Nov 302012
 

Last night the New Orleans Saints fell to the Atlanta Falcons 23-13 in a hard fought contest. Brees had one of the worst (if not worst) performances of his career, throwing five interceptions in the loss. Brees also failed to throw a touchdown pass, the first time that has happened dating back to 2010, a span of 54 consecutive games, which broke the record held by Johnny Unitas. Last night Brees had one touchdown pass to Darren Sproles wiped out due to offensive pass interference by Jimmy Graham. Another toss for a touchdown was dropped in the end zone by Lance Moore.

The longest active streak for consecutive games with a touchdown pass now rests with Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who has connected for touchdowns in each of his last 43 games, and Brady is set to pass Unitas’ mark in Week 17 if his streak continues. He could pass Brees’ record in Week 7 of the 2013 season. Brady already holds the record of 10 straight games with at least ten touchdown passes, a mark he set in 2007. No doubt Brady could care less about the record as long as the Patriots are winning games, but it certainly something that Patriots’ fans are taking note of.

Unitas held the record for an amazing 52 years before Brees broke it earlier this season. That is quite a testament to one of the all time great quarterbacks of the NFL.

Nov 292012
 

This weekend the New England Patriots have the opportunity to clinch the AFC East with a win over the Miami Dolphins, while the Dolphins have the opportunity to make themselves serious contenders in the hunt for an AFC wildcard spot. So what can we expect to happen in south Florida on Sunday afternoon?

The Patriots ride a five game winning streak into the contest and are fresh off of a Thanksgiving blowout win over the New York Jets. The Dolphins are coming off of a solid performance in beating the Seahawks, after previously dropping three straight games. Yet the Dolphins find themselves at 5-6, just a game out of the second wildcard spot. And with this being a divisional contest, we can expect that the two team’s familiarity with one anther will help offset what is a noticeable difference in talent level between the two teams. The Dolphins enter the contest much healthier than the Patriots, who are looking like the walking wounded on offensive line and on the defensive line, and Jermaine Cunningham’s four game suspension for performance enhancers thins the depth at defensive line even more.

When the Patriots run
The Patriots have the sixth ranked rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 143.7 yards per game, but the Dolphins have a solid run defense, giving up just 96.7 yards over game, seventh in the NFL. Miami only gave up 96 yards on the ground to the Seahawks, so don’t look for the Patriots to line up and try to run the ball down the defense’s throat. Instead, look for the Patriots to utilize the spread formation to run, and to find opportunities to run Stevan Ridley (939 yards) and Shane Vereen (159 yards) off of passing situations. The biggest damage that the Patriots’ backs may do is by taking short passes out of the backfield, but the Patriots should end up with somewhere near 130 yards on the ground Sunday.

When the Patriots pass
This is where the game may well be determined. The Patriots possess the league’s top passing attack, averaging over 292 yards per game, while the porous pass defense (26th in NFL) is giving up over 261 yards per game. Even worse for the Dolphins, while Cameron Wake is having a great year with 9.5 sacks, the Dolphins generally have to blitz to apply pressure to the quarterback. This creates mismatches that will favor the Patriots’ short passing attack, and you can expect New England to carve up the field. The Patriots, even with a banged up offensive line, have done an excellent job of protecting Brady and making pass rushes disappear, and the Dolphins cannot win this game without applying consistent pressure to Brady and taking him out of his rhythm. Look for Brady to pass the 300 yard mark on Sunday, and for the Patriots receiving group to have a big day. The Dolphins’ secondary, depleted by injuries all season, is simply not up to the task of containing the Patriots’ attack.

When the Dolphins run
The Dolphins ran for 189 yards last week against the Seahawks, and rank 16th in the league with an average of 108.9 yards per game this season. The strength of the Patriots’ defense however, is against the run, where the Patriots rank 10th, giving up 100.8 yards per game. Reggie Bush has been a feast or famine back this year (mostly famine), while Daniel Thomas has emerged as a solid companion back. The Patriots are vulnerable on the defensive front, but still have Vince Wilfork stuffing the middle of the line, forcing backs into the waiting arms of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower. The Dolphins are likely to run for 110-120 yards, but not necessarily be able to run consistently to maintain drives.

When the Dolphins pass
Miami has only the league’s 22nd ranked pass offense (212.4 ypg) and the Dolphins have been prone to turning the ball over this season, while the Patriots are masters at baiting quarterbacks to make unwise throws. Ryan Tannnehill is having a good rookie year as the ‘Fins signal caller, with a 59% completion rating and a 72.9 passer rating, seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but it’s the last number that creates a problem for the Dolphins. For all of the yards the Patriots may give up through the air (29th, 289.4 ypg), those yards don’t always convert to points, and the Patriots have a knack for forcing turnovers. While I expect Tannehill to throw for 300 yards in this game, turnovers will offset some of this production, and some of it is likely to come after the game is already decided. Davone Bess has emerged as a solid if not spectacular receiver for the Dolphins (55 receptions). Brian Hartline also has 55 receptions. Anthony Fasano is the Dolphins next option, but he is dealing with an injury and may or may not see much action in this game. Fullback Charles Clay had a big receiving day against the Seahawks, and needs to be accounted for. Meanwhile, the Patriots are getting healthier in their secondary, and the move of Devin McCourty seems to be paying dividends. With Steve Gregory now emerging as a play-maker and with a pass rush that is improving in step with the secondary, Tannehill could see his day undone with a handful of big defensive plays.

Special Teams
Both Dan Carpenter and Stephen Gostkowski are solid kickers for their squads. Brandon Fields gets the edge in the punting game over Zoltan Mesko, though both are effective in pinning teams deep in their own end. Marcus Thigpen is a dangerous kick and punt returner who is capable of returning a kick for a touchdown at any time, but the Patriots also possess dangerous returners in McCourty and Edelman.

Intangibles
The Patriots lead the league with a +24 turnover differential (32 takeaways and 8 giveaways), far better than any other team. The Dolphins are sitting at -10 with only 11 takeaways and 21 giveaways. So many games are decided on turnovers in the league, and the Patriots excel at protecting the ball and taking it away from the other team. Combined with the Patriots’ deadly passing attack, these two factors should be the difference in the game.

Prediction
This game has the potential to drive Patriots’ fan nuts on Sunday, but I am not expecting that to last very long. The Patriots’ ability to create turnovers, and their history of taking advantage of young quarterbacks suggests that the Patriots will be able to turn the tide of the game through forcing the Dolphins into mistakes. Further, the Patriots surgical passing attack will be able to take advantage of a weak Dolphins’ secondary. The pass will set up the run in this contest, and the Patriots should be able to sustain long drives without needing to take on the Dolphins’ stout run defense in a direct way. Look for match-up advantages to favor Welker, Edelman (if he plays), and Hernandez, and thus set up Ridley and Vereen for runs and screens when the safeties are caught defending the pass. Expect Miami to get some early points in this contest, as has so often been the case in Patriots’ contests so far this season. New England will assert itself in the second quarter through a long scoring drive and, if a turnover or two is forced, look for a lead by half. Expect the second half to be a gutting of the Dolphins’ secondary by Brady and company, with the Patriots pulling away in the fourth quarter. Predicted Score: Patriots 38 Dolphins 20.

Week 13 Picks

 Posted by
Nov 282012
 

Ouch. Week 12 was pretty rough for most of us, though Brodrick Kincaid and Reyno Island somehow saw through the fog to post 11-5 records this week (Reyno would have done even better save for that Jets pick). But Ghost Rat, Rat’s Widow, Country Preacher, Like Gandhi, Flip, and even the Idaho Quarter came in at 9-7 this week, while Fat Jesus trailed the field with an 8-8 record. Danny Boy continues to hold out, and has finally been mathematically eliminated. One more week of not participating, and he will assure himself the first pick in some fictional draft somewhere.

Here are the standings:

ContributorWLPCTGB
Ghost Rat17590.660X
Fat Jesus17590.660X
Brodrick Kincaid16897.6347
Reyno Island165100.62310
Flip Stricland164101.61911
Country Preacher159106.60016
LGBT159106.60016
Rat's Widow146119.55129
Idaho Quarter128137.48347
Danny Boy35230.132140
updated 2/2/13

Week 13 doesn’t appear to have a lot of room for people playing catch-up to be able to gain ground, as we have a lot of agreement among our picks, including a whopping six unanimous picks this week (Packers, 49ers, Patriots, Texans, Ravens, and Cowboys). However, Brodrick does go against the consensus six times in Week 13, providing some opportunity for others to catch up, or conversely give him the opportunity to virtually put away the competition this week if everything breaks his way.

Week 13 Consensus Picks

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

You can see our individual picks here.

Nov 282012
 

There’s a shake up at the top of the Power Rankings this week, as our contributors seem to have had enough of the narrow victories coming from both the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans. Yes, they keep winning, but the victories themselves raise questions as to whether either team will survive the divisional round of the playoffs.

Our new Number One? It’s the New England Patriots, who have now won five straight and seem to be pulling away from the pack as we hit the home stretch of the regular season. The Patriots’ consecutive beat downs of both the Colts and Jets (teams that they should beat down), have us believing that the team is starting to peak at exactly the right time. The bigger question is whether the Patriots can sustain that into February, and tough home tests against both the Texans and the 49ers in the next three weeks will help us gauge whether or not they really deserve the top spot. The 49ers come in second this week, and might have come in first, save for the uncertainty surrounding Jim Harbaugh’s creation of a quarterback controversy in the City by the Bay. We like Colin Kaepernick and think the offense is more dynamic with him on the field, but Alex Smith has done nothing but win in his last 26 contests (20-5-1). So exactly why is Kaepernick starting? Having him start in the post-season would be an invitation to destruction as top teams begin to scheme on how to beat the developing star. The team’s consistency has improved of late, but playing quarterback games doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

Here are our Week 12 rankings:

1. New England Patriots (8-3, +3, W5) – The Patriots are still fighting for a first round bye, but seem poised to make another of their late season runs; will it net Super Bowl success this time around?

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1, U, W2) – Kaepernick is the future, but why isn’t Smith the present?

3. Houston Texans (10-1, -2, W5) – Will Gary Kubiak be sending Jim Schwartz a pack of red hankies for Christmas?

4. Atlanta Falcons (10-1, -1, W2) – OK, we’re pretty sure they’ll score more than two points in the playoffs, but why are they feeling like a one and done team?

5. New York Giants (7-4, +3, W1) – Is it that time of the year again?

6. Baltimore Ravens (9-2, -1, W4) – Will gifts like last Sunday keep happening, or is this team’s luck about to run out?

7. Denver Broncos (8-3, U, W6) – Is Peyton Manning simply changing where he has great regular seasons, only to flame out in the playoffs?

8. Chicago Bears (8-3, +1, W1) – Nice win against the Vikings, but are we the only ones waiting for this team to collapse?

9. Green Bay Packers (7-4, -3, L1) – And if the Bears collapse, can the Packers catch them?

10. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, +5, W1) – They responded well to a blowout loss, now can they take control of a playoff spot?

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5, +1, L1) – With a tough loss out of the way, can they bounce back like Indy and nudge the Seahawks out of the way for a playoff spot?

12. Cincinnati Bengals (6-5, +4, W3) – They are making noise now, but can they beat the Steelers and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17, when things really matter?

13. Seattle Seahakws (6-5, -2, L1) – Are they ever going to win again outside of Seattle?

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, -4, L2) – Do they really have any chance without a healthy Ben?

15. New Orleans Saints (5-6, -2, L1) – Is the offensive line really as bad as the defense, or did it just look that way?

16. Minnesota Vikings (6-5, -2, L1) – They really were just pretending this year, weren’t they?

17. Washington Redskins (5-6, +3, W2) – Have the Redskins finally left the NFC East basement for good?

18. Dallas Cowboys (5-6, -1, L1) – If the Cowboys got diagnosed for collective Schizophrenia, would the medication get the team in trouble for using performance enhancing drugs?

19. Detroit Lions (4-7, -1, L3) – Are the Lions victims of bad luck, or are they their own worst enemies?

20. St. Louis Rams (4-6-1, +4, W1) – Will that tie cost the Rams a shot at a wildcard?

21. Buffalo Bills (4-7, +1, L1) – Is Chan Gailey preventing the offense from performing better?

22. Miami Dolphins (5-6, +3, W1) – Will the Patriots crush the Fins wildcard hopes this weekend?

23. Arizona Cardinals (4-7, -4, L7) – Is this team only a quarterback away, or do seven straight losses signify a much deeper problem?

24. Cleveland Browns (3-8, +3, W1) – Did the Browns just cost themselves a top five draft pick?

25. Tennessee Titans (4-7, -2, L1) – Do you think Peyton knew this was coming when he decided to play in Denver?

26. San Diego Chargers (4-7, -5, L3) – 4th and 29? Seriously? Exactly why does Norv Turner still have a job?

27. New York Jets (4-7, -1, L1) – Between the “butt fumble” and refusal to make personnel changes, why do Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez still have jobs?

28. Carolina Panthers (3-8, +1, W1) – Is Cam Newton really handling adversity well, or do things just always look better after a win?

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9, +1, W1) – How eager do you think Shahid Khan is to start cleaning house?

30. Philadelphia Eagles (3-8, -2, L7) – Exactly why does Andy Reid still have a job?

31. Oakland Raiders (3-8, U, L4) – Did Al Davis’ will require that the Raiders keep playing the way they did when he was alive?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-10, U, L8) – Exactly why do Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli still have jobs?

Nov 272012
 


Well, Widows, last week I took on the coin toss to see if I am actually able to do better than chance when I make my weekly picks. Even though I am ahead of the Idaho Quarter (IQ for short) over all, this week the quarter and I were tied. Incidentally, so was Ghost Rat, so I have earned the distinction of being as right as he is!

Last week, I neglected to award my Widow’s Scorn award. It wasn’t for lack of inappropriate behavior, but rather due to disorganization on my part. This week’s award goes to…drum roll please…Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions! On Thanksgiving, he unceremoniously kicked Matt Schaub in the, shall I say, “groin”. I saw the replay and it looked very intentional to me, and to most who saw it. This isn’t Mr. Suh’s first offense. Last year on Thanksgiving he stomped on the shoulder of a Green Bay Packer. Earlier this year, he temporarily rendered Bears quarterback Jay Cutler unconscious, even though the play was deemed “clean”. Again I am convinced that the rules of Kindergarten apply to the gridiron. In this case, don’t kick boys in the nuts and don’t lie and pretend it was an accident when it was clearly on purpose. He is high on the list of the dirtiest players in the NFL.

As the old saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. In the case of the NFL, this comes in the form of the wives and girlfriends of the players who are the ultimate football widows. I think I have it bad when it comes to losing my husband every Thursday, Sunday and Monday to the flat screen, but I got nothin’ on these ladies. In fact, I have developed a list of reasons why it is better to be the widow of a fan versus the widow of an NFL quarterback.

10. 300 pound men don’t get paid to try to knock my husband down.
9. No one rates my level of “hotness” among football widows on the internet. (True story. Google it!)
8. Screaming fans don’t yell at my husband when he has an off day.
7. I get to sit inside where it’s warm to watch football games in support of my husband.
6. At half time, my husband can carry on a conversation with me instead of his coach.
5. After a win, I don’t have to worry about my husband fending off hot football groupies.
4. After a loss, my husband doesn’t ever embarrass himself at a press conference.
3. My husband only gets a little bit sweaty during games.
2. Two words: NO CHEERLEADERS!

And the #1 reason why it is better to be the football widow of a fan…
Ndamukong Suh never gets close to my husband’s groin.

This week, I am paying tribute to the ladies who stand behind the quarterbacks. They are the REAL football widows. I’m not gonna lie – I’d love to have a quarterback’s paycheck to spend on all manner of shoes and purses, but I wouldn’t trade places with any of them.

When I did my research, which is as exhaustive as I have patience for and may not be flawless, I found some interesting stories of high school and college sweethearts, women who join their husbands in charity work, mothers of multiple children, and women who are stars themselves.

Drew Brees’ wife, Brittany, was his college sweetheart. They have 3 sons, the middle of which was named with assistance from Drew’s Twitter followers. That makes the woman a saint (no pun intended) in my book. The couple does charitable work in New Orleans, San Diego where they make their home in the off season, and near Purdue where they went to college. Russell Wilson, Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Matt Moore, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer are all married to women that they have been with for many years.

Among the ranks of the NFL women-behind-the men are athletes in their own right. There are softball, soccer, tennis and golf standouts from their respective colleges, as well as a Czech national gymnast and a US gymnastic medalist in the Beijing games.

Ryan Fitzpatrick proposed to his wife, Liza Barber at McDonald’s over Chicken McNuggets. It doesn’t get any more down to earth than that. There were married in 2006 and have 3 children. Melanie Weeden has been through not one, but two professional sports careers with her husband. He spent 5 years playing professional baseball prior to coming to the NFL. The brothers Manning both have wives and children, including a set of twins for Peyton and Ashley.

Tom Brady is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen.  Since 2004, she has been the highest paid model in the world, is a former Victoria’s Secret model, and was the 16th richest woman in the entertainment industry, with an estimated $150 million fortune in 2007. In this case, and in spite of his greatness, perhaps the great man stands behind a greater woman.

Tiffany Rivers wins the Ultimate Widow award. The couple began dating in the 7th grade and married after their freshman year of college, with the blessing of his football coach. They have 6, count ‘em, SIX children! She wins the prize!

Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger are newlyweds. Robert Griffin III is engaged. Among the girlfriends, there is a reality tv actress, an ESPN reporter, actress Eva Longoria, and R&B star Ciara. Matt Stafford continues to date his college girlfriend. It is a classic case of quarterback and cheerleader. What makes her noteworthy is that she plays fantasy football!

This week, my picks are based on my personal assessment of the widows that sit on the sidelines while their husbands entertain the football fans that we know and love. We’ll see if that is a good basis for choosing winners.

Widow’s Week 13 Picks

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

Nov 272012
 

It’s been a while since I have penned a Rat’s Lair piece. This has been more a function of lacking time than of lacking material.

As we enter Week 13 the stretch for the post-season is heating up, and we are down to a finite number of clubs battling it out over the last remaining spots. All of this, of course, is barring an absolute collapse by any of the leaders, and if this season has taught us anything it is that there are no givens in the NFL. Still, the AFC divisional races look close to decided, as do three of the four divisional races in the NFC. Chicago and Green Bay are battling it out in the North, but both are flawed squads right now fighting a battle of attrition. I don’t expect either to represent the conference in February.

Looking at Playoff Predictions

It’s fun to go back and look at what we said at the beginning of the season, both individually and as a site. Personally, I had the following seedings in each conference, which are followed by the actual current seeds in (parenthesis).

AFC
1. New England (Houston)
2. Denver (Baltimore)
3. Baltimore (New England)
4. Houston (Denver)
5. Buffalo (Indianapolis)
6. Tennessee (Pittsburgh)

NFC
1. San Francisco (Atlanta)
2. Green Bay (San Francisco)
3. New York Giants (Chicago)
4. New Orleans (New York Giants)
5. Chicago (Green Bay)
6. Philadelphia (Seattle)

In the AFC, I nailed the division winners (to date), but not the order, while crashing entirely on the wildcard teams. Both Buffalo and Tennessee showed me enough last season and in the off-season to lead me to think that they would both contend, but both have under-achieved, while Indy has surprised nearly everyone in making itself relevant so soon after the changing of the guard. Pittsburgh continues to hang on in the playoff race, but they are vulnerable. The Bengals might well overtake them if they keep playing the way that they are.

In the NFC, I again hit the division winners in New York and San Francisco (in all likelihood), and still expect the Packers to overcome the Bears, though I had both going to the playoffs. I knew Atlanta had the potential to take the South, but I got so used to Atlanta not performing to its potential that I just couldn’t bring myself to predict their rise; I have been burned before by the Falcons. The Eagles’ collapse is even worse than last season, and it is time to conclude that Andy Reid is never going to win it all in Philly. Seattle is barely hanging on, and I suspect that Tampa Bay could push them from their sixth spot.

So right now I look to be on track to have pegged eight of the twelve post-season teams, which seems no better and no worse with many of the “football experts” in the media. My pick for a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl is actually looking pretty good right now, though my championship games (New England v. Baltimore and San Francisco v Green Bay) are possible but not likely. I will endeavor to do better next season, of course, but feel pretty good about this for my first season putting this in the public eye.

Four our site picks this season, the seedings went as follows:

AFC
1. New England (Houston)
2. Houston (Baltimore)
3. Baltimore (New England)
4. Denver (Denver)
5. Pittsburgh (Indianapolis)
6. Buffalo (Pittsburgh

NFC
1. Green Bay (Atlanta)
2. San Francisco (San Francisco)
3. New York Giants (Chicago)
4. New Orleans (New York Giants)
5. Chicago (Green Bay)
6. Philadelphia (Seattle)

Once again, we got sucked in by Buffalo and Philadelphia, though our site pick of a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl is still within reach. Our championship games of New England v. Denver and San Francisco v. Green Bay are not looking likely, but again are still possible. None of us picked Indianapolis to win more than six games this season.

Stoopid Human Tricks
And now on to the stoopid (yes, I know it is spelled s-t-u-p-i-d) human tricks that I lured you in with…

1. Ndamukong Suh and Merton Hanks
Suh’s intentional kick of Matt Ryan in their Thanksgiving Day game was simply atrocious and unconscionable. Yes, football is a violent game, but intentionally kicking someone in the groin shouldn’t net a suspension? That was the decision of Merton Hanks, who serves as the NFL’s Vice President fr Football Operations. My guess is that this has less to do with Suh’s actions than it does with the fact that the NFL’s one game suspension of Ed Reed was overturned on appeal. The shot that Reed got suspended for was not more vicious than what he had delivered previously, but the suspensions was in the spirit of progressive discipline, or in this case a “lifetime achievement award” for Reed’s head-hunting. As a result, the NFL seems gun-shy and is trying to create decisions that are appeal proof, rather than simply making the right decision.

2. Tank Carder and Ignorant NFL fans
Just like I bashed Brandon Spikes for an ignorant tweet, now the microscope moves to Tank Carder, the rookie linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. When someone posted a comment on his Twitter account that Carder didn’t like, he responded by tweeting that the person was a “faggot.” Smooth move, Tank. Tank then had the courage of his (misguided) convictions when he defended his remark by posting, “Haters gon hate cause that’s what they do, haters don’t give respect where it should be given so I’m done arguing with you fools.” Of course that only lasted until the Browns’ brass got to him. The tweet was removed and the next day Carder issued an apology, stating that he “did not in any way mean to offend anyone” and that the tweet doesn’t define him as a person. I take exception with the whole “didn’t mean to offend” nonsense, but I agree with Carder on this last point. I hope he will wake up to the fact that he is serving as a representative of a professional organization and league, and he should conduct himself accordingly. I will score a point to the Cleveland Browns franchise, who seemingly had the good sense to rein him in, which is more than the Patriots did with Spikes.

What gets me more riled up is the amount of ignorance in the NFL fan base in general (and society as a whole). In too many “comments” sections on too many sites, I kept reading that our society has become too “politically correct”, which in my view has become the popular way to defend indefensible comments and actions. As I have made clear previously, joking about an historically oppressed group only serves to reinforce the oppression and to normalize it. Moreover, many fans found that his need to issue an apology meant that the Browns had somehow violated Carder’s right to free speech. If you are one of the people who truly believes this, let me offer you a little lesson in civics. The First Amendment only applies to governmental suppression of speech. It does not apply to private companies, which the Cleveland Browns are. If the Browns did lean on Carder to apologize and to behave himself, then that is their right as a private entity, since Carder is a representative of that entity. And in this case there is none of the bogus claim that he was speaking as a private citizen. People are only following Carder as a function of his celebrity and his affiliation with a professional football franchise. Thus, his “right” to say what he wants on Twitter isn’t nearly as absolute as some people want to believe it. To those who say that isn’t fair, it’s life. Carder doesn’t have to play pro football, and doesn’t have to affiliate himself with the Cleveland Browns.

3. Brodrick Bunkley

On a similar note, the NFL will also not suspend Saints’ defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley for intentionally kicking 49ers’ offensive lineman Alex Boone in the head during their Week 12 showdown, won 31-21 by San Francisco.  This move was about as “punkish” as any we see in the NFL, and I suspect a very stiff fine is in order after Bunkley was penalized for unsportsmanline conduct and tossed from the game.  The play was described as being “uncharacteristic” of the seventh year pro, who has seen time with the Eagles, Broncos, and Saints.

4. Fireman Ed and New York Jets’ fans

On Thursday night, Fireman Ed, the famed Jets’ fan who has led Jets’ cheers and jeers for many years, left the game at halftime and deleted his Twitter account. But then Fireman Ed declared that he was calling it quits as an unofficial team mascot. Instead, Ed Anzalone will continue to attend games, but no longer dressed for the part, after too many run-ins with other New York Jets fans.

In a way, I can sympathize with Anzalone. It’s not pleasant to be a lightning rod for angry, drunken fans. If you don’t believe me, try wearing a Red Sox cap to Wrigley Field (what a bunch of crazy drunks… it’s not like we’re even rivals). But by going out after a beatdown by the hated Patriots, it only ends up making Anzalone look like a sore loser and a bad sport.

Still, let’s be honest that home field advantage is an interesting concept for the Jets. Yes, they can loudly spell the word J-E-T-S (but only if they are all working together on it), but let’s take a quick look at what the New York Jets faced as they went into the locker room at halftime last Thursday night:

That’s right… stay classy, Jets’ fans. My favorite two comments in that barrage were “Tebow, save us” and “Don’t even come out after halftime.” You know, Jets’ fans, if you want to be honest about how you feel, try chanting “Y-E-T-S! Yets! Yets! Yets!” for each kickoff. This fan base is about as fair weather as it gets, and demonstrates why the Giants will own New York/New Jersey for a long time to come.

That’s all for this edition.

Nov 262012
 

Week 12 brought us one of the more entertaining Thanksgiving Day slate in recent years, as the Texans and Lions played a contest full of controversy and missed opportunities, the Redskins showed they are a time on the rise while the Cowboys proved they have no idea who they are, and the Patriots slaughtered the Jets, likely bringing closure to the Tannenbaum/Ryan era in the Meadowlands.

Not that Sunday wasn’t entertaining as well…

Here are your Week 12 results:

  • The Texans beat the Lions 34-31 with some held from Jim Schwartz and a real stupid rule; Ndamukong Suh again shows us that he has “issues”
  • Robert Griffin III is too much for the Cowboys to handle as the Redskins hold off the Cowboys 38-31; Alfred Morris has another big day for the ‘Skins
  • The Patriots once again get solid efforts from offense, defense and special teams while pasting the Jets 49-19; Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen and Steve Gregory complement Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork in a total team effort
  • Jay Cutler returns to lead the Bears past the listless Vikings 28-10; Bears exit the game with some injuries to be concerned with
  • Bengals crush Raiders 34-10 as Carson Palmer loses to former team; Green-Ellis rushes for 129 yards and a score on 19 carries
  • Steelers turn over the ball seven times, enabling the Browns to pull of the 20-14 upset; Weeden sustains head injury
  • TY Hilton is first Colt to score on offense and special teams as the Colts bounce the Bills 20-13; Fitzpatrick loooking less and less like the future starting quarterback in Buffalo as he again struggles
  • Chad Henne seems to be the spark that the Jaguards need as he guides Jacksonville to a 24-19 win over Tennessee; Jags snap seven game losing streak
  • Broncos win sixth straight, edging Kansas City 17-9; Brady Quinn holds on to the ball, but not much else in defeat
  • Davone bess catches 7 passes for 129 yards, helping the Dolphins beat the Seahawks 24-21 and stay in contention in the AFC; Seahawks look like playoff pretenders as they are now 1-5 on the road
  • The Falcons don’t win pretty, but they do win; they edge the Buccaneers 24-23 as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones enjoy big days
  • Chargers squander lead, give up a 4th and 29 en route to a 16-13 Baltimore win in overtime; Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, and Ray Rice all have big games to lead the Ravens back
  • Janoris Jenkins has two pick sixes to lead the Rams past the Cardinals 31-17; Steven Jackson rushes for 139 yards on 24 carries
  • 49ers beat the Saints 31-21 with five sacks of Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick wins his second game; only the Saints’ offensive line looked worse than their defense
  • Giants hammer the Packers 38-10 as Eli Manning throws for three scores; Packkers missing multiple starters but Aaron Rodgers looks pedestrian in the loss
  • Still to come: Panthers-Eagles
Nov 262012
 

Here’s how the playoff field is shaping up after twelve weeks of play.

The AFC

In the AFC, Houston and Baltimore would own the top two spots and first round byes. Houston’s schedule is tough but not impossible down the stretch, as they face the Titans and Patriots on the road, then return home for games against the Colts and Vikings before finishing the regular season in Indianapolis. Baltimore is at home against the wounded Steelers, then at Washington before returning home to face the Broncos and Giants, then closing in Cincinnati. The Ravens are likely to lose at least one of these games, but own the tie-breaker over the Patriots. Houston already destroyed Baltimore in Week 7 to own the tie breaker between those two teams. It seems unlikely that Houston will lose the first seed unless they fall to New England and lose at least one more time. Denver seems destined for a first round home game, as the Broncos have lost to both Houston and New England.

AFC Wildcard Round

Pittsburgh (#6) @ New England (#3)

Indianapolis (#5) @ Denver (#4)

AFC Divisional Round

Lowest Previous Seed @ Houston (#1)

Highest Previous Seed @ Baltimore (#2)

The Bengals and Dolphins are both alive in the playoff race. San Diego, Tennessee, New York (Jets), and Buffalo all have to run the table to have any realistic chance to make the post season, while Cleveland, Oakland, and Jacksonville have little hope. Kansas City has been mathematically eliminated.

The NFC

The Falcons are breezing along to what seems to be a pretty clear path to a first round bye, and possible number one seeding. The Falcons still have the Saints at home, then visit Carolina before hosting the Giants. They close with a visit to Detroit and then a home contest against the Buccaneers, It is very foreseeable that the Falcons could drop two contests over this stretch, and put the number one seed at risk, but the first round bye is  a near certainty barring a late collapse. The 49ers still have a good shot at the top seed, but they face a tough stretch as well with three divisional games, along with a Week 15 Sunday night match-up against the Patriots. The 49ers travel to St. Louis before hosting Miami, then on to Foxboro before a game in Seattle, finally wrapping up at home against the Cardinals. The Bears are a very vulnerable #3, both in seeding rank and whether or not they will win the division, thus leaving the door open for a resurgence from the New York Giants.

NFC Wildcard Round

Seattle (#6) @ Chicago (#3)

Green Bay (#5) @ New York Giants (#4)

NFC Divisional Round

Lowest Previous Seed @ Atlanta (#1)

Highest Previous Seed @ San Francisco (#2)

The Bucs and the Vikings are still very much alive in the race, with Washington, Dallas, and New Orleans close behind. The Rams’ tie hurts them, as they would otherwise be in contention with the previous batch of teams. The Lions, Cardinals Eagles, and Panthers are looking all but done.

Nov 262012
 

It looks like most of our poll-takers agree that the Kansas City Chiefs will end up with the worst record and therefore receive the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft next April. Those results are buoyed by another Chiefs’ loss this weekend and a Jaguars win over the Titan. The Chiefs are now in control of their own destiny with regard to the first pick. One person chose the browns this week (was that you, fat Jesus), and that is looking unlikely with the Browns’ upset of the Steelers yesterday. Here are the results:

Poll #15: Which team will end with the worst record and be awarded the #1 pick in the NFL Draft?

Kansas City (59%, 10 Votes)
Jacksonville (35%, 6 Votes)
Cleveland (6%, 1 Votes)
Carolina (0%, 0 Votes)
Oakland (0%, 0 Votes)
Philadelphia (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 17

For this week, we are going to look at the AFC teams that are on the bubble for the playoffs this season. The very simple question is…

Poll #16: Which AFC “bubble” team is least likely to make the playoffs this season?

Buffalo
Cincinnati
Miami
New York Jets
Pittsburgh
San Diego
Tennessee

Because only two of these teams are able to make the playoffs, this week we will let you select up to three responses. Have fun and we’ll see you next week!

Nov 242012
 

If the Detroit Lions didn’t have enough go wrong on Thursday against the Houston Texans, Ndamukong Suh made sure that there was more to talk about this week, as the talented but troubled defensive tackle appeared to intentionally kick Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. Watch the video below for yourself. Note that Suh’s foot appeared to be going along a certain path until he seems to flex/push it, then making contact with Schaub.

Suh of course was famously suspended for two games last season after he pushed Packers’ offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground three times, then stomped on his arm, all of which took place after the whistle had blown. Suh was penalized for unnecessary roughness and ejected from the game. Initially, Suh denied stomping on Dietrich-Smith, saying he was only trying to get his balance back. However, after the Lions issued a statement calling Suh’s actions “unacceptable,” Suh then acknowledged that he’d “made a mistake” a day before and intended to learn from it. After this incident, what he learned will be a matter of interesting debate.

Mike Freeman reports that the situation will be reviewed Monday, and that Suh could be facing a one game suspension. While I recognize that this incident is not as serious as the shots he took against Dietrich-Smith last season, the fact is that discipline for behavior like this should be progressive, and be strongly influenced by his past behavior. If it were up to me, the “Dirtiest Player in the NFL” would be losing at least three pay checks for this one.

Finally, it has been said by some that this incident is not a big deal because Schaub is protected by a cup. Wrong. Because contact to the groin is relatively rare in football, the practice of wearing cups is a thing of the past at most levels of football. While still worn in youth leagues, most high school football players do not wear cups and it is nearly unheard of in the college and pro ranks. Players argue that their speed and agility is impacted by wearing an extra protective device, and that the protection is rarely needed.

This story will be updated after the league has reviewed the incident and announced a decision.

UPDATE (11/26/12): According to Greg Aiello of the National Football League, there will be no suspension for Suh, but the play will be reviewed for a fine. Frankly, this is not just surprising, but disappointing. There is enough of a smoking gun in this case to warrant at least a one game suspension, and players across the league have demonstrated time and again that fines are not an effective deterrent to future violations. Given Suh’s history, I’m not sure that he should have been given the benefit of the doubt in this case. More news when fines are announced at the end of the week.