts offense play that well again. However, even if I don't, I will always have this game to turn back to.

Team Laydown of the Week - Minnesota Vikings Ability to Hold Onto Ball

Honestly, the Vikings were the better team. They outgained, outrushed, outpassed and outsacked the Saints. They were the better team in every conceivable way. However, they seemed to play the game with goo-gone on their gloves. Peterson fumbles more than the Raiders' coaches attack women, so that was no surprise. But it got comical, with Favre fumbling an exchange, then throwing two inconsciable interceptions. Berrian fumbled, and Harvin fumbled on an already terrible end-around. If the Vikings just decided to not fumble, and ran normal plays, they would have won by 30. They were dominant, yet the Saints just never went away. Anyway, in the end of the day, the team that deserved to go to Miami is going home, and Favre ended another NFC Title Game with another interception. After it ended, the joy in the Bayou was enough to forget just how much the Vikings did to lose the game, but they did. The Vikings deserve to be playing the Colts, but the football Gods shined on the team that ethically deserved to. Than (football) God for that.

Special Image to Remember this Weekend!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Beatification

Jay Feely split the uprights, 17-6 Jets. Down 11, to the NFL's best defense, and I was not the least bit nervous, and the sole reason is the man pulling the trigger for the league's version of an AK-47. Manning. That was all I needed to know and to see to make me feel like this normally large lead was just the Colts spotting a team points. I've seen Manning come back from 35-14, 27-10, 31-14, 17-0, 15-0 and 31-10. I've seen him come back from 21-3 in that same round of the playoffs, against a team with a better offense and a defense led by a more master-mindery mastermind. I've seen him lead the largest comeback in Championship Game history. This was nothing. I was not surprised that within 10 game minutes, the Colts were up, sweeping the leg of any Karate-Kid like upset that the Jets were planning. It was over. Manning had come, the game was done.

Pierre Garcon was great and so was Austin Collie, but in the end it is all about Manning. The Jets did a great job of taking out Manning's top-2 targets, contracts and injuries "took out" two other top Manning targets by week 2 (Marvin and Anthony Gonzalez (remember him, you will next year)). Manning just passed to a second-year player with three catches coming into this year, and a 24-year old rookie. I now laugh at the heated debate that media people were able to have about two years ago. Brady vs Manning defined a decade, but that decade ended a bit too soon. That debate has been put to rest. I don't think anyone rationally can say that Brady is the better player. Essentially, Manning had his Welker (Gonzo) out for the year, and lost his Gaffney (Harrison 2008 version), and was left throwing to his Moss (Wayne) and Sam Aiken and Julian Edelmen for a whole year. All Manning did was win a fourth MVP and win every game he played in. He came back from down 17 twice, including doing it in one quarter. He won a game where his offense had the ball for 15 minutes. He led four straught fourth quarter comebacks and seven overall. He hasn't been beaten. He is now beatified, a Saint of football. The last step is almost here.

Rex Ryan was football's hottest defensive mind. He had schemes and blitzes that could put nightmares in any QB's head. He was cocky and cool, confidence spewing from that gregarious gut. He was helpless. Rex Ryan could have tried whatever he wanted, Manning was not going to be stopped. Manning's throw to Austin Collie was as beautiful a throw of any I have ever seen. I have really watched the NFL for 10 years now, and each Sunday I watch Manning play is one more day that I am spoiled. Manning will not play forever, and when he eventually retires, I will have to watch the Jim Harbuagh's and Jeff George's of the world QB the Colts. However, when those dark days come, I can always pop up this game (I will go to any length to get it on DVD), and watch QB as it is meant to be played.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Championship Round

It's here, the best single day of football in the NFL weekend. You have the two best teams all year long in the NFC, and the two most deserving teams in the AFC. You have the raucous Superdome, and the underratedly raucous Lukas Oil Stadium. You have three of the top-QBs in the NFL, and one precocious overrated rookie. It should be interesting. Let's just go to those picks. By the way, the formula rankings are still the Divisional Round rankings, as ranking each unit one or two is just silly

New York (a) @ Indianapolis (-7.5)

Jets: Offense - 4; Defense - 1; QB - 4; Coach - 4; Formula Rating: (4+1)*3 + 4+4 = 23
Colts: Offense - 1; Defense - 2; QB - 1; Coach - 3; Formula Rating: (1+2)*3 + 1+3 - 1 = 12

Formula Winner: Indianapolis Colts

I may be a Jets hater, or just a biased Colts fan. More likely, I am heavily both, but I thank God every day that the Jets are the team coming to the Luke and not the Chargers. The Jets are a nice team, with the best defense in the NFL this year, but that defense is one that gave up 20 to the Dolphins twice, the Jaguars and the Pats. They blew three fourth quarter leads at home to the Jags, Dolphins and Falcons. The Chargers were a great match-up for them. The Chargers had no real defense to speak of (they gave up 100 yards rushing in 13 of the 16 games), and they lived and died by the big play. The Chargers, and moreso Philip Rivers, are not patient enough to take small chunks. The Chargers don't score on sustained drives, they score with bombs, and the Jets defense deep-passes better than any other team in the NFL. Herein lies the biggest difference between the Colts and the Chargers. The Colts don't live by the big play. The Colts, and moreso Peyton Manning, will take the check-down, the dink, the dunk all the way down the field.

Peyton is inflappable nowadays. He can't be rattled like how he was in those playoff games in Foxboro. He is the best QB today at identifying blitzes, which he did at a PhD level in the Week 16 game. Manning was not touched. Rex Ryan sent all sorts of pressures at him, and Manning identified each and every single one of them. It was flawless. As for Manning's passing, it was far from flawless in the Week 16 game. Manning missed two potential touchdowns to Reggie Wayne, who routinely got behind Darrelle Revis, and Dallas Clark dropped another potential huge play. Even then, Manning's stats were quite good given that he only played until midway through the third quarter. Unless Manning suddenly reverts to 2003 Manning, and the Luke mysteriously begins to resemble Foxboro, I don't see any way the Colts are held under 20.

As for the other side of the matchup, I don't see how the Jets sniff 20 points of offense. Logical thinking says that they can run on the Colts, however that same logic said the same thing about Baltimore. Baltimore's offense is very comaprable. The Jets have a slightly better running game, and the Ravens a slightly better passing game. Now, those slight difference are advantageous to the Jets, but the Ravens only put up 3 points. They were never really close to scoring any more. They turned the ball over, did not protect Flacco, and by any indication the Ravens o-line is every bit as good as the Jets. Finally, the Jets "advantage" of having a power running game, and running it down the middle, is bunk, since the Colts are actually better at stopping runs down the middle, than over the ends, as they have hulky DTs, and Freeney and Mathis care more about rushing upfield than staying very disciplined at the point of attack. On either side of the ball, the matchup favors the Colts.

Teams go on runs like the Jets all the time, but those runs inevitably end (2007 Giants aside), and they usually end when they run into simply put, a better team. The Colts are that team, and unlike the Chargers, they don't matchup horrifically with the Jets. It should be a fun atmosphere, and for the sake of my heart-burn, I hope I am right on with the Colts winning another comfortable game.

Jets 13 Colts 27 (IND)

Minnesota @ New Orleans (-3.5)

Vikings: Offense - 4; Defense - 3; QB - 4; Coach - 4; Formula Rating: (4+3)*3 + 4+4 = 29
Saints: Offense - 1; Defense - 2; QB - 1; Coach - 2; Formula Rating: (1+2)*3 + 1+2 - 1 = 11

Formula Winner: New Orleans Saints

People often use the transitive property in football. One common use is saying, well the Vikings killed the Cowboys, who beat the Saints, so transitively the Vikings should beat the Saints. The other is that the Vikings killed the Cowboys, who are better than the Cardinals who were beaten less convincingly by the Saints, so the Vikings are entering the game with the advantage. Both of these scenarios are mathematically and logically correct, but are both wrong. The Saints have the advantage.

When the Saints have the ball, they can easily take advantage of the Vikings suspect secondary, made even more suspect with Antoine Winfield hobbled. Bennie Sapp is not a good corner, as shown by his awful performances in the Arizona and Carolina losses. That defense really misses the veteran presence of Darren Sharper (more on him later). The Saints running game will probably resemble the Colts running game, as they will run with little success, and use it solely as a way to slow down the pass rush and keep that defense honest. What is the real matchup here is the Vikings defensive line against the Saints o-line. The Saints o-line really struggled against the Cowboys, and the Vikings are a d-line that has a higher peak performance than the Cowboys. What helps the Saints is that the Vikings play a 4-3. The Saints have been great at pass-blocking against 4-3s, while struggling against 3-4 (Jets, Cowboys). The Saints have the ability to create matchup problems out wide, putting their second, third and fourth wideouts against LBs and safeties, which do not spell good things for the Vikings. Sean Payton will definitely find a way to match up one of their wideouts, or Shockey or Bush against rookie Jasper Brinkley, or average cover safety Tyrell Johnson. The Saints should be able to put up points, as Brees quick release will be great against a team whose defense lacks speed in its back seven.

The Vikings key is running the ball. The Saints have the best stable of defensive backs in the NFC, with Jabari Greer finally healthy. Jabari Greer was brilliant early in the year, and he should be able to take out Sindey Rice. Now, there are reports of reoccuring migraines afflicting Percy Harvin. If Harvin is not able to go, this could get ugly. I'm going to go as Harvin will be playing, for the sake of the matchup. Again, the key is running the ball. When they were winning road games, they ran well (see the game in Lambeau, the last road game they won). That running game has been stopped dead in its tracks, but against good running defenses of Carolina, Arizona, Chicago and Dallas. The Saints run defense is average at best, and since its pass defenses can lock down, get pressure with various blitzes out of multiple formations (an almost complete switch from Dallas' conventional 3-4 blitz scheme), and force turnovers. Turnovers are the key for the Saints defense. If their offense comes out firing, and they are able to jump on top, they can make the Vikings play into their hands. Turnovers are the story of the Saints. When they get them, they can quickly change games. Case in point, the Cards had the ball at 7-7, and Jerehme Urban caught a pass for like 20 yards. It seemed the Cards were rolling towards another seven, when Tracy Porter forced the fumble, and Darren Sharper, like he has done all year, recovered it. The Saints scored six plays later, and the game was over. If they are able to force Favre into turnovers, which he has done in the road games, they can keep the Vikings in the twenties.

The Superdome will be louder than ever. I know I say that nearly every week, but it is more true now than ever. You own a stadium, you own a team for the chance to host this game. This game is the best game for any team to play at home. It is like the Super Bowl, with a trophy being handed out at the end, except it has all of your fans at the game. It is the best crowd of the year. That is the difference. I don't think the Vikings can stop that blitz in that dome. It has been a nice run for Favre, a career year in many ways, but this was also a career year for Brees and that offense. They have owned the NFC all year long, and they will coronate themselves on Sunday Night. New Orleans will finally have an NFC Championship Game, and if I am right, they will also hoist that George Halas trophy for the very first time.

Vikings 20 Saints 31 (NO)

Enjoy the Games, the last true Sunday of Football until September.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Has Happened??

Here I am, eagerly awaiting the AFC Championship Game, where the Colts can finish off step 2 out of 3, finish off the AFC in nice tidy fashion and enter into the Super Bowl where they can be hailed as a dynasty in the making. Winning the Title makes the Patriots irrelevant, as with a Super Bowl Title the Steelers and Colts will have BOTH won two titles since the Pats last hoisted the glittering Lombardi trophy, smearing it with the fingerprints of cheaters. I expected this notion to be met with the excitement of the nation. A non-Patriots juggernaut. The NFL embraces its juggernauts, unless they cheat or run up the score or are cocky assholes or spew arrogance and convicts like the Longest Yard. The Colts do none of these things. They are tight-lipped never the ones providing the bulletin board material (post-Vanderjagt), they are the ones absorbing it. They are the perfect team, one built with a mix of top-flight players (Wayne, Clark, Freeney, Saturday, Brackett, Mathis) and NFL cast-offs and undrafteds (Brackett, Saturday, Garcon, Johnson (who? exactly)). Yet, three days away from the AFC Championship Game, the first for the Colts that does not pit them against the Redcoat Patriots, I am hearing none of these setiments. America, in fact, is not rooting for the Colts, for the great story of a possible new dynasty, but for the Jets, a loudmouth, smashmouth team from the most lovable and hateable cities in America. Is this really happening? Are the Jets the team that America wants? Really, the Jets?

To me, there hasn't been a more loved underdog since the Giants in Super Bowl XLII against the Galactic Empire that was the Patriots. That was completely understandable (moreso since I was a member of those Patriots-hating folk that cheered till my larynx dislodged from its larynx-holder that night). The Patriots were evil. They mercilessly ran up the score. They had a classless dick of a coach, and a Golden-Boy QB (we hate the Golden Boy QBs. If Favre actually shaved well, America would have exiled him to Elba with the retirement roullette that he is playing). They were a hateable team. The Giants were a team that you could rally behind. They were counted out, they were a team whose coach and QB were so far from Belichick and Brady it seemed that they were the epitome of an opening act to the headline. That made sense, this doesn't.

What have the Colts done to take the place that the Patriots held? They never ran up scores, in fact, they are notorious for doing the opposite, sitting on leads and making games closer than they really are (like when leading Seattle 34-3, they called off the dogs and won 34-17). Their coach is the exact opposite of Belichick. He is no evil mastermind, he is no hoodied football satire of Emperor Palpatine. Coach Jim Caldwell inherited the hardest job in the NFL since George Seifert took over for Bill Walsh and his 1988 Super Bowl Champions. Under intense pressure, and with a team that many media "experts" were sure were going to take a step back, he, like Seifert, piloted a juggernaut to a 14-2 record. Seifert capped it off with a Super Bowl win, mercilessly pounding Denver senseless with a 55-10 win in Super Bowl XXIV. If Caldwell tried that type of win over the Jets (like the Jets, the Broncos had the best defense in 1989) he would be labelled as a tyrant. Caldwell piloted the team beautifully, yet he might as well be a hologram, as little mention of his brilliant performance is even mentioned. The only reason I can see for the Colts now being thought of as some evil team that deserves to be ridiculed and rooted against passionately is a reason that is not exactly rational. Media members hated what they did against these same Jets in Week 16 giving up on a perfect season. Media members went batshit, labelling this as the stupidest move since NBC gave Leno the 10:00 PM slot. The Colts might have well just mooned Gandhi's grave for all the criticism the media pounded on that team. Let alone it worked, as the Colts decisevely won their opening playoff game and are healthier than ever before this season. Yet, it was over for the Colts, they were the new Patriots. The team that denied to chase perfection (something that has NEVER ended successfully) were now somehow a team that didn't deserve to win.

Now for the Jets. Why are they suddenly David, why are they 1980 USA Hockey. They have created some perceived slight from that Week 16 game, let alone the fact that if not for the Colts giving up on perfection they would not have made the playoffs. They are a team that was a slightly-above average team all season. They were a team that crushed the dregs of the league (Raiders, Chiefs, Bucs, Delhomme), and lost to any team competent (Falcons, Jaguars, Miami (twice)). They were a team with a loud defense, and a louder mouth. The real mystery is Rex Ryan. First, he was loved for calling out Belichick and then beating him. He was brash, but his team was 3-0, leader's of some new era. When that all went to hell, and they blew back-to-back games to the Dolphins and Jaguars, and fell to 4-6, there was no more cheering. He was now Jabba the Hut. Yet, after two lay-down wins, and two playoff wins, he is not only understandably hailed in New York as the new-Lombardi, but also looked at nationally as some lovable fat tellytubby with a slightly dirtier mouth. He said that the Jets were the favorite in the whole competition, and then had their parade down the canyon of heroes scheduled. These are brash moves usually met with ridicule and scorn, especially as the team prepares to play a unit that has yet to lose a game that it tried to win. However, Ryan's morbid-obese body and even more boisterous nature allowed such callous cock-ery to be laughed off. How does this happen?

Then there is the rest of the team. Kerry Rhodes hilariously compares himself to Ed Reed when saying how he can bait Manning into interceptions (I don't know who should be more ticked off: Manning or Reed). Sanchez has a statistical year that is worse in every way than JaMarcus Russell's 2008 campaign, and he is put on the Namath podium. Bart Scott talks and talks and talks and has yet to make any discernable impact. What is so lovable about this team? Fine, New York loves them, as they should. New York also loves the Yankees, Mets and Knicks, teams that are hated across the country, the Yankees at a level of hatred usually reserved for pedophiles and dog-killers. Yet, the Jets transcend these bounds. Does Rex Ryan's girth and Sanchez's looks really break the shackles holding brash teams from New York in. Should the Yankees hire Don Zimmer, so they get the Jets treatment. And don't say its becuase the Jets are underdogs. That's not it. In the Lakers-Magic NBA Finals, no one wanted the Magic to win because they were underdogs, no it's because they didn't want to see the childish needs of a alleged-rapist be fullfilled (Kobe, for those of you who have forgotten the Kobe rape story in a cloud of Kobe-huggery and smiles). What is it about this Jets team that has allowed Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Cris Carter to all overwhelmingly pick them? What is it?

I will never understand the Jets firestorm in the Winter of 2010. The stupidest angle is this whole "The Colts regret the monster they have created by letting the Jets into the playoffs" storyline. There is not one single Colt who truthfully would rather have beaten the Jets and gotten the Chargers in this game. Sure, I want the Chargers for revenge purposes, but I sleep easier knowing that there is a worse team coming into the Luke in three days. That storyline is complete garbage. The Colts did not create a monster, instead they reached out an olive branch, and cleared the Red Sea that was the Broncos, Steelers and Texans, allowing the .500 Jets into the playoffs (Marvin Lewis and the Bengals played the part of Moses beautifully as well). The Jets, nicely, repaid them by taking out the Chargers. Now, as these two teams are about to come to ahead, meeting in that rectangle of a field in front of the Colt faithful, millions of people around the nation will be cheering for a cocky, brash, loudmouth team, and disparaging a class, quiet, workmanlike team. How does this make sense? All I know is that I never expected the Colts to be the hated team, and I never expected a New York team to be the one that got the media's love.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Divisional Weekend Review

I feel smart. This is a good feeling to have as I head back to school for the spring semester. Sure, forecasting football games is different than the Principals of Financial Accounting, and even more different than the World Cultures that are East Asia-based. Yet, for me to go 4-0 in divisional weekend, get my upset right, and pick the two Saturday blowouts accurately enough (to be fair, I predicted the Saints-Cards game a little closer, as well as the Vikings-Cowboys). Either way, this sets up two interesting title games. One is the dream NFC matchup. To often people underrate the regular season, and that is fine, since the Giants and Steelers recently made great runs to end the season and parlay that into a Title. However, these were the two best teams in the NFC all year. They were, and now they get to fight for the Halas Trophy. On the other side, the Colts get to play the team they allowed to get into the playoffs. Should be fun. Here are some awards as I recap the Divisional Weekend.

Player of the Week - Ray Edwards, DE Minnesota

Just an unbelievable game for Edwards. Sure, he is on a d-line that has three other pro-bowlers, so he is often single blocked, but he was the only pass rusher the Vikings had worth a damn in the first half. Until the Vikings made this game 14-3, Dallas was moving the ball well, however not generating points (surprise!!!). The o-line blocked Allen and the Williams Wall well, but Ray Edwards was a madman. He singlehandidly ended the first drive with the fumble, and on the third drive, it was his sack that pretty much assured that there would be a field goal. On the day, he had three sacks, two of them before Flozell went out and the o-line went to hell. He had two more tackles for losses, including one seven yard loss. He was everywhere on the field. And in a game where I saw the least-impressive 34 point performance ever, it was the Vikings defense that ruled the day, and Edwards was the best player on that defense in that game.

Goat of the Week - Tony Romo, QB Dallas

Sure, he was pressured constantly. Yet, most of that pressure came in the second half. In the first half, where they played pretty well, and the o-line blocking was adequate, Romo was awful. He fumbled away the first drive, missed open receivers on the second drive, held the ball too long on the third drive. You get the picture, don't you? Then, he threw an inexplicable interception. He invented pressure, and seemed to run around when there was little around him. I hate Brett Favre, and the way the media played him up for years now, but when he was evading tacklers, throwing on the run, Romo was doing the exact opposite. Maybe the 'Boys just knew how to play the Eagles, and that is it. I mean, they are now 4-3 in their last seven games. Romo may have helped cost Wade Phillips his job, when Phillips' unit was the only one that played well all year. I guess Jessica Simpson wasn't the problem then, huh?

Surprise of the Week - Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans

Yes, he's finally the opposite of a bust, and only becuase he was a bust. He was always a good receiver and always a good returner, but he played like a good rusher. He ran downhill, he ran with a purpose. He never even ran that well at USC. That touchdown run was brilliant. He stayed upright, pushed the feet and changed direction, three things that were so distant from him in his first four years. Reggie Bush's punt return was one of the more exceptional punt returns I have ever seen. Now, some blame goes to Arizona's kick coverage, but Bush outran the Cardinals in like two seconds. Most people do some lateral moves in punt returns, Bush just ran straight ahead. There might be hope for Reggie yet. And its obvious he can play in the playoffs (three games, five tds).

Dissapointment of the Week - Ray Rice, RB Baltimore

He was the most talked-about young upstart after round one. He was supposed to run all over the Colts, like he did to the more "physical" defense of the Patriots. The Colts should get alot of credit (and they will), but man was Rice bad. He ran with no intensity, no passion, until the game was all but decided. He got the ball alot out of the backfield, but never got alot of YAC, which he did so well in the regular season. He was bad in blitz pickup, bad in running, bad in receiving, and to cap off the quatrafecta is that he fumbled the ball away on his one good run of the day. Ray Rice is from Rutgers, so I will always have a soft spot for him, but that was a total dissapointment. I hope he comes back strong next year, but that stage was just too much for him.

Team Performance of the Week - Indianapolis Colts' Defense

I thought alot about going with the Saints defense, or the Vikings team, but I haven't given them any love yet. I have to. That was dominating. It wasn't like the Vikes holding the Cowboys to 3, as that was large part in due to the Cowboys fumbling and missing field goals multiple times. The Ravens were just utterly shut down after that first drive. The Ravens had five first downs on the first drive, five for the next ten drives. The Ravens got 85 yards on the first drive, 83 in every other drive until the last two garbage-time drives. The Colts absolutely slammed the door on that rushing offense. The Ravens had run for 308-124-175-240-234 in their last five games. They got 87. They had 67 on their first 18 carries, then on their last carry of the game, Rice ran for twenty, and the flowing Colts defense forced a fumble on that self-same play. That fumble: it was caused by a d-lineman 20 yards downfield. Then, the just fooled Flacco all the time. They covered beautifully after the first drive. I don't know what happened on that first drive, but it switched completely after it. The Colts defense was dominant. It was the BEST defense of the weekend. Yes, Jets fans, the BEST.

Team Lay-Down of the Week - San Diego Chargers Offense

Their defense actually played better than I expected. Their offense, they played worse, and I expected them to get 16 points. I'm absolving Nate Kaeding, becuase he plaing craps his pants in the playoffs. That is no surprise. The Chargers shouldn't have depended on a scatter-brain kicker in the first place. That Chargers offense was pathetic. Rivers was good, but didn't rise his play at the end. He threw one absolutely horrific interception at a time and place on the field when the biggest concern was taking care of the ball. The offensive-line couldn't open a lane all day, and they committed four false starts. Four? At home? That's terrible. Then, Jackson goes and kicks the challenge flag, they kick themselves after fumbling time after time. I'm sorry, but the Chargers offense didn't give themselves a chance, let along the Jets defense forcing them into a loss. I think it's time to give the Chargers the Colts 2002-2005 treatment. They are playoff chokers, and are probably worse chokers (having lost to worse teams in 2004, 2006 and 2009) than the Colts ever lost to.

Most Overplayed Storyline of Last Week - Momentum

The Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFC. The Chargers haven't lost since October. Those two have all the momentum. The Colts lost their final two games, and haven't won a game in a month. The Saints lost their last three games, two of which they tried. They rested starters. The Vikings were 2-3 to end the year. Sure, they didn't lose their final game, but they were 2-3 to end the year. Yeah, momentum matters.

Teams entering the postseason with the longest winning streak:
2008 - Colts, lost AFC Wild Card
2007 - Patriots, lost Super Bowl
2006 - Chargers, lost AFC Divisional
2005 - Redskins, lost NFC Divisional
2004 - Steelers, loset AFC Championship
2003 - Patriots, won Super Bowl.

Yeah, the last time the "hottest" team won the Super Bowl was in 2003. I think the hottest team matters as much as the best-looking uniform in deciding the outcome of postseason games.

Storyline That Will be Beat Into the Ground This Week - Colts Pulling Their Starters Against the Jets in Week 16

That was the game that started the Jets path to the playoffs (luck) and now to the Title Game (all skill). That was the game that gave the Colts more problems that probably most of their playoff losses. That was the game that forced Roger Goodell to think of the idea of giving draft picks to teams that don't rest their starters (not only was that a stupid idea, but I'm pretty sure that it will never happen, since the rested teams won BIG). That was the game that ended the Colts run at perfection. That was the perfect what if game. That was a game that will have no influence on this next game. The Colts won't rest people, the Jets won't benefit from the Colts resting. The winner won't luck in, it will earn this win.

Storyline That Should be Beat Into the Ground This Week - It's 2006 All Over Again, Will It End the Same?

In 2006, the Super Bowl was in Miami. In 2006, the Colts hosted an AFC East team that just upset the Chargers in the AFC Championship. The Saints played a team from the NFC North in the NFC Championship. The public all wanted Colts-Saints. Manning-Brees. The team that couldn't win the big one and the team that couldn't win. The public gets a second chance. Rex Grossman and the Bears screwed it up. The Vikings and the Jets get a chance to this year. The public actually probably wants Favre-Manning, so the Saints could screw it up, which would indirectly surfeit all of those that wanted the Saints-Colts in '06.

Well, this was the weekend that dome-field advantage come back. Loud domes, loud wins. Outside in sunny Cali, well, that never works well in sports. Last year, we saw the death of home-field advantage. Home-field advantage was ressurected pretty quickly, wasn't it. Hopefully, it lasts one more week. Hopefully, we have two good games in the remaining three. Hopefuly, these playoffs teach people not to overrate momentum.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Redemption Weekend

This is a weekend that generally the coming-out party of the teams with a bye. These are the top-4 teams in the NFL, the only teams in the league to win 75% of their games. However, they are all being treated as vulnerable toddlers if you take the mainstream media for their word. Every single team is being questioned, even the teams that have won 11 straight games coming in. The Saints and the Colts were being hailed as the "Greatest 2-Team Run Ever", and now they are seemingly freefalling faster than the Patriots. The Vikings were 12-4, and 8-0 in that ludicrously loud dome of theirs, however you have to look under canyons, let alone rocks, to find anyone that thinks they can even make this a game. Finally, people are being lured by Rex Ryan's hypnotic tummy, becuase the thinking in that game seems split. I'm calling it redemption weekend, as the teams being slammed for either entering the playoffs on losing streaks, or being slammed for not having a star on their helmets and having the most inanely annoying character in NFL history. Onto the games:

Arizona @ New Orleans (-6.5)

Cardinals: Offense - 1; Defense - 4; QB - 1; Coach - 1; Formula Rating: (1+4)*3 + 1+1 = 17
Saints: Offense - 2; Defense - 2; QB - 2; Coach - 2; Formula Rating: (2+2)*3 + 2+2 - 1 = 15

Formula Winner: New Orleans Saints

State of the Teams: So, these are the two best teams in the NFC, of course they have to play each other. This would have been a thrilling NFC Championship Game, yet one of that Minnesota-Dallas group will crash its way into the game next weekend. There is buzz for Arizona, however, I'm not quite sure why. Their defense was complete garbage for three quarters. They needed to make just one stop in that second half, one, and that was the game. Sure, their offense was at a 2007 Patriots level, but as the Patriots now know, that only goes so far. You need a defense too. The Saints have that defense, one that creates turnovers at a near-league high level. Charles Grant missing will be a problem, but at least its not Will Smith, or Sedrick Ellis. Everyone else is healthy. Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Darren Sharper all healthy and ready to play. They can make stops on good offenses. The New Orleans o-line was knicked up near the end of the year, and reportedly the bye helped alot. Sure, they ended the year sourly, but its not like some of the other great offensive juggernauts ended the year great (cough*2007 Pats*hacking coughing up phlegm cough). They were still a team that at home fed off that crowd, and can sleep walk to 30 points.

Redemption Factor: People now hate the Saints. They have turned from America's darling into America's self-flaggelating lamb in three weeks. People have been bagging on them for weeks now. Evidently everyone just permanently deleted that Monday Night smackdown, their consecutive 40 points performances against the Eagles and Giants and all the other great showings they've had this year. Their defense was bagged on, as people overlooked serious injuries that are now fixed. This team is getting no love, which is shocking when they were universally hailed as the best team in football after that beatdown of the Pats. They have a crowd, a city and a state all behind them, and the Saints fans can jack-up that stadium like no other. This is a perfect week for the Saints to show up in full colors and remind the NFL that they are still the top team in the NFC.

Weird Stat to Help Me Pick the Game: Teams that score over 35 in the wild card round since 2002 are 2-5 in the divisional round.

Pick: I just cannot get that defensive performance by the Cardinals out of my head. Aaron Rodgers is an excellent player, but he's not Drew Brees, and Rodgers' stable of targets are not Colston, Moore, Meachem, Henderson, Bush, Thomas, Shockey, Thomas. The Cardinals just don't have the horses to keep up. I expect Warner to keep pace, but I think with the depth of the secondary of the Saints, the loss of Boldin, who is expected to miss the game, will be felt. Saints win it, more comfortably than expected, but the two teams still put on the most exciting show of the weekend. Cardinals 27 Saints 38 (NO)

Baltimore @ Indianapolis (-6.5)

Ravens: Offense - 3; Defense - 3; QB - 4; Coach - 1; Formula Rating: (3+3)*3 + 4+1 = 23
Colts: Offense - 1; Defense - 2; QB - 1; Coach - 3; Formula Rating: (1+2)*3 + 1+3 - 1 = 12

Formula Winner: Indianapolis Colts

State of the Teams: The Ravens are riding high after that blowout over the Pats, being the team to finally kill of any lingering media-birthed mystique Brady and Belichick might have had. Their running game is playing at an all-year high, putting up over 175 yards for three straight weeks. The defense is finally getting pressure and creating turnovers, and were solid against the run as they always are. Ngata, Gregg and Edwards (who is finally doing something after being a first-round pick in 2004) are plugging up the gaps, and letting Suggs, Lewis and Johnson roam free in space. Ray Lewis is playing very well, and the team is in total sync in when to rush, anticipating snap-counts brilliantly. However, getting turnovers, especially tipped-ball interceptions is luck, and it is hard to imagine them forcing three more first-quarter turnovers, and leading 24-0 after one quarter. Flacco enters with a bruised hip, and it showed as he had no real mobility and was sailing passes. He will need to do more than 34 yareds. The Colts, on the other hand, are entering with two straight losses, much controversial losses, where they rested everyone. They chose to rest players over pursue perfection, and there is no way to say that at least they succeeded at resting players. The Colts are by far healthier now than they have been all year. All of their players that were knicked up are now healthy and ready to go.

Redemption Factor: Only the Minnesota game has a higher redemption factor. The Colts are beng slammed. They were universally hated after throwing away a shot at perfection. It was as if the Colts were quilty of administering serial-beheadings to the entire state of Indiana. Now, there is added pressure and hate on the Colts becuase of some perceived "They were rusty in 2005 and 2007 when they sat guys". In 2005, after James Dungy tragic suicide, Dungy left the team and the Colts rested far MORE than they rested this year. They were rusty, but the way the team was handled was understandably poor. In 2007, they were not healthy. Freeney was out and Mathis and Brock were hobbling. Also, they did not play rusty, as Manning connected on his first 13 throws, and they had chances to win. The Colts are mad. They want to show the league that they are the team that won 14 straight games. That they are not going to be one-and-done again.

Weird Stat to Help Me Pick Games: Since the 2002 Division realignment, the home team is 6-1 on the Saturday Night Game, with the only loss being last year when Arizona beat Jake Delhomme (needless to say, Manning is not Delhomme).

Pick: The Colts are mad. They are the team that will make every play when neccesary. They have the confidence and the cool to play better at the tightest moments. The Ravens have thrown games away with penalties and turnovers, but when these two teams played in Week 11, it was the Colts that almost threw the game away. The Colts turned it over more, and Tom Santi fumbled at the goal-line when they could have taken a 24-9 lead. That game was not as close as a 17-15 game, and this won't be either. Manning is locked in. The Lucas Oil Field will be jacked up, roaring to go on a Saturday Night fest. The Ravens are riding high, but with a Colts defense that will not be a soft pillow against the run, and make Flacco throw more than 10 times, it's hard to envision them getting as many points. Ravens 14 Colts 27 (IND)

Dallas @ Minnesota (-2.5)

Cowboys: Offense - 3; Defense - 1; QB - 3; Coach - 3; Formula Rating: (3+1)*3 + 3+3 = 18
Vikings: Offense - 4; Defense - 3; QB - 4; Coach - 4; Formula Rating: (4+3)*3 + 4+4 - 1 = 28

Formula Winner: Dallas Cowboys

State of the Teams: The Cowboys are being hailed as the second coming of the '72 Dolphins at this point. Romo has been excellent at controlling the ball, which is really all he needs to do with a finally healthy and functioning running game. Their defense though is at a '00 Ravens high by the sounds of it. They have only allowed 14 points in their last three games COMBINED. Their front-seven is finally playing at the level it did in 2007 with Anthony Spencer reaching the potential that allowed Greg Ellis to be a replacable part. Jay Ratliff is getting excellent penetration on pass-rushing situations, and Olshansky and Spears are holding the point-of-attack well, shutting down the run. The key for the Cowboys is the secondary. They can be beat, but are playing with confidence. Mike Jenkins and Terrence Newman are both playing well, but get into times where they play spottily and try to make plays on the ball when they aren't there. The Vikings seem to be in free fall, but their offense is still chumming along. Brett Favre has been amazing in the dome, and Peterson is still a back that requires at least 7 in the box. Percy Harvin is finally healthy, and having him back makes their trips set so much more dangerous. The Vikings defense has been exposed in the back-end, and it weirdly coincided with the return of Antoine Winfield. The depression in their secondary play is less voiced but more noticable and important than the loss of EJ Henderson. The Vikings are injury-plagued and many guys are playing down in the tail end of the season, but they all seem to raise their level in the dome.

Redemption Factor: This has never been higher maybe in memory. Only Arizona's round one game last year was anything near this. I have yet to find one person who thinks that the Vikings will win. Most people even expect the Cowboys to run all over them. The Vikings are the lowest favorite, and I am amazed that Vegas has not moved the line much, since there is roughly 70% of the betting action on the Cowboys. The Vikings have to be really, really mad at all this. They are 8-0 at home, were 10-1 at one point, and have dominated good teams at home. They play with that crowd, and those defenders on the d-line just get great jumps on the ball when at home. Even knowing all this, no one, and I mean NO ONE, is picking the Vikings.

Weird Stat to Help Me Pick This Game: Since the 2002 realignment, the home team is 3-4 in the Sunday Early game, with the road team winning three of the last four, and the one time that the home team won in the last four years it went to overtime (Seattle 24 Chicago 27).

Pick: I just cannot help but lose the feeling that the fact that there is no one picking the Vikings signals a huge letdown for the betting public and a huge win for Vegas. You cannot find one person that would pick the Vikings, even at like 10-1 odds. It's like this game is in Dallas and Jerry Jones is personally reffereeing, seeing the way people just assume Dallas is going to win. At least people have the whole "The top teams are on losing streaks" theory to drown out rational thought in the Saints and Colts games. There is no excuse for this. Even my self-made rankings love the Cowboys. If I have learned one thing from trying to watch betting lines and picks the last couple of years is that there are no obvious games. Here you have an team that is 8-0 at home, and on defense excels at rushing the passer and stopping the run. On the other side, you have a team that is 5-3 on the road, that loves to run the ball and has an offensive-line that has crazy periods of suckiness randomly. Why is this game so obvious? It's not for me. Vegas will build five new casinos after this one, if I am right (and my formula and the whole of America is wrong). Cowboys 20 Vikings 24 (MIN)

New York (a) @ San Diego (-7.5)

Jets: Offense - 4; Defense - 1; QB - 3; Coach - 4; Formula Rating: (4+1)*3 + 3+4 = 22
Chargers: Offense - 2; Defense - 4; QB - 2; Coach - 2; Formula Rating: (2+4)*3 + 2+2 - 1 = 21

State of the Teams: The Jets enter this game with their eyes focused and their mouths agape, spewing trash and bravado. Why not? They are the team that "backed in" and are now making the most of it. Their defense has beautifully adjusted to losing Kris Jenkins, and with the now health of David Harris, their pass-rush is effective and constant. Their running game is the best in the league, and with Shonn Greene bursting onto the scene with alarming success, it is only better now. That offensive-line is high-priced but mercilessly effective. Mark Sanchez was amazing in his playoff debut. He was cool and efficient. It helped that the Bengals forgot who Dustin Keller was, but Sanchez was still accurate on all his throws. The Chargers are the hottest team in the league. Winners of 11 straight, they have been ruthlessly effective throwing the ball deep. They have switched mentalities, eschewing crusty LT for Rivers and an aerial show. All his tall targets are excellent at going up for Rivers' perfect deep ball. They mix in their backs well in that passing game. That defense is finally playing better against the run, but is still vulnerable. In total, their defense is worse than the Bolts defense of each of the last five years, but they now are more poised late in close games.

Redemption Factor: This is really low. People love the Chargers. I mean they love them. The Colts are the new black-sheep for pulling their starters, while the Chargers are the new darling-team. They have taken surprisingly little flak for repeated playoff failures. They have know been labelled as one of the most talented teams (actually, most say they are the MOST talented) in the NFL for five years. What have they done: missed the playoffs in '05, one and done at 14-2 in '06, lost the Title game in '07, and were ball-cracked in Heinz Field in '08. If the Colts missed the Super Bowl for four straight years they would be crucified. However, they are not the Colts, they get the benefit of the doubt. People love them, and will pick them this week, and mercilessly pound money on them next week if they play Indianapolis.

Weird Stat to Help Me Pick This Game: The team entering the postseason with the longest winning streak since 2004 has not won the Super Bowl, with the 2005, 2006 and 2008 teams that entered the postseason with the longest winning streak not making it past the Divisional Round (2005 - Washington, 2006 - San Diego, 2008 - Indianapolis).

Pick: I love the Jets. They match up so well with the Chargers. The Jets can shut people down passing the ball. They did it to the Saints, they relatively did it to the Colts, they can do it to the Chargers. The Raiders are the only team that took V-Jax out of the game, and the Chargers beat them by 4 and 8. The Jets can run the ball better than any team in the NFL, and the Chargers have allowed 100 yards rushing in 13 of 16 games this year. The Jets are the best defense, and the Chargers have struggled to put away good defenses, let alone great ones. Call it a hunch, like most of these picks actually. The formula is suprisingly close, and that does it for me. The Chargers will have to endure another sadist winter, and maybe they will finally start taking some of the flak the Colts had to endure. Jets 20 Chargers 16 (NYJ)

Enjoy the Games!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The End of an Era?

There they were, driving again into enemy territory. There he was, reared back to throw, delivering a dagger to Ben Watson and into the hearts of the Colts, cutting through the RCA Dome. There they were, celebrating, ready to deliver the knockout. The trip to meet the Bears was emminent, a fourth title in six years was emminent. Little did the Patriots know, did Tom Brady know, that a little piece of yellow cloth would change it all. Offensive Pass Interference was the call, 1st and 10 at the 19 became 2nd and 17 at the 34.

Then Reche Caldwell happened, and Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark happened, and David Tyree and Plaxico happened and now Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs happened. Gone was everything they worked for, everything they have acheived. Brady was still there, Belichick was still hoodied, but their faces express sadness not smugness, anhillation not exuberation. It was over. The dynasty, the mystique, the era, the decade. The team that won over America, then lost America, was finally losing themselves. The "end of an era" was here, as Kelley Washington exclaimed. He was wrong, it ended long before, when Troy Brown interfered with Nick Harper, when 1st and 10 became 2nd and 17.

The Patriots were the team of the decade because they represented America. They were smart, selfless, tough and talented. They played as a team, each player playing for each other, working together to do things that no team had ever done. Nothing was beyond their reach. Best Offense: they held them to three points. Best Defense: they scored 41 on them. Down 10 in the fourth quarter, doing nothing, about the choke away the last game in Foxboro: they scored 10 straight and broke hearts in Oakland. They were the team that could do anything. They could run, they could pass, they could defend both easily and effectively. They were the perfect TEAM. 10 straight playoff games, 10 straight opponents beaten. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest, Ty Law and Richard Seymour combined to create the must ruthlessly effective defense the sport had ever known. And controlling all the strings, masquerading as the enemy to protect the soldiers, was the hoodied one, Bill Belichick. They were America's team; the Patriots. They were a dynasty, born in New England, crowned in Jacksonville.

Then, the 2006 Title Game happened. They built the Patriot way: no player was more important than the next, no player would command more money than needed. This was the strategy that built a dynasty, and one that would eventually end it. Top receiver Deion Branch was let go, just another body trying to challenge the Patriot Way, another body that failed. Like always, the Patriots were effective defensively, second in the NFL in scoring defense, 12-4, winners of the AFC East, and winner's of another amazing comeback against the NFL's top team. Another year in the playoffs, another league MVP knocked off (Tomlinson, the 5th straight MVP the Pats had beaten in the playoffs), another showdown with their lap-dog the Colts awaited. The game started like any other Pats playoff game. The Pats made all the plays, the Colts made nary a one. The Pats controlled the game, marching up and down the field, pressuring Manning, shutting the once raucous RCA Dome into a stunned silence. Holding a 21-3 lead, Troy Brown was flagged for pass interference. Brady was sacked, and 35 points later, the Colts were the ones celebrating. It was all so knew. The year before, when Champ Bailey broke hearts and broke the Pats, that was merely a road-bump. A fitting conclusion to an injury marred season. However, this was different, this was a sign that the Patriot Way was over. Their defensive run was over, their ownership of the Colts was over. A new team was king of the AFC, the Colts were on top, Manning over Brady, Dungy over Belichick, drafting stars and paying them well over gathering team pieces, interchangable parts. The methodology of a Champion was new. It was not low-cost free agents, adding to a team that had the heart and the head to win. No, it was offense, it was stars. Get you QB and surround him with weapons. The Patriots did not do it, the Colts did, and the Colts charred that team with offensive fireworks. This was the true death of the Patriots dynasty. The dynasty, in what it was built on, the tenets of its very existence, were beaten, sentenced to death just two years after its highest point.

The reason that this moment, not the decrepid performance that was displayed on the Gillette Stadium field last Sunday, marked the last night of the Patriots Dynasty was that it signaled a change in the mindset, in the build, the makeup of the Patriots. The Patriot Way was beaten. Deion Branch fought the way, and lost. However, the Patriots lost their only reliable receiver, the ailment that killed them in the 2006 Title Game. They new having reliable receivers, what made the Colts so great, was a huge hole that laid itself right in the middle of a once sturdy lockerroom. In came Welker, and Moss and Stallworth, three receivers, all high-cost acquisitions. They were the heroes entering the castle, built to match the Colts, built to own the new NFL. However, they were no longer the same defense, one that could constrict the life out of any opponent. They were now the Colts, they were the team that they had hated and had beaten more often than not. They exploded on the NFL and the scoreboard, putting up points at record rates. Belichick, angered by slights and taunts due to his own cheating scandal, left the horses in, punching teams in the mouth and then kicking them when they laid motionless, defenseless on the ground. It was beautiful, vengeful, confident and callous all in one move. It led to wins and wins, touchdowns and touchdowns at record rates. Yet, it led to nothing but failure. They lost to the Giants, ending their run at perfection one game to soon. Two years later, whatever mystique, whatever ability they had to play better as the games got tighter, was lost. The Patriots had transformed, completing when they sent Richard Seymour to Oakland, piling him on the heap of discarded veteran leaders that led this team to Glory. They were now nothing like the team that piled up wins and Lombardi trophies with a confident ease.

The Patriots dynasty did not die Sunday. The new Pats died. They transformed their team into an offensive juggernaut, and like most offensive juggernauts, it ultimately ended in defeat. There was no swagger, no intensity. Tedy Bruschi once just ripped the ball out of Colts' Dominic Rhodes hands in the 2004 Playoffs, now it was them getting balls ripped out. The Patriots thought the Patriot Way, the very thing that led to ultimate success and the label of the first "Dynasty" of the 21st Century, was old and fruitless. They made a concerned effort to switch to an offense-first team, a team that emulated the Colts, the Rams, all of the teams the Dynastic Patriots used to beat with regularity. The new Patriots died, as Brady, Moss all aged before our eyes. Now, Welker is probably out till mid 2010, and Moss seems to be more interested in putting things on his big shoulders than playing a game. Brady is not the same post-injury, and seeing by Carson Palmer's play, he may never be the same again. It is now over, the post-Dynasty offensive juggernaut Patriots, that is. The real Patriots, the ones that held the Lombardi Trophy over their heads three times, that beat MVP's and stars time after time, were long gone, decaying in the now-barren RCA Dome, the sight of their defensive emasculation, the sight of their now scalped defense-first mantra. The Pats are never-more now, but in reality, the Pats have never been the Pats. They were the Colts-wannabes. The Pats have been gone for three years now, and it will be a while before they reach those levels again, and it won't be with Brady and Belichick, as they are too far gone in their offense-first mentality, and too advanced in age to change.

Had the offensive pass-interference never been called, the Patriots probably would have tacked on some more points, making an already one-sided game into a blowout that would have shaken the NFL earth, forever killing the Colts. Instead, it killed the Patriots dynasty. When the Cowboys were finally beaten by the Panthers, an upstart team with less wins than the Cowboys had hall-of-famers, it was over. They were never to be seen again. When Joe Montana fumbled the exchange to Roger Craig, he was never to lead that team to a Super Bowl again (I'm guessing that Brian Hoyer is not Steve Young incarnate). When the Bills smashed the Steelers, Bradshaw and Noll never stook on top of the football world again. And finally, when Brown needlessly smashed Nick Harper, and the yellow cloth bounced of the RCA Dome turf, they were never to hold the league hostage again. The dynasty was over, dead, lifeless. That was the last night of the Patriots dynasty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wild Card Weekend Review

So, one round in the books, and the best weekend of football to come. Four great games are in store this week. I can see any of the four NFC teams winning, and the dichotomy between the Chargers and Colts and Jets and Ravens is interesting, in a new school vs old school twist. Either way, I would be remiss to pass over a chance to award and scold those who made wild card weekend a combination of football from 1975 (34 yds? WTF? Running? "This is NOT what I signed up FOR!!!") and two 10 year olds playing Madden on rookie level in that last game. Here are some quick awards for round one.

Player of the Week - Kurt Warner, QB Arizona

This stat line is really as good as it gets: 29-33 376 5 tds. Those are the numbers of a first-ballot hall of famer. Sure, the Packers defense was moving around like drunks at time square, but numbers are numbers. Warner is now 9-3 in the playoffs, with six three-hundred yard games. He now ranks fourth all-time in TDs in the playoffs, and is eighth in yards. Those numbers are the stuff of real legends (unlike the next guy, a fake legend). I really hope he doesn't retire, as it really is a joy to watch Kurt Warner play in the playoffs. Watching Kurt Warner fling the ball around is something that needs to be cherished every time it happens, as every single team he cocks his arm back, might be one less tick in that career clock falling through.

Goat of the Week - Tom Brady, QB

If you thought that the Warner section was a bunch of sugary prose, it was. Fear not, this section will not be. Tom Brady was so bad, Gisele reportedly started the affair with DiCaprio after the first interception, and was pregnant by the third. Brady was horrible. The media's coddling of him is amazing, as no one, but the soothesayer of the times Dieon Sanders, was man enough to openly criticise him. He's not hurt, as he was 23-26 three weeks ago, with the same reported Rib Injury. No, he just stunk. He was complete shit. He threw the ball 42 times, and gained only 154 yards? I could do that, by just throwing one yard quicks to Moss. He was sacked three times and turned the ball over 4 times, at home no less. Manning has only played that bad a playoff game once, and that was on the road as a prohibitive underdog in a snowstorm. Brady's first interception was high-school level bad. Carson Palmer went 18-36 with no TDs, and Shayne Graham missed two field goals that any competent Pop Warner kicker hits, and neither of them win 'Goat of the Week'. Talk about an upset.

Surprise Player of the Week - Dustin Keller, TE Jets

I was going to go with Early Doucet, for stepping in for Boldin and putting up two tds, but Keller deserves this in every conceivable way. Really, here is a guy who was such a dissapointment in the regular season that people just completely forgot about his primary existence, letting him off the hook for doing jack for 17 weeks. Keller was invisible. Maybe he doesn't like Mexicans, who knows. Where was this Dustin Keller all year. He was absolutely Benjamin Watson-y. It was completely inexplicable that he suddenly turned into neo-Kellen Winslow (the senior, not the thug "warrior" junior) and turned that playoff game around. He was finally the TE that so many (me) thought he would be when we (I) picked him early in my fantasy draft. Screw you, Keller, for stringing the fantasy world along. But congrats for Manning up and balling out in round one.

Dissapointing Player of the Week - DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles

Where were you? Maybe you aren't all your crack-self thought you were. You crowned your ass, and know that we (I) are not letting you off the hook. He evidently tweeted multiple times how he would run all over the Cowboys, instead he bended over. He opened it up, and took multiple jabs from all of the Cowboys players. Honestly, the performance by the whole Eagles was reprihensible, but for someone that talks as much shit as DeSean does, that was an awfully silent performance. The Eagles are one of the classier teams (note: not classier fan-bases) in the NFL, and that was truly un-Eagle like behavior.

Team Performance of the Week - Arizona Cardinals Offense

There is nothing harder than protecting a lead while still playing to score. I think the Cardinals perfected such a quandary. That was vintage Warner. That was the Greatest Show on Turf. What classifies something to be like the "Greatest Show on Turf" is when the offense is so effective that it just looks effortless, like the receivers are always running free, the ball is always there. That is how the Rams used to do it, and how the Saints did it early in '09. The Packers looked like they had to work for those yards, that great-catches had to be made. Not so for the Cards. It was easy, it was on. Here was their drive-by-drive results: TD, TD, FG, PUNT, TD, TD, TD, PUNT, TD, MISS FG, TD. That was offense at its very best. No turnovers, no negative plays. Just yard after yard and point after point.

Team Lay-Down of the Week - New England Patriots Whole Entire Organization

Worst Home Playoff Defeats of the last 5 years (Points given for missed 2-point conversions as extra-points):
5.) Pittsburgh 31 Cincinnati, 2005 Wild Card
4.) Pittsburgh 34 Denver 17, 2005 AFC Championship
3.) Baltimore 27 Miami 9, 2008 Wild Card
2.) Arizona 33 Carolina 13 - 2008 Divisional Round
1.) Baltimore 34 New England 14 - 2009 Wild Card

That's right. That was the worst home performance of the last five years. This was a team that had never lost a playoff game in that Stadium since Tom Brady was one. This was a team that was 14-3 in the playoffs, and had never lost to the Ravens, ever. That was a team with the best owner, best coach, best QB, best WR, best Stadium and best urinals (all of those are not true, except for one, as told by urinal-ranker.net). They were down 24-0 before the team had 20 yards of offense. Their first four possessions: Fumble, Punt, Interception, Interception. The Ravens first five possessions (the ones sandwiching those four): TD, TD, Punt, TD, FG. Game over. It was that easy to emasculate any "fear" that really was never there since Super Bowl XLII. The dynastic Patriots died that night in Denver in January 2006, when Brady was hammered constantly, but played admirably against immense pressure in a jacked-up Mile High. The post-Dyansty Patriots (the NFL's version of the 2001-2007 high-priced team-less Yankees) died last night. However, unlike the Yankees, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett are not walking through that Foxboro door. Stick a fork in the Pats. The Brady-Belichick days of winning Super Bowls are done.

Storyline that will be Beat to the Ground This Week - Colts Rested Their Starters

Don't you know that this is the first Colts game in one month? No, you don't. Well it is. Let alone that in the first game the starters played midway through the third quarter, and in Week 17 they played midway through the second. The Colts lack the physicality to fight the Ravens when they are rusty. Of course, Arizona rested everyone including their towel boy (somehow, Larry Fitzgerald's barber was not given the week off), and went on to explode to the tune of 513 yards and 51 points. No, no. Don't you understand the Colts always lose when they rest their starters, except for those two times in 2003 and 2004, where they rested and beat the Broncos a combined 90-34. The Colts will fall down like the Pats in that first quarter becuase they are rusty. Of course, the Pats didn't rest in Week 17 (and lost anyway), and Tom Brady played like utter manure. Rest will kill the Colts.

Storyline that Should be Beat to the Ground - Jets Matchup Well with Chargers

Of course, the main-stream media will disregard actual football when they preview the week ahead. If they did, they would notice that the media's lover-boys, the Chargers who were the odds-on favorite to reach the Super Bowl in 2006 and lost, do not match up well with the Jets at all. On defense, the Jets aren't great against the run. Not to worry, the Chargers are the worst rushing team in the NFL. The Jets are great at stopping the deep ball and blitzing and have a corner who can shut anybody down. That matches up brilliantly against a team that really can only move the ball with the deep ball (something they are incredible at), with only one plus reciever and a QB who struggles when blitzed. Then the Jets are great at running the ball, and the Chargers are porous on run defense this year after losing Jammall "I'm so fat I ate Shawne Merriman's ability" Williams. Honestly, the Jets are a matchup nightmare for the Chargers. How happy am I (btw, so were the Bengals, who were essentially a slightly less-competent version of the Jets, or at least less competent at the kicker position).

Wild Card weekend was merely the appetizer. The entree awaits. Eight good teams, including the league's heretofore four best? Sign me up. Four great crowds, six great QBs, eight great teams, hall-of-famers everywhere? Shackle me down. I will be watching every minute. Thank God NYU only starts next week.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Round 2 Re-Ranking

After round one, a round with three blowouts, including one cathartic orgasmic ball of a blowout in Foxboro, and a classic (although we'll get to it later in the week), we need to re-rank these teams for the formula.

Rankings Overview


1.) Indianapolis (Previous: 1)
2.) San Diego (Previous: 2)
3.) Baltimore (Previous: 4)
4.) New York (Previous: 6)

The Ravens and Jets did not really change, because the 3 and 5 rankings lost, to them.

1.) New York (Previous: 1)
2.) Indianapolis (Previous: 3)
3.) Baltimore (Previous: 4)
4.) San Diego (Previous: 5)

Again, no real switches. I had to really hold putting Baltimore over Indianapolis, but one game cannot sway me that much. Obviously, if they beat them this week, then by default they will get a higher rating than Indianapolis.

1.) Peyton Manning (Previous: 1)
2.) Philip Rivers (Previous: 2)
3.) Mark Sanchez (Previous: 6)
4.) Joe Flacco (Previous: 5)

Joe Flacco falls down below Mark Sanchez. This is hard for me to do, but Sanchez played great, as they limited the type of plays, but the Bengals just could not cover that play-action bootleg to the tight end. Flacco seems hurt, and that performance really was only better than Tom Brady, because he threw only one interception, not 47.

1.) John Harbaugh (Previous: 2)
2.) Norv Turner (Previous: 3)
3.) Jim Caldwell (Previous: 5)
4.) Rex Ryan (Previous: 6)

No changes here, either. Ryan had a good round one, Harbaugh had a better one, and for that Turner-Caldwell sandwich, they have the right to prove themselves in round two.


1.) Arizona (Previous: 2)
2.) New Orleans (Previous: 1)
3.) Dallas (Previous: 6)
4.) Minnesota (Previous: 3)

Lots of movement, with Minnesota dropping, due to Dallas' great performance. Now, that performance came against an Eagles team that had a Nancy Kerrigan-like lay-down, but they were finally able to throw up points with yards. Arizona was just unstoppable against a good defense. Warner was unbelievable, and quietly (mainly quietly due to pinball-like points that were being scored) Beanie Wells was also excellent. They are a dominant force in the playoffs.

1.) Dallas (Previous: 1)
2.) New Orleans (Previous: 4)
3.) Minnesota (Previous: 5)
4.) Arizona (Previous: 3)

Arizona tummels because they were not able to stop Mr. Rogers, let alone Aaron. They were unbeleivably..... bad. That was depressing. All the other three stayed in the same order, except for Arizona. That was hard to watch.

1.) Kurt Warner (Previous: 1)
2.) Drew Bress (Previous: 2)
3.) Tony Romo (Previous: 5)
4.) Brett Favre (Previous: 6)

Same as before. Kurt Warner is now entrenched at the top after that hall-of-fame clinching performance.

1.) Ken Whisenhunt (Previous: 1)
2.) Sean Payton (Previous: 2)
3.) Wade Phillips (Previous: 4)
4.) Brad Childress (Previous: 6)

Same as before. With a win in his resume (finally) he has a chance to move up. Not it this, but in those coach rankings that I did (which John Harbaugh is rappelling up at record pace).

Anyway, those are the updated rankings for the formula predictor, which is already beating me 3-1 to 2-2.

Wednesday: Round 1 Review
Thursday: Random Essayist Musing
Friday: Picks

Saturday, January 9, 2010

NFL Wild Card Round Picks

I am picking games two ways:
1.) Straight up, using a handy little formula that makes use of the rankings that I gave out for each team on offense, defense, QB and coach. The team with the lower total is my predicted winner using the formula.
2.) Against the spread, using my personal insight and feeling about a game. This is not at all related to the formula, but most likely will have the same overall winner.

It is true head (formula winner) vs. heart (my winner). However, the formula is based on arbitrary rankings that I myself gave, so its less mathematical, and more a way to compete against myself.

Fomula = (Offense + Defense) * 3 + QB + Coach (home team: -1)

New York @ Cincinnatti (-2.5)

Jets: Offense - 6; Defense - 2; QB -6; Coach - 6. Formula Rating: (6+2)*3 + 6+6 = 36
Bengals: Offense - 5; Defense - 1; QB - 4; Coach - 4. Formula Rating: (5+1)*3 + 4+4 - 1 = 25

Formula Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are just the better team, in a hostile environment willing to sacrifice newborns for some playoff joy. The Jets are a .500 team, one that blew games to the Jaguars, Falcons and Dolphins of the world, that got lucky. The luck has officially run out. Cinderella, its just a pumpkin now, honey.

Jets 10 Bengals 20 (CIN)

Philadelphia @ Dallas (-4)

Eagles: Offense - 5; Defense - 6; QB - 3; Coach - 5. Formula Ranking: (5+6)*3 + 3+5 = 41
Cowboys: Offense - 6; Defense - 1; QB - 5; Coach - 4. Formula Ranking: (6+1)*3 + 5+4 - 1 =29

Formula Winner: Dallas Cowboys

I'm going against the formula. Dallas is riding too high. No way the Eagles can play that terrible for two straight weeks. Also, this problem that Dallas has turning yards into points is scary. In a conference loaded with offensive teams, that is most necessary. Keep up the score. Instead, the Cowboys will let the Eagles keep it close, before the Eagles inevitably take it, sending them past their first game, as always happens.

Eagles 24 Cowboys 21 (PHI)

Baltimore @ New England (-3)

Ravens: Offense - 4; Defense - 4; QB - 5; Coach - 2. Formula: (4+4)*3 + 5+2 = 31
Patriots: Offense - 3; Defense - 6; QB - 2; Coach - 1. Formula: (3+6)*3 + 2+1 - 1 = 29

Formula Winner: New England Patriots

The formula has this game amazingly close. I feel the same way, but I will go against with the formula, and even say the Ravens steal one. The Ravens have never beaten the Pats.... in their franchise history. The Pats have never lost a playoff game in Gillette Stadium and are 8-0 at home. They will rally around Welker's loss, at least for one week. That all said, they simply are not better than the Ravens. The best team the Pats had beaten all year was....... The Jets? Yeah, that's not exactly impressive. They are the ultimate paper tiger, leaving and breathing proof that five years of middling self-relavance can be overcome by four years of greatness. It will now be 6 years since the Patriots raised the Lombardi trophy. I think its time we stop calling them the Golden standard of the league.

Ravens 23 Patriots 17 (BAL)

Green Bay (-.5) @ Arizona

Packers: Offense - 4; Defense - 1; QB - 4; Coach - 3. Formula Ranking: (4+1)*3 + 4+3 = 22
Cardinals: Offense - 2; Defense - 3; QB - 1; Coach - 1. Formual Ranking: (2+3)*3 + 1+1 - 1 = 16

Formula Winner: Arizona Cardinals

These are my two favorite teams in the NFC. It is a true shame, one I blame on the Vikings and Eagles for screwing it up, that they have to play each other. I would take any one of these teams over the Cowboys or Eagles, home or away. As for this game, I cannot get the sight of last year's postseason out of my mind. They owned last year, and that crowd was great. With this maybe being Warner's last year, I can see him having one last vintage Warner performance at home.

Packers 20 Cardinals 28 (ARZ)

Enjoy The Games!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 NFL Playoff Primer - AFC

6.) Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

Offense: They have returned to their roots. They are a running team again, putting up three games of over 175 yards rushing in their last four. They have even had success running against the better teams that they have played, going over 100 against San Diego, Indianapolis, each Pittsburgh matchup and against New England. However, what hurts them is that thier passing game has decreased in its efficiency and effectiveness in the second half of the season. In the second half of the season, in which the Ravens were 5-3, Joe Flacco's comp%, ypa and td% and int% have all dropped. This also has to do with people finally finding out that there are no real good targets for Flacco to throw at, other than Ray Rice. Derrick Mason has been struggling, and Mark Clayton and Kelly Washington are not really the latter day Rice and Taylor. Todd Heap has been a nice surprise, and the team is 4-0 in games where he scores a TD. Flacco can throw deep outs, but that is a route that gets harder and harder as it gets colder, and the teams that they are playing get better. The key is that offensive line. When Jared Gaither was healthy and manning the LT, putting Michael Oher at RT, the offense was sminning along nicely. However, when Gaither went down, shifting Oher to LT and Oneal Cousins to RT, it sputtered. Gaither is back, but did give up a sack against Oakland. It is unknown how back he really is. If the o-line plays well, that whole offense is just efficient. Not explosive, but efficient. Ranking: 4

Defense: This is not your dad's Ravens. This is not your last-year's'-self's Ravens from 2008. Their overall numbers are nice, 3rd in scoring and yards, 8th against the pass, 5th against the run. But let's look deeper. They ranked 14th in giving up 20+ yard passes. The only playoff team that they held to under 350 yards was the Patriots. Even the Bengals got over 350 both games. The still force turnovers, and have excelled at forcing turnovers in those same games against playoff competition. The key to the defense is the play of Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson. Unlike most 3-4s, the Ravens depend on those LBs, especially for pressure. If Suggs and Johnson can make plays, they will be able to conceal the problems they have had in the back-end. Reed is back, but still gimpy from that groin injury. Teams this year, especially now with Reed's limited mobility, have been able to gameplan around Reed and still hit deep balls, but just the thought of having Reed there seems like a sleeping giant, ready to just explode on someone. In fact, the sleeping giant seems to describe the team as a whole, however, it seems like their nap will continue to 2010. Ranking: 4

Quarterback: Joe Flacco has experience, I'll say that. I'll also say this, his experience has been really up-and-down. He has gone 2-1 last year, but never even completed 50% of his passes in any of those games, and capped it all off with a game-losing pick-six. His play this year has bounced from amazing to awful, and his prospect has gone from super-star to sophomore-slump. All I know is that in the year of the QB, it's hard to have too much confidence. Ranking: 5

Coach: On the other hand, John Harbaugh seems to have avoided all signs of a sophomore-slump. He is the third coach ever to inherit a non-playoff team and go to the playoffs in his first two years. He has made all the right calls, and I have never seen anybody able to manage the clock and his timeouts like he does. Every call he makes seems to be spot-on. Ranking: 2

Interesting Note: The Ravens have not won a home-playoff game since the Wild-Card Round in 2000. They are 6-4 in playoff games since, having only two at home, losing both.

5.) New York Jets (9-7)

Offense: Run, run, run. There is really nothing else. Thomas Jones probably had the most under-the-radar 1400 year ever. Combine that with the bruising of Shonn Greene and the play of Brad Smith, and they have the only true three-headed-rushing monster, and more credit is given to them for recovering from the injury to Leon Washington. Much of that is due to their offensive line. The Ferguson-Faneca-Mangold left side is the best in football in run-blocking. Now let's get to Sanchez. Honestly, him and that passing game, is by far the worst in the playoff field. Dustin Keller seems to have been deported in the offseason, and is replaced by a hand-less stunt-double. Braylon, it seems, can still drop passes in other states. Jerico Cotchery was a nice surprise. Mark Sanchez is 2-6 when he throws 25 passes or more. That is not good, especially when the teams in the AFC are good enough defensively to slow that running game. Ranking: 6

Defense: This is, numbers wise, the best defense in the NFL. They had the top-ranked pass defense, something that Rex Ryan seemed to have stolen from Baltimore. However, they don't really get to the quarterback (22nd in sacks) and don't intercept many passes (14th). So, it boils down to coverage, and much of that is the God that is Darrelle Revis. I know a little a bit about the position of shutdown corner, having been following a team with the best CB in the league in Nnamdi. However, Darrelle came close this year, shutting down everyone not named Tedd Ginn (ironically). He is great at bump, off and press coverage. Can stop people short, can cover deep on the fly. Their run D has struggled, relatively, after losing Jenkins and getting David Harris nicked up, but are still a top-half unit, and other than Cincinnatti and Baltimore (who they could only face in a wild 5-6 title game which has never happened) there is no top runnning game in the AFC. The David Harris injury is big. If he plays, he gives them the best pass-rush, run-stuff combo they have. If not, they are sorely lacking one of their best pass-rushers, and they are already a bit light on the pass-rush side. Another worrying note is the teams lack of being able to make a stop when needed. This is the calling card of a great team, and as witnessed by the two Miami games, the Atlanta game and the Jacksonville game, the Jets have had problems of making key stops in close games late, something that may very well come back to haunt them. Ranking: 2

Quarterback: Here is Mark Sanchez's stat-line: 12 tds, 21 ints, two games with a passer rating over 100. In other words, that translates to this: worst QB in the playoffs. He's a rookie, so he can, and hopefully for the Jets fans, will get better. But, to put him in the same class as Flacco, Ryan and Big Ben as rookies is disrespectful. Ranking: 6

Coach: If this were a coordinator ranking, then it gets an A. However, Rex Ryan has not shown his ability as a game manager, and struggles mightily with his defense in close games, which is the sign of a coach that is struggling. The other AFC coaches are great, so this hurts him. Again, as a DC he is top-notch though. Ranking: 6

Interesting Note: The Jets are the first team ever to lead the league in points allowed and not win double-digit games.

4.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Offense: For a while, they were the neo-Broncos, getting consecutive 100 yd games out of Bernard Scott, Larry Johnson and Cedric Benson. That didn't last long, but Cedric Benson has.
For whatever reason, be it scheme or o-line or just simple maturity, Benson is now a legitimate top-10 running back. He hits the holes hard, and is rarely stopped for negative yards, something that was as common as wind back in Chicago. Their o-line is a patchwork group, and really doesn't give good protection to Palmer at all, but excels in drive-blocking. Their passing offense has really sputtered after the injury (not death) of Chris Henry, losing the best vertical threat they had. Henry was able to open up holes for Chad underneath. As for the rest of their stable, let's just say that Laveraneaus Coles is no TJ Houshmanzadeh, and Andre Caldwell is no bug-eyed Reche Caldwell. Overall, they are the least impressive offensive team in the playoffs, but I attribute that more to their o-line, and their conservative approach. They know their defense will keep them in games (save for the game in the Metrodome and Week 17). They have been excellent in close games 7-2 in games decided by less than 7 points (discounting Stokley's miracle in Week 1). It seems, as evidenced by that game winning 97 yard drive against the Chiefs, that they can move the ball when necessary. This is also evident in the passing game, as in the biggest game of the year, it was Palmer's arm that nearly pulled off the win in San Diego. Ranking: 5

Defense: Throw out Week 17. They had no intention of playing that game with any sense of passion or even pride. That was a team essentially in a walk-through. In their 15 real games, this was, arguably the best defense in the NFL. They were better than the Jets, becuase they could close out games. They excelled in close games, able to force turnovers (possibly on downs) to seal games. Their duo of corners is the best in the league, with Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. Only four receivers got to 100 yards against them, the second best figure in the league. It is not ridiculous to say that the Bengals have two of the top-10 corners in the league. Without Mauluaga, their LB corp is weaker, but the true stud, Keith Rivers, is finally healthy. With Dumato Peko and Robert Geathers back for the playoffs, they have their two most important lineman. This is a pressure-based gam scheme, similar to what Lewis ran back in Baltimore, and it excels, as he just plugs in guys (Michael Johnson, Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Fanane) and they all just get pressure on the QB. It is a sight to behold. The Bengals knew they had to Raven and Steeler-up to compete in the AFC North, and for 2009 at least, they passed them both. Ranking: 1

Quarterback: It has not been Carson Palmer's best year, but I attribute that mainly to the o-line, the lack of any weapons, and the conservative gameplan. However, I have to dock Carson because none of that is going to change. I love Carson, but honestly, he has never been the same since that 2005 playoff game hit. That is the second greatest what-if injury of the decade (first comes later!!!) Ranking: 4

Coach: Marvin Lewis has done yeoman's work in Cincinnatti. Even when they were "dissappointing" they hovered around .500 which is better than most coaches in Bengals history. Marvin's game management is surprisingly good, as he saves timeouts well. He keeps his and the team's cool in close games, which is always a plus. Good, solid coach. Ranking: 4

Interesting Note: Their +14 point differential is the lowest in the playoffs (aided by their 37-0 loss in Week 17). Each of the last two years, the team that had the lowest point differential made the Super Bowl. NYG in 2007 (+14) and ARZ in 2008 (+1).

3.) New England Patriots (10-6)

Offense: Who will replace Welker? Not Julian Edelman. Honestly, the way that people opine "Edelmen is just another Welker" is far from the truth, and just blatant racism, if anything. Here are Brady's numbers in Welker-less games (including Week 17): 65-115, 679 yards, 1 td and 2 ints. I'm sorry, but that's impact. Now, their running game did pick up the slack (all of those games, ironically were played with a stable of healthy RBs, inlcuding Fred Taylor) averaging over 120 yards in those three games. Their running-backs are finally all healthy, but none of them are game-changers, and they all have their problems in the red zone. Maroney is a chronic fumbler and is far inside the Belichick Doghouse. Morris, Taylor and Faulk have all had nice years, but with only 8 tds and 2 100-yd games between them, they are harldy world-beaters. The key in this is if Brady can start getting the tight-ends involved, and alot of that has to do with the o-line. In games where the TE's caught 5 balls, the Pats were 7-2 (3-4 otherwise). The TEs are kept into block more than usual, since the o-line has really dropped off since their 2007 heyday, especially Nick Kaczur at RT and Matt Light at the other tackle spot. If they can block, than Watson and Baker can recieve more, allowing Brady to spread it around, as Brady has really struggled to find a third receiver, let alone now a second one. Ranking: 3

Defense: The ultimate smoke and mirrors. Overall, the numbers are fine. However, against competition above .500, and discounting the Jets for their offense impotency, they gave up over 350 yards each time, over 400 yards in three of those games (IND, NO, HOU). Now, all of those teams were in the top-10 of offense, but those are the types of teams New England will have to eventually face. In fact, even beyond just yardage, in every meaningful stat, the Pats struggled against the quadro of IND, NO, BAL, and HOU. They forced only 6 turnovers (22 in the other 12 games). They got only 5 sacks (26 in the other 12). They gave up 128 points in those four games (157 in the other 12). That is the most damning stat. They gave up about 13 points per game against the 12 teams they faced that were either the Jets or .500 and below, and 33 points per game against the top-four teams they faced. They don't get nearly the pressure that Patriots teams in the past used to, and there are far more blown coverages now. The McGowan/Meriwether/Chung safety trio has really fallen off of late. Their corners are average at best. The killer is the continued nagging injuries of Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, who they desperately need now without Richard Seymour. Their LBs struggle at pressure when Warren and Wilfork are in there. It dissapears when they are gone. Ranking: 6

Quarterback: It's still Tom Brady, but any person can tell you that he is just not the same in 2009. His numbers are fine, and are better than any other non-2007 year, but we expected more. Brady feasted on lesser competition, shredding the Tennesee-Tampa-Jacksonville trio. However, other than a great performance for three quarters in Indianapolis, we never saw the Tom Brady that was torching the league in 2007 in any meaningful game. Again though, it's Brady. Ranking: 2

Coach: Belichick postseason coaching record: 15-4. The other 5 coaches coaching record: 6-5. Enough said. It hasn't been Belichick's best year, but still, he has more coaching wins than the rest of the AFC field has coaching games. Ranking: 1

Interesting Note: The Patriots have not lost a home playoff game ever at Gillette Stadium, and Tom Brady hasn't lost a home game as a starting QB since.... Week 10 in 2006.

2.) San Diego Chargers (13-3)

Offense: The Air Show. They have the worst running game in the league. Period. They average 3.3 ypc, worst in the league. Tomlinson is done. Sproles is not a good runner. Jacob Hester was a waste of a second-round pick. This only just adds to the mystique of Phillip Rivers and that pass-attack. Teams know that San Diego can't run at all. They know it to be true. Yet, Rivers is on a career-best tear, topping 260 yards for 5 straight games, with 11 tds and 2 ints in that time. His ability to throw the deep-jump ball to Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd is amazing. Also, quietly, Antonio Gates had another all-pro year. They are 6-1 when Gates catches a TD, and even better when Vincent Jackson gets into the end zone. If there is another flaw, other than that putrid run-game, it is the offensive-line. They don't give up that many sacks, but against the better sacking teams they played (Cincy, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, Eagles, Cowboys) they gave up nearly three a game. The line is still not healthy, and it cannot pass block. This again, has not stopped the Chargers from becoming the third-most dangerous passing team in the league one bit. Ranking: 2

Defense: Mediocre in every way. 11th in scoring, 16th in yards, 18th against the pass, 20th against the run, 19th in sacks and 19th in turnovers. Those numbers are not helping inspire too much confidence in a team that will need its defense if it goes to Indianapolis. Jammal Williams absence has been huge. He is the premier run-stuffing NT in the game, and missing him the whole year has allowed all but three teams to run for 100 on them. That is not a good number, especially with Baltimore, Cincinnati and New York lingering in the playoffs. Antonio Cromartie has not taken off into superstardom like so many expected after that monster rookie season of his (Darrelle Revis is now by far the best corner product of that 2007 draft). However, Quinten Jammer has had a nice rebound year. He is solid at the other corner, as teams now throw at Cromartie to avoid Jammer. The linebackers are now better run-stuffers than pass-rushers, and Shawn Merriman and Shaun Phillips have really been outplayed by their rotating inside linebackers in every way. This defense is just not a premier unit. They will have to outscore teams. Lucky for them, they can. Ranking: 5

Quarterback: Honestly, the case for MVP for Phillip Rivers is a good one. However, Rivers has never really been a playoff MVP. He was mediocre in his two losses to the Pats in 2006 and 2007 and both games last year. Other than his 2007 game in Indy, he has never put up a passer rating above 100 in a playoff game, or thrown more TDs than Interceptions. Ranking: 3

Coach: Norv Turner's life has turned around since he was handed the keys to a Lamborghini. He won the lottery. However, his passing attack that he has built has been spactacular. He is still wasteful with timeouts, but he and Rivers run the two-minute as well as anyone not in the following team preview. He is no longer a coaching liability. Ranking: 3

Interesting Note: The Chargers are just the second team since the expansion to 16 games to enter the playoffs with a winning streak of at least 11 games.

1.) Indianapolis Colts (14-2)

Offense: Peyton. One word. That is it. He makes their o-line better. He makes their average second and third WRs better. He makes that running game managable. The running game is only marginably better than San Diego's, yet Joseph Addai's season is about 3 times better than LTs. The running game, though, is meaningless. It's all about Peyton. He has been pressed, with two new receivers to break in. His o-line has lost its RG and LT to just general suckiness. And somehow, he kept them afloat with a nice little 4500 yards 33 td season. If Garcon just caught three more passes, they would be the first team in NFL history with 5 receivers to catch 50 balls. Regardless, they were just the fifth team to have four receivers gain 600 yards. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon are now legitimate threats, and each of their catch rates increased (Garcon's dramatically) in the second half of the season. In totaly, it's Manning, Wayne and Clark that will win the games, though. Clark and Wayne are the best WR-TE combo in the league, and with Manning delivering the balls, there really is no reason to fear an offense that is anything it wants. They won a game with holding the balls for less than 15 minutes. They won a game in which their offense had to come back from 17 down (twice). The perfect Colts drive, though, is against Denver. Denver had cut it to 21-16, and the Colts got the ball at the 16 yard line with nine minutes left. Manning went on a 14 play, 86 yard drive that took 7 minutes and made the Broncos burn all of their timeouts, before throwing the clincher to Clark. That is the mark of a great offense. Ranking: 1

Defense: They still do all the things that drive Colts fans crazy, like give up countless third down conversions. They still give up points in the middle quarters, but there is no team that can throw the hammer down like them. They lead the league in fourth-quarter sacks and takeaways, and are second in fourth-quarter scoring defense. Mathis and Freeney are healthy and well-rested, ready to rush off the edge. Also, the biggest difference between this Colts team and earlier years is that they blitz more. Brackett and Clint Session will each come around 5 times a game. Also, they are much better at stopping the run, more sure-handed and fast. The last two games greatly inflated their points allowed. Make no mistake, this is a top-10 unit, if not top-5. Ranking: 3

Quarterback: He's the MVP. He's the best QB. He's the best player on the planet. 14 straight wins. 7 fourth-quarter comebacks. A passer rating of 111.9 in the fourth-quarter. He is the best normal QB, and best two-minute QB. He has scored TD drives with 45 second left in the half, and added a field goal when there was 22 seconds left in the half. It's not an argument. Ranking: 1

Coach: I love Jim Caldwell, but the Colts butchered that Jets game, and he hasn't always shown a daring mold to go for it, something the reserved Dungy did alot. He has shown a shrewd eye to clock management, but trusting a rookie coach in never fun. Ranking: 5

Interesting Note: The last two teams to win 14 straight games at any point in the season did not win the Super Bowl (2007 Pats and 2004 Steelers). But the three before that all did (2003 Pats, 1984 49ers and 1972 Dolphins).

Rankings Overview

1.) IND
2.) SD

3.) NE
4.) BAL
5.) CIN
6.) NYJ

1.) CIN
2.) NYJ
3.) IND
4.) BAL

5.) SD
6.) NE

1.) Peyton Manning, IND
2.) Phillip Rivers, SD
3.) Tom Brady, NE
4.) Carson Palmer, CIN
5.) Joe Flacco, BAL
6.) Mark Sanchez, NYJ

1.) Bill Belichick, NE
2.) John Harbaugh, BAL
3.) Norv Turner, SD
4.) Marvin Lewis, CIN
5.) Jim Caldwell, IND
6.) Rex Ryan, NYJ

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.