Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why Baseball Is Awesome

Dane Cook? Seriously? Screw that...he doesn't get to do romantic comedies with Jessica Alba AND be in commercials extolling the love of the game.

Here's why you love baseball.

-- How a player hitting .230 against the rest of the league has a .660 career average against an ace pitcher.

-- Turn back the clock night.

-- The fact that people who flunked out of high school math will spend hours calculating ways to measure a player's stats.

-- Players like Garret Anderson, Tim Wakefield, Bernie Williams, Geoff Jenkins or Jason Varitek. Guys who are All-Stars but a shade below being superstars who have stayed with one club their whole careers (or in Varitek and Wakefield's case, one club for a really long time) and do their job day in and day out. These guys won't make the Hall or anything, but they will be heroes in those towns for decades.

-- The fact that sometimes, the game comes down to the shittiest guy in your lineup at the plate and you can't pinch-hit for whatever reason, so you just have to suck it up and pray.

-- When that shitty player actually comes through with a miraculous hit.

-- That time in eighth grade softball when I completed an unassisted triple play. I will remember this until the day I die.

-- Sliding hard into second base.

-- A player breaks a team record that has stood since 1932.

-- A one-two-three inning takes 15 minutes because of two pitching changes because the manager is worried about lefty-righty matchups.

-- When the game is close in the ninth, and the star player who had the day off comes in to pinch-hit.

-- Half of the free world wouldn't piss on the New York Yankees if they were on fire.

-- The fact that people will be talking about the Mets' collapse for decades to come. Holy crap, that was pathetic.

-- Nolan Ryan headlocking Robin Ventura and feeding him punches.

-- Field of Dreams. This movie only works with baseball. For some reason, I just feel the concept would totally fall apart or get silly if the sport was, say, hockey or football.

-- The beer vendor at the Rogers Centre who looks about 100 years old, has a voice that sounds like velvet death and advertises his product by asking who wants "ice.....collllllddd......beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer."

-- The batter continually hits foul balls to stay alive in a key situation and to wear out the pitcher.

-- Organ music.

-- VORP.

-- A really good mascot. What I wouldn't give to spend a day as the Phillie Phanatic.

-- Hitting a teammate in the face with a shaving-cream pie while he's doing a post-game interview.

-- The double-switch.

-- An old-timey hand-operated scoreboard.

-- When two announcers will spend five minutes comparing a guy's batting stance to seven other players, all of whom played anywhere between 10 and 40 years ago.

-- Two leagues, four playoff spots in each. So when you get into the postseason, it means something.

-- Sacrifice bunts.

-- That moment when you realize your team's fattest and/or slowest player is actually going to try to stretch that single into a double, and you cheer harder in that moment than you've ever cheered in your life.

- The original theme to This Week In Baseball that they still play a snippet of at the end of each show.

-- This Week In Baseball, period.

-- Bill Veeck, one of the greatest human beings to ever live.

-- The fact that getting to first, second, third and home is still a common sexual euphemism.

-- The replay of a home run swing, when you can see all of the fans slowly standing up in the background to watch it go

-- When a 30-something career minor leaguer finally makes his big league debut.

-- Ignoring a teammate when he's pitching a no-hitter or perfect game.

-- The minors.

-- This article. It rates a bit on the Rick Reilly scale, but it's still pretty cool.

Feel free to include your own.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Great Live Music

I've had 10 Cent Freeze Pops listed on my blog roll for a few months now, in spite of the fact that the site has more or less gone defunct. It turned from a very clever sports blog (featuring one of my favourite sports blog bits, the review of an old Sports Illustrated issue from 20 years ago) into a blog that highlighted great musical performances found on YouTube. Now it's been over a month since the last post, which makes me think they've gone dark for good.

But their legacy isn't dead yet. I've cherry-picked a few great live performances from YouTube for your viewing and aural enjoyment. May you rest in peace, 10CFP.

Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road, New York City, 1975

The beauty of the Boss is that almost all of his songs can either be played at full blast with the E Street Band going nuts and making it the best rock tune ever. Or, alternately, they can all be played acoustically or on piano/harmonica and they sound just as good if not better. Case in point, Thunder Road. The debate over whether this song is better built up or stripped down is the equivalent of the Lincoln-Douglas debates amongst Springsteen fans.

Paul Potts, Nessun Dorma, Cardiff, 1997

This might be my favourite one of the bunch. This phone salesman performs on Britain's Got Talent, says he's going to do opera, and everyone is semi-expecting a William Hung-esque debacle. Instead, he cleans house. I love the gradual "Holy shit" look that develops on Simon Cowell's face.

Beck, Clap Hands/One Foot In The Grave, Saturday Night Live, 2006

Sort of in the same that SNL isn't really 'cutting-edge' humour anymore, the musical guests are rarely anyone off the beaten path or who don't deliver a rote performance of their hit single. The nadir was Ashlee Simpson a couple of years ago. Beck, however, is never one to half-ass anything. I'll see if I can talk my family into a cover version during Thanksgiving next week.

John Entwistle and the Who, 5:15 bass solo, London, 2000

Good gracious. Wouldn't it be great to be as good at something as John Entwistle was at playing the bass? Oh wait, I am. coughcoughlovemakingcoughcough.

Pulp, Common People, Glastonbury Festival 1995

I saw this on Muchmusic back in 1995 and it made a Pulp fan for life. Remember when Much actually played concerts? God, I promised myself this wouldn't turn into yet another "Much is garbage" rant, and yet here it is.

White Stripes, One Note Concert, St. John's, 2007

Ok, it's not the most illicit Meg White video I could've posted, but.... The best part about the White Stripes' elaborate Canadian tour this year has been the fact that, well, they're Americans. You'd think the Hip or Nickelback or Our Lady Peace would attempt the totally cross-Canada tour, but instead it fell to the duo from Detroit.

With or Without You, U2, Washington 1992

I forget if it was Bono or the Edge who went on record as saying what they liked most about WOWY is that instead of having a big ripping guitar solo at the end, the guitar just sort of trails off, yet is still powerful in its own way. Well, in this live performance, Edge just says sucks to that ass-mar and busts out a big ripping solo. Bono kicks in the legendary "we'll shine like stars..." additional lyric that is necessary for a truly A+ live version of With or Without You.

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, Paris, 2006

All 5,469 members of the Arcade Fire crowd into an elevator and do a sound-check on Neon Bible before taking the stage for a show in Paris. All I can say is the drummer is using a freakin' magazine for percussion, and it's as awesome as thirty Super Bowls.

Talking Heads, Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place), Stop Making Sense, 1983

There's no better word for this song than 'pretty.' If it was a bird, it would be petted by that blind kid in Dumb & Dumber in spite of it having a broken neck. David Byrne's lamp dance is pretty cool. And, just because I can't even get through one post without mentioning Lost, apparently this song was supposed to be used in the third season premiere for the opening scene when Juliet is crying in her house. There was some kind of a rights issue that resulted in 'Downtown' being used instead, though if you look at that scene, you can see Juliet putting a Talking Heads CD into her stereo.

Kanye West, Gold Digger, Saturday Night Live, 2005

This one's got it all. A string orchestra led by a pregnant conductor using just one arm to conductor. Face paint on the cello players. Steve Carell. The Myers cameo before the song --- this performance took place just a couple of weeks after the infamous "George Bush doesn't care about black people" incident" --- was literally the funniest thing that happened all season on SNL. It was not their strongest year.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Football, Futbol and Dreams

* I've blogged before about my sports superstitions, but last Sunday takes the cake. I was wearing my Brett Favre jersey in spite of the fact that the Green Bay game wasn't even on a channel I get. I was also avoiding all of my navy-and-gold patterned boxer shorts since the Packers were playing the blue-and-gold San Diego Chargers. Incidentally, turns out I have an inordinate amount of gold-and-navyish boxers. LIke, four of the 10 pairs in the regular rotation share this colour scheme. What the hell?

Anyway, so I've got the Packers jersey on, the proper boxers on, and then it comes time for a pre-game breakfast (I woke up at noon, give me a break, it was Sunday). The choices were Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies -- the winner, naturally was the two scoops of raisins. First of all, Rice Krispies has a blue box and the Kripsies themselves are a golden colour, so the closeness to the San Diego colour scheme was a big red flag. Also, the last name of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers shared the same two opening letters as the word 'rice.' Not to mention that Jerry Rice used to play for SAN Francisco, and the Chargers play in SAN Diego.

Craziness? Packers 31, Chargers 24. Who's your messiah now, Flanders?!

* I've blogged before about that American football didn't call itself 'football,' so soccer could rightly be called 'football' the world over. But then I thought about how it would affect North American soccer. For example, Major League Soccer would become Major League Football --- or, MLS becomes MLF. They'd have to get Stifler's mom as their spokesperson.

* Okay, I'm not just going to rehash old posts today. Mark's team of the week award goes to English! Dammit! Anyway, it goes to English side Leeds United. Here's the story about this club. The team has been struggling with debts and ownership problems for the last couple of seasons, and as a result their future in the Football League has been threatened. It was the latest kick in the ass for a team that used to be a top-tier power but now find themselves in the third tier League One. Though the financial problems were somewhat solved before the season started, Leeds United was still penalized 15 points, meaning they started 2007-08 in a giant hole. Some felt this penalty was just, others felt it was spurred on by a general dislike of Leeds chairman Ken Bates.

In short, people had the same laughing response to Leeds that the Hispanic cop in Big Lebowski had to the Dude's question about any leads in the case of his stolen car. It would've been easy for the Leeds coaches and players to start quietly inquiring about transfers elsewhere, but instead, the club decided to take the 15-point penalty as a slap in the face. They've won their first seven league matches to start the year and have now totally erased the penalty and even temporarily escaped the relegation zone. They've got to be considered contenders to move back up to the Championship (tier two) and maybe Leeds can even go for the gusto and make a run in the FA Cup.

So thumbs up to Leeds United. As my team of the week, you win a small fries from McDonald's. I'm not sure how you want to split it up among yourselves. Perhaps the first team gets a fry each, with the captain and head coach getting an extra one. It's really up to you. I just award the fries and my involvement there ends. Doing more may result in a repeat of the horror that developed when I awarded a 10-piece McNuggets to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rick Nash got a skate in the eye. Boy, that escalated quickly.

* Okay, so a weird dream I had last night. I had entered some big-time poker tournament, and was sitting down at an unusually large table of 12 people. The guy at the other end of the table from me was, of all people, Robert Redford. As soon as I sit down, he starts trash-talking me --- comments like, "Whoa, fresh meat at the table. I needed some new chips." Then on the first hand I'm dealt pocket fives and end up getting four of a kind to win a big pot from him. Redford stands up, frustrated and yells "Goddammit, Butch Cassidy" at himself.

It was confusing. Was he mistaking me for Paul Newman? Did he have some sort of inborn superstition that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, everything in his life has gone wrong since he made that film? Was Redford paid $5555 per day for his role as the Sundance Kid? I need to stop eating before I go to bed. I'm turning into Bill Cosby and his dreaming about birthing a giant sandwich.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Frankie Muniz Has a Mohawk?

Jesus, when did this happen? He looks like the drummer for an emo-punk band that I can't actually name since I'm too good to listen to such crappy music. He can't do this, he's Agent Cody Banks. That's not keeping with Cody's clean-cut image. Cody does wacky, family-friendly fighting moves like a jump punch. Mohawk Frankie hits you in the back of the head with a crowbar then curbs you until you die.

* Sex and the City won't translate well to the big screen. I'm not using 'big screen' in the colloquial sense, I mean literally, the faces of those increasingly old broads won't look good on a giant Cineplex wall. If you've seen the recent Sarah Jessica Parker fragrance ad playing in theatres you know what I mean. There were audible gasps from the audience during her first close-up. It was like a giant raccoon was wearing expensive shoes.

* So guess who's going to see Springsteen next month? THIS GUY. Did the early-morning lineup at Sunrise Records, and I was a little worried since it was my first time doing it at a Toronto location. Usually I'm in London at the Sunrise down on Dundas and it's no muss, no fuss. In TO, however, I had to scope out the proper location, and finally decided on Bloor/Yonge. Right in the heart and pancreas of the city. Standing in line is way preferable to going online, where you have to deal with server nonsense. I've only been successful once in getting tickets online, and computer mixups nearly cost me U2 tickets years ago.

Of course, my plan very nearly backfired when the Sunrise Ticketmaster computer froze up right when the tickets went on sale. That was great fun. Fortunately, I got a bit of luck from the always-ridiculous pre-sale draw. How it works is, everyone who is standing in line waiting for the Ticketmaster office to open has to draw a number. The winner of the draw becomes first in line and everyone else has to get behind. So if you've been there for two hours and the guy behind you wins the draw, you have to go back behind the last person in line. This is one of those ideas that theoretically works when you have a lineup of a few hundred people and you're trying to prevent people from sleeping over in front of the building overnight, but when you have a lineup of 20, it's just a real pain in the ass to the poor folks who got here a few minutes before everyone else. Now in my case, I happened to be third in line behind the guy who won the draw, so I was laughing all the way to the bank. Even better, the winner took off because the computer was taking too long, and the woman who was second in line left because no four-ticket blocks were available. So I was a virtual number one. I stepped right up and notched myself a pair of ducats for my second-ever Boss concert. My first show, back in 2002, was one of the best concerts I've ever seen in my life.


10. Me, My Shower, London, March 2004

9. Sarah Harmer/Sarah Slean, Centennial Hall, London, September 2001

8. Radiohead, Centennial Hall, London, August 1997

7. U2, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, May 2001

6. White Stripes, Hershey Centre, Mississauga, November 2003

5. Bruce Springsteen, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, December 2002

4. Elton John, John Labatt Centre, London, September 2006

3. U2, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, September 2005

2. Pearl Jam, John Labatt Centre, London, September 2005

1. U2, Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, October 2001

Monday, September 17, 2007


The Emmys ranged between fist-pumping excitement and eye-rolling ennui. Some of the winners were so right on, and so well-deserved. Terry O'Quinn's Saucy Pink Shirt and Jaime Pressly winning were great surprises that made up for the unforgivable snub of their shows (so that makes it...forgivable? Hmmm). Ricky Gervais was a worthy winner in spite of the fact I've never see anything of Extras aside from the immortal Patrick Stewart cameo. It's Ricky Gervais, I'm just assuming he's awesome. And then, the icing on the cake, 30 Rock is the upset winner of best comedy. My imaginary girlfriend Tina Fey got to make a funny speech on top of her funny bit with Julia Louis-Dreyfus earlier in the night. I guess the key for a truly funny and subversive show to win a Best Comedy Emmy is to draw low ratings. Then voters will feel sorry for it and throw some pity votes. This is called the 'Arrested Development in 2004' corollary.

The rest of the awards ranged from the predictable (America Ferrera, the Sopranos) to the signature Emmy habits of inexplicably awarding past winners again (Jeremy Piven, James Spader) and movie stars slumming it on TV (Sally Field). There was also Katherine Heigl's win, which I guess may be an inverted cause --- rewarding BECOMING a movie star.

Biggest laugh of the night came from the listing of the writing staffs of the late-night comedy shows. Like Harold Baines and root beer, these segments keep bringing the underrated quality year after year. And hey, Conan's team won the award! Booyah!


The Green Bay Packers are 2-0! *pumps fist* I need to enjoy this now before the probable stomping the Chargers will lay on the Pack next week. Speaking of the Chargers, I had to laugh at tonight's game. Was there any doubt New England would crank up the intensity given all of the cheating controversy and just lay a whipping on Whale's Vagina this week? Even funnier, Andrea Kramer mentioned during the game that the Jets are now accusing the Patriots of listening in on radio signals during last week's matchup and are going to the NFL with their complaints. Oh, Jets. You're 0-2 and still have another game to play in New England last this season. This won't end well. What will the final score be of that next Pats-Jets game? 50-0? 60-0? This will be like one of those 100-7 high school games you read about sometimes and then shake your head that a coach would run up the score like that.


First, naming your child after yourself and making him a 'Jr.' is kind of a loser move. On the other hand, you need a Junior to lead to a III, which is kind of cool. But in my case, a III wouldn't work since that would give my future son the somewhat silly acronym and nickname of MPIII. However, by the time I have a grandson, MP3s will be outdated pieces of technology --- it's not like a person today named, say, Larry Perkins is commonly nicknamed LP.

So I'm torn.


The search for a favourite college football team has come to an end. I left it up to one game -- if Oregon beat Michigan two weeks ago, they'd earn my favour. And beat them they did, which made Michigan the second-most embarrassing team in the country (hi, Notre Dame!) this season.

So I think I'm in for a good time as a Ducks fan. They certainly seem to be a fun team to watch. This Dennis Dixon guy is a hell of a player. Poor man's Vince Young? Or is Vince Young a poor man's Dennis Dixon? If Oregon is going to be my team, I have to make crazy statements like these.

In conclusion, quack quack quack Mr. Ducksworth.


Tonight's iTunes playlist....

See Through Head, the Hives
Hanginaround, Counting Crows
Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Your Cheatin' Heart, Hank Williams
Hound Dog, Elvis
Where Boys Fear To Tread, Smashing Pumpkins
Running to Stand Still, U2
Octopus' Garden, the Beatles
Always On My Mind, Elvis
Stay, U2
Babylon, David Gray
Motownphilly, Boyz II Men
Ava Adore, Smashing Pumpkins
Picture of Jesus, Ben Harper
Innocence, Hootie & the Blowfish
Killer Queen, Queen
Have Mercy, Loretta Lynn

Saturday, September 15, 2007

O.J.'s Eleven!

The Juice is loose again!

Al Cowlings IS Brad Pitt!

Kato Kaelin IS Matt Damon!

Robert Kardashian IS Don Cheadle!

Robert Shapiro IS Shaobo Qin!

Johnnie Cochran IS Bernie Mac!

Barry Scheck IS Scott Caan!

Peter Neufeld IS Casey Affleck!

F. Lee Bailey IS Elliot Gould!

Alan Dershowitz IS Carl Reiner!

Gerald Uelman IS Eddie Jemison!

I'd pay to see this movie! I wouldn't pay to see the self-indulgent sequel! I would pay to see the entertaining third installment!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TALKING HEADS (a.k.a. recent obsession #1)

I approach 'discovering' a new band from an analytical perspective. When I hear some songs I like from a band, I seek out their other material, read up about their history, discover which recordings are essential, etc. It's almost like I'm doing a research project rather than actually just being a fan. It especially helps when a band is defunct, so you can approach their music as an artifact, rather than an evolving being.

This is a pretty long-winded way of introducing the fact that for the last couple of weeks, I've really been into Talking Heads. I heard their cover of 'Take Me To The River' on the radio a while back and since then I tracked down a version of the song on YouTube, which led to watching all of their cuts from the Stop Making Sense concert film. Then I found music videos of songs that weren't in SMS, and now I'm just weighing the options of either going on an album-buying spree, getting just a greatest-hits disc (and the band has a 33-track GH disc out, so it's pretty comprehensive) or settling for the songs on YouTube since I'm stone poor. Of course, I didn't 'discover' them by any means, since I've been perfectly aware of the group for years. I even considered buying a greatest hits disc years ago after seeing a particularly impressive live performance of "Once in a Lifetime" in my first-year MIT class. I forget why exactly the professor showed us this clip, but it was for a reason so obscure that I'm pretty sure the prof just liked the band and tried to shoehorn it into his lecture. Don't you hate it when people get stuck on something and then constantly refer to it in everything they write or say?


I think I actually prefer 'discovering' an older band rather than discovering a new band. With a new band, there's the sports-fan of following their careers, going to their concerts, and awaiting new releases, but there's also the potential that the band will suddenly start to suck. Unlike in sports, where I've watched the Blue Jays reek for the last 14 years and will watch them reek for 14 more and I'll still be a fan, I'm more fickle about my musical tastes. Unless an act has a long history of productivity that has earned them the "oh, they just had an off-album" slack, I'll drop them like a bad habit. For example, I was a big Collective Soul fan back in the late 90's. I know, I know, but dammit, they were a good band back in their prime. I even saw them live at old Centennial Hall in London with my buddy Trev. That should've been a red flag right there -- any band in their prime that came to London in the pre-John Labatt Centre days is probably not a Rock and Roll HOF candidate. But their first few discs were good stuff, before the doors fell off with the Blender album. After that I more or less left the Soul behind.

With an established or defunct band, however, you don't have to worry about things like this. Talking Heads released eight albums between 1977 and 1988, and that was that. It's like becoming a John Wayne fan rather than being a fan of, say, Alec Baldwin. You know what you're getting with the Duke. You don't have to worry about some embarrassment like diminishing box office returns or a phone message berating a daughter. You just have to worry about Wayne supporting the Hollywood blacklist and referring to black people as "irresponsible people."

Anyway, that analogy fell apart. The bottom line is I like Talking Heads. That's the actual band name, by the way, not 'The Talking Heads.' It's like Smashing Pumpkins, in that most people, media and even band members from time to time refer to the name with a 'the' in front of it. That's just downright confusing. If you pick a band name that's a natural plural, you should accept the pluralization of the name. You don't see a solo artist take the opposite tack and call themselves, for example, The John Mayer. Pretentious band names bother me. Screw treble charger and their lowercase font. Just who the hell are you?

Aside from the music, one of the things I enjoy about the band is their distinctive look. Talking Heads weren't one of these bands of four long-haired dudes, no way. They are high in the running for the prize of least rock-band looking rock band of all time. David Byrne looks like a comic book character come to life -- an unholy amalgamation of Clark Kent, Reed Richards and Plastic Man. His antics during the live performances (especially in Stop Making Sense) are worth the price of admission alone. Keyboard player Jerry Harrison looks literally elfin. Drummer Chris Frantz looks like a normal dude who should be selling you drywall at Home long as that Home Depot salesman was played by Geoffrey Rush. Bassist Tina Weymouth is one of those people who looks completely different any time you see them. I was originally going to say she was like a combination of Jane Curtin and Amy Poehler, but she takes on more different looks over that 11-year-period than a chameleon.

Here's a clip of what's become one of my favourite Talking Heads songs. I've been singing it for the last few days, which is an irritating habit of mine. I got into a habit last summer of singing 'All These Things That I've Done,' but just the "you're gonna let yourself down" part over and over. It annoyed my boss to no end. Perhaps now you can prevent your own advancement in the workplace by singing along to this classic!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


My predictions and the rebuttals from my fans-of-the-team friends continues! Woo hoo!


The Panthers have a pattern of a .500-ish year followed by a big season, so since they were 8-8 last year, it stands to reason they'll have a big improvement in 2007. The schedule gods helped them out with a very cake slate of games. Carolina is a team that has a lot of talent that I'm still on board with, but who others have deserted. I still think John Fox is one of the better coaches in the game, though I'm sure a lot of Panthers fans wouldn't mind seeing Fox fired and new North Carolina native Bill Cowher taking over in 2008. I still like Jake Delhomme even though he played like a pile of wet rags last season. Carolina is going to rebound with a big showing.

The counter comes from my amigo, Colin...

"The Panthers are a team with great potential, and little ability to play to it. John Fox is a fine coach, but has lost his impact on the team, as it continues to have massive turnover from one year to another. The team is set perfectly to play to another .500 season. This team also has the greatest potential to suffer through a quarterback controversy. THe addition of David Carr will put a lot of pressure on Jake Delhomme, who has struggled in the face of adversity in the past. Steve Smith is the greatest wide receiver to only play 40% of a career. If he succumbs to injury again, the team's offense will suffer tremendously. The team is average, at best."

The Saints will have a similar season to last year, except without the hoopla. Remember that their 10-6 record was enough to win the division, and in between U2 halftime shows had more than a few shaky performances. The bloom will be a bit off the rose for New Orleans this year but given their weak division and weak schedule for a division champ, the Saints can lose a step and still be on top in the NFC South. I'm curious to see how the Reggie Bush experiment continues in 2007. I'm still not sold on Bush as a regular back, or even a guy that can be relied upon in a straight platoon.

The Bucs have about nine quarterbacks on the roster, none of them good. Their defense ain't much, even after poaching Cato June from the Colts. Cadillac Williams and the receiver core are a B-minus. This is a make or break year for management, or else Jon Gruden and the front office are going to be fired en masse. On the bright side, they're not the Falcons. Tampa Bay is finishing 6-10.

Ha ha ha! Well, obviously the Falcons are going to be brutal. Even if Michael Vick hadn't thrown his life away, I wouldn't have been very high on the team this year. Ignoring the monstrous Ewing Theory potential here, the only question is if Atlanta will win two games or three. Brian Brohm is favoured to be the #1 pick in the 2008 draft, and he played for Falcons coach Bobby Petrino at Lousville. So, yeah, that's a plus. This team will play so badly that Petrino will take the players behind his property and drown them, electrocute them and/or toss them onto the ground.

Providing the rebuttal is my friend Dave...

"You can't blame Vick for doing what he did -- like Whoopi says, dog fighting is part of Michael's cultural upbringing. Plus, Jamie Foxx says that Vick just didn't realize the things he was supposed to avoid as a celebrity. That's good enough for me -- this is clearly the most flagrant case of celebrity injustice since OJ's brief incarceration. As with then, it's time we let the Juice loose.

To quote Whoopi once again, there are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country. For folks in Georgia, those things include grits and sweet tea at breakfast, a Braves October swoon, and the sexual predations of Ted Turner. A Falcons controversy is not one of those things, so it will be interesting to see how the Peach-folk deal with the negative media attention. My guess: support for the team will be at an all-time high, and Vick jerseys will continue to move like hotcakes.

Look, I've gotta be honest -- I'm only a Falcons fan since I can recall MC Hammer gracing the team's sidelines in the early '90s, with Deion Sanders asking Mr. Burrell to sing him a few bars. That presence, combined with the Dirty Bird, make the Falcons the greatest _ sports _ franchise _ ever. Not a doubt in my mind.

Lastly, Jerry Glanville looked great in the video for Too Legit to Quit, even though it was filmed almost 20 years ago. Thus, all things being equal, I predict a .500 season for the Falcons, with playoffs on tap for next year."


The Seahawks are probably in the last or second last year of success with this current crop of players, so they'll be hungry if they realize their window for a Super Bowl title is quickly closing. I talked earlier about the Madden Curse, which boned over Shaun Alexander last season, but there is also evidence of a Madden Rebound. I think Alexander is going to have a monster season. To support this, I even picked him early in a fantasy league, so I'm clearly pretty sold on him, folks. You can't buy that kind of an endorsement. Any idiot can pick a guy for a big year, but it takes a commitment to use the crucial early first-round pick on one of the second-tier of running backs after LT and Stephen Jackson.

Also, to clear up a common misconception, Matt Hasselbeck isn't the one married to crazy Elisabeth from The View. That's Matt's brother Tim, the recently-cut Giants backup. I'm standing up for Matt's rights here since I have a soft spot for any quarterback that is openly balding and doesn't try to hide it. Hasselbeck still has a ways to go to make up for his asinine "we want the ball and we're going to win!" boast in the playoff game with Green Bay a few years back, but baldness is a good beginning.

The Niners seem to be the consensus dark horse pick this season, which means they'll probably struggle to around a 7-9 record and then make their big leap in 2008 with an easier schedule. But still, there's always hope San Fran can step it up this year given that they sched is already pretty light and they're in a weak division. I love the pick of Patrick Willis in the draft, largely because he's one of those players that literally everyone (every pundit, every coach, every broadcaster) seemed to agree was going to be a very good-to-great pro that any team would want. So, of course, he dropped to #11 behind several guys who were much bigger question marks. I don't get the draft process sometimes. Anyway, Willis helps a defense that also added some big-ticket free agents (though Nate Clements is totally not worth that much money). Frank Gore should continue to be a beast, and Alex Smith should continue his development as one of the #1 overall pick quarterbacks who isn't awful. You should check the list sometimes, it's quite interesting. It's almost a dead 50-50 split between guys who became great or near-great and total bombs.

The response comes from my buddy Trev...

"Yeah I'd probably agree with most everything that you've said. As much as their off-season acquisitions are going to improve the team I still think they've got a ways to go before they're true contenders. Granted pre-season games don't even have a shred of significance, but I have a feeling the inconsistency that they showed is going to carry over to the regular season. Just as they have the past few seasons the team will finish strong, but I'm worried that they won't put it together until it's too late.

While I agree that Alex Smith hasn't been a complete bomb, I just don't see him ever being a true impact player in the NFL. For some reason I just can't get past all the criticism about his small hands (and his smelling like cabbage). Oh well, at least Mike Nolan will look good walking the sidelines in a three piece suit. If you can't out-coach Belichick et al. you might as well out-dress them.

So there it is. Probably not the most informed opinion but that’s all you’re getting from me. After reading this a few times I’ve come to realize that I’m not overly optimistic about any of my teams this season. The Jays, Habs, Niners – it’s quite a mediocre bunch… oh well, at least we can fall back on the consistently excellent Western Mustangs. Yikes."

Meh. I should be a lot of impressed by the Rams than I actually am, since between their excellent offense and weak schedule, they're on pace to be a playoff team. But for some reason, I just don't see this bunch getting it done. I just have a feeling that something bad will happen, ala a Vernon Wells-esque post-contract letdown from Marc Bulger, or an injury to Stephen Jackson that will cause mass suicides of fantasy football players. The Rams' defense isn't particularly good either, which doesn't help in a division where they face Arizona, Seattle and the potentially dangerous Niners twice each. I'm just very blah on the Rams, and the definition of blah is 8-8.

Nobody will ever believe the Cardinals are good until they actually do something. As good as Arizona's coaching changes and player acquisitions look on paper, this team has such a legacy of disgusting failure that they could've signed the 1986 Bears defense and I'd still be concerned. The key for the Cards is Edgerrin James playing like he is capable. It will also help if Arizona survives going 0-5 or 1-4 in their first five weeks, since three of the games are against division foes and the other two are against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Pop quiz, hotshot: will Matt Leinart get more TDs or VDs during the 2007 season?


Imagine getting married knowing it will end in disaster. Sure, a lot of people may enter into wedlock perhaps thinking things will go wrong, but imagine if you were told before the ceremony by a fortune teller (picture the woman who told Lisa Simpson about Hugh) that the marriage would absolutely, positively fail. Would you go ahead and do it? Not at all...unless you're the Bears. I know, you know, all football fans know that if Chicago makes it back to the altar with Rex Grossman, he will leave them as heartbroken as that sucker who married the runaway bride. We saw what happened at the Super Bowl -- Grossman predictably played like feces. Had Grossman managed even a Dilferian level of competence, that game could've gone differently. He is a terrible quarterback who simply cannot be trusted to lead a team to a Super Bowl title.

So, of course, the Bears kept him around for the 2007 season. They really honestly are screwing themselves. Their defense is outstanding, probably the first or second best in football. They have a solid line, good receivers and a good...well, solid running back in Cedric Benson. The only thing holding them back from being a true contender is Grossman. Other teams have question marks at a lot more positions than the Bears, but in many of those cases, those question marks indicate genuine uncertainty about the answer. It could be bad, or it could be good. In Chicago's case, they know the answer isn't there. I think the Bears will be at least in the NFC championship game this year and should win this division without much problem at all. But as long as Rex Grossman is taking snaps, this team won't win a Super Bowl.

With the counter, my associate Jordan...

A lot was made of Grossman's inconsistent play last year, but the bottom line is that the team DID make it to the Super Bowl with him at the helm. Maybe he does in fact come from the school of "winners" that includes the likes of Gustavo Chacin, where his team seems to win in spite his personal failings. But, it's hard to argue against sticking with Train Rex this season. Consider that in the 2006-07 campaign, his Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde act at center churned out seven games with a QB rating of at least 100. Only Rams QB Marc Bulger had more with eight. In reality, Grossman may not be the make or break element for the Monsters of the Midway. The biggest question mark deals with who Grossman will be handing the ball to this year.

Chicago opted to part ways with RB Thomas Jones in favor of giving the full-time job to Cedric Benson, who has neither established himself as the next Walter Payton (highly doubtful), Anthony Thomas (B-Train?) or Curtis Enis (Dear God, no!). If Cedric can become "The Entertainer" and keep Chi-town's running game intact, that will only help Grossman out. If Benson can't come through, then Grossman will be more exposed and more of those 0.0 QB rating games could be on the horizon.

Amidst their questions -- and they don't seem to have as many as other clubs -- the Bears should indeed cruise to the North title once again. The D is solid and should help overcome any offensive inefficiencies that go along with Grossman's mistakes, Benson's learning curve, or relying more on Bernard Berrian at WR and getting Devin Hester to transition well to being a receiver. One player to watch is rookie TE Greg Olsen, who could be an added weapon on O.

Can Da Bears get back to Da Super Bowl? Sure. Can they win it with Grossman as their guy? Well, it'd help if Peyton Manning wasn't on the other side...

I'm picking the Lions to finish second in this division. I'd suggest the next step is stocking up on bottled food and shotgun shells, since the apocalypse is nigh. Detroit is one of the few teams in sports that could be in serious contention for the title of The Pinnacle Of Suck. No NFL titles in 50 years, nary a successful playoff run in that stretch, and a long stretch in the Millen era as one of the NFL's biggest jokes. But I really think they may be on a track out of the crap factory. Small steps are being made, and they seem to be in the right direction. I can't really point to Calvin Johnson as a turning point since saying "Oh, the Lions picked a star receiver in the first round, they're set now!" would be idiotic given their recent draft history and .333 batting average in finding quality pass-catchers. But Calvin Johnson is the real deal, and may be a favourite for rookie of the year along with Adrian Peterson. Granted, this second-place ranking is based in large part on this awful division, but still, it'll be a relatively good year for the Lions, which by their standards is like winning a Super Bowl. Maybe 7-9?

Supplying the rejoinder is my crony and fellow blogger (check the links section) Wasko. His material is funny, and even funnier if you read it in a Jimmy Stewart voice, which Wasko (occasionally) sounds like.

"Oh, what a surprise. Mr. I'm-Down-on-all-Detroit-Franchises (see in particular: the 2006 Detroit Tigers) is sour on the 2007 Detroit Lions. Maybe you're ignoring the fact that our QB is poised to pass for 4,000+ yards, that we picked the best player in the draft (Calvin Johnson), that we have the potential for a high powered offense, that Ernie Sims and Cory Redding are going to anchor a much-improved def—wait…what? You picked them to finish second in the division at 7-9? Hmmm...that's actually probably a bit charitable. Truth be told, Kitna is interception prone, the receivers are underachieving prone, and Mike Martz is, well, Mike Martz.

SI, in its infinite wisdom, picked the Lions to go 4-12, dead last in the NFC North but, embarrassingly, one win better than last season. Reading the preview was actually a little bit painful, since the brighter spots consisted of (a) Martz optimistically noting that "only 9" of Kitna's 22 picks ( 22?! Science Dammit!) were "his fault"; (b) Jeff Backus saying that it's the first time in seven years that guys on the team "actually like each other"; and (c) Coach Marinelli happily observing that the "Do-Right List" (essentially, a glorified breach of etiquette tally) was blank this pre-season. Phew…that's a load off my mind. I'm truly excited about the Calvin Johnson Era (when Mike Furrey—2 nd in the NFL in catches last year with 98—is your number three receiver, you know that your offense has a chance to be explosive), pleased that they signed Tatum Bell, and hopeful that Kevin Jones is healthy enough to contribute. But, at the end of the day, they're still the Lions.

Looking at their schedule, I feel confident that they have absolutely no shot against Chicago (at least once), Philadelphia , Denver, Dallas , and San Diego. So can they go 7-4 against the following teams: Chicago (at home), Oakland, Minnesota (twice), Green Bay (twice), Washington, Tampa, Arizona, the Giants, and KC? Assuming they stay reasonably healthy and assuming that their new stud OLs (Edwin Mulitalo and George Foster) are all they're cracked up to be (thus buying time for Kitna so that he can...presumably suck less), I say yes. That'll put them at 7-9, which should, as you've noted, be good enough for 2 nd in the division—seriously, Favre's arm might very well fall off this season (sorry, buddy!) and having a sexy looking Adrian Peterson-Chester Taylor RB tandem won't mean a damn thing in Minnesota once teams realize the extent of Tarvaris Jackson's awfulness (my guess: about a quarter and a half). That's respectable, but nothing to get excited about . I think I like what Vietnam vet (thus fulfilling the apparent contractual obligation to refer to him as such in every article about the team) Marinelli is doing and I think that they may be on the right track, but I won't be trawling Ebay for playoff tickets anytime soon. That said, if you thought things seem bleak now, I'd like to point out that we're one rolled ankle or twisted knee away from " now entering the game at QB for Lions: Dan Orlavsky!" He went to fucking UConn!

It's hard, of course, to be optimistic about a team that has such a long legacy of being tragically inept. This is, after all, the same team that essentially sapped Barry Sanders, only the most dominant back in the NFL and one of the greatest players ever, of his competitive spirit, prompting him to abruptly retire after the 1998 season. The same team that elected to kick after winning the coin toss in an overtime game (so that they could be with the wind) at a time when everyone was loudly denouncing the OT system for being unfairly skewed in favor of the team that won the toss and received the kick. The same team that missed the 2002 playoffs by allowing a desperate last second drive and long-distance FG as time expired against the Bears. The same team that lost a game on a botched PAT snap (I can't even remember when it was or who it was against, but I remember the game being around Christmas and me almost having a stroke). The same team that went three years ( years) without a road win. The same team that opted to give the team CEO, a man who'd been at the helm for a pants-shittingly bad 24-72 (that's a .200 winning percentage for those keeping track at home) five year stretch, a contract extension…That has won one playoff game in my lifetime (and I'm fucking old)…That perennially drafts seemingly talented players that immediately lose interest in playing football (Mike Williams) or in being punctual (also Williams) or in maintaining their playing weight by displaying even a modicum of willpower when it comes to their eating habits (one more time) or in not being a whiny bitch that no one could possibly in their right mind follow into battle— GOD!! (Joey Harrington) or in not repeatedly fracturing their collarbones (Charles Rogers). Seriously, I can keep going. I mean, the last time they won an NFL title (1957), most teams weren't even desegregated (OK, maybe just the Redskins). That's…an awfully long drought.

That said, I'm well past the "this franchise drives me batshit crazy" phase and I'm coasting into the "this franchise is hilarious" phase. I've found that it's much less stressful if your expectations entering the season are virtually nil. Although, if the Lions lose to the Raiders in Week 1 on a last second TD catch by Mike Williams, I will kill myself."

Ok, here's my crazy flyer this season. I have a weird feeling that the Vikings will be pretty good. There is no logical reason why this should be so. This team has more holes than Travis Henry's box of condoms, but there's always one team that comes out of nowhere every NFL season. Now, this doesn't mean Minnesota will be a playoff team or anything, though in the NFC that's always a possibility. I see them getting off to a strong start -- their first four games are against Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City and they're at home against Green Bay, so a 3-1 or even 4-0 beginning isn't totally out of the question. Then they have a bye, to revel in the "hey, look at the Vikings!" story on ESPN Countdown and FOX NFL Sunday, plus an SI story. Then their next five games are against Chicago, Dallas, Philly, San Diego and (away in) Green Bay, so the rocket will come crashing back to earth. The Vikes will end up around 6-10, maybe 7-9 in all likelihood, but I dunno, I just get a good vibe from this team. Adrian Peterson is going to be a rookie beast.

Some fans are overly optimistic about their teams. I'm not one of these fans. The Pack are going to be awful this year. Genuinely brutal. This team might make the 2005 4-12 team look good by comparison. Green Bay has a rough schedule, no proven receivers besides Donald Driver (and he may be hurt), a defense that got by on fumes in last year's inexplicable .500 season --- when Green Bay were the worst 8-8 team in football history -- and the Pack are putting way too much faith in rookie Brandon Jackson and nobody Verand Morency at running back. The whole key to the team is a strong running game that takes the pressure off of Brett Favre to make him feel like he doesn't have to force passes downfield in order for the team to score. When Favre does this, he gets 2-3 INTs per game and makes me want to set fire to my face and put it out with an axe. This team needed a major overhaul in the offseason and next to nothing was done. This confirms my belief that GM Ted Thompson is a moron who needs to be fired. Only when that happens will Green Bay

By the way, here's a link for you all to read.

My chums Hurk and Larkin over at provided a double rebuttal, which seems fair as Green Bay are my favoured team, so of COURSE they get twice the coverage.

"Overall, the team appears in good shape -- for the future. Despite Mark’s pessimism, Ted Thompson has the Pack on the right track. If it weren’t for Brett Favre’s unwillingness to die/retire, the positives of the rebuilding effort would be more visible. Instead, it looks too much like Green Bay is trying to win now. But with the Lions, Vikings, and Chicago Rex Grossmans appearing on the schedule twice each, a few gimmie wins are always there for the taking.

Offensively, Mark’s concerns are warranted. Throughout the season, dutiful network commentators will remind you that the great Brett Favre is on the cusp of eclipsing the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record. Good, great, grand. Let’s just try to keep our erections in check and remember he’s also on the cusp of eclipsing the NFL’s all-time interception record, too. He’s like the Lenny Wilkens of football. Wilkens is the winningest coach, yeah, but he’s also the losingest coach, so he’s really just the coachingest coach.

It isn’t all Favre’s fault, mind you. He’s suffered through a sore lack of offensive talent the past few years and has felt pressure to make plays he’s no longer capable of. If anyone understands what Favre’s going through, it’s Eugene Levy. Think about it. Glory days with the first couple American Pie flicks, but he didn’t know when to quit. Now he’s carrying a no-name cast in horrible, direct-to-video sequels, and even if Bubba Fra - er, Stifler, pops up now and then, he doesn’t bring the same talent to the table he used to. Maybe the magic would still be there if Antonio Freeman were catching bombs and Shannon Elizabeth was flopping her hooters in our faces, but we’ll probably never know.

Regardless, the situation isn’t quite as bleak as Mark believes -- there is (some) talent among the committee of running backs; young receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones have shown promise as very solid compliments to Driver; and much of the offensive line is in capable hands thanks to Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and Scott Wells -- though even the most optimistic fan shouldn’t be too excited about the possibility of revisiting the high-flying Packer offences of the mid-’90s.

Defensively, Mark is more confused than an old man trying to work the DVD player his grandchildren gave him for Christmas. The defensive line is so deep the team has kept 10 players on the roster and all should see fair time in the rotation. Defensive tackle is particularly strong thanks to the emergence of a few youngsters during training camp. This line should keep pressure on quarterbacks and off the secondary and be among the league’s best units.

The rest of the box defenders aren’t too shabby themselves. Nick Barnett is a very solid tackling machine in the middle, though he’s perhaps a bit overrated and certainly a bit overzealous when it comes to celebrating -- no, he didn’t just win the Super 7 or score a threesome with his girlfriend and her sister; he just held Chester Taylor to a three-yard gain on second down in Week 4. Outside ’backer A.J. Hawk is a budding star and Brady Poppinga, while not a household name, will be fine on the other side.

The secondary is led by superb, underrated corner Al Harris and his partner Charles Woodson. They’re not flashy, but they make one of the better corner tandems in the league (seriously -- I’m not saying that just because Woodson is a big name, either; he was legitimately good last year). If the defence falters, it will be because of coverage breakdowns among the safeties and nickelback. Nick Collins has excellent skills but looks like Stevie Wonder trying to catch a butterfly when running down a ball in the air. Atari Bigby will start across from him. I don’t really know anything about him, but his name sounds pretty cool. Nickel is unsettled, though it’s fair to assume it won’t be pretty.

By no means will this season be a disaster. But it won’t be championship-worthy, either. Seven or eight wins and steady improvement of the young roster is reasonable. Give Thompson another year or two to shore up the secondary and invest some more picks on offence and depressed Midwesterners will stop picking chunks of bratwurst out of their moustaches, emerge from their basements and don their Cheese Heads with pride. Please just don’t remind us that the last time we said that, we waited 30 years for another Super Bowl."


God help me, I actually think the Cowboys will benefit in a season after they replaced Bill Parcells with Wade Phillips. This doesn't seem possible. It is the exact opposite prediction that I made with the Chargers and their adoption of a retread coach. What could possibly be the.... oh right, it's because the Chargers are in the AFC and the Cowboys are in the pitiful NFC. I think they take the division with a bit of luck and a bit of a step back from the Eagles. My biggest hope for Dallas' season is that it inspires another year of I love Burgers!

Mes ami James, avec le repondre...

"Although certain people (author included) were in dire straits when veteran pivot Drew Bledsoe was benched and replaced by the snap-fumbling Tony Romo, I have to agree with Mark that the Cowboys have enough weapons to keep their heads above water in the wimpy NFC. Romo has an impressive host of targets and offensive weapons, and if Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer can pressure the quarterback as expected, no one will want to play the 'Boys."

So why am I picking the Eagles (who have a lot more talent and a lot fewer question marks than the Cowboys) to finish second? Distractions. Cutting Jeremiah Trotter was not a wise move, as though he's lost a step, he was a team leader on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Andy Reid has spent a big chunk of the off-season devoted to family issues, namely his two druggie sons. Insert the "he should be coaching the Raiders or Bengals instead" joke here. Now, I still think the Eagles have enough to get into the playoffs, and might just knock out Dallas should they actually meet up in the first round. But I think that Philly will tease its fans with a big win or two, but then follow it up by losing to an inferior team or choking away a big win in the late minutes. I forsee a frustrating 9-7 or 10-6 campaign for the men in green.

The Skins are my sleeper pick of the season that I actually legitimately like, since the Vikings don't really count. This team has talent, period. If this is going to be Joe Gibbs' last season as an NFL coach before returning to his NASCAR team, then the old coach has too much pride to go out like a Spurrier. I think Jason Campbell will end up being a good quarterback, they have one of the better offensive lines in the league and rookie LaRon Landry is going to be a beast. I may look back on this pick in six months and laugh, but I've got the Skins going 9-7 and maybe even sneaking into that final playoff berth in the NFC. It will take some craptastic play from the likes of the 49ers and Panthers for the Skins to get in, but what the hell, you just have to like a team where the running back has schizophrenia. Clinton Portis is the NFL's answer to Multiple Man.

Speaking of distractions, even in retirement Tiki Barber is a pain in this team's ass. I'm not one to defend Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin, but where the hell does Tiki get off slamming them over last season when their crappiness wasn't nearly the problem that Tiki's ongoing retirement drama was to the G-men? I've given up on Barber ever since that hilarious SI article where he said his role model was Matt Lauer. What an asshole.

Anyway, it's possible the Giants rebound with a Ewing Theory year after losing their overrated running back, especially with man-beast Brandon Jacobs taking over as the featured ball-carrier. But...well, Eli does suck. And Coughlin lost his team last year, and is widely regarded as a dead man walking in the last year of his contract, as Giants management is just itching to clean house with a new staff. Michael Strahan seems to be taking over Tiki's role with the retirement distraction, though that is widely regarded as a smoke-screen to get more money from New York. Strahan, y'see, got taken to the cleaners by his wife in the divorce settlement. I'm sure Strahan has complained at length about it over candlelight dinners of wine and Subway meatball subs with Jared.

NFC wild cards: Eagles, Redskins
NFC champion: Seattle Seahawks

Friday, September 07, 2007


It's that time of year again for my hilariously inaccurate NFL picks. In fact, my picks have such a long history of failure that I've decided instead of waiting five months to have scorn heaped upon me, I've decided to do it within the body of the post itself. I contacted several friends who were fans of several NFL teams, mailed them the portion of the post that dealt with their team, and let them rebut with an agreement or disagreement about my prediction. You'll note that not every team has a fan reaction since, well, I don't know anyone who would admit to following the likes of the Arizona Cardinals. A big thanks to everyone who helped out. Without further adieu, onto the AFC! The NFC will follow tomorrow.


So Peyton Manning finally won his Super Bowl. Yippee.  I can at least take solace in the fact that since everything went right last year for the Colts, they cannot possibly get that fortunate again. The Patriots won't allow it. It doesn't help that Indy lost some key guys on defense, and Bob Sanders (the real team MVP last year, in my opinion) is nursing a sore shoulder. Indy will win 10+ games for the umpteenth straight year and win this (crappy) division, but come the playoffs, they're going to find themselves SOL this season. Hopefully it happens in New England as Manning puts on his pouty face after another 9-for-23, three INT day.

You'd think that my dislike of the Colts would've gone away after they won it all, eh? Think again! I'm far too petty to let this pass.  Plus, apparently Tony Dungy, who I used to like, is one of these conservative Christians. Geez Tony, you used to be Esera Tuaolo's defensive coordinator. Do you want him mad at you for not supporting gay marriage? He could whip your ass.

The responding prediction comes from my mate Chris...

"Well your prediction sounds pretty accurate, though I thought their defense sucked last year and they actually won it...but more importantly, why all the hate? Was Marino your favorite player as a kid? Do you cry yourself to sleep now that Peyton has won a Super Bowl? Don't worry Mark, I'll save you a seat on the Peyton bandwagon for when you come around. As for the season, anything can happen come playoffs."

Though I'm a die-hard Packer Backer, I'm not above wearing NFL apparel of a team I respect. For this reason, I own a Jacksonville Jaguars t-shirt that is still part of my semi-regular t-shirt rotation. I think I got it as a gift from a relative who was in Jacksonville or something, but nonetheless, 'tis a quality garment representing a somewhat quality team. Of course, had it been a Cowboys or Colts shirt, it would've become an expensive dust rag, but I've had no problem with the Jags. They play a fundamentally sound kind of football that, if they played in the NFC, probably would've resulted in a string of playoff berths and maybe a conference title by now. Unfortunately, the Jags seem to be held back every year by one or two nagging things that keep them from truly breaking through. Even when they were 12-4 two years ago, they weren't taken seriously by anyone and were summarily dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by New England. I think I'm going to project the Jags to finish just outside of that top sphere again --- another 8-8 year looks likely.

On a personal note, I love Maurice Jones-Drew. His nickname is MoJo. He's a little butterball of a runner that hides deceptive speed in his Kirby Puckett-esque frame. Between he and somehow-not-in-a-body-cast Fred Taylor, the Jags have a very strong running game that can theoretically make up for their mixed up quarterback situation and lack of receivers. Jacksonville has been kind of a poor man's version of the Lions when it comes to drafting receivers -- first-round picks Matt Jones and Reggie Williams are projected as third and fourth receivers, respectively. Ouch.

Maybe Mario Williams can save a child from a burning building, or save the mayor from being assassinated or something. Maybe then the people of Houston won't groan every time they realize the Texans took him with the #1 overall pick. Williams' development will be a key factor to a Texans season that I think will be a bit better than people expect. Their D stinks, to be sure, and running back Ahman Green is washed up with a capital W, but quarterback Matt Schaub will prove to be a keeper. He has to, or else the cosmic farce the the universe is playing on the Atlanta Falcons wouldn't be complete if the backup they dealt just before their franchise QB was arrested for a dog fighting racket DIDN'T go on to become a star.

Is it a cliche to think that the Madden Curse will cripple the Titans this season? Vince Young has everything going for him (well, aside from his crappy receivers) but now this Curse will set things back at least a year. Is it truly foolish to think that this silly video game box curse will truly play a factor? No. No it isn't. Young isn't just on the Madden box, either. Do you realize that he has six Sports Illustrated covers already in his life? That's stunning. To put it in perspective, Peyton Manning has been on the cover nine times in a career that is about six times longer.

Between the Madden Curse and the SI Curse, something's got to give for Young this season. The bright side is that Tennessee's schedule isn't terribly imposing (they're matched against the NFC South and the likes of Atlanta and Tampa Bay, plus two against Houston and one against Oakland) and Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in the league. I think the Titans pull off something close to 8-8, but 9-7 is pretty much the ceiling. The only Titan winning a championship this year will be Pacman Jones picking up one half of the TNA Wrestling tag team titles.

With the counter-argument is my compadre Aaron...

"Mark, I'm disappointed in you. Two hundred and ten words about my beloved Tennessee Titans and not a single joke about LenDale White's prodigious ability to consume donuts at a hall-of-fame pace.

LenDale White is fat. Would it really bother you to point that out?

Nonetheless, you're right to focus on Vince Young. At last report, he was expected to start at quarterback for the Titans this year. And therein lies the problem.

For the Titans to have any hope of making the playoffs this year, Vince can no longer selfishly cling to his dream of being an NFL quarterback. Not when he could, and should, also be playing running back, wide receiver, cornerback, middle linebacker, dietician, nose tackle AND quarterback. Lacking anyone of any quality at any of those spots, the Titans must move immediately to start Vince at a minimum of five different positions.

Guys in the Arena League play both offense and defense all the time, so that shouldn't be a problem for our Vince. The challenge will be both throwing and catching his own passes. But if Jeff Fisher takes advantage of the league's pass interference rules, I believe it can be done. He'll just have to throw a lot of lobs. And get LenDale to eat all opposing defensive backs.

In this scenario, the Titans not only make the playoffs, but probably make it to the Super Bowl. My prediction:

Vince Young 241, New Orleans Saints 18."


I like Denver's chances of being the losers of the AFC championship game. Their defense is a top-six unit and their offense will be adequate at the very least. Jay Cutler showed enough promise last year that the Broncos head into 2007 without even a hint of regret about cutting Jake Plummer's worthless ass.

One could focus on the tragic deaths of two Denver players in the winter, but that's a bit of a downer for a wacky preview like this. Ergo, my favourite Broncos-related story from the off-season was when receiver David Kircus was arrested for getting into a fight at a party. Mike Shanahan threatened to cut the marginal talent, but Kircus said he was innocent and backed it up with a lie detector test administered by the team. I think all NFL teams should do this. Hell, the Bengals should probably head down to Costco and get a whole batch of polygraphs in bulk. The only exception would be the Cowboys, since not even a lie detector could wade through the bullshit that comes out of Terrell Owens' mouth. He's crossed over into the George Costanza realm of "it's not a lie if YOU believe it."

By the way, Kircus was cut on August 28. Zing!

Hiring Norv Turner to coach your talented team is like hiring an armless chauffeur to drive your limo. The late decision to fire Marty Schottenheimer really left the team behind the curve in hiring a prime coaching candidate, thus leaving San Diego with the retread. It's been said that Sandy Koufax led to more crappy pitching than any other pitcher, since because Koufax took long to develop before becoming a superstar, future teams held onto their promising but bad young hurlers with the hopes they would eventually get it. Most never did, and thus many a pitching staff was ruined in the process. It's possible Bill Belichick is the Koufax of NFL coaches. Belichick did a brutal job in Cleveland before becoming a genius in New England, and thus now NFL teams think they can find some ugly duckling coach and hope he turns into a swan the next time around. The problem with Turner is that he's been a failure twice, and third time is never the charm when it comes to leading a football team.

Poor LaDainian. In the prime of his career, on his way to being one of the all-time greats. And his team sabotages what may end up being his best shot at a Super Bowl with a truly lame coach. At least Schottenheimer had a good regular season before failing in the playoffs. Turner's only made the playoffs once in nine (!) seasons as a coach. This is a truly disgusting move and in the tough AFC, it might actually threaten the Chargers' playoff hopes. I think they squeak in as a #5 or #6 seed, then meet their end in the opening round.

I've mentioned a few times in this preview about the strength of the AFC, but sometimes too many good teams can work against a conference. For example, the Chiefs somehow got into the sixth playoff spot last season in spite of being maybe only the eighth or ninth best team in terms of actual talent since the other (better) teams beat up on each other and KC snuck through.

There will be no such luck this year, not after losing strength on the O-line and losing Trent Green at quarterback. Herm Edwards may win....the game, but he won't have many opportunities to do so with this crappy club. The only way the Chiefs sneak back into the playoffs is if the other AFC teams don't just beat up on each other, but get into a street brawl a la Anchorman and things escalate quickly. Maybe Chad Pennington will have to lie low for a while after stabbing Ed Reed with a trident.

Counter-analysis is provided by my old school chum Craiger...

"Brodie Croyle is not the answer. He was terrible at Alabama, was drafted too high, and the Chiefs have put too much faith in their young signal-caller. Larry Johnson’s holdout was a distraction. It is understandable that he wants to be paid more, but until he becomes a more complete player, he doesn’t deserve to be the highest paid RB. This team seems to be in the rebuilding phase, which is strange seeing as most of their players are staring at retirement in a couple years."

The Raiders have a very good secondary. They certainly do. It's one of the better secondaries in the AFC, no doubt about it. Unfortunately for Raiders fans, the secondary in comparison to the rest of the team is like Kevin Spacey in comparison to the rest of the characters in Usual Suspects -- one gets it, the rest are clueless. Oakland is going to be godawful once again this season, and they honestly might continue this way until Al Davis finally croaks. A story broke this week saying that new coach Lane Kiffin was upset at some of the roster cuts since the edict to cut certain guys came from the front office. Seriously? What team operates like this? Why hire a guy (a 32-year-old guy, to boot) and then immediately undermine him in this way?

The rebuttal is provided by my acquaintance Pranay....

"When your top pick and future of the franchise still hasn't signed, when your starting running back gets suspended and when your coach gets mono,the outlook for the season looks pretty grim, and you expect to hear the words "with the first overall pick in the 2008 Draft, the Oakland Raiders select.....".

However, all hopes are not lost in Raider Nation and the Oakland Raiders have a good chance of being one of the sleepers in the league this year. The one thing they have going for them is that they have a terrific young D that ranked in the top 10 in many categories last year and however inept the offense is their defence should keep them in many games. Another thing they have going for them is that they have quite an easy schedule and open the season facing Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and Miami and there is a strong possibility they can get off to a great start and gain some confidence.

Daunte Culpepper also is a reason us in Raider Nation have reasonable expectations, remember he is only a couple seasons removed from his 39 TD performace and has a lot to prove to the league that he can still play, and he can also tutor the likes of first overall pick JaMarcus Russell(if he signs that is).

All in all, don't expect the 2007 Raiders to be like the 2006 Saints and take the league by storm, but with that D, a new competant QB and a coach so young he gets mono, it is not farfetched to dream for an 8-8 season."


One of my favourite stats in sports is that since 1969, the Steelers have had only three head coaches. Mike Tomlin is probably safe in not getting a lease in Pittsburgh. I like Pittsburgh, the city, a lot. It's surprisingly scenic and has a cool downtown comprised of that kind of architecture that's all steel and glass. Something deco? Anyway, a city that nice deserves a good football team, and the Steelers are going to bounce back to be contenders against this season. Last year was really kind of a write-off given that when a veteran team wins a Super Bowl, a sense of complacency is bound to set in. Also, it was clear that Bill Cowher had one foot out the door already, and if a coach isn't totally committed, it affects the entire team. It also affects the team when its quarterback has his face re-arranged by a car windshield, but Big Ben should be back to normal this season. I like the Steelers to retake the division title by a hair over the Ravens, but they'll come up a bit short in the playoffs.

Speaking of coming up short in the playoffs, hey Ravens, what the hell else do you need? You had a first round bye last year, Princess Peyton and the Colts at home, and I was looking forward to seeing a white-and-blue splattering all over Corporate Name Stadium. Instead, the Ravens choked and now face a season where they're still largely the same, but everyone is a year older and closer to death. It is a testament of Baltimore's defensive strength that they can lose an Adelius Thomas and still be considered a top two unit, but it remains to be seen how they fill the gap left by his absence. Jonathan Ogden will apparently play this season and is okay to go from a turf toe injury, so Ravens fans can breathe a sign of relief. Had Ogden been out of action, I probably would've picked Baltimore to miss the playoffs. Seriously. As it is, I'll just pick them to get knocked out in the first round.

The rebuttal comes from my brother, Matt. Am I downplaying Baltimore just because my brother loves them? Maybe. I am petty.

"Okay, so the ravens choked last year in the playoffs? Against the SUPERBOWL champs, and Princess Peyton who will clearly go down in history probably beating Marino's records and being the best QB of all time (yes, better than Kyle Boller). I believe the ravens were the only team not to allow a touchdown against the colts last year and did have a 5-1 division record against the AFC North, the best division in fooball two years running. But enough about last year, I am excited about this year because the Ravens will have another great season. Without Adelius Thomas this year their defense will still be number 1# in the league. The 'gap' will be filled by 6"3" 270 Jarret Johnson. With T Suggs dropping back from defensive end and Ray Ray and Bart Scott at LB, the ravens should be okay. The ravens will have the best secondary in the league, look for second year players Prude and Landry to be added to the many Ravens going to the Pro Bowl in 07. I think McGahee will be an improvement from Jamal Lewis, and with 10 time pro-bowler Ogden ready to go, look for some big runs up the left side. I can see the Ravens going either 10-6 or 11-5 this year, with their tough stretch coming from Nov 25 till Dec 9th, playing the chargers, new england and the colts."

In the aftermath of the Mike Vick fiasco, the Bengals' legal problems suddenly don't look so bad, eh? Too bad they'll just continue to underachieve on the field. Marvin Lewis' star has dimmed in the wake of having so many miscreants that he can't control on his club, and you've got to wonder if this team has the character to contend. Relative good guys Rudi Johnson and Carson Palmer must feel like embedded reporters in a war zone. The Bengals will again miss the playoffs since they just don't have enough to contend with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, let alone the rest of the beasts in the AFC. Call it another 8-8 campaign.

The counter-argument is provided by my pal Matt...

"Don't let Mark fool you the outlook for the Bengals is actually quite good this season. While they have had a significant amount of legal problems, the jails can't hold enough of them Bengals to prevent this team from being a powerhouse this season. Carson Palmer is far superior to Jesse Palmer is several ways. He is a badass who scores as much with the ladies as he does on the football field. By score I mean throw touchdowns! I mean the dude is a one man wrecking crew. Add to that a supporting cast of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmanzaka (some long weird name), and Rudi Johnson and you have a offence that is going to score more than Mark's easy cousin. If the Bengals get a decent effort on the defensive side of the ball they should finish 20-1. Oh wait they only play 16 games. Make that 11-5."

Well, the Brownies made it through preseason without a key player suffering a season-ending injury. Thumbs up! Now they'll suck on their own merits without worrying about what may have been. The drama will come from when Brady Quinn steps in at quarterback, since nobody thinks Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson are going to last the whole season. I have my eye on November 25 against the Texans, since it allows Quinn to avoid the Steelers and Ravens. It would be a shame if Brady were bruised so badly by those tough defenses that it would interfere with his modeling career in homoerotic internet photos.

The counter argument is provided by my dad. It isn't a true rebuttal, since that would imply my dad being able to use e-mail, which isn't happening anytime soon. However, he did figure the Browns for a 4-12 record, based on his preseason method of sitting down with the schedule and picking every NFL game in August. It isn't a foolproof method -- last year he had New Orleans going 1-15. But I somehow doubt the Browns will take inspiration from their city being destroyed by a hurricane. After all, Cleveland is already pretty crummy as it is.


The reason why the Pats have three Super Bowl titles in the last six years can be analyzed in how they and other contenders approached off-season roster holes. The Bears chose to stick with Super Bowl failure Rex Grossman, in spite of the fact that they will never take the next step with him at QB. The Chargers replaced a coaching choke artist with a coach that hasn't even been successful enough to get to a game where he could choke.

The Patriots, on the other hand, were undone last season by a near-total lack of talent at the receiver position. So, to remedy this problem, Bill Belichick went out and got a shitload of good receivers. Wes Walker, Donte Stallworth, Kelley Washington and the x-factor himself, Randy Moss. You might argue that none of these guys are exactly superstars, unless you think Moss can regain his form from five years ago. But that's the point -- none of them have to be superstars. The Pats just need guys who can catch a goddamn ball once in a while. Who can forget Reche Caldwell's bug-eyed reaction as he dropped pass after pass in the AFC Championship game? If New England had even decent play from Caldwell and their other pass-catchers, they undoubtedly would've won that game and then whomped the Bears in the Super Bowl. And, not to be outdone, the Pats also added superstar linebacker Adelius Thomas and pass-catching tight end Kyle Brady.

It's going to be tough for any team to unseat the Patriots this season. They seem to be on a mission. I can see a business-like 13-3 record or so in the regular season, followed by utter annihilation in the playoffs. Were it not for a faulty game from Brady two years ago and the receiver shitshow last January, New England could very well be going for their fifth straight Super Bowl. Barring a Toronto FC-esque run of injuries or if Laurence Maroney's late-season lack of burst is an ongoing problem, they'll take the title once again.

The response comes from my compatriot Scotty D...

"As a devoted Patriot fan, I can do nothing but agree with your assessment. Reche Caldwell has been burnt at the stake and we will move on with Welker, Moss, Stallworth, Washington. In Brady we trust - maybe he'll win this one for his new son. I can just see the post Superbowl interview now: Gisele on one side, Bridget and John on the other - heart warming shit! I'll take a more conservative 11-5 regular season, followed by a dominating playoff run, and obvious Super Bowl championship."

Coaching whiz kid and noted fat-ass Eric Mangini brought the Jets back to the playoffs last season, but it's going to be a harder ride in 2007. I just don't see the Jets catching teams by surprise again, and their schedule isn't the cake factory that last year's was. Miami is better, and the Jets (if anything) got a bit worse. Losing Pete Kendall is a blow. He is an ass, but an outstanding guard. I see the green men falling back and missing the playoffs in the tough AFC.

You know something, Cam Cameron? You had a lot going for you. You had a reputation as an offensive wizard. You have a goofy name. You were replacing the hated Nick Saban in Miami, so the Dolphins fans were waiting to embrace you with open arms. In the face of all this success, you decided to draft Ted Ginn Jr. (a friggin' kick return specialist!) with the #9 overall pick in the draft. Rumour has it that this pick was made in part because Cameron and Ted Ginn Sr. are old buddies. Are you kidding me, Cameron? You know what I did to help my buddy Jeff last month? I went to his stag and doe. I didn't offer to draft his son to my NFL team. There are bound-aries.

God, I'm disgusted. This is enough reason for me to be down on the Dolphins this season. Though Trent Green will be an upgrade at QB and Jason Taylor will continue to destroy people, I just can't pick the Fish as a dark horse playoff team in the face of this idiocy. Call it 7-9, tops. At least now I can also laugh at the fact that Joey Porter is signed for $20 million guaranteed and may have a serious injury. And, if Cleo Lemon ends up getting playing time at quarterback, the Dolphin Stadium PA system will start playing U2's 'Lemon' in tribute. Wait a second... that would be awesome! Go Cleo!

Every fantasy football plan in the world knows of Marshawn Lynch. He's the guy that many would-be GMs hope fall to the middle-to-end of round two so they can snatch him up and wallow in the crapulence of fantasy glory. There is only slightly less real-life pressure on Lynch to have success with the Bills and fill the shoes of the departed Willis McGahee. Hopefully Lynch, unlike McGahee, finds Buffalo's weather and women to be up to par. That seems to be the key to survival in Buffalo. O.J. was a normal well-adjusted man when he was with the Bills, but once he was without that envelope of cold weather and folksy northern New York state women, he went cuh-rayzee.

Anyway, Lynch is basically Buffalo's only hope. Unless he's uber right out of the gate, the Bills are in trouble. Their defense was rocked with the loss of several quality veterans, and this is definitely the shit-or-get-off-the-pot year for J.P. Losman. Buffalo is staring a 6-10 season right in the face. In a related note, owner Ralph Wilson and head honcho Marv Levy are a combined 610 years old.

My comrade Scott has the return opinion...

"Sadly even the most optimistic Bills fan can't feel good about the upcoming season. As you pointed out, the success of the teams rests in the hands of a rookie running back, and a quarterback who looks like Adam Sandler (that can't be a good thing). Bills fans are hoping Lynch will be more productive on the field, and less productive off it, than his predecessors Willis McGahee and Travis Henry. (It recently came to light that Henry has fathered nine kids with nine different women, while Willis has three kids with three women)

As for J.P Losman, you're right- this is a shit-or-get-off the pot year. During his two previous seasons as the Bills starter he has shown glimpses that he has the talent to be an elite NFL quarterback. His problem is he's mistake prone, and very inconsistent. This year the Bills drafted Stanford Quarterback Trent Edwards, so if Losman gets off to a slow start, Edwards might get a shot.

The NFL schedule-makers did the Bills no favours. They open the season against Denver, Pittsburgh, New England, New York Jets, Dallas and Baltimore...yikes. 6-10 sounds about right."

AFC wild cards: Baltimore, San Diego
AFC champion: New England Patriots

Sunday, September 02, 2007


So yeah, here's the update about my search for a favourite college football team. Michigan is eliminated. That is all.