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.