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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prognostication Bukakke! NFL Week 4

Detroit @ Green Bay
Code Red: Detroit is better than they have been the last two years. Tough opening slate, though. Sadly, they'll drop to 0-4 after the Packers win, and Packers fans can go back to believing their own hype for a week.

Iggins!: HA! The Packers are 2-1. It is a good day. Unfortunately they won’t lose this game, Packers win.

Code Red: We’d just like to reiterate at this point that Green Bay is in second place. Behind the Bears. Who beat Green Bay.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Iggins!: This will be a very close game. Cincinnati is worse than last year and Cleveland is better. Still, until the Bengals play Pitt I won’t bet against them in the AFC North. Bengals win.

Code Red: Indeed. Not even Carson Palmer’s tattered and ragged arm can lose this game. Bengals win (weeps once more for the downfall of Carson Palmer’s armcock).

Denver @ Tennesee
Code Red: Tennesee is just a much more balanced team all around, and the Broncos are just 3-10 in their last 13 games. Titans win, and I laugh heartily.

Iggins!: Have I ever picked against Vince Young? Seriously? Titans win.

Carolina @ New Orleans
Iggins!: Sean Payton walks into a bar. Shoots his kicker. Fin. Saints win.

Code Red: Carolina truly blows. Saints win.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Code Red: I think Pittsburgh's defense is better than Baltimore's, and Flacco has sucked against every team that isn't Cleveland. He'll be their downfall against the Steelers, a team he's 1-4 against (including playoffs). Steelers win.

Iggins!: The Ravens haven’t figured out that they’re a running team yet, and they insist on throwing the ball 40 times a game. Until they cut that shit out they can’t beat the Steelers. Pitt wins.

NY Jets @ Buffalo
Iggins!: God Buffalo sucks. I expect 3 INTs from Sanchez this game but the Jets will still win by 20 because the Bills suck that hard. Jets win.

Code Red: Agreed. The most important thing is that Mirerez needs to have a bad game. Jets win, hopefully despite an awful Mirerez game.

Seattle @ St. Louis
Code Red: I do not believe in Seattle at all. Actually, I don't believe they should allow football west of the Mississippi this year, with the exception perhaps of Kansas City and the Chargers once they begin their annual late season run. With that said, the Rams win two in a row because why not?

Iggins!: After week 3 in the season normally you know what you’ve got in almost every NFL team. I still have no fucking idea if any of these NFC West teams are good, mediocre, or really shitty. I will pick Seattle because the Rams can’t be good damnit. Seattle wins.

Code Red: I agree you can’t tell if they’re mediocre or shitty, but I think you’d be safe in saying none of them are good.

San Francisco @ Atlanta
Iggins!: So I just realized that the 49ers have never actually been good under Singletary. They’ve somehow convinced ESPN that they’re good. Unfortunately for them, they are actually terrible. Falcons win.

Code Red: But he rallied them to 7-9! And valiantly led them to 8-8! FIYUR AND PASHUN. Falcons win.

Houston @ Oakland
Code Red: Well, Houston had better win this game.

Iggins!: Bad game last week for Houston. The numbers looked good, they just couldn’t punch it in on a few occasions and it cost them big time. No way they lose here though, Texans win.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
Iggins!: So this year the Jaguars have transferred their unpredictability to the Seahawks, and have decided that they are reliably awful. Colts win.

Code Red: But they have Trent Edwards now, so that..should fix nothing. At all. Colts win.

Washington @ Philadelphia
Code Red: I don't care that Philadelphia looks like (and is) a much better team. I love Donovan McNabb, and Philly deserves great pain and suffering. Skins win.

Iggins!: Philly is not a good team, and once they run into a good defense Vick will start getting booed. Unfortunately for the Skins, they don’t have a good defense. Eagles win.

Arizona @ San Diego
Iggins!: San Diego has been disappointing but they don’t have it in them to lose to a team as awful as the Cardinals. Chargers win.

Code Red: Derek Anderson= Less mobile young Jake Plummer. Chargers win.

Chicago @ NY Giants
Code Red: I don't buy that the “desperate” Giants will manage to pull this one out. The Bears are better and should be desperate every fucking week to prove that their start isn't a fluke like last year's 3-1 kick off. Bears win, hopefully big for once.

Iggins!: The Giants have looked terrible the last two weeks and it wasn’t a fluke. Cutler is going to destroy them and the defense won’t allow over 10 points. Bears win big.

New England @ Miami
Iggins!: Good Monday Night games so far this year. Normally this is about the time we see the Cardinals play the Browns or something. The Dolphins will win. I think? I still don’t trust Henne at all. Oh well, go home team! Dolphins win.

Code Red: As much as I hate Chad Henne, he looked damn good against a Jets secondary that’s still above average even without Revis. The Patriots can’t even come close to “above average” in that category, so as long as the Dolphins don’t insist on sticking with the Wildcat even when it’s not working, Henne should lead them to victory. Dolphins win.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prognostication Bukakke! NCAA Week 5

Code Red: 37-16 Overall (20-12 NFL, 17-4 NCAA).
Iggins!: 33-19 Overall (19-13 NFL, 14-6 NCAA).

So we'll see if Iggins! can make up some of those 4 games this week, or if I can begin to bury him early beneath my jackboot. Onto the college picks:

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State

Code Red: I know nothing about either of these teams except that A&M is coached by Mike Sherman. That's enough to make me pick the Cowboys. OK State wins.

Iggins!: This is a bit of a toss up. I guess A&M almost lost to FIU last week… so yeah. Oklahoma State wins.

Miami @ Clemson

Iggins!: You trying to lure me into picking Clemson? Ain’t gonna happen. Miami wins.

Code Red: It’s worked so many times before. I’m pretty sure my 9 game lead last year was based entirely off of your constant Clemson and Kansas City Chiefs picks. I guess I take Miami too.

Virginia Tech @ NC State

Code Red: NC State is 4-0 and threatening to be a respectable ACC team. That just can't happen. VT gets a measure of redemption here. Hokies win.

Iggins!: VaTech kind of blows. BUT there is an ACC rule that says a team cannot win two big ACC games in a row, and a rule that says Frank Beamer will blow it early and finish strong when it no longer matters… oh well. Fuck VaTech. NC State wins.

Wisconsin @ Michigan State

Iggins!: This pick is entirely based on this game being played at MSU. MSU wins.

Code Red: Bah. John Clay and Scott Tolzien will get the job done. Wisconsin wins.

Texas vs. Oklahoma (Neutral Site)

Code Red: Wow, both of these teams are 1,000 times worse than last year. Oklahoma has the edge on offense. Oklahoma wins.

Iggins!: I don’t think Texas will lose 2 in a row after that ass whooping last week. And Oklahoma is just as bad as Texas, so I’ll say Texas wins.

AZ State @ Oregon State

Iggins!: Oregon State plays the same way VaTech does every year, they lose twice early then by the time they play Oregon they have a shot at the Pac 10 title. Oregon State wins.

Code Red: Pretty much. They always play well in conference. OSU wins.

Washington @ USC

Code Red: My gamble of the week: Jake Locker restores some of the luster by upsetting Kiffykins.Washington.

Iggins!: USC isn’t good, but Washington sucks. USC wins.

Stanford @ Oregon

Iggins!: Harbaugh! Stanford wins.

Code Red: I like your reasoning, and I’ll also add Andrew Luck. Stanford wins.

Florida @ Alabama

Code Red: If Alabama can confound the armcock of my beloved Ryan Mallett, I can't even imagine the hack job they'll do on the Steve Addazio-John Brantley duo. Alabama wins.

Iggins!: Yeah, Bama is going undefeated. Alabama wins.

Penn State @ Iowa

Iggins!: The mystifying Arizona loss notwithstanding, Iowa has been disturbingly methodical in destroying the opposition. PSU has a freshman QB and, in general, they just aren’t as good as Iowa. Iowa wins.

Code Red: Let me rephrase that: the loss to the one quality opponent they’ve faced notwithstanding, they’ve done a good job of beating up a MAC team, Eastern Illinois, and Iowa State. God you’re an undisciplined homer. Penn State does suck, so Iowa will win, but really, “disturbingly methodical in destroying opponents”? Jesus.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome to the Firing Line, Don Banks

Bears' 3-0 start to season proves it's better to be lucky than good
But what if they're both, jackass?

Five things we learned from watching the Bears pull out a rather-improbable win over the error-prone Packers at Solider Field ..

Or Soldier Field. Also, again, THE ERRORS WERE FORCED BY THEIR INABILITY TO STOP JULIUS PEPPERS AT ALL. Also, the Bears had 5 penalties, a missed field goal, and a dropped touchdown pass on 4th and Goal. STOP ACTING LIKE GREEN BAY IS THE ONLY TEAM TO EVER MAKE A MISTAKE.

1. I'm still not sure how the Bears have found their way to 3-0 for the first time since 2006, but I do know they're the last and most unlikely team to be perfect in the NFC. This Chicago team is living something of a charmed existence so far in 2010; and in its own way, this game deserves to be right there alongside the Week 1 win over the Lions, in terms of winning with good fortune. It's true that Chicago hasn't played a complete game yet, but it's also true the Bears haven't lost yet, either. Would you rather be lucky or good?

I'll tell you how. In game one against the Lions they thoroughly dominated and outgained Detroit by 300 yards. Were it not for four fumbles the game wouldn't have been close. The game was close, and thus the Lions had a chance to win the game on a touchdown pass that wasn't a touchdown pass. They didn't so they lost the game. In Week 2 they went to Dallas, didn't commit a turnover, forced three, played great on both sides of the ball, and kicked the Cowboys' fucking asses. In Week 3 Green Bay had a bunch of long drives consisting of short passes and yet failed to score very often, because the Cover 2 worked to perfection and the Packers could not stop Julius Peppers without pulling him close by the jersey and going for a reacharound. When the Bears had the ball, they scored. Turns out that time of possession doesn't always matter that much. Also, I believe all three Chicago games have gone all four quarters and were complete by NFL rules.

Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler was his team's poster child for this peculiar game. He threw one interception against Green Bay, but it could have easily been five

Or ten! Or 27! Because that's how many passes he attempted! Theoretically all of them could have been picked off. Or they could all have been touchdowns! My god, 27 touchdown passes. Since we're just acting like plays that didn't happen DID happen, let's all stop to commend Jay Cutler on this mind-blowing single game touchdown record.

The Packers dropped two passes that were right in their hands (Nick Collins and Charles Woodson)

So did Desmond Clark. Cutler threw 1 TD pass, but it could have been two! Or 11!

and penalties wiped out two other Green Bay picks.

Banks isn't the only asswipe touting this theory, and I have to commend everyone for this brilliant ignorance of the nature of cause and effect. Those two picks were taken away by the penalties, yes. The way Banks says this, it implies that they were fair interceptions and something unrelated took them away, so Cutler still made a poor decision in both cases. HOWEVAH, on the first one that was taken away, the ONLY REASON the pass was intercepted was because of the helmet-to-helmet contact that knocked the ball of course. If there's no helmet-to-helmet, that's doesn't mean the interception would have stayed, that means the pass would have been completed to Greg Olsen. On the other interception, Cutler saw Bennett being mugged and just threw it up. It's called "drawing a pass interference call." Good quarterbacks do this. CUTLER WOULD NEVER HAVE THROWN THE BALL IF HE DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS GOING TO GET THE CALL. My God, if Peyton Manning had done that Peter King would have been fogging up the windows of the pressbox while feverishly writing a hagiography touting Peyton's brilliant gamesmanship.

When you add in Green Bay's team-record 18 penalties for 152 yards (breaking a record set in 1945), and the Packers' special-team lapses, this had the feel of a self-inflicted Green Bay loss more than an impressive Chicago victory.

8 of those calls were on the offensive line and were the direct result of the defense holding Julius Peppers to prevent a sack or committing a false start because they were fucking afraid of having to block Julius Peppers. Meaning Green Bay didn't just commit them because they felt like it. Either way, Chicago was going to win the matchup. The roughing the passer nullfied a pick, this is true, but it came on the very next drive after THE SAME CALL WENT AGAINST THE BEARS and kept alive Green Bay's touchdown drive. The Bears commited five penalties as well. It's part of the game. Bad teams commit lots of penalties, and they lose the game because of it.


But I still can't see Chicago keeping this kind of mojo going throughout the season, looking downright outmatched in some parts of every game, but still finding a way to win. It happened against Detroit, in Chicago's shaky second half. It happened at Dallas, where the Bears started the game looking overmatched on the offensive line. And it happened against Green Bay, a team that dominated Chicago statistically for most of the night.

You mean the second half where the Bears took the lead and held Detroit without a single first down until the last drive where Detroit DIDN'T SCORE? And yeah, the Bears had two bad series on the offensive line against Dallas. Apparently two bad series=Cowboys actually dominated. And the only statistics that Green Bay dominated last night were time of possession and first downs. Well, and penalty yardage and turnovers. The Packers actually only had 3 more first downs then Chicago, had fewer rushing yards, and, umm, oh yeah, fewer fucking points.

Skipping some more....

3. The "new and improved'' Jay Cutler looked a lot like the old Jay Cutler to me at times.

Probably because that's just a figure of speech and he's really the same guy. Seriously. They didn't clone him or anything.

But that sure looked like the old, careless Cutler against Green Bay. The Bears quarterback sailed some passes, missed some easy throws and took several unnecessary risks. By his own admission, he didn't play anywhere near his best game in finishing 16 of 27 for 221 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

But thanks to the sloppy Packers, Cutler didn't wind up paying for most of his mistakes. Cutler had some very pretty throws -- his 21-yard completion to Olsen on 2nd-and-20 in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty -- and made some big plays when in clutch moments. But you can't live that dangerously every week in the NFL and survive. At the minimum, he threw three passes that should have resulted in Green Bay interceptions, and that would have been enough to get him beat on most nights.

But they weren't intercepted. That's part of playing in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception last night, too. He also threw one that hit Izzy Idonijie right in the chest on a blown up screen play. NFL quarterbacks make bad throws. It's true. It totally happens. They have these things called "incompletions" and since no one has ever completed 100% of his pass attempts (other than Marty Booker), it turns out that no quarterback is perfect. Why many of those incompletions were good plays by the defense or could have been intercepted! Hell, you might say Jay Cutler takes a risk any time he puts it up in the air! That mad man!

Seriously, this is shit. Nothing that didn't actually happen in an NFL game matters. Calvin Johnson's no catch? Get the fuck over it, it didn't happen. If Detroit wants to bitch they can try gaining more than 168 yards and getting past the 50 yard line more than once in the second half. If Dallas "absolutely overwhelmed" the Bears they'd have had more than one sack and would not have lost the fucking game. Jay Cutler cannot be judged based on interceptions that didn't happen. I'll judge him based on the 109.7 rating he has on the passes that did.

Eat shit, Don Banks.

Around the NFL Week 3

Man, the day after it still feels really good that the Bears are 3-0 and in first place. It's also hilarious to hear everyone else trying to rationalize away the Packers loss to the point that they're still the "clear favorite" to win the division. That's fine. I'll be content with the "mathematical favorite" for now.

Bengals 20, Panthers 7

Really folks, Carolina is awful. Good to see Jimmy Clausen end the first half of his first start with a zero rating. The problem here is the fact that I'm forced to face the fact that Carson Palmer is done. We all know how much I love a good Armcock, and coming out of USC Carson was more or less the platonic ideal of a QB with armcock, armcockuracy, and all the "intangibles" that mediafolk love. Sadly, the injuries to his knee and rotator cuff have left him a shell of the man he used to be, and I just don't see the Bengals being able to go very far in that division without a quarterback who has a big enough arm to threaten the Steelers or one of the AFC elites in the playoffs.

Patriots 38, Bills 30
Wow, the Pats have a shitty defense. First the gimpy armed Carson Palmer gets them for 345 yards, then Rico Mirerez (yes, he's had two very good games, but Ryan Fitzpatrick's success against the Pats invalidates Mirerez's, while I'm just going to say the Dolphins have a terrible secondary without any evidence to back that up) torches them and now Ryan Fitzpatrick guides the Bills to 30 points. I'm actually beginning to look forward to seeing Cutler go up against them late this season.

Chiefs 31, 49ers 10
Aaaand that should do it for the 2010 49ers. I know the NFC West absolutely blows, but I think that team has just spiraled too far out of control. Pete Caroll will probably win the damn division at 8-8 and I have to see that happy bastard smile once again with an undeserved (well, I suppose in college it was more illegally-earned) sense of accomplishment. Oh, and the Chiefs are good outside of Matt Cassel, who, despite his 3 TDs on Sunday, still really sucks.

Titans 29, Giants 10
If I wasn't a backwards, jinx-fearing fool, I'd point out that the Giants are 4-10 in their last 14 games with 38 turnovers and that they look like a really bad football team. Alas, I won't say that because I'd rather not let the fact that I pointed out that the Giants kind of suck come back to haunt me. Even if they do suck. Nice rebound for VY, who I now begrudgingly root for if only because Jeff Fisher is a dick to him.

Ravens 24, Browns 17
Sure it was only against the Browns and you only threw the ball to Anquan Boldin, but you finally had a good game. Good for you, Flacco! Also, I can't decide if it's hilarious or sad that Browns fans are probably eagerly awaiting the return of Jake Delhomme. Probably both.

Steelers 38, Buccaneers 13
Well, the only thing surprising about this was the Steelers managing 38 points. One more game left without Rapey. They're definitely looking scary.

Falcons 27, Saints 24
Garrett Hartley kinda sucks. The Falcons are good, and they still had to drive down to get their own field goal to win the game, so people shouldn't say they didn't Beat New Orleans, but I'd still take the Saints in this division. It was good to see Matt Ryan finally string together consecutive good games for the first time since the first half of last season. I like the kid. I hope he's back on track.

Vikings 24, Lions 10

I really have to ask why the Lions ignore Calvin Johnson until the 4th quarter. Tough loss for the Lions. Favre still sucked (1:3 TD to INT ratio this year, with a 60.4 rating), but Peterson is doing everything he can to carry the Vikings. I have confidence that that won't be enough to win the North this year.

Cowboys 27, Texans 13
I don't buy that the Cowboys saved their season here, but, then again, the NFC East looks pretty shitty, so who knows? I do know that the Texans proved they're still the Texans by losing yet another winnable game.

Eagles 28, Jaguars 3
Beating a lame duck Jags team doesn't prove much of anything, but I have to finally concede that Michael Vick may, possibly, have learned, maybe, how to pass. In the abstract.

Rams 30, Redskins 16
Well, I didn't see this particular loss coming, but I can't say I'm all that surprised. The biggest problem for the Redskins over the last few years have been an inconsistent defense, one of the league's worst offensive lines, and a lack of a running game behind an aging Clinton Portis. Their fix to all of that was to sign Albert Haynesworth, the $100 Million Dollar Slave, and to trade for another quarterback who can take a beating behind that line. So no, they aren't playoff bound. Also, since we all know I'm a quarterback nut and one particularly interested in the handling of rookie QBs, I'm a huge fan of how the Rams are handling Bradford. They're letting him throw the ball (averaging 39 attempts) but also rolling him out, minimizing his reads, and letting him grow slowly while under fire.

Colts 27, Broncos 13
Suck it, McDaniels.

Cardinals 24, Raiders 23
Thanks to the ineptitude of Sebastian Janikowski, the Cardinals and Derek Anderson (currently sporting a young Jake Plummer-esque 67.6 passer rating) are now in the lead in the NFC West, because everyone west of the Mississippi hates quality football.

Seattle 27, Chargers 20
Well, San Diego's off to their standard September pants-shitting.

Jets 31, Dolphins 23
HOW HARD IS IT TO DOUBLE COVER DUSTIN KELLER? 6 OF THE FIRST 7 PASSES WENT TO HIM! DO NOT MAKE IT EASY FOR RICO MIREZ! Also, Chad Henne looked pissed (and rightfully so) everytime the Dolphins pulled him despite his absolute destruction of the Jets defense (363 yards) in order to run the f%&king Wildcat.

Well, that's it for the NFL this week. Prognostication Bukakke should be up in the next couple days. Go Bears.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bears 20, Packers 17- Bonertime.

First off, a quick note to Green Bay Packers fans and the media (especially you, Trent Dilfer):

Holding calls, blocked field goals, and forced fumbles are caused by the defense. Green Bay didn't give the game away. Chicago took it. This is the NFL. If you "deserved" to win you would have. Robbie Gould missed a FG. Desmond Clark dropped a TD on a pass that hit him in the hands on 4th and Goal. Mike Martz once again forgot the QB sneak on 4th and goal. That's 10 points off the board for Chicago, but you don't hear me bitching. Grow up.

Now, onto the shoutouts:


Devin Hester: He's baaaaaack. Hester had two very good returns including his first return TD since 2007. Bonerific. God dammit, I love that sonofabitch.

Greg Olsen: For two straight weeks he's made me eat my words. Keep it up, you big lug. 5 catches for 64 yards and TD and they were all huge.

Johnny Knox: 4 catches, 94 yards. The most consistent receiver the Bears have.

UrlachBriggsamoa: The linebacking trio held Green Bay to just 63 yards rushing (with 20 of those coming on some ridiculous scrambles by Rodgers), Briggs had a pick, and Urlacher forced what was essentially the game winning fumble. Glorious. Please, for the love of all that is holy, stay healthy this year.

Julius Peppers: Michael Lombardi of the NFL said that he "didn't make the big plays" this game. Ummm....Mike, what the hell do you call blocking a field goal and forcing nearly 100 penalty yards singlehandedly? A holding call is a good defensive play. Why don't people acknowledge this? Lineman don't hold unless they know Peppers is half a second away from making Aaron Rodgers eat his helmet.

Tim Jennings: He recovered the fumble, had some big hits, and actually seemed to do a better job in coverage than Bowman, the man he replaced. Nice call, Lovie.

Jay Cutler: It wasn't the prettiest game he's ever played, but don't let a bunch of interceptions-that-weren't tarnish your view of what happened. Cutler took Green Bay's best shot and found a way to make them pay late. He's currently at 60/91 (65.9%) for 870 yards (9.6 YPA, 290 YPG) with 6 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 109.7 rating. He's now over .500 as a Bears starter. This, folks, is what a franchise fucking quarterback looks like. Enjoy it.

The Bad:

The offensive line: They settled down after allowing 3 early sacks, but Cutler still got hit way too damn many times and they only paved the way for 40 rushing yards (I'm not giving them credit for the 37 yards Jay racked up while running for his life.) They've got to be better.

Martz, Lovie, or whoever the hell was responsible for that fourth down call: I give credit to Martz for once again salvaging a working offense out of this patchwork offensive line, but that was a stupid call. USE THE QUARTERBACK SNEAK. YOU HAVE A 6'3" 230 LB QB WHO'S VERY MOBILE. Jesus. As for Lovie going for it on 4th down, well, take the points, moron.

Desmond Clark: All of that would have been a moot point if Dez actually catches that ball. I don't care if the throw was off, if it hits you in both hands you have to make that play.

ESPN: As usual, you people suck at everything. Trent Dilfer immediately dismissing the Bears win as a "disgrace for Green Bay." Replacing Jon Gruden with a GrudenBot that simply says "THIS GUY. I call him the __________. Because he _________." Allowing Mike Tirico near a microphone. Gainfully employing Matt Millen. SOMEHOW FINDING A WAY TO WORK IN FOOTAGE OF BRETT FAVRE'S FIRST CAREER START JESUS CHRIST YOU PEOPLE ARE RIDICULOUS.

Well, that's all for now, folks. Your Chicago Bears are 3-0 and alone in first place. The schedule features a ton of winnable games the next few weeks (@Giants, @Panthers, Seahawks, and Redskins). There's every reason to hope this team can enter the bye week at 7-0. Anything less than 6-1 would be a disappointment, frankly. They open up after the bye week with Buffalo in Toronto and then the Vikings at home. They need to win all of the games that they're supposed to win in that stretch, because the stretch run is going to be more difficult (@Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots, @ Vikings, Jets, @Packers). But enough of looking ahead. Savor this shit for now. The Bears are in first, the Packers are in second, and gameday is just six days away. Bear down, motherfuckers.

College Football Roundup Week 4

Miami 31, Pittsburgh 3
Every year I tell myself I'm going to bury the axe and that the mature thing would be to forgive Dave Wannstedt for shitting on my childhood. Then this happens and I still really fucking enjoy it. Fuck you, Wanny.

Stanford 37, Notre Dame 14
I'm so glad that Notre Dame finally hired a head coach who doesn't start off with one deceivingly "good" first year with the last guys recruits before heading into the tank. Can we stop pretending they're relevant now?

UCLA 34, Texas 12
Holy shit, the Big 12 sucks. UCLA? Really? Yikes. At this point I'm just expecting Nebraska to go undefeated in the conference as a giant middle finger before they head off to the Big Ten.

Alabama 24, Arkansas 20
And lo, the Armcock didst fail in the face of adversity. But he said to his people "fear not, my children, for there is but one Saban, and I should still finish with only one conference loss and an at large bid to the Sugar Bowl"

Oklahoma 31, Cincinnati 29
Last year this would have been understandable. This year, however, it just means that the Big 12 is really bad. Also the Big East. I'm glad that in true Big Ten fashion they've managed to rejoin the ranks of the elite not by getting better, but by watching their rival conferences sink back into mediocrity.

Florida 48, Kentucky 14
It was good to see Steve Addazio finally unleash John Brantley in the first half. If he keeps his head out of his ass they might threaten Alabama.

Auburn 35, South Carolina 27
So Stephen Garcia finally learns how to pass, has 3 touchdown passes, is down by only 8, but Spurrier benches him for a freshman quarterback in the fourth quarter against a ranked opponent on the road. The freshman then throws 2 picks on his only two possessions. You should have retired before you ever left for the Redskins, Steve. Jesus Christ. You've totally lost it.

Boise State 37, Oregon State 24
About what I expected. Boise has to be hoping that OSU can contend for the Pac 10 title in order to strengthen their argument.

LSU 20, West Virginia 14
Yeah, neither of these teams is very good, actually.

Arizona 10, California 9
Arizona narrowly avoids the hangover loss after their big win over Iowa.

Oregon 42, Arizona State 31
Oregon's defense didn't look very good, but I think that won't be a problem, for the most part.

Pivots, Drives, Levels, and 476 Passing Yards for Kyle Orton

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of the website Chris Brown (not a rapper) does a better job with X's and O's than anybody else in the blog world (and certainly better than anything you're going to get on ESPN. But that's what you get when you hire Trent Dilfer to explain strategy.) Last year Chris wrote this article explaining how the Patriots' spread offense works in the NFL and specifically the things they do with Wes Welker in order to make the offense work.

Through three games the Patron Saint has put up 1,078 yards. Add that to his 3,802 yards from last year and Kyle's got almost 5,000 yards passing and a 257 ypg average as a Denver Bronco to go along with a 62.3 completion %, 7.3 YPA, and an 88.7 rating, all of which far exceed his averages as a Bear (55.3% completions, 161.2 YPG, 5.8 YPA, 71.1 Rating).

How is Kyle racking up these yards at such an alarming rate? It's all about the way Josh McDaniels schemes to get his receivers wide open. If you watch, the Broncos use a lot of play action and even the occasional roll out as well as numerous crossing routes and multiple wide receiver sets to create mismatches and get Kyle wide open guys on easy throws with plenty of room to move. Or, as Chris puts it:

"Critics say that all Welker does is catch a ton of short passes, as if that were something to regret. Bill Belichick is merely playing to Welker’s strengths, and the very point of the Pats’ pro-spread is to stretch the defense sideline to sideline — throw short, throw short and throw short, that is, until a defender jumps an underneath route, allowing Brady to find another receiver running free downfield."

Replace Welker with Gaffney or Brandon Lloyd and you get basically the same answer. The Broncos make extensive use of the pivot, drive, and levels plays that Chris talks about and charts in that article, so I'd suggest giving it a quick look through. Last year, according to footballoutsiders, Orton threw short passes or medium passes about 85% of the time. This year the Broncos are still doing the same things but with even greater success between the 20s. Watching the game yesterday, I think the only pass that actually traveled over 25 yards in the air was the 38 yarder to Lloyd, but Orton still has 13 completions this year of 25 yards or greater thanks to a tremendous job of finding guys in space.

Now, lord knows I've spent the last year and a half waffling between trying to maintain my support for Kyle, a player I genuinely like, and my desire to see the Denver Broncos fail in order to shut up the mouthbreathers who decide to throw out Kyle's great numbers with Denver every time Cutler throws an interception. More than once I've tried to explain why Kyle's been having the success he's having in Denver and yet why it's a bit misleading as the Broncos have struggled to score despite consistently large outputs in the yardage category. The money line has always been something like this:

"The problem is that when teams move from the "bend but don't break" philosophy that most defenses are forced to employ to their red zone defenses, the underneath stuff is taken away and teams have to revert to conventional out routes agains tighter coverage, the kinds of throws that NFL quarterbacks are made of. Orton, as we know, struggles with these, and the Broncos offense is a perfect example of the tendency of spread offenses to rack up yards and not points. The Broncos, despite Orton's 1,236 passing yards and the great run game leading to a 6th place ranking in total yards, are just 22nd in the league in scoring at 19.8 ppg."-
That quote was from last October, but the point remains. Over his last seven games Kyle has averaged 322 yards passing and yet the Broncos are just 1-6 in those games and have only averaged 21 ppg.

The issues remains the same: red zone problems. The reason the Patriots went from 35 ppg in 2007 to 25 ppg in 2008 under Matt Cassel despite only dropping to 5th in the NFL in yardage was because of Matt Cassel's limitations. Cassel, like Orton now, struggles when defenses tighten up in the red zone and they run out of room to throw underneath. The inability of either team to run the ball (a common problem for spread offenses that college teams have solved only by featuring running QBS) all that successfully is yet another problem.

Kyle Orton hasn't magically become a world-beating quarterback. We didn't imagine the physical limitations that he has. Sure Ron Turner didn't utilize him as well as McDaniels has, but the end result (3.9 touchdown % in 2008 with the Bears, 3.9% in 2009 with the Broncos, 3.2% in 2010, 23.4 PPG for the 2008 Bears, 20.4 PPG for the 2009 Broncos, 20.3 for the 2010 Broncos) has been largely the same. Orton still can't make difficult throws against tight coverage, and that is why Josh McDaniels made the erroneous decision to draft Tim Tebow, and why I'd still rather have Jay Cutler.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Prognostication Bukakke! NFL Week 3

Last week in the NFL was not all that kind as I was just 10-6 to Iggins! 11-5, but there's always room for a comeback.

Cleveland @ Baltimore
Code Red: Hey! Maybe Joe Flacco will finally not suck! Ravens win.

Iggins!: Yeah, seriously though, why did the Ravens pass the ball 40 times? Ray Rice people! Ravens win.

Tennessee @ NY Giants
Iggins!: The Tits looked badbadbad last week, and pulling Vince Young is like forcing a mental patient to watch a horror movie, but for one week I can fool myself into thinking the Tits will be okay. Titans win.

Code Red: Did you see the Giants absolute FAIL against the Colts running game? Yeah, CJ2K will murder them. Titans win.

San Francisco @ Kansas City
Code Red: Tough loss for the 49ers. I just don't see them going to 0-3. There's too much talent on defense for them to lose to KC. 49ers win.

Iggins!: Kansas City has no offense yet they are 2-0. The luck has to run out somewhere right? 49ers win.

Code Red: God dammit. I really liked that thing you did last year where you picked the Chiefs to win like 7 games and they lost all of them.

Dallas @ Houston
Iggins!: This is a really good team against a really mediocre team. And it’s the total opposite of the way it was a couple years ago. Texans win.

Code Red: The Texans beat Dallas in their first ever game. Remember those Texans? David Carr actually doesn’t thanks to all of the brain damage. I’m not sure what my point is. Texans win.

Buffalo @ New England
Code Red: Yeaaah. I know it's unlikely that Buffalo will go 0-16 this year, but I just can't imagine picking them ever. Especially not against New England. Pats win.

Iggins!: Yeah they suck big balls. New England wins.

Detroit @ Minnesota
Iggins!: Well… Favre sucks… and the Lions have looked good their first two games… plus it would be hysterical, so Lions win.

Code Red: Last week I picked the Vikings and Iggins! picked against them. And they lost. Let’s make it two for two. Vikings win (but don’t!).

Cincinnati @ Carolina
Code Red: Oh good. That smug bastard Jimmy Clausen gets to make his first start against a terrifying Bengals secondary. This should be fun to watch. Bengals win, Panthers really suck.

Iggins!: I like watching metrosexual douchebags get crushed. Bengals win.

Atlanta @ New Orleans
Iggins!: Much like how Red won’t pick the Bills, I can’t see myself picking against the Saints. Saints win.

Code Red: Yeah, despite the horrendous beatdown of a Cardinals team that’s as bad as any seen since they were led by a young Jake Plummer, I’m not jumping in with the Falcons-knob-schlobbing club. Saints win.

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay
Code Red: It is mildly concerning that Pittsburgh may not score a single point on offense with Charlie Batch's corpse or a gimpy Byron Leftwich at quarterback, but they'll probably still win this anyway. Steelers win.

Iggins!: Can defense carry Pittsburgh to 3-0 without Roethlisberger? Against Josh Freeman I think it certainly can. Steelers win.

Code Red: F%&k you. Freeman’s not that bad! ARMCOCK.

Washington @ St. Louis
Iggins!: Washington is pretty good, and the Rams just aren’t. Washington wins.

Code Red: Or how about Washington is pretty sorta decent, and the Rams aren’t. Skins win, but they’ll go 8-8.

Philadelphia @ Jacksonville
Code Red: I don't know that I buy this new and improved “passing” Michael Vick. But I do know that Jacksonville blows. Eagles win, unfortunately.

Iggins!: Jacksonville is the hardest team to pick in the league. One week they can beat the best team in the league and the next they could lose to the Browns by 30. I think the Eagles will win but only because I don’t know what will happen and I don’t want to lose a game to Red.

Indianapolis @ Denver
Iggins!: So a coach comes in and trades away all his best players, replacing them with mediocre players and high draft picks that aren’t working out. Coach should be fired. Do it before you’re totally buried, Denver. Colts win.

Code Red: Yeah, but now he’s got a bunch of mediocre players that buy into the system. So they’ll go 8-8 with heart and determination. Colts win.

San Diego @ Seattle
Code Red: If the Broncos can hand Seattle their ass like that, San Diego will probably have their starters on the bench by halftime. Chargers win big.

Iggins!: Yeah, week 1 was a fluke for the Hawks. Chargers win.

Oakland @ Arizona
Iggins!: Oh wow. What a shitty game. Lost in the Raiders drama is Darren McFadden, who appears to have matured into the beast we thought he would be. I like the Raiders here.

Code Red: Derek Anderson vs. Bruce Gradkowski. What a disgrace to the concept of passing. Bill Walsh just rolled over in his grave. This will be worse than watching dueling Jake Plummers. Ugh. Cardinals win.

NY Jets @ Miami
Code Red: I think Miami's defense is better than New England, and I think Rico Mirerez will revert to form this week. Dolphins win at home.

Iggins!: Yeah, Sanchez tends to have awful games followed by great ones followed by awful ones, etc., so I like Miami as well.

Code Red: RICO MIREREZ. Make it stick, asshole.

Green Bay @ Chicago
Code Red: I don't think I'm lying when I say this is the biggest Bears-Packers game of my lifetime. The Bears can prove they're actually good with a win at home against Green Bay, and I may not draw a breath until the final gun. Bears win. Please, Gods of Football?

Iggins!: This game pits what may be the second and third best NFC teams against eachother. I think the Packers are the second best but at home I think the Bears can win. Bears win.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bears-Packers, A Brief History

A couple years ago I tried doing the whole "head to head" unit matchups during Hate Week, even though I think those are really pointless for the most part (well the Bears are winning 4 to 2, because their returners, kicker, tight ends, and uniform colors are better than Green Bays, even if Green Bay has the edge in offense and defense...) and after I of course made the conclusion that the Bears were better the Packers went ahead and bitch-slapped them 37-3. So instead of making any bold predictions or examining the matchups (Bears have better RBS!!! Lolz), I'm going to just review the recent Bears-Packers series.

Packers 21 @ Bears 14
This game wasn't as frustrating as the opener last year, given that it wasn't a turnover-plagued mess and most of us had abandoned all hope anyway, but it was still painful. The sad part was the the Bears' battered and bruised defense once again held the Packers offense to a relatively low yardage total, forced two turnovers, and had three sacks. The offense just had absolutely no rhythm at all. Were there sacks? Oh yes, 3 of them. How about a total ineptitude at running the ball? Oh yes, just 59 yards on the ground, senor. And how about a complete lack of discipline in general? 13 PENALTIES FOR YOU! When you have nearly half as many penalty yards (109) as you do total offense (254), you, sir, have a terrible offense.

Bears 15 @ Packers 21

I'm not even sure I can or need to recap this. 4 interceptions in Cutler's debut. The single dumbest turnover on downs I've ever seen when Pat Mannelly snapped the ball to Garret Wolfe on 4th and A Million in Green Bay territory because he thought he saw 12 men on the field, which would have given the Bears less than half of the yardage needed for a first down. Urlacher snapping his wrist in two and ending his season after 2 quarters. Chris Collinsworth beginning his reign of terror in the broadcast booth. Nathan Vasher falling on his ass and allowing the easiest touchdown pass of Aaron Rodger's career. I give you all of these things without further comment. Now excuse me while I try to drill into my own skull to let the bad thoughts out.

Packers 17 @ Bears 20
This victory for the Bears was the final one in what is, arguably, the ugliest 3 game winning streak in Bears history. The Bears beat the Jaguars, Saints, and Packers, while being out gained in 2 of those 3 games and failing to gain 300 yards of offense in any of the three. Orton posted a QB rating under 50 against the Packers (he also posted a similar rating against the Saints the week before), and somehow, true to Orton form, was the beneficiary of the best defense the Bears played all season long and a blocked field goal and won the game. This win set the Bears up at 9-6 and enabled them to kick us all in the crotch once more by laying an egg in Houston and missing the playoffs.

Bears 3 @ Packers 37
The Bears were awful against the pass in 2008 and were 5th in the NFL in run defense, while the Packers had been struggling to stop anything on defense and their run game on offense was struggling as well. The Bears were 5-4 after a close loss to the Titans without the red-hot Orton, while he had returned to face the 4-5 Packers. Outside of 2006, I'd never been more confident that the Bears would get a win in Lambeau. Instead, they got brutally assaulted in Roethlisbergian fashion as they sold out to stop the pass and instead gave up over 227 yards on the ground. The horror. The horror. Rex Grossman also made his last ever appearance in a Bears uniform during this game. So, there's that. Now let's never speak of this gain.


Packers 7 @ Bears 35
The most disappointing Bears team of my lifetime (when considering my preseason expectations, God knows I wasn't counting on the 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, or 2004 teams to do much of anything) was somewhat mitigated by an inexplicable sweep of the Packers. You want to talk about inexplicable? How about racking up 35 points off of just 240 yards of total offense? Favre threw two picks, one of which Urlacher returned 85 yards for a TD (something a good friend of mine once called the play that he thought was going to "finally determine who the biggest dick in that pissing contest was") and Corey Graham also returned a blocked punt for a TD. The Bears thus had the joy of being 2 of the 3 losses the Packers suffered during their 13-3 season, returning the favor that Green Bay had given the 2001 Bears.

Bears 27 @ Packers 20

The Bears somehow won this game despite the fact that Cedric Benson rushed for just 64 yards on TWENTY-SEVEN ATTEMPTS (2.4 YPC), or that Green Bay actually outgained them 439-285, or that Brian Griese lived, breathed, and played quarterback for the Chicago Bears that day. Fortunately Brett Favre was Brett Favre and threw two picks that cost Green Bay the game. This brought the Bears up to 2-3 and gave us hope that they'd possibly right the ship. Instead they let Adrian Peterson set the NFL record for rushing yards the next week as they dropped to 2-4 and I became hopelessly addicted to black tar heroin.

Packers 26 @ Bears 7
This was the game where Rex Grossman lost all but his most ardent supporters (and most of them deserted after the Superbowl, leaving me and Lovie Smith until the Cowboys abortion the next year) as he threw 3 picks, had a 0 rating, and admitted he didn't take this meaningless game seriously and was simply looking forward to enjoying New Year's Eve. Yeah, that shit was ugly. Favre racked up great numbers against a Bears defense that only played it's starters in the first half, then got all weepy afterwards and pulled his first offseason cocktease by saying how nice of a final game it would be to go out after beating such a great team (that didn't play it's starters for more than a half and had absolutely nothing to play for. This cannot be stated enough). I'd say that this game really sucked to watch, but, hell, it was New Year's Eve and it was a meaningless game. I was getting drunk.

Bears 26 @ Packers 0
The most satisfying win, in my opinion, that the Bears have enjoyed over Green Bay in my lifetime. Not even the division clinching win at Lambeau on Christmas Day the year before could compare to handing Favre his first ever shutout and kicking off a Superbowl run with an absolutely dominating performance. They outgained Green Bay 361-267. The defense forced 3 turnovers. Grossman threw for 262 yards and a TD and temporarily silenced the idiots who'd wanted to bench him for Brian Fucking Griese during the preseason. God, it was glorious. What a time to be alive.

Bears 24 @ Packers 17
Regardless of what I said above, this game was still really fucking satisfying. The Bears held Favre without a TD pass and let him gift wrap their divsion title with 4 interceptions. Grossman returned in time to throw the first touchdown pass the Bears had seen in something like a decade, if I remember correctly, and all seemed well, as none of us knew then that Steve Smith was going to tie our grandmothers to a chair and force us to watch as he slowly and methodically committed unspeakable acts of depravity and horror.

Packers 7 @ Bears 19
I'm just going to post Brett Favre's statline for this game: 31/58 for 277 YDs, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks, 2 fumbles.

Actually, here's Favre's statline for both games against the 2005 Bears:
2 GS, 0-2, 61/109 (56.0%), 594 yds, 0 TDs, 6 INTs, 5.5 YPA, 48.5 rating, 6 sacks, 2 fumbles lost.

Giggity. There used to be a highlight reel of nothing but the 2005 Bears molesting Favre before the NFL bastards had it removed for copyright violation. If that was still on Youtube I'd probably never have needed a woman.

Packers 31 @ Bears 14.
By the time this game rolled around the Bears, who actually had the #13th ranked scoring defense in the NFL, had lost 16 players to the IR, including Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Mike Brown, John Tait, Ruben Brown, and pretty much every other starter they had at the beginning of the season (or so it felt). Thus we were left to watch Chad Hutchinson throwing 5 yard outs 29 times despite a 28-7 halftime deficit. The Bears also suffered the wrath of Craig Nall, as he torched them for 131 yards and a touchdown on just 13 passing attempts, as Favre hit the bench early in a meaningless game. Guh.

Bears 21 @ Packers 10
Long before that season ending debacle, however, the Bears gave us hope with this stunning upset at Lambeau. Thomas Jones burst into our hearts by 152 yards and a TD while the defense forced Favre into 2 interceptions and caused an Ahman Green fumble in the redzone that Mike Brown returned 95 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately Brown tore his Achilles tendon on the play and began the injury streak that would ultimately doom his career. That was just the first of many season-ending injuries for the 2004 Bears, as Grossman would go down the next game against Minnesota and Brian Urlacher would suffer a near-fatal injury to his leg later in the season against the Titans.

So there you have all 12 games the Bears have played against the Packers in Lovie's era. Each team has had a few outright dominant performances (The Bears in Lambeau in 2004, 2005, and 2006 and Green Bay's total ass-whipping of the Bears in Lambeau in 2008) while each team's also preyed on the other in meaningless season-ending games featuring decimated or disinterested roster (the Packer beatdowns of 2004 and 2006, and the Bear's 35-7 rape in 2007). And each team has suffered some close losses in games they should have won (Green Bay's loss to Brian Griese, both Bear defeats last year). What this should tell you about Monday, well, I don't know. But fuck Green Bay.

Prognostication Bukakke! NCAA Week 4

Well, last week wasn't bad, as we both went 7-3 in our college picks. Hopefully we'll put some distance between us this week:

Miami @ Pittsburgh

Code Red: Neither of these teams is as good as they were last year. Not even close. That said, I expect a nice Jacory Harris rebound game against the Wannstache. Miami wins.

Iggins!: I don’t think it’s that they aren’t as good as they were last year, it’s more like they’re both just as mediocre and overhyped. Miami wins.

NC State @ Georgia Tech

Iggins!: Well the ACC is proving to be just like it always is; totally unpredictable and filled to the brim with shitty teams. That being said, GaTech should win this game easily… but even as I type that I’m practically guaranteeing a 30 point loss. GaTech wins.

Code Red: I truly hate to pick against the triple option, but NC State’s Russell Wilson is playing not awful right now, while GT’s offense allowed Kansas to score 28 points. Guh. NC State wins.

Stanford @ Notre Dame

Code Red: If ND couldn't slow down Michigan State they're not going to slow down Andrew Luck. Stanford wins big.

Iggins!: Well this won’t be close. Stanford wins.

Alabama @ Arkansas

Iggins!: This might be the hardest game Bama has on it’s schedule, but they’ll still win by 20. Alabama wins.

Code Red: Fuck it. Man crushes are man crushes for a reason. RYAN MALLETT’S ARMCOCK SHALL END THY STREAK. Armcockansas wins ( I really think Alabama will probably win, but in this world a man must stand for something).

South Carolina @ Auburn

Code Red: Both of these teams have been winning with defense. I'm not sure who is stronger. I'll take Auburn, because I think Cam Newton is less like to fuck up than Steven Garcia.

Iggins!: Auburn is pretty damn one-dimensional, and if they hadn’t been the loving recipient of the usual Clemson meltdown they might have gotten beaten pretty bad. I like South Carolina to win.

Kentucky @ Florida

Iggins!: Well Florida may be worse than last year, but they aren’t bad enough to lose to Kentucky. Florida wins.

Code Red: Make that 24 straight against Kentucky. Florida wins.

Oregon State @ Boise State

Code Red: Boise's last chance at a legitimate win. They won't let it slip away. Boise wins.

Iggins!: I bet when Oregon State scheduled TCU and Boise 5 or 6 years ago they didn’t expect to be playing two top 5 teams. It sucks too because Oregon State is probably going to come close to winning the Pac 10 (along with 5 other Pac 10 teams). Boise State wins.

West Virginia @ LSU

Iggins!: LSU kind of sucks. But so does the Big East. Basically this comes down to whether the Big East Champion can beat a middling SEC team… so I give the slight edge to Noel Devine. West Virginia wins.

Code Red: Yeah, but Baton Rouge is a terrifying fucking place to play road football. LSU wins.

California @ Arizona

Code Red: Yikes. After watching Nevada demolish Cal I don't see anyway that the talented Nick Foles can't carve apart the Cal defense while the Arizona defensive line murders some more people. Arizona wins.

Iggins!: Arizona certainly looked good last week, and I now need Arizona to lose exactly twice this year, and I think that’ll happen against Oregon and Oregon State. So Arizona wins.

Oregon @ Arizona State

Iggins!: The Pac 10 has 5 teams who have a legit shot at the conference title. ASU isn’t one of them. Oregon wins.

Code Red: AZ State actually has a defense, so they may hold Oregon under 50. But that’s about it. Oregon wins.

(Apologies for the god awful formatting. Blogger really hates when you copy from Word and I don't understand the first damn thing about HTML.)