Monday, November 30, 2009

New England, the Patriots, and We

Ah, the 80's were a simpler time, when dorks were free to run about doing dorky things. Oh, and everyone was apparently a dork, so it was a free for all for goofy behavior. If you think of a musical video from Super Bowl XX between the Bears and the Patriots, surely the first thing that pops to mind is the Super Bowl shuffle that the Bears put together BEFORE the playoffs even started. That would be the height of hubris, if not for the simple fact that the Bears won the Super Bowl easily...It's not bragging if you can back it up.

However, despite the fact that we have hindsight which helps us to see 20-20 about the outcome of that particular Super Bowl. (A Bears victory by a blowout 46-10 score.) Back in January 1986, some people in the Boston area put together this little ditty with thoughts that they would actually beat the Bears instead of getting waxed like a new convertible sports car recently purchased by a man in mid-life crisis mode. In a way, it's kind of refreshing to see these hopeful fans mere days before their dreams are shattered into a million tiny pieces. I wonder if they actually believed they would beat the steamroller from Chicago?

Ah well, this goofy video is too silly not to share. I almost feel like I'm piling on the Patriots fans who just this evening suffered an embarrassing thumping by the Saints on Monday Night Football, but I don't really like the Patriots much, so just call this a little extra dose of schadenfreude. Without further ado...New England, the Patriots, and We!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NFL Weekend Preview: Week 12

The Patriots and Saints hook up Monday Night in New Orleans in what is easily the best looking matchup of the week.

Thanksgiving football is behind us, but there are still a lot of great games to go this weekend, here is what I see in my admittedly cloudy crystal ball...

Tampa Bay at Atlanta - Falcons are just plain better than the Bucs, the fact that they are playing the game in Atlanta makes the Falcons an even more obvious choice. Falcons 33 Buccaneers 10

Miami at Buffalo - Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Chad Henne...the quarterback stars will really be out and shining bright in Western New York! Dolphins 23 Bills 16

Cleveland at Cincinnati - Thanks to my backup quarterback playing Thursday (Matt Stafford), and my starting quarterback being announced as out of commission on Friday (Ben Roethlisberger), I am stuck with the mighty Brady Quinn starting for my fantasy team on the road in Cincinnati this week. Lets just say, I'm not expecting to win my game. Bengals 38 Browns 7

Seattle at Saint Louis - If you're playing a home game against the Seahawks this season as a 4 point underdog, you're a very bad team. Not a whole lot of reason to be interested in this woofer of a game. Seahawks 13 Rams 10

Carolina at New York Jets - The Panthers are probably better than their 4-6 record would indicate, and the Jets would probably be better than 4-6 as well if their rookie quarterback hadn't completely imploded this year. Both teams are hurting at QB at the moment, and it would take a miracle for either of these teams to make the playoffs this season. In this battle of also-rans, I'll take the visitors. Panthers 27 Jets 22

Washington at Philadelphia - I'm still trying to figure out how this dismal Redskins squad took down my Broncos a few weeks back. I don't think they have the firepower to take down a game Philly squad who are gunning for the playoffs and need a win to stay within distance of the Cowboys. Eagles 30 Redskins 13

Indianapolis at Houston - The Texans have lost two consecutive games by a score of 20-17 in heartbreaking fashion...missing a tying field goal as time expired both times...once to these very same Colts team. I say they finally get on the good side of that score this week and give the Colts their first L. Yes, I'm picking against the one ever said I was bright. Texans 20 Colts 17

Kansas City at San Diego - As much as I would love to see the Chiefs pull off their second straight gigantic upset and drop the Chargers into a first place tie with the Broncos for the AFC West, I just don't see it happening. Chargers 39 Chiefs 20

Jacksonville at San Francisco - I may doubt this Jaguars team all the way into a playoff berth. I still refuse to believe they are good. The Niners aren't much good either, but I'm going to go with San Francisco since they've got home Bay advantage. 49ers 19 Jaguars 16

Chicago at Minnesota - I'm beginning to think that Brett Favre isn't going to fall apart into a pile of old and useless quarterback bones this season. Which makes me sad, as it's been a late season tradition for several seasons now. The thing is, until they make the playoffs, their schedule is not overly difficult. It's hard to see the Vikings not getting a bye week in the playoffs, and with the Saints also probably getting a bye, the Road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through a dome. The Bears have looked dreadful of late, and I doubt they pull it together in Minnesota. Vikings 34 Bears 21

Arizona at Tennessee - The Brett Kern curse was broken by the Broncos who finally won a game without their old punter, and now the Titans good mojo is likely gone as well. This will be the toughest test the rejuvenated Titans have faced since pulling themselves up off of the mat. I say the Titan good luck comes to an end at the hands of the NFC Champs. Cardinals 27 Titans 20

Pittsburgh at Baltimore - Something called Dennis Dixon is starting for the Steelers at quarterback in the AFC Championship Game rematch in Baltimore. I see this ending very badly for the Champs, as without Ben extending plays as is his tendency, the Steelers don't have a whole lot going for them. They are on a two game skid, and I expect at the end of Sunday Night's game it will be a three game slide. Ravens 27 Steelers 13

New England at New Orleans - What a glorious matchup ESPN has for us on Monday night. The Saints are still undefeated, but it has been far from easy as they've played far too many close games lately. The Patriots have looked very stout of late, and it's tempting to pick them to knock the Saints from the ranks of the unbeaten, but there is something about the voodoo of playing in the Superdome on a nationally televised game in Louisiana that just won't allow me to pick the Pats. In a terrific game that lives up to the hype, I'll take the Saints by a whisker over the Patriots. Saints 31 Patriots 29

My Picks Scorecard:

Thanksgiving Games: 2-1
Season to Date: 105-58

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vertically Striped Radio - Episode 27: Coaches gone wild and the Jesus Iron

We had some fun crazy people in the news, including a drunk guy ramming a hot dog stand, a stupid guy trying to turn a drive-up ATM into a Drive-away ATM, and a woman who sees Jesus in her Iron.

Behold the glory of the Jesus Iron!

Aaron Young of the No Name Show dropped in to tell us about a man who lived as a zoo exhibit in the World's Fair around 100 years ago, and Face Ventura helped me co-pilot the show as we did a fantastic version of the Magnificent 7 - Top Seven Football Coach Freakouts at Press Conferences.

Face also tried to defend the honor of Thanksgiving turkey, as my family celebrated the holiday with BBBQ Brisket, and I've got to say I haven't had any complaints about the decision here locally.

The Vertically Striped Music Recommendation was "Rock Spectacle" a live album from the Barenaked Ladies, and another one of my all time faves from the mid-nineties.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #11 - vs Giants

Knowshon and the Broncos run to victory Thanksgiving night against the Giants

Now that's more like it! I can definitely give thanks for a performance like that from the Broncos. Two days after the Broncos had a players-only meeting behind closed doors, they came out on Thanksgiving night and acted like the fantastic team that won their first six games of the year rather than the joke of a team that had dropped four straight.

Although, something has to be done about those pants...the all blue look is seriously awful. Denver looks so much better in white pants, although, if they're going to play like they did tonight, I can look past it. The Broncos walloped a New York team that looked hapless this evening by an impressive final score of 26-6.

Brandon Stokley found the end zone to help seal the Broncos win.

The Broncos established the run game and kept with it. That opened up Kyle Orton and the passing game. Brandon Marshall brought his A game, Knowshon Moreno had perhaps his finest day as a pro, the defense was stifling, Elvis was in the building and terrorizing Eli, Brian Dawkins was flying around the turf and tossing his body around like man possessed, Matt Prater was perfect 4-4 on Field Goals and launching touchback after touchback on kickoffs, Correll Buckhalter was a great change up to Knowshon, the Broncos dominated time of possession, and even Mitch Berger punted well.

Seriously, did you SEE some of the catches that Marshall made against New York?

The short week seemed to agree with the Broncos, who had the look of a team that wants to keep fighting this season. It felt like they knew that most pundits were starting to throw dirt on them and kind of resented it. This was the kind of effort that hopefully they can build upon.

Eli Manning is probably going to have nightmares about the number 92.

However, as solid as the Broncos looked, it's important to note that the Giants looked absolutely worthless. Eli Manning looked scared, their offensive line was a joke, they couldn't get any pressure on Orton, they never really got their running game going against a Broncos team that couldn't stop anyone over the past month. (Seriously, Ladell Betts went nuts against Denver a couple of weeks ago. LADELL BETTS!)

The Giants are very good at complaining!

The Giants were complaining to the league office about having to travel two time zones on short rest to play the Broncos, and their players were playing with all the intensity of a box of macaroni. Considering the Giants are hovering right on the edge of not making the playoffs, one would think they'd play a much better game tonight, but it was obvious from the very beginning that this game was going to belong to the Broncos.

Positives from the game:

Knowshon played like a superstar against the Giants.

Knowshon Moreno: For the first time all season, Knowshon was running like a running back that could become a superstar. He was patient in looking for holes, his field vision was outstanding, and when a hole opened up, he attacked it. He was everything you want in your top running back, and his determined running was a huge reason that the Broncos won the game.

The Offensive line: These guys were spectacular this evening in all facets of the game. They opened up fantastic running lanes, they gave Kyle Orton a ton of protection, and they only gave up one sack. They were the most physical unit on the field tonight at Invesco Field, and they deserve notice for doing a great job.

The Defensive secondary: Even when Eli had time to find a receiver, there were not very many open. There were several times where the Giants gave Manning plenty of time, but because of the fantastic coverage there was no one open to whom he could throw the ball. They also tackled spectacularly against the Giants, keeping any of the Giants players from breaking off long plays once they got past the front seven. Terrific job back there tonight.

There are few players as fun to watch as Brandon Marshall.

Brandon Marshall: When he is playing at his best, there are few wide receivers in the game in Marshall's class. He made two one-hand catches this evening that were nothing short of spectacular. With 6 catches for 86 yards, Brandon Marshall definitely did his job this evening as the biggest play maker on the Broncos offense.

Elvis Dumerville is blossoming into a dominating defensive performer.

Elvis Dumerville: Considering the guy is well below six feet tall playing a position dominated by 6'6 guys, it is nothing short of amazing how well he is able to rush the quarterback. He added two more sacks to his league leading total which is now up to 14 sacks this season. Some of the quick moves that he makes to put himself in position to get to the quarterback are just plain amazing, and he had another great evening tonight pressuring Manning into all sorts of hurried throws in addition to the sacks.

Brian Dawkins: Even if you knew nothing about the Broncos, you wouldn't need to watch them play for very long before you'd realize who was leading this team on the defensive side of the ball. Dawkins leads by example playing with total abandon and disregard for his body, but he also plays smart too. He's a stud of a football player, and it's nice that he's wearing orange and blue this year. On a running play in the first half it appeared that Danny Ware was about to break off a huge run when suddenly Dawkins flew into him and made a horribly awkward jarring tackle that kept Ware from gaining another twenty or thirty yards.

Negatives from the game:

Orton played okay against the Giants, but there is room for him to improve.

Kyle Orton: Kyle played pretty darn well this evening, however he was bailed out several times by his wideouts making fantastic adjustments on balls that were not ideally thrown, and he also threw a horrible interception on one bad throw. Not a terrible night from Kyle, but he has played better games. Still, I don't want to complain too much, because he played exactly how the Broncos need him to play in order to win.

Penalties: Way too much yellow laundry thrown on the field against the Broncos this evening. 8 Yellow flags which cost the Broncos 61 yards of field position. The Broncos need to be less careless, as some of those flags cost the Broncos points.

Red Zone Offense: The Broncos had to settle for field goals way too much this evening. Since their defense was stifling Eli and the Giants offense, it didn't matter as the Broncos still won easily, but Denver continued it's season long trend of starting to sputter once the move the ball inside the 20.

Great job by Coach Potty-mouth this evening.

NFL Network's Television coverage: Specifically when they showed Josh McDaniels on the sidelines yelling at his team, and they aired a rather non-television friendly word from the coach. I found the accidental F-bomb to be rather humorous, although I imagine our friends over at the FCC might be less enthused about it.

Final Thought:

The Broncos are going to win a lot of games when they only allow six points. Fantastic defensive effort from the boys this evening.

If the Broncos are going to make the playoffs, they will need to play the way they did against the Giants over the final five games in order to get in. It was good to see an energized Broncos team playing with passion and energy, as it had been over a month since last we saw this version of the know, the good version. This has the potential to be a season changing game. I really wasn't expecting the Broncos to do much more than keep it close, yet they came out and dominated the contest. They are in decent position to make the playoffs right now at 7-4, so hopefully this domination wasn't an isolated effort, but rather the start of something big. Go Broncos!

Happy Birthday Blog!

One year ago today, the very first post was made to this blog. Back then, it was called, "Craig Explains the Universe." and it had a big Elephant at the top of the page. Since then, It's really we have our very own self-made logo and even a clever name and it's own domain! Yes, we're quite evolved over here at; I'm sure you're very impressed.

Anyway, happy birthday website! Thanks to all my loyal readers, and here's to another great year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL Weekend Preview: Week 12 - Thanksgiving Edition

The Lions get their annual moment in the sun on Thanksgiving. Hopefully they show better than they did last year when they lost 47-10 to the Titans. Someday the Lions will actually be good, and the first game of Thanksgiving Day will have a little excitement...okay, probably not.

I think Adam Sandler said it best when he sang, "Thanksgiving is a special time." Nothing like getting together with family, gorging yourself with turkey (or BBQ Brisket, as my family is planning this Thanksgiving), and settling in for a day of football. Even the fact that the Lions are prominently involved can't ruin it, that's how good it is! As I stare at the docket for tomorrow, the games could be better, but it's impossible to ruin football on Thanksgiving. Unless my Broncos get smoked by the Giants for their fifth straight embarrassing loss, in which case maybe you can ruin it; But we'll hope for the best. Here are the predictions for Thanksgiving, I'll have the rest of the weekend's previews up a little later on...

Green Bay at Detroit: The Lions are coming off of their biggest game of the season, in which Matt Stafford energized a fan base that has had very little to cheer in recent years with a legendary gutsy performance in pulling out a game against the Browns on the last play of the game. Unfortunately for the Lions, they are going to be playing an NFL team that actually has a modicum of talent this time. The Packers have won their past two games, and are looking to sweep the Lions, after decimating them earlier in the season at Lambeau by a final score of 26-0. I doubt the Lions get swept this time, but I don't think they'll be able to do enough to get a second straight win. Packers 30 Lions 17

Oakland at Dallas: The Raiders are much like the Lions in that they are coming off of a huge win on Sunday when they upset the heavily favored Bengals in Oakland. The Raiders have been pretty dreadful this season, and it seems unlikely that they'll be able to keep up with the Cowboys, although the Boys have barely been lighting the world on fire. They have only scored seven points in each of their past two games, and unless their offense gets back in sync, it will be difficult for them to be able to cover a thirteen and a half point spread when they have only scored 14 points total in their last two games. The Raiders are dreadful, but I say they keep it respectable as the Cowboys don't look great. Something to look for in this game is to see if Shane Lechler, the Raiders rocket-legged kicker will be able to do something that no one has done since the preseason...hit the giant jumbotron above the field with a punt. Lechler has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and with as often as the Raiders are likely to fail on offense, he'll probably get several shots to whack the behemoth, but I have a feeling that it's not going to happen. It does bring an extra level of excitement to the game, however. Cowboys 21 Raiders 13

New York Giants at Denver: The Broncos have been riding a fast moving train to Loserville over the past month. After leaping out to a shocking 6-0, they are starting to look like the miserable team that so many projected them to be at the start of the season. If they are to pull out of this tailspin, they're going to need to play with the intensity and fire that they showed over the first month and a half of the season. I'm skeptical they can get their groove back, but hopefully we'll see a Thanksgiving miracle. The Giants are coming in off of a short week, and they have to feel like they have a monkey off of their backs as well, as they finally won on Sunday, taking care of the Falcons in overtime and ending a four game skid of their own. A short week and the Giants having to deal with traveling back two time zones with little time to rest and prepare should help the Broncos, and it's not as if the Giants are a team without flaws, but I've seen the Broncos defense get exposed as being unable to stop the run. I've also seen how the NFL appears to have solved Josh McDaniels defenses. I don't think it will be as awful as the 32-3 whooping the Chargers administered, but I do think the Broncos will fall again. Giants 26 Broncos 20

My Picks Scorecard:

Last Week: 10-6
Season to Date: 103-57

A great work of fiction from the talented Ed Miller.

Vertically Striped Socks is proud to present a short story by The Ed. The Ed is a a one of a kind individual from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also one heck of a wordsmith. If you'd like to read more about him, you can read this story I posted about him back in May. I have presented his story without editing, as part of the charm of the Ed is his all-caps typing and somewhat creative spelling techniques. Enjoy the story!

The Ed 2




The Ed

The Ed

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Powerlines: Week 11 NFL Power Rankings

I don't know why, but when I look at this guy, I feel like he's wistfully looking for a rainbow.

Just when you think you understand the NFL, the Raiders beat the Bengals, the Chiefs beat the Steelers, and the Browns and Lions play one of the most exciting games of the NFL season. The NFL: Expect the unexpected. Here is this weeks' list 1 through 32...

1. Saints – The Saints finally blew out a team that they were supposed to blow out. After a month of playing clearly inferior teams close, they were due to lay the wood to someone.

2. Colts – The Colts are barely winning games, but they are winning. This past weekend they took advantage of a Joe Flacco interception late in the game to ice away a game they easily could have lost. This a week after miraculously coming back from 17 back in the 4th quarter against the Patriots. Great teams find ways to get the win, even when they probably don’t deserve it. The Colts maintain their perch with the Saints as the best in the league. Their biggest upcoming concern will be trying to stay interested in games that don’t mean anything. Which is always a nice problem to have.

3. Patriots – The Patriots had no trouble shooting down the Jets to get a little revenge for their week 2 loss. Despite a heartbreaking loss in Indianapolis, the Patriots look poised to make a Super Bowl run right now. Is this Sunday’s game against New Orleans a Super preview? Probably not, because the games that are hyped as Super Bowl previews rarely ever turn out to actually be the championship matchup, but this should be a terrific game in the Superdome on Sunday night. .

4. Vikings – The top four teams in the NFL appear to be leaps and bounds better than everyone else right now. It will be disappointing from a great game standpoint if come Championship Sunday we aren’t watching Saints-Vikings and Colts-Patriots. Despite the fact that the world is waiting with baited breath for the Brett Favre collapse, he has not shown signs that he is anywhere near falling apart. He has actually been a model quarterback and leader in Minnesota to this point, and with all the weapons they have up there, I won’t be shocked if Brett leads them to the Lombardi Trophy come February. I won’t be happy about it, but I won’t be surprised.

5. Chargers – Hey, look who’s good again! The Chargers are once more the overwhelming favorite to win the AFC West. The first month and a half of the season was clearly a mirage in both Denver and San Diego. Sunday’s game in Denver looked like the varsity versus the JV. was also able to get a bit of clarification on a strange item. Josh McDaniels is reported to have yelled, “We own you” to some of the Charger players during pregame warm-ups, but it was discovered that Josh thought he was saying, “Please be gentle.” Josh regrets any confusion that may have arisen over this unfortunate verbal faux pas.

6. Cardinals – Arizona continues to play amazingly away from home. The Cardinal Road Warriors are now up to 5-0 away from the rolling sod in Glendale, and very quietly are putting together a dynamite season. No one is paying much attention, because Americans are trained to ignore the NFC West, but the NFC Champs title defense is going swimmingly despite being criminally underreported.

7. Bengals – Following in the footsteps of the Eagles before them, the Bengals emerge from Oakland with a stupefying loss on their record. That this is still a very solid team cannot be doubted, but all of the momentum they received from sweeping through the Ravens and Steelers has been lost faster than Andre Caldwell fumbling away a kickoff. Just when you think they aren’t the same old Bengals, they pull a move that reminds you very much of the same old Bengals. Fortunately for them, their entire division lost too, so they didn’t lose anything off of their lead, but losing a chance to put an extra between them and the Steelers has to hurt.

8. Steelers – Pittsburgh must be wondering what happened to the team that flattened the Broncos. Since that Monday night, they have looked flat on offense, soft of defense, and atrocious on special teams in losing to the Bengals and Chiefs. The Chiefs loss simply cannot happen if the team wants to get back to defend their title. A prospect that looks much less likely for the Steelers than it did two weeks ago.

9. Cowboys – This team needs to be renamed to be called the Cwbys, because there is no “O” in Dallas right now. After getting shut down until the waning moments of the game for a meaningless touchdown in Green Bay, the Dallas offense once again waited ‘til the 4th quarter to get their one and only touchdown this week. Fortunately for the Boys, their defense did a bang up job in holding a mediocre Redskins team to only six points, and the extra point provided the winning margin, but Dallas is not going to win many more games scoring only seven points. The Cowboys need to figure out what they are doing on the offensive side of the ball, and quickly. They only get a couple of days to fiddle in the lab, as they get another game on Thanksgiving…fortunately for Dallas, it’ll be against a Raiders team that is unlikely to surprise two weeks in a row.

10. Eagles – Philly got a win they desperately needed against the Bears on Sunday. The Cowboys are in first, but they look far from invincible, and the Eagles can definitely contend for the division with a solid finish to the season.

11. Ravens – I will not be dissuaded that this is a good team. They don’t have a bad loss, having fallen to the Bengals twice, the Vikings, the Patriots, and the Colts. Apart from two games against the Steelers, the rest of their schedule is not overly difficult. Their ability to make the playoffs probably hinges completely on how they do against Pittsburgh. I’m going to guess that at worst, they get a split, and I’m actually somewhat expecting that they sweep the Steelers. Don’t sleep on the Ravens, even if they’re only .500, I KNOW they’re good.

12. Giants – After a month long slump, the G-men got back on track with a hugely important win against the Falcons. They appear poised to gain on their momentum as they head to Denver on Thanksgiving night to battle the imploding Broncos. Much like the Eagles, at only a game back of Dallas they have an excellent chance to win this division. Lost in the national hollering over Eli collapsing as a quarterback is the likely reason that he isn’t playing all that well lately. Sure, the plantar fasciitis probably has a little to do with it, but also the Giants running game has completely disappeared. The most amazing thing about the overtime game against Atlanta wasn’t that the fact that New York won, but rather that they won despite their leading rusher for the game (Brandon Jacobs) only had 39 yards on the ground. It’s tough to play quarterback in the NFL when the defense doesn’t respect your running game.

13. Packers – There is a massive pack of teams in the NFC that are either at .500 or are within a game of it. If the Packers are going to emerge from this pack, they’ll need to do it from the road. Green Bay only has two home games remaining this season. They have looked very shaky at times, and the Vikings have clearly put the division out of range; but a decent finish is within their grasp as is potentially a wild-card berth if they can finish strong. The Pack were my preseason pick to win it all, so with that type of a curse upon them it’s a wonder they are even in contention at this point.

14. Dolphins – Losing Ronnie Brown for the season is a huge blow for this Miami team, but despite that they still are a very plucky team. A rejuvenated Ricky Williams seems capable of leading the charge, the defense has been solid, and Chad Henne is doing just enough to lead his team to victory. The Dolphins have gone 5-2 over the past seven weeks, and they have put themselves in the conversation which seemed unlikely when they were 0-3. Not sure if they can win enough to make the postseason, but it’s not inconceivable.

15. Titans – Vince Young should have been thrown into action two weeks earlier than he was. Who knows if this turnaround gets started a couple of weeks earlier if he does, but with the confidence and drive that he has shown after finally getting to start are nothing short of shocking. The Titans have no room for error, but they also have the biggest good luck charm in the NFL. Punter Brett Kern, who as loyal readers of know is 10-0 this season and the teams he has played on this year are winless without him.

16. Texans – Kicker Kris Brown has played in every game in Texans history. If he keeps honking field goals at the end of regulation which the Texans need to force overtime, that streak may be in jeopardy. For the second straight game Brown missed a long field goal attempt as the game ended, and for the second straight game, the Texans lost an important division game that they really needed to get by a score of 20-17. The kicks were far from gimmies…he missed from 42 and 49 yards out respectively, but if you’re an NFL kicker, you’ve got to make those kicks. Rumors that he beat up Rihanna after the game are unsubstantiated at this time. (Sorry, dumb joke.)

17. Jaguars – The Jags came from behind against Buffalo on Sunday to notch their third straight win, but I continue to have a hard time taking this team seriously. Despite their 6-4 record, I refuse to buy into any team that lost 41-0 to the Seahawks. This team is not good, it just isn’t.

18. Falcons – A once promising season is now in danger of falling apart as Atlanta has lost four of five games since starting 4-1. Apart from back to back games with the Saints and Eagles, Their remaining schedule isn’t overly difficult, but even with only two road games left and two games remaining against the Buccaneers, it still feels unlikely that they can win enough to qualify for the postseason.

19. Panthers – At 4-5 and facing a fellow 4-5 team in the Dolphins at home in North Carolina, they absolutely had to win last Thursday night; but they didn’t. Now the rest of the season feels like nothing more than playing out the string.

20. Broncos – Carnac: “Pumped up hollering Buccaneers fans, Gary Glitter performing at the Super Bowl halftime-show, and the Denver Broncos.” Question pulled from Carnac’s envelope: “Name three things that you will not see in the NFL postseason this year.” The Broncos have fallen apart faster than any team I can remember in NFL history. A month ago they were involved in poll questions asking, “Which will be the last team to lose a game?” Now, they appear to be a bigger flash in the pan than the rap group Tag Team. “Whoomp! There it is.” The Broncos are quickly becoming, “Whoomp, there it goes.”

21. Bears – Jay Cutler and his Chi-town mates have lost five of six, soon to be six of seven unless by some miraculous chance the Bears can beat the Vikings. Yeah, I don’t think that’ll happen, either. So, I’m declaring that the Bears will inevitably finish with a losing record, and that Jay Cutler will remain a talented guy who is unable to lead a team to a winning record. He hasn’t led a team to a winning record since going 15-0 in his Senior year at Heritage Hills High School. I’m curious, Bears fans, are you still fawning over that trade with the Broncos? By the way, not sure that NBC needed to show us THAT much of Devin Hester, if you know what I mean. (If you don't know what I mean and want to find out, Google: "Devin Hester Gets Pantsed" Although, I'd recommend NOT doing that.)

22. Jets – When I looked at the New York roster before the season started, I thought to myself that they really didn’t have a whole lot of talent. Then Mark Sanchez jumped out to a 3-0 start and had the football world abuzz with chatter about the Jets. That chatter has died down with the Jets playing more like the Biplanes. They’ve lost six of seven games, have slid to irrelevance, and my preseason assessment doesn’t feel off anymore. This team just isn’t that good.

23. 49ers – Losing five of six? Mike Singletary is overdue to either moon somebody or go off on a “Can’t play with em, can’t win with em, Can’t do it!” rant. Come on Coach Crazy, if you’re not going to win, at least you can be entertaining…

24. Bills – Will the Bills be favored again this season? Maybe in Kansas City, but it won’t be by much. One of the best things about this Bills season is that I have not read a single story, heard one news item, or seen any television coverage about T.O. and his relative happiness/unhappiness. It restores a little faith in humanity that we are not spell bound over his every move. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that he’s playing on a 3-7 Bills team, but another part of it is that he just isn’t great anymore. He’s still good, but that’s not enough to keep him in the limelight, and I’m very thankful!

25. Seahawks – I was expecting better from Seattle this season, but not much of note has happened other than a lot of crippling losses. 3-7 teams don’t get much attention, especially if they’re tucked away in the Pacific Northwest. I feel sad for the people of Seattle who couldn’t have been friendlier when I spent a week there this September. I find myself rooting for the Hawks and all Seattle teams because after the pain that city has suffered in sports over the past few years, they’re due for some happiness. They’ll have to look elsewhere this year, as the Seahawks just aren’t very good for the second straight year.

26. Redskins – Their owner has been ripped by team legend John Riggins for being a bad guy with a dark heart, their fans have made some noise saying they feel like they are being censored by having signs and messages critical of ownership confiscated, they are being led by a lame duck head coach who had play calling responsibilities yanked from him in what many believe was a move to get him to resign, they’re suffering through a 3-7 season to this point with little signs that things are going to get better. Safe to say that 2009 isn’t going as well as folks in Washington were hoping for the Redskins. Their biggest victory came in a Supreme Court decision in which they refused to take a case of people protesting saying their name is racist. If the case had gone to the high court, the Redskins could have lost their trademark protection, which would likely have forced them to change their name. I say that changing the name of the Redskins might be a great way to change their mojo, so even in winning, they lose.

27. Raiders – The Raiders are blind squirrels, and for the second time this season they have found a nut. The first nut came on October 18th with an improbable 13-9 victory over the Eagles, and this past Sunday they got another nut as they were able race from behind and take down a Bengals team that had just won back to back games against the Steelers and Ravens. This doesn’t mean that the Raiders are good, it just means that they have the ability to get lucky from time to time. Plus, they still have the reeling Broncos on the schedule, so they might even get another nut! (Beating the Chiefs doesn’t count as we all know that Kansas City is mostly nutless)

28. Chiefs – I just called them nutless, but to be fair, they took down the Steelers on Sunday which is clearly a feather in their cap. At 3-7, the Chiefs clearly are out of contention, but perhaps Head Coach Todd Haley can use the final six games to build for next year.

29. Lions – Matt Stafford may or may not grow into a franchise quarterback, but no matter what happens, he’ll always have at least one legendary moment in his career. The excitement should be tempered a little, as he had his career day against a woeful Browns team, but the excitement of his final two plays on Sunday is undeniable.

The Lions were trailing 37-31 and the clock was running out. Detroit had the ball at the Cleveland 32, and Stafford threw up a Hail Mary prayer. As the ball floated through the air, Hank Poteat tackled a Lion reciever in the end zone. Poteat’s action was so egregious that a pass interference flag was thrown. That is the first time in my extensive history as a football fan that I have ever seen a pass interference flag tossed on a Hail Mary.

The penalty occurred with no time remaining on the clock, so the Lions received one untimed play at the 1 yard line. On the Hail Mary, Stafford got ground into the turf and hurt his shoulder to the point where they had to take him off of the field. Daunte Culpepper took the field, as NFL rules require that any player who is injured to the point that the clock has to be stopped to assist him must sit out at least one play unless a timeout is called. For some reason, the Browns decided that it would be a good idea to call a timeout right then to regroup. This made it legal for Stafford to check back in, and despite the fact that the trainers had not cleared him to re-enter the game, he snuck his way back on the field and with the adrenaline pumping and his non-throwing shoulder possibly separated. Of course on the 1 untimed play he found Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone for a touchdown, and with the extra point, the Lions went on to win.

It was a very exciting game for two franchises that are not known for playing exciting football this season. Ironic that two of the least interesting teams in football played one of the most interesting games of the year. Positive for me: I correctly predicted the Lions would win by one point. Negative for me: My exact prediction was 7-6, which was a little off the 38-37 barnburner that ended up happening.

If you haven't seen the crazy are the important plays in this unexpectedly crazy-good game...

30. Buccaneers – Josh Freeman looked pretty solid in compiling a 86.1 passer rating against the Packers in his first start, his trend is not heading in the right direction. Since that first game his quarterback rating against Miami was 75.9, and last Sunday against New Orleans it was 33.1. It’s much too early in his career to say he is not going to cut it, but Freeman needs to do better than that if the putrid Bucs are to have any chance to win.

31. Rams – The Rams are so bad than only losing by 5 to the Saints and then only losing by 8 to the Cardinals probably makes them feel like they are on a winning streak.

32. Browns – Cleveland is finding new and interesting ways to lost. Getting called for pass interference on a Hail Mary attempt, then calling timeout allowing the opponents starting quarterback to come back in to throw the winning score is an amazingly inept way to get an L. The Browns are very resourceful in their suckiness.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vertically Striped Socks for the Sports Guy! A report from the Sports Guy's Book Tour

I spent Friday night in a bookstore. I'm just that cool. Actually, I was with hundreds and hundreds of like-minded "cool" people who were waiting in line to meet Bill Simmons also known as ESPN's Sports Guy.

I've been reading Simmons for years, and he is one of my absolute favorite writers out there. He mixes sporting knowledge with pop culture knowledge and a solid sense of humor, and has used that mix to create quite a following. I greatly enjoy his work, both in his columns and his podcast "The B.S. Report" which he posts two or three times a week. There are few people I would be willing to wait in line for an hour and a half to have them sign a book for me, but Simmons is definitely one of them. He couldn't have been cooler, either. As he engaged with the fans who came to see him, and he also heard that someone had a baby with them in line, so he had them come to the front of the line so they wouldn't have to wait with a crying kid, which was a good move. There is no downside there. It's a class thing to do, and both the parents as well as those around the kid are going to be impressed with you helping them out. Good job, Bill!

Anyway, My buddy Scott was gracious enough to come downtown to meet me and provide me with some excellent conversation while we waited in line to meet him. Scott didn't even have a book to get signed, he just came with me for moral support...that is a good friend, right there! Not only that, but he was cool enough to take the photo at the top of this post, which I'm rather glad to have. It's Bill signing my book, as I gave him the very special, very Denver Centric gift I had brought for him.

That's right, I gave him a pair of Vertically Striped Socks. On Monday, I went down to the Invesco Field Team Store to purchase a pair that I was going to give to him. They didn't have any of the Yellow and Brown ones which I wore to the Broncos-Patriots game, but they did have the White and Brown ones which were also the last ones available in the store. Since the only place you could go to get the socks was the Team Store, I may have purchased the very last Vertically Striped Socks in Denver. I'm not going to lie to you, there was a part of me that wanted to keep them for myself. However, I decided that to show my appreciation, I'd bestow them upon the Sports Guy as a way to say thanks for the hours and hours of entertainment he has provided me. I have no idea what he'll do with em, but I hope he appreciates the unique nature of the gift. I also gave him a little note that thanked him for his work, and tipped him off to the existence of this humble little website. So if you're reading, Bill. Thanks!

Here is the letter I included with the socks...If you don't feel like straining your eyes, I've put the text below...


Wanted to give you a “uniquely Denver” gift, so I though since you pretty much were the only one on the bandwagon of our Broncos before the season started, I would give you something that was over the top unique to Denver…a pair of authentic Vertically Striped Socks from the AFL 50th anniversary program. (Plus my website is, so hey, kill two birds with one stone!)

I tried to be sensitive to you as a Patriots fan by getting you the white and brown road version that they wore when they beat the Chargers rather than the yellow and brown ones that they wore when they took down your Pats. I’m nothing if not a sensitive soul.

Anyhow, thanks for years of great columns and podcasts. I’m a big fan, but wanted to get you something that wasn’t giving off too much of the “creepy fan” vibe. Hopefully this succeeded, and I appreciate you coming to Denver to connect with your fans. Give Dameshek my best, and check out the site sometime!

All the best to you, I look forward to reading your book.

A big “Sports Guy” fan from Denver,

-Craig Dodge

Oh, one other cool thing happened as Scott and I were waiting in line. I got into a conversation with some of the guys who were in line behind us, and as I showed them the socks that I was giving to the Sports Guy, the subject turned to this blog. The guy in line said that he had visited my blog in the past, and that he thought I looked familiar and mentioned that he remembered my hat. I was wearing the same Nuggets hat that I wore in the photo of me on the I was officially (sort of) recognized by a complete stranger that only knew me from So that was pretty cool, too!

Anyway, you can see video of what the line was like below. Although we were weaving in and out of bookshelves, so it's hard to get a good idea of how long exactly the line was. I'm not very good at estimating numbers of people, but there were definitely at least seven people in line.

Oh, and how did Bill sign my book? I was pleased with it... To: Craig, Bill Simmons P.S. Thx for the Socks! Plus I got to talk to him for about 28 seconds and he said of the socks, "These are really cool." so that was fun. All in all, I'd say for a guy who can get hundreds and hundreds of people to come and see him at bookstores, he seemed like a pretty down to earth and cool guy, so I was happy about that. Once again, Thanks Bill!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #10 - vs Chargers

It's lonely being the quarterback when you play as poorly as Chris Simms did today. I legitimately felt bad for the guy.

How has it all gone so wrong so quickly? A month ago the Broncos were undefeated at 6-0, and looking like a plucky playoff contender. Now they look inept, and all it took for them to lose all of their mojo and fire was four games. The latest dumpster fire took place this afternoon at Invesco Field. The Chargers came to town for a pivotal game that would likely determine the division, or at least put the winner distinctly in the drivers seat. The Chargers acted like the game meant something, the Broncos looked like they didn't want to be bothered. The result was a 32-3 drubbing of Denver by a motivated Chargers team which should now easily win the AFC West. The Broncos are more finished than John McCain's presidential chances. I suppose I could be more optimistic, as they are 6-4 with six games to play and they still could put it back together, I guess. But I'm not seeing anything that suggests that's going to happen.

Russ Hochstein's knee pops the ball free from Knowshon Moreno's clutches and into the end zone.

The day started out great. The Broncos took the opening kickoff deep into Chargers territory with seven consecutive rushing plays. Then, the very first time that Chris Simms dropped back to pass, it all went wrong. Saying that Chris Simms played badly is akin to say that General Custer had a bad day at the battle of the Little Bighorn. Chris Simms just looks awkward when he drops back, it's one of those things where you can't exactly say what it is, but you know it's all wrong. On his first awkward drop back he had the ball stripped and the Chargers recovered it, and from there on out, it was bad times for the Broncos.

Despite a strong first series in relief of Chris Simms, Kyle Orton never really made enough happen for the Broncos.

Simms lasted for three awful series, in that time his stats looked like this: 2-4 for 10 yards, a fumble, and he was sacked twice. Kyle Orton hadn't practiced all week due a sprained ankle, he was described as being about 60% healthy, and was only supposed to play as an emergency backup to Simms, but Chis played so badly, that Josh McDaniels decided he'd rather have Orton at 60% than a fully healthy Simms. Might be time for Chris Simms to consider another line of work. Kyle had a great first series, directing the Broncos to the very edge of scoring a touchdown. However, just as Knowshon Moreno was stretching the ball to try to reach it over the goal line for a Broncos touchdown, the ball was knocked free by an errant knee from Broncos Guard Russ Hochstein and it hopped into the waiting arms of Chargers cornerback Steve Gregory. At that point, I knew it wasn't my team's day.

Darren Sproles and the Chargers offense pretty much had their way with the Broncos defense.

The rest of the game was a blur of interceptions, Charger touchdowns, failed Bronco onsides kicks, LaDainian Tomlinson running over Broncos defenders, Broncos failing on 4th downs, Phillip Rivers tossing the ball to wide open recievers, and generally horrible play by Denver. The Broncos did manage to block an extra point one time which was fun, but this game can pretty well defined as a one-sided butt kicking. In honor of the Broncos effort today, I'm not going to put a whole lot of effort into trying to determine where it went wrong, as basically it went wrong everywhere.

Knowshon Moreno sees the ball and Denver's hopes to stay competitive fly away.

Positives from the game:

The running game:
Knowshon Moreno actually looked fairly outstanding today, apart from his rally killing fumble into the end zone in the second quarter which ended pretty much any hope I had for the Broncos today. Apart from that gaffe, he ran for 80 yards on only ten carries, and when you're averaging eight yards a run, it does make you wonder why he didn't get more carries than just ten. Correll Buckhalter also had a decent day, getting 35 yards on seven carries. Considering that the Broncos moved the ball to the 19 yard line fairly easily on the first drive with seven straight runs to start the game, it might have been nice if they tried to run more than just ten more times the rest of the game.

Jabbar Gaffney's Three catches for 55 yards qualifies as the performance of the day for Denver.

Jabbar Gaffney: Jabbar had one of his better days as a Bronco. He pulled in three catches for 55 yards. And yes, despite that being a rather modest showing, it may have been the best showing of the day for the Broncos. It was that atrocious.

In a fitting photo to summarize the game: Antonio Cromartie snatches away the Kyle Orton pass intended for Eddie Royal. In much the same way, the Chargers snatched away the AFC West division from the Broncos today.

Negatives from the game:

This was not a day that Chris Simms is going to want to relive over and over.

Chris Simms:
We'll start with the obvious one here. Chris Simms for some strange reason was given the start. He seems like an okay guy, but I don't think that he has a whole lot left in the tank. He played an absolutely awful game. His jersey number was appropriate today, because he played exactly like Number 2. Ugh.

Turnovers: Simms fumbled away the ball to end the first drive when the Broncos had driven into the red zone, then Knowshon Moreno lost one into the end zone on a weird fumble that was ever so close to a score, then Orton tossed an interception to Antonio Cromartie, then in the second half the Broncos tried to do a surprise onside kick that failed miserably, then the Broncos turned the ball over on downs three times. It was ugly. Very, very ugly.

Defensive effort: The appropriate comment here is, "What defensive effort?" The Broncos defense was playing like they took the Chargers minus about 28 points. If that's the case, then good news for them...because San Diego covered. One of the biggest problems in this recent slide for the Broncos is that they cannot stop the run. The Chargers actually had more rushing yards (203) than passing yards (145), and the result was a very lopsided time of possession. The Chargers had the ball for 37:52 while the Broncos just had it 22:08.

Pretty much everything the Broncos did was a negative today: There is really no sense in trying to establish blame here...there is plenty to go around. If the Broncos had only played better on offense, defense, and special teams, they might have had a chance. This once promising season is quickly on it's way to the dumpster, and if you saw a single ray of hope that they're going to turn it around, you were watching a different game than I was. That was depressing.

Final Thought:

Steve Gregory recovers a Knowshon Moreno fumble in the end zone.

Hope has flown. The Broncos MIGHT be able to make it to 8-8 or 9-7, although nothing is certain anymore. The crap team that I feared we would be watching in Denver took a few weeks to show up, but they are definitely now here. At 6-4, it's not impossible to get things going, but I'm not holding my breath. The Broncos have only a few days to recuperate and get ready for the Giants coming to town on Thursday night. I'm expecting yet another embarrassment. I had figured that the Raiders and Chiefs games were sure things, but with as poorly as the Broncos are playing, and the fact that those two teams took down the Bengals and Steelers today, I am taking nothing for granted. This team I cheer for feels a lot like Milli Vanilli after the lip-sync scandal. Things were going so great, and then BAM, immediately things were going terrible. Hopefully Josh McDaniels has a cure for what ails them, but I am discouraged. After a terrific September and October, the month of November leaves much to be desired.

LaDainian Tomlinson was a beast against the Broncos. You'd never think he was washed up if you watched him play today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vertically Striped Radio - Episode 26: Outlandish Movie Pitches and The Men Who Stare at Goats

Fun show, we talked a ton about the Redskins for some reason, and then discussed how Ireland got screwed by the refs against France which turned into a philosophical discussion about questioning authority. Weird first half hour, to be sure.

Then Face Ventura, Steve from Alabama, and The Whale and I broke down the four outlandish movie pitches that were submitted on the message board. We had some great ideas, and I think movie executives would be foolish to avoid our ideas.

Finally, I reviewed the movie, "The Men Who Stare at Goats" which I gave a 7 out of 10. I shared a bit about meeting the sports guy and having him sign my copy of his book.

Finally, the Vertically Striped Music Recommendation was the self titled album by Jars of Clay from 1995, one of my favorite albums of all time.

You can listen via the widget below, or at or you can Subscribe via iTunes, just search for Vertically Striped Radio.

Johnny Carson, Dom Deluise, and some eggs...what could possibly go wrong?

I get a little nostalgic seeing this clip. Johnny Carson was awesome, and I loved the Tonight Show when he was on it back in the day. Here is a fun clip of him and Dom Deluise having a little fun with magic. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NFL Weekend Preview: Week 11

The Panthers and Dolphins kick the football week off Thursday night.

Ah, we’re nearing the home stretch for the NFL season, and mercifully the bye weeks are all behind us now, which is nice as that means that we’ll have a full slate of NFL games each week. The only bad thing is that we now get Thursday football every week, which might be an little bit of overkill...although who am I kidding, I'll watch it. Here are the results of my crystal ball gazing, actual results may vary slightly.

Miami at Carolina – These two teams are mirror images of each other. Both started slowly, both have picked up steam as the season has progressed, and both desperately need to keep winning to have any shot at the postseason. Both of these 4-5 teams are sneaky good, in that I believe they are both better than most people think they are. I think this could be a pretty good game; since the NFL has started doing a weekly Thursday night game, the play has generally been sloppy, but I’m going to pick this game to buck the trend of poor play and provide us with one doozy of a game. I’ll take the Panthers to win an exciting contest. Panthers 31 Dolphins 27

Washington at Dallas – This contest pits two teams that surprised me last week against each other. Washington surprised me, because I couldn’t envision a scenario in which they were going to beat the Broncos, and yet somehow they did. The Cowboys surprised me by almost getting shutout against a Packers team that I had given up on the previous week. The Redskins are not winning two in a row, trust me, them winning last week was more about the Broncos being terrible than about the Skins being good. The Cowboys are not traditionally all that good as the NFL calendar gets later in the year, but they should be good enough to take a home game against a Redskins team that just isn’t all that great. Cowboys 28 Redskins 10

Cleveland at Detroit – A power matchup to be sure! The NFL schedule makers are actually doing us a favor by pitting these two duds against each other so that they only ruin one NFL game this weekend instead of their typical two. Actually, perhaps since both teams are pathetic, this will turn out to be a great game. That’s not how I’m betting it, but hey, anything is possible, right? I don’t even know what the number is for this game, but take the under. In a matchup of the teams that are #31 and #32 in my NFL power rankings, I’m going to take the second worst team in the league to narrowly defeat the worst team in the league in a game that I have zero interest in watching. Lions 7 Browns 6

San Francisco at Green Bay – The Niners put a halt to a four game skid, but were hardly impressive in doing it last Thursday night. The San Francisco offense just doesn’t look right, and I think the Packers feel revitalized after putting down a good Cowboys team last week. I’m still not sure the Packers are any good, but I think they’re good enough to handle the 49ers. Packers 27 49ers 17

Pittsburgh at Kansas City – The Steelers looked every bit like a team that was going to defend their championship in Denver, and then six days later they got worked by the Bengals at the friendly confines of Heinz Field. Now, they have been swept by Cincy and need to finish a game ahead of the Bengals to win the AFC North. They are surely upset at how last week’s game went, and I think they come into Arrowhead and take out their frustrations on a Chiefs team that just isn’t very good. Steelers 33 Chiefs 6

Atlanta at New York Giants – A month ago, this looked like a better game. The Falcons were 4-1 and the Giants were 5-0. Now both teams stumble into Giants stadium Sunday with 5-4 marks and desperately needing to get back on track to get out of the muddled NFC pack. This game is huge for both, and it could be the determining factor between who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t. The Giants are due to get a win, and I think they finally are able to pull things together enough to make it happen on Sunday. Giants 23 Falcons 20

New Orleans at Tampa Bay – Josh Freeman has at least provided a spark of enthusiasm for the Bucs. He is only completing half of his passes, but his numbers aren’t terrible, and he has four touchdowns against only two picks, so the future may be okay with him. If your rookie quarterback’s passer rating is hanging around 80, that’s not terrible. The Bucs almost pulled another huge upset last week, narrowly falling on a last second field goal versus the Dolphins. The Saints are better than Miami, and I don’t think they’ll need a last second field goal. Taking down the undefeated Saints would be a remarkable accomplishment for the rookie, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to get it done. Although it would be interesting if the high-flying Saints first loss were to the dreadful Tampa team. Not seeing it. Saints 38 Buccaneers 17

Buffalo at Jacksonville – I’m trying to figure out why Mike Shanahan would give the Bills the time of day. This team has been amongst the dregs of the league for a decade, the town loves the team, but due to economic decline may not be able to continue to support them, and there isn’t a whole lot of talent in the pantry right now. The Buffalo cupboards are bare; perhaps Mike just doesn’t want to hurt their feelings? I am not sure, what I do know is that regardless of whether or not Dick Jauron were still around, this team is not very good. However, even though the Jaguars have a winning record. I still don’t buy that they are good. The Bills have already come into one town and dealt a gigantic blow to a team that was starting to believe they might have a chance when they took down Carolina on the last Sunday in October. I think they do it again to a Jacksonville team that I’ll probably keep doubting all the way to the playoffs. Bills 20 Jaguars 17

Indianapolis at Baltimore – The Colts are due for a loss, this game reminds me of a few weeks ago when undefeated Denver came into play a 3-3 Ravens team that desperately needed a win. Once again an undefeated team rolls into Baltimore, and once again the Ravens are desperate and the team they are playing with can afford to lose a game. I don’t see the Ravens rolling, but I think they pull out a close win. Ravens 24 Colts 21

Seattle at Minnesota – It’s slipped under the radar for most of this season, but were you aware that Brett Favre is now playing for his old rival in Minnesota? Apparently he’s playing pretty well for the Vikings. Some even say he’s playing the game like a little kid having fun out there! Who knew? The Seahawks MIGHT win one game on the road this season (they travel to Saint Louis to take on the Rams next week), but they are not going in to the Metrodome and beating the Vikes. Vikings 35 Seahawks 14

Arizona at Saint Louis – I’m hesitant to start believing in the Cardinals, but they have won five of their last six games, and they’ve looked pretty good doing it. I think they make it six out of seven, but in a game that is perhaps closer than anticipated. Cardinals 28 Rams 20

New York Jets at New England – Bad timing by the Jets. Bill Belichick is probably ready to unload on a team after getting overly second guessed for the Colts game, add to that the fact that the Patriots would love to get a little revenge for the Week 2 loss against the Jets, and I see a talented and motivated team bowling over New York. It could be so bad that it makes Rex Ryan cry. Patriots 42 Jets 17

Cincinnati at Oakland – The Raiders are starting to realize what the rest of the country knew about two months ago…JaMarcus Russell is a bust. They turn the offense over to Bruce Gradkowski, but I have bad news for Raider Nation…he’s bad too. At least they have the Bengals coming to town who have a history of being terrible and this season…oh wait…yeah, they’re good now. Sorry Oakland, you’re screwed. Bengals 44 Raiders 7

San Diego at Denver – I have predicted Denver wins over the past two games, and have been REALLY wrong. Hopefully this is a reverse jinx…The Chargers are the better team right now. The baton for the AFC West lead gets handed to them in convincing fashion this weekend, and I will try my best not to cry like Rex Ryan about it. Chargers 34 Broncos 10

Philadelphia at Chicago – The Eagles have lost two straight, and need to get back on track. The Bears have completely derailed, and I don’t see good things ahead for Chicago. Philly takes care of the Bears with a workman like win. Eagles 20 Bears 10

Tennessee at Houston – I’ve heard people rip this game, but I think it’s actually pretty solid. It features Vince Young returning to Texas where the people in Houston might love him more than they love the Texans due to his Longhorn ties. The Texans are looking pretty good right now, and the Titans are riding Brett Kern’s leg and karma to a three game win streak. (That’s right, the Titans turnaround is directly a result of positive superstition surrounding the punter.) The Texans are out to prove that they deserve in the playoff picture, and the Titans are out to prove that Bud Adams had a good reason to flip off the Bills. Plus the old Oilers return to the place where the franchise began and the fans that they left behind. Any way you look at it, good and interesting game! Texans 29 Titans 24

My Picks Scorecard:

Last Week: 11-4
Season to Date: 93-51

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bill Belichick's 4th and 2 decision: The Official Vertically Striped position


A little over a year ago, Mike Shanahan, then head coach of the Denver Broncos, made an all or nothing decision which required gaining two yards to either win or lose the game. It was the infamous Ed Hochuli game; The Broncos had just benefited from a horrible referring decision. Denver scored a touchdown on a four yard pass from Jay Cutler to Eddie Royal with twenty-four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to make the score 38-37 pending the extra point. At this point, Shanahan made a gutsy decision, he kept the offense on the field to go for two to win the game rather than kick the extra point to tie the game up and send it to overtime. The try was successful, as Cutler once again found Royal in the South end-zone of Invesco Field, and the crowd erupted with approval. After the game, Shanahan was universally praised for his gutsiness and unconventional thinking. His defense had been run over, and rather than trust his fate to the coin flip, he decided to put the matter into the hands of his offense. The gamble worked, and Shanny was a genius, or so said the punditry across the sporting universe.

From the recap game page:

Showing ultimate confidence in his offense and maybe an equal dollop of distrust in his defense, Mike Shanahan went for the 2-point conversion with 29 seconds left and Jay Cutler hit rookie Eddie Royal over the middle to give the Denver Broncos a 39-38 win over San Diego on Sunday.

"Sometimes you have to go with your gut," Shanahan said. "I just felt like it was a chance for us to put them away. I didn't want to count on the coin flip. I wanted to do it then, and obviously it worked out."

From a Denver Post article by Mike Klis:

What's a bigger gamble — asking the offense to convert for one play from 2 yards out, or risk asking the defense to stop the Chargers? "At some point you need to ask, what are the percentages?" said Chargers coach Norv Turner. "He made the right call."

Okay, not everyone agreed with it. From Bernie Lincicome of the defunct Rocky Mountain News (Although I consider a Bernie Lincicome objection to be further verification of the correctness of the call):

The Broncos won a football game, one rare and remarkable, and, yes, there was a football game there under all the pinwheels and the panting, even when the Broncos coach made absolutely the wrong choice when it mattered most. And got away with it.

Anyhow, a year ago Shanahan and the Broncos gambled and won, and the community of football generally agreed with the decision because it worked. Also, the media were so busy wringing their hands over the absolutely atrocious Hochuli call of a non-fumble on what was clearly a Jay Cutler fumble which was recovered by San Diego that they only gave half of the attention of that game to the actual winning decision and focused just as much if not more on the one horrendous officiating call. My point is, that from my recollection of that day and it’s aftermath, and verified by my reading up on the archives of what was said that day…people agreed with the call because they had access to the results and the results were positive.

Now, flash forward to a year or so later when Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots decided to gamble on a 4th and 2 at their own 28 yard line with 2:08 remaining in the game. It’s not completely analogous, but it is close enough to make my point. The Patriots were up by 6, and a successful conversion all but ices the game, however, a failed conversion does not mean that a loss is certain; it just makes it much more probable. So actually, Shanahan took the bigger risk last year and was praised for it because it worked. If Shanahan’s gambit didn’t work, the game was definitely over for the Broncos. The Pats still would have a chance even if they failed.

This week, Belichick is getting crucified because he failed on a play that actually was less risky. Yes, giving Peyton Manning the ball at the 28 with two minutes to go is tough, but it’s not impossible that the defense can keep the Colts out of the end zone. I keep hearing how Belichick was showing how he didn’t believe in his defense, but couldn’t he sell his decision by saying that he was showing faith in both his offense AND defense by going for the jugular? Belichick could say that he believed that his defense could bail him out if the offense failed. Sure, that’s more than a little bit of spin, but logically it makes sense, and Belichick could surely sell that to his players and possibly the media, right?

My initial reaction watching the game was that I thought Belichick was an idiot, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Convert and victory is certain (and to be fair, after watching the replay it sure looked like the spot was an absolute dreadful piece of officiating), however if you fail even then not all hope is gone that you can win the game. Plus, the conventional “safe” play involved punting the ball to Peyton Manning. If Patriots punter Chris Hanson hits his average punt, which is 39.6 yards, you’re somewhere around the 32 or 33 yard line with Manning needing to go sixty-seven yards to win with two minutes to play with and two timeouts. Sure, that’s a good deal harder than going 28 yards, but either way, it’s far from unlikely that Peyton doesn’t do it. So rather than just giving Manning the ball, Bill tried to take all the suspense out the outcome by taking a reasonable chance at trying to get 2 yards with Tom Brady for the win rather than leaving it up to a defense that had already surrendered two fourth quarter touchdowns.

Yes, it was a risk, and I understand the side which says that they would punt, however, I think punting would have been just as large of a risk without the potential to decide the game in your favor. To hear pundits denigrating Belichick saying he is a complete moron and made an absolutely brain-dead decision because of his hubris seems disingenuous as many of these same folks praised Shanahan a year ago for making a similar decision with even more stark consequences for failure. At worst, when you factor in the positives for a successful conversion versus the negatives for a failure, Belichick’s decision was a coin flip where it was equally risky either way. Punting is what traditionalists do without thinking or without factoring in probabilities. I think Bill made an informed decision and decided to be risky because he felt it gave his team the best mathematical chance to win the game. I’m not going to kill him for that, even if I probably would have punted myself. In fact, I salute him as a visionary who rejects conventional thinking. If you’re only doing something because “That’s the way we’ve always done it” and you aren’t factoring in anything else other than tradition, you’re not thinking.

Sure, anyone with access to the results afterwards can make a more informed decision because hindsight is always 20-20, but in the moment, I don’t think that was a bad call. It only had a bad result, and everyone loves to judge decisions retroactively based on results. The Patriots didn’t have access to the results, and made a decent decision based on probability. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a shower. All this defending Bill Belichick and the hated Patriots is making me feel dirty!