Archive for September, 2008

Huh?

September 21, 2008

How can Mike Carey arbitrarily give the Cowboys more time on the play clock?  That’s what he did with about 6 minutes left in the first quarter.  The play clock was at 2 seconds and the Cowboys used another 10-plus to get the play off.  Ridiculous.

The Kansas City Chiefs…

September 21, 2008

might be the worst team to take the field in the history of the NFL.  If they win a game this year it will be divine intervention.

Jennings getting national love

September 19, 2008

Read here from NFL.com – article positing that Jennings is the best of the young receivers. Strong point and frankly, I have grown to believe this as well. Brother Steve was fairly obnoxious about touting Jennings’ ability from the start. I have to say, he was dead right. But being right doesn’t diminish his obnoxiety, as it were.

The unique thing about Jennings is that he expects to do something special every time he touches the ball – and importantly, he often delivers on his own high expectations. It is so odd for such a young player to have this mindset – and to deliver. Adrian Peterson, Devin Hester, and to a lesser extent, Reggie Bush and Jones-Drew (maybe Chris Johnson) are similar younger guys who just expect to do something awesome every time they are on the field. Jennings belongs in this company – he’s that good now I’m convinced.

Part of what I really like about Jennings is that he doesn’t make it about himself like many receivers do. And, while he can make spectacular catches and he is definitely sure-handed, his strength lies being able to shift immediately from focusing on catching the ball to focusing on doing YAC damage. I haven’t been as confident in a Packer WR getting YAC since the days of Sterling Sharpe dragging 3-4 defenders down the field with him for 20 yards. It makes watching him positively exciting.

STEVE ADDS: This is really a must-read article if you want to understand one of the best Packers in a long time.  Jennings believes the Packers have to be counted among the top receiving corps’ in the league, because they are strong five-deep and interchangeable.  “We have to be one of the top groups in the league because not many teams have the depth we have,” Jennings said. “Our so-called No. 5 receiver could be a No. 1 receiver on other teams. There is no letdown among us. We expect big plays from each other. Any one of us can play any position and run any route at any given time.”

Game Keys – Dallas

September 19, 2008

Having picked Dallas to win the Super Bowl, I obviously believe that they are a legit team. They are talented, they play hard and they are led by a guy who really, really wants to win. Romo may have what appears to be an easy-going, it’s all good, persona off the field. But when he plays, he plays really hard and wants to win badly. I still think (as I did before our fantasy draft) that Romo and Brees are this year’s Manning and Brady (I took Brees at #4 pick overall and I thought re taking Romo).

  • GB’s linebacking corps has perhaps its toughest assignment of the year this week – stopping a relentless runner in Marion Barber (as well as a shiftier runner in Felix Jones) AND, and this is a big AND, accounting for the highly talented Jason Witten. Witten is a monster out there and he is Romo’s security blanket. Some of the coverage duties may fall to Collins and/or Rouse too, so these guys also will need to step up this week. Take away Witten (and to a much lesser extent Martellus Bennett) and you take away the option Romo feels he can fall back on for 90% of their pass plays.
  • Having Woodson cover TO. I firmly agree with CheeseheadTV on this one. Harris has been known to shut down some quality receivers in the past few years, but last year both Plax and TO ate him up – and overall, Harris is not playing to the level he played at just 2 years ago. Also, Woodson adds a dimension in coverage that Harris appears to lack – the ability to jump routes, read QBs and come away with interceptions. If Woodson covers TO and has an early pick (actually, ironically, like Harris did last year if only the officiating didn’t totally suck in that game), it might make Romo even the slightest bit gun shy re firing over to TO.
  • Rouse needs a big play early. When Rouse is only peripherally involved in a game, he tends to look lost (like last week in Detroit) and importantly, he’s just not that effective. But when he makes a noticeable play, especially early on, it seems to light a fire in him. It almost reminds him that he can play at this level.
  • Keeping close tabs on DeMarcus Ware. This guy is super-talented and our O-Line and especially our RBs need to do everything possible to keep this guy at bay. He also can be a punishing hitter when he does have an open shot at the QB – so keep him away.
  • Screens – I know I often include screens in game keys mostly because I think they can be very effective, though seldom used, plays. And when you have an aggressive front 7 like Dallas, screens can also help tame that aggressiveness because they can be not-so-subtle reminders to defenders that pushing up field on every play isn’t always the best defensive strategy.
  • Countering their TE game plan with our own. After studying game film, Dallas is likely focusing on Jennings, Driver, Grant maybe, possibly James Jones – but probably not as worried re Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey. Sunday night would be a good time to remind other NFL teams going forward that they need to not only account for all 5 of our receivers and our RB when we’re passing, but also our solid TEs.
  • Writer Jason Wilde (Wisconsin State Journal) made a great point on ESPN Milwaukee radio the other day when he said that when Grant played last week, he got the ball on 15 of the 20 plays he was in. So Wilde was saying MM needs to be careful re doing something like this again because it becomes painfully obvious that when Grant goes in, chances are really good he’ll get the ball. I agree with what I believe Wilde’s larger point was – that Grant should either just play 100% as the starter or maybe not play at all. (Lumpkin is ready for primetime anyway).
  • Get the Dallas secondary on its heels right away with a few long, early bombs.
  • D-Line pressure would be nice, but Romo is very mobile so I think tight coverage is more important. Romo tends to get antsy after a bit of time if his guys are covered and that’s when he makes mistakes.
  • Mason Crosby could be called upon to decide this game. He’s ready.

Old man (real man?) injury alert

September 19, 2008

The other day, my 80 year old neighbor got the blade of her riding mower caught on a long, snaking tree root that was half in the ground, half out of the ground. So, as a manly next door neighbor, I came to the “rescue”. My wife, this lady and I all tried moving the riding mower but it was a big one and it was not going anywhere due in part to the tree root being wrapped up in the mower blade. So, the only solution I could come up with was to get my ax and hack at the the root hoping to free it up.

So I got my ax. In the meantime, another neighbor, who may be one of the highest ranked manly men in Wisconsin, came by to help. When I arrived, he somehow had lifted the riding mower enabling us to see beneath it. (I couldn’t MOVE the mower before, much less lift it…and I’m bigger than he is). Sure enough, the tree root was completely entangled with the blade. So, it still appeared as though the ax solution was the best and I went about hacking at the root. I managed to sever the root on the right side of the mower, though not without incurring some fleeting feelings of pain in my hand, arms, chest and back. Sure enough, manly neighbor grabbed the ax to free up the root on the other side of the mower and did a full swing, not the very effeminate half swing I had been doing which caused some degree of pain. He cut through the root in about 3 hits – it took me about 20.

So today, several days later, I am left with significant pain in my right thumb mostly and I’m learning first hand (I’ll be here all week) how debilitating a thumb injury can be.

But I suppose the question here is: is this an old man injury (an embarrassing injury you would have never had if the same thing happened when you were younger) or is this a real man injury (an injury after doing something relatively masculine)? The injury occurred because I was using an ax, which ranks high on the manly list of things to do – but it’s quite possible that I would not have injured my thumb if I had been younger and/or swung the ax correctly. So which is it?

2008 Week 3 Picks

September 18, 2008
  • AZ @ Wash (-3.5) – Tough game. AZ is for real and it’s possible Jim Zorn may have a split personality. He looked questionable at best in the NYG’s game and word is he was very solid in helping Wash come back against NO last week. I’ll take Wash because they’re at home and I still think they’re good.
  • Car @ MN (-3.5) – Where to start? How about with MN being favored by 3.5? Seems odd unless the odds makers think an injured AP will run all over Carolina or that having Frerotte back there will make a positive difference somehow. Funny, Jake Delhomme is one of those guys who is an unlikely looking winner. He has a career W-L record of 40-26. Just interesting considering he kind of looks like that nice kid you grew up with who was so good at many sports, but who was not able to fully enjoy his many victories because he spent so much time feeling guilty about winning.
  • Cincy @ NYG (-13.5) – the question here may be: will Marvin Lewis be fired DURING the game? Actually, interesting stat I posted a couple posts ago – Carson Palmer is the lowest rated QB in the NFL with a 37.4 rating. Ouch. One thing I forgot when I picked the Giants to suck this year is that they are very very well coached (and I don’t just mean Coughlin – in fact, mainly the O and D coordinators).
  • Hou @ Tenn (-4.5) – Semi-crack pick – Houston to surprise here and win. Collins gets booed, drinks some ice cold beers, forgets about it immediately – Vince watches this and learns how to cope better.
  • KC @ Atl (-4.5) – Atlanta to romp. Tyler Thigpen will be excited, and Gonzalez will score a couple TDs while Larry Johnson complains some more. Herm Edwards will still be trying to motivate his team on the flight home, and just might get his ass kicked this time. Atlanta will roll KC.
  • MIA @ NE (-12.5) – I picked MIA here initially because I was trying to over-analyze this game and pick an underdog. I could play QB for the Pats and win this game. (Parcells may quit after this woodshedding – I can’t wait for a patented angry Parcells’ press conferences).
  • Oak @ Buff (-8.5) – My “sources” shared with me that Toronto (and the NFL’s) hostile Bills takeover bid may be an afterthought after all because rookie WR James Hardy is apparently willing to build the team a new stadium using cash from his booming home-siding business.
  • TB @ Chi (-2.5) – Final score here – 3 to 2. Not a game I’d want to watch.
  • Det @ SF (-3.5) – SF in a blowout. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that. Problem with a team like Detroit is that one bad thing happens in this game – one – and the game and season are both over. Detroit will have many a disgruntled player after this one – SF, on the other hand, will be gruntled, as I’ve heard said.
  • NO @ Den (-5.5) – Denver will lose on the final drive of the game after a 4 quarter shootout because the official will only allow Denver to play with one defender. Karma.
  • St L @ Sea (-9.5) – St. Louis is looking really bad, but the spread seems generous for a comparably hideous team in Seattle. I understand they just signed Janet Reno as a WR because they wanted a big target and heard she caught something once.
  • Cleve @ Balt (-1.5) – this could be the end for the Cleve if they don’t right this thing Sunday. Romeo “I’m getting fatter by the second” Crennel sometimes just doesn’t look confident. He borrows Mike Sherman’s deer-in-the-headlights look. I do believe that Cleve’s talent will just take over in this one though and help them eke out a victory.
  • Jax @ Indy (-5.5) – Jax will be desperate here. Indy, meanwhile will get Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday back. However the defensive menace Bob Sanders is now out and I think this fact alone could keep this a game. It will particularly hurt the Indy run defense – 47 yards a game for Taylor and Jones-Drew, not after this week. Look for Jax’s offense to explode here. In fact, this could end up being a shoot-out. Jax played Tenn and then Buff in weeks 1 and 2, both strong defenses, so they’ll be relieved to see Indy’s Sandersless D.
  • Pitt @ Phil (-2.5) – Phil will edge Pitt here. If not, I will convert to a full (instead of a strong) believer in Pitt and head coach Mike Tomlin. The Eagles seem extra fresh and aggressive and ready and strong or something this year. I hope they all get tired out soon though and start to lose big-time.
  • Dal @ GB (+2.5) – The Packers will finally get a strong test here. Romo is as good as the attention he gets and their defense has some scary players. The key here will be Rodgers dissecting their secondary. Their CBs are decent and Hamlin’s not bad, but even with Pacman, they won’t be deep enough to adequately defend Packer multiple wide-out sets. Also, I’ll throw guess out there that Kregg Lumpkin’s name will be better known after this one. Another key, and I write this every time we play the Cowboys, is paying lots and lots of attention to TEs Jason Witten and even now, Martellus Bennett.
  • NYJ @ SD (-8.5) – Should be a tough game for Favre and co against a pumped up SD team. IN the Jets’ last game, perhaps it was the NE Defense, but Favre just didn’t seem to know the plays or something. SD will come out bleeding anger from last week and be ready to destroy anything that moves. However, while they will be plenty motivated, the Chargers are teetering on the top of that we’ll-show-everyone-not-to-wrong-us/one-mistake-and-the-world-is-against-us mountain.

Predictable golf lingo…

September 18, 2008

Any of you golf fans out there ever notice that in EVERY article about a young golfer who is on the rise, the word “swashbuckling” is used. For example, here, from a sportsline.com article the Ryder Cup:

The Mickelson-Kim pairing should be intriguing. Kim, a swashbuckling 23-year-old from Los Angeles, has been campaigning to play with Lefty for weeks. Maybe he can change Mickelson’s fortunes, since the latter is 2-3-3 in the alternate-shot format.

It is so strange that this word is used at all, but it’s worth noting that this is not a new thing. In fact, the unofficial golf historian in me believes the term remained seldom used until the original golf “swashbuckler” Arnold Palmer came along. (Just type Palmer’s name into Google with “swashbuckling” and you’ll see a variety of articles about Sir Swashbuckle). Since then, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Hal Sutton, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Ricky Barnes have all swashbuckled, if you are able. It used to be used more for players who weren’t afraid to take risks, but now it’s just anyone who hits it far and is young.

I don’t like golf’s stranglehold on this expression so let’s broaden it now – I’m looking forward to a great showdown Sunday between two up and coming, young swashbucklers in Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers.

Packers Have Best Receiving Corps in NFL

September 18, 2008

Interesting article this morning in the Journal-Sentinel on the Packers’ receivers.  The article focuses on Donald Driver and notes that opposing defenses still treat him as the top receiving threat.  I think that’s crazy — did these defensive coordinators watch Greg Jennings last year? — but I’m not complaining.  We are better off if teams try to cover Jennings with their second best corner and double-team Driver.

But the article triggered a thought I’ve been having for quite some time: The Packers have the best five-deep receiving corps in the NFL and I don’t think anyone is close.  Here is Driver on that point: “If they get to the point where they stop me and Greg, I promise you James Jones and Ruvell Martin and Jordy Nelson will take care of business. I promise you that one.  No one can stop us, we can only stop ourselves. And we know that.”

There’s a lot of chest-puffing in that comment, of course, but I think it’s true.  We still don’t know how good Jordy Nelson will be but if the Ted Thompson track record is any indication, he could be quite good.  But let’s assume for the sake of discussion that he ends up being just a guy — average or a little above average.  Driver, although older, still has the waterbug-like elusiveness that has taken him from the 7th round to the Pro Bowl.  Jennings is smooth, he runs crisp routes and he has obvious football speed beyond his 40 times.  Although he’s not nearly as physical, I would group him with Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall in terms of what he can do after the catch.  James Jones is solid, not spectacular, and after he got over the drops early last season went on to be one of the most productive rookie WRs last year.  He always seems to be in the right place and he, too, has shown that he can elude defenders after the catch.  Ruvell Martin is without question the best #4 WR in the league.  All he does is make plays — and usually at crucial times in the game.  He, like James Jones, would be a starting wide receiver on probably half of the current NFL rosters.  (Off the top of my head: Cleveland (w/o Donte Stallworth), St. Louis, Seattle, Tennessee, Atlanta, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa.)

There are only two receiving corps that come close: Arizona and Indianapolis.  Arizona has Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, of course, in my view the best two starting receivers in the league.  I think Steve Breaston is actually going to be a very good #3.  I like Jerheme Urban, formerly of the Seahawks, and we don’t yet know how good Early Doucet will be.  In Indy, Reggie Wayne is solid and Anthony Gonzalez might be the best #3 receiver in the league.  But Marvin Harrison is banged up and even the most devoted fantasy football freaks cannot name their #4 and #5 receivers.  (Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon.)

Bottom line: I wouldn’t do a wholesale swap of receivers with any other NFL team.

Bigby out for Cowboys’ game?

September 17, 2008

WISN 12 News and Dan Needles reporting that McCarthy said Bigby likely won’t play Sunday night due to hamstring injury. Aaron Rouse was solid in the few starts he had last year (though he kind of looked lost at times against Detroit last week).

UPDATE: Tom Silverstein confirms this report this morning saying Bigby will not play.  Rouse was bothered by an ankle injury last week, if I’m not mistaken, but he seemed to be running well on Sunday.

2008 Week 2 Results – 6-9

September 17, 2008

Horrible week last week for predictions.

Highlights:

  • NO @ Wash (-.5) The Colston injury affects NO somewhat. But this will be a Campbell-Cooley-Portis game. As good as NO will be this year, Wash will take this one. (If they don’t, I may have to give up my insistence that they’ll be good this year and that Jim Zorn could be great). Pretty accurate here.
  • Oak @ KC (-3.5) Interesting spread considering Oak got blown out last week and KC hung in there against the Pats. Of course the Brady injury changed that whole game. From a player’s perspective, this is probably what they’ll hear from Herm Edwards before the game: “This is the most important game, not just of the season, but of your lives. I know I said that last week, but still, it’s really important. It is a division rival, maybe the most important rivally in all of sports. blah, blah, blah…”. (By the way, not surprising that Croyle, who is 6′2″ and 28 pounds, got injured immediately). This may be a year of Oak surprising, then melting down, then surprising, then melting down.

  • SD @ Den (+2.5) Interesting SD favored. They lost their first game, Shawn Merriman is out for the year, Denver crushed Oak in their first game and the game’s in Denver. This may be a key game for determining if Cutler is ready to play at a higher level this year. He apparently looked unstoppable Monday night. Funny, if they would have made the correct call, Cutler’s confidence may be much lower than it probably is right now – and of course, I would have gotten this game wrong!

Lowlights:

  •  
    • Tenn @ Cincy (-1.5) Tenn had to be solid to take down the Jags last week and their 7 sacks and 2 picks make them appear to be a high quality defense. I also think Cincy will by 5-11 this year. So why pick Cincy? They are at home and they do have some talent and like their last several years, Cincy needs to tease their fans a bit with a couple solid victories here and there before imploding. Maybe no teasing needed!
    • NYG @ ST L (+8.5) Crack pick alert. Right now 73% of Sportsline participants are picking the NYG to cover in this game. Last year’s SB champs vs last year’s and this year’s crap team. Crap team may not win but they’ll fight. If St. Louis gets handled in this game too, Linehan might get sacked and my preseason crack pick of St. Louis being 9-7 will require public undressing. St. Louis 9-7, I’m 2 more heinous games away from already proclaiming this the crack pick of the year.

    • Buff @ Jax (-5.5) After week 1, most would pick Buff here (in fact 61% are taking Buff at sportsline.com presently). I like the Buff and think they’ll be good, but Jax will win comfortably here as players like Jones-Drew will be ready for this game. I especially like “Jax will win comfortably”.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.