Sep 302012

The New England Patriots clearly saw something in the Buffalo Bills’ defensive front seven of which they thought they could take advantage. And after struggling through an awful first half the Patriots got back to their game plan and asserted their will over the Buffalo Bills, crushing them 52-28 in Orchard Park, New York. The Patriots dominated the Bills on the ground, rushing for 247 yards. Undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Bolden carried the ball 16 times for 137 yards and one touchdown, while Stevan Ridley rushed for 106 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. But it wasn’t just the ground attack that shredded the Bills. Both Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski surpassed 100 yards receiving with Gronkowski catching one touchdown after both players lost fumbles in the first half.

The Patriots went into the half down 14-7 after missing two field goals and turning the ball over twice in the first half. Only a defensive blast by Brandon Spikes stopped the Bills from taking a 14 point lead into the half after his devastating hit knocked the ball out of CJ Spiller’s hands before Vince Wilfork came away with it. The Patriots went into the half looking vulnerable, after dropping the last two contests against the Cardinals and Ravens by a total of three points.

The second half started out the same way. After a Patriots’ punt to open the half, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones for a 68 yard touchdown pass and the Bills went up 21-7. It looked like the rout might be on. But eight plays later scrambled out of the pocket to find Danny Woodhead on his way to the end zone and the Patriots closed the gap to 7. After a Bills’ three and out, the Patriots started deep in their own territory, but again used an eight play drive to find the end zone, this time with Brady scrambling it in for a four yard touchdown. After a four play Bills possession, the Patriots were again on the march, this time resulting in an easy Brady to Gronkowski touchdown pass that pushed the Patriots ahead 28-21.

The Bills were reeling at this point, and three plays later Fred Jackson fumbled and the Patriots recovered at the Bills 42. Stevan Ridley scored six plays later for a 35-21 Patriots’ advantage. Three more plays later Devin McCourty picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick and returned the ball to the Bills’ 12, and Bolden scored to make it a 21 point lead. The Bills struck back on the next drive with a terrific play from Fitzpatrick to Brad Smith, cutting the lead to 42-28. But the Patriots struck back with a touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to seal the 52-28 win.

The win had many blemishes. Besides sloppy play, the Bills’ offense shredded the Patriots’ secondary for 350 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, though Fitzpatrick also threw four interceptions as Patriots’ pressure resulted in underthrown balls and poor decisions on the part of the Bills’ quarterback. Stephen Gostkowski had a forgettable game. After missing the game-winning kick against the Cardinals two weeks ago, the Ghost missed his first two attempts this week, pushing one kick to the right and pulling another to the left, before finally connecting on a 30-yarder in the games closing minutes.

How the game broke down

When the Patriots ran:

The Patriots had a monster game on the ground, rushing for 247 yards and having two backs rush for over 100 yards, the first time the franchise has done that since 1980. Brandon Bolden blasted through the line at will, seemingly picking up big chunks on every play while Stevan Ridley rotated between sizable chunks and churning out tough yards for first down conversion. The front seven of the Bills, highly touted all week leading up to the game, had no answers for the Patriots’ devastating ground attack. Advantage: Patriots

When the Patriots passed:

Tom Brady was 22 of 36 for 340 yards, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Brady connected with seven different receivers, with Welker catching nine passes, Gronk six, and Brandon Lloyd snagging three. Good secondary play by Stephon Gilmore being the only thing that prevented a complete Bills’ meltdown as he defended well against Brandon Lloyd on the outside. Still, Brady shredded the middle of the field and the Bills had no answers thanks to the effective Patriots’ rushing attack that let Brady strike at will in the second half. Advantage: Patriots

When the Bills ran:

The Bills netted only 98 yards on the ground despite having both Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller in the line-up. Worse for the Bills, both players lost fumbles for Buffalo. New England’s front seven routinely blew up runners and Brandon Spikes had a big day, as did Vince Wilfork. Advantage: Patriots

When the Bills passed:

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns, and seemed to hit big plays all day long against the Patriots’ secondary. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick’s lack of arm strength stopped the Bills from being even more effective, and his underthrowing contributed to four Patriots’ interceptions on the day. One could look at Devin McCourty and feel good about his two interceptions today, but on one of those he was clearly beat and Fitzpatrick threw the ball right to him. The Patriots were able to apply decent pressure on Fitzpatrick, but the Patriots coverage group broke down on numerous occasions. Advantage: Bills

Special Teams:

Close call here. The Ghost missed two field goal attempts but hammered kickoffs through the end zone. Zoltan Mesko was effective in giving the Bills difficult starting position. The shanked punt by Shawn Powell gives the Patriots the edge. Advantage: Patriots

Key Play: Brady’s four yard touchdown run to tie the game, which was upheld after review. As the play was upheld, Brady could be seen saying “F%#k you, B($#hes to no one in particular, which amused Wes Wlker to no end. Clearly, Tom was pumped and angry, and he fought to lead the Patriots comeback.

Game Ball: Brandon Bolden, who ripped through the Buffalo defense on his way to 137 yards and 8.6 yards per carry.

Game Log

Pre-game Notes: Gronk in. Hernandez, Edelman. Mankins out. These absences making the game a bigger challenge than it would already be. Expect heavy doses of Gronk and Welker today from the Patriots. Wearing the new official #12 game day jersey; let’s see how it fares!


Patriots defer on coin toss.

Bills’ possession

Jackson for a first down on the first play. Misdirection pass for another first – expect to see that a lot today. Jackson stuffed on the next play. Fitzpatrick scrambles for 7. First down to Chandler. Jackson for 5. Jackson for 3 more. Jackson stuffed for loss. Great play by Chandler Jones. Bills punt to New England 10.

Patriots’ possession

Fells across the 25 on first down. Vereen short catch for 6. Big play downfield to Gronk to the Bills’ 26. Gronk inside the 20. Ridley for a first down in the red zone. Walker to the 6 off play action. Ridley touchdown. Patriots take an early 7-0 lead. 90 yard drive in 7 plays.

Bills’ possession

Quick pass for 8. Spiller chased out of bounds for a loss by Hightower. Johnson for first down to the Bills’ 40. Short pass to Spiller for 3. Hightower takes down Fitzpatrick for one yard sack. Pick by Mao on a deflection by Wilfork.

Patriots’ possession

Incomplete pass batted down by Darius. Ridley for 8. Incomplete to Brandon Lloyd. Patriots punt to the Bills, 5, fielded by Matthew Slater.

Bills’ possession

Screen pass to Dickerson out to the 30. Jackson for 4. Jackson for another yard. Sack by Chandler Jones. Bills punt and Patriots start at own 29.

Patriots possession

Incomplete pass to Lloyd. Bolden runs for a first down. End of first quarter.


Patriots possession

Brady misses Welker for an incompletion. Bolden for 2. Woodhead reception short of the first down. Patriots punt to the Bills’ one yard line.

Bills’ possession

Spiller to the 3. Patriots call time out #1. McCourty picks off deep pass, who was beaten and came back for the under thrown ball.

Patriots’ possession

Bolden for 12. Gilmore hurt on play. Incomplete pass on first down under late pressure. Bolden for short loss. Deep pass to Lloyd is incomplete. Ghost is wide right by 49 yard field goal try.

Bills’ possession

Chandler crosses midfield on first down pass. Short loss for Jackson; holding against Bills declined. Fitzpatrick overthrows deep pass. Third down pass to Chandler incomplete. Bills punt fair caught by Welker at the 9.

Patriots’ possession

Short pass to Gronkntomthe 24; Gronk drops the ball and the Bills recover.

Bills’ possession

Fitzpatrick to Chandler for 24 yard touchdown completion. Patriots 7 Bills 7.

Patriots’ possession

Welker pass for 9. Ridley for another 8. Ridley for 7, and then another 6. Vereen for no gain. Intentional incompletion follows on broken screen play. First down pass to Lloyd. Incomplete pass on next play. Ridley pounds out 8 yards. Ridley runs to the 29, bringing up forth down. Patriots call time out #2. Gostkowski 42 yard field goal is wide left; three straight misses now for Ghost. Points being left on the field again today.

Bills’ possession

TJ Graham for 7 on quick pass. Jackson stuffed on screen. Great pass from Fitzpatrick to Fred Jackson to the Patriots’ 27. Spiller to the 20. Another Fitzpatrick touchdown pass to Chandler for 14-7 Bills’ lead.

Patriots’ possession

Ridley for no gain. Brady sacked for 7 yard loss, bringing up long third down. Welder take a pass to the 27, then fumbles it. Bills recover. It’s like the Pats are trying to implode before halftime.

Bills’ possession

Bills start at Patriots’ 21. Incomplete pass defended by Chung. Errant pass by Fitzpatrick on second down. First down pass to Brad Smith at the 8. Two minute warning. Spiller to the 4. Spiller fumble recovered by Vince Wilfork after huge hit by Brandon Spikes.

Patriots possession

Ridley to the 14. Ridley four more for first down. Patriots run out the clock, trailing at halftime 14-7.


Patriots’ possession

Patriots open the half lucky to not be down two scores. Pats start at their own 20. Welker big catch and run to the 46. Bolden for 2. Gronk drops a Sure touchdown after a hit by Glimore. Third down pass batted down. Patriots punt to the Bills’ 17.

Bills’ possession

Jackson taken down for no gain. False start sets Bills back five yards. Fitzpatrick pass to Chandler tipped away by Spikes. Screen to Jackson nets a first down. Jackson for 4. Fatzpatrick quick pass to Donald Jones goes for a long 68 yard touchdown. Bills 21 Patriots 7.

Patriots’ possession

Pass to Bolden for first down. Bolden big gain for 27 yards. Bolden for another first down run. Ridley for 7. Ridley for a first down. Gronk drops a pass at the 3 yard line. Ridley for 2 to the 17. Brady scrambles out of trouble to complete touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead. Bills 21 Patriots 14. Brady: 36 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass.

Bills’ possession

Long pass incomplete with good coverage by McCourty. Spiller stopped by Wilfork for one yard. Pass to Chandler incomplete. Bills punt all the way to the Patriots 25, but penalty against the Patriots adds 10 more.

Patriots’ possession

Welker first down pass to the 28. Ridley for 1. Welker to the 45 yard line. Bolden rips off a 20 yard run. Bolden for 4 more. Brady to Welker to the 13; roughing gets the ball to the 7. Bolden to the 4. Brady runs it in for the score. Patriots 21 Bills 21.

Bills’ possession

22 yard pass to Jones to stat the drive. Jackson stuffed by Ninkovich for two yard loss. Ninkovich sacks Fitzpatrick and forces fumble, which Bills’ recover. Left tackle Cordy Glenn hurt on play. Fitzpatrick pass incomplete on third down. Bills punt is a shank to the Patriots’ 37.

Patriots’ possession

7 yard out to Welker. Ridley pushes for the first down. Gronk for 14. Ridley for 11. End of third quarter.


Patriots’ possession

Brady splits the secondary for touchdown pass to Gronk. Patriots 28 Bills 21.

Bills’ possession

Spiller to the 36, but hurts shoulder on play. Jackson for a short gain. Jackson fumbles after hit from Spikes. Patriots recover at the Bills’ 42.

Patriots’ possession

Incomplete pass to Lloyd. Ridley runs it to the 29 for a first down. Bolden for another first down run. Bolden to the 2. Incomplete pass in end zone. Ridley for the touchdown. Patriots 35 Bills 21.

Bills’ possession

Wilfork blows up Donald Jones to blow up a first down screen. False start on Bills. Dropped pass on second down. Interception by McCourty, who returns it to the 12.

Patriots’ possession

Bolden to the 7. Bolden in for the touchdown. Patriots 42 Bills 21. Blowout now official after a rough start.

Bills’ possession

Graham for 9 yard completion. Johnson for a first down catch. Spiller catches pass for short gain. Fitzpatrick throws wide incomplete. Bills call a time out. Completion to Dickerson for first down at midfield. Pass play broken up Arrington. Quarterback draw to the 45. Spiller goes 8 yards for the first down. Pass to Johnson incomplete on missed opportunity. Fitzpatrick scrambles for three. Fitzpatrick to Smith for the touchdown. Patriots 42 Bills 28.

Patriots’ possession

Gronk recovers onside kick. Brady to Fells incomplete. Ridley for 1 yard gain. Brady complete to Welker at he 30 for a first down. Bolden for 7, then a one yard loss. Bills use last time out. Brady long pass to Lloyd for the touchdown. Patriots 49 Bills 28. The rout is back on, and the stadium is starting to look empty.

Bills’ possession

Tavon Wilson picks off Faitzpatrick on the first play of the ensuing series.

Patriots’ possession

Ridley for two yard loss. Ridley gets the two back on the next play. Lloyd to the 11. Two minute warning. Ghost puts it through the uprights for a 52-28 Patriots’ advantage.

Bills’ possession

Choice for a short gain. Choice runs for a first down. Screen to Choice for short gain. White runs for about 6. End of fourth quarter.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 52 Bills 28


Sep 282012

Here is an open letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to fans that was issued this morning by the league. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn’t an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It’s time to put the focus where it belongs – on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

I believe I have already spoken my peace (twice) about the Commissioner. While he professes to believe in “accountability”, I question what real accountability he is facing. This Commissioner holds himself above the game, above the players, above the officials, and above the fans. But as long as he has the support of the owners there will be no real accountability for Roger Goodell.

Sep 282012

The 2012 season certainly has not gotten off to the start that the New England Patriots expected. After winning their opening contest handily against the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots were narrowly upset by the Arizona Cardinals before losing an equally narrow contest to the Baltimore Ravens. Patriots’ fans can yell all they want about the cruddy officiating in Baltimore (and it was cruddy), but the Patriots have lost two straight because they have failed to take advantage of opportunities and the defense has back-peddled from a strong performance in Week One. So it is that a 1-2 Patriots team finds its way into Buffalo seeking to avoid dropping a third straight game.

The Bills are a dangerous foe. Buffalo is 2-1 after being pounded on opening day by the Jets, but then rebounding to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. Granted, these are the teams that the Bills “should” beat, but there are no giveaways in the NFL, and the way to the playoffs is to beat the teams that you “should” beat. The Bills boast a dominant front four on defense, anchored by off-season free agent signing Mario Williams, as well as a prolific rushing attack. But both CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are both hurt, and are game-time decisions.

Three keys for the Patriots:

1. Protect Tom Brady

I know, duh. The rap on Brady is that he gets shaken when he gets hit. Yep, him and 31 other starting NFL quarterbacks. Pass protection is always a key. In this game it is critical, as the Bills’ front four will test the Patriots make-shift offensive line early and often on Sunday. Kyle Williams already has 3 sacks this season, followed by Marcell Darius and Mario Williams with 1.5 each. The linebackers are capable of bringing pressure to bear as well, and the Patriots will need to be disciplined in their blocking assignments. If the Patriots can protect Brady however, the Bills have already shown that they are susceptible to being picked apart, having given up 48 points to the Jets.  Look for play action passes and extra blockers to be utilized to take the heat off of Brady.

2. Make clean tackles

The Bills like to use a 1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB grouping that spreads the field and takes advantage of misdirection. The Patriots will have many opportunities to make one on one tackles, and must do so. But in order to do so, Patriots defenders will need to stay in their assigned areas. Arm tackles will not be a way to get the shifty Bills’ running backs to the ground.

3. Pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick

The flip-side of #1 is getting to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has been prone to getting rattled in the past and on the whole is known to be an inconsistent quarterback. The Patriots will need to cut down his ability to make good reads by applying consistent pressure. One key match-up will be between fellow rookies Chandler Jones and Cordy Glenn. Glenn has yet to give up a sack but might find Jones to be more of a handful than he has seen so far. Speaking of handfuls, look for the “real” NFL officials to be all over offensive holding this week.

Three keys for the Bills:

1. Pick on Devin McCourty

McCourty had a terrific rookie season before playing so poorly last season that he had to be moved to safety. Now back at corner, McCourty started off strong but had a miserable game last week, letting two interceptions go through his hands and being flagged for a blatant pass interference call that set up Baltimore for the game-winning field goal. McCourty seems to play better with people in front of him (at safety) and often finds himself playing catch-up with receivers; this is a technique problem that he has yet to correct. Look for Stevie Johnson to try to exploit this weakness all day.

2. Pound the ball

The Bills have an incredibly effective running attack, and their two primary backs have already rushed for a combined 439 yards in three weeks. Their two tight end sets provide plenty of blocking power, and will test the Patriots front seven. If the Patriots have to bring a safety up to assist in the run, look for Fitzpatrick to exploit that with passes to Johnson and Donald Jones.

3. Pressure Brady

Already discussed above, but the Bills’ defensive weakness is in their linebacker coverage and their defensive backs. Even without Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots have too many weapons for the Bills to cover them all. If Tom Brady is given time, he will spread the ball between Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch, while changing it up with opportunistic runs for Stevan Ridley, who has proven a more than capable lead back.

Beyond these keys, Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to trust the game plan that he develops, and trust Tom Brady and the other players on offense to carry it out. In each of the past two weeks McDaniels got “cute” with play-calling and squandered offensive opportunities. Leave Danny Woodhead on the sideline this week and trust in Stevan Ridley to pound the ball where the situation calls for it.

PREDICTION: Earlier in the week I thought the Patriots’ anger and determination would be an epic force that would carry the day, but reason has since prevailed. Chan Gailey is a smart coach who is intentionally trying to design a team to beat the Patriots, and they have the parts to do it. During last season’s Patriots visit to Buffalo, the Patriots jumped to a quick 21-0 lead, but four Brady interceptions later the Patriots found themselves on the losing side of the score. The Patriots have to (and will) take this match-up seriously. The Bills are dangerous at home and I expect this to be a tough contest. The Patriots can ill afford to go 1-3 to start the season and I expect them to come out focused. But focus hasn’t been their problem. Instead, the Patriots have suffered from a lack of execution at key times when a play needed to be made. Still, I look for the Patriots to rebound this week and pull out a close contest. I expect the offensive line to limit the number of hits on Brady, and for Brady to put up enough points to carry the day. I also expect Vince Wilfork and the defense to atone for last week’s awful showing against the Ravens, and make key plays that will seal the Patriots’ win. PATRIOTS 28 Bills 24

Side Note: Still undecided about live blogging this week. No doubt I will have my iPad next to me during the game, but Sunday is my birthday and I rather suspect the house will be a little hectic that day with five kids running around. If I don’t live blog, I’ll have a game summary up sometime early that evening.

Side Note #2: Tedy Buschi is predicting the Pats will lose this weekend.


Sep 272012

Hurrying to get this entry in before Week Four kicks off; I’ve been behind all week thanks to the officials’ lockout. Here is your Week Three re-cap and Week Four contests:

Ghost Rats 136.32 JUSTmyLUCK 87.96
Ghost Rats benefited from 36.82 points from Matthew Stafford to stomp JUSTmyLUCK 136.32 – 87.96. Ghost Rats met their projections and scored 4.2% more than their projected 130.82 points, while JUSTmyLUCK underwhelmed and got just 77.2% of a projected 113.94. JUSTmyLUCK, coming off a 149.60 – 144.24 loss against Lawdawg04, saw their scoring drop off this week. Each team left something on the table as Ghost Rats had one starter turn in zero points and JUSTmyLUCK also had one. Ghost Rats (2-1, 389.22 points) climbs into fourth place while JUSTmyLUCK (1-2, 373.74 points) drops to 10th place.

WD Forte 117.95 InNae 99.50
WD Forte (2-1, 400.71 points) found a way to defeat InNae, 116.95 – 99.50, despite scoring just the 12th-highest point total in the league this week. WD Forte averages 133.57 points per matchup this season, and put up 87.6% of that in this one. It was a rough outing for InNae, who fell to 0-3 (332.14 points) while also ending up 14th in points. Drew Brees led WD Forte in scoring this week with 35.50 points.

Madden All-Stars 120.92 Lambda Chi Guy 117.00
Down 10.88 on Monday night, Madden All-Stars came back, slipping by Lambda Chi Guy 120.92 – 117.00. Madden All-Stars picked up 37.22 points from Andy Dalton and 35.40 from Calvin Johnson. This was anybody’s to win, with the 3.92-point margin of victory being the second-smallest recorded in the league this season. Matt Ryan led Lambda Chi Guy with 42.40 points while Nate Washington racked up 23.20. Madden All-Stars (1-2, 384.01 points) climbs into ninth place and Lambda Chi Guy (2-1, 394.87 points) drops to third place.

No I in Lapdance 146.62 SG-1 134.28
No I in Lapdance earned their third straight win when they beat SG-1 146.62 – 134.28 in a Monday night comeback. They were led by A.J. Green who had 37.40 points and the Chicago Bears Defense who got 29.00. The streak is the result of some high scoring by No I in Lapdance, who owns the highest overall point total in the league this season and is averaging 146.70 points per matchup. SG-1 goes to 2-1 and falls to eighth place. No I in Lapdance remains unbeaten and on top of the league having also defeated Madden All-Stars (177.62 – 119.22) and InNae (115.86 – 97.42).

Team Dan Mocci 158.70 Brownie Bites 107.02
Team Dan Mocci benefited from 42.10 points from Matt Schaub and 25.20 from Wes Welker to easily dispatch Brownie Bites 158.70 – 107.02. It was one of the biggest beatdowns to date, and the 51.68-point margin of victory was the fourth-highest recorded in the league this season. Brownie Bites was done in by a drop in scoring from last week’s 143.84 – 141.30 win against WD Forte. Team Dan Mocci (1-2, 347.44 points) climbs into 12th place and Brownie Bites (1-2, 369.14 points) drops to 11th place.

Chump Change 214.82 nylifers 121.80
Chump Change crushed nylifers 214.82 – 121.80 while also putting up the highest point total this season. It was a solid rout, and the 93.02-point margin of victory was the highest recorded in the league this season. nylifers was led by Peyton Manning with 41.20 points and Larry Fitzgerald who scored 29.40. To make matters worse, nylifers had a starter score zero points (LaMichael James). Chump Change (2-1, 434.04 points) climbs into fifth place while nylifers (1-2, 314.68 points) drops to 14th place.

Lawdawg04 175.26 Reyno Island 116.03
Lawdawg04 registered the second-highest score this week on the way to their third win in a row when they pummeled Reyno Island 175.26 – 117.33. The streak is the result of some high scoring by Lawdawg04, who owns the second-highest overall point total in the league this season and is averaging 144.72 points per matchup. Reyno Island falls to 15th place with a 0-3 record. Lawdawg04 remains undefeated having also defeated Chump Change (109.30 – 100.16) and JUSTmyLUCK (149.60 – 144.24).

It’s Complicated 145.54 Bruisers 96.97
It’s Complicated got 37.84 points from Robert Griffin III and 30.30 from Maurice Jones-Drew, pummeling Bruisers, 145.54 – 96.97. It was the second blowout loss on the season for Bruisers. Bruisers gave it a good shot with an increase in point total compared to last week’s 119.06 – 72.84 loss against Chump Change. On top of the loss, Bruisers had a starter score zero points (Jeremy Maclin). It’s Complicated (2-1, 412.11 points) climbs into sixth place while Bruisers (1-2, 317.03 points) drops to 13th place.

Week Four contests:

Ghost Rats @ SG-1
WD Forte @ Chump Change
Lambda Chi Guy @ Reyno Island
No I in Lapdance @ It’s Complicated
Brownie Bites @ JUSTmyLUCK
Team Dan Mocci @ nylifers
InNae @ Lawdawg04
Madden All-Stars @ Bruisers

Sep 272012

Sometimes I wonder what the criteria are for being censored on Pro Football Talk are… besides what NBC has told me when I have written in seeking clarification, since about three out of every five posts I make seem to vanish into the abyss of the internet. According to NBC, moderating comments is not an exact science (no kidding), but they look for the following criteria… curse words, attacks on others, religious and other non-football posts, and external links are all criteria for getting a post to PFT deleted. That seems like pretty solid criteria to me, and is very consistent with what we use at GiR.

So how does this relate to the subject?

This morning Mike Florio of PFT wrote a post stating that, instead of criticism, Commissioner Roger Goodell actually deserves a raise. As you can imagine, most of the seventy-plus comments currently showing up are rather critical of Florio, and most are critical of Goodell as well. What I wrote was very close to the following:

I just lost a lot of respect for you, Mike. You have said a lot of things on your site over the years that I have disagreed with, but this is the least founded yet…

I went on to say, as I said on this site yesterday, that I thought Goodell should resign. I did so without curse words, personal attacks, religious or political commentary, or any third party link. Yet my post was immediately deleted by NBC, despite the presence of posts at least as strong as the one I wrote.

I will start by saying that I love PFT, and find it to be an excellent source of news and inspiration. But since Mike Florio’s NBC crew doesn’t find it appropriate for me to comment on his opinions on the site they control, let’s review his commentary on a site that we control.

At 8:48 am EDT, Florio posted an article entitled, “Goodell deserves a raise, not ridicule“. This brief article (with accompanying video) stated that Commissioner Goodell was serving more as a minion of the owners than a steward of the game with regard to the official’s lockout, and that criticism should really be directed to the owners who held up real negotiations (my phrasing).

Then at 1:32 pm EDT, apparently in response to some of the criticism generated from his first posting, Florio felt the need to justify his position. His second article (“Owners skirt blame for officials debacle“) focused on what a difficult position Goodell is in by having to provide cover to the thirty-two owners. And thus, Goodell still deserves a raise.

I am thinking that Mike Florio is missing the point, and since I am apparently not allowed to explain it at PFT, I will inflict it on our readers (yes, both of you).

Florio is correct in asserting that Goodell has a tough job in representing thirty-two guys who can afford to wipe with hundred dollar bills. I get that, and I get that working for people like that would be no picnic. So fine… he did the owners a favor by taking the heat and being a convenient villain.

But Florio errs in placing all of the responsibility for this mess on the owners. While the owners were the ones fighting to hold on to every dollar that they could, it was the Commissioner’s agenda to make the accountability of officials a central issue, at a horrible time. You want to talk about accountability? Fine, then do so with enough advance notice to the officials that it is not bogging down a negotiation as the camps open, as the pre-season games are played, or as the first three weeks of the year are entered into the books. Because of his poor negotiation strategy, Goodell achieved only a fraction of his stated agenda, because he had destroyed trust with the Referee’s Association. It’s impossible to negotiate in good faith if you don’t believe that the “other side” is negotiating in good faith, and that is the dynamic that Roger Goodell created.

Second, and far more importantly, Goodell committed a horrific situation for players, coaches, and fans by failing to adequately plan for a lockout. The league saw this situation coming a long time ago, and it was Roger Goodell’s responsibility, not that of the owners, to work to line up qualified officials in the event of a work stoppage or lockout. By failing to do that, Goodell and his own minions had to scramble to throw warm bodies onto the field, including people who were not deemed qualified enough to officiate for the freaking Lingerie Football League. Seriously.

Therefore, it is the fault of the Commissioner, not the owners directly, that the brand of NFL football was compromised and the integrity of the game cast aside. The league would have been able to weather a lockout far better had the Commissioner planned in advance for what some were warning was an inevitable lockout of the officials. As a result, the outcomes of multiple games were gently or heavily influenced by people who had no business being on the field officiating a game. But Mike Florio glosses over these points just because Roger Goodell works for a bunch of rich pains in the asses.

Florio stated in the second article that his intent was to make his readers think. I can see his perspective on this. But for Florio to come out so strongly for the Commissioner and blame the owners, while giving Goodell a pass on the things he could and should have done, strikes me as strange at the very least. In my view, letting the Commissioner off of the hook is inexcusable. Roger Goodell controlled the preparations that the league did or did not make, and he chose to push an agenda item that served to help stall talks and diminish trust. Saying he deserves a raise is ridiculous; Roger Goodell has loss the confidence of many players and many more fans, particularly when you add his mishandling of the player lockout in 2011, his unequal treatment of player discipline, and his botching of the Saints’ bounty case . Roger Goodell may well have job security through the end of this decade, but he should still step down as NFL Commissioner. It won’t happen, but it should.

Sep 272012

My dear Widows, it is with a heavy heart that I am writing today. This week proved to be a real eye opener for me about the game of football. Here are my lessons learned:

Apparently the city that NFL teams call home, or at least my personal feeling about visiting that city, has NOTHING to do with game outcome. I guess I could just chalk up my dismal showing in this week’s predictions to my lack of desire to actually go to any of these places to watch 3 hours of football, although I won’t. Instead, I’ll just move to acceptance that maybe my criteria this week was lacking. So far, helmet attractiveness yielded the best percentage. Maybe I’ll have to track that alongside my actual pick criteria for the week.

That brings me to revelation number two. We now have three weeks of football in the can and I am starting to care!! On Sunday, as we watched the split screen on NFL Sunday Ticket on Directv, I noticed that I actually knew which teams I had picked to win and was actually experiencing an emotional response when they didn’t. Note the use of the word “we”. Yes, ladies, WE watched. I sat and looked at a television screen with 6 different squares, some with games and some with the name of the winner of a game that was over!! I won’t even do that with 6 of my favorite sit coms, and yet I did it with football. I thought perhaps it was merely that I am more competitive than I thought I was, hence my investment in game outcome. Then came Sunday night…

I settled in with Ghost Rat to watch the Patriots/Ravens game on Sunday night and was blown away within the first few minutes of the game by the atrocity that was the officiating. I know that the word atrocity is a word that is typically used to define acts of extreme cruelty, especially when committed against innocents. Neither team can exactly be held harmless in the outcome of that game, so I am referring to the impact that the series of flagrant errors on the part of the officials had on us, the viewers.

Then, I made the mistake of watching most of the Monday night game. I went from not knowing what the definitions of the various penalties were 10 days ago to screaming about flags thrown and not thrown on Monday evening. It was at that point that Ghost Rat pointed out that maybe I was becoming a Football Wife instead of a Football Widow! To him I say “Bite your tongue!” At least he didn’t call me a “fan”…

I have two glossary terms to add this week, completely out of necessity:

Field Goal: (I thought I knew this one until Sunday night). When the team with the ball doesn’t get quite as far as they would have liked on their turn, and they are pretty close to the big, yellow tuning fork that is stuck in the ground at the ends of the field, they call in a player to kick the ball between the upright tines of the fork. This is only half as good as getting a touchdown, and they only get half as many points for this process. In order to be awarded the points, the ball has to go between the yellow poles. Or sort of over. Or at least half of the ball has to be over one of the poles and only if the official can see it from his angle although it may be nearly impossible to tell if it is, in fact, over the pole, unless it’s obviously between the poles…

Shared possession: This is an extremely rare term, seldom uttered on the field of play. It is, in its simplest of definitions, two players catching the ball at the exact same time, with equal control over the ball. In this case, the ball possession is awarded to the offense (the guys who started with the ball in the first place). Shared possession apparently also occurs when the defensive player (the guys who didn’t have the ball in the first place) makes the catch and the offensive player just throws his arm in after the fact and pretends that he caught the ball too. It works best if the officials reside in the land of make believe and are willing to pretend that touching the ball is the same as controlling it. When this occurs at the end of the game, it results in the defensive team taking their toys and going home.

(Note: With replacement officiating going downhill fast week after week, I may have to amend my definition of shared possession to include controlling the ball with one’s mind.)

It is time for my predictions for Week 4. Since my husband’s birthday is Sunday, I planned to simply choose all of his picks to win for the upcoming week. Given my newfound concern over the outcome of the games, I am abandoning my plan and I am making some actual predictions…based on my instinct! That’s right, folks. This week is Widow’s Intuition Week!

Thursday night has the Browns visiting the Ravens. After the Ravens’ showing against the Patriots, I am choosing them to win this week. I really had you going there, didn’t I? I am choosing them to win because they are playing the Browns and I have consistently chosen the Browns to lose!

As a gift to my loving husband, I am going to say a little prayer to the Football Gods for a Patriots win on Sunday. They are my pick against the Bills and they are good and angry after last week. Tom Brady plays better when he is focused.

How do I even know enough about these teams in this short period of time to have an opinion? Will I ever finish the scarf that I was trying to knit during Monday night games? Will I actually end up needing my OWN fantasy football team next year? Did I inadvertently drink the Kool Aid? I don’t have all of the answers, widows, but I think I am getting sucked in to the vortex.

Week 4 Picks:

Ravens over Browns
Patriots over Bills
Texans over Titans
Chiefs over Chargers
Lions over Vikings
Falcons over Panthers
Seahawks over Rams
49ers over Jets
Dolphins over Cardinals
Broncos over Raiders
Bengals over Jaguars
Packers over Saints
Redskins over Buccaneers
Giants over Eagles
Cowboys over Bears

Sep 272012

Well… some of us did not do very well last week. In truth, it was more surprising that some of us did well. Looking at national and local picks, it looks like many experts only got between 6 and 8 games right in Week Three, thanks to more upsets and a little help from the (now gone) temporary zebras.

Reyno Island and Like Gandhi, But Taller (LGBT) topped the week at 10-6, while Ghost rat, the Widow, and Fat Jesus all came in behind the coin toss. Hmmm… maybe I should just flip a coin this week.

Here are our standings so far:

Ghost Rat17590.660X
Fat Jesus17590.660X
Brodrick Kincaid16897.6347
Reyno Island165100.62310
Flip Stricland164101.61911
Country Preacher159106.60016
Rat's Widow146119.55129
Idaho Quarter128137.48347
Danny Boy35230.132140
updated 2/2/13

For the season, our consensus picks are 27-21 (56%). Just imagine how poorly we would all be doing against a point spread…

Here are our consensus picks for Week Four. You can see the complete list of individual picks here.

Ravens over Browns
Patriots over Bills
Texans over Titans
Chargers over Chiefs
Lions over Vikings
Falcons over Panthers
Seahawks over Rams
49ers over Jets
Cardinals over Dolphins
Broncos over Raiders
Bengals over Jaguars
Packers over Saints
Redskins over Buccaneers
Giants over Eagles
Cowboys over Bears

Sep 262012

ESPN already beat us to the punch of declaring the Commissioner and the replacement officials in the top spots this week, so we’ll forego that sarcasm for tonight. The standings continue to be in early season turmoil as a number of highly talented teams are struggling early and upstarts are making themselves known. But will they still be in the running in three weeks? In six? Here is our best take on where the teams are currently lining up.

1. Atlanta Falcons (3-0, +1) – Our unanimous pick after an impressive trashing of the Chargers in San Diego. We knew the Falcons were capable of being this good, but we just never expected to see them live up to it.

2. Houston Texans (3-0, +2) – They keep winning games that they should, which is an important part of being a good team. The Texans appear to be for real.

3. Arizona Cardinals (3-0, +11) – Squeaking past the Patriots was impressive; destroying the Eagles was more impressive.

4. Baltimore Ravens (2-1, -2) – Yes, they won and dropped two places. Imagine what would have happened if the real zebras had been on the field.

5. New York Giants (2-1, +4) – Are the Giants that good? The Panthers that bad? Probably a little of both.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-1, -5) – OK, every team is going to have an off day, but that was really off.

7. New England Patriots (1-2, -2) – If Bill Belichick knew he was going to have to pay a $50,000 fine, do you think he would have just taken the official down?

8. Green Bay Packers (1-2, -2) – OK, they had one stolen from them. But if they keep playing the way they did in the first half, many more will be stolen from by their opponents, and Aaron Rodgers may not make it through the season.

9. Seattle Seahawks (2-1, +7) – Golden Tate “knows” that he caught that pass. I know that Golden is a liar.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1, +11) – Andy Dalton doesn’t look like he believes in sophomore slumps.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1, -4) – For those of you projecting that Michael Vick would be the league MVP season, a question; can a back-up quarterback be an MVP? Andy Reid really opened up a can of worms this week.

12. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, +3) – The defense looked great against the Buccaneers; how will it fare against more explosive teams?

13. Chicago Bears (2-1, U) – That’s one week in a row that Jay Cutler didn’t melt down. Woot!

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2, -4) – If their defense doesn’t get better in a hurry, they’ll be losing more shoot-outs like this.

15. Buffalo Bills (2-1, +8) – Two good wins over inferior opponents after an opening day blowout; how will they fare against an angry Patriots team?

16. New York Jets (2-1, +3) – They may have won the game, but mark Sanchez’ performances over the past two weeks have controversy written all over them.

17. Denver Broncos (1-2, -6) – And this, Broncos fans, is exactly what I’ve been saying all along, unless Peyton Manning plays cornerback as well as he plays quarterback, they will lose to every good team they play.

18. Detroit Lions (1-2, -6) – Well, that was an…. interesting… game. I am not sure what Jim Schwartz was thinking on fourth down, or if he was still high on the Hail Mary completion.

19. Minnesota Vikings (2-1, +7) – What does their domination of the Niners tell us? Certainly that AP is back, and perhaps that Ponder is ready to excel.

20. San Diego Chargers (2-1, -12) – They fell 12 spots? Did you see how badly Atlanta beat them? Philip Rivers talked all week about making good decisions, and then didn’t make them. We once again might be seeing a wide open AFC West, where no one can be good for too many weeks in a row.

21. Washington Redskins (1-2, -4) – Great comeback but they couldn’t close the deal; they will be competitive in their games, but not in their division… yet.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2, U) – A game effort against the Cowboys, but the team lacks offensive punch, scoring only six touchdowns in their three games.

23. St. Louis Rams (1-2, +1) – Another team that needs much more from its offense.

24. Oakland Raiders (1-2, +7) – See what happens when they let Darren McFadden play?

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2, +7) – Just when they had locked up our bottom ranking, they go and do something silly like beat the Colts on the road.

26. Carolina Panthers (1-2, -8) – Now THAT was a beat down, from start to finish.

27. Tennessee Titans (1-2, -2) – That was quite an exciting win on Sunday. Of course, it’s not every day a team is gifted twelve free yards in overtime. *sigh* Are the real officials back yet?

28. Miami Dolphins (1-2, +1) – Methinks they outsmarted themselves on the field goal. They lost a very winnable game on Sunday, and that’s what separates a bad team from a mediocre one.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, -2) – Under ordinary circumstances, that win against the Saints would have been impressive. There are not ordinary circumstances.

30. New Orleans Saints (0-3, -10) – This is just a bad football team right now, and I expect they are heading down after playing the Packers.

31. Indianapolis Colts (1-2, -3) – Tough loss to the Jags, and they won;t get many more good chances like that.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-3, -2) – Just a bad team right now.

Sep 262012

So it looks like the real NFL officials are coming back to work…

Am I too into this sport that I actually felt my blood pressure drop when I heard Chris Mortensen on ESPN this morning? Maybe, maybe not. I know I felt my blood pressure rise on Sunday night when phantom call after phantom call penalized the Patriots and turned the hole they had dug for themselves even deeper. But then Monday night took the cake when I watched the replacement officials quite literally hand a game to the Seattle Seahawks. So thank you to the Green Bay Packers for taking one for the league and for the fans, because it would appear that the nightmare scenario of the replacement refs giving a game away was what it took to prompt the NFL to come to an agreement.

Roger Goodell and the owners who refused to compromise with the officials should be ashamed of themselves. Not so much because the lockout took place, but because they knew a lockout was coming and did nothing… absolutely nothing… to prepare for it. Instead of preparing to use Division I officials months in advance, the league sat on its collective ass until the arrival of the lockout, and then filled the gaps with people who had actually been dismissed from the Lingerie Football League for being poor officials, as well as high school and low level college officials. Such a failure to prepare is unacceptable for people that are running a multi-billion dollar industry. And the NFL will wear a big smile on its collective face and act like the league did the right thing for the game, when in actuality they did nearly everything wrong. And no one will be held accountable.

For those with short memories, the 2011 season was nearly destroyed because the NFL allowed its lawyers to posture and posture and posture with the players, playing a PR game instead of negotiating in good faith. Only when Robert Kraft and a few others stepped in (and kicked the attorneys out) was progress made and an agreement reached. It took the efforts of reasonable people to get a deal done in 2011, and I don’t consider Roger Goodell to be one of those reasonable people. While I had previously been a fan of Goodell’s “get tough on player misconduct” approach, even that has not been done in an even handed and consistent way, and the recent striking down of Goodells’ bounty sanctions against several players indicate that he is not one to follow proper protocol or overly worry about due process. While I am convinced that the Saints did something wrong in terms of payment for injury, I am equally convinced that Goodell botched the process and de-legitimized the league’s response to very serious misconduct.

To paint with a broad brush, my recent impression of Roger Goodell is that he is a power-hungry dictator who approaches all matters with a “my way or the highway” approach. And while Goodell excels at bleeding every dollar of profit that he can for the NFL, he is inept at forming relationships, partnerships, and acting as a true ambassador of the game. To try and be fair to Goodell, he is exactly the type of executive that many of the owners wanted, and he was hired to manage in the way that he is. I have no doubt that owner confidence in Goodell is still high. But player confidence and fan confidence in the Commissioner have seemingly been eroding for some time, and Goodell’s willingness to sit idly by while the integrity of the game was laid waste for these past three weeks – all for the purpose of breaking the referee’s union – calls into question Goodell’s true commitment to player safety and his fitness to serve as the NFL Commissioner. It was Roger Goodell’s agenda, not the agenda of the owners, to improve officiating, and the net result of Goodell’s actions will be no significantly improved officiating while sacrificing three weeks of an NFL season to sub-standard… no… piss poor officiating. It is my hope that Commissioner Goodelll’s actions, and worse his inaction in preparing for a lockout, will lose enough of the confidence of league owners to push for his resignation. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it, but I do have a birthday coming up…

Side Notes:

– Another long-held grudge against the NFL’s business practices… In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013, has been widely criticized as it created a monopoly for NFL gaming and squashed competitive NFL game platforms. To make matters worse, since Madden ’08, EA Sports has not bothered to release a pc version of the game due to lower sales than platforms such as XBox, PS3, and Wii, computer gamers have been without an NFL product to enjoy. The league could care less, and EA Sports has no plans to reverse course. Thus, those of us who have high-performing pc systems with superior graphics who enjoyed the strategy of NFL football are left to want. It’s no wonder that I haven’t bought an EA product in five years.

– Thanks to all of the new visitors we have had to the site during the officials’ lockout. Our site hits have soared, particularly as we called for a boycott on October 4th, which will be off if they get the deal done later today or tomorrow. I rather suspect that it will get done after the Monday night debacle. Anyway, we had no desire for glory in calling for the boycott, but if we have a platform to help fans mobilize, then we should use it if the game we love is being negatively impacted. Thanks to those of you who assisted with our boycott preparations, most notably our Twitter followers and Mike at Patriots Life. We’re not sure yet, but it looks like we’ll go back to being a sleepy little NFL fan blog… and we are just fine with that!

Sep 262012

This is what I get for going to sleep for a few hours on a day home from work. I wake up, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that a deal is imminent and that real NFL officials will be back on the field this weekend.

Thank goodness.

Let’s see… all it took was for a game to be decided wrongly by a substitute official and a host of other games whose games were heavily influenced by poor officiating. There will be those who will say the entire season needs to be marked with an asterisk, but if 13 of the 16 regular season games are officiated by competent and qualified crews, it seems to me that the onus of making it to the playoffs is now solely on the coaches and players, so keep your asterisks at bay.

So what will the agreement look like? According to Mort, there was compromise on the 401K pool and the development of a developmental taxi squad of NCAA officials to replace retiring officials. Financial details are not yet available because the agreement hasn’t been signed.

There is still a possibility that the replacement officials may still be working this Thursday night when the Browns visit the Ravens.

More details as they become available.

UPDATE: The deal was finalized late last night. Here are the details of the agreement, as reported by ESPN:

The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NFL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union’s 121 members, who plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year round, including on the field. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development, and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.