Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Perfect Evening

I had all of these big plans to start writing here regularly again, but I got sick instead. Shameful. In an attempt to jump-start my productivity, I camped out with a laptop in front of Saturday’s Patriots-Giants Quest for Perfection. Apparently, this game was a big deal…
The Giants hit a deep one to Burress on the second play of the game—an excellent grab. I haven’t even had the chance to figure out which channel I want to watch this thing on. So many choices. Unfortunately, everybody is just using the NFL Network feed, meaning there is no escape from the horror that is Bryant Gumbel. It’s like listening to Kermet the Frog calling a game. Tom Coughlin just wasted a challenge on a pretty obvious incomplete pass, too. Nice work.

We really should have just gotten every network involved here. Think of the possibilities:
Discovery Channel:
Bear Grylls shows you how to survive if you ever find yourself being chased by the Giants’ pass rush. DISCLAIMER: Bear may in fact let his crew take the beating, then take credit for it on camera.
Instead of showing the game, we get a made-for-TV movie about the trials of Bridget Moynahan’s struggles as a single mother.
Pseudo-reality shows about people who kind of like football, and occasionally talk about it, but mostly just spend their time going to crappy clubs and doing embarrassing crap.
The Top 50 Plays from tonight’s game, as commented upon by C-list comedians.

New York finishes off an impressive opening drive with a score; 7-0 G-Men. Perhaps we’ll have a game tonight—the Giants are pumped. The Patriots answer with a figgy, after Brady overthrows Moss in the end zone. This next possession for New York is a big one. If they can answer right back with another score, the pressure will be on New England in a hurry.

…or not. Three and out, and the Pats take over at midfield. And just when it looks like the Giants came up with a huge third down stop, a sketchy illegal contact call gives New England a fresh set of downs. That’s the sort of swing that can really change a game. Yikes. The Pats roll down the field, getting a first and goal from the six as the first quarter ticks down. Randy Moss takes a hell of a shot to the head, but returns after a short break…

…just in time to make a spectacular touchdown catch. That score breaks the single-season scoring record (sorry, 1998 Vikings), Brady ties Manning for the single-season passing touchdown record, and Moss ties Rice for the single-season receiving touchdown record. Plus, Moss gets a 15-yard unsportsmanlike, apparently because Kool-Ade Maroney decided to dance a bit. Alright, then. Quite the eventful play: 10-7 Pats.

Zounds! The Pats have to kick off from their own 15, and the Giants promptly take it to the house. This is going to be fun. Maybe I’ll actually have a reason to watch past halftime—unless, of course, Gumbel drives me to commit capital crimes. Don’t think it can’t happen. Another Gostkowski field goal leaves us at 14-13 Giants, by the way.

Not only are NBC and CBS using the NFLN game feed: they are apparently having to run the same commercials, too. That seems strange. I wonder how the revenue for that gets split up. Did Snickers just have to pay three different networks for that spot? If not, what are NBC and CBS getting out of this? More questions than answers, my friends.

The Giants seem to be taking the bend-don’t-break approach. A potential Brady-to-Moss score bounces off of a New York helmet, so the Pats settle for yet another field goal. 16-14 now, and I’ve discovered the Dave Chappelle Killing Them Softly special running on Comedy Central. Classic. But, I must maintain focus. New York really hasn’t been doing much, when you think about it. New England has wasted a few chances, and that kick return is keeping the Giants close. Easily the most one-sided 16-14 game I’ve seen.

…I should stop saying things like that. The Giants march straight down the field for the score, running a snazzy two-minute drill. 21-16 Giants heading to halftime, and at least I get a Gumbel break.

Back from the half, the Patriots are going to have to wake up soon. They open the half with a punt, and now the Giants are crossing into enemy territory. Brandon Jacobs is starting to rip off some big chunks of yardage on the ground, and New England is reeling.

Yes sir, real trouble now. A Burress touchdown, and we’re at 28-16. New England looks flat. Well, let me amend that: the New England defense looks flat. Tom Brady is having an excellent game, other than the whole lots-of-field-goals thing. The Pats are headed right down the field, inside the Giants 30. New York is getting a lot of pressure on Brady, but so far the Golden Boy has been able to stand in there.

Ski-U-Mah, kids. Maroney dances in from six yards out, leaving us at 28-23. This is going to come down to the New England defense: if they knock the lead out, the Pats have a good chance. But as long as Eli keeps the Giants moving down the field, Shula will be a happy man...

A change in tactics for New England on the next drive, as they really start to ramp up the pressure on Eli. We cross over into the fourth quarter: Pats ball at about the 25 after a Giants punt, still at 28-23.

The Giants hold this time, and force the punt. 13 minutes left, Pats down 5.

I assume NFLN is trying to make a positive impression on all of the people watching this feed who don’t get the channel. That’s why I’m confused by the existence of this strange mail-bag feature they keep running. Some guy named Dukes keeps popping up to answer viewer e-mail, but it’s the same ones every time. Just so we’re clear: Tom Brady is the MVP, and Bill Parcells knows something about football. We’ll be reminded of this another half-dozen times, I’m sure.

The Giants are not exactly milking this clock. A fumbled snap, a dropped pass, and now a pre-snap timeout. They have the chance to really put the screws to the Pats here, but aren’t taking advantage. Their third-down pass comes up short, so the punt goes back to New England.

Whoa boy. Brady had Moss wide open waaaaaaaaaay downfield, but the throw is short and Moss doesn’t manage to haul it in. Of course, on the next play, Brady drills Moss down the sidelines for the touchdown. Just an incredible sequence. Records fall, and Giants Stadium gets very quiet. Maroney runs in the conversion: 31-28 Pats, with 11 minutes left. I can’t get over those back-to-back Moss throws. Scary stuff. Can Eli respond? The Giants looked pretty bad on their last possession.

Somewhere on the kick return, there was a personal foul on the Giants that push them back around the 20. No one can quite figure out why, though. A quick holding penalty, too, on a nice first-down run. Are the Giants self-destructing?

The answer appears to be yes: Ellis Hobbs picks off Manning. He does a nice job getting both feet down, too. The Pats have a chance to work up some breathing room, and Brady is playing well.

On third and 11, Brady dumps one off to Kevin Faulk, and Faulk breaks a few tackles on his way to a first down. That’s a huuuuuuuge play, and New England is creeping inside the red zone now. Another third-and-long conversion to Welker, inside the 10 now with five minutes left. Welker has 11 catches tonight.

Allow me to gloat: Ski-U-Mah! Another Maroney touchdown. 38-28 now, and the Giants are searching for signs of life.

We reach the two-minute warning with the Giants inside the Pats 20. They’re really taking their sweet time, though. Very odd. They let a solid 30 seconds tick off between plays just now, bringing us all the way down to 1:18, second and goal from the 4. They eventually get the score to a wide-open Burress (the safety fell down in the end zone), so we’ve got a game again. 38-35, with 1:04 left. Cheers for the onside kick!

Pats recover. With that, it’s game over and 16-0. Now the pressure really starts. The Giants looked pretty good tonight, actually. It’ll be interesting to see if they carry that into the playoffs. That’s not really the story here, though…

Sunday, December 9, 2007


A recent item in the Pioneer Press contained this tidbit:

"We've had a number of talks on a lot of different fronts," Smith said.

Those talks, which apparently never resumed Thursday because most teams cleared out early, will resume by phone, e-mail and text messages over the next few weeks.

Naturally, this got us very curious as to what exactly goes on when two GMs text each other. And, thanks to a loophole in FISA, Batgirl was able to obtain this super secret transcript of one such conversation between new Twins GM Bill Smith and the Red Sox's Theo Epstein, which she posts here for your edification.

[Need help? click here]

TE: yo homes its theO
BS: sup sk8er
TE: sup newbie
BS: did u c da rumor bout johan 2 oak 4 dan haren
TE: LOL!!! haren is so lamo
BS: sing out louise!
TE: so wuz da 411
BS: ?
TE: wuz it gunna take 2 get dis deal done
BS: ok we need 1 mlb reD playa & 2 A-level prospects & 1 nice (_(_)
TE: ?
BS: we lost torii if we lose johan we need a nice (_(_)
TE: how nice? not givin u Tek
BS: mayB not A-level (_(_) at least B+ (_(_)
TE: & whoz got B+-level (_(_) IYHO?
BS: ellsbury
TE: 2 things retardo montalban. thing 1: ells has A-level (_(_) ells is 6 tool playa
BS: ?
TE: (_(_) is 6th tool
BS: u a tool
TE: thing 2: u not gettin ells
BS: no deal den no johan no kkkkkkkkkkkkkk
TE: no ells
BS: gotta go txt cashman
TE: ok ok how bout coco coco has A+ (_(_)
BS: stop tryin 2 gimme coco
TE: come on johan 4 coco & his A++++++ (_(_)
BS: how bout johan 4 yr mum?
TE: lv my mum outta dis
BS: ^ yurs
TE: wuz wrong wit coco
BS: u <3 coco so bad
TE: byte me
BS: cocoz yr BF mmmm coco xxxxxx
TE: shuddup bzzzzch
BS: oh one sec BRB
TE: ok
BS: sorry terry ryan wuz here wants job back
TE: OMG! wud u say
BS: i sez screw u baldy da bilzzzzzerz runnin dis show
TE: no u didnt
BS: did 2
BS: gotta go project runwayz on
TE: ooooh will give you ells 4 heidi klum ;-)
BS: ha u wish! c u
TE: l8er t8er

Sunday, December 2, 2007

False Starts Audit: Playoff Push Edition

Predictions are tough; that’s what I’m learning this year. A combination of hubris and boredom led me to forecast the 2007 NFL season a few months ago, if you recall. Now that we’re coming down the home stretch, I thought this was a good time to check in with those picks, to see how stupid I really am. Come with me. . .

AFC East:

The prediction: Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins
Currently: Patriots, Bills, Jets, Dolphins

It didn’t take a genius to pick New England out of the East. I can’t really pat myself on the back there. The question now is whether or not 19-0 is attainable; that will come down to the Pats’ running game. They’ve really gotten away from running Maroney; if they’re just saving him for the playoffs, I think they’ll be fine. If there’s something else going on there, New England is quite vulnerable.

I mixed around the Jets and Bills, although I wasn’t very high on either of them. The Bills might sneak into one of the Wild Card spots, but overall I’ll take this set of picks.

AFC North:

The prediction: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Browns
Currently: Steelers, Browns, Bengals, Ravens

This one. . . was not as pretty. Yeesh. I had some decent things to say about Cleveland, but thought things wouldn’t come together for them until at least 2008. I also didn’t see Derek Anderson coming at all. Whoops. I messed up on the Steelers as well; in the original preview, I said that the three top teams in this division were all good, but Ben Roethlisberger would hold them back. Wrong.

For some reason, I predicted that Steve McNair would regress, but the Ravens would finish second. Uh, dumb? And I really thought the Bengals would just score all over everybody. Rudi Johnson has been hurt, but still. This was an ugly division for me.

AFC South:

The Prediction: Jaguars, Colts, Titans, Texans
Currently: Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Texans

This one would have looked really good, if the Jags could have stolen Sunday’s game against Indy. D’oh. Of course, I was a major Byron Leftwich proponent, and we all know how that turned out (not well). Indy’s defense has not been the major weakness I thought it would be, and they’re sitting pretty at 10-2. Oh well. I was too harsh on the Texans, also. I ripped them hard, and they’ve actually been pretty decent. So, lesson learned.

AFC West:

The Prediction: Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs
Currently: Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs

Both of the bottom two teams here are pretty stinky overall. The Chiefs are especially bad; at least there’s a glimmer of a future in Oakland. Oh, and: surprise! Larry Johnson got hurt!

The Chargers are pretty junky. I blasted Norv Turner, and he’s largely lived up to his billing. I overestimated the Broncos, however. Especially on defense, where they look awful. This season has raised some questions re: Mike Shanahan’s general competency. Kick to Devin Hester much? Sigh. . . This one is probably over: the Broncos are reeling after a couple of ugly losses, so the Chargers should cruise to a nine- or ten-win season and the playoff spot.

NFC West:

The Prediction: 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals
Currently: Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams

Yee-ouch. That San Fran pick looks pretty nasty right now, doesn’t it. The lesson: never, ever think Alex Smith is competent. Frank Gore has not exactly been the difference-maker I said he’s be, either. The Seahawks are boring and mediocre, but that’s enough to get the job done in this horrendous division.

The Cardinals are making a little noise, especially after Sunday’s win against the Browns. Sitting at 6-6 now, they have a real shot at a Wild Card spot. We’ll see if Kurt Warner can keep all of his body parts attached. . .

NFC South:

The Prediction: Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Falcons
Currently: Bucs, Panthers, Saints, Falcons

Whither the Saints? They’re making me look pretty bad, here. I still think Tampa Bay sucks, but someone has to win this thing. The Saints occasionally show signs of life, then they do something stupid like losing to the Bucs on Sunday. That was a big loss, and probably put a fork in New Orleans. Carolina continues to be mediocre at best, and the Falcons are awful. At least I got a couple of these picks right.

NFC East:

The Prediction: Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Giants
Currently: Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Eagles

I butchered this one about as badly as I did the AFC North. I ripped on Tony Romo, and declared Donovan McNabb would “play at a high level.” Oh. I pretty much screwed this whole thing up: the Giants haven’t collapsed (yet), the Redskins aren’t looking too hot for a Wild Card, the Cowboys are the class of the conference, and the Eagles suck. Just another day at the office.

NFC North:

The Prediction: Bears, Packers, Vikings, Lions
Currently: Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears

This one should look a little better a few weeks from now. The Vikings and Bears should blow past Detroit; the Lions are going in the tank. I thought the Packers would be pretty good, but I didn’t expect 10-2. I thought Rex Grossman would blow Chicago’s season, but not until the playoffs. I thought Adrian Peterson would be the Purple Jesus, but the lack of a passing game would cost the Vikings. So, plenty of half-rights and almost-goods. Compared to some of my more brutal divisions, I won’t argue too much.

Super Bowl:

The Prediction: Patriots over Eagles
The New Prediction: Patriots over Packers

Ugh, that Eagles pick just keeps twisting the knife. I actually think that a Packers/Cowboys rematch could go to Green Bay; Favre put the Pack in an immediate hole on Thursday before getting hurt, and if a tidier first quarter that could have been a very different game. I really hope they meet in the playoffs, just to get another taste. And, like I said earlier, if the Pats can run the ball they’ll go to the Super Bowl. Homeboy.