Not for the Novel I: Natalia's suggestion and the road trip
It was the spring of my senior year, at the very dawn of my - write it! - writing fiction career in the back of Mr. Hamm’s last period Existenialism class when in black and in English our brilliant, brown-eyed, contemporary Natalia Emanuel lent to me the following advice:
Start with the Rules, she said. Rather good, I think, for a short story and for a young life. To any and all wondering where in mine I am headed, I love you, and I am going on a road trip. Here are my rules of the road:
1.) No more than three buy-ins or $600 will be laid on any collection of table in a given day.
2.) If and when cash exceeds one thousand dollars, half will be deposited into my brokerage account.
3.) Away from the poker table, I will adopt a life of strict and self-competitive frugality. Drinking will be by far the biggest expense I delete. I will be creative in my accommodations, ingenious in others’. Food will be bought healthy and in tremendous bulk, like I was feeding kids out of a trough in the trunk of my minivan.
I will also not buy weed on the road. I will partake in these vices only when stopping by with friends in various states who are inclined.
Transportation will be provided by my mom. She has left me her Camry, as she heads on to Italy, India and I suppose elsewhere.
4.) I will not conflate my stack with the quality of my work. I will keep concern for each and a preference for the latter.
5.) Any day (24 hours) in which I lose more than one hundred dollars will be followed by a day (24 hours) of not losing more than one hundred dollars, nor $50, nor any more than the total dollar amount I spend on food that day, if I need to buy food that day. Gas will not be an expense on those days because I will not drive.
ESPN (DIS) is a lot like Netflix (NFLX). They’re the best stock you can buy in their industry, but when you think about it, their only real competitive advantage is a handful of licenses and the fact that they’re way, way better than anybody else
ESPN’s franchise player , Pardon the Interruption had an absolutely marvelous showing yesterday, putting up a 90+ QBR for the third time in as many Monday afternoons. Not unlike them, the most compelling point of the show was something they never actually said - just hinted at.
Wilbon said doesn’t want to hear the whining about quarterback’s like Peyton Manning taking shots to the legs. He said that without saying who if anybody has been whining about it recently. He called the story a “big fat huge deal ” - because that sounds like a “big, fat” something else and because the real story behind the Manning getting an MRI on Monday was not the extent of his injury, not at all. The real story was the chess-game reasoning behind Manning getting the exam in the first place.
Wilbon never said Manning is looking to get more personal fouls called against him. But, really, he did. Like he himself punned, “you can’t get to that point” - meaning both the point where Manning is out for the season, and the point that he is appealing to the refs with a brilliant and paper-thin PR move.
By getting himself checked out, Manning is telling the viewing public as much as he’s telling the league officials: Hey, everybody, look out for my legs on Sundays - I’m old, I’m banged-up and by the way I’m kind of a big deal.
PTI is probably right after the Simpsons and James Joyce when it comes to my biggest influences. And yesterday’s show helped me realize more than most just why. Whenever I write, nearly, I’m actually re-writing something I’ve already written. Talking frankly to a recently deceased-past-self, as it were. That’s why I love PTI - the quality of their conversation is paramount, as they correct and step over one another. Self-described as a show of two guys yelling at each other - it’s actually really quite thoughtful. It has a the type of broad and nuanced perspective that belies the fact that it is a daily show. It’s not just yelling, nor is it just talking. It’s writing. Each new story falls into a broader category that the two hosts understand largely without words because they have been yelling at each other about it or something like it for years and years and years. The two are always both addressing and narrowing-in on the salient points in the ever-moving kaleidoscope that is pro sports.
Tony and Mike have an uncanny ability to hide and flaunt their second conversation. They can move on from a topic and still talk about - cheekily - for the rest of the show. Friday the theme for the second half of the show was the future of RG3 and the Redskins. They framed the story right - offense is looking stellar, team is looking lowly. Tony said it best when he said of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett - “You can throw him out the window. You can do that.” I agree.
Monday Tony and Wilbon went on long pausing on the third topic - Saints/Cowboys - how bout ‘dem Cowboys?!? - because, they understood - without needing to say as much - that the Saints and the Cowboys move the needle and the Rams and the Colt’s don’t. People like to hear about it when the Cowboys are good and when they’re terrible, like they were on Sunday Night. All they had for the next block was a blip of Treyvon Austin running across the screen, so they wisely took their sweet time in the transition before going over the Rams freak scoreline over a solid Colts team.
They switched immediately into their fourth block, because they knew it was a real good one.
Peyton Manning announced that he was going to have MRI on his legs, after feeling sore from some late hits in their win over the Chargers in San Diego.
Even though it was the kind of story that most fantasy football owners (myself included) would regard as a pretty tiny orange asterisk, it carries hidden significance in our long term view of the league and the season. The PTI crew got there and dwelled there perfectly.
Tony asked was the report a big deal, little deal or no deal at all:
Wilbon knew the injury wasn’t serious, and he also knew that it was A Big Fat Huge Deal. Starting with “big fat” perfectly got across Wilbon’s cynicism about the news story. But he wasn’t being facetious, he really does think it has big significance. The South-sider got past talking about the actually injury and talked about the potential “whining” of the league marquee players getting hit.
Wilbon knew Manning getting the MRI was as unnecessary a move as it was prudent, especially with the Broncos next three games against brewzing defensive teams. The MRI was a media stunt to curry favor with league’s executives and get the yellow flag in the same situation next time. It itself not whining - but it opens the door.
Tony made that point even more clear when he ran through what is at stake: at 37 years old Manning is near the end of his career, he can’t move around at all and he can’t throw the ball down field. He repeated: Manning is 37 years old, he can’t move around at all and he can’t throw the ball downfield. With all that said - he is having the best season of his legendary career.
The NFL cannot let him go down this year and everybody knows it. There is far too much money in the pot. I mean for goodness sake, what if he tore his ACL this year?
Forgive me for saying that, I don’t mean to jynx him - after all, he’s carrying my fantasy football team - “Chicago Fired”. Just saying - it could happen and if it did happen it probably would happen on a late, low hit like the one he took against the chargers.
(BTW what the heck is up with ACL’s these days? Has it really been coincidence that it seems like every other major sports star has gotten the itis recently?
Here’s a total list of every NFL player that has torn his acl - it’s 39:
LB Chris Clemens
QB Robert Grifin III
LB Victor Butler (NO)
OL Dan Koppen (DEN)
DE Melvin Ingram (SD)
DE Greg Scruggs (SEA)
CB Aaron Berry (NYJ)
LB Jonas Mouton (SD)
WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI)
WR Armon Binns (MIA)
LB Darius Fleming (SF)
LB Jason Phillips (PHI)
FB Mike Zordich (CAR)
OL Bryan Bulaga (GB)
CB Chris Culliver (SF)
WR Arrelious Benn (PHI)
WR Danario Alexander (SD)
WR Joseph Morgan (NO)
WR Vidal Hazleton (NYJ)
DE Phillip Hunt (PHI)
WR Keolah Pilares (CAR)
WR Kevin Elliott (BUF)
TE Dustin Keller (MIA)
CB Richard Crawford (WAS)
DE Will Smith (NO)
FS Stevie Brown (NYG)
OL Maurkice Pouncey (PIT)
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (PIT)
OL Garry Williams (CAR)
DT Henry Melton (CHI)
RB Vick Ballard (IND)
DT Nate Collins (CHI)
OL Amini Silatolu (CAR)
QB Brian Hoyer (CLE)
LB Bryan Kehl (WAS)
WR Charles Johnson (CLE)
RB Mike Goodson (NYJ)
LB Desmond Bishop (MIN)
QB Sam Bradford (STL)
WR Reggie Wayne (IN
Sorry did I forget to mention that is the complete list of NFL players with ACL tears…so far in 2013! There can be no doubt that this injury has gotten much more common. Funny, I’ve heard that John Elway didn’t have an ACL at all. It’s exactly thirty years since he was drafted…and now everybody is sitting out because of ACL problems. What’s going on here? What the hell are they feeding us?! Wipe my brow I’m worried about the future of sports. But not really. Just in a campy, my generations sort of way.)
Anyway, I was talking about PTI, right? 11/11/13: it was a great episode. Wilbon and Kornheiser collectively made the point of why it is stupid and not for obvious reasons to say - as Brandon Meriweather did after coming back from a suspension from a bad hit - that if you can’t hit a quarterback high anymore then you have to him low. Uh - well, that’s not actually true. “You can hit him the middle”, says Tony. How big is the middle? Wilbon smartly thinks it’s tiniest on the biggest and best Qbs. He compared it to like a National League umpire calling strikes.
That’s where Peyton’s big, fat smelly MRI comes in. By getting this MRI on his legs, Peyton is loudly re-establishing his own strike zone. Everybody already knew how important he is to the league this year. Now everybody also knows that he’s hurting - and one bad hit could cost the league millions.
The hit itself I think was a bad one. It came late in a game that was all but over. It also came late in the play, a half-second after Manning had gotten rid of the football. It’s a fine line for sure, but referees can make sure defensive players don’t get away with smacking the league’s best QBs in that brief beat before its a blatant late hit and after the pass is out of the player’s hands. It’s completely subjective. And football is not like novels - the subject matters. In this case, the subject - Manning - matters an awful lot the league interest this year.
At the end of the show, Reali informed the guys that after looking into the play the NFL deemed the hit OKAY. The NFL is so awesome at PR. Yes, they say, this hit is okay: they let everybody know this is still the brutal collision sport we all love. That said, I am sure that league has let every referee know that if Manning gets hit the same way next week - it’s not going to fly.
Bravo Peyton. It’s really a delight to watch you work. Like Tony and Michael, you are just way smarter than anybody else at your position (well, maybe Brady). The MRI was just one more of the millions of tiny calculations that make you one of the best QBs of all-time. And by the way I agree with your unsaid point, you probably should get that kind of hit called a penalty more times than not.
Don’t you think the league should protect him? I do. Anyway, the best part of this story is that, as Tony says, Peyton is adaptable. “He’s better at making compensatory moves than anybody else”. However the refs are calling the games, Peyton is going to be Peyton. He’s going to be great. Getting hit is not beneath him. He’d just rather not do it.
Tuesday August 20th, Analysts at the cover32.com downgraded their rating of the Washington Redskins (NFCE: WAS), dropping them from 13th to the 23rd in their weekly power rankings. Cover32-Redskins analysts haveattributed the drop to news that Kirk Cousins had sustained a sprained right foot in Monday Night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cover32 currently has a price target of miss the playoffs for the Redskins.
Okay, “WAS” is not actually a stock that you can buy shares of - at least not in the traditional sense. The Redskins are, however, something in which you can invest. Just like a stock, you can stake your claim right now during this time of elevated doubt, watch the team dominate like you expect, and then finally reap the financial rewards you deserve for holding onto your conviction.
How you ask? Why through the magic of gambling, of course.
Those that lay the lines in Vegas are thinking on similar, if not identical lines to the cover32 senior editors - that is, they are wildly overstating the team’s injury worries.
The Redskins are better than the 23rd best team in the league with or without Robert Griffin III. Moreover, they are better than the 23rd best team in the league without Griffin III or Kirk Cousins available.
Wait what if Griffin and Cousins can’t play - how will life go on?? - says the Redskins doomsdayer.
I’ll tell you what if.
In the unlikely scenario that Griffin and Cousins can’t play for a game or any stretch of time, Rex Grossman III, a 32 year-old NFL veteran who has won 25 of the 47 games he has started in his career, will walk into a team that boasts by far the best supporting cast Grossman has every played with. To put it simply, the pudgy Gator has never played with a wide receiver as good as Pierre Garcon, or a running back as good as Alfred Morris. Really, he has never played behind a lineman as good as Trent Williams has become.
No, no, Grossman won’t become Johnny Unitas over night. But I don’t expect all the fantastic things going on right now with the Redskins offense to poof into thin air either.
If we take a cue from the history of financial markets, we see that fear and uncertainty is actually a buyer best friends in the long-term.
Over the past five years, by far the best times to have bought into stocks has been at times of the greatest public uncertainty. The summer 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, the weeks before the 2012 presidential election, the days before the sequester this past March - in hindsight we can see empirically that each of these occasions represented excellent opportunities to buy into vastly oversold equities. Once each of these big bad events passed, reason replaced panic and the markets corrected - moving very quickly to the good.
That’s what we have here with the Redskins - an excellent buying opportunity. Redskins’ futures are being kept unreasonably low simply by the fact that Robert Griffin III has not yet been cleared to play by doctor James Andrews. Griffin will be cleared at some point in the next couple weeks. Now is the time to take advantage.
Right now, according to Vegas Insider, the Redskins are getting 25 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Back in early May - when there was significantly more uncertainty about the health of Robert Griffin’s knee - the Redskins were getting 40 to 1 win it all, barely up from the 50 to 1 odds they were getting at the beginning of last season.
Working out the numbers, we see that Griffin’s much publicized run of getting healthier has corresponded to a 60% rise in the Redskins implied odds of winning the SB over the past three months. Those same odds I believe still have lots of room to run.
Granted, the Redskins winning the whole thing is what we call a speculative bet. Even if the true odds of the Redskins winning the SB in NYC were actually 50/50 - there would still be a very good chance that you’re going lose any and all the money you place in that bet.
So what do we do to decrease risk? We diversify. Thankfully, the implied odds of the Redskins regular season aspirations have not nearly kept up with developments as fast as their SB odds have done.
Here are the consensus early odds for the first 16 weeks of the Redskins 2013 season (according to Vegas Insider)
1. WAS (-4.5) vs. PHI
2. WAS (+4.5) @GB
3. WAS (-2.5) vs. DET
4. WAS (-4) vs. OAK
5. WAS (+1.5) vs. DAL
6. WAS (-1.5) vs. CHI
7. WAS (+6) @ DEN
8. WAS (-3.5) vs. SD
9. WAS (1.5) @ MIN
10. WAS (PK) @ PHI
11. WAS (+1.5) vs. SFO
12. WAS (-1.5) vs. NYG
13. WAS (-4.5) vs. KC
14. WAS (+3) @ATL
15. WAS (-2.5) vs. DAL
(The pluses represent games Vegas expects the Redskins to lose. The minuses are games they are expected to win. And Vegas thinks the Redskins are an even-money shot to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia.)
Even though I feel stronger about some of these lines than others, I’m going to refrain from highlighting which ones I think are the best bets here.
Just like it’s close to impossible to time the short-term ups and downs of the stock market, it’s nearly impossible to know when a good team is going to play a bad game - or vice a versa. So instead of picking out hot spots for your money, I advise any serious investor to buy the whole slate here, spreading their bets outs evenly over each of these 15 games.
According to these odds, Vegas expects the Redskins to go 8-6-1 in their first 15 games, a rather mediocre record.
Think about it: Do you think the Redskins - a team that averaged over 7 yards per passing play and nearly 5 yards per running play; a team that had a league low 14 turnovers with a rookie QB - do you think they are middle of the pack?
What I think the odd makers are not taking into nearly enough consideration is that all of the Redskins stand out 22-year-olds from last season are 23 now - and still getting smarter, stronger, better every day. The uncertainty of Griffin’s - and now Cousin’s - health is a problem for the Redskins PR department. For the savvy sports fan, it’s just a beautiful opportunity for profit.
***Bonus: Here are my best bets on early odds for the rest of the leagues in 2013:
Reasoning: The last time the Giants travelled to Carolina (on Thursday Night Football) they shut the Panthers out and scored 35 points.
@STL (+4) over SFO
Reasoning: Saint Louis played the 49ers as well as anybody during the regular season last year, tying them on the road and beating them in overtime at home.
NWE (-1.5) over @CIN
Reasoning: Over the past 15 seasons no franchise has enjoyed more consistent success than New England. Over the past 15 seasons no franchise has enjoyed less consistent success than Cincinnati.
GNB (+1) over @BAL
Reasoning: -Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL. An up and down team throughout the 2012 regular season, the Ravens are not bringing enough of their core back for us to assume their SB winning quality of play will carry over into 2013.
@NWE (-7) over MIA
Reasoning: The last time the Dolphins played they were blown out by the Patriots in Foxboro.
NWE (-2) over @MIA
Reasoning: See Week 8.
NWE (pk) over BAL
Reasoning: See Week 6
(Mackenzie Rivers does not hold any outstanding bets on any team, game or player mentioned in this article.)
Playing a late round of a Kings Friday night, I turned over nine and said a sentence that ended in the word “past”. The rhyme went around the circle – “…vast”, “…pass”, “…blast” – until it eventually got to the southern Virginian on my right, one…
A Strange History of Super Bowl Betting Trends and my SB Pick
Before I make my Super Bowl pick, I’d like throw some facts at you. This summer I read in the Richmond Times-Dispatch of all places, Washington Redskins General Manager, Bruce Allen note the fact that only three teams have won a Super Bowl in season where the team did NOT go away from their regular-season practice facility for training camp. (Full-disclosure: The Redskins will train in Richmond this summer, the first time they will hold camp away from Redskins Park since 1994).
If that were true, I wondered, wouldn’t all the teams just take a bus down the street for training camp, out of vain superstition if nothing else? I looked it up. Turns out he was almost right. It was only three teams, until the New York Giants made it 4 last February winning in a year where they forced to train in East Rutherford while their usually training facility in Albany, New York was under construction. (They’ve since decided to summer in NJ on a permanent basis). Outside of the Giants, only the Patriots, the Raiders, and Saints have won SB’s during years where they did not go away for training camp - those teams winning a total of 8 championships during those years. Despite this fact, still about have the franchise in the NFL hold training camp in their regular season practice facilities.
If I were an owner I would not. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after this Sunday’s SB there will be 39 SB-winning teams that have gone away for camp. I think being away from families and natural environments may help build team moral and chemistry - and I don’t think it could hurt.
Anyway, doing the mindless work of looking up SB winning team’s summer training camp facilities on pro-football-reference, helped me run across a bunch of other useless SB facts, many of which I felt obliged to write down for such a week as this one. Here are some betting trends, I found tasty for one reason or another. Enjoy!
In 46 SB’s there has been only one push in SPREAD (1996 Green Bay (-14) over New England) and no pushes in the TOTAL.
All-time the favored team has won straight-up 69.6% of the time and has covered 53.3% of the time.
In the past 10 SB’s the favored team has only covered 3 times, but has won 6 of those games.
All-time the OVER has won 52.17% of the time.
In the past 10 SB’s the UNDER has won 7 times, making the 02-11 seasons represent the the only set of 10 consecutive years since the NFL/AFL merger where the UNDER has outperformed the OVER on the final game of the year.
And now without further ado, my SB pick…
@San Francisco (-3.5) over Baltimore
My 2013 NFL Playoff record: 5-5-1
BONUS (for all you compulsive types): Go with the OVER (47.5)!
Farewell to Tony Kornheiser at the end of a dream internship.
Dear Mr. Tony,
you so much for inviting me into your studio back in October and
enduring my stay ever since. These past few months have been a
tremendous experience for me. When I think about all the shows you guys
have done, I can hardly ever remember which conversations were actually
on-air and which were just between us. Goes to show you why your show
is great - it’s natural.
all that I’ve gained from being able to watch you work, it might be
somewhat uncouth for me to ask for a parting favor, but here I go
anyway: even though I know you’re not exactly the biggest soccer
guy in the world, the next time you talk about soccer on PTI or (God
forbid) the Tony Kornheiser Show, for whatever reason it is - a
spectacular goal, the conclusion of a major international tournament -
please, please, please find a way to drop the name Andres Iniesta into the conversation.
how it could go down. The next time Wilbon calls Lionel Messi ‘ the
best players in the world’, you say: ‘Well, him and Ronaldo are great
forwards, but I’ve been hearing a lot about this Iniesta kid.’
off, Reali will go nuts. Secondly, the man is in fact more than
arguably the best player of his generation, he could very well end up
being the best soccer player in the history of the sport. His teams
have won everything, and time after time he has proven to be the
critical factor. (Neither Spain or Barcelona have won anything big
without him.) Yet despite his ludicrous talent and impeccable track
record, he is largely anonymous in the USA. A man of your status just
mentioning the name, ‘Iniesta’, aka ‘El Ilusionista’, aka ‘El Celebro’,
on a show like PTI could propel the awareness of soccer in this country
forward ten years
a teen, Iniesta lead Spain to back-to-back major international youth
tournaments in 2001 and 2002. Since he joined his nation’s senior squad
in 2006, Spain has won every tournament in which Iniesta has featured.
The only trophies Spain didn’t secure in that time were the 2006 World
Cup, where a young Iniesta was left out of the starting lineup by a
manager soon to be fired, and he 2009 Confederations Cup, which he
missed due to injury. Most people remember his name from the time he
scored the only goal in the 2010 World Cup Final - the most watched
event in TV history - but that sells short the fact that he also scored
or set-up 4 more of the 7 goals Spain scored in that tournament.
is arguably the most important player for his club team, the
illustrious Barcelona, as well. Although he is far less a prolific
scorer than his teammate Lionel Messi, and hence far less
internationally known, it’s not a coincidence that Barca has won
everything there is to win in the past half dozen years and yet has not
won a single major trophy without Iniesta playing a major part.. (The
same cannot be said of any other Barca player.) When Iniesta missed the
springs of 2008 and 2010, Barca, a team chock full of superstars, did
not as much as reach a final in any major tournament. He is the only
Barca out-field player to feature in all 3 of their successful Champions
League Finals (the Euro equivalent of the Super Bowl), and he assisted
the go-ahead goal in all three of those games.
touch and mastery of the soccer ball is indescribable. Sir Alex
Ferguson, the most accomplished manager in British history, famously
said before the Champions League Final in 2009: “I don’t think [Iniesta]
has ever lost the ball in his life.” In that same press-conference,
Ferguson said: “I’m not obsessed with Messi. Iniesta is the worry.” And
after Iniesta sure enough beat Fergusons’s Manchester United in that
final - (toward the end of which Messi scored a meaningless goal) -
several United players, including their talisman, Wayne Rooney hailed
him as “the best player in the world.” I’m not asking you to make
that argument - because you don’t know that to be true (and probably
don’t care either way). But I implore you, please, please mention his
name on air and enlighten an American public that mostly understands
greatness in that sport by looking up Messi’s slight statistical
superiority over his rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
sooner you say his name the better. Because if Iniesta leads Spain to
victory in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - making it a once inconceivable
four straight international championships for Spain - there will no
longer be any doubt whether Iniesta stands alongside the other legends
in football - the question instead will become whether or not the little
Spaniard is the most accomplished athlete in the history of any sport.
My experience playing against Russell Wilson. My bitter hatred and deep man crush. I even work in a mention of Brandon Caleb and Jamal Schulters.
FUMA bros should approve:
“I can tell you this: the word “wuss” has never been used by a Fork Union cadet since 1897. Also, we don’t have “fans”. We have 500 semi-trained teenage delinquents dressed in uniform with the verbal abuse ingenuity of a Marine Corps drill sergeant. Russell Wilson endured some of the most heinous taunting I’ve ever heard in my life - and this wasn’t even basketball season.”
@Buffalo (-3.5) over NY Jets @New England (-10.5) over Miami Baltimore (+2) over @Cincinnati Houston (-6.5) over @Indianapolis (5-star) @Tennessee (-4) over Jacksonville (lock) Philadelphia (+7.5) over @NY Giants (shoe-in) @Washington (-3) over Dallas @Detroit (+3) over Chicago Green Bay (-3.5) over @Minnesota @New Orleans (-5) over Carolina @Denver (-16) over Kansas City Arizona (+16.5) over San Francisco @Seattle (-10.5) over St. Louis
This week: 7-6-0 Last week: 9-7-0 Lock-o-da-week: 7-2-3 Shoe-in-o-da-week: 8-3-1 5-star-silver-dollar-special: 3-4-0 Overall: 109-105-5
Atlanta (-4) over @Detroit (lock) Tennessee (+13) over @Green Bay Oakland (+8.5) over @Carolina @Miami (-4.5) over Buffalo Cincinnati (+4) over @Pittsburgh @Jacksonville (+14.5) over New England Indianapolis (-6.5) over @Kansas City @Dallas (-3) over New Orleans Washington (-5.5) over @Philadelphia (shoe-in) @Tampa Bay (-3) over St. Louis Minnesota (+7.5) over @Houston San Diego (+1.5) over @ NY Jets @Baltimore (+2.5) over NY Giants Cleveland (+13) over @Denver @Arizona (+5.5) over Chicago San Francisco (-1) @Seattle
This week: 9-7-0 Last week: 8-8-0 Lock-o-da-week: 6-2-3 Shoe-in-o-da-week: 8-2-1 5-star-silver-dollar-special: 3-3-0 Overall: 102-99-5
Cincinnati (-4.5) over @Philadelphia Green Bay (-3) over @Chicago (lock) @Atlanta (-1.5) over NY Giants Tampa Bay (+3.5) over @New Orleans @St. Louis (-3) over Minnesota Washington (-1) over @Cleveland (shoe-in) Jacksonville (+7) over @Miami @Baltimore (+2.5) over Denver @Houston (-8) over Indianapolis @San Diego (-3) over Carolina @Buffalo (+5.5) over Seattle Detroit (-6) over @Arizona Pittsburgh (-1.5) over @Dallas (5-star) @Oakland (-3) over Kansas City San Francisco (+5.5) over @New England @Tennessee (+1.5) over NY Jets
This week: 8-8-0 Last week: 7-9-0 Lock-o-da-week: 5-2-3 Shoe-in-o-da-week: 7-2-1 5-star-silver-dollar-special: 3-3-0 Overall: 93-92-5
Denver (-10) over @Oakland (5-star) St. Louis (+3) over @Buffalo @Washington (-2.5) over Baltimore Kansas City (+6.5) over @Cleveland San Diego (+7) over @Pittsburgh @Indianapolis (-5) over Tennessee @Jacksonville (+2.5) over NY Jets Chicago (-3) over @Minnesota @Carolina (+3.5) over Atlanta @Tampa Bay (-7.5) over Philadelphia @Cincinnati (-3) over Dallas Miami (+10) over @San Francisco New Orleans (+5) over @NY Giants Arizona (+10) over @Seattle @Green Bay (-6.5) over Detroit (lock) @New England (-3.5) over Houston
This week: 7-9-0 Last week: 8-6-2 Lock-o-da-week: 4-2-3 Shoe-in-o-da-week: 6-2-1 5-star-silver-dollar-special: 3-2-0 Overall: 85-84-5
The Knicks need a battle-tested veteran not named Jason Kidd (i.e. one that deserves to play most of most games on merit and production rather because of his reputation as a leader.) – fact.
The Lakers need the personnel to go small and bust games open without Howard on the floor. – fact.
The Knicks need the personnel to go big, slow games down and let Carmelo shine late. – fact.
Financially, the Lakers would do well to reinvigorate Show Time. – fact.
Financially, the Knicks would do well to appeal to the international crowd. – fact.
In the playoffs, the Lakers will need to get more than 2-9 shooting with 9 rebounds and 3 assists from their power forward slot. – fact.
In the playoffs, the Knicks will need a low post threat not named Carmelo Anthony. – fact.
In the conference finals, the Lakers will need the speed and scoring options to keep up with the high-tempo, jump-shooting Oklahoma City Thunder. – fact.
In the conference finals, the Knicks will need the brawn to wear-down and wear-out the paint-dwelling, hard-charging Miami Heat. – fact.
Mitch Kupchak and Glen Grunwald need to find a way to switch star power forwards – fact. Will they? Far less certain. Regardless of whether or not the rumored potential trade of the Knicks’ Amare Stoudamire for the Lakers’ Pau Gasol came from a real report – both teams should do more than consider it. They should make it happen - right now. Before the dust settles on Dan Antoni’s hiring. Before Amare Stoudamire returns from injury. Do it now.
This is one of those rare circumstances where two teams’ surpluses and needs correspond with another’s perfectly. The Lakers have an abundance of size but no fluidity in the half-court and even less in transition. The Knicks have an abundance of athletes, slashers and rim-rockers, but lack a legitimate second scorer and post play-maker.
We’ve seen the Amare and Melo front-court experiment, Glen. It failed. No need for tears – just move on, move forward.
You’ve been trying to off-load Pau for the past 18 months, Mitch. Here’s your chance! Don’t let it slip!
Not to mention the numbers work out: both players make way too much money over the next two years. Not mention the fact that the two teams are on opposite coasts – so you got your symmetry there.
Both Pau and Amare are known for showing up soft in big games, so that’s a wash. In an era of super-teams, why not swap queens for a more competitive board? For the good of your teams and for the good of the league, push the button, Glen and Mitch. Make it happen.
@Atlanta (-3.5) over New Orleans @Chicago (-4) over Seattle (shoe-in) Minnesota (+9) over @Green Bay @St. Louis (+7) over San Francisco Arizona (+4.5) over @NY Jets Carolina (-3) over @Kansas City @Detroit (-4.5) over Indianapolis Jacksonville (+6) over @Buffalo New England (-7) over @Miami (lock) Baltimore (-4) over @Pittsburgh Houston (-5.5) over @Tennessee Tampa Bay (+7) over @Denver Cleveland (+1.5) over @Oakland Cincinnati (+2) over @San Diego Philadelphia (+10) over @Dallas @Washington (+2.5) over NY Giants
Houston (-3) over @Detroit (shoe-in) Washington (+3) over @Dallas @NY Jets (+7) over New England @Cincinnati (-8) over Oakland Pittsburgh (-1.5) over @Cleveland Buffalo (+3) over Indianapolis @Kansas City (+11) over Denver Tennessee (-3) over @Jacksonville @Chicago (-5.5) over Minnesota @Tampa Bay (+1) over Atlanta (lock) Seahawks (-2.5) over @Miami St. Louis (+2.5) over @Arizona Baltimore (pk) over @San Diego Green Bay (+3) over @NY Giants (5-star) Carolina (+2.5) over @Philadelphia
Lakers Win in D’Antoni’s Debut: Bench, Point Guard Still Problems
Mike D’Antoni emerged victorious in his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night, as his star-studded team grinded out a victory at home against the Brooklyn Nets.
With D’Antoni at the helm for the first time, the Lakers looked a lot the like same old Lakers.
As has become a theme in Hollywood so far this season, the Lakers came out of the gates playing stout defense, and quickly built a 10-0 lead within the first four moments of the game.
Once the Lakers bench entered the fray, however, the lead quickly evaporated. The Laker reserves found themselves with a six point deficit midway through the second quarter, before L.A.’s starting unit, complete with 3 of their 4 probable Hall-of-Famers, stabilized the game in the lead up to halftime.
In the second half, the script repeated itself. The Lakers built a small lead by the end of the third quarter, only to see themselves dive into a four point deficit midway through the fourth.
Once both starting units were back on the floor, Kobe took over. Bryant dished out a few assists and hit several critical shots and free-throws down the stretch to usher the Lakers out of Staples with a win.
Winning by five on the night, the Lakes outscored the Nets by 20 in the 39 minutes Bryant and Pau Gasol were on the floor.
On the other side of the coin, the Lakers were outscored by four points in the 41 minutes Dwight Howard was on the floor, likely a result of the extended minutes Howard played in the early parts of the 2nd and 4th quarter, alongside the likes of Antwan Jamison (1-3) Jodie Meeks (0-2) and Jordan Hill (2-7).
The Lakers bench combined for 10 points in 50 minutes.
Free throw shooting remains a problem for a Dwight Howard lead team. The four-time defensive player of the year shot 7 for 19 from the stripe. Even as Bryant hit two clutch free-throws in the final seconds of the game, the team as a whole shot an abysmal 19 for 37 on the night.
Outside of bench play, however, the most immediate concern for the Lakers – and no doubt for D’Antoni – is a continued lack of productivity from the point guard position.
With both Steve’s (Nash and Blake) out with injury, second-year California native Darius Morris and eight-year NBA veteran Chris Duhon manned the 1-spot for about half the game each. In 48 combined minutes, the pair accounted for seven points (on 3-7 shooting), two rebounds and six assists – a modest stat-line that has been in no way unusual for the point-guard position for the Lakers this season.
With Paul Gasol and Kobe Bryant well-versed with the equal-opportunity triangle offense installed by Phil Jackson, it remains to be seen whether any point guard in the Purple and Gold will assert himself as the lead facilitator of the offense.
Conventional wisdom dictates that as Nash returns from injury and joins forces with the point-guard friendly D’Antoni – with whom he thrived to the tune of consecutive MVP seasons in Phoenix – the point guard spot will become more and more significant a factor for the team in the coming weeks and months.
So far in 2012, the four Laker point guards (Morris, Duhon, Blake and Nash) are averaging a combined 6.5 assists and, a league worst, 9.9 points per contest.
The team with the second lowest point guard output in the league is the defending champion, Miami Heat. The primary difference, however, is that the Lakers almost always keep at least one point guard on the floor, while the Heat have the luxury of playing stretches with one or both of their perimeter superstars taking turns bringing up the ball.
Despite not having had productive play from the lead guard position, the Lakers still rank middle of the pack (15th) in the league with 21.5 assists per contest. During both of their most recent championship runs, the Laker averaged fewer than 20 assists per game in the playoffs, a testament to both the talent of the Lakers individual scorers, and to their collective ability to thrive in the slower, more methodical style that NBA spring basketball brings.
Kobe plus 2 elite Bigs is a system that has been shown to be a force to be reckoned with, regardless of the often meager offensive output from the other forward and guard positions.
Having a position on the floor that is only giving you 10 points in 48 minutes would be a liability for most teams, but the Lakers will continue to boast enough scoring options in their starting five to mollify those concerns. With more consistent point guard play expected with the imminent return of Steve Nash and the continued introduction of D’Antoni’s offensive system, the starting unit should start to build bigger, earlier leads against inferior squads like the Brooklyn Nets. And L.A.’s substandard bench should able to sustain those leads most nights.
@Buffalo (-2.5) over Miami @Washington (-3.5) over Philadelphia (shoe-in) Green Bay (-3.5) over @Detroit (lock) Arizona (+10) over @Atlanta (5-star) Tampa Bay (-1.5) over @Carolina Cleveland (+7.5) over @Dallas @St. Louis (-3.5) over NY Jets Indianapolis (+9.5) over @New England @Houston (-15.5) over Jacksonville Cincinnati (-3.5) over @Kansas City New Orleans (-4.5) over @Oakland San Diego (+8) over @Denver Baltimore (-3.5) over @Pittsburgh Chicago (+5) over @San Francisco
During dinner with new family at six o’clock this past Tuesday, I made the less than bold claim that if they called Florida by ten o’clock we could be certain that the night would be easy and good.
Out of respect for the good fortune of this country, I consciously avoided watching the election results, spending the majority of that evening riding the DC Metro red line back and forth down one distant Maryland enclave, through the city, up to the very end of the other.
Riding, I had the chance to finally finish the Eric Larson book, Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, an astonishingly vibrant account of the World’s Colombian Expedition and the Henry H. Holmes murder mystery. For the first hour I read, I looked up at every oncoming passenger trying to determine their political leaning, their current mood, and any potential relationship between the two.
Nobody I saw looked less or more than blank. I refocused on my reading.
One quote in particular struck me against the backdrop of the night, as Larson recounted the Editor of the New York Dry Goods Reporter, Charles T. Root’s reaction to the successes of 1893 Chicago’s World Fair:
“It was time, he said, to acknowledge the truth: ‘Chicago has disappointed her enemies and astonished the world.’”
What a poignant post or tweet, I thought, to tweet or post the very moment the election was called.
Moments later I got off my train at Grosvenor-Strathmore, one of the few outdoor stations on the line. There on that platform, I promptly spun around three times and spat and cursed.
I got back on the next train, which happened to be heading the opposite way. I had hardly found my place when the train intercom beeped:
“For all of those interested in the election,” the train conductor said, “They have just announced that Obama is going to win the state of Florida.”
I was the only one to shout. A young man silhouetted by rap music booming from his out-turned headphones shot me a look that said not so much, Who cares?, as Who cares? It’s just one state.
Perhaps Florida is that, and perhaps the conductor was mistaken or misinformed in his report. I didn’t care. I would not be spinning, spitting or cursing any more that night. That much I knew: We had won.
I was certain we had won not because I trusted the source or overvalued the significance of the given information. The fact that all the networks’ would refrain from calling the state of Florida for the next few days would not have surprised me much even then. I was certain we had won the race rather because I was certain that of all the possible universes I might have fallen into I knew for a fact I would never have been dropped into a world where I was mulatto and from Chicago and a great fan of great oratory and a bigger fan of a greater orator and happened to be reading the record of the crystallizing moment of Chicago’s entrance into the world’s awareness on a night when that great orator, another mulatto from Chicago, lost his re-election bid to the presidency after the biggest, reddest looking swing state had been mistakenly called into his column by the exact noble operative responsible for the movements of millions across the Chocolate City that happened to be moving me at that very moment. No way.
Certain I was not, nor ever would be, nor ever would have been dropped into a world less glorious than this, I sat back down, read, and rode on.
Indianapolis (-3) over @Jacksonville (lock) New York (-4) over @Cincinnati @New England (-11) over Buffalo @Tampa Bay (-3) over San Diego (5-star) @Carolina (+4) over Denver Tennessee (+6) over @Miami Oakland (+7.5) over @Baltimore @New Orleans (+2.5) over Atlanta @Minnesota (+2) over Detroit @Seattle (-6) over NY Jets Dallas (-1) over @Philadelphia (shoe-in) St. Louis (+11.5) over @San Fransisco @Chicago (-1) over Houston Kansas City (+12.5) over @Pittsburgh
BREAKING NEWS: Robert Griffin III Busted For Steroids
Robert Griffin III should not be on the field for the rest of the season, at least.
According to sources from around the league, Griffin tested positive for PEDs during a urine test taken during training camp - the team should privately leak to local media sources, clarifying that - the complicated chemistry of the illegal substance resulted in the prolonged rendering…
That’s not technically true. But the fact that no such positive Griffin drug test exists should not deter the organization from taking the necessary actions to ensure the future of this team.
It wouldn’t be the first time the team publicly went with one story about the physical conditions of one of its players rather than another.
With this false report - which they would concede to having happened, accepting the punishment in the same way the team accepted the 18 million dollar salary cap hit they got because they followed the written rules with a little too much gusto - the team would be armed with the perfect excuse to execute a plan that would better the odds of them winning the Super Bowl - the one and only thing that matters in the NFL.
For a myriad of reasons, the team around Griffin has deteriorated into a squad in which no player other than Griffin on either side of the ball is worthy of being on an NFL field. Without a playoff or a Super Bowl run in sight, there are no positives to be taken from the on field activities of the 2012 Washington Redskins.
The only possible positive outcome every time Griffin steps on the field now is the glimmer of hope that he will be able to step off of that field on his own free will by the end of the game without injury, damage or excessive mental anguish.
Sunday night Griffin took X-rays on his ribs at a local hospital after finishing the game against Carolina. It is beyond me that the team doctors were allowed to report that the tests were negative. There needs to be further investigation into that medical visit. The doctors should have found a blot on his record, which should turn out to be the organization attempting to cover up his positive drug test. Griffin should be suspended for the season.
It would be that easy. And sitting him would that be beneficial.
Coming into the preseason most Redskins fans I talked to around Redskins Park told me in essence that the season would be a success if Griffin validated his price tag. He has done so and more. Now it’s time to sit him.
Although they were his worst statistically, Griffin’s most impressive games as a passer might have been the past two, losses to the Steelers and the Panthers.
The kid is putting the ball on people’s hands,people not worthy of laying a finger on his balls…let alone play starters minutes in the NFL, (or any minutes in any professional sports league).
Some would say that we have receivers that can catch but that they don’t have receivers that can win.
That’s being far too kind.
In the second quarter of the Carolina game, the Redskins completed back to back fourth-downs and put the ball on the Panthers two-yard line. In the next four following plays, the Redskins did not attempt a strike into the end-zone. Makes sense. We have no receivers.
Josh Morgan should have been cut twenty times this season. Besides SINGLE-HANDEDLY losing us at least two games, Morgan hasn’t blocked an opposing defender yet.
Pierre Garcon is the Redskins’ Mark Price.
Much has been made that Logan Paulsen is a good guy who works as hard as anybody even if he is not blessed with the necessary natural talent of an NFL starting tight-end. That cannot be true. A good guy who works hard would never be as slow and stiff running routes as Paulsen has shown himself to be.
Niles Paul as well should be playing in Arena Football (at best).
Contrary to reports, Leonard Hankerson has ZERO potential - he will never be a number one or number two guy, and recent reports from sources close to the situation have indicated that the receiver has re-enrolled in the University of Miami to finish his degree in Sanskrit,i.e. he is considering a legitimate day job.
Two Sundays ago, quarterback Robert Griffin III sprinted away from James Harrison toward the sideline. Throwing slightly left, back across his body, to compensate for his momentum, he threw a straight-ahead bullet at chest height twenty yards down field to a streaking a Leo Hankerson in the shallow corner of the end-zone.
By all accounts, we can’t let that stuff happen. We cannot let these plays, destined to become the iconic images of not only the Redskins but the entire NFL for years to come, slip away.
Robert Griffin III should not be on the field. Somebody screaming,”Steroids!” is the answer.
Despite the numbers drop, Griffin is a better, more complete quarterback now than he has ever been in his career. That’s not news; he’s young and he’s learning. But the only significant improvement I have seen in his game has come from the first week of training camp to the last.
That’s the only thing he needs. More practice. Let’s get him that with a lie to the media (and I guess to most of the fans). The Redskins public relations department could have fun with the dupe (as they almost always do) releasing a clever statement that lets true fans read between the lines:
Griffin Suspended Season for Performance Enhancement Techniques.
Those PET’s being the mountains of playbooks and defensive looks we would throw his way from Monday to Saturday. He will improve. Risk free. It’s the best possible deal for Washington.
But wait - there’s more!
Outside of just dramatically diminishing the risk of injury, sitting Griffin for the final seven games of the season will also have carry three other worthwhile benefits.
First of all, the public shame of a steroids allegations would lose Griffin many of his sponsorships, allowing him to focus solely on football and improvement.
Second, opposing defenses will have significantly less tape to adjust to when Griffin comes back to take the league by storm in 2013. Everybody knows that the only reason Cam Newton has struggled through most of the season is that opposing defenses have a leg up on his approach. The less we play Griffin, the better he will perform.
Third and most important, if Griffin sits Kirk Cousins will be able to get much needed NFL experience.
Forget trade value. We’re going to need him.
Cousins is almost certain to be our backup quarterback for the next 10 seasons, during which there will come a time when he will have to win us a big game against a good team. Let him play Philadelphia. For one thing, the Eagles wouldn’t see it coming - and would almost certainly fold under the confusion. We already know what Griffin can do, helping Cousins mature is far more pertinent.
In fact, the team would benefit if Griffin’s made-up steroid allegation lingered for the entirety of next season as well. Statistically analysis has proven over the years that quarterbacks play their best football between the ages of 27 and 28. Why would we want to risk wasting those years?
Let Griffin battle these allegations - maybe go to prison a couple times - and by 2018 he and we will be the odds on favorite to win it all.
His lucious mahogany locks notwithstanding, Steve Nash looked an awful lot like back-up, Steve Blake last night in his Los Angeles Laker debut.
The numbers tell much of the story: Nash finished with 7 points off 9 shots, no steals and only 4 assists in 34 minutes. Blake had no points and 6 assists in 13 minutes.
Once they walked the ball past half-court, neither Laker point guard looked like he had much to do.
Despite the Lakers rebounding advantage, the new look one-day behemoeths saw little to no opportunities in transition.
And in the half-court - despite their decision in the off-season to implement elements of the Princeton offense - the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers looked a lot like the 2011 edition. They got the ball to Kobe on the wing, and then to the bigs and to Kobe down low. The offense looked traditional, methodical, slow.
By my count (I watched most of the first three quarters) the Lakers did not run a high-pick and roll last night.
"Maybe I need to assert myself more in pick-and-roll situations," Nash said.
Maybe. There is a larger question, however. How much ball does Steve Nash need for the Lakers to suceed?
The Lakers have claimed to be a point guard away from dominant for the past several years. Even when they won championships in ‘09 and ‘10, the lead-guart position was largely reported to be their one weak spot.
They won, however, with a team of solid passers rather than one designated distribuitor. How much should that identity change? Whenever Nash is dribbiling at the top of they key or is doing his signature sweep down by the baseline, those are seconds the ball isn’t getting worked into the Lakers primary scorers, all of whom - Bryant, Gasol, and Howard - have grown accustom to taking a few seconds sizing up their defender before shooting or making their moves to the basket.
Last night, no one was driving. There were no lanes and there very few useful cuts through the lane. No Laker guard shot a free-throw.
There is a happy medium to be found, I’m relatively sure. Four HOF’ers get the benefit of the doubt during their first few weeks together.
Nash won’t put up guady statistics on the Lakers - that’s a fact you can bring to your fantasy bank.
The Lakers have no speed anywhere on the court and only one bona fide three point shooter (Kobe). Athletic wings and court-running power forwards. Shooting. Those are the attributes that make great point guards look great. Those are the brushes Nash used to paint masterpieces for years in Phoenix.
With their current make-up and offensive tendancies, Nash might start looking less like a Chris Paul and more like a Steve Kerr - a smart player, an underrated defender and a deadly late-game shooter.
"I think for him, it was his show [in Phoenix]," Hill said, "and it’s been his show for a while. Now, if you go off of what Kobe said in training camp, it’s Kobe’s show."
Grant Hill knows better than most that the Lakers is Kobe’s show. Kobe personally told him as much.
According to a not to be named NBA reporter close to the Lakers, when Kobe was trying to convince Grant Hill to become a Laker - Hill wanted more information, asking Kobe:”Tell me about the offense. What kind of stuff does Mike [Brown] want to run?”
To which Kobe responded: “Who cares about Mike? - I’m coaching the team. I’m calling all the plays.”
Hill wanted no part of the “Kobe Show” and took his talents to the L.A. Clippers instead.
To the sequence of events my source (let’s call him Avid Dalridge) could only laugh and say: “Who would want to play with that [bleep]?…Kobe has all of Jordan’s competitive stuff - and none of his charm.”
Unlike Hill, Nash could propell himself into the class of an all-time great if he adds a ring to his already impresive resume. If Kobe’s way is the way to do that - then more power to him. But Kobe’s way is winning - and the Lakers offense will have to change dramatically before Nash becoms a factor, and before winning almost every night becomes the normal in Southern Californian.
Last week I looked up the Buffalo Bills rushing defensive statistics. They were twenty second in the league. I thought - hey, well that’s not the worst in the league. They might do alright….So, I picked the Bills to cover on the road against the mighty 49ers. I thought was looking for a reason to pick them, because I had just seen Chris Berman and I had my heart out for Buffalo. The real reason I picked them, I think I realize now, is that I wanted a more interesting paragraph to pen for my weekly picks piece. Plus, I figured if I was lucky and the Bills somehow did the impossible, I’d look like a genius for picking the least popular team of the week.
For those reasons and other, lazier, reasons, I am eschewing explaining my picks for this weekend’s slate of games. Below you’ll find who I think will win ATS. No specific predictions, no analysis — just gut. Enjoy!
Pittsburgh (-5) over TENNESSEE
CINCINNATI (-2.5) over Cleveland ***MackenDaPros Shoe-in Of the Week**
Indianapolis (+3) over NY JETS
TAMPA BAY (+3.5) over Kansas City
ATLANTA (-8.5) over Oakland
BALTIMORE (-3.5) over Dallas
PHILADELPHIA (-5) over Detroit
St. Louis (+3.5) over MIAMI
New England (-3.5) over SEATTLE
Buffalo (+4.5) over ARIZONA WASHINGTON (-1.5) over Minnesota
SAN FRANCISCO (-5) over NY Giants
Green Bay (+3.5) over HOUSTON ***MACK-ATTACK’s LOCK OF THE WEEK***
Odds according to Vegas Insider 10/2/2012, 9:33am (Prediction)
SAINT LOUIS (+1.5) over Arizona
Here’s a tip I’ve learned from two weeks of looking at these lines: Pros bet early. Here we only have the Cards giving up one and half points despite being undefeated and going against a team no one expected much at the beginning of the season and no one is talking about much now. I like the Rams to win outright anyway, but I’d feel a lot better with that extra point. This one is going to be close. Expect +5 turnovers and +5 field goals between the two teams.
St. Louis 20, 19 ——St. Louis 17, 3
CINCINNATI (-3.5) over Miami
This has all the elements of a trap game for the Bengals. Since I don’t have the daily psychoanalysis of this rust belt team like I would if they played in New York or California, I’m just going to guess that Marvin Lewis has installed the mindset with this team that they don’t take any game lightly. Besides, three and a half points at home against the Dolphins is an insult. The line should motivate them if nothing else.
Cincinnati: 24, 19 ——Miami 17, 13
Green Bay (-7) over INDIANAPOLIS
Andrew Luck is the highest rated quarterback in the NFL. I know. Whaaaa? Well, not according to traditional QB stats, like the traditional ‘QB Rating’ - but the #1 pick is tops in the league according to ESPN’s new metric they rolled out last year, ‘QBR’. Luck narrowly beats out Ben ‘no way I spell this right’ Roethlisberger for the top spot. Something’s wrong with that. Luck and Roethlisberger are a combined 2 and 4. Their teams are ranked 17th and 18th respectively in total offense, and 22nd and 13th in scoring. Luck has completed less than 54% of his passes and his team has yet to score more than 2 offensive touchdowns in any one game. But he’s the best? What’s going on here?
Even though I’m naturally not an advanced statistics guy, I actually like the idea behind a comprehensive QB rating that takes into account QB rushing yards and 4th quarter play in a tight game. That said, there has to be something wrong with the QBR algorithm cause there’s no way Luck and Big Ben should be 1, 2. The amount of factors they use in the formula is ridiculous so I don’t think it’s something that they’re missing that’s the problem. They probably over-thought the situational weight of the stats. When Peyton Manning threw 3 picks in the 1st quarter against the Falcons week 2, his QBR didn’t turn out that bad because he played better in the 3rd and 4th quarters of the game, and those stats count more in this metric. His rating for example was 9 points better than Tony Romo’s from Monday night, even though Romo threw for more yards and had a higher completion percentage, while getting no help from his running game. Weighing quarters and score-lines is the right idea, but the raw numbers don’t account for the tenor of the game.
Okay, the more I look into this, the more awful QBR looks a statistic. MVP front-runner, Matt Ryan’s QBR this past week was a substandard, 47.9 – or roughly half of Andrew Luck’s ratings in his week 2, 23-20 win against the Vikings. That just baffles me. Ryan threw for 369 yards and 3 scores against the Panthers, and had only 1 pick - AND he lead his team on a 65+ yard game winning drive. That’s a hero day. But ESPN’s metric says that a replacement level QB would have done just slightly better, (50.0). Silly.
Green Bay: 30, 20 —— Indy 30, 27
Baltimore(-4.5) over KANSAS CITY
I feel bad for Romeo Crennel. After being the defensive coordinator for the latest, greatest dynasty in pro football, he just seems to fall into bad situation after bad situation. Maybe he should try and coach Notre Dame next year.
Baltimore: 27, 20 ——Baltimore 9, 6
WASHINGTON (+3) over Atlanta
This is a tough one. I want to be objective for you guys, and there are a lot of reasons to pick Atlanta in this one. First of all the line is surprisingly low, considering its an undefeated team travelling to a team that has lost its last seven home games. Plus, the Falcons biggest strength will go against the Redskins biggest weakness. Atlanta boasts two of the top 10 receivers in the league in Roddy White and Julio Jones, not to mention the ageless wonder, Tony Gonzalez. These three will be going up against a Redskins secondary that so far this season has made good receivers look like All-pros and All-Pro’s look like Randy Moss in his prime. The group did play better this past week against Josh Freeman’s crew, but it would have been hard not improve after how poorly they performed against the Bengals. This week the Redskins gave up only two 50+ yard passing plays, both of which came in a furious second half comeback made all the more exciting by a Redskins’ missed chip-shot field goal midway through the 4th quarter.
That said, the Redskins biggest strength is also the Falcons biggest (if not only) weakness - the run game. The Falcons (26th in rush defense) struggled against the Panthers trying to contain the combination of a legitimate traditional running game along with a run-threat QB. The Redskins have a similar combination but better. Currently, the #1 ranked rushing team in the league, the Redskins now have left tackle, Trent Williams back and healthy. His importance to the team cannot be understated. After he went out against the Bengals, his replacement allowed a sack on back to back plays in the second quarter, and another one on the ‘Skins last drive of the game, all but cementing the home loss. Williams will give Griffin time to throw and he’ll give Morris space on the edge to complement his natural instinct to run up the gut.
Another strength for the Skins in this one is Ryan Kerrigan’s matchup. An aspiring Sportscaster (after he retires), Captain America looks every bit as good as the Skins other defensive stud, Brian Orakpo who is out for the season. Sunday, Kerrigan will love lining up against Falcons’ struggling right tackle Tyson Clabo, who has allowed 3 sacks so far this season, plus a number of QB hits on Matt Ryan that were as hard as any RG3 has taken this season. Kerrigan - who is technically a linebacker and not a defense end - blitzes most first downs, and will have a hand in Ryan’s face more plays than not unless the Falcons can establish the run. Falcons RB Michael Turner showed signs last week against the Panthers, but I think the Falcons are going to give up on the running attack early in this one if a few rushes in a row go for no-gains and they get behind.
The biggest key here will be who is ahead after the first quarter. The Falcons will be able to establish the run - and thus nullify Kerrigan’s advantage on Clabo - if they establish a 7 or 10 point lead. But let’s say the Redskins get the ball first, and score a touchdown after a methodical 6+ minute drive. The Falcons aren’t going to want to play that slow of a game. Their going to try and respond quickly - which means they’re going to open up Matt Ryan to a drive killing sack. If the Redskins get the ball back and have another long, patient drive, with a heavy dose of Alfred Morris and a few scattered designed QB runs thrown in - then they are likely to enter halftime with a touchdown or more advantage. At that point, any concept of a favorite goes out the window. The Landover crowd will smell blood - will smell their first marque home win, perhaps since the season opener against the Cowboys back in 2010. The Falcons might start to do some damage in the second half with their standout wideouts - but if their behind the eight ball like I think they will be, they will make just enough mistakes - turnovers, dropped balls, penalties - to let Robert Griffin and the Redskins suddenly potent offense put it away in the 4th quarter.
For those out of the area, check out atdhe.eu at 1pm Eastern this Sunday - this one is going to make for some good TV.
Washington: 31, 28 —— Atlanta 24, 17
Cleveland (+10.5) over NY GIANTS
If those friggin’ Giants fans hadn’t bet so hard last on their team to beat their bitter rivals in Philly last week, the spread wouldn’t have gone from +2.5 to +1 for the Giants. That means they would have covered. That means my pick would have held up. And that means I would have gone 9 and 6 instead of 8 and 7 - and I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of 9 and 6 a heck of a lot better than 8 and 7. Again, pros bet early. Anyway, the Giants fans are going to be asleep in East Rutherford Sunday - so I’m taking the Browns to cover.
NY Giants: 27, 17 ——NY Giants 41, 27
PITTSBURGH (-3.5) over Philadelphia
Although this line first took me by surprise, I think I get it now. Even though the Eagles are 3 and 1, they haven’t looked great in their wins and looked dreadful in their one loss. The Steelers are coming off a bye, and expect to have their best two defensive players back. I’ll be rooting for Vick and the Eagles, but I think they are going to take a step back this weekend in West Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh: 27, 23 ——Pittsburgh 16, 14
Seattle (+3) over CAROLINA
Tough one: Seattle’s defense against the rush has been stellar, but they haven’t gone up against anybody that can run the ball. The Panthers can run extremely well, if they don’t do much else right. Russell Wilson has somehow kept his team in every game despite averaging a miniscule 150 yards per game through the air. The Hawks have a good pass rush and I’ve liked their coach since the Reggie Bush USC glory days, but I can’t see the Seahawks staying in contention when their best wide receiver is Golden Tate. The group might just do okay against the Panthers, though, who have had one of the worst defenses in football. This one looks like it could tip either way, so I’ll take the points.
Carolina: 19, 20 ——Seattle: 16, 12
Chicago (-5.5) over JACKSONVILLE ***MACKENDAPROS SHOE-IN OF THE WEEK***
The Jags have scored only 62 points in four games, good for last in the league; and the Bears have dominated both sides of the ball in three out of the four games they’ve played. In the one game Chicago lost, at Lambeau Field, the defense only gave up 1 touchdown, outside of the Packers fake field goal.
Chicago: 24, 10—— Chicago: 41, 3
Tennessee (+5.5) over MINNESOTA
Outside of two return touchdowns, the Vikings offense only mustered 6 points against a Lions defense that gave up 430 yards and 3 offensive touchdowns against the Titans. With a full week of 1st team reps under his belt, I think the veteran Matt Hasselbeck finds a way to keep this one close.
Minnesota: 24, 20 ——Minnesota: 30, 7
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Denver
Manning v. Brady XIII – how long as the public been waiting for this? Fun fact: despite not being in the same division the Colts and Patriots have played every year since 2002. No other non-division team plays annually, not even bitter rivals like Steelers and Raiders. I don’t know but that seems kind of off to me. I know the League wants to have their best 2 QBs go after each other every year, but isn’t it unfair for both teams to have an annual contest against another perennial contender? Nahhh - it’s its entertainment first and foremost. What makes it okay I guess is that both the Colts and the Pats have had incredibly soft divisions over the past decade.
This week of course, you have the Broncos and not the Colts going to Gillette. And you have the new, Peyton Manning. The Broncos’ defense has been ripped apart by these Pats in their last few contests. If the Broncos go down by more than a score and Manning starts chasing the game with the long ball, bad stuff will happen.
New England: 39, 24—— New England: 31, 21
Buffalo (+9.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Everyone is going to pick the 49ers in this one. The banged up and embarrassed Bills travel 3,000 miles just to get an NFC style smackdown. If the Bills gave up 45 to the offensively challenged Jets, there’s good reason to think the 49ers are going to run away with this one. It might be a no-brainer pick for most, but nahhh ..I just don’t see the 49ers covering. The score of the Jets game San Fran dominated so thoroughly was 7, 0 for almost the entire first half. I see another game like that, where the Californians are clearly going to win and are just pounding away on the ground for the entire second half. Except this time I don’t think the Bills are going to shoot themselves in the foot quite as bad at the Jets did and I think the Bills score late to cover.
San Francisco: 20, 13 ——
San Diego (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I don’t get this line at all. The 3 and 1 Chargers, who are coming off a dominating performance on the road against a divisional foe, are going up against a winless team that hasn’t been able to stop anybody all season. And who did you say is getting points??? I guess the conventional wisdom is that Drew Brees will not let his team drop to 0-5 at home. But why not? During his Chargers career Brees both lost 5 straight (in 2003) and won 5 straight (in 2004) - I don’t see him being immune to those kinds of swings in the Big Easy. Stuff happens in the NFL.
San Diego: 28, 20 ——New Orleans: 31, 24
Houston (-8) over NY JETS
Another example of why pros bet early. If the line had stayed at Jets +4.5, I’d consider this a lock. As it stands, I can’t see the Jets scoring enough points to stay in this one. The Texans running game is just as good as the 49ers if not better, and Andre Johnson is due to breakout.
Not-so-bold-prediction: This will be Mark Sanchez’s last start before the Tim Tebow experiment begins (again).
Houston: 28, 14 Houston: 23, 17
This week: 4-10-0… well, at least it’s a long season.
Don King, the NFL and the power of Uncontroversial Controversy
It’s 4am, Halloween morning, Zaire 1974. You and thirty thousand compatriots wade through a damp 20th of May Stadium. Save a behemoth in red shorts, and his millionaire supporters, every single man, woman and child of the tens of millions closest to you are screaming for the underdog fighter, whom you believe – whom you are sure – is the Greatest of All Time.
Fast forward to last Monday Night.
A Hail Mary is ludicrously ruled to be a touchdown gifting the underdog Seahawks a home win on Monday Night. Ready. The call is under review. Set. “After reviewing the play, the call on the fields stands.”
In the hours after the expeditiously dubbed “Inaccurate Reception,” and for the next few days, tens of millions of casual and hardcore fans, along with every corner of the national media took to the nearest mountaintop to scream, bloody murder!
The moment had been building. Week after week, game after game, bogus call after bogus call, an exponentially increasing amount of people across the country had something very important to say about America’s favorite sport. (Those in Baltimore said it best.)
But this one wild play magnified the nation’s unrest tenfold. Millions tweeted, thousands if not hundreds of thousands blogged, and an astounding seventy thousand people called the NFL league office to voice their displeasure
The Sportscenter immediately following the MNF fiasco drew a record 4.5% of US households – higher than any college football game so far this season. The mad intrigue in the controversy continued for days, as all of the ESPN’s midday opinion shows received huge ratings.
There isn’t much we love more than hearing people on TV badmouth the establishment. Folks like AwfulAnnouncing.com – who you might have guessed spend most of their time complaining about TV sports coverage – praised the balanced coverage of ESPN, saying “Everyone on-camera wasn’t afraid to speak out against the league.”
Nobody was afraid. Every analyst on every network including the NFL’s own, railed against the miss call and the ongoing labor dispute, prophesying that it would have a devastating impact on the image of the league.
Even non-sports shows like the Today Show and The Colbert Report chimed in on the abomination.
How could the NFL be so arrogant, so hard-headed, so irresponsible, so….genius?
Americans love money, football and scandal. When a scandal over a big money contract impacts football – now that’s a story! Through the appointment of division III referees as temporary replacement officials, not only did the NFL get everyone and their mom screaming about the sanctity of their product – they got everyone to do so together, on the same side of the ledger. No one could get enough of the controversy, because everyone was right – and everyone knew they were right, because everyone was agreeing with them. We all took turns shouting our agreement.
There is some truth to the adage, all press is good press, but that was only half of the NFL’s success these past few weeks.
Sure, the NFL product has been worsened so far this season – but it was always on the verge of being righted back to normal.
Steve Young, perhaps the most thoughtful and highest profile critic of the NFL during this stretch, said over and over again on shows like the PTI program, the NFL suffers from “inelastic demand”. In other words, no matter what the league did the public’s consumption of the league would not be negatively affected.
Well, that’s true. But what about all the possible measures the NFL can employ to increase interest in its product.
Last season, the noise around the lockout – which amounted to exactly 1 missed preseason game – lead to the highest early season ratings in over two decades. Like a man that passes through a near-death experience goes out and celebrates life – the nation cherished football more than ever simply because they had feared they were going to lose it.
This year the league did itself one better, having its big off-season controversy spill over into the start of the regular season. Once it reached its boiling point, poof, it was magically corrected.
They got us talking about how bad it was. They corrected it. Now we’re going to talk about how much better is. Win. Win. Win.
The only event in history I can think of where millions of people were driven to such a unilateral, one-sided hysteria was when Muhammad Ali traveled to Africa, championing the cause of Black Pride and taking on the face of the establishment.
Over the past three weeks, we have all been the Congolese watching the Rumble in the Jungle.
The integrity of professional football was Muhammad Ali; we couldn’t adore him more if we tried. His speed, his power, his ‘and what?!?’ personality – he symbolized us at our best and most fearless.
Even when he was clinging to the ropes, dodging and blocking the world’s most powerful blows, we had faith his guile and inner strength would eventually win out. When he did emerge victorious, we danced in the streets. We turned to our brother and saw no difference in politics or class, only a mutual love for all things right in the world.
Now you might say – but look the NFL’s still standing.
In this case the brute, George Foreman figure in this contest was not the National Football League – despite the fact they shared an ugly, arrogant, one-dimensional strength that threatened to annihilate the noble figure we love.
Foreman, who we cursed, who we called uncivilized, who we told our man to kill, was not in fact the establishment, only its tool. He was just another passing challenger soon to be proven no match for the ingenuity of OUR man. George Foreman was the labor dispute.
The NFL was Don King, getting paid for the fervor surrounding the contest, almost indifferent to the outcome.
Don King put his arm around Ali in public and around Foreman behind closed doors. The stronger Foreman looked – the more money. The meaner Foreman looked – the more money. The more noble and righteous Ali looked in comparison – you guessed it – the more money.
The worse semi-legitimate football looked – the more we screamed for the real thing. The more we joined together in support of Ali. During these three hysterical weeks of sub-par football, we realized just how much we adored the product the NFL is now selling us, and will be selling us for decades and decades to come.
And like Don King in 1974, the NFL enjoyed a picture book finish to the contest.
Two players go up for the ball. One catches it – the other tries to wrestle it away. The wrong decision is made. Perfect. At that moment, it looked almost like the NFL sky was falling down. What better time for the NFL to give the signal: you get off the ropes. Give the people what they want.
Foreman goes down, King doesn’t bat an eye. Like any other warm blooded man in Zaire, King runs out into the ring, smiles big and praises the Greatest of All Time.
Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some football.
Rationale: The Browns only nationalized televised game of the year will inspire them to lose by less than two touchdowns.
Score: 17, 30 Ravens
—-ATLANTA (-7) over Carolina
Rationale: I picked the Chargers over the Falcons last week not because I thought they were better, but because I figured the 2-0 Falcons were due to rest on their laurels a bit travelling out west. Look for RB Michael Turner to get on track against a Panthers run-defense that looked horrendous last Thursday, giving up a 113 yards on 20 carries to second-string Giants RB, Andre Brown.
Score: 19, 29 Falcons
—-New England (-4.5) over BUFFALO
Rationale: This was a tough one because the Bills won a shootout against the Patriots at home last season around this time, and I expect them to keep it competitive again. But the reeling Patriots seem to me to be poised for an offensive explosion and even if the Bills keep up (which I expect them to do for about 3 quarters) the winning margin in a shoot out is more often than not five points or better.
Score: 34, 28 Patriots
—-Minnesota (+4.5*) over DETROIT
Rationale: Nobody seems ready to peg either of these NFC North teams yet. Only one website – betonline.ag – is even putting a line on this one. I honestly have no idea how the Vikings won rather easily against the 49ers last week, and I have even less of a clue how the Lions defense somehow went from middling to terrible against the Titans. So, like any good fake gambler blogging, I flipped I coin. And when I didn’t like the result it turned up, I took the points.
Score: 5, 0 Vikings
—-KANSAS CITY (+1) over San Diego
Rationale: I’ve only seen him in highlights, but I like this Jamal Charles character. What an excellent name that guy has, huh?
Score: 17, 20 Chiefs
—-ST. LOUIS (+3) over Seattle ***MACKENDAPROSE SHOE-IN OF THE WEEK***
Score: 14, 12 Rams
—-San Francisco (-4.5) over NY-JETS
Rationale: Every team can have a bad day on the road. I don’t think the 49ers poor offensive display against the Vikings is a sign of things to come, but I could be wrong. On the other side, the Jets couldn’t have looked much worse in a win than they did in Miami last Sunday. Don’t see them scoring more than twice in this one.
Score: 10, 20 49ers
—-Tennessee (+12) over HOUSTON
Rationale: Through three weeks, the Texans look light-years ahead of the rest of the AFC. I see them in New Orleans this February. All that said, their first two games notwithstanding, they don’t seem to me to be the kind of offense that is prone to blowing out lesser teams, especially in contests against division rivals.
Score: 17, 28 Texans
—-Oakland (+7) over DENVER
Rationale: I really didn’t want to pick against Peyton Manning two weeks in a row – my bias might start to show – but the line just got too high not to take the points on this one.
Rationale: Hmm…juicy. Two terribly furious teams, terribly furious for two entirely different reasons. I’m prone to think that the much touted Packers offense will start to look like it did a year ago at some point this season.
Score: 40, 28 Cheese-heads
—-Washington (+3) over TAMPA BAY
Rationale: The Buccaneers offense doesn’t scare me enough to pick against my team. That said our secondary situation is worrisome. Skinscast podcaster Brian Refkin and I talked about this potential weakness before the season, but I don’t think either of us expected to be giving up 30 points every game. For the record, I still think ex-Bucs head coach Raheem Morris is a great defensive backs coach. I thought so coming into camp, and as camp wore on he impressed me more and more with his disposition and leadership, coaching up a couple of young corners and bringing together a group of safeties cast off from other teams. I think he’ll do everything he can to get his squad geared up for this game against his old team, and I expect the boys are going to come through for him this week.
Score: 30, 24 Redskins
—-NY-Giants (+1) over PHILADELPHIA
Rationale: Longtime Michael Vick devotee, recently Eli’s been making a fan out of me.
The very nature of being a sports fan is being a fanatic. Most Redskins fans were born that way, but a few were born that way a little farther back than the rest of us.
During Saturday’s Fan Appreciation at this year’s training camp, I had the good fortune of sitting down with such a fan: Abram Spencer Jr., 86, who has been a season ticket holder for the last 50 years.
Over that span, Abram has been to “practically every game,” both at RFK Stadium and FedExField, only daring to miss a few in recent seasons under inclement weather.
Raised in downtown D.C. near what was then Griffith Stadium, Abram’s been there through four championship seasons with the Burgundy and Gold. But he wears his Redskins gear just as proudly during the tough times — even sitting through all sixty minutes of the Redskins historic loss in the 1940 NFL Championship game.
“That was a cold, cold day - talking about the Chicago Bears years and ago and what not.” Abram remembers, still shaking his head seventy-two years later. “It was cold. It was cold. And that one they beat us seventy-two to nothing. That was - oh, my Lord have mercy. That was terrible.”
Although Abram doesn’t recall exactly when he first saw the Redskins in action, he does remember it was some time during World War II and that the good guys won.
“Andy Farkas ran a touchdown from the end zone back, Dick Todd leading the way,” Abram recalled. “I guess I was around about seventeen, eighteen. I’m not too sure.”
With a little historical research, we can help our friend out. Andy Farkas scored on the opening kickoff of a November 15, 1942 clash against the New York Giants. The play, which was the only kickoff return touchdown in Farkas’s excellent career, sparked the ‘Skins to a 14-7 home victory. Sure enough, Abram would have been 16 at the time.
It took another 20 years after Abram’s began going to games before he finally embraced the Redskins wholeheartedly: specifically, it took the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell. Prior to Mitchell, the Redskins had never had an African-American player, alienating a large portion of the fan base.
But with Bobby on board, so was Abram, who called for season tickets the next day.
“It was when Bobby Mitchell signed, that’s right,” he said with a proud smile. “When we had the first colored on the team and what-not, I signed. There wasn’t [but] very few blacks signed up for season tickets [back then].”
Talking to Abram the whole history of the Washington Redskins seems to condense into a single, graspable feeling of tradition and family. In the same breadth, Abram remembers Mitchell’s singing, lament the disappointments of the past two years, and anticipate the rookie campaign of Robert Griffin III.
“I hope [Griffin III] won’t be disappointing,” Abram said, solemnly. “I don’t think he will.”
Every year Abram purchases four season tickets, posting up in section 106 to cheer on his favorite football team.
He doesn’t make it out to as many games as he used to, but he’s happy to send his son, Abram Spencer III, and his grandsons Julian and Joshua. Just so long as he makes it out to a game early in the season, he’s a happy football fan.
“I’ve got to go the first game and the second game to make sure the people around me, the community around me know I’m still living,” he said with a grin. “I’ve still got my season-tickets and everything.”
Robert Griffin III nailed another Press Conference Monday (8/6). “Good job guys!” he told reporters, signing off a la Bill Simmons.
Maybe the young quarterback wasn’t familiar with the popular sportswriter’s token salutation; maybe he just has a similarly gracious sense of humor.
Descending the podium, Griffin III walked a few yards over and sat down on a bench where his fiancé had been patiently waiting. The two talked quietly, a few yards behind a large brigade of the fourth estate: reporters, bloggers, video and photo camera men, NFL Network anchors, and Redskins PR and broadcast staff (and their interns).
Like the majority of the people milling around on the porch between the practice fields and the facility, I was waiting for Coach Mike Shanahan to give his daily press conference. We had to wait about five or ten minutes. While we all waited, Griffin and his fiancé continued their quiet conversation. Tired of standing on my feet (for dozens of minutes), I took a seat on the bench across from the couple. It was the only one of the benches that had room. I recognized that my proximity to the couple might be intrusive, so I sat down facing the opposite direction as them.
I admittedly stole a quick glance at the team’s quarterback and his fiancé before sitting.
The peculiarity of the situation became immediately apparent. From where I was sitting, I could see nearly everyone’s eyes. And everyone - the gaggle of reporters; the network camera men; the PR staff and my superiors in the video department; a handful of other friends and family members of other players; and, of course, the AP photographer standing directly in front of me – everyone – was either looking over my shoulder or trying hard not to look. I couldn’t help but notice each and every time someone looked past me, no doubt for a glimpse of the new Face of the Franchise talking with his soon-to-be wife. Whether they were typing on their phones, engaged in small talk with their neighbor, or staring down at their feet, it was obvious where at least a plurality of everyone’s attention lied.
Outside of a couple of innocent little children, we all looked, once or twice every minute or so. Yes, I admit, like Orpheus in Hades, I was human and, against my better instincts, looked over my shoulder for fleeting moments. Not rudely. Not all at once. We would look somewhere inconspicuous first – at the door to see if Coach was coming; or at someone closer by the couple; or at the AP photographer a few arm lengths in front of their bench. Sooner or later, however, swiftly but surely, we would drag our line of sight across the young, newly famous couples’ conversation.
Given who and where they were, it really wasn’t all that surprising that people looked. Really, it was remarkable how much we managed to refrain.
It was as if we all tactility agreed that the young QB and his fiancé deserved a private moment to themselves, even - or, especially outside of the facility where he works every day. I honestly think that more of us would have looked in that direction more often if it were just Griffin III, or if it were just the young lady, sitting on the bench by themselves.
Yes, the AP photographer in front of me – who was obviously there to capture such a moment – took a snapshot or two of the young couple. But not many; no more than three.
He might have seen mine, and maybe a few other critical glares sent his way, because he stopped shooting after only a few seconds. He dropped his hands into his pockets and allowed his bulky camera to hang down from his neck. He turned away from them, toward the podium. In short: he fell in line with the rest of us, trying our very best not to look over, not to wonder more than we ought. The unspoken sentiment among us was both simple and powerful. We all truly appreciated the ten-plus minutes of honest, thoughtful reflection Griffin had just provided us from the podium. More than that, we were thankful that this astounding young man would be around these parts for a long time to come, getting to know a good number of us and always remaining unfettered and himself.
Alfred Morris looks an unassuming man - that is, until you get up close to him. All of 5’10, 220, when you stand by the Pensacola native, you might find it hard to distinguish his neck from his bulging shoulder muscles.
It’s probably not a coincidence that one of the 23-year old’s favorite things in life is steering those steel beams he calls shoulders directly into oncoming traffic. “I love contact,” he told me more than once in my interview with him after Monday morning’s walk-through. “Pretty sure you’re not going to meet too many running backs who say that.”
He draws his physicality and running style from the “linebacker instincts” he developed playing Division-1 caliber linebacker for Pine Forest High School in Florida. Since his high school days, Morris had found that his former position provides him an edge mentally.
“I could see how it gives me a little edge on linebackers: I know how they’re going to rush, I know the different moves they’re going to do.”
During his high school career, in fact, most of the recruiting attention Morris received was at the linebacker position. He chose to attend the relatively small school, Florida Atlantic, however, because he says it felt right and he knew he was going to be able to carry the ball.
In Morris’s eyes, the advantage of a true power runner is two-fold. More than just the ability to bully for an extra yard, Morris sees a larger psychological advantage in the power game, which helps him be more elusive as well.
“Game-time, I go out there and I lower my shoulder on anybody.” Morris told me, lamenting the fact that it is not something he can do in most if any practices. “I don’t care if you’re a d-lineman, linebacker, cornerback, I’m going to lower my shoulder, and eventually, you’re not going to want to tackle me. You’re not going to want to come as hard at me. It makes it easier to run around you, or make you miss. You misstep. You’re kind of hesitant.
Time will tell if Morris’s power will be able to strike the same level fear and hesitation in the psyches of NFL defenders, but Morris is proud that the coaching staff also appreciates the worth of a power runner. The highlight of Morris’s first week at camp came when Head Coach Mike Shanahan offered the tailback an enthusiastic high five immediately after he bowled over a not-to-be-named Redskins defender.
The coach and player began their relationship in January at the 2012 Senior Bowl. In the annual exhibition, Morris played mostly at fullback for the South team, a position he feels comfortable switching to if needed - which might be more so the case during this pre-season now that starter Darrel Young has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, Morris’s only impact in the box score in that Senior Bowl game was a false-start in the 3rd quarter. If he hopes to secure a permanent spot on the roster, Morris will have to eliminate those types of mistakes. A task made more difficult because he will receive limited reps this camp. With limited opportunities, any and all mistakes he makes will be magnified. Morris will have to learn to perfect the offense primarily through what the coaches call, “mental reps”. A new concept for a player that was a star back in college, Morris understands that they are essential to learning at this level, particularly early in his career.
“[Mental reps] help a lot. It’s something I really didn’t do in college, but here you never know when you’re going to get snaps, especially coming in as a young back you’ve got so many great backs in front of you. Just taking the mental reps when you get in. Knowing that even though somebody [else] messed that play up that you have learn from that mistake.”
A sixth-round draft pick, Morris knows the drill. He currently receives limited reps because he is playing alongside three veteran running-backs, all of whom performed well when on the field last season.
“I’m not worried about the horse race,” Morris said, evenly. “Competition definitely makes everyone better. I love the competition and I love that we are all getting better.”
Instead of working against his fellow running backs, who he describes as “like a family”, Morris relishes the opportunity to learn from three established pros.
“They coach us up, the young guys. Hightower was helping me yesterday on route-running. And I definitely watch Helu because he’s a great route-runner, yesterday he was making the linebackers look silly. I definitely try to use their game, but try and make into my own game, because I can’t beat them. I can only beat myself. I just try to do the stuff they do and make it so it work for me.”
Morris admits that route-running and receiving are the areas that he will need the most improvement. Seldom asked to catch a pass out of the backfield while at Florida Atlantic, Morris believes he has an innate ability to catch a football, but just has to “knock some of the rust off”.
“I’ve got pretty big hands especially for my size,” he told me. (He’s not lying: 10 and ¼ inches according to NFL Combine measurements.) Just making sure I’m focusing, looking the ball in, that’s something I’ve been working on - just making sure I look the ball when I catch it. Its been going good so far.”
Earlier, Morris had laughed and bragged: “I haven’t dropped a catch all camp - knock on wood. I’m just going out there and having fun and not worrying about it.”
Morris is the type of player coaches are drawn to. He really doesn’t worry about it. He works hard with no expectations other than consistent improvement. More than anything, the young man is strong - both physically and mentally - and he knows what has got him here:
“Everyone at this level is good. Everyone is fast. You’ve got to have that one special thing that makes you kind of stand out and then do whatever it takes to keep climbing up the ladder.”
No doubt more than a few young and veteran Skins’ fans felt a warming glow in their hearts when they saw the shimmering #10 Gold Jersey trot onto the field at 2:42 pm Monday afternoon, (7/30). These days Robert Griffin III is almost always the first Redskins player to on the practice field. Griffin casting his gloved hand down at the crowd in a futile attempt to subdue the “RG3!” chants as he stomps onto the chalked grass everyday is a telling image of the quarterback and the person, his humility and his work ethic, and above of all of his status as a budding leader on the Redskins roster.
No doubt more than a few kids and parents visiting the practice facility barely noticed the second man strapping on his helmet, jogging nonchalantly onto the field. North Carolina native Jonathan Crompton clocked in for practice seconds after Griffin III, followed shortly after by fourth round draft pick, Kirk Cousins.
Seeing all three chatting and tossing around with the equipment crew, a good fifteen minutes before even the special teams portion of practice begins, reminded me of something I heard on NFL Live the other day. Responding to Suzy Tolbert’s light joke that Peyton Manning wished the CBA’s would allow not only 2-a-days, but also 3 and 4-a-days, new ESPN analyst and former All-Pro Offensive Tackle Matt Light shouted, “All Quarterbacks would! Quarterbacks love to practice.” Light’s tone, though playful – as those that talk to Ms. Tolbert are wont to be – was unmistakably exasperated. It was as if he had long dealt with Quarterbacks receiving such praise from summer talk show hosts working with sparse training camp stories.
Watching Jonathan Crompton, a young man who has never dressed for an NFL Regular Season game, jog out as the second man out of the locker room immediately made me think two things: 1.) Crompton understands his spot on the team’s practice squad could well be deemed unnecessary if the team holds on to the other three quarterbacks currently in camp. 2,) Matt Light is right, Quarterbacks truly relish lacing them up every day, running through drills, installing sets and competing against defenses in game-like scrimmages.
For the Redskins QBS, maybe there is something about that Gold Jersey they wear that makes that sweltering heat just that much more bearable. Or maybe quarterbacks, like blondes, just have more fun out there.
For the record, I think it is a great thing that Griffin III is almost always the first Redskins out there for afternoon practice. I would be remiss to diminish that fact. As Anthony Armstrong and several players have stated this past week, his unquestionable work ethic sets a new standard that the rest of team feels obligated to match. Not only for the fans, that shining number #10 jersey trotting down an empty, green and white field fills the whole of Redskins Park with warm, hopeful feelings.
But the question remains. Why do all the quarterbacks - Grossman and Cousins included - consistently make it out onto the field before, say, any one of the defensive linemen?
Do they just care more? Maybe, maybe not.
Quarterbacks endure much less punishment than most other positions do during practice - (notice, I said most. I really don’t understand why kickers and punters aren’t out there eight hours a day practicing. What do they do all day, have meetings? You snap. You hold. You kick. Okay, read that back to me.) With significantly less hitting and pushing (like, 100% less) and with less weight to lug around than bigger players, they probably sweat less and are less bothered by the balmy 95 degree weather.
However, to be fair, the group does have more responsibilities and pressures having to make adjustments and play-calls and makes sure everyone else on the team is in line. Half of all football is at least 90% mental. That’s even truer for quarterbacks.
Maybe there is another explanation that has less to do with the demands of practices and more to do with the makeup of the guys that head out, fifteen to twenty minutes before everyone else. Maybe in order to make it to the NFL as a quarterback you’ve got to have that overly competitive A-type personality that can’t stand standing still. More than just ego, as a pro quarterback maybe you’ve got to have that innate arrogance that makes you believe you are always on the brink of elevating your accuracy and precision to new heights. Maybe you’ve got to have the belief that you and you’re offense are just that close away from showing-up the defense that day, even though defenses are typically ahead at this point of the season.
I asked Jonathan Crompton about quarterbacks early practice habits at the end of Tuesday’s practice. He quickly deflected and protected his teammates, noting that quarterbacks have come out to practice first on every team he’s played for in college and in the pros. “It’s just an industry thing.”
He then mentioned “rhythm” and noted, “Once practice gets going, it gets going – there’s no warming up once you’re in it.”
True, but the quarterbacks have a half an hour warm up period before team drills just like every other position.
In the end, only they really know. Your thoughts about it will likely come down to how cynical you are: you might conclude they just have easier practices, or that they just like to practice longer. Whatever their reasons, I know one thing: ten-year NFL veteran Matt Light is not all that impressed.
If Brady and the Patriots go 5 for 11 or better this year, Brady will remain the highest percentage winning quarterback in NFL history.
Assuming Ben Roethlisberger continued at his current clip (11-5 average each season), Tom Brady could lose all 16 of his starts this year and still edge out of Roethlisberger for the distinction of having the best winning percentage of any active NFL quarterback.
If Brady retired right now, Ben Roethlisberger could go 16-0 in back to back seasons and still be just behind Brady in terms of regular season winning percentage.
If Brady retired right now, Aaron Rodgers would have to win his next 50 starts to overtake Brady in terms of winning percentage.
Peyton Manning would have to win his next 97 starts to do so.
Eli Manning, 109.
Drew Brees, 125.
John Elway, who is currently second all-time with 148 victories, would have to win 143 consecutive starts in order to have a better winning percentage than Tom Brady