Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

F*&$ it: The Remainder of the Probable Playoff Teams

Naughty language above! That was the wife's idea, don't blame me!

Welcome back, people of the internet! I am Colin, last known in Chandler, now freshly moved to East Eeeeeeeaast Mesa, where the only aspect of town more fun then the desert are the multitude of retirement communities all around you! Awesome!

My back has started to congeal after moving furniture for the last week, including one hellish hide-a-bed that, if I had my way, would cease to exist on this corporeal frame. The only two tasks that remain (that I care anything about, ipso facto NOT where to hang various pictures) are to buy a grill (apartments in Arizona don't allow you to have one for some stupid reason against happiness) and convincing my wife that NOW if the time to get that new HDTV instead of the 20 inch crap-o-rama that currently sits, very sadly, on our TV stand. I figure that if I point out to her the numerous benefits of getting a new TV (seeing football larger than life, playing Madden 2007 larger than life, not needing to talk to each other any more) she's bound to let me go out and get it. Cross your fingers!

However, internet is finally connected, which means that I can finally write again, which is good since Gavin decided that writing was for the pansies and that, since he had a "real life", he wasn't able to blog at all. The excuse sounded strangely familiar.....

Speaking of excuses, Gavin and I don't apologize at all for this, but are giving you our other possible playoff teams in one final bluh of guess-dom. The final group is the actual contenders, which we will unveil at a later time. Like Friday. Or even tomorrow if Gavin feels like it. Not today, though. Don't come back here today.

You hear me?

Tampa Bay Bucs:
Jon Gruden reaffirmed his guru status in vaulting this team past the rebuilding phase in less than one season. It helped with having the offensive rookie of the year in Cadillac Williams, having Joey Galloway actually become a #1 receiver, and having a healthy Derrick Brooks lead the defense back into dominant territory. Their hopes for the season, however, lie squarely on the un-clutch shoulders of Chris Simms, who has yet to meet a big game that he can't lose in some fashion. The love heaped on Simms while he was in the process of getting destroyed by Washington last year in the playoffs was mindboggling.

NY Giants:
Sports Illustrated has the Hawks losing (AT HOME) to the Giants in the postseason. I'm going to go ahead and call a false start penalty on that prediction. Suffice it to say that Eli regressed over the second half of the season, Tiki is one year older (and he was already past his prime in years), Tom Coughlin is still one scary son-of-a-gun, and their secondary sucks worse than ours. This team could go anywhere from first to last in the NFC East, because if they start losing, that entire team is going to quit on Coughlin.

San Diego:
This team was elite-caliber last year, so the GM decided to shake things up and get rid of the proven veteran in exchange for an unproven 3rd year quarterback who has never started an NFL game. Real smart, man. Real smart. Fortunately Tomlinson is still around to be awesome, as is Gates, and Merriman, etc., but this team also happens to be coached by one Marty S., so there's no way this team goes past the second round of the playoffs. If that.

Kansas City:
Last call for this team. Trent Green is one big hit away from being done. Same with Tony Gonzalez. Larry Johnson will have to run behind an aging offensive line that just lost their best player in Willie Roaf. And their defense, even with the elder statesman that is Ty Law, just isn't very good. But they have Herm Edwards! And we all know (or have been told) that Herm Edwards is a great coach, right?!

Miami:
For all the people jumping off the New England bandwagon o' love and jumping on the Dolphins bandwagon, I have this to say....... Tom Brady vs. Daunte Culpepper. This is the same Culpepper who would have given Brett Favre a run for his money in the INT category last season even before his injury, who has been remarkably inconsistent throughout his career, and has never won a big game. Tom Brady has won several big games, and has several large rings to show for it. I'll believe that the Dolphins are a better team when I see them playing further into the postseason than New England. Not before.

Chicago:
This team should make the postseason for the same reason that the Hawks should make the postseason. If not them in the NFC North, who else? Their defense is still scary-good, Thomas Jones is a decent back, and Brian Griese is waiting for his chance to show the Bears what it feels like to have a competent quarterback under center. How long will Grossman's leash be? That might decide home field advantage in the NFC.

Cincinatti:
Honestly, Gavin and I created this list before Carson Palmer lit it up on Monday Night Preseason Football. Of course, Carson Palmer lit it up 1) in the preseason, and 2) against the Green Bay Packers, so not all is well in Cincy land. Also, the team seems to land in jail pretty frequently, and that defense is still not very good, especially with Odell Thurman suspended for the first four games. That offense is championship caliber with a healhty Palmer, but the defense might still hold them back.

Pittsburgh:
Every break that could go right did go right for the Steelers last year. Yes, I'm still bitter. Bite me. No, I don't think they have a chance of repeating. Yes, I feel there are three teams in the AFC better than the boys of Steel. No, I don't think Willie Parker is a great everydown back. No, I don't think that secondary is super-awesome. Yes, Joey Porter is more hype than talent. Yes, BIll Cowher will be a distraction.

posted by colin_hesse @ 3:57 PM  0 comments

Monday, August 28, 2006

PPP - Dallas Cowboys

I have to admit, I'm starting to get more with Colin on this whole "write a preview for every NFL team" notion... it's harder than it looks.

Reason 1: We're lazy
Reason 2: There're only so many ways to dissect a team. In other words, I'm writing the same preview about ten times, only changing the teams involved. This is because most NFL teams have the exact same problems. They're weak in the offensive line and overrated in one or two other ways because of their greats yards-per-game statistics.

Take the Dallas Cowboys, for example. A few, including Petey King, have picked them as the NFC Super Bowl representatives for no other apparent reason than the need to suck Jerry Jones' proverbial teat for the season. Apparently Terrell Owens and his mega-baggage can do that for a club.

There's only one problem with this prediction... it's not based on the remotest link to actual fact. That's when I wonder exactly what they teach in journalism classes in college, and I do really believe that any prospective sportswriter should take a few 200 level statistics courses, just to get rid of all those ridiculous "intangibles" notions out of their heads (like the crap I had to see on ESPN.com today).

Fun fact: Only the Falcons and the Redskins in the NFC rushed more than the Cowboys, because apparently Bill Parcells, master of the universe, keeper of the keys of Enthalus, light of Indithor, creator of the dark God Mysoti, isn't exactly the incredible coach people make him out to be. The Cowboys could not run the football for squat last year, and I don't even have to look at the pathetic 3.6 ypc (hey, if the stat is low you know it's bad), but at Julius Jones, who wrecked my fantasy team last year. So now all the talk's about how Julius Jones has "learned" and "put in so much time in the offseason" and is "bigger, faster, stronger than before". Whatever. I'm still avoiding him like the plague during our draft this weekend. So we've established that the 'Boys have a mediocre rushing offense.

Passing? Well, they gave up sacks at an insane rate for an elite team, 9.3% adjusted sack rate, fifth from the bottom in the NFL. Since Drew "Human Statue" Bledsoe is still quarterbacking, that means sacks and fumbles. Now, Bledsoe can definitely still wing it around, and with good talent like T.O., Terry Glenn, and Jason Witten, the Cowboys have enough talent to move it through the air, but just ask the Cardinals what top receiving talent gives you if you can't run the ball effectively. All this to say, no dice on the offense taking them to the next level.

Now, the reason they're in this category instead of the "Only One Pig" is because of the defense, because I like it... a lot. I love the secondary, Roy Williams, Terence Newman. I love the young linebackers like Bobby Carpenter and DeMarcus Ware. This "D" is going to be top 10, I think, and is worthy of some decent hype. They are one of only a few defenses I don't like going against with Seattle, because of how well they match up to our strengths (unlike Carolina). So put me down as a believer that the Cowboys could easily win the NFC East and make the postseason, but the Panthers and Seahawks (not to mention even the Bears) have the inroads to the promised land.

Now that the preview's over with, I should mention that I'm not watching much M's baseball, but it does feel nice to rub Red Sox nation's collective noses into the ground over the weekend. I'm about ready for another curse to start. We'll call it "The Curse of the Insufferable Fan Base" and the Lord will make it so the Sox don't win another Series for another 100 years. Good times.

I'm starting to get a tad concerned about the Hawks' pass defense... another sub-par effort against the Chargers. I'm not concerned about the offensive line blocking. They'll be fine.

I shot a 94 golfing this past weekend. I'm moving up in the world. Although I swung too hard for most of the day and am officially sore.

Oh, and my superstar player in Madden mode was drafted by the... you guessed it... Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, there is no "holdout"mode, so I can't force a trade. I think I'm going to tank it for the couple of seasons until my contract's up and I can leave quickly. Until then, the RB career of Zapp Brannigan will live long and prosper.

posted by Gavin @ 1:25 PM  1 comments

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Trip to Mecca


Last weekend I had the chance to finally go to a game at Wrigley Field, which was awesome. Only Yankee Stadium and Fenway to go.

Thanks to Bekah (far left) and Jessica (next to me) for the experience.

All are allowed to be jealous.

The stadium itself is just historic and awesome. The seats are comfortable and much better set up than the also-old Shea Stadium in New York. The Ivy isn't quite as cool in person, but it doesn't have to be. Oddly enough, there isn't a video scoreboard (although there is that huge hand operated scoreboard in center field that is extremely high on the kickin' scale). The lack of video meant, however, that I wasn't subjected to random pictures of wives carrying babies in uniforms. I can deal with that. Unfortunately, I also missed out on the random shots of attractive people. Can't have everything, I suppose.

I highly recommend not using Ticketmaster. The markup we got from one of the many scalpers outside was less than we would have paid using the "legal" method, and the seats were far superior as well.

As for the game itself, I was able to see Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter in person, which rocked. Pujols had a bad game (single, double play, two K's), while Carpenter looked good against the Cubs terrible lineup. Saw a few absolute bombs, including a solo shot by Chris Duncan that just flew out to right.

The fans are far more involved. I liked them. Not the latte-sipping pansies of our fair city.

I hope to go back again soon.

Oh... and shout out to Nate for the Kazakh shirt. I get more questions about it than any other bit of clothing in my wardrobe.

posted by Gavin @ 3:47 PM  1 comments

Probable Playoff Team: Minnesota Vikings

Before beginning this, I have to throw out this article by DJ Gallo of ESPN. He goes through a few of the funnier player rankings in Madden 07 (which will probably hit my house this weekend). My personal favorites?

Todd Pinkston's 35 strength rating. Apparently Madden remembers him being a massive wuss as much as I do. Still, that's gotta hurt as an NFL player. I'm sure they all know their Madden ratings, and Pinky's got some explaining to do...

Eli Manning's 89 accuracy rating. Riiiiiiight.

Anyways, on to Minnesota. Now, I'm sure the first thing through a few fans' minds will be the following: "Gavin, you just got done with the Philadelphia Eagles in your last preview. Do you really believe the Vikings are better than the Eagles?"

This is why Power Rankings are inherently foolish. All these specific matchups are pretty ridiculous at the beginning. I would say the Eagles are a better team than the Vikings. If they played in Philly, I would say Philly +7, in Minnesota, the Vikings +3. That's why our ranking system is so much cooler (i.e. lazier). The Vikings do have a much better shot than the Eagles at reaching the postseason, because they don't have the atrocious schedule Philadelphia possesses. It's not fair, but it is the NFL.

Do I really think much of the Vikings? Nope. Especially not now after losing Koren Robinson (insert hearty chuckle here).

First, the good news offensively. The Vikings have a decent offensive line. The left side of Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk is pure quality. The right side is really mediocre in comparison. A lot depends on Birk and Hutchinson's health, because the depth is appalling. Even so, they have to be able to improve on last season's showing, where the Vikings were only beaten by the dreaded Cardinals to get the title of "worst offensive line in the NFL".

Power Success? 63% (17th). Stuffed? 28% (27th). These are not good numbers. It gets worse/better... Sack Percentage (how often a quarterback hits the turf when he drops back)? 9.8% (29th). So the Vikings couldn't run and they couldn't protect the quarterback. I can begin to see why they would toss absurd amounts of money to a guard. They didn't have Matt Birk, which did make a big difference. However, they did have Bryant McKinnie, so he might be a tad overrated. Overall, adding a guard, even if he's the best guard in the NFL, is not going to take Minnesota into the upper echelon of NFL O-lines, but they will be significantly better than the stats above.

The bad news (remember, that was supposed to be the good news) is that the Vikings have absolutely nobody who frightens you as a playmaker. Chester Taylor never was the starting back in Baltimore, even if he has "potential". Brad Johnson is... well... Brad Johnson. You pretty much know what you're going to get. Without Koren Robinson as well as the loss (to us) of Nate Burleson, the Vikings have very little depth at the WR position. Maybe last year's 1st round pick Troy Williamson can step up some, but I wouldn't be excited about any of the other starters, and am going to avoid all of them by the time fantasy football comes around (soon, thank heavens).

To go into a little more detail, Brad Johnson had a DPAR of 39.2, right in between Brett Favre and Marc Bulger at 16th in the league. He is, in every way, an average quarterback, and that's why he gets work. You know what you're going to get. Not a lot of picks, not a lot of big plays. He also makes Drew Bledsoe look mobile, if that's even possible, so that sack rate needs to improve this season or he's not lasting.

The first WR with a decent DPAR rating is Marcus Robinson, and he's down past Bobby Engram. Yippee. That's sure going to put a healthy does of fear into Chicago.

What about the defense? While the end results were poor last season (19th against both pass and rush on FO), there's a lot to like. Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are solid tackles, and they have 1st rounders flanking them, both of whom are young and have a lot of ability. Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield are both quality corners, and perhaps with no legal problem hanging over his head Smoot will raise his quality of play.

The safeties are both too old, especially Darren Sharper, who peaked 10 years ago. Depending on him is a mistake. The linebacking corps is also pretty abysmal, and that's what will keep this defense from entering any kind of elite status.

Overall, the improvement in the offensive line will help, and there will be some improvement defensively. All that to say, the Vikings have a shot to reach the postseason, just not a big one. They will have to be consistent enough to overcome the Bears, but the schedule is favorable.

posted by Gavin @ 2:11 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How Did This Guy Get This Job?

Whenever I ask myself, "Colin, why aren't you a sportswriter for a living?" I tell myself that it's just too hard and I'm just not knowledgable enough.

Answer A is just too stupid, as evidenced by the majority of sports articles being absolute crap.

Answer B was also just proved stupid.

ESPN is trying out having an Insider Blog for each NFL division, including one for the NFC West! So..... what qualifies someone to write a blog on ESPN.com?

A. 20 years of being a national sportswriter
B. 10 years of being a national sportswriter
C. 40 years of being a hardcore NFL fan who loves to talk about sports
D. 7 years in the pro personnel department of the Arizona Cardinals, where your duties ranged from the evaluation of collegiate and professional players to the advance scouting of future opponents to negotiating contracts.

So.... assisting the Cardinals, the worst-run NFL franchise, for 7 years makes you worthy of writing a blog on ESPN.com? Wowsers.

Check, please.

posted by colin_hesse @ 5:40 PM  0 comments

Probable Playoff Team (PPP): Jacksonville Jaguars

If you think that I'm going to spend much time outlining the reasons why the Jaguars are a truly boring team who have a chance to make the postseason largely because they are located in the same division as the Titans and the Texans....

Today, the day after I picked up my copy of Madden 2007......

Well, once again, you're nucking futs.

There's a reason I picked Jacksonville today. I simply don't care about the Jaguars. They were a nice story at the beginning of last year until it became apparent to all involved that they were a step below in quality from the actual top-tier of the AFC. If the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Diego Chargers, for example, had played in the AFC South last year, they would have gone to the postseason. Why? They were both better teams last year, and they are both better teams this year, even with Phillip Rivers slinging it sidearm in San Diego.

The buzz about their offense actually offends me. Byron Leftwich has proved absolutely nothing in his short stay in the NFL besides being able to throw from the shotgun and being injury prone. Don't even get me started on David Garrard, who, for some un-for-Godly-seeable reason, gets praise heaped on him by some writers who even want there to be a quarterback controversy in Jacksonville. Now, I might not be the biggest Leftwich fan, but I do know that Byron is twice the quarterback that Garrard is (not twice the man, since both of them pack the pounds quite effectively) and there should be no debate there.

Fred Taylor hasn't looked effective in about three years, and Jacksonville finally attempted to address this with Maurice Jones-Drew, who might be another Warrick Dunn OR could very easily be another failure in the long line of NFL runners too small to make a difference. The kid is 5'7", ok? He's smaller then my wife.

As for the wide receivers, Jimmy Smith retired, leaving the Jags to work with some combination of Ernest Wilford, Reggie Williams, and Matt Jones. So you have an unproven, a bust, and a quarterback. AWESOME! Hopefully, at the very least, Mercedes Lewis improves the TE position, but that's not a sure thing. I sure know I was scratching my head at that draft pick.

So....... an unspectacular offense with very little in the way of improvement. Excellent. The defense, by and large, also remains unchanged, which, in this case, is a good thing, especially in Stroud and Henderson remain healthy, anchoring that defensive line. Make no mistake. If the Jags return to the playoffs, it will be riding the coattails of their defense.

And Mike Tice is a coach there! Super-Neat!

OK, that's enough about them. Seriously, wow, I just can't generate any more enthusiasm there.

Now, about Madden 2007.

I hadn't ever played a Madden game on the XBox 360, and was stunned to discover the amount of controls necessary to play effectively. I immediately played as the Seahawks against the Arizona Cardinals. "This should be an easy matchup," I thought to myself.

However, I quickly realized that, if you don't know what you're doing, no matchup is an easy matchup. I got intercepted by Karlos Dansby on my first pass, setting up the Cards for a short TD Drive highlighted by me, playing as Grant Wistrom, whiffing TWICE on the same play on Edge James as he scampered for 15 yards (the run was to the side, so he didn't actually have to depend on the offensive line).

Well, it was showtime. Shaun rocks in the game, so I attempted to pound the ball with him, only to discover that when you actually run the ball in Madden, the game actually goes by pretty quickly. I was on my third drive when the 2 minute warning hit in the first half. Sweet Jesus! I'm still down by 7 to Arizona!

I threw a long ball to Burleson and got down to the 15 yard line, when Hasselbeck got hit and fumbled the football away. Cursing ensued from my general direction. Fortunately, I used all my timeouts, got the ball back with 1 minute left, and did a classic Madden drive to score with a few seconds remaining in the half on a sweet pass to Stevens wide open in the endzone. The score, thus, was tied going into the half.

I got the ball to begin the second half, and immediately drove down the field, but the drive stalled and I brought in the field goal unit for a 30 yard try. New discovery: it's hard to kick in Madden 2007 when you don't know what you're doing! Suffice it to say my kick traveled all of 10 yards. That allowed the Cards to drive it to my 30 yard line, where Neil Rackers easily made a 50 yard field goal. I hated life.

A few more failed drives, and it was already the 2 minute warning, the Cards had the ball, and I was still down by 3. Yes, I suck. I admit it. However, there is a God, Madden loves last-second comebacks, and Nate Burleson loves to catch the ball in the back of the end zone with 3 seconds left, allowing me to actually beat the Cardinals and feel satisfied with myself.

Other note: Superstar mode is pretty neat, though it's hard to play quarterback when you are actually at field level. You have to look back and forth to see the receivers, and while you're doing that, big men are coming through to massacre you, especially when you got drafted by the Detroit Lions to back up Jon Kitna.

So far the game is great, though. Still waiting for Gavin to get it so we can beat the Steelers, on easy mode, like 200-0. And blog about it.

posted by colin_hesse @ 3:10 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just So You Know....

If you actually think I'm blogging anything more then this today......

The day that I just picked up my copy of Madden 2007 with Shaun Alexander on the cover.....




You're nucking futs.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:51 PM  1 comments

Monday, August 21, 2006

Michael Bidwell and Edgerrin James find their balls: now washed!

The culprit? Paul Attner, henceforth known as "a tool".

Read the Ernest Hemingway start to the article:

From downtown Phoenix, you drive west about 18 miles before you start seeing a speck on the horizon. As you draw closer to Glendale, the speck becomes a stunning vision sitting amid the desert flatlands, dominating the landscape in a warm, welcoming fashion. This is the new stadium home of the Arizona Cardinals, a magnificent edifice shaped like a barrel cactus and representing everything the franchise hopes will be different and positive about a team that, for most of the last 18 years, has been wallowing in the armpit of the NFL.

You start seeing a speck on the horizon? A stunning vision? Dominating the landscape in a warm, welcoming fashion? A magnificent edifice shaped like a barrel cactus? Has someone not been laid in the past fifteen years?

I've driven by the stadium several times. It looks, well, like a stadium in the MIDDLE OF THE DESERT!! It's surrounded by warm, inviting parking lot, dirt, highway, and illegal immigrants. Actually, it's kinda ugly from the outside.

The fricking masterpiece continues....

But Michael Bidwill's gradually increasing influence has slowly instilled much-needed direction and structure. And now, wow, look what's going on. The NFL awarded the now air-conditioned Cardinals their first season-opening game at home, against the 49ers, since they moved to Arizona from St. Louis in 1988. Fans showed some love by buying a record 58,000 season tickets before the team cut off sales, virtually assuring the Cards of all sellouts in the 63,400-seat stadium, another first in their Arizona tenure. That means no blackouts; the Cardinals haven't had a home game on local TV since 2000, save for a leaguewide blackout lifting after 9/11. Plus, they dipped into the draft and came away with a stunner, quarterback Matt Leinart. If all this weren't enough, they can toss the big enchilada at you: signing Edgerrin James, the premier free agent available this offseason. No wonder the players talk as if anything short of making the postseason would be a big disappointment.

So.... you got air-conditioning, a home-opener against the 49ers (good night!), more fans are coming and will be able to watch the games at home, they got a quarterback that won't help them this year, and they got an enchilada (bonus points for the Mexican food dish making it into an article about the Arizona Cardinals.... I would have gone with tostada, or chimichanga, but that's just a perference thing) named Edge, who has some words of wisdom to impart, and now the postseason is THERE. MMMMMMMM, YES!!!!

By the way, the big enchilada sounds more like a big helping of crazy.....

"Edge is not crazy, man," he says. "I have vision. Everyone was talking about what might happen to me in Indy and I already had seen what was going to take place--and it did. Now I have seen what will happen in Arizona, and it will happen. When it does, maybe I will finally get credit for my vision."

What James sees is this: an immediate winner. "When we start winning this year," he says, "you can expect it for years to come because everything is laid out just right. This is not what everyone else thought it to be. It is all perfect timing; it is just right for me to be here."

Where does James "see" this? Is this anything like the time that I, as a teenager, "saw" myself sharing a room with Catherine Zeta-Jones?

And he's really serious. He wants to wind up in the Hall of Fame and has already told his offensive line, in the kind of lighthearted manner that so ingratiates him with teammates, they have no option but to play well around him. "They don't need to f-- up my Hall of Fame," he says.

HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Ahhh, that's so sad. Because the truth is that they might. They really might.

James' presence does bring immeasurable credibility to the Cardinals' image-building. You want to resist saying it puts them over the Edge, but virtually everyone in Cardinal land says it, so what the heck. That's why there's actually a buzz about the team. The rest of the league has taken note, too.

Immeasurable credibility? Actually, I thought that credibility, by and large, was an unmeasurable. There is no actual measurement, that I know of at the very least, to measure credibility. But, sure, the Cardinals' image-building is now credible. That makes no sense.

Oh, and the pun? Not called for, you sack of crap. The buzz is because the team is now entering the NFL, not because they will make the postseason. By the way, if you want to image-build the Cards, you probably don't want to substantiate their hopes with a quote from a San Fran exec. Yeah, there's an NFL man who knows what it takes to build a winner!

For Michael Bidwill, the opener represents something else: the end of what he calls "a failed 18-year experiment to play pro football in the Sonoran Desert in an open-air facility." Bidwill is not about to criticize management for the role it played in other failures of the franchise. After all, that would mean putting his family in a bad light, and that's not his nature.

Wow. I can't believe it took 18 years for someone to figure out that it sucks to both play and watch football when it is 125 degrees outside and your buttocks are molded to the bleacher. Secondly, if Michael can't put his family in a bad light, I will. That family is the worst bunch of owners that have ever owned an NFL franchise. Ever. They are sorta like the Courtney Love of NFL owners.

Since his signing in March, James has worked to become part of the Cardinals' fiber. He studied tape of all 16 Arizona games from last year--every one of them. He figured out which plays worked and which ones didn't; he figured out who could play and who couldn't. He has suggested to his coaches which plays best suit him, and others have been added to take advantage of his abilities. He has preached to his mates on offense the value of the ball--"you never know when you will touch it again, so make the most of it every possession"--and started a fun-loving exchange with quarterback Kurt Warner about their vastly different taste (rap vs. Christian) in music.

The Cardinals' fiber? I have about five jokes in mind, none of which I should write on this blog. I'm also glad to note that it appears that Edge James has figured out all the past ills of the Cards offense. Someone should tell Denny Green that. I'm sure he'd appreciate the help.

No contest rap vs. Christian. Unless you're talking about Christian rap, like that gangsta homeboy KJ-42, who just happens to be white. Or John Reubens, who..... also happens to be white.

Still, his presence already is creating a different feel within the team. He remembered watching the Cardinals in the final game of 2005, against the Colts. He thought their uniforms were tight but hated their white shoes. So he has talked Green into switching to black shoes for 2006. Now he is lobbying for "Victory Mondays." He wants the coach to give the team Monday off after a win. Edge used to irritate the Colts by spending most of the offseason at his Florida home; this offseason, he has made most of the training sessions in Arizona so he could immediately plant his mantra inside his teammates' minds: "If we don't make mental mistakes in games, I see no problem with us. We have the talent. But it is all about the smallest details." James knows detail. He talks frequently with Ray Lewis about how linebackers read running backs, then he figures out what to change and improve in his approach.

Can James really teach the Cardinals--the Cardinals!--enough detail to win? "You wait," he says. "They will be sending you back real soon to do another story on our success." Then he laughs the laugh of a confident man.

How does that laugh go, exactly?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Heh.
GUFFAW!!

I am glad, though, that I now know that it is the teacher in Edge that will really propel the Cards to success in 2006, even though he NEVER flashed those talents in Indy. Professor Edge. Has a nice ring to it.

By the way, this article sucks.

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:42 PM  1 comments

Breaking News: Columnists love to write about the New England Patriots

The question is.... who to believe?

The majestic prose of Michael Ventre, who writes about how New England will win it all this year?

Or the ooey-gooey love letter of Ron Borges, who believes that the Pats have too many question marks?

Hmmmmm.

Well, Ventre's arguments are (in order):

-- Owner Bob Kraft (because he was on the Apprentice, no doubt)
-- Coach Bill Belichick (because he was in another man's wife's pants)
-- They maintain "a level of excellence" over a long period of time
-- Last year was about a "collective mentality" (like the Borg?), where the team tried to "will" themselves to win, but couldn't because of injuries
-- They will retool their roster (by dumping McGinest, allowing Vinatieri to walk, and allowing Branch to hang out to dry over money)
-- They will be stronger, more focused, and more determined (truer words were never written)
-- They are "competent"
-- Other teams can't properly manufacture "desire". How do you, in fact, procure this "desire"? Where might I find some?

-- As a bonus, he believs that the Seahawks could "conceivably" repeat as NFC Champs, but concludes that the Panthers are better through no analysis whatsoever.

Well, I don't know about you, but Ron Borges better bring the shizz-nit, because Michael Ventre just went OFF!

Well, here are the arguments of Borges:

-- Depth is a problem, especially with Bruschi already getting reinjured
-- They have a roster of #3 receivers (of course, they also have one Thomas Brady)
-- The linebacking corps is in disarray
-- Secondary again should be a weak link
-- Oh yeah, they lost the best clutch kicker of our generation
-- Dillon is old and Maroney is unproven

So, they might win it all because they are the New England Patriots (a subsidiary of GodCo), or they might not because they have depth problems across the board.

Well, shucks, them arguments have me all in a twitter. Maybe MSNBC should just trot out some piece of crap about how the Cardinals have a lot going for them going into this season. Wait......

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:28 PM  2 comments

Arizona Preview Addendum

I wanted to add a few thoughts to Colin's preview below, because there is one falsehood perpetrated by the media that needs to stop. You've read the below multiple times...

"The Cardinals ended up being much better than the record indicated, as they were one of the only teams with a top 10 offense and top 10 defense."

I think it's important to realize that the Cardinals most definitely did NOT have top 10 units, in fact it's likely they barely had top 20 units.

Why?

Start with the offense and the dreaded yards-per-game statistic. Yes, the Cardinals averaged 348.4 ypg, good for 8th in the NFL. However, hopefully we've sufficiently stated so far how useless that stat is.

How about these?

The Cardinals had one of the worst 3rd down completion percentages (38.1%) and a beyond abysmal 4th down rate (31.2%). On top of that the offense was penalized 145 times, only Oakland at 147 was flagged more. This is indicative of an awful offensive line. More holding, can't move the line, no push, etc. Sure, you can wing it down the field now and then, and when you have Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin you will pick up some yards with that, but this offensive line is just awful.

Remember Power Success and Stuffed?

The Cardinals had a Power Success of 41%. Let's dwell on that. 6 out of every 10 times the offensive line was asked to create space they failed. Wow. The Stuffed rate isn't much better, at 32%, indicating (as we already knew) the Cardinals could not run the football. Both stats are easily the worst in the NFL. To address this the Cardinals drafted a guard and signed a legitimate impact player. Unfortunately, I've only seen one running back (Barry Sanders) who could gain yards behind a terrible line. I don't think Edgerrin James is going to live up to the hype and it isn't going to be his fault... if the first two preseason games are any indication this is pretty representative.

I think this can clearly establish that the offense is not yet ready to enter elite status.

What about the defense?

Again, at 295.6 ypg allowed the Cardinals were 8th in the league. I remember the games against Seattle, however, where the gaping holes for Shaun Alexander were plentiful. This is not a team that is good against the run. Back to Football Outsiders... the Cards had a defensive Power Success of 59%, not too shabby, and a rather surprising #2 ranking in Stuffed. So perhaps the run defense was better than it showed against us, and maybe the signing of Russell Davis by the Hawks was pretty underrated. With all that, the overall run defense ranks 20th at FO. What about against the pass? They are squarely in the middle of the pack in adjusted sack rate at 17th and for some reason Outsiders doesn't have a good stat to go through pass defense. Suffice it to say, though, that the pass defense is not fantastic, although there is reason for upside, namely Antrell Rolle.

Look, as Colin wrote below the Cardinals are on the right track, but to get caught up in the top 10 hype is just that... hype. So please ignore the pundits. Now.

posted by Gavin @ 12:57 PM  0 comments

Read This...

I may rag on Scoop Jackson a lot, as his writing style can be reminiscent of a stuttering ninny, but today he posted one of the best Tiger Woods articles I've ever seen. I highly recommend checking it out. Tiger is one of the few we will be talking about with the young'uns, and Scoop's words are highly apt. During my recent four-hour delay in O'Hare yesterday, a TV started showing the end of the PGA. Slowly more and more people stood around to watch, even as Tiger pulled away. Stories began to be shared, as some had seen the man live. It ended up being around 75 people in awe of the moment, and I loved being a part of it.

posted by Gavin @ 12:54 PM  0 comments

Only One Pig: Philadelphia Eagles

Welcome back Gavin!

I'd like to thank Colin for absolutely carrying this blog while I was out of the country, and for doing so while juggling "work" and moving. Group blogs are definitely better than individual efforts.

Anyways, enough with the praise. Time for our final installment of the "Only One Pig While Need to Fly" group. Again, this means that there's only about a 10-20% chance this team can reach the postseason. At least one of the teams in the group will probably be a surprise, showing you, our faithful readers, yet again why sports are fun.

I want to start all this off by stating that there is one main reason why the Eagles are ranked this low, and it has everything to do with being in the NFC East. Colin and I were talking last night about the whole AFC/NFC rivalry, with most pundits believing the AFC is far superior. We think that's overblown because from top to bottom the NFC has more "good" teams and fewer "Houston" teams. The NFC East is quite representative of this fact. Any one of the four teams (Philly, New York, Washington, Dallas) could win the division. One of them will be last, and since they all play the NFC South (Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta...) as well, the schedule is too tough for all of them to be included one level higher. We believe Philadelphia is the weakest of the four, and so here they are...

It is difficult to do a straight statistical analysis like I've been enjoying on the Eagles, because of the number of momentous events they had, especially offensively.

Here's what I think we do know about this team.

- Brian Westbrook is not an every-down back. He's already a little dinged up in the preseason, and 2004 seems to have been more of a fluke than a coming out party.

- The rushing offense is difficult overall to point to as either good or weak, mainly because Andy Reid always panicked and went to the pass, even when Donovan was out (see: game against Seattle). In case anyone cares, they don't rank very high in offensive line performance at Football Outsiders. The Power Success was a decent 68%, but the line was Stuffed 26% of the time (tied for 23rd). When all you do is pass, you will not have sustained offensive success.

- When all you do is pass, you should have a #1 receiver. I know all the pundits are salivating over Reggie Brown, but I'm not sure why. I didn't see anything out of the guy to believe he's ready to enter the elite league of WRs. Now, just because Donovan McNabb is out there Brown is going to put up some numbers... he's not a bad 2nd WR fantasy pick. Still, the talent is not there to force opposing defenses to change what they do. Take Dallas for example and the talented secondary they have. They will be able to stop Philadelphia.

All this to state that Philadelphia has an absolute load of question marks offensively. They've been able to get through it in the past (see: years before T.O.) but I would still be concerned, especially again, considering the difficult road they have.

Will the defense show up or let them down again?

The answer to that question mainly rests on two offseason additions, Darren Howard and 1st round selection Brodrick Bunkley. This is basically because the defense collapsed around their shoddy rush. That's how a secondary that sent three members to the Pro Bowl one year can look so bad the next. Their adjusted sack rate of 5.6% was 26th in the league. That's with a Jim Johnson blitz-happy defense. Pathetic. If Howard and Bunkley can help revive that, there are enough playmakers to take the Eagles back to the upper echelon defensively.

The Eagles will be at least a .500 team. They have one of the best QBs in the NFL and some terrific playmakers on the defensive side. Unfortunately, I believe the offensive shortcomings coupled with a difficult schedule makes a trip to the playoffs a remote offering. Don't worry, Eagles fans, the drafting and such is still good, this won't be a long stay away from glory. It's what happens when you lose the luck lottery (instead of being Seattle in the NFC West).

Next, on to the near-playoff teams!

posted by Gavin @ 10:46 AM  0 comments

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Madden Curse?

Tuesday, August 22nd, Madden 2007 will find its way into my home.

Also, in other news, it might also signal the end of the world. Thank you, moderate Islam!

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:49 AM  0 comments

Only One Pig: Arizona Cardinals

It's midnight on a Friday night, and I can't sleep.

Sounds like a perfect time to spend a little time reflecting on my favorite team to reflect about.

Remember last year?

I do.

Last year this was a list of "experts" who predicted a postseason berth for the Arizona Cardinals.

Len Pasquerelli (no surprise)
John Clayton (big surprise)
Michael Smith (thought he was smart)
Joe Theismann (hahahaha)
Merrill "Steelers Lover" Hoge
Jeremy Green (son loves his daddy)
Ron Jaworski (watch more EA video, buddy)
Sean Salisbury (not worth a comment)
Bill Simmons (not his fault, not from Boston)
Petey Prisco (big fricking surprise)

Well, predictions aren't out yet, but people such as my personal lovebirds Petey King and Petey Prisco are again sucking on Dennis Green's proverbial teet, gasping out various ballads of love and appreciation for the upcoming 2006 season in Phoenix.

Why, one might ask?

Excellent question, my young padowan.

The big addition last year was one Kurt Warner, ordained by God and by Wal-Mart to bring the Holy Grail (er.... a Super Bowl) to the desert. Kurt was coming off a tremendous season for the NY Giants that had seen him benched in favor of Eli Manning, who was half as young and half as prone to fumbling said football. Kurt was going to be THE MAN!!

Until he got injured in Week 3 at Seattle, as anyone with a brain would have predicted operating behind that sieve of an offensive line.

Fortunately Josh McCown didn't suck eggs (hint: Detroit), and the passing game of the Cards didn't miss a beat, led by superstud Larry Fitzgerald and alsostud Anquan Boldin. The Cards actually finished the season with the top-rated passing attack and a top-10 offense to go along with a top-10 defense, a defense that was bereft by injuries to Bertrand Berry and Karlos Dansby.

Their overall win-loss record? 5-11.

But it was a GOOD, IMPRESSIVE 5-11, one that showed a lot of GROWTH, and POTENTIAL, and hints of frigging GENUIS from Dennis Green (ohhhh, that sweet teet).

This year the optimism in Phoenix is even higher, for three obvious reasons.

1. A brand-new stadium, with sold-out home games
Home-field advantage is HUGE in the NFL. HUGE. Ask the NY Giants offensive line about how much fun their last trip was to Qwest Field. Ask the Broncos why they are consistently fighting for a playoff berth. Ask Tampa Bay how much their new stadium helped their renewal. This matters, folks. Obviously there is no statistic to throw out here, except to say that the Arizona Cardinals had the lamest home field advantage of any team in the NFL (outside of New Orleans last year). It was a college stadium, it was 250 degrees at gametime, there was no real energy, and the fans simply stayed away. Gavin and I went to the last two Seahawks games there. No energy whatsoever (though I salute the amount of beer that Cards fans around us were still able to consume). This is worth at least 1-2 wins this season.

2. The second most prominent free agent signing in Edge James
Writers keep turning out crap about how James was the MOST prominent free agent signing of the offseason, forgetting that there was another free agent, signed by Seattle, who had just won the MVP of the fricking league the previous season. I'll be playing a video game with him on the cover come Tuesday. Shaun Alexander, people. THE #1 free agent.

James, though, is worthy of his #2 slot. He runs well, he catches the ball extremely well, and he is even a decent blocker. However, there are a few unknowns when it comes to his performence. First, how much of his stats can be attributed to his place in the Colts magnificent offense? People simply couldn't key on him because of the multitude of weapons, led by Peyton Manning. Second, how good is he when he isn't running with an excellent offensive line in front of him? First game of the preseason, he ran two times for -2 yards. Preseason, obviously, but if he's still popping those kind of numbers the next few weeks, I'd start to worry if I was a Cards fan. However, bottom line: Elite caliber running back is now a part of the Cards offense.

3. Matthew Leinart is drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the #10 selection.
I couldn't believe that they lucked into this one, and then couldn't believe how many people FAWNED over Green for making the BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS DECISION to draft Leinart. Teams that were ultra-stupid and passed on Leinart include the 49ers, the Bills, the Raiders, and the Lions, all teams that need a quality signal-caller. Leinart gives the Cards that, and he also gives them what I call "zazz".

News stories run mentioning both the Arizona Cardinals and Paris Hilton, or the Arizona Cardinals and sexy Scottsdale clubs, or the Arizona Cardinals and respectability. ESPN suddenly cares about the football team in Phoenix. Ditto Sports Illustrated, and FOX. There is a real, honest to goodness superstar in Phoenix, and he is signed for the next six years (which is ridonkulous).

The Arizona Cardinals suddenly can dream of an offense where Matt Leinart is under center, handing the ball to Edge, or throwing it to Fitz, Boldin, Pope, or the other three quality wide receivers in camp. That is an embarrassment of riches right there, and should lead to one heck of a team.

Next year.

IF THE CARDS ARE SMART (not giving Green a lot of credit here).

The best the Arizona Cardinals can hope for this season is a wildcard berth and an early exit. That's the facts. They are simply not as good of a team as the Seahawks. However, if they do the correct move and start Matt Leinart at least halfway through the season, they will be an actual contender come 2007 (I just got bile in my throat writing that). They would have another offseason to go get some O-Line help (I can't read that puff-piece on Leonard Davis and Reggie Wells by Petey King without a big helping of Ruffles: KC Masterpiece chips), and the chance to see Leinart get with his truly amazing receiving corps; indeed, the entire offense the chance to become a well-oiled machine.

Even to make the postseason this year, the Cards will have to hope that teams from the East and the South beat up on each other enough that they all finish 9-7 (I do believe that the Cards have a better chance at a wildcard then any team from the North).

FOR THIS SEASON, the Arizona Cardinals are a longshot to make the postseason. Now, last year I thought there was no chance in hell that they would make the postseason, and I was correct. THIS season I wouldn't be shocked at a wildcard berth, but if I were a Cards fan, I would be hoping that the berth didn't depend on sticking with Kurt Warner at QB for the entire season.

The defense, by the way (feel I should add something here), has some talent, but is woefully thin at several positions, including the secondary and the linebacking corps. Again, this is a team that is planning to use Orlando Huff as a gamebreaker, and believes that Chike Okeafor is an above-average defensive end. Here's what they do have. Without all the hype, Adrian Wilson is THE best safety in the NFL. Better then Reed. Better then Taylor. WAY better then Roy Williams. He's amazing about both the run and the pass. Amazing. I love watching the guy play. Karlos Dansby seemed to be on the road to stardom, but he's appearing a tad brittle these past few years. Bertrand Berry is a bonafide pass rusher. Darnell Dockett is a quality tackle, if a bit undersized. Antrel Rolle should be past the learning curve and well on his way to becoming a nice shutdown corner. The main problem here is depth. James Darling? Anton Palepoi? David Macklin? Robert Griffith? Compare this problem to Seattle, where the SINGLE problem depth-wise is at cornerback. That's it. Injuries are inevitable in the NFL. Fact o' life. Going to happen. You need capable people ready to step in without missing a beat. Not here.

I really am excited about the potential for a real NFL football team to emerge down here in Phoenix. There is a wonderful assemblege of talent on the offensive side, and Clancy Pendergraft is a wiz of a defensive coordinator. I'm not even as upset about people giving them love, because at least this year there are real reasons to believe that this is a team on the rise.

Just keep the love grounded in reality this year, ok, pundits? You do that, and I promise not to do several posts going ape-sh*t on you.

Colin.... out!

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:02 AM  0 comments

Friday, August 18, 2006

Only One Pig: Detroit Lions

Another day, another M's loss to an AL West opponent. Good thing I have a preview about the Detroit Lions to write, or I'd go insane.

That's right, it's time to write yet another lame preview about yet another lame NFL team that none outside of Detroit believes has a chance in h-e-double hockey sticks to making the postseason.

Let me put it this way: When your idea of a successful offseason is installing Rod Marinelli as your head coach, keeping Matt Millen as your GM, and placing Jon Kitna as your starting quarterback, well...... you and I have completely different ideas about the meaning of the word "successful".

The only reason this team stands any chance of making it to the postseason is that the NFC North sucks. Honestly, this might be a worse division then the NFC West, and that's saying something. Plus, this was yet another team that passed on Matt Leinart on draft day, which ticks me off to no end, because it meant that the Cardinals were able to pick him up. I'm still not over that.

Man. I've been sitting here for the past ten minutes, staring at the computer, wondering about SOMETHING interesting to write about the Lions.

I got nothing. I laugh at their problems at wide receiver, I rejoice to discover that Mike Martz is still insane, I pity the fool who believes that this is the year Kevin Jones becomes a quality running back...... but my body is filled with a wide variety of not caring for the fate of the 2006 Lions.

So..... screw this. I'm getting a beer. Back in fifteen.







Mmmmmmmmm. Beer.






OK. Here's a topic I actually care about.

Our fantasy league is drafting a week from Sunday, and I have pick #8 in the first round. Obviously people like LJ, Shaun, and LT will be gone, and Clinton Portis got injured just as I was beginning to contemplate drafting him after he deep-sixed my team two years ago. Here, as I see it, are my realistic options at #8.

Quarterbacks:

Daunte Culpepper - Don't laugh. This guy put up all-world numbers two years ago, and he has excellent coaching behind him in the form of Nick Saban, with Chris Chambers to throw to and Ronnie Brown there to run the football. Sure, this is risky, but the payoff could be huge.

Tom Brady - This guy keeps putting up huge numbers, and should continue to with the deterioration of Corey Dillon, putting the offense solely in Brady's capable hands. The holdout of Branch hurts, though.

Carson Palmer - Same note as with Culpepper. This is a risky pick, but the payoff could be huge. He is more than capable of putting up MVP-ish numbers.

Wide Receivers:

Don't make me laugh. I'm not choosing a wide receiver in the first round, though Larry Fitzgerald remains an excellent 3rd round possibility, as does (gulp) T.O.

Running Backs:

Rudi Johnson - He was extremely consistent for me last year, never sucking but rarely putting up all-world numbers due to the emphasis on the passing game. Still, in a league where you need three quality running backs, someone like Rudi couldn't hurt.

Ronnie Brown - Yet another running back I had last year (I had a pretty money team, losing in the finals to a team generated by the ESPN computer overlords). No Ricky Williams means he's the man, and should put up some neat-o numbers.

Steven Jackson - It's hard for me to actually defend drafting a Rams running back in the first round, but if the Rams are actually serious this year, Jackson might get plenty of carries, and he definitely has the talent to be a stud.

Willis McGahee - I laughed when he called himself the best back in the NFL, but I can't forget the sick numbers he was putting up two seasons ago. The state of the Bills passing attack will hurt, though, as will the atrocious offensive line.

Off the top of my head. I would rather have:
Rudi Johnson
Tom Brady
Ronnie Brown
Carson Palmer
Steven Jackson
Willis McGahee
Daunte Culpepper

Obviously, since I have the 3rd pick in the second round, I should easily be able to pick up two of these players, which should get me off to a reasonable start, with wide receivers entering my brain in the 3rd round. Am I crazy? Probably, since I'm the one who drafted McGahee in the first round last year over Peyton Manning. But we'll see.....

posted by colin_hesse @ 11:57 AM  0 comments

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Only One Pig: Baltimore Ravens

You know what seemed like an incredibly awesome idea two weeks ago? Making a separate blog post for each and every NFL team, creating a plethora of previews that would tax our football knowledge to the brink.

Then I found out that's a lot of work. And school's starting back up. And I'm moving. And the wheat fields need to be harvested. And Mr. McGillicuddy's gimp knee is acting up again. And the guys from Sports & B's are bitching about how hard it is to both blog and have a life (looooove you :) ).

And..... there are, quite simply, NFL teams that I don't really care about. Teams that, sure, have some moderate excitement with them, but there doesn't really exist anyone who actually wants to write about them. It's like basically every national sports columnist and the Seattle Seahawks. Who wants to write about a West Coast team when everyone knows that the center of the universe resides in the New York/Boston region?

On the flip side, as a West Coaster, who wants to write about boring teams like Baltimore when I could be ripping on the Arizona Cardinals again?

Seriously, for the past five years, there are a few things that you could set your watch to.

-- Liberals hate George W. Bush
-- Conservatives hate liberals
-- There are more liberals then conservatives at Arizona State University
-- Gavin hates everybody and everything
-- Gas prices skyrocket, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth
-- The Mariners turn into the Pussy-ville Pussters against the Oakland A's
-- Kim Bauer will be seen running from either a terrorist or a mountain lion

and..

-- Numerous sports columnists pick the Baltimore Ravens as their Super Bowl dandy, forgetting the simple fact that there are, at the very least, five AFC teams that could blow the Ravens out of the water.

Why do they do that? I have several extremely scientific hypotheses:

-- Ray Lewis' hip gyrations and monkey moon-howl (if a monkey howled) actually act as a hypnotic device, sending signals that overload the brains of normally gifted individuals like Jason Whitlock (gifted as in super-special).

-- Ray Lewis has threatened to have his friends come over and stick a knife in any columnist who writes them off. Seriously, this guy gets WAY too much love for someone who JUST HAPPENED to be present.....

-- Brian Billick is, in fact, a warlock. His full name is Mishmar, Seer of the Seven Stones, Keeper of the Seal of Ushtark, Wielder of the Shield of Disaster, and Nursemaid to Kyle Boller.

-- Baltimore is located on the East Coast.

Anyways, I'm betting that, at the very least, ONE of those hypotheses make sense.

As for the actual TEAM that they happen to put on the FIELD....... well, there isn't much to write home about, folks. When you're super excited (I swear, Len Pasquerelli just about creamed himself with the news) about Steve McNair coming to town on his white horse to save the day, well, as Jeff Foxworthy would say..... your team might actually suck.

When your offensive line is made up of aging vets and a number of individuals who can't actually block....... your team might actually suck.

When your star running back runs for about forty yards a game....... and you resign him...... your team might actually suck (though, I admit, Mike Anderson was a nice signing).

When you hear for the last three years that THIS will be the year that Ray Lewis reasserts himself as a dominant player, well........ your team might actually suck.

When Richard Neuheisel is actually on your coaching staff (for money!)........ your team might actually suck.

When you pick some jagoff from Oregon in the first round and everyone talks about how simultaneously gifted and lazy he is...... your team might actually suck.

Here's the thing. The Baltimore Ravens really don't have a ton going for them. Ed Reed is amazing, Todd Heap is amazing (and oft-injured), Mike Anderson might be a good fit if he stops the curse of ex-Broncos sucking after leaving Denver, Derrick Mason might have some chemistry with McNair, and that's about it.

People still seem to think, for some reason, that the Ravens have a dominant defense. They don't. They have a GOOD defense (ranked 5th in team defense in DVOA), but it's not the truly dominant unit that it was during their Super Bowl run.

On the other side of the football, there is absolutely no reason to suspect that Steve McNair will remain capable of simply remaining healthy, much less leading the Ravens to the promised land. The guy has missed games for virtually the past decade, the result of being one of the hardest competitors in the league for a number of years. He used to be one of my favorite players, and I hurt with him when Dyson landed just a few yards short, but he is no longer a quality quarterback, especially when his O-Line can't give him enough protection (they ranked 19th in pass blocking).

Again, is there a chance to reach the postseason? Absolutely. McNair, Lewis, and Lewis, Jamal could all turn back the clock and go crazy go nuts. As the AFC appears heading into the season, however, they would have to leapfrog a number of teams, including.... New England, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Indy, Jacksonville, Denver, Kansas City, and San Diego. That's nine teams right there, with only six possible playoff berths. You positive that Baltimore is better than four of the teams I just listed?

Real fast.....

Koren Robinson is a bum, and I laugh at all my Minny Vikings friends who scoffed at me, the Seahawks fan, who had let poor widdle Koren disappear. Haha, you stupid Vikings! I'll drink a beer tonight just to celebrate (note: do not drive afterwards, and, if you do, don't speed away from cops at speeds of over 90 mph).

Joel Pineiro is a bum, and I laugh at myself for ever watching him. Replacing him with Jake Woods, however, is laughable, and I doubt that it is even that much of an improvement. Goodbye, 2006 Mariners. See you in April! Mike Hargrove, from hell's heart I stab at thee!

Brady and Erin, I apologize for not being at church on Sunday, but I was being driven to the Seattle airport by the inlaws, which takes two and a half hours for most people (considered to be normal) but took us close to four hours, causing me to, in turn, call on the combined power of Greyskull and Tom Clancy to smite them.

More tomorrow!

posted by colin_hesse @ 5:01 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Only One Pig: St Louis Rams

You are going to notice a little something about our rankings... we have the rest of the NFC West pegged fairly low. That's because they aren't very good. There's a reason why we have as much confidence as ever in being able to get back to the playoffs with a bye in the first round.

Of the three teams in the NFC West, the 49ers can only improve, the Cardinals are definitely improving, but the Rams are the one team on the downslope. They are already in a rebuilding phase, but don't appear to know it yet. A 4-12 season is definitely in their near term future.

Why do I believe this? For starters, fans believe the Rams have a good offense. They would be wrong. Yes, St Louis was 4th in the NFC in yards per game. This is like believing Yuniesky Betancourt is a great hitter because he's around a .300 batting average. Let's take a look somewhat deeper.

The Rams could pass the ball. In fact, only Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Arizona passed more times, and only Arizona for more yards in the NFC. There's one common denominator with those teams... they were all bad.

Having a good "stat" pass offense is similar to having a good "stat" pass defense. It generally means two facts:

1. You cannot run the football. The Rams could not (or would not) run the rock, even if they averaged a mediocre 4.0 ypc.
2. You are always behind and so are forced to pass the ball.

While it's sexier to pass the ball more consistently, it is an instant gratification strategy. While there are more yards, there are also more INTs (24 vs Seattle's 10) and sacks (46 vs Seattle's 27). In other words, the other team gets more momentum-changing scoring opportunities and drive stoppers. This is why I cringe when pundits hold up the Rams as a top 10 offense (much less Arizona, but Colin will get around to that). Top 10 offenses aren't in the bottom half of the league in rushing. You've lost the battle up front, and eventually you will give the defense enough opportunities to turn the tables.

Now, once again the Rams have stated in the preseason that Oregon St alum Stephen Jackson is going to get the ball more regularly. This would be good news, and Scott Linehan has shown in Minnesota and Miami the persistence necessary for this transition. Unfortunately, the Rams also have a bad offensive line.

Football Outsiders tracks a few separate offensive line statistics.

"Stuffed": Percentage of runs that result in (on first down) zero or negative gain or (on second through fourth down) less than one-fourth the yards needed for another first down.
"Power Success": Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. This is the only statistic on this page that includes quarterbacks.

The Rams were "Stuffed" 30% of their runs, good for 31st in the NFL (2nd to last). That's awful. 3 out of every 10 runs were unsuccessful.
Their "Power Success" was slightly better, but not much, as their percentage of 57% was good for 26th in the league.

Maybe more attention to the running game will help that out, but it would seem to me that the defense being set up to defend the pass all the time would actually help these numbers. So I don't necessarily see the Rams taking the next step just because they decided to run more. They need their offensive line to really step up their quality of play for any real improvement to happen.

Also, to those who say that Marc Bulger wasn't healthy all year and so there will be some improvement that way... the man is now officially fragile. He's gotten the tar beaten out of him for years. He's not going to make it 16 games.

Of course, the offense isn't even the problem on this team. That's giving the defense way too much credit.

The Rams defense was a generous bunch, with basically no part of their game being worth anything.

The run numbers are actually a little odd.

Their "Power Success" percentage (imagine turning the above statistics around for the defense) was an awful 77% (30th in the league). Imagine that, 77% of times the opposing offense needed a couple of yards on the ground they got it. However, the Rams ranked an amazing 3rd in the NFL in "Stuffed". I would say that "Power Success" is more important, though, as that usually is an indicator of 3rd down success, and since the Rams couldn't defend the pass either being able to stop the run now and then on first down isn't as impressive. Also, they allowed an absurd 27% of opposing runs to go over 10 yards, 31st in the NFL. So I see the "Stuffed" stat as an outlier. While their big offseason addition of Wil Witherspoon will help this, I don't see it as an enormous help. It also isn't going to help the terrible pass defense.

How bad?

Only San Francisco allowed a worse completion against percentage in the NFC. The DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) numbers tell the tale.

The opposing team's #1 receiver had a DVOA of 37.8%, which is nuts and was worst in the league. To give this a little more context, Chad Johnson had a DVOA of 38%. So the opposing #1 receiver EVERY WEEK was Chad Johnson. Ouch.

Not to be content with being that bad, the #2 receiver had a DVOA of 1.6% and the #3 receiver had a DVOA of 5.8%. These are still below average numbers and in the bottom ten of the league. The secondary couldn't stop anyone. Perhaps Jim Haslett will help, but it's not as if the Saints had a good defense going for them the past few seasons.

The Rams need a lot of help. The draft needs to provide them some young talent to help support all the gaping holes we've gone through in this preview alone (and there are more... many more). This team is not good. This team will not compete for a playoff berth. The only hope for fans in the next five years is for the front office to get themselves in line and actually develop some talent. Until then they will be stuck in 1990's Seahawks mediocrity... good times.

posted by Gavin @ 9:09 AM  0 comments

Monday, August 14, 2006

Only One Pig Will Need to Fly: Houston Texans

And I'm back, after watching the Crushed Dad perform admirably as Max in "The Sound of Music" and Mayor Shinn in "Music Man". He didn't look half as dead as I expected, being a grown man juggling a full-time job with being in THREE shows, and even had the energy to do a pretty neat imitation of a goat dancing, an image that will now be burned forever in my mind. Well done, Dad!

Now that I am back, it is time to begin the moving process, as my wife and I bought our first place last month, closed last Monday, and now have till the end of the month to get the heck out of our apartment and into our brand new condo. A pretty exciting time to be a first-time homebuyer, but it does mean that I will actually have work to do, especially with the school year beginning next week as well.

What that means is that Gavin will continue to be the life-blood of this blog for a little while longer, though I hope that the addition of one Nate Acheson (who I saw this past week with his beautiful new bride) takes away some of the pressure on the fatter Hesse.

The team that Gavin and I are unveiling today should be no big surprise, as they lucked themselves into the #1 draft pick and then incomprehensibly passed on Reggie Bush, instead taking the "safe" route with DE Mario Williams. Yes, we are talking about the Houston Texans.

Houston Texans
2005 Record: 2-14
Neat-o Additions: Gary Kubiak, Eric Moulds, Mario Williams, Mike Flanagan, Sam Cowert, Mike Sherman
See You Later: Don Capers, Charlie Casserly

Gavin and I have tried to, in each one of our previews, highlight a couple of glaring statistics that can inform you why the team struggled the previous year and why we believe they will continue to struggle this year. Out of any of the teams we have highlighted so far, THIS team is the first, and perhaps only, that I consider that exercise irrelevant.

Consider. The 2005 Texans were supposed to contend for a playoff spot. They had an improving quarterback, a decent running back, a potential superstar wide receiver, and a defensive-minded coach who was considered a whiz at constructing competent defenses, even with less-than-adequate personnel. Instead, the Texans fell completely apart. I remember watching the Sunday Night game against Seattle with amazement, then interest, then, finally, acceptance about both the upper-tier status of the Seahawks and the single fact that the Texans, and Don Capers, were done. Never since Dave Wannstedt had I seen a coach look that lost on the sidelines. His wide-open mouth and eyes made him appear to be completely out of the game and totally without power over his team. He made no adjustments, the offensive gameplan was hopelessly simplistic, and the talent on his side of the field was absent.

I'm not generally a man who calls for a head coach's head (the only Seahawks head coach who I truly hated was "draw on 3rd and fifteen" Tom Flores), but I knew at that point that the Texans needed to fire Capers, and that the firing would make a huge difference on the obvious potential of this team.

Look. Every statistic I could give you would point to the fact that the 2005 Texans sucked. They did. The offense, especially the offensive line, sucked. The defense sucked. The special teams sucked. The coaching sucked.

However, in reference to THIS SEASON, the Texans did something that, perhaps, was the most underappreciated move of the offseason.

They hired Gary Kubiak as their head coach.

Fans of the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns can attest to the fact that a new head coach can begin to turn a team in the right direction. Why do I believe that Gary Kubiak is the single best new head coach in the NFL?

-- Look at the guy's resume. His offensive lines continually dominate. Ditto his running game. He made Jake Plummer into an effective quarterback. He utilizes his talent well, like Rod Smith, Jeb Putzier, and Ed McCaffrey. He wasn't even afraid to give Ron Dayne a big carry or two, like on Thanksgiving Day of last year. This wasn't all Mike Shanahan, people, in the same way that Gil Haskell doesn't get enough credit for the Hawks strong offense.

-- He knows his personnel. Remember Ruben Droughns?

-- He makes adjustments. Quentin Griffin started off the 2005 season as the starting running back. He sucked. Kubiak saw that and immediately didn't hesitate to exchange him out.

Again, this is some very unscientific analysis here, but I just feel like Gary Kubiak is worth a few more wins all by himself. I was even more impressed by his first decision as head coach, that of keeping David Carr as the starting quarterback. Carr has done nothing to dissuade me that there is a competent NFL quarterback waiting to jump out if he just has a decent offensive line in front of him. If there is one thing Gary Kubiak has built effectively, it is a decent offensive line. Center Mike Flanagan, a veteran who followed Mike Sherman from the Packers, is a stupendous pickup who should immediately become the leader of the beleaguered line. That should ALSO allow more time for the other potential stars in this offense, Domanick Davis and Andre Johnson, who are on the brink of greatness, with Davis being the main reason that the Texans passed on Bush in the draft (along with financial considerations).

The Texans actually remind me a great deal of the Arizona Cardinals, a team that I will write about shortly. They have excellent skill at the "skill" positions, but are held back by a horrific offensive line. Well, that should begin to change this season, and THAT, in turn, will vault them into playoff contention by 2007, though Gavin and I believe that Garty Kubiak, along with the influx of talent, gives the Texans at least a small shot this year. Remember, this is a better team then the one most pundits predicted to make the postseason a year ago.

I should, at the very least, mention that the defense stands to improve as well. Mario Williams is a great talent, and a pass-rushing end is hard to find. Sam Cowart, though no longer a top-tier linebacker, should finally salve the loss of Jamie Sharper. There is no way that Patrick Buchanan could play any worse this season. This will be a weak link, and the most probably cause of stalling a postseason run, but I actually wait with anticipation to see what Kubiak can do with a defense as well as an offense.

The 2005 Texans were terrible. We all can agree with this. However, this is the most optimistic preview I have done yet, and I believe there is a reason for that. My intuition, and Gary Kubiak.

Gavin tomorrow with actual statistics yet again!

posted by colin_hesse @ 4:17 PM  2 comments

Classic Overreaction

So this is what happens when Seattle is actually excited about a sports team...

The Seattle Seahawks lost their opening preseason game and the floodgates of criticism opened.

Charges of complacency, rustiness, and general apathy were leveled by the posion pens the like of the News Tribune and Seattle PI.

From the general reaction, one would have thought the Hawks are on their way to an 0-4 opening, the abyss has been created, and local fans are ready to jump.

Here's where we all take a deep breath.

I'll wait...

Good. Don't you all feel better now? This was the FIRST PRESEASON GAME, people! The first! This is not panic time, this is barely caring time. If the Hawks were undefeated in the preseason outscoring their opponents 43-7 I would still not care. You simply cannot tell a team's quality through the preseason. I didn't see anything on Saturday I didn't already know, like that the pass defense is our biggest weakness. I also believe we were the better team (at least in the first half while I was there).

Now is not the time to be concerned, to throw out the dreaded "complacent" label, to question Holmgren's decision-making, or even to write prognostication articles based on results. It is time to enjoy watching young players like Chris Spencer shine, to see Matt Hasselbeck look like he hadn't missed a day, to get excited about just having the spectacle of football around.

The time for an outcry will come. Let's wait two months. Until then, ease up. Focus the rage on the Mariners.

posted by Gavin @ 10:22 AM  0 comments

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Soccer in Seattle: Real Madrid vs. DC United

Finally, futbol has returned to Seattle in the worthwhile-to-attend yet still meaningless overall fashion of the international club friendly. Sure, I did attend the Seattle Sounders vs. Club America match last month (which was fun and merited the expected result). But this was different. Real Madrid, the often labeled "Yankees" of the futbol world. These days I would argue that Chelsea have overtaken that odious title, but with no championships or cups of any worth in the past few years to Real's credit, it is still fun to point out.

Even still, I was rooting for them. How can you, like the handful of 10 girls right behind me (ugh...), cheer on an MLS team against one of the better in Europe? Mostly, the girls wanted to gain the attention of one Freddie Adu, who may have been the only one around even close to their age...but he was trumped in every way by David Beckham. Gracious, his first corner kick incured the focused adulation of every female in the place--screaming, mind you, at the top of their lungs. His lackluster play helped qwell more of said high-frequency bombardment and that basically validated my position on him--can cross the ball and work wonders when the ball is dead, but useless otherwise (especially on defense...he disappears).

Anyway, enough of the entertainment news about the game: onto the match highlights!

Play started out decently well and runs down each side for DC midfielders warranted some decent chances, although once they got to the goal box, Madrid began to play defense again. Particularly, I enjoyed the mano a mano between Roberto Carlos and Freddie Adu. Showing his wisdom and international experience, Carlos was hardly fooled by some good footwork of the youngster. Still, Freddie too often got the cart ahead of the horsepower and ran himself over the ball too quickly when attempting the fancy footwork. And with both being fast, it ended up being a foot race to the ball multiple times--all of which were won by the speedy Carlos. I stand corrected, somewhat, about Freddie however. He has some great skill and as he matures and gains size, he will be a good player. Assuming all the new Pele hype doesn't ruin him first. And that he gets out of the country to really begin learning as soon as he feels comfortable to do that. Adu distributed well half the time with Jamie Moreno up front and tried to get involved but was outclassed by Madrid's defense which was running at half-steam and very obviously hadn't played or trained much since May when their season ended. The other winger for DC had plenty of runs down the left flank in the first half, but none really seemed to result in more than a limp shot. I believe it was Beckham and Madrid's right back continually being beat here, but their men in the middle constantly stepped up and neutralized. Salgado is a force to be reckoned with and constantly put his stamp on the game.

Then Cassano took a run down the left side and sent in an incredible strike just right of the left post. Even with the DC keeper near the shot, he got behind it and could not stop the laser from glancing the inside of the bar and to the back of the net. Fantastic goal and looked to be the vibe of the match from this point on...

And was not. Alecko Eskandarian (mad props for the name of the week) ended a run of Adu's with a great goal himself. I was beginning to think goal fest but none resulted beyond that point. In the second half, Roberto Carlos took a characteristic free kick with all the strength he could muster and somehow the DC keeper parried. Right to Emerson, but it was not to be and I believe it took a defender clearing a shot off the line to deny Madrid again. DC's keeper had made another point blank reflex save earlier in the match but I can't remember who shot that time. Madrid began the second half with quite a few subs and through out the game guys were warming up on the sidelines as though 3 different "shifts" were to enter much like a hockey game. DC tried to bring in some fresh legs, but they couldn't stay with Real, especially when Robinho came in. He is a fun player to watch with incredible speed. Finishing was not up to standards for Real (except considering they are in the preseason, they have plenty of time) and it was obvious that Van Nistelrooy had not played much with his new compadres. This may have even been his first match with them, I believe. He was often in the right place (like the good cherry-picker he is), but nothing came of it and DC somehow frustrated the heck out of him. I do remember him working well with Beckham, possibly due to their time together at Manchester United.

All told, this was a fun match to watch with 66 thousand in attendance and an alleged record soccer crowd for the whole Northwest--maybe that will bring Barcelona to us next year? Inter Milan? Ajax? ARSENAL??...

posted by El Jefe @ 2:40 PM  0 comments

Saturday, August 12, 2006

1st Preseason Game Thoughts

I wasn't able to sell my tickets online so I figured I had nothing better to do tonight than go down and watch the Hawks take on the Cowboys in an utterly meaningless game.

Really, I hate the preseason. It's at least two games too long, the quality of play is sub-UW, and the basic goal is to avoid crippling injuries.

There is one given about football though. It makes me tear up. There were at least four moments in the pregame.

1. When the NFC Championship Banner was unveiled (although they better do it again in Week 2)
2. When Bittersweet Symphony started playing
3. When Shaun Alexander ran out (the noise was absolutely deafening)
4. When the 12th Man flag was raised

Yep, I can be a pansy at times. Those moments are why I have tickets instead of sitting on my couch.

So... game one thoughts...

- Matt Hasselbeck looked good. His only incompletions were the Nate Burleson drop and the Nate Burleson miscommunication.
- The first few runs were all to the right side, so we didn't get a good idea at what Chris Spencer can give at the left guard.
- Our run defense is going to be pretty solid, especially sideline to sideline. Our team speed is terrific.
- The game was uuuuuugly from a penalties standpoint. It was definitely game 1.
- Kelly Jennings has a big learning curve. I was watching him most of the time he was out there. He bites on the short buttonhook routes. Still, the long pass completion he gave up in the first half was not his fault... amazing pass and catch. He was there.
- Mike Green is going to make us forget Marquand Manuel. In fact, I think he's almost a clone... not terrific in coverage, great open field tackler.

Going to football games in Seattle is such a good experience, especially comparatively to M's games. The differences include:
- Cigarette smoke everywhere
- Large men with beer bellies and poorly groomed facial hair
- Drunk middle aged guys who yell obscenities at opposing fans (look, it's the freaking preseason, lay off the poor fellows)
- White trash
- Minorities
- Noise

Basically, there's no contest.

Go Hawks! This was only a taste!

posted by Gavin @ 10:03 PM  1 comments

Friday, August 11, 2006

Only One Pig: New York Jets

Colin and I missed a day. The world didn't stop rotating on its axis. At least we're more consistent than Pro Football Talk, who is about three weeks late on their first commitment on season previews. Basically, we were golfing. Alright? Is that what you wanted to hear?

In case anyone cares, I broke 100 for the first time yesterday. That rocks.

Also, El Jefe has a girlfriend now. So the questions can stop.

On to a team that just isn't getting the level of respect I think is due, the New York Jets. By "level of respect" I mean, "isn't the worst team in the NFL yet everyone thinks they are". There are a few reasons why Colin and I didn't put them in the lowest grade.

However, if we were just to look at last season we would disagree with ourselves. The 2005 NY Jets were an unmitigated disaster.

2005 Yds per game: 248.1 (last in AFC)
2005 plays per game: 907 (last in AFC)

I'm not a huge believer, as I think has been stated several times, in the whole "yards per game" statistic as a true predictor of offensive performance. You throw one 60 yard run into the mix and throws everything out of whack. You want to make sure you have a consistent offensive machine. Still, when a team is LAST in the AFC, you have a problem, especially considering how many awful offenses there were in the AFC last season.

Plays per game is a better stat, I think. Ball control is a significant portion of winning an NFL game. You have the ball more, you score more, they score less. Pretty simple equation. So not only did the Jets have the ball for fewer plays than anyone else, let's compare them to Houston, who everyone would agree had an offense similar to a train wreck. Houston had 954 plays, 50 more! The elite teams had almost 200 more plays. This does then come out in the all-important time of possession stat, where the Jets had the ball for 26:37 a game. The offensive line was losing the battle.

To me, the mark of decent coaching is having few penalties (difference between Mike Holmgren and Dennis Erickson). Herm Edwards is not a bad coach, as with this pathetic bunch the Jets were 3rd in the AFC for fewest penalties behind only Indy and Denver. However, he took much of the blame and is now gone.

Now we've established that the offense was bad. So bad, in fact, that just about every defensive statistic is almost meaningless (almost, we'll get to that). When the other team has the ball for 8 more minutes a game, they will score more points, gain more yards, wear the defense down. 8 minutes is a lifetime in an NFL game. Why then, did Colin and I put them in this second bracket?

Namely, they have answers at some important positions that the teams below didn't. First, they have Chad Pennington. Now, the naysayers will question Pennington's health and arm strength. They were doing that while he was putting up consecutive completion percentages of 68.9, 63.6 and 65.4. The guy can move the ball down the field. Now, he's not going to make Brett Favre/Peyton Manning passes. Pennington is who he is, a B-level quarterback, who if he stays healthy is not going to kill a team's offense and will help keep opposing defenses honest. If Pennington is not healthy, then the Jets are in for an interesting year indeed, but at least they have an intriguing option in Kellen Clemens (I'll probably cheer for him to do well, even if he is a Duck) to get reps and experience. At least there's a plan.

Continuing the trend of having a plan, I can't praise the Jets enough for what they did on draft day. Getting a Pro Bowl tackle in D'Brickishaw Ferguson and a Pro Bowl center in Nick Mangold the Jets solidified their line for the next 10 years. There's going to be growing pains, but the improvement fans will see on the o-line is another reason the Jets are going to surprise a few people this year.

So Curtis Martin is about to retire, huh? What exactly does that leave the Jets with... some combination of Cedric Houston and mediocre supporting cast. Not anything special. They'll move the ball at about a 3.5 ypc clip and fans will pray they hold on to the freaking football.

What about the defense?

They were definitely stymied by that TOP gap above, as well as the general inadequacy of the offense. Opposing teams were constantly playing with the lead, therefore they did nothing but run. While the final ypg stat looks bad (136.6), the Jets were run against more than anyone in the AFC (34.6 carries) and actually held teams to an average of 3.9 ypc. Basically, other teams knew if they didn't make mistakes and kept the ball they would win, because the opposing offense sure wasn't going to score. I think we may see some continued improvement out of this unit, especially bringing in a coach like Eric Mangini.

The Jets are unfairly criticized as being an awful team. I see them as surprising quite a few pundits who are writing them off. They have a very good plan and are executing on it. I see them as this year's Miami. In two years (depending on QB situation) the Jets will be in the playoffs again.

posted by Gavin @ 10:32 AM  0 comments

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Only One Pig Will Need to Fly: Tennessee Titans

I'll be flat out honest with all of you. I'm up in Seattle right now, visiting Gavin, and we would much rather play "Star Wars: Battlefront" then blog about horrible NFL teams that no one really cares about.

Thus, I bring you our short and sweet take on the team from Tennessee, home of whiskey, Phil Fulmer, and new QB Vince Young, who will be counted on to become the next Steve McNair and lead the Titans back to the Super Bowl.

First, I have to briefly mention that Gavin, Nate, and I watched the NFL Films video of the 2005 Seattle Seahawks. We will blog about this more later. Suffice to say that my stomach did not feel too good after watching the Super Bowl highlights, which was basically the last third of the film. Surprisingly, NFL Films ripped on the refs, which seemed a little out of place, coming from the supposedly objective highlight production crew. Our only explanation is that they thought that would play better in Seattle and make more fans want to buy it.

Honestly? It made me NOT want to buy it. Gavin can keep his. I don't need it as well.

Tennessee Titans
2005 Record: 4-12
Tough Losses: Steve McNair, Brad Hopkins
Excellent Additions: Vince Young, LenDale White, David Thornton

Not much of an offseason to speak of for Tennessee. The only reason they were in the news at all was their idiotic stance on McNair's contract, even going so far as locking him out of the practice facility. This was the quarterback who had fallen two yards short of giving them a Super Bowl title. You might remember that.

Besides that, this is a young, improving team that is well-coached. I really like Jeff Fisher, and know that he will give them the best chance to succeed. It will take a mini-miracle, however, mostly because of the youth and lack of talent present on this squad.

Quarterback: Billy Volek
If I was a Titans fan, I would want Young to watch from the sidelines up until Week 9 or Week 10, and then begin to get real NFL snaps in. It takes time for quarterbacks to learn their ropes. Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning...... it always takes games to understand the speed of the game and begin to make the proper adjustments.

Volek, on the other hand, isn't terrible, but simply isn't good enough to take the taem much over the .500 mark. His arm isn't strong enough and he just doesn't have the physical capabilities. Vince Young, on the other hand, is an athletic freak who I seriously hope DOES become a star in the NFL.

I watched the Rose Bowl. That was one of the most impressive athletic performances I have ever seen. Ever. He beat, by himself, perhaps the best college team of the past ten-twenty years. However, he still needs to learn accuracy and the abilities of a pocket-passer. I really, really, REALLY want him to not become another Michael Vick. He has the talent, the poise, and the leadership ability to be one of the best quarterbacks ever. I will be cheering for him to be just that.

Give him the football, Tennessee. This year.

Running Back:
Chris Brown
LenDale White

Gavin wanted White for our team before we learned that he had gained about fifty pounds eating his grandma's sugar balls. He has now gained the reputation for being a lazy, stupid, piece of crap who might not be the best fit for the NFL. That's all well and good, but I watched plenty of USC football the past few years, and this guy almost impressed me more than Reggie Bush. He was unstoppable, bowling numerous defenders over, and was the true motor of the Trojans offense. That talent doesn't just disappear overnight. Again, I trust the Titans to know this, and get him on the field. Brown is a reasonable back, but he runs standing straight up and always struggles with injuies. Again, the goal of a team is to make it to the Super Bowl. White has the talent, if he has the will, to make that happen.

I should also mention Travis Henry, who seemed to be on the road to stardom in Buffalo before he met Willis McGahee. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from this guy besides knowing that the Titans have some awesome depth here.

Wide Receivers:
Drew Bennett
David Givens
Tyrone Calico

Welcome, Givens! Yeah! Not great stuff here, obviously, though I love Bennett and all white wide receivers. Where is the explosive player here? Where's the deep threat?

When you look at this offense, you see talent. You see potential. You see opportunity. You don't see anything big happening this year. Allow Young and White time to get their feet wet, and look forward to joining the playoffs again come 2007 or 2008.

The defense looks very similar, depending on Pacman Jones to become a shut-down corner, Kyle Vanden Bosch to remain a top-tier pass-rusher, and Keith Bulluck to keep the linebacking corps in their place. Again, this is a defense that is a little undermanned and "undertalented", but has some nice pieces in place to build on in the coming years.

I like Tennessee. I like the Titans, though I do feel they were jerks to McNair. I believe that Jeff Fisher could pull a miracle and get them in playoff contention this season. I just don't really think it's that probable.

Next year..... two years..... they'll be back.

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:55 PM  1 comments

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Only One Pig Will Need To Fly: Cleveland Browns

I'd like to start this out by noting that for some of these teams, like Cleveland, it will take a lot more than one pig for them to reach the playoffs. Also, it's not funny. However, I don't get to name the groups this year, Mr. "Communications Master" gets to.

We're in the midst of yet another meeting of the editorial staff of this distinguished panel, which is why we're going to pick lame teams to preview the next few days... and it doesn't get more dull now than the Cleveland Browns.

I really feel for Browns fans. First you have your NFL franchise stolen from you (a reality now gripping our fair city), then once it returns you've been pretty much stuck in mediocrity. Then once some talent comes your way, Kellen Winslow misses his first two seasons, Braylon Edwards goes down, and now LeCharles Bentley, the prized offseason acquisition at center, wrecks himself on the FIRST play of minicamp. That's a lot of injuries to the best young talent/hope to see.

Luckily, they have Romeo Crennel and even in year one it was apparent that the Browns were a team on the rise.

For starters, the Browns of a year ago were perhaps the least talented team in the NFL, yet managed to remain quite competitive. While they only scored a paltry 232 points, worst in the AFC, they only allowed 301, a testament to Crennel's defensive wizardry. The vaunted Raven defense allowed 299. Therefore, if the offense can improve, that 6-10 record can easily improve by a couple of games. So where's the hope?

Well, for starters they have a QB in Charlie Frye who might actually have some time in the pocket. The Browns gave up 45 sacks last season, not exactly a good situation for a young quarterback... just ask David Carr. While Frye made some mistakes in his first year (6 INTs in small playing time), his accuracy is why we should be more excited about him than, say, Alex Smith. Frye completed 59.4% of his passes, and his INT% was the same as Trent Dilfer. That bodes well for the future. With Kellen Winslow actually healthy and a returning Braylon Edwards during the year he will have enough weapons. Joe Jurevicius will sure be a help, that big target over the middle with amazing hands is sure going to be missed here.

I wouldn't be as excited about Reuben Droughns as Browns fans are. While he did crack the 1000 yard barrier, only getting 4 TDs for the year while only averaging 4.0 ypc means he's the definition of a replacement level player. Yes, the offensive line wasn't great, but Droughns isn't exactly someone who can make a bad situation better. They only had 76 rushing first downs, compared to 116 given up. The third down completion percentage was a paltry 33%. That leads to poor performance from the rushing game and until the offensive line woes are completely addressed this team is going nowhere. Of course, that's where Mr. Bentley was supposed to fit in. Now the middle of the line has to be seen as a major weakness and why the Browns are probably due to settle in for another mediocre haul. They will be better. Frye will be better, the offensive firepower is better, but the running game is just not good enough, especially in the defense-oriented AFC North.

What about the Brown defense? Well, I have to say I was rather impressed... until I looked deeper at the numbers. Again, a bad team can be spotted by bad run defense, and the Browns were weak up the middle, giving up 138 ypg at a 4.2 clip. That's fairly unimpressive, and while a good rookie crop and Willie McGinest will help, it's not the final answer. At this point I usually ignore the passing against stats, because if you can't stop the run, your pass defense is meaningless statistically. Even with some good yards against, when you give up a 40% 3rd down percentage you crack when the stakes are high.

So basically, I'm not optimistic about what the Browns are going to show. I like the coaching. Crennel is money. However, the talent is still about a year away. I think there might be a little more improvement, but the defense looks like it got a little lucky, so some of the offensive improvement is going to be offset. I don't see the Browns hitting .500.

Better luck next year with a healthy LeCharles Bentley.

posted by Gavin @ 1:13 PM  1 comments

 


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