Friday, January 27

Playing Opposite the Blanket...

Ten years ago you could have used this poster to cover just about anything. Got a hole in the wall? No problem. Spaghetti sauce stain? Forget about it. Viscera? Solved. These days I'm not even sure it could handle covering a couple fingerprints. Maybe if it only had zone responsibility, but man coverage? No chance. However, it still may be very useful for community relations and will be considered for annual "upstanding community poster of the year" awards. And you could use it to teach your young poster draft picks a few tricks of the trade. Thanks Troy.

Thursday, January 26

Time to Get Our Story Straight

As we approach the approach of Super Bowl XL, I thought it would be nice to go over some of our best and boldest predictions from the year. I threw in a couple that we actually got right to balance things out again. My newest prediction is that Shavlik will break Mamba's non-Wilt scoring record with 42 put-back slams (mostly misses by Sammy on fade-aways with no one covering him) and no trips to the line. Enjoy.

"The Redskins may not win four games" -Hal

"I do expect big things from the Rams offensively" -Hal

"This team just can’t hang anymore" -Hal, on the Bucs

"#5 is in his prime and TO is actually going to play" -James

"The defense will be the best or 2nd best in the league this year"- James

"Like I said last week, Hitch is too good of a coach to let these third period woes continue much longer" -Armando

"I wish I was smart enough to say for sure that Arizona is a playoff squad this year" -James

"Or that the Bucs will jump up and win the South" -James

"Brandon Jacobs scares the shit out of me" -James

"A defense that specializes in speed and missed tackles doesn't cut it in January." -Hal on the colts

"You're out of your mind if you think the Chiefs don't take a major step back if Priest goes down." -Hal

"The Steelers are done. There's just too much film on Rothelsomething, and their corners can't hold water much longer." -Hal

"Jets- Chad's toast, and Curtis is rolling the dice every time he steps on the turf" -Hal

"I am anticipating the start of a new Eastern Conference rivalry" -Armando, on the Pittsburgh Penguins

"Is this going to be one of those seasons like two years ago where we're obviously the best team in the division but aren't in first until week 8, and so we have to hear it from Giants fans for two months, knowing that we'll put 40 on them the first chance we get?" -Hal

"Oh, watch for this guy, #81. He's terrible."- Hal on Georgia TE Leonard Pope, right before he scored a TD

"Get all you can of Ryan Howard this year, because come next spring he'll be hanging out on the pine expressway." -Hal

"What has two thumbs, a moustache, and absolutely can't be trusted to win a game on his own?" -Hal, on Jake Plummer

"Face it. These are not good teams." -Hal, on the Giants and Dolphins

"Look for Tarver by unanimous decision, with no knockdowns and a whole lot of jibber-jabber." -Hal

Wednesday, January 25

He'd even rob a Miller truck

Yes, this has been a long time coming. Yes, he might be the only Duke player or student that I don't absolutely loathe, and when it comes right down to it, he's really pretty charming. We all know i'm talking about Shavlik Randolph, and we all know he's got a lot of potential and talent. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. The thing about Shavlik is that I don't think anyone told him he's a rookie, or even that he left Duke. He still thinks he's down there in Durham, eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hand-crafted by a loving roommate. He's comfortable, he's confident, and like I said, he'd even rob a Miller truck. Who knows why Cheeks won't give him more game time, but when he's in there, he just goes to the basket. He knows that's what he's good for, so he does it. Then he gets fouled because he's a rookie, and he goes to the line. Point is, the man's got cojones, and whether he just doesn't realize he's in the NBA, or he doesn't care, you gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 24

And Now, For my Next Trick...

After nailing this weekend's games (blowouts for everyone!), I thought I'd share with you all James and my preseason division and wild card picks, for posterity if nothing else. To clarify, these are the picks that we made at the beginning of this season, back when we were saying things like "What number will be bigger, Eagles losses or Penn State wins," and being dead serious. Vegas wouldn't even have put odds on Penn State winning more games than the birds this year. Unreal.

Hal:
NFC
East- Eagles
West- Rams
North- Vikings
South- Panthers
WC- Dallas
WC- Falcons
AFC
East- Pats
West- Chiefs
North- Ravens
South- Colts
WC- Jax
WC- Jets

James:
NFC
East- Eagles
West- Seattle
North- Vikings
South- Atlanta
WC- Carolina
WC- Green Bay
AFC
East- Pats
West- Chiefs
North- Ravens
South- Colts
WC- Pittsburgh
WC- Jets


So cash in your bar mitzvah treasury bonds and put your jewelry in hock, because we're taking down vegas and there's no two ways about it.

Friday, January 20

But Really, Who Knows?

I rode the Eagles all regular season. They blew a gasket week one, had carburetor troubles week three, got blindsided week five, got a tune up, slid through the turn week seven (just missing that patch of oil), and finally the wheels fell off in week eight. Fortunately this came with a nice piece of information:

DENVER (-3) is a rock-solid ball club. I still don't have much faith in Shaky-Jakey, but I can't get enough of their gameplan on both sides of the ball. Note to Andy Reid- playfakes work when the other team actually believes you're going to run. Just like the myth that the Eagles blitz more than any team in the league, the Broncos are surrounded by an aura of running the ball. And while they do favor the run, things are not as lopsided as they seem. Jake put 456 passes in the air this season, which works out to 28.5 per. As a team, the Broncos ran 542 times, good for second in the league. However, Jake carried the rock on 43 of those plays, and although Denver's playbook is home to a great number of roll-outs and boolegs, it's safe to figure that at most they only ran 10 designed runs for the Snake. That brings their run total down to 509 on the year, an average of 31.8 runs per. This is called balance. This is called keeping the other team on their toes. When a middle linebacker has to take half a second to decide whether the play is coming at him or away from him, you're ahead already. Don't forget that Denver won thirteen games this year, which means they could play from ahead and milk the clock. Oh, and they're 9-0 at home this year, most recently giving Tom Brady his first career early golf season.

I like what the Steelers bring, and I feel like Jake is due for an implosion, but he's burnt me all year, and I gotta go with him.

I understand that he put up 28 touchdowns this year, but if your team can win a playoff game without you, then you are not the most valuable player of your league. Even before being concussed, Shaun wasn't exactly tearing up the turf, and if you can't run behind Mack Strong, Walter Jones, and Steve Hutchinson, then you don't really deserve a job in an NFL backfield.

On the other hand, when you are your team's lone offensive threat, and your wide receiver companions are a has-been, a never-was, and a practice-squad reject, and you go up against the best D in the league, then post 12 catches for 218 and 2 touches, throwing in 26 on the ground (and catch a couple punts), well then bravo sir, bravo. No one is stopping Steve again this week, and Carolina's top-notch secondary (Mike Minter, I barely knew thee) will put a quick end to Seattle's three-wide sets. Seattle hasn't lost all year at home either, but this Jake has won five straight on the road and won't be making a pit stop in Seattle.

Thursday, January 19

Antonio-no

I wasn't going to write anything about Antonio Davis jumping into the stands last night and defending his wife, because I felt it was about as big a deal as a Paris Hilton cold sore (although I suppose that would be a big deal for about 35,000 dudes). No one did a better job of detailing how non-threatening the event was, and was so pressed for time that he couldn't wait around for a bus to throw Stephon Marbury under.

But then his suspension rolls around, which again is no surprise, but with it comes the news that his wife's alleged attacker is completely out of his mind. Awesome! Apparently the dude is going to sue Antonio and his wife for an excess of $1 million dollars. He claims that she hit him in the face with both hands and afterwards felt that he was "glad she was done hitting me, but I didn't want her to hit anyone else." Before ripping him any further, I'd like to say that all harassment aside, he sounds like a great fan, issuing soundbites such as "[w]hen I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for the Bulls, and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they're playing." If you can't relate to that, maybe you'd agree more with this: "I don't feel comfortable if players are allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it's necessary."

Back to ripping this guy. The one thing that caught me most off-guard about the whole incident is, who sees something like this go down, goes to sleep, takes some time to think about what happened, and then comes up with a way to make money off it? Is this some kind of Drew Rosenhaus scumbag clone? If you asked me for a hundred different descriptions of what happened at the game, I would never have mentioned "possible lawsuit opportunity" as part of my synopsis. Who are these people? I know there are a few law schoolers among our readership, so pipe up if this went through your mind at any time during the last 24 hours.

As for Antonio, I completely agree with and support his actions, regardless of who the perpertrator was. Things happen quickly, and security staff at road arenas can't always be trusted to respond in with the speed and precision necessary. I understand the league punishment of five games, although I think it is a bit harsh; I felt like he should have just paid the cleaning bills for the fans who lost their shit when he ran by them.

What was Wrong with the Old One?

"We fear change"
-Garth Algar

Upon hitting espn.com for the first of many many many trips today, I was shocked and awed (and not in a progressive, FOX TV, Bushy kind of way) to find a new site design which has the intention of "streamlining our navigation to better organize the most comprehensive sports content on the Web." Conspicuously absent from that quote is any mention of how my virgin eyes should feel upon being shocked out of slumber by some shiny new design.

I'm all for progression, but couldn't the worldwide leader have dropped this on us on a weekend? Or a holiday? It's tough enough to get up early and drag ass on septa, but throw in a fresh new design on the most clicked website in my repertoire? That's a bit over the edge. I'm sure I'll get used to it, and over time the wounds will heal, but let's just say this is something I was not prepared for today. I was ready to put a new cd on my ipod, I was ready to call hr departments all over southern California, I was ready to eat some chicken parm, read my new book, and get in a little exercise, but I was not ready for this. At least it gave me something other than the Sixers to write about. Hey Mo, have a nice D.

Wednesday, January 18

Hurricane Brind'Amour hits Philadelphia

Now that was a tough game last night. The Flyers had the chance to move back into first place with a victory, but it was not to be so. I found a few glaring reasons why that didn't happen, in addition to 10 million reasons why Peter Forsberg continues to be the best player in the world.

First of all, in the third period there was no Peter Forsberg. He pulled his groin at the end of the 2nd, and didn't return. Combine that with the plethora of other injuries the Flyers have sustained, and your left with the team that's given large amounts of icetime to more rookies than anyone else in the league.

Second of all, when they go into the third with a lead, they stop forchecking, and start to play a little defensive, neutral zone trap New Jersey Devils type of game. Now let's think this through. If what you did in the first two periods was successful in securing a lead for you, why not continue? This is my one major beef with my main man Hitchcock.

Third, they had some serious defensive breakdowns, even though they were able to maintain control for a good portion of the period. The goal to tie the game and send it to overtime was a simple lapse in concentration that resulted in a quick goal.

Fourth, they just suck at shootouts. Maybe it's because they don't have as much experience as other teams, or maybe it's because Forsberg wasn't there to score. But they suck. Nittymaki is not a good shootout goalie, as you may have noticed all of their goals came with the player not even attempting to deke, just shooting right away. He's been great otherwise, but this is his weakness. Good thing when it counts, they get rid of the God-awful shootout.

Thus spake the Mamba

The mamba is on an absolute tear lately, to say nothing of his shooting outburst, which could only be called "200% necessary," thanks to big offseason acquistions such as Andrew "Shaq-Stopper" Bynum and #1 Michael Jordan fan Kwame Brown. I'm speaking here of his recent interview streak which is quickly moving towards Crispin Glover on Letterman level hilarity. I'll make no qualms whatsoever that the Mamba is my hands-down favorite love-to-hate athlete of all-time, with almost zero chance of being usurped in the proximate future.

The following word-for-word accurate quotes should help you on your way:

On his trip to Colorado
"I can't really find a word to describe it...I'm kind of a go-getter."

On hearing that it's not ok to put an elbow into another players throat
"Very surprised. Shocked actually. Very very surprised."

On hearing that Phil Jackson wants him to cut down to 24 shots per game
"Uh, angry and frustrated"

On the love for him around the league
"I've been hit with a couple flagrant fouls already this year; I've been hit with a clothesline"

On putting up 35 shots a night
"That's just basic NBA basketball"

On his summer vacation away from California
"I think it's good for the city of Los Angeles"

On his decision not to have any more children
"I think its especially good for our youth"

On his impact
"It's a lot bigger than the sport itself."

Monday, January 16

And Justice Is Served

In a rare, but not unanticipated turn of events, the NFL vice president of officiating, who I'm certain takes his job waaaay too seriously, came out today and admitted that referee Pete Morelli was mistaken in calling Troy Polamalu's interception an incomplete pass. While the league went short of saying that Paul Tagliabue phoned in the fix, it is nice to see wrongs being righted, even if they have no effect on the game. In case you don't feel like clicking the link, I'll go ahead and tell you that the last time this happened was three years ago in a Giants-Niners playoff game, all though at this point it would be hard to convince anyone that the Niners have been to the playoffs recently.

Joey Porter dropped the following Gems on his way out of the stadium. Try and guess which two are fake:

"I know they wanted Indy to win this game"
"The whole world loves Peyton Manning, but come on man, don't take the game away from us."
"Stealing a pick from a black man the day before Dr. Martin Luther King's birdthday? That's cold-blooded"
"I felt they were cheating us. When the interception happened, everybody in the world knew that was an interception. Don't cheat us that bad. When they did that, they really want Peyton Manning and these guys to win the Super Bowl. They are just going to straight take it for them. I felt that they were like 'We don't even care if you know we're cheating. We're cheating for them.'"
"Rabble rabble rabble! They took our jobs!!"
"The way the refs were going, I wouldn't have trusted them in overtime"
"If we hadn't won, they would have cheated us in overtime."

Everybody's Happy

Besides Vanderjagt, everyone seemed to be alright with the outcome of the game yesterday. After watching the Colts pretend they were playing the Patriots in the snow for 60 minutes, everyone seemed to be smiling. Peyton had a smile on his face, Tony Dungy had a smile on his face, and Bill Cowher certainly had a smile on his face. They all said the same thing; "He missed it." I honestly think the football gods reached out and pushed that ball right, just so the Bus wouldn't have to go out on what would possibly be the worst note ever, if the Colts had scored a touchdown or won in overtime. Overall though, the weekend proved once again that a good defense is more valuable than a good offense, as the teams that performed well without the ball were the successful ones.

But seriously, watching all those dudes smiling on the sidelines (even the losers), was great. At least they're having fun.

Friday, January 13

Gotta Have It: Instant Korver

They put hair on the thing. Look at it. It's beautiful. It reminds me of the golden bust that Indy steals at the start of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Two lingering questions:
1. When the giant boulder comes rolling down the hill, why doesn't Indy take a step backwards and let it roll by? Is he afraid the hole will close up? (It doesn't)
2. There are already some dead dudes in the cave on the way to the statue, so how are there still arrows left to shoot out of the wall? Is there a controlled burst of arrows, saving a cache for the next ten guys?

I'd love to get my hands on this bobblehead, but although I look pretty young, I'm having trouble passing for 12 these days, you have to be one of the first 5,000 fans. Come to think of it, since the Sixers only draw 15k a night, you could probably get there for the start of the second half and be safe. Basically, if you are under twelve or know someone under twelve who wants to go to see the Sixers-Nets game on the 18th and give me their bobblehead, let me know. I'd buy one on ebay, but I'm saving up for this (or these).

In other Kyle news, he's red hot from behind the stripe, with at least one three in 27 straight, is working much better off of screens, and has risen from "matchup catastrophe" to "moderate defensive liability." And nothing beats watching Iverson lose it while Kyle strokes threes in the All-Star contest.

Thursday, January 12

Sellin' Those Wieners!

Only the Sixers could show up and make Milt Palacio look like Lewis Scott (no offense to the Knicks, who could do anything they put their minds to). Leading much of the way, Allen and Co. let the Jazz sneak off with a 110-102 victory, their first home loss to a Western Conference opponent. Another ridiculous effort by Iverson was squandered, as he put up 46 on 16 of 25 shooting while tossing 9 dimes to boot.

At this point the Sixers' defense has become so porous they'd have trouble stopping Lurch, especially if coach Shooter McGavin let him bring his "death row shit." The Mo Cheeks gang is scoring with the best of them, putting up 102.2 per, but come in ahead of only Seattle in points allowed with 105.2. At least the cheap seats go a long way, as they are drawing 4th worst in a league where 21,000 fans a night come out to see Kirk Hinrich dance around with the Baby Bulls.

So in the midst of 17-18 (but second place in the East) season, why am I having so much fun? Easy: Allen Iverson. In a word, he is perfect. Here in his 10th season, he is above his career stats in points, assists, shooting percentage, minutes, turnovers, and free throws (made and attempted). The man is a machine. He is the Bill Clinton of basketball players. Smart, savvy, loved, hated, an avid scorer, and will never be fully appreciated until he is gone and replaced. (This deserves its own column)

Super-respected (and deserving) ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger used Allen as an example of his 'Fluke Rule,' arguing that with "a performance drop relative to his own standards...he'll still be among the best guards in basketball." Well, not only has Allen failed to fall from his 2004-05 perch, he has accelerated his play by 18.3% (ESPN insiders can check this all out here). In a world where 83% of statistics are made up on the spot, Hollinger is a real beacon, up there with the gang at 82games.

Just before the new year, David Aldridge questioned whether Philly fans might be suffering from "Iverson Fatigue." Although I often find myself at odds with sportswriters, I couldn't help but feel that Aldridge hit the nail square on the head here. Iverson was Iverson, so why were the seats empty? Has his game gotten stale? Is a 6 foot nothing all-guts player putting up 33 and 7 no longer worth coming out to see?

One of the things that always caught my attention about Allen was how quietly he put together a 35-point night. A couple jumpers here, a dash to the lane, 13-15 from the line, and poof! 37 points. Forever labeled as a volume scorer, this year Allen is finally making the most of his bullets. He has added and perfected a pull-up jumper from inside 15 and has figured out how to draw a foul while pulling back from a defender. And to top it off, he is finally surrounded by players he trusts, rather than being urged to share the ball with guys who have gone on to illustrious pine-riding and radio announcing careers (If Todd MacCulloch dies young, could he please donate his hands to Sammy?).

So sure, the tickets are expensive, unless you dig the 15th row directly behind the basket (which I happen to enjoy thoroughly). Sure, the refs are being instructed to call every hand-check and slow the game down to the speed of molasses going uphill. Sure, Mo doesn't have the team playing defense and I still haven't figured out the offense- my best guess is that they try to kill 10 seconds, then do one of the following:

1. High pick and roll (mostly pick, a little roll) with Chris and Allen
2. Two man screen for Kyle
3. Give Sammy the ball low and hope for the best
4. Give Iverson the ball and get out of the way
5. Run three picks and a weave to get Salmons the ball, then sit around and wish he was Iverson
6. Alley-oop to Iguodala
7. Awkward shot (could be anyone!) 110% put-back slam by Shavlik

The point is, the Eagles are through until the draft (April 29th, but who's counting), the Flyers are fun but kind of hard to take seriously until they shore up the power-play and start the playoffs, so the Sixers are what we've got, and I'm sticking with them. Allen's game is riduculous, Webber is exceeding even the most optimistic expectations (we even run last-second plays for him!), Korver is Korver, and Sammy is leading the league in blocks and goaltending. The NBA... it's fannnntastic!

Wednesday, January 11

In the midst of all these victories...

It's tough to really complain. They just won 8 out of 10 games on the longest road trip of the season, and one of the losses was in overtime. They basically beat the crap out of everyone. But tonight, they played the Blackhawks, and although they won 5-2, the last two goals were garbage (one being an empty netter, and the other one the goalie didn't even try to stop it), they really played them pretty evenly the whole game. Now, if they were playing the Red Wings or the Senators, that'd be fine. But the Blackhawks? Allen Iverson and Chris Webber could beat the Blackhawks, without skates, or sticks for that matter. McNabb could have beat them until the third period then give it up. Joe Theismann could get drunk and hit on their mom's. But seriously, they're one of the worse teams in the league, lacking their starting goaltender and a few other key players, and they kept up with the Flyers essentially the whole game. So I've noticed this tendency for the Flyers to play down to their competition. While they're on the top of the heap right now, and most likely will be for the rest of the season, this is a disturbing trend. Teams like this love to get knocked off in the first round of the playoffs by the 7 or 8 seed team. I can't say that I really see that happening, but I'm a pessimist, and I can't always sit around smelling the roses.

Man the NBA sucks

We all know this already, but I just want to reiterate how true it is. I typically don't watch much pro basketball outside of the Sixers, unless there's a particularly interesting game on, but I caught a couple minutes of some crappy Western Conference game, and I was really just kind of shocked. I had been watching UNC play Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin play Minnesota, and it actually seemed like there was a downgrade in talent from the college games to the pro game. Now obviously that isn't true, but man, the NBA is horrible. I don't know if I've ever seen a larger group of millionaires caring less about what they're doing than the NBA. There are a few exceptions (the Pistons and the Suns), but other than these teams, you can watch the players who don't have the ball stand around with their thumbs up their asses, and you can even pay money to go see it live! I've always liked college basketball more than the pros, typically due to rivalries and kids who desperately want to win, but now I like college ball more because it's just better basketball.

Someone convince me otherwise.

Tuesday, January 10

Only the Good Die Young... and Eli

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but once again, please don't back young quarterbacks in the playoffs. It might look good, but it won't end well. This weekend taught us the lesson we already knew, as Eli, Carson (sorry), Chris, and Byron put together a total of 13 points, 6 interceptions, and 4 early exits. If you missed it, don't fret nor frown, we get to see it all over again as Rexy leads the young Bears against Carolina Sunday evening. And if that's not enough, we'll be treated to the return of Playoff Peyton and No-Mistake Jake! It's the NFL playoffs. Live on Fox!

My favorite element of this years playoffs is that I don't give a damn who wins and can sit back and enjoy myself for once without agonizing through every second waiting for the Eagles to roll through their second round opponent. As brutal as this year was, there hasn't been a more relaxing football season in the new century. I feel like a great weight has been lifted, only I'm looking forward to lifting it back up in about four months. It's neat to look forward to the offseason for once.

As for this weeks picks, I'll take the Colts at home in a wide open game featuring a bewildered Rothlisberger and a Edge-powered Colts squad. Even though Peyton will come out jumpy, I always enjoying ultra-wired color coordinated fans, which Indianapolis provides in droves. Maybe they'll even bring back those shiny blue plastic squares!

New England at Denver. Hmm. Unbelievably well-prepared game coach vs. career shaky quarterback. Hmm. Tom Brady in an important game. Hmm. Power run and play action team vs. all-world linebacking corps. Hmm. I'll take the champs. Denver goes down in the third.

Skins at Seattle. This game could be better than it looks, and either way it won't look good. I can't even waste words on these squads. Seattle cruises at home.

Carolina at Chicago. Just when I thought the chance had passed... You always save the Rex for last. Carolina is tearing along, but they'll hit a brick wall in the Midway spaceship. Although I've seen them beat a solid defense in the playoffs before, this Bears team is too ready. Moose is set to carve up his old buddies for 5-75-1 while the Bears scrape it out on the ground. Jake'll get loose in the second half and the Bears will put together some absurd special teams play to move on.

Friday, January 6

Wild Card Predictions

So the playoffs are starting this weekend. While you know the Eagles are less than curiously absent, it's still NFL football, which can only mean good things. I'll give you my picks, and encourage you to bet heavily according to them.

Washington Redskins AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jan 7, 4:30 PM): Now this is a tough game to pick. Two good defenses, and two inconsistent offenses. Both teams are slightly banged up, but I've gotta give the edge to the Bucs on this one. Portis is a little banged up, their veteran QB Brunell is less than 100%, and they're going up against a defense that's been more than solid all year long. Running the ball on Tampa has been tough all season, and passing it hasn't been any easier. On the opposite side of the ball, you've got a whole slew of rookies going up against a slightly weaker, but still strong, defense. The only edge I can possibly give to the Skins is the Bucs lack of playoff experience from their skill players, but I gotta give this one to the Bucs on the homefield.

Jacksonville Jaguars AT New England Patriots (Jan 7, 8:00 PM): Honestly, who is anyone even kidding in this one. Of course the Patriots are going to win.

Carolina Panthers AT New York Giants (Jan 8, 1:00 PM): Another tough NFC pick. Once again, this one might come down to injuries, as the Giants have been ravaged in the last few weeks of regular season play. Their linebacker corps is hurting, and their offensive line is hurting, two key spots that will surely be exploited by an excellent Panthers running game and phenomenal defensive line. While the Panthers offense hasn't been that great, they have explosive potential from Steve Smith and DeShaun Foster, and will certainly put some points on the board against the hurt Giants defense. On the other side, get ready for greenhorn Eli Manning to put up a whimper in his first NFL playoffs game, as I don't see him doing much better than his older brother did the first couple go-rounds. If Tiki can carry them like he did all season, they've got a chance, but outside of that and their homefield advantage, I can't give the Giants much hope in this one. Not to mention the fact that Carolina was 6-2 on the road.

Pittsburgh Steelers AT Cincinnati Bengals (Jan 8, 4:30 PM): Man is this going to be a good game. They split games head-to-head this year, with both teams winning on opposing turf. The Bengals looked great most of the season, but have really fallen off in the last few weeks of regular season play, while the ever-consistent Steelers have just continued doing what they always do; grinding it out, playing good defense, and maintaining good control at all times. If the Bengals had a little more experience, I think they'd be an easy pick at home, but the Steelers have proven that their ball control offense can just eat up a team that lacks the strength to stop their ground game on defense. While Cincy will certainly put up some points when they have the ball, I still like the black and yellow to win this one on the road.

Any way you look at it, this will be a good weekend for football.

Thursday, January 5

THE PHILLIES, BACK WITH A VENGEANCE

So they've done it again: mystified us with their commitment to winning. Today starting pitcher Ryan Franklin was signed to a one year contract worth approximately 2.5 million dollars, shoring up that spot in our rotation that we've been so eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately his career 4.34 ERA isn't particularly impressive, nor is his win-loss record.

However, he did receive a suspension for steroid usage. Hopefully he can hook up some of our hitters with the inside knowledge, and get some more dingers out of this club. Just keep it on the DL though.

Pete Webber's Second Favorite

When is it okay to steal a nickname? I don't mean pass it on, simply relinquish it, I'm talking about full on snatch and grab. Maybe you call it a Robin Hood situation, replacing rich and poor with "super-athletic mollycoddle" and "preternatural game-changer." I'll go on record saying that when one player's vagina becomes so inundated with sand that he was to beg for a trade to another country in order to be reunited with the greatest current sports blerd, and the other player puts up 467 yards and three touchdowns on the greatest stage of collegiate sports, it's high time to pass the Herbie Hancock. Well we have a new Vinsanity, as Vince Young went fully Vinsane all over Pasadena en route to a ludicrous 41-38 victory over the University of Spoiled Children.

Other than how happy I was to see ABC announcer Aaron Taylor, who I had been praying would take a huge bite out of his mike all season long, grab a Wheaties box and scream maniacally into the camera, I'll leave the rest of the game analysis to the rest of the world. (Sidenote: I did a little reading on this Notre Dame behemoth and he is quickly shaping up as an awesome dude. After retiring from the NFL, he's been teach teenagers in South America and has a cabin in Alaska where "I get to do my best Jeremiah Johnson impersonation." Great gentle giant.) Jump now to the bottom line, which is: What can Vince and company accomplish on a grander scale- the NFL.

Vince Young
The next Vinsanity threw a vicious right hook to anyone who doubted his abilities as a football player and a team leader, but he looks to have some work to do as a quarterback. Both he and Leinart showed sharp accuracy, but left too much air under more than a few balls, and were nearly victimized by a handful of bad decisions. Vince doesn't look to have the strongest arm around, but his big play ability should buy him enough time to reach at least a moderate level of success at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Randall Cunnigham (woah)

Matt Leinart
I had serious doubts about Matt throughout the season, all of which were brought to the table last night. He is a free safety's best friend and looks like he could really struggle if not surrounded by other playmakers. His confidence may be a hindrance on him in the league, as he looks to be just good enough to lose you some close games.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Brooks with a sprained knee

Reggie Bush
The kid has wheels and the kid has moves, but relies waaay to much on getting to the outside, something which doesn't happen in the NFL due to the narrow hashes and other-worldly speed on the defensive side of the ball. His talent is undeniable, but he'll have some trouble- especially behind the Texans O-line. I'm not going so far as to say he's all sizzle and no steak, but I don't see what makes him that much better than Westbrook. I'd love to be wrong here.
NFL Comparison: Gale Sayers with Me, James, Armando, Josh, and Cameron blocking

LenDale White
Of the offensive playmakers in the game, LenDale looks to me like he has the best shot to dominate in the league. His build is sturdier than Reggie's and he works well inside the tackles. It says a lot that it was he and not Bush who took the carry on Pete Carroll's bonehead fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter. He's the potato to Reggie's porterhouse.
NFL Comparison: Mister Larry Johnson

David Thomas
Following Penn State this year showed me just what a solid tight end means to a athletic (yeah, i spelled it wrong again) college quarterback, and Dave confirmed all those feelings last night. Rock-solid performance with ten catches for 88 yards, more than a few of which saved Vince's cowhide. A completely not flash and completely essential contributor on the Texas Offense. Pretty much made might night, quietly.
NFL Comparison: Max McGee

Michael Huff
I love defense, blah blah blah. This kid can play. He contributed heavily early and always, both with strong tackling and heady play-diagnosing. I was super-impressed by him and hadn't heard his name before, which says tons about my interest in college football, since he won this year's Thorpe Award. Reciepient of a beatiful second grade gymnastics trophy as the top defensive player in the Rose Bowl. If he finds a way to slip into the later rounds maybe he could be the next...
NFL Comparison: Brian Dawkins (double woah!)

Live From Miami!

What's up everyone? Today is my last day in the sunshine state, and for some reason I woke up earlier than everyone else. Since there's no one to drink with yet I figured I might as well bring you all the full the write up of my week in Miami. I would like to preface this with a very hearty thank you to Caitlin and the entire Yerkes family. They housed and fed myself and up to 40 other Penn Staters with unrivaled kindness and hospitality. This week wouldn't have been the same staying in a hotel room, and I will remain eternally grateful.

So what do you want to know? I'm lounging poolside and will try to keep the focus of this article on the game and not on the extracurricular activities of the week. That being said, Miami is a fun town, and it is currently 80 degrees and sunny. By all accounts, the game was absolutely brutal. Our tickets were in the upper level, on the Penn State goal line. Thank God we weren't in the student section which insisted on standing up the entire game even though Dolphin Stadium is equipped with folding seats and not the benches we are all accustomed to in Happy Valley.

The game: Over 5 hours from kickoff to finally made chipshot field goal, 3 overtimes, 8 team time outs, 4 calls reviewed, an estimated 35 tv timeouts, 45 Fedex commercials (Fedex: Go air. Go ground. Go Football! more on this later too), 21 penalties for 172 yards, 1 7.00 dollar bloody, and not a single Tamba sack. Between all the commercials, the missed opportunities, the missed field goals, and a BCS record 3 overtimes, I was exhausted by the time Kicker Kevin Kelly finally got his "redemption."

Sponsorship: First of all, it's difficult to describe just how terrible the announcer was. I've never wanted a mute button more in my entire life. It was like he was Ron Burgundy and his teleprompter was on caps lock for the entire game. I've never heard anyone more excited to announce that "JEREMY KAPANOS IS BACK TO PUNT FOR THE NITTANY LIONS!!!" Unreal stuff and I think he was even more excited about the sponsors, "THE ORANGE BOWL WOULD LIKE TO THANK FEDEX, ABC SPORTS, AVMED CORPORATION, MILLER LITE, BELL SOUTH, THE CITY OF HOLLYWOOD, TOYOTA!!!" And countless others. Every time you got a commercial, we got that announcement along with a FedEx commercial on the jumbotron. Unfortunately not one of the companies sponsored an injury update, and the entire stadium was left to wonder why Tony Hunt wasn't playing, or how Paul Posluszny was doing down there (we kind of figured it out when we saw him on the golf cart.) I mean I knew there would be gratuitous sponsorship but they truly crossed a line. Multiple times the players were standing on the field, hands on hips, waiting for the announcer to shut the hell up. One time the announcer started talking while an official was making a call and we were left wondering what the call was. The announcer also kept us entertained with a constant stream of "FEDEX GAME FACTS! THE PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS AND THE FLORIDA STAE SEMINOLES EACH FEATURE POWERFUL GROUND AND AIR ATTACKS, JUST LIKE FEDEX, WHO HAS OVER 13,000 TOUCHDOWNS EVERYDAY! FEDEX! GO AIR! GO GROUND! GO FOOTBALL!!!" I wish I was exaggerating, but just remember we got 5 hours of this with the volume knob stuck on 11. But enough time in negative town. We won! And before the 5 hour FedEx defensive marathon, there was 10 hours of all important tailgating.

mmmmmm........Screwdriver by the pool

Tailgating: The parking lots opened at 11:00 and we were early. Our squad rolled deep to the tune of 7 cars, 40 people, 1 keg, one grill, and a copious amount of food and snacks. Penn State fans outnumbered Florida State fans by a conservative 25 to 1 estimate (all the FSU people in the stadium showed up right before game time.) Our keg was kicked before dark, and then came what we refer to as the Orange Bowl Miracle. A miracle keg of Yuengling showed up, as one of our party had apparently traded his extra ticket for it straight up. Amazing work. Also, two rows over was the KDR fraternity tailgate where some buddies of mine, some lady friends of mine, and about 300 other people had congregated. Their two kiddie pools filled with ice, beer, vodka, rum, juice, and assorted other beverages and their 50 foot buffet table put even our sizeable tailgate to shame. I lost track of how many wings I ate, but it was nice to have a few mixed drinks before the miracle keg showed up. Needless to say, an amazing time was had by all.

Signs and Chants: It's almost time for us to hit the beach, so I'll leave you with the best sign and chant seen and heard "before, during, and after the game."

Best Sign:

Forced
Sex
University

Best Chant: (obviously to the tune of their tomahawk chop)
NOOOOOOOOOOOO means NOOOOOOOOOOO, NOOOOOOOOOOOO means NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

That's all folks, I've gotta mix another drink and hit the beach. I'll be back north tomorrow evening and as always feel free to e-mail me at James@greenbleeder.com

Wednesday, January 4

When Life Hands you Oranges...

You wanted a bowl game, you got a four hour heart attack. You wanted a high powered offense to roll over an inferior opponent, you got top-shelf defense and atrocious special teams. You wanted respect and for once to not hear the word 'Michigan', you got a triple overtime win and a headache. You didn't get a blowout, and you didn't get anything more than a win and the knowledge that you got a great year from a great football team.

My favorites:

Posluzny getting carted back onto the field to watch the last hour.

My buddy Andy saying "just don't turn it over" half a second before Mike Robinson fumbled the snap on the five.

Justin Norwood getting deflowered by Buster Davis and coming up with the miracle grab

JoePa telling Mike Tirico "I think you should retire after the game," followed by Joe and Bowden laughing hysterically.

Every missed field goal and definitely the missed extra point that you could tell the game was going to hinge on. Especially after the intentional grounding safety.

Tamba Hali's dad being more into the game than Tamba was.

The school band that played the theme from 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.'

Holding your breath on every punt and basically for the entire third quarter.

Cheerleaders that didn't look like 7th graders (see ASU)

Look forward to a full commentary from James once his PO goes down to Miami and brings him home.

Tuesday, January 3

Unused Ideas

bobby abreu gold glove all star team
eagles throwback game
mcnabb= bill brasky
pay westbrook
eagles blowing it in 'Clue' fashion
ike reese

Time to Re-up

Heading into the longest offseason of the century, it's high time to face a few facts that are staring right in the face of our NFC Conference game dynasty.

Our offense does not work
It used to work very very well. Right now it's about as useful as a perforated condom. For a while I was simply biased against it, but now it's clear as day that about thirty two other teams have us figured out, and a healthy offseason is gonna make them un-figure us. This is not a league full of defensive coordinators pissing their pants over a 2 yard dump pass to Reno Mahe.

Neither does our defense
29 Sacks! 24 points per game? Really? Who'd have guessed. This one's a little misleading though, because it's pretty tough to account for how wrong McMahon did this bunch. Try this: 8 games, 8 picks; 3 taken back for 6. That's a solid start. It's pretty safe to say that there weren't too many defenses getting less help this fall.

It might be a little worse than it looks

And it might take a while for the dust to clear. But if changes don't happen this summer, and I'm not talking about 'Artis hicks moves to right guard' type of changes, things will definitely get worse before they get better. And I'm the optimist of the bunch.

Brad Childress is gone
And maybe it's not the worst thing in the world. I've never been sold on him; hopefully it won't be like when the fans chant for Koy and then creak their necks and stretch out a bit before shutting up when he fumbles the snap two plays after throwing a pick that got negated for defensive holding. If Pony ever decides to remake the "Michael Vick Experience" commercial starring Koy, a helmet to the back of the head, followed by the rider going limp to the ground and watching the ball bounce away would cover the basics.

No one gets to the line with less time to audible
And it's all Andy's fault. It wasn't just Donnie being tired; Mike does it, and Koy does it. They look to the sidelines, tap the earpiece a couple times to make sure this is for real, get the play in, can't take two seconds to see Adrian Wilson coming on the overload, and get absolutely laid out, just in time to get up and do it all again. Fun! This has to be fixed, and of the many items detailed here, I've got some serious hope that it might be turned around.

Our player personnel team does not put us in position to take advantage of the new rules, and it kills us.

Paul Tagliabue is begging teams to throw the ball deep and pay big money to loud, obnoxious, unbelievable athletic wide receivers, and we're stuck with Greg Lewis and Billy McMullen. The only guys that don't get calls these days are the old school malcontents like Terry Glenn and rookies. Every other receiver is covered with more flags than the Puerto Rican day parade. Get talent at the edges and put the ball up for grabs. It's that simple.

Maybe it's not worth spending money on the defensive backfield
This is one of the hardest concepts for me to deal with because cornerback is my hands-down favorite position and we are balls deep in talent out here. But if the NFL wants to call plays in the secondary like they're Violet Palmer, then you just have to roll with the punches. If you want to spend money on your defense, the only place worth doing it anymore is on the line; again with speed on the edges; again with loud, obnoxious, unbelievable athletic players.

In fact, maybe it's not worth spending money on the defense at all
And this kills me worse than the previously mentioned. I can't get enough of good defensive football (please mark the difference between this and bad offensive football, which is atrocious). But if the league wants you to score big or die, then you better score big. I can't stand it, but I also can't take to many more 6-10 seasons. If defenses like Indy's can be considered "good" or "great" (not my words), then why bother spending at all. Just pay cheap for speed, zone up, and hope for the best.

The Redskins game was fun
Really, really fun. I had a blast and wasn't sorry about it for a second. I cheered when Moats saved Mike's ass with a pickup on Lavar and I booed when Jon Jansen raised his hands and looked to the crowd for applause. And when John Hall put on his sweatpants and hit the exercise bike. And when Clinton found daylight on the edge. And when I saw a Skins fan after the game. And when I saw a Skins fan on the stairs. And outside of the stadium. And trying to save a Santana Moss sign from getting smashed against a fence...

I can't spell 'athletic'
Of the six hundred times I've probably written it on this page, I've put down 'atheltic' on no less than five hundred occasions. I can't spell 'original' either.

It's still football
And that's worth something. If nothing else, we put a whole bunch of words on paper, and you read 'em. And we appreciate it. Especially those of you who couldn't care less if we were writing about rodeos or ikebana.