Friday, December 28, 2007

Which teams were this year's biggest surprises?

Cleaning my desk yesterday, I came across a piece of paper where I had written the over/under for wins for every NFL team, as mentioned on The Dan Patrick Show in the preseason. Here's how they match up after 16 weeks of football.

Team o/u for wins actual wins difference
Dallas Cowboys 9 13 4
Philadelphia Eagles 9 7 -2
New York Giants 8 10 2
Washington Redskins 7.5 8 0.5

Chicago Bears 10 6 -4
Green Bay Packers 7.5 12 4.5
Minnesota Vikings 6.5 8 1.5
Detroit Lions 6 7 1

Carolina Panthers 9 6 -3
New Orleans Saints 9 7 -2
Atlanta Falcons 7.5 3 -4.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 9 2

Seattle Seahawks 9 10 1
San Francisco 49ers 7.5 5 -2.5
St. Louis Rams 7.5 3 -4.5
Arizona Cardinals 7 7 0

New England Patriots 11.5 15 3.5
New York Jets 8 3 -5
Miami Dolphins 7 1 -6
Buffalo Bills 6 7 1

Baltimore Ravens 9 4 -5
Cincinnati Bengals 9 6 -3
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 10 1
Cleveland Browns 5.5 9 3.5

Indianapolis Colts 10.5 13 2.5
Jacksonville Jaguars 9 11 2
Tennessee Titans 7 9 2
Houston Texans 6.5 7 0.5

San Diego Chargers 10.5 10 -0.5
Denver Broncos 9.5 6 -3.5
Kansas City Chiefs 7.5 4 -3.5
Oakland Raiders 5 4 -1

Granted, the season isn't over yet, but the Packers and Dolphins have clinched at least a tie for the most pleasantly surprising and disappointing teams, respectively.

Collins should start until the Skins lose

Jason Whitlock made a tremendous point about the quarterback situation in Washington. With Al Saunders as offensive coordinator, in 1997 the Chiefs were 6-2 when Elvis Grbac got hurt in week 10. Rich Gannon came in, went 5 for 5 to beat the Steelers, lost his next start, then won the next five. The Chiefs started Grbac in the last game of the season, then lost 14-10 to Denver in their first playoff game after going 13-3. Gannon played one more season in Kansas City before signing with Oakland, making them a legitimate Super Bowl contender for the only time in the last 15 season. The moral is you want continuity going into the playoffs, and you frequently see NFL quarterbacks turning their career around after the age of 30.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Time to flush the turd

The NHL can't catch a break. Every story with any staying power about the NHL is negative, such as the gambling ring involving Rick Tocchet and Wayne Gretzky's wife, or the various acts of violence that draw suspensions of 20 games or more. Raging alcoholic and power forward Chris Simon has Beamoned his own record of longest suspension (25 games) with a 30 game suspension for trying to slice Jarkko Ruutu's Achilles with his skate. I don't care how silly that guy's name looks in print, trying to cut him with a blade is absolutely the cheapest shot I've ever seen in my 20 years of following hockey (and I've seen many), and Chris Simon should immediately be banned by the NHL.

Thirty games? Who gives a shit? That's the equivalent of six games in the NFL. That's a steroid suspension and a half. I'm glad that American sports have cracked down on performance enhancers, but going after someone on the ice with a deadly weapon is far more damaging to the sport. If the NHL gave him a lifetime suspension it would be at least somewhat positive press, because they would be showing some backbone. It's like politics - no one has ever lost votes for being too tough on crime. Last year Albert Haynesworth dragged his cleat over the exposed face of Andre Gurode, earning a five game suspension. Granted, this was a more lenient penalty that what Simon received, but it was a less egregious crime. There's attempting to hurt and then there's attempting to disable.

Want to know why Parcells took the Miami job?

The Dolphins and Falcons have similar teams. Ronnie Brown, Jason Taylor, and Zach Thomas equate to Roddy White, John Abraham, and Keith Brooking. Miami will be picking a little higher in the draft, but with salary cap ramifications there's not much difference between picking 1st and 4th. But there's one staggering difference between the two teams' outlooks for next season:

Team Signed Players 2008 cap room
1. Tennessee 39 $40.85 million
2. San Diego 44 $33.03 million
3. Jacksonville 43 $32.69 million
4. Buffalo 49 $32.05 million
5. New Orleans 39 $31.69 million
6. Cincinnati 48 $31.45 million
7. San Francisco 48 $30.91 million
8. Cleveland 42 $30.31 million
9. Arizona 34 $30.27 million
10.N.Y. Jets 45 $27.72 million
11.Oakland 40 $25.98 million
12.Tampa Bay 48 $25.90 million
13.Miami 48 $25.56 million
14.N.Y. Giants 49 $24.47 million
15.Detroit 42 $23.50 million
16.Houston 43 $22.91 million
17.Dallas 40 $20.61 million
18.Kansas City 44 $20.27 million
19.Chicago 52 $19.80 million
20.Pittsburgh 43 $18.61 million
21.Green Bay 48 $18.37 million
22.Philadelphia 49 $17.17 million
23.Denver 49 $16.77 million
24.Minnesota 49 $14.88 million
25.New England 41 $10.93 million
26.St. Louis 45 $9.61 million
27.Seattle 44 $9.55 million
28.Indianapolis 48 $8.49 million
29.Carolina 35 $6.05 million
30.Atlanta 52 $5.79 million
31.Baltimore 42 $5.00 million
32.Washington 45 -$20.72 million

The Falcons have the third least cap room of any team for next season, the Dolphins have the 13th most. (Salary cap information from Peter King's 12/10 MMQB Column) Atlanta will get some cap relief from Michael Vick's contract, possibly an enormous amount of relief, but he knows he'll have $25 in cap room to sign free agents and draft picks in Miami.

Other conclusions to draw from teams' cap room situations: Albert Haynesworth will definitely be franchised and the Redskins roster could look a lot different next season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh how I hate the Big 10

If you know me well, you know that I hate the Big 10 with a passion. Especially Big 10 football. No one in the conference ever plays anyone of significance out of conference, and when they do it's generally at home. In both sports they have some of the greatest regular season upsets of all time: North Dakota State over Wisconsin in basketball, Appalachian State over Michigan at the big house in football. But this latest flap is absolutely the worst thing since Woody Hayes punched a player Bobby Knight choked a player Michigan had to vacate their back to back finals appearances with the Fab Five Maurice Clarett filed a false police report. Big 10 referee Stephen Pamon, who was the side judge for the biggest game of the year, Illinois at Ohio State, filed for bankruptcy in 2002 after piling up $492,407 in debt, much of which was owed to casinos. The rest of his rapsheet:
These facts came to light after Purdue coach Joe Tiller complained about some calls from Pamon's crew during a November 3 game at Penn State. The Big 10 suspended the crew for the last week of the regular season, but they still refereed Ohio State's only loss, along with the biggest reason Illinois is in a BCS Bowl.

I can walk into any major chain electronics store in the United States right now and find at least 10 guys who can referee a football game. How can they not be a little more choosy in the Big 10? It absurdly easy to check if someone has filed for bankruptcy; it would seem to me that not owing six figures to casinos would be a desirable quality for someone who can easily determine the outcome of a game.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Dead Ringer

Watch this now!

The opening scene of The Dark Knight is still up at Gizmodo.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The list is life

It's been flying around the internet today, here it is, the infamous list of performance enhancement users from the Mitchell Report. Props to Deadspin.

Lenny Dykstra
David Segui
Larry Bigbie
Brian Roberts
Jack Cust
Tim Laker
Josias Manzanillo
Todd Hundley
Mark Carreon
Hal Morris
Matt Franco
Rondell White
Roger Clemens
Andy Pettitte
Chuck Knoblauch
Jason Grimsley
Gregg Zaun
David Justice
F.P. Santangelo
Glenallen Hill
Mo Vaughn
Denny Neagle
Ron Villone
Ryan Franklin
Chris Donnels
Todd Williams
Phil Hiatt
Todd Pratt
Kevin Young
Mike Lansing
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Adam Piatt
Miguel Tejada
Jason Christiansen
Mike Stanton
Stephen Randolph
Jerry Hairston
Paul Lo Duca
Adam Riggs
Bart Miadich
Fernando Vina
Kevin Brown
Eric Gagne
Mike Bell
Matt Herges
Gary Bennett, Jr.
Jim Parque
Brendan Donnelly
Chad Allen
Jeff Williams
Howie Clark
Nook Logan

And here are the performance enhancement buyers
Rick Ankiel
Paul Byrd
Jay Gibbons
Troy Glaus
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Scott Schoeneweis
David Bell
Jose Canseco
Jason Grimsley
Darren Holmes
John Rocker
Ismael Valdez
Matt Williams
Steve Woodard

I had planned on bolding the names that surprised me, but there aren't any. Editions of the list that was floating around earlier in the day had some names that surprised me: Wally Joyner, Kerry Wood, and Mike Cameron.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My favorite clip ever


Seventeen months ago tomorrow, Bobby Petrino signed a 10 year, $25.5 million deal to stay at Louisville. The university thought they could move past Petrino's constant flirtations with other jobs, but within six months he signed a five year deal to coach Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. Since then canine corpses were found on Vick's property, Atlanta reached on DE Jamaal Anderson (sackless on the year) 7th overall, signed Byron Leftwich two weeks into the season, and the Falcons have sputtered to a 3-10 record. So yesterday, 24 hours after dropping to 0-3 in primetime, losing by an average of 20 points, Petrino signed his third contract in 18 months, a five year deal to coach Arkansas.

Peter King had an excellent piece this week on why teams shouldn't go after high priced coaches, college or otherwise. I've always been a proponent of choosing an up and coming assistant over a Bill Cowher/Marty Schottenheimer/Bill Parcells, or Steve Spurrier/Bobby Petrino/Nick Saban. The cream of the crop this year is Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Their schemes are both varied and attacking, and will both jump into a job full bore, as opposed to a retired or college guy who have to be convinced to go to the pros.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 25 Greatest Players in College Football

ESPN has been counting down their top 25 college football players (presented by IBM) all year, and now although ESPN hasn't officially revealed the top two, I've been able to find the results.

1 Red Grange
2 Barry Sanders
3 Hershel Walker
4 Doak Walker
5 Sammy Baugh
6 Jim Thorpe
7 Tony Dorsett
8 Bo Jackson
9 Roger Staubach
10 Vince Young
11 Charles Woodson
12 Earl Campbell
13 Glenn Davis
14 Hugh Green
15 John Elway
16 Tom Harmon
17 Bronco Nagurski
18 Jim Brown
19 Dick Butkus
20 Charley Trippi
21 Archie Griffin
22 George Gipp
23 Johnny Rodgers
24 Reggie Bush
25 Ernie Nevers

This is a tough list to put together. In Heisman voting, you're comparing players across conferences, because no two teams play the same schedule, or even close to it. But you're also comparing players across eras, with different emphasis on the running or passing games, preparing for the NFL, or even (gasp!) education. At first blush, I'm most surprised about the omissions of, in order, Matt Leinart (finished 6th, 1st, and 3rd in Heisman voting in three seasons, 37-2 as starter), Ricky Williams (left Texas as all time D 1-A leader in rushing yards and TDs), and Marcus Allen (first college player over 2,000 yards rushing in season, with 2,342 in 1981). Less surprising is O.J. Simpson being left off the list, although he still holds the record for largest margin of victory in Heisman voting.

When ranking these guys, it seems like people were penalized for staying four years. Vince Young has one National Championship and zero Heismans in two seasons (although he may end up taking Reggie Bush's), and Leinart has one championship and one Heisman in three seasons. Young is 10th and Leinart is unranked. Barry Sanders was phenomenal, but he really only started for one season while Herschel Walker started for three, finishing in the top 3 in Heisman voting each season. Yet Sanders is ahead of Walker.

Man on Fire

Houston is just going to miss the playoffs this year, but they've got to be feeling positive about their young talent, having hit on Andre Johnson, Amobi Okoye, and, yes, Mario Williams. The much maligned former number one pick is now tied for 10th in the NFL in sacks with 9.5, 5.5 of which have come in his last four games.

Back in April I said if the 2006 NFL Draft were redone, Vince Young and Marcus McNeil would be the top two picks. McNeil's play has slipped this year, and Haloti Ngata is playing like an All Pro, so I'd say the top two picks would be Young and Ngata if the draft were redone right now. But I'd lean toward Mario Williams with the third pick ahead of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and even teammate DeMeco Ryans.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Week 13 Power Rankings

At the top and the bottom there's not a lot of movement this week, but in the middle there's chaos! The Vikings move up 6 spots on the strength of their 3 wins in a row, vaulting ahead of the sliding Lions, who dropped 4 spots, same as the Texans.

1. New England Patriots (12-0) (Last week: 1) AFC East
2. Dallas Cowboys (11-1) (2) NFC East
3. Indianapolis Colts (10-2) (3) AFC South
4. Green Bay Packers (10-2) (4) NFC North
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) (5) AFC North
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) (6) AFC South
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4) (8) NFC West
8. Cleveland Browns (7-5) (7) AFC North
9. San Diego Chargers (7-5) (10) AFC West
10. New York Giants (8-4) (9) NFC East
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4) (11) NFC South
12. Tennessee Titans (7-5) (15) AFC South
13. Minnesota Vikings (6-6) (19) NFC North
14. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) (12) NFC East
15. Buffalo Bills (6-6) (16) AFC East
16. Arizona Cardinals (6-6) (21) NFC West
17. Detroit Lions (6-6) (13) NFC North
18. Houston Texans (5-7) (14) AFC South
19. New Orleans Saints (5-7) (18) NFC South
20. Baltimore Ravens (4-8) (24) AFC North
21. Denver Broncos (5-7) (17) AFC West
22. Chicago Bears (5-7) (20) NFC North
23. Washington Redskins (5-7) (23) NFC East
24. Carolina Panthers (5-7) (26) NFC South
25. Oakland Raiders (4-8) (27) AFC West
26. Cincinnati Bengals (4-8) (22) AFC North
27. Kansas City Chiefs (4-8) (25) AFC West
28. St. Louis Rams (3-9) (30) NFC West
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-8) (28) NFC South
30. New York Jets (3-9) (31) AFC East
31. San Francisco 49ers (3-9) (29) NFC West
32. Miami Dolphins (0-12) (32) AFC East

Division Power Rankings (by sum of team rankings)
AFC South - 40 (+2 from last week)
NFC East - 49 (+3)
NFC North - 56 (no change)
AFC North - 59 (+1)
AFC East - 78 (-2)
AFC West - 82 (+3)
NFC West - 82 (-6)
NFC South - 82 (-1)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I got sued 5 times and it was niiiiiiiice

This guy, made into a star by Borat, is suing Sacha Baron Cohen for $400,000 for being duped. It's at least the fifth lawsuit emanating from the movie, which is maybe the best comedy of the last decade. Of all the people in the movie to sue S.B.C., I thought this guy was the least likely. Maybe the couple at the bed & breakfast. He came across as a decent guy; he had some genuinely funny lines. But this should erase any doubt that every encounter Borat was legit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Supposedly, Al Saunders calls the plays for the Redskins. Historically, Joe Gibbs has stayed away from the defense. Joe Gibbs' record on replay challenges and managing timeouts is atrocious. Gibbs reportedly ignored and had fired the replay official the Redskins hired during his first year back. But this latest gaffe is inexcusable. How the hell does a Hall of Fame coach not know simple NFL rules, when it seems like managing timeouts is his largest responsibility?

Many would cite the enormous distraction of Sean Taylor's passing as an excuse for Gibbs' confusion. I accept that the Redskins preparation for the game was affected, but I don't see how that forgives any bad in-game decisions. Calling timeouts on top of timeouts, challenging spots and other bad challenges, and calling the same play two or three times in a row from inside the opponents' five are the hallmarks or Gibbs second tour of duty with Washington.

It's time for Gregg Williams to steer this ship next year. Gibbs being in the dark about the Skins starting 10 on defense is a pretty good indicator that it will and should happen. Gibbs is either out of touch with the team or Williams is maneuvering to get the job. And Williams clearly earned a lot of points with the team for the move. The Redskins could compete next year with a decent draft and a change at the top. They've had to endure an unthinkable tragedy involving their best player and the hardest schedule in the NFL this year. Next year has to be better than this.

The Dark Knight will be awesome

A New York audience was treated to a preview of the most anticipated movie in the history of me, The Dark Knight. If you want to read an encapsulation, click here. I tried not to, to wait until I see the movie or at least the footage, but I'm just a man. It really sounds like Christopher Nolan walks the line of violence and humor that defines the Joker.


The Ravens stopped the Patriots last night 3 times on 4th down on the game winning drive, and none counted. The first time, on a 4th and 1, Tom Brady was stuffed in the backfield on a quarterback keeper. But the referees allowed defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to signal timeout, even though the only person on the sidelines allowed to call a timeout is the head coach. Then the Ravens stuffed fullback Heath Evans on a fullback dive, but the Patriots were whistled for a false start. Finally, Brady through an incomplete pass on 4th and 5. But the Jermaine Winbourne was whistled for defensive holding on the tight end, a ticky tack foul that occurred within five yards of the line of scrimmage. On the one 4th down the Patriots did convert, after the false start, Samari Rolle was called for illegal contact, even though from my angle it looked like Randy Moss tackled Rolle in front of the ref. This likely led to one of the incidents of the head linesman calling Rolle "boy."

On the bright side for Baltimore, in a game that featured three sure fire Hall of Famers (Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Jon Ogden), Haloti Ngata was the best player on the field. The Patriots averaged 4.4 yards a play when Ngata was in the game, 6.2 yards when he wasn't, a staggering difference. Ngata is 9th in the NFL in tackles among defensive lineman, ridiculous for a 340 pounder whose primary responsibility is to occupy blockers. He looks like a great choice for my 25 or Under team, and deserves a spot in the Pro Bowl this year.