Saturday, January 30, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Preview

Before the sports pundits give their bottom line predictions you can get your Super Bowl winner here first at brosatarms.

This is so hard because this is really the match up I've wanted since mid-season. There are compelling reasons to pick either team as well as compelling reasons to cheer for either team.

Both teams are tenacious. They have obvious shortcomings that have somehow been able to prevent from being exposed. The most obvious of these shortcomings is defense. Both are opportunistic and though they are mediocre statistically, they make timely plays and are able to stiffen up inside the 20 yard line. Because of these defensive tendencies, I envision a high scoring game with one or two big defensive plays making the difference.

Both quarterbacks have avoided the big mistake although Manning has looked more sharp. Brees all of a sudden has some accuracy problems. Against the Colts' cover 2, accuracy will be crucial because there's always someone closing on the ball. The Saints will try to bludgeon Manning into submission, but good luck getting to him. Unlike Favre, he will not hold the ball. I think the Saints will get burned once or twice while blitzing.

All that being said in my gut I feel the Colts are just more polished. We could be looking at another incredibly close game with lots of scoring with Indianapolis coming out on top.
Colts 33, Saints 30

Monday, January 25, 2010

Congrats Colts. Superlative Saints.

Wasn't just a month ago that I was killing these two teams for how they played out the last few games of the season? Though I was wrong about them, I did get the Super Bowl I really, really wanted.

As soon as Manning and the Colts drove 80 yards at the end of the first half to cut the Jets lead to 17-13, I said to myself, this game is over. The Colts took about 28 minutes to figure out the Jets and made a couple of bad mistakes on defense early. But after that, the Colts dominated. You could see it in Manning's eyes, I gotcha.

The other game just kind of got me aggravated. But after several careless fumbles, many inexplicable penalties, and one last boneheaded int. by Brett Favre, the Saints came out with the win. Favre's play has already been analyzed to death over the past 18 hours, so the only thing I have to say is... the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.

Super Bowl preview coming soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

NFL Conference Championships

Since my Super Bowl picks (Packers and Chargers) are both out after a mere one playoff game each, let's press the reset button now that we're a week away from the big game.

Jets vs. Colts: Yes, the Jets have an awesome defense. Yes, they like to pound the rock, and the Colts are vulnerable to that sort of thing. No, the Colts can't run themselves. But this is a different Colts team. It's a team that wills itself to win. Some will say that a tight game favors the Jets because of their defense. I say it favors Indy because they have #18. I think Manning will pick apart whatever blitzes and coverages the Jets have. Even if they don't get any huge plays Manning will be happy to kill New York 6 or 7 yards at a time. Manning's stats on the day... 35-50, 285 yards, 1 TD 0 int. Colts 20, Jets 10. (On a side note, Jets' opponents have missed five straight field goals this post season. Absolutely uncanny and absolutely lucky. That's the kind of bull crap that a win-ugly team like the Jets needs to get a championship.)

Vikings vs. Saints: Both teams have come off dominating wins and seem to have their swagger back after struggling the last month of the regular year. The Vikings looked especially impressive to me after they dismantled the Cowboys, a team that is far more balanced than the Cardinals, who the Saints beat. But the Vikes can't win. They mustn't. I can't watch FarveTV for two weeks. Right... It's not possible... OH GOD!! Saints 34, Vikings 28.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mariners Lock Up the King

It seems that small market fans need not fret over at least one young ultra-talented player schedule to hit the free agent market in the next few years. The Mariners have come to an agreement with Felix Hernandez that looks to be around five years and roughly $80 million, just about what A.J. Burnett and John Lackey received in the past two seasons.

All I have to say is thank God. I like the fact that if the Yankees need a player they can usually find one on the free agent market and that price is never really an object. What I don't like is that smaller market teams refuse to spend money on once in a generation talent. Over the past decade mid and small market teams have given up a lot of talent to make sure their profit margins don't take a hit: the Royals and Carlos Beltran, the Twins and Johan Santana and the Marlins and Miguel Cabrera.

Now if only the Twins would man up and spend the dough necessary to keep Joe Mauer beyond next season.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

NFL Division Round 2010

  • So much for me bad mouthing the Saints. I really thought, at the very least, that this game against the Cards would be competitive. It was the high scoring affair that most were predicting. It's just that the Saints did all the scoring.
  • And so much for me bad mouthing the Colts. They beat the Ravens Saturday through good, old fashioned hard work and determination. The Colts get most of their press clippings via big plays by Manning and the receivers. But over the past few seasons, they have really learned to grind out wins and how to win ugly. Though the 20-3 score would indicate otherwise, their victory was the result of a full game of battling the tough Ravens' D and the Colts' defenders tightening their chinstraps against the Ravens' vaunted running game. The result was still in doubt for most of the fourth quarter.
  • It was enjoyable to see the hated Cowboys feel the pain of having kicker Shaun Suisham on the roster. He missed two makable field goals Sunday. Not that it made much difference. The Vikings' pass rush is back and forced Tony Romo into more turnovers than a German bakery.
  • And just when you thought we would see all front runners in the conference title games, the Jets come along and screw things up. The defense kept them in the game and the offense made just enough plays to win. Meanwhile, are the Chargers the new Colts? The super talented team that fails time and again in the playoffs?
  • I tell you what though. The Colts better beat the hell out of the Jets next week. And the Saints better beat the Vikes. I don't think I could stomach the sports media if one of them made it to the Super Bowl. Worse yet what if the Jets AND the Vikings make it. It may be the first Super Bowl in 20 years that I skip watching. I couldn't deal with replay after replay of Joe Willies index finger held aloft in 1969 or god forbid Farve Fest 2010!

Monday, January 11, 2010

NFL Playoffs-Stream of Consciousness

  • I thought I could get home from the grocery store in time to see the end of Packers vs. Cardinals. I didn't. But that's ok. The stir fry was pretty good too. (grumble, grumble.)
  • The Raven's D looked like their D circa 2002. They made Tom Brady look like Kyle Boller. But beware. Although that Pats team has a lot of holes, they still won 10 games. Brady still has a number of good years ahead of him. Just renovate the D and look out.
  • From the Looking Old Department: Randy Moss and Chad Johnson. Moss has been absolute force in the league (save a two year nap in Oakland) since his rookie year in 1998. He even finished tied for TD catches for the fifth time this season at the age of 32. But he looked sluggish and absolutely coverable yesterday. Is this a harbinger of things to come? Johnson had a excellent five year run as a premiere playmaker in the league. Last season he hit 30 and seemingly hit the wall. He had a nice bounce back year this season, but Derrelle Revis pushed him around like a skinny rag doll two games in a row.
  • The Saints were very fortunate that Sunday's games turned out the way they did. As a result, they draw the Cardinals, a team much like them, that wants to throw the ball if they can and has an opportunistic if not dominant defense. Whose better at it? It's arguable. But for the Saints it's preferable to facing the white hot Cowboys or the second ranked Packers defense (I know they yacked it up yesterday, but still.)
  • Conversely the Colts couldn't have asked for a worse opponent than the Ravens next week. Baltimore rushed 52 freakin' times against the Patriots, steamrolling their way to 234 yards. This does not bode well for the lightweight Indianapolis D. Of course if the Colts get a quick lead somehow, that's a different story. But I think it's far more likely that the Colts get bullied in the playoffs like they normally do. I have a lot of admiration for the Colts, and I hope I'm wrong, but I smell disaster.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My beloved Washington D.C. area NFL franchise hired Mike Shanahan as expected this week. I feel bad for Jim Zorn, honestly. He was hired to run the offense, a natural career move for him. Then he was thrust into the role of whipping boy for this dysfunctional franchise. Not to mention his public emasculation when play calling duties were taken from him. I think he was just ill-equipped do deal with the issues at hand and placed in a position where failure was immanent. I hope he gets a second chance somewhere else.

At least Shanahan won't be overwhelmed by the situation, that we know. He also will not be afraid to tell Dan Snyder to where to stick it if the owner starts meddling. There shouldn't be much of that hopefully since Shanahan was given full power over all football and personnel decisions.

That being said, I think Washington has at least a couple of more years of dreadful football ahead of them. They're starting over at QB, and they are still lacking offensive playmakers. Jason Campbell is probably out, and although he has been decent in spots and could still develop, he needs a new contract. He hasn't done enough for the 'Skins brass to invest anymore time or money in him. With my luck he'll probably end up a Pro Bowler in San Francisco or something. Excuse me while I wistfully peruse the SI issue from Washington's 1992 Super Bowl triumph. (Yes, I still have it.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NFL Hyperbolic Statements- Playoffs!!!

It's the post everyone has been waiting for. It's the one where I tell you the eventual Super Bowl winner. Just like my granddad, you'll be taking your phones into the hallway, out of ear shot of your wife, to call your bookie after this one. Don't worry; no dumb ass Peter King-esque scores that could never happen such as 32-18. First the AFC...

The Chargers have flown under the radar all season, overshadowed by the Colts and Saints. But lest we forget, San Diego has won 11 in a row. Perhaps if this win streak started at the beginning of the season and ended in the number zero, people would have taken more notice. Right now they are simply the most complete team in the NFL. I know the Colts have Manning, but I see them gagging. As for the rest of the conference, I don't think there's anyone else close.

AFC Wild Card:
Ravens 21, New England 14 Bengals 16, Jets 10
AFC Divisional Round:
Chargers 30, Bengals 7 Colts 24, Ravens 17
AFC Championship:
Chargers 35, Colts 24

As for the NFC, what a freakin' mess. I love the Saints and Drew Brees, and I wish I could pick them. But how can I pick a team that limped it's way into the playoffs riding a three game losing streak? I decided to go with the teams that I feel have the best playing quarterbacks and the best playing defenses right now.

NFC Wild Card:
Packers 31, Cardinals 20 Cowboys 20, Eagles 17
NFC Divisional Round:
Cowboys 27, Vikings 21 Packers 28, Saints 17
NFC Championship:
Green Bay 26, Cowboys 20

I think a Chargers/Packers Super Bowl would be highly entertaining and represent a changing of the guard a bit for NFL quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers are two of the best young QB's in the game. I see a highly competitive relatively high scoring game ending with the first world title in San Diego sports... I believe.
Chargers 37, Packers 27.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Crappy Colts, Sucky Saints

What a B.S. way to end the season for Indianapolis and New Orleans. A few weeks ago I begged the football gods for a Colts vs. Saints Super Bowl. Perhaps I was too greedy when I asked for both to be 18-0. The way these teams both ended the season is gutless and inexcusable. With the way they started and the way they ended they have to the most bizarre set of 14-2 and 13-3 teams in the history of planet Earth. I thought maybe one of them, perhaps the Saints, would man up and win their final regular season game, but no. I foresee an early exit for both.

Now I will segue smooth as butter into a teaser for my playoff predictions. Later this week, when I get a good look at the match ups I will predict the entire playoffs. If you recall, last year I predicted that the Steelers would be the champs just before the playoffs began. (Of course, the rest of the post season was a little rocky, but I picked the champs nonetheless.) Stay tuned.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Fallacy of Running the Football

Football conventional wisdom says that you need to run the football to win games in the NFL. Perhaps that was true in the 60's and 70's when league wide completion percentage was around 50% and the passing game was little more than chuck it down the field and pray. Passes resulted in either a 40 yard gain or an interception.

Now, defenders are so quick to the ball, running is much more difficult. Offenses need to create space and get the football to the ball handlers fast in order to combat bigger quicker defenders. The timing, precision, and efficiency of NFL passing games is such now that interception rates have plummeted, and completion percentages have skyrocketed. Drew Brees is at 70.6% complete this year and will likely break the NFL single season record set by Ken Anderson. Peyton Manning is behind him at a mere 68.5 %. This despite 515 and 553 pass attempts respectively through 15 games.

Here are a couple examples to illustrate my point:
In 1962, George Blanda threw 42 interceptions against 27 TD's in 14 games for the Houston Oilers. That team was 11-3 and went to the NFL Championship game. Blanda went to the Pro Bowl that season. He also completed only 47.1% of his passes. Conversely, Jay Cutler, who has we all know has been a bust for the Bears this season, leads the NFL with 26 picks. His completion percentage: 60.5%, about average for the modern NFL. His team is 6-9 in no small part to his mistakes.

Need further evidence? Let's suppose that the best 12 teams in the NFL get into the playoffs (not entirely accurate, but please play along). Of the top 12 passing teams in the NFL in terms of yards, nine of them are in the playoffs. The ones that are not in, the Giants, Steelers, and Texans, were in the hunt this year and could all finish with winning records. Of the top 12 rushing teams, only six would be in the playoffs if they started today. In fact I believe that teams with a tendency to run the football more than 510 times in a season (32 times a game or so) are usually doing it to mask offensive deficiencies.

Of course, I am not saying that teams should abandon the run entirely. It's necessary to keep defenses off balance, pick up short yardage, and protect your quarterback. All I am saying is that a successful NFL offense is about sustaining drives and converting third downs. These days doing that is more about an efficient passing game than three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust.