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, November 29, 2006

Quick Wednesday

For the first time in my graduate career, the end of the semester has swamped me with papers to grade, papers to write, and other various research-related tasks that have completely zapped away my time to blog.

No big loss, I know.

I do want to echo the rest of the editorial board in the proclamation that the Hawks, on Monday Night, showed signs of coming back. I made a point to have ESPN turned on yesterday while I was grading papers, so that I could look up whenever someone talked about the Hawks, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard, because it's exactly what I believe.

Are we a contender? Yes.

Are we the favorite? Absolutely not. I rank the Bears and Cowboys as 1 and 1A right now, with the Hawks at about 2c, until we see more consistency from our stars through the next couple of weeks, including a tough, tough game against the Broncos Sunday night. This is a game that I pegged as an automatic loss going into the season, but now.....? Jay Cutler starting his first game? That's a game you have to win, don't you?

I will give the rest of my picks on Friday, but here is my prediction for the Bengals/Ravens get-together on Thursday night. Both teams seem to be playing up to their potential, which should bring a sigh of relief to Bengals fans, who were forced to watch their offense suck for the majority of this season. When that offense is playing well, and it currently is, I don't believe that any defense can truly stop it. Contain it, sure. Stop it? Absolutely not.
Scientific Pick: Cincinnati

posted by colin_hesse @ 6:19 PM  0 comments

NFL Playoff Picture: Week 13

Hello, campers! It's time to toss out the current playoff picture from my position in the Hampton Inn in Dallas. It's really warm here... I was warned I should have a coat because "it might hit the high 40s". Oh my gosh! 49 degrees! I'll start massaging my legs to keep the circulation going!

In other news, I'm excited I'm not in Winter Wonderland, otherwise known as Seattle, having to deal with thousands of drivers who have absolutely no idea what ice looks like.

As to last week, most playoff teams did a very poor job, especially in the NFC, of winning games against bad teams. While I don't mind as a Seattle fan, it did affect the final standings of our friend the Scientific Method, who could have had an insane week if not for Carolina et al...

Week 12 Results
Scientific Method: 11-5
Petey Prisco: 10-6
Bill Simmons: 9-7

Season Standings
Petey Prisco: 111-65
Scientific Method: 109-67
Bill Simmons: 94-82

Well, time's running out for the Method to make its final move. I will NOT let Colin live it down if Petey wins. I can guarantee this.

On to the playoff picture!

AFC

1. Indianapolis (10-1)
2. Baltimore (9-2... beat San Diego earlier)
3. San Diego (9-2)
4. New England (8-3)
5. Denver (7-4)
6. Kansas City (7-4)

That's right, so far three AFC West teams are in the playoffs. Denver gets the nod over Kansas City because of their superior conference record (7-3 to 3-4... a bad Achilles heel for the Chiefs). As I mentioned before though, the Broncos have two very tough games left. I think they will drop at least one of their next two, opening the door for challengers, especially Cincinnati, who has a HUGE game this week against the Ravens. The Chargers still have the look of a championship contender, although the game against Oakland shouldn't have been so close. The Patriots would feel better about themselves if they could hold on to the football. Also, welcome back to the NY Jets to the playoff picture, only one game out.

Indianapolis - at Tennessee, at Jacksonville, vs Cincinnati, at Houston, vs Miami Baltimore - at Cincinnati, at Kansas City, vs Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, vs Buffalo
San Diego - at Buffalo, vs Denver, vs Kansas City, at Seattle, vs Arizona
New England - vs Detroit, at Miami, vs Houston, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee
Denver - vs Seattle, at San Diego, at Arizona, vs Cincinnati, vs San Francisco
Kansas City - at Cleveland, vs Baltimore, at San Diego, at Oakland, vs Jacksonville

Jacksonville - at Miami, vs Indianapolis, at Tennessee, vs New England, at Kansas City
NY Jets - at Green Bay, vs Buffalo, at Minnesota, at Miami, vs Oakland
Cincinnati - vs Baltimore, vs Oakland, at Indianapolis, at Denver, vs Pittsburgh

If I was a Jacksonville fan, I wouldn't feel too confident about making the postseason at this point. Miami is playing hot, then the Colts, Patriots, and Chiefs are still left to play. Unless they really pick up the pace, this team will be out of the postseason. The Jets have a fairly easy route, if they can play consistent ball they will threaten. Cincinnati has almost as tough a road as Jacksonville, except that Denver is now going with a backup QB and Pittsburgh is playing really bad football. The division leaders are probably already set, so the wild card race is all that interests me (although the game tomorrow could change that).

What about the NFC?

NFC

1. Chicago (9-2)
2. New Orleans (7-4)
3. Seattle (7-4)
4. Dallas (7-4)
5. NY Giants (6-5)
6. Carolina (6-5)

The Giants have a better conference record than Carolina, but have a showdown in a couple of weeks. The big game this week has to be Dallas at NY Giants. The G-Men are a desperate team. Either they are going to implode and open up the postseason to St Louis or San Francisco or they are going to win a few games on the backs of the immense talent they possess. Speaking of those teams, I hate to keep 5-6 teams in the picture, even if I have to. Why does Carolina keep losing to bad teams? They could be in the picture for a bye, but instead have decided to be a decidedly mediocre, incredibly disappointing squad. It just means that we have a lot of teams still in the race who don't deserve to be. Pretty much every 5-6 team sucks. There... I said it.

Chicago - vs Minnesota, at St Louis, vs Tampa Bay, at Detroit, vs Green Bay
New Orleans - vs San Francisco, at Dallas, vs Washington, at NY Giants, vs Carolina
Seattle - at Denver, at Arizona, vs San Francisco, vs San Diego, at Tampa Bay
Dallas - at NY Giants, vs New Orleans, at Atlanta, vs Philadelphia, vs Detroit
NY Giants - vs Dallas, at Carolina, vs Philadelphia, vs New Orleans, at Washington
Carolina - at Philadelphia, vs NY Giants, vs Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, at New Orleans

Philadelphia - vs Carolina, at Washington, at NY Giants, at Dallas, vs Atlanta
Atlanta - at Washington, at Tampa Bay, vs Dallas, vs Carolina, at Philadelphia
San Francisco - at New Orleans, vs Green Bay, at Seattle, vs Arizona, at Denver
St Louis - vs Arizona, vs Chicago, at Oakland, vs Washington, at Minnesota
Minnesota - at Chicago, at New Orleans, vs NY Jets, at Green Bay, vs St Louis

Here's one statement I think I can make. The Vikings have it too tough to eke into that final slot. Also, San Francisco has some tough ones, as this game at New Orleans is a lot tougher than it used to be. I think the Rams have the best shot at being the team making its way in, because the Eagles will be off this list next week after losing to Carolina.

What games am I looking forward to?

Week 13
Baltimore at Cincinnati
Arizona at St Louis - The Rams will blow this one.
Dallas at NY Giants - The top two teams in the NFC East face off for the crown.
Carolina at Philadelphia
San Francisco at New Orleans
Seattle at Denver
Minnesota at Chicago
Jacksonville at Miami

posted by Gavin @ 3:56 PM  1 comments

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

SNOW DAY!

Since I live on one of Seattle's many steep hills, I've got my first snow day since... well, ever. You see, we didn't get snow days when I was in school. I also didn't get to see Shaun Alexander dominate the Packers when I was in school either.

Last night was a tale of two halves. At the end of the first half I was as angry and depressed a Seahawks fan as you'll find. Green Bay squandered our bountiful gift basket of turnovers like I squandered my "allowance" on Star Wars cards... in high school. I was seething at the dropped passes, Jimmy Kimmel in the booth and the fact that it had taken me 80 minutes to get to a certain giant HD television. The thought of a 6 and 5 Seahawks team curdled my innards. Hasselback looked worse than Seneca and despite dominating time of possession, we were losing.
The thought "It couldn't get any worse" has failed me so many times before in Seattle sports it was no comfort to me last night. Still, I kept watching.

Josh Brown, the official team MVP right now, kept us in it. Yeah.
Hasselback putting his head down and rushing for first downs. Oh yeah.
Alexander making two fourth and shorts when EVERYONE knew we were running left against a good run defense. Houshmenzadeh yeah!
The icing on the cake? Stevens caught the stupid ball! Twice! That should keep his ego inflated 'till he drops another bundle of Superbowl passes. Maybe he should get kneed in the groin more often.

Young's comments after the game on the interdependency of the Seahawks team were right on. Our defense cannot stand on its own, unless you are very bad, like Oakland. Having Alexander back makes our o-line look like geniuses (a word I can't spell without the help of my wife) and gives Hasselback more time to throw, which lets our mighty midget defense rest and sharpen their shin kicking shoes. You see? Like links in a chain. We ain't perfect yet, but the Seahawks of the second half last night looked familiar. NFC Champion familiar.

Also, Steve Kelley and Dr. Ferreiro can bite me.

posted by nach @ 8:55 AM  0 comments

Monday, November 27, 2006

Finally!

Many people will write more on this game, many pundits will point to specific moments.

Here's what this win for the Seahawks boiled down to...

We are back.

The staff of Crushed Optimists would officially like to apologize to Shaun Alexander for underrating the importance of his loss. It is difficult to describe how different our offense looked, even with that patchwork offensive line, with a healthy Shaun.

Green Bay has a good run defense, don't forget. This was the first 100 yard rusher they allowed all year. The domino effect was tremendous...

Shaun ran, so Matt had more time in the pocket.
Shaun ran, so we won the time of possession battle.
We won the TOP battle, so our defense was fresh and could make plays.

Colin says that Steve Young mentioned after the game how interdependent our team is. That's a good way to describe it, and it all starts with the run game. It ended with the most consistent offensive performance of the year. Only turnovers stopped our drives, other than that we were able to move up and down the field. A few less dropped passes and we put up 40.

I will say this, when we went down 21-12 I was down... as down as I've been all year with this team. I sat in my freezing seat, attempting to find some warmth somewhere, and it was bad. I could barely roust myself to stand up and yell during the next defensive stand. But we have a team with Matt Hasselbeck that comes back. To all those losers who said we still lose that game last week without Matt, I point to this win and tell them to watch some more football.

This was the team we thought we had. There are multiple reasons why we could have lost, multiple problems still there. Steve Kelley will probably write some glowing article about finding an electrical current. In a way he's right... we have Shaun Alexander back.

That #2 seed is looking awful nice...

Don't sleep on Seattle, America.

posted by Gavin @ 11:59 PM  0 comments

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Denver Panic Time

I have to gloat a little.

Three weeks ago, when I predicted the final playoff teams, I had Denver out, a team that was at 6-2 (and then 7-2). The reason being a four game stretch which they are currently in the middle of (vs San Diego, at Kansas City, vs Seattle, at San Diego). I wrote that those games could easily put a quality team at 7-6, just because those are tough opponents. You stick ANY team in that situation and you could go 0-4. What I could have written had I expanded on my thesis was that the absolute worst thing Mike Shanahan could do during that time is panic and bench Jake Plummer. Well, so much for that.

Look, as a Seahawk fan I welcome this move. Having Jay Cutler's first game against us is definitely a major positive for a team that has struggled on the road in general. It makes it a much more winnable game. I simply do not believe that Jake Plummer "lost" the job due to performance.

Just look at the past two games... a 35-27 loss against San Diego. If I remember correctly, it wasn't Jake Plummer who allowed Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson to run rampant down the field in the second half. Then at Arrowhead (ALWAYS a tough game), the Broncos lose 19-10. I watched that game as well, and it seemed to me that Jake Plummer was under pressure... oh... maybe about 90% of the times he dropped back to pass. The Denver offensive line was like a sieve.

I will say this... Plummer has not been a great QB this year. His 11 interceptions have been a lousy performance. He hasn't been able to adapt to carry the offense on his shoulders to cover for the lack of a running attack. But moving to a rookie when you are still in the playoff hunt is not the answer.

To provide an opposing point of view is one Jeremy Green of Scouts, Inc. I am convinced that Jeremy wrote the following in about five minutes in between a Sunday of pinball and air hockey. One minute per reason...

1. Confidence boost: One of the big reasons that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan balked at making the change earlier in the season was because the team had not lost faith in Plummer. With so many people outside the organization pointing the finger at Plummer now, it is easy for the players to buy into that theory as well. The bottom line is players are losing faith in Plummer, and you can't have that when it comes to the starting QB.

So let's see if I can get this straight. Pro football players are so stupid that they take their keys on who to respect from local beat writers or certain moronic ESPN analysts? Wouldn't these football players have a little less confidence in... I don't know... A FREAKING ROOKIE!!! Maybe that's why Mike Shanahan had balked at making the change earlier?

2. Spark the offense: Plummer's numbers weren't terrible. However, the offense looked flat and lifeless, and Cutler should be able to give them a spark.

Oh please. This is what passes for "Scouts, Inc" analysis? A five year old could have written it (and possibly did, if the grammar is any indication). What exactly constitutes a "spark" there, Mr. Green? When you were doing your fifteen years of scouting excellence for the Browns (nice work there, by the way), did you chart "sparky" players? Is it an aura of Ecksteinian proportions?

3. Open up the playbook: While one train of thought might be that Denver will be more limited offensively with Cutler, I see it a little differently. The bootlegs and waggles Denver likes to use with Plummer are far too predictable. In talking with people in their organization, Shanahan feels like Cutler gives Denver a chance to use more of the offense because of his ability to throw on the move and from the pocket.

I had to read this twice just to make sure he actually made this claim. Unfortunately, I was right. Jeremy Green actually believes that bringing in the first year quarterback will allow the Denver Broncos to "open up the playbook". I cannot believe I even have to debate this. "One train of thought" indeed. Anyone who actually believes that Cutler's playbook will be larger than Plummer's, the guy who had been in Denver for YEARS, who had taken them to the AFC Championship game in freaking January... I can't even come up with a decent insult. It's just so awful. Green needs to be kicked in the groin for even thinking anything like that, much less foisting it on us.

4. Cutler will open up the run game: He will give Denver's offense more of a vertical threat. With Plummer, the offensive became very conservative. Cutler's ability to stretch the field with the deep ball will eventually lead to Denver running the ball better because teams won't be able to put eight defenders in the box.

Riiiight. Because we all know that rookie quarterbacks open up the run game. Also, I have Javon Walker on my fantasy team. The reason Javon Walker has been a great addition to my fantasy team is because he's been thrown the ball deep on many an occasion. The problem with having a vertical threat outside of Walker, regardless of who is throwing the ball, is that there isn't another receiver faster than my grandma. I love Rod Smith, but man, he's lost about ten steps this year, and there isn't another Denver receiver even worthy of discussion right now. Teams aren't afraid of these wide receivers and will stuff the run. Also, didn't Denver always pride itself on being able to run regardless of the opposing game plan? Hmmm? Until this year, maybe??

5. Defense will benefit, too: Coming into Week 12, Denver was tied for 23rd in first downs per game. Shanahan prides himself on having an efficient West Coast offense. When you play ball-control football, you must be able to move the chains. By moving the chains and becoming more efficient, the defense will get more time to rest.

What is it, Jeremy Green? Is Denver's offense going to be more vertical or more ball-control? These two descriptions are what I'd like to call "mutually exclusive". Also, this argument is very weak.

Look, the Broncos offense is sputtering because its offensive line is playing very poorly. As I wrote above, Plummer had to the count of two to get rid of the ball last Thursday before the Chiefs would pile drive him and his beard into the turf. It can generate absolutely no push for Mike Bell/Tatum Bell/Whatever Undrafted Free Agent Mike Shanahan (Boy Genius) Thinks He Can Turn Into Terrell Davis. This is not a great situation to bring in a rookie.

Before you say, "But Gavin, what about Leinart and Young? They've done alright."

For starters, they were not awesome their first few times out. They also had plenty of margin for error (i.e. their teams were already out of the playoffs). They also are amazing talents. While Cutler had scouts drooling at the combine, he definitely was not in the class of the above two.

Look, perhaps Jay Cutler proves me wrong (I doubt it). That doesn't let Shanahan off the hook here. When you are 7-4 and in the middle of the playoff hunt, you do not change quarterbacks. It is a ridiculous decision, utterly ridiculous.

And I thank him for it. Go Seahawks!

posted by Gavin @ 9:30 PM  0 comments

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Shat-lectrified?

ABC... please don't foist this crap on us. Shatner dancing? Show Me The Money is yet another slow step in the inevitable march down into darkness, and I'd prefer that our empire fall after I retire.

I thought since Colin did a great job going through the arguments surrounding the Hawks I'd throw in a few thoughts on the Sonics. You remember the Sonics, right? They're the team that's moving to the OKC shortly, all because our state legislators are morons. They can't build roads, they can't build stadiums. Frankly, I'm not sure what our governor does other than massage Boeings' feet so they don't threaten to move again.

I've actually been watching the Sonics because a) I'm single and b) I'm single. I don't necessarily see any way I would actually continue to view their games otherwise. But hey, this just gives the benefit of passing my wisdom on to you!

First, the good news. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Chris Wilcox, and Luke Ridnour are serious ballers. Ray has already answered the question as to whether this season is a "drop-off" year... no. He gets to the basket effectively still, although I'm a little sick of how he holds the ball out like it's a fresh Christmas turkey. In one of the last games that ball just got taken out of his hand, like the turkey by a homeless drunkard. Rashard has added some rebounding prowess to his game, and I just love his all-around offensive game. He's definitely on his way to elite status. Wilcox needs work running the high pick and roll, but his rebounding has been a nice surprise, and his defense has been much better than the end of the season. Ridnour, of course, has been the most improved player on the team. The confidence in his jumper, or to drive the lane with that sweet hesitation dribble, or even to defend the opposing point guard without that stupid hack.

We then have four legitimate 20 point scorers each night on the court... not many teams can profess to have that kind of balance. Why then, are we so mediocre?

I don't think the problem is too difficult to pin down. Thankfully it's not coaching. Bob Hill has a set rotation and seems to move players in and out rather effectively. Unfortunately, the bench has been absolutely dreadful. Outside of Nick Collison (who should really be considered a starter instead of Johan Petro) we don't have a single player off the bench who can be counted on as a nice burst of energy, a change of pace scorer or a shut down defender. We have some HUGE disappointments on said bench.

It starts with Earl Watson, who was counted on to be our Antonio Daniels. Watson was billed as a plus defender, a smart passer, and a decent shooter. He has been none of these. Opposing guards have been able to get around him easily. He has been mainly responsible for many awful turnovers, as his dribble penetration is often to nowhere and he does one of those stupid jump passes to a covered Sonic, or in other words starts a fast break for the opposing team. His offense adds nothing. His 42% (I think... too lazy to look up to confirm) 3 point shooting percentage of a year ago is nowhere to be found. Heck, he can barely hit a lay-in.

Next up comes Damien Wilkins, who can't buy a bucket to save his life. I remember his rookie year when Wilkins was a dependable outside shooter, and stepped in admirably for Rashard Lewis. There's a reason other teams wanted him. He looked like a quality young player. I don't know where any of that went. He doesn't rebound well, his defensive intensity has fallen off. Basically, Wilkins plays like someone who got paid. I REALLY hate to do this, but I miss Flip Murray, back when Flip Murray was a backup shooting guard who only touched the ball when we wanted him to shoot, not to stand at the top of the key and go through repetitive dribbling drills for 24 seconds. Murray was a scorer, an ignitor. We don't have that with Wilkins.

This means the Sonics are a team that isn't able to get into a groove. If the Sonics don't start well, the bench can't make up ground. If the starters do get a lead, the bench quickly coughs it up. There's a reason that Ray/Rashard are the #1 scoring combination in the league right now... they need bench help. Until these players turn it around, we're going to continue playing a lot of teams close... and then seeing how it turns out in the end.

EDIT:

Props to Dr. D for reminding me about Vladimir Radmanovic. A stone cold 4th quarter shooter if there ever was one. No one could collapse the paint, cutting off dribble penetration when the Rad-Man was setting up for another three.

Also, I had forgotten about some Bob Hill hubris. We need legitimate outside scoring punch off the bench. We drafted one Denham Brown from Connecticut. UW fans might remember Brown. He sank the last second three that tied the game in March that UConn won in overtime, with significant help from the striped ones. Instead, Hill gained a man-crush on Kareem Rush, who was injured, and then on Desman Farmer, who can't even sniff playing time. I thought the drafting of Brown was a good salvage on the abysmal showing on draft night with Sene. Instead, this particular draft was a total bust. How good would Marcus Williams, for example, look in a Sonics uniform? Shame on Hill for not giving Brown a legitimate shot at making the roster.

posted by Gavin @ 7:54 PM  4 comments

The Scientific Method: Week 11

Come, talk a walk with me for four frigging awesome pieces by one Steve Kelley, working from the most recent to one done two weeks ago. Can you tell the differences? Let's see.....

Steve Kelley, November 22

(Coach Holmgren, I) believe that, more than any time since you arrived in Seattle in 1999, this season is on you.

That's right. It's your pudgy fault that Hasselbeck, Alexander, Engram, etc., all got injured. It's YOUR fault that our run defense has suffered, even though you have little control over the defense. It's YOUR fault that I currently have gas.

Something is wrong. Some kind of electrical current that relentlessly ran through this team last season is missing.

Some kind of electrical current? What?

But after your guys were humbled in Chicago, you gave the team the bye week off. That was a mistake. Midseason vacations should be earned, and that one wasn't.

That's right. Those guys lost the will to win because of that week off. If only you had given them more practices, we might have beaten the Chiefs with Seneca Wallace at quarterback!

And I think these "Victory Mondays," when you give them an off day after a win, are wrong. This team hasn't played well enough, even in its wins, to earn time off.

Yeah! And these "Taco Tuesdays" are a blatant pander to the Hispanic population. You have to beat someone by AT LEAST twenty points to get Monday off. Seriously.

I know this can't happen, but you should practice old-school this week, with tackling dummies for a defense that has forgotten how to tackle and blocking sleds for an offensive line that isn't opening holes.

I know this can't happen, but it's still your fault. Never forget.

After his six-game layoff, Alexander wasn't ready to carry the ball 17 times against the Niners. Morris should have gotten the bulk of the carries.

Yes, by all means, Morris was the correct running back against the 49ers. Again, basically you feel that the reason we are losing is because of a lack of energy and desire. Great.

Steve Kelley, November 20

But these Seahawks aren't those 2005 Seahawks. This team is missing something that last season's Seahawks had in spades. This team is softer than last season's team. It doesn't do the basics well, like blocking and tackling.

There is too much ho-hum on this team.

Last season, there wasn't one instance where the opposition appeared to want the game more. This season there has been Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City and San Francisco.

In a freak coincidence, those are the same teams that we have lost to. Fortunately, there were five teams that didn't appear to want the game more. Those teams included Detroit, Arizona, NY Giants, St. Louis, and Oakland. Here's hoping that Green Bay doesn't want the game more, or we're screwed. By the way, I know what this team is missing. An electrical current running through them.

But they don't play defense. They didn't allow 416 offensive yards to the San Francisco 49ers. And nothing that happened at Monster Park should make us think the return to health of these five starters will staunch the here-today-gone-next-Sunday inconsistency of these Seahawks.

Nothing? Really? You don't think that the third interception by Seneca Wallace was a throw that Hasselbeck would also throw?

The Hawks committed five turnovers, something Super Bowl teams don't do.

The Chicago Bears, by far the best team in the NFC, have commited five turnovers in several games this season.

But something is missing this season. The Seahawks are losing games that Super Bowl teams should never lose.

It's 2004 all over again.

Because of their lack of heart. And missed tackles. And turnovers. OK.

Steve Kelley, November 19

Now, in his sixth season in the NFL, Ashworth says he has found another winner, another team with the same set of undefinable, undeniable intangibles as those Super Bowl-winning Patriot teams.

Whoa. The Hawks have a set of undefinable, undeniable intangibles? Do they, per chance, have a electrical current?

They have kept the Seahawks' solvent through the season's midsection, when the one-two punch, injuries to starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, could have ruined a championship run.

But there have been more injuries and illnesses to this offense this season. More bad luck and bad news, the Seahawks have had to overcome. And more supporting players asked to do what Wallace and Morris have done.

Hmmmm. Injuries. Illnesses. Bad luck. Bad news. Really. Could those have potentially played an impact this season?

"On this level, good teams have to have guys who can go in and play and produce like the starters," said Spencer, a natural center who also has started games at guard this season. "It's not an excuse to have guys go in there and say they're young or this and that. You've just got to go in there and play. That's why you're on the team."

This team has persevered.

Again, he wrote this like THREE days before he completely blasted the team for its lack of perserverence.

But there is no doubting this team's resolve. And no denying the quality of its depth — quality of the players and quality of the people.

Wow. Do you think Steve Kelley reads his own columns before he writes his later columns. I say that because he is writing contradictory statements in the span of a week. Recall that "Victory Monday" and the week off after the Bears loss had completely taken the will to win out of the team (not out of San Francisco, however, though I blame that kicking Reebok suit and clip-on tie for that).

They don't find the camera lights. They don't fill up a reporter's notebook with inflammatory quotes. They go about their business quietly and professionally.

Ashworth, Spencer and Hackett. Every championship team has players just like them.

Except this isn't a championship team. This team is just like 2004.

Steve Kelley, November 13

This season, they're going to muck their way into the playoffs. Winning games on one or two game-changing plays. Winning with resilience and timeliness and luck.

Resilience. A hallmark of a "current of energy" lacking team. Again, what is this?

Ned Macey (Football Outsiders, November 21)

But the truth is that the two best teams in the NFC West are among the worst teams in football.

Wow. You're actually going to say that the Seattle Seahawks are among the worst teams in football. You believe that to be the case. The Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks currently rank 25th with a DVOA of -15.1%. Both the rank and the DVOA rating itself are the lowest of any Super Bowl Loser since 1999 except for the 2003 Raiders.

Well, since DVOA says that they are the 25th rated team, I withdraw my objection. Certainly a fine statistical projection like DVOA has been able to understand and control for the massive injuries that have crippled the Hawks offense. Anybody who has ever taken a statistics course knows that the worst sin of a statistician is to dramatically overpromote your findings. Unfortunately, and this is the curse of a 16 game season, a few terrible games can drastically lower a team's profile according to the markers of team DVOA. Also, unfortunately, this statistic can not understand how important a quarterback is to not only an offense, but to a team as well. A good quarterback both means points up on the board, but he also means a longer time of possession, which helps the defense, as they have to defend fewer possessions as well as have better field postion with which to defend.

The Seahawks are not a good team, and they will be lucky to finish 9-7. Sadly, that is likely good enough for them to win their division.

Enough of this. This is what I'm hearing across newspapers and message boards.

The Hawks just aren't a good team. This is 2004 all over again. The Hawks just don't have any heart. They just don't care. We might struggle to win 10 games this season.

To the Steve Kelleys of the world, who write glowing reviews of the team after they luck into a win (St. Louis) and write inflammatory pieces after they lose a game they should have won (San Francisco), I salute you for your horrible analysis and lack of actual insight as to the state of the team. It is easy to simply roll on a emotional roller coaster during the course of an NFL season, as each game means a great deal to the playoff implications. However, it is harder to try and stay the course, teasing out the real conclusions to be reached out of every win and loss.

For example, while I was ecstatic about the St. Louis win, I understood (as hopefully most of you did), that Seneca Wallace did everything in his power to lose us that ballgame. What did most of America see? That Seneca Wallace was a more than capable backup who had the necessary spark to catapult us towards the playoffs. This is why I was worried about the San Francisco game. Did I think we would win? Absolutely. Give us the same situation, even with Wallace starting, and I would pick us to win again. But when you have a quarterback like him starting, you can potentially win every game, and you can potentially lose every game.

Personally, after the first few runs by Gore, I was impressed by our defense. There was the tough stop towards the end of the half (when, by the way, they had been out there ALL HALF). There was the field goal black, where they definitely displayed some intensity and heart. There was the strip by Lofa after all hope seemed lost. Seriously, they SHUT OUT the 49ers in the second half. You give Matt Hasselbeck SEVERAL chances to get a game-winning touchdown, and I put serious money on us winning that ballgame.

Are there problems with this team? Absolutely. It appears that our defense can either struggle against the pass or struggle against the run. There is no dominance to be seen so far. It also appears that Mack Strong is on his way out of the NFL, as he is playing at a horrendous level.

Is this a championship caliber team right now? I don't know. I honestly don't know. This is what I do know. We have six games left in the regular season. At this point LAST season, everyone had counted the Pittsburgh Steelers out. Everyone had counted the Washington Redskins out. Those two teams became the hottest teams heading into the postseason, and it took a horrible injury to Clinton Portis to ground the 'Skins. I can tell you that I am very interested in what transpires the next two weeks, with Hasselbeck back in the lineup. This is where conclusions can be made.

Seriously, people, calm down. Take a deep breath. Enjoy a good football team, and pray that they gel into a great football team in time for the postseason.

By the way, the Scientific Method is off to a 3-0 start, and will seek to carry that momentum into Sunday. The picks!

Sunday:
Arizona at Minnesota
Wow. Two terrible teams, but I still like that Minny defense.
Scientific Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at Washington
Again, I shy away from Jason Campbell, though he had a good first start. Carolina is starting to play well.
Scientific Pick: Carolina

Cincinnati at Cleveland
It appears to finally be time for Cincy to get into high gear. They get another nice win on the road.
Scientific Pick: Cincinnati

Houston at NY Jets
I have no idea about either of these squads. I always pick both of them wrong.
Scientific Pick: NY Jets

Jacksonville at Buffalo
I like that Jaguars defense going against JP Losman.
Scientific Pick: Jacksonville

New Orleans at Atlanta
Two teams seriously on the skids, though New Orleans, at least, has an offense.
Scientific Pick: New Orleans

Pittsburgh at Baltimore
The roll continues for Pittsburgh, who is quite simply one of the best teams in the NFL, record notwithstanding.
Scientific Pick: Pittsburgh

San Francisco at St. Louis
San Fran does play great at home, but continues to struggle on the road against anyone not named Detroit.
Scientific Pick: St. Louis

Oakland at San Diego
I've racked my brain, and can't come up with a scenario where Oakland wins.
Scientific Pick: San Diego

Chicago at New England
The safe pick here would be Tom Brady and New England, but a fast defense has been known to rattle the Golden Boy, like Denver.
Scientific Pick: Chicago

NY Giants at Tennessee
Another team needing a win finally comes through, as Tiki Barber has a huge day.
Scientific Pick: NY Giants

Philadelphia at Indianapolis
Peyton Manning versus Jeff Garcia
Scientific Pick: Peyton Manning

Monday
Green Bay at Seattle
Yeah, an upset is not happening here.
Scientific Pick: Seattle

posted by colin_hesse @ 4:03 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Scientific Method: Thanksgiving Games

Real fast post here, people, as I'm heading down to spend Turkey Day with the grandparents. I'll write an extended post on Saturday.

I do want to say that I'm beginning to get a tad annoyed with various sportswriters who, apparently, now believe that the Hawks are a below-average team. More on THAT on Saturday as well (looking at you, Steve Kelley). Even Football Outsiders now consider us to be mediocre, though it's a tad difficult to see how their stats can judge the very real impact that injuries have made in our offense, and, even, our defense (news flash: when our offense struggles, our undersized defense tires and also struggles).

The picks:

Miami at Detroit
Can someone please, for the love of all that is Holy, tell me why the NFL insists on keeping Detroit as one of the Thanksgiving stalwarts? When was the last time that a Detroit game was meaningful? The Barry Sanders era? Facing them are the suddenly potent Miami Dolphins, winners of three straight. Make that four straight.
Scientific Pick: Miami

Tampa Bay at Dallas
If you believe that I am picking Dallas to lose after they just beat Indianapolis, well, you have several screws loose. Dallas, unfortunately, is playing like the second best team in the NFC right now (if not the best), and will make for yet another boring Thanksgiving Day game. I might actually have to talk with people instead of watching football this year.
Scientific Pick: Dallas

Denver at Kansas City
Won't be watching this one, as the grandparents don't have NFL Network, like the majority of individuals in the United States. This is too bad, as it is the only interesting game on tomorrow. My point. Until Denver can show me any consistency on offense..... at all...... I have to go with Kansas City, with a healthy Trent Green with one game already under his belt (against a pretty darn good Oakland defense, by the way).
Scientific Pick: Kansas City

posted by colin_hesse @ 10:35 AM  1 comments

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NFL Playoff Picture: Week 12

Yes, it's a holiday week. Yes, that means everything gets a little abbreviated...

This playoff picture thingy didn't exactly get more ironed out this past week (thanks a lot Seahawks). Did it at least mean that the Scientific Method caught up with Petey Prisco? Let's find out...

Week 11 Results:
Scientific Method: 9-7
Petey Prisco: 11-5
Bill Simmons: 9-7

Season Standings:
Petey Prisco: 101-59
Scientific Method: 98-62
Bill Simmons: 85-75

Sorry Science. You get burned by Petey actually picking SF to beat Seattle.

What about the playoff picture itself?

AFC

1. Indianapolis (9-1)
2. Baltimore (8-2... beat San Diego head-to-head)
3. San Diego (8-2)
4. New England (7-3)
5. Denver (7-3)
6. Jacksonville (6-4)

First off, mad kudos to Gavin for picking Indy's loss to Dallas two weeks ago. I think, with all the wrong picks I make, this particular one is deserving of all you jerks getting off my back for a while. Secondly, Denver did not look good last week losing to San Diego. Look at their schedule, including the just-flexed game against Seattle. They have a tough road, friends. There's a reason I picked them to miss the postseason and it could very well happen.

Jacksonville is tied with Kansas City for the final spot but gets the edge right now with a better Conference record. Remember, they play each other the last week of the season. This is going to get more interesting.

Also still in it would be Cincinnati and the NY Jets (who should have played a lot better against the Bears). Until the Steelers hit .500, I'm not including them here. On to the remaining schedules!

Indianapolis - vs Philadelphia, at Tennessee, at Jacksonville, vs Cincinnati, at Houston, vs Miami Baltimore - vs Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Kansas City, vs Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, vs Buffalo
San Diego - vs Oakland, at Buffalo, vs Denver, vs Kansas City, at Seattle, vs Arizona
New England - vs Chicago, vs Detroit, at Miami, vs Houston, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee
Denver - at Kansas City, vs Seattle, at San Diego, at Arizona, vs Cincinnati, vs San Francisco
Jacksonville - at Buffalo, at Miami, vs Indianapolis, at Tennessee, vs New England, at Kansas City

NY Jets - vs Houston, at Green Bay, vs Buffalo, at Minnesota, at Miami, vs Oakland
Kansas City - vs Denver, at Cleveland, vs Baltimore, at San Diego, at Oakland, vs Jacksonville
Cincinnati - at New Orleans, at Cleveland, vs Baltimore, vs Oakland, at Indianapolis, at Denver, vs Pittsburgh

One more thing before moving on... if the Jaguars can actually beat teams they are supposed to (looking at you, Houston), they have a darn good shot to clinch, because I'm still not sold on Miami. Still, the dark horse is definitely Cincinnati, who I picked to pass Baltimore. The Bengals have four straight wins looking them in the face right now. Let's see if they take advantage before a murderous last few weeks.

NFC

The Chicago Bears can start resting starters now. With a nice three game lead for the #1 seed, including tiebreakers over Seattle and the NY Giants, they will definitely relax... and then lose in the playoffs. I'm sorry. It's going to happen.

Also, this conference is nutty. There are FIVE 6-4 teams. FIVE.

1. Chicago (9-1)
2. NY Giants (6-4)
3. Seattle (6-4)
4. Carolina (6-4)
5. New Orleans (6-4)
6. Dallas (6-4)

Okay. Let's see if I can explain this well. New York beat Dallas earlier, so they hold the tiebreaker and would win the NFC East. Carolina beat New Orleans and would win the NFC South. Now, for seeding, Seattle did beat NY (man, that feels like a while ago), but since they didn't SWEEP both the Giants and Carolina I think (note: think) the tiebreaker reverts to Conference record, giving the Giants the edge.

Now, New Orleans and Dallas haven't played yet, but will in a few weeks, but for now the Saints have a better conference record.

San Francisco, Atlanta, and Philly are still in it, even if the Eagles are now toast without McNabb.

Schedule Time!

Chicago - at New England, vs Minnesota, at St Louis, vs Tampa Bay, at Detroit, vs Green Bay
NY Giants - at Tennessee, vs Dallas, at Carolina, vs Philadelphia, vs New Orleans, at Washington
Seattle - vs Green Bay, at Denver, at Arizona, vs San Francisco, vs San Diego, at Tampa Bay
Carolina - at Washington, at Philadelphia, vs NY Giants, vs Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, at New Orleans
New Orleans - at Atlanta, vs San Francisco, at Dallas, vs Washington, at NY Giants, vs Carolina
Dallas - vs Tampa Bay, at NY Giants, vs New Orleans, at Atlanta, vs Philadelphia, vs Detroit

Philadelphia - at Indianapolis, vs Carolina, at Washington, at NY Giants, at Dallas, vs Atlanta
Atlanta - vs New Orleans, at Washington, at Tampa Bay, vs Dallas, vs Carolina, at Philadelphia
San Francisco - at St Louis, at New Orleans, vs Green Bay, at Seattle, vs Arizona, at Denver

Again, I'll put back in the 4-6 teams when they hit .500. Until then, they are bad mediocre teams.

What about the games I'm most looking forward to that I'd picked a few weeks back?

Week 12
Denver at Kansas City
New Orleans at Atlanta
Chicago at New England

Not that exciting a week ahead, but hopefully we have some separation in the NFC. Have a great Thanksgiving, all!

posted by Gavin @ 4:56 PM  0 comments

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Seahawk Rant

This one finally got me.

I've been able to basically recuperate after most of our losses. Either they were expected (i.e. Chicago, Kansas City) or it was the same game Hasselbeck goes out in (Minnesota... not a great loss by any stretch, but somewhat forgiveable). Not today. This was absolutely horrendous.

Who to blame? Probably the easiest of the many questions facing Mike Holmgren tonight. Seneca Wallace, who singlehandedly cost us this win.

The staff at Crushed Optimists have not been extremely impressed with Wallace, hopefully we've made that totally clear the past month. His decision making has been very poor time after time after time. For example, the 4th play pass to Mack Strong at the end of the Kansas City game, when Wallace made an extremely stupid decision. It's almost as if he just wanted to avoid the bad interception many weeks.

Against the Raiders Wallace looked fairly good in the first half within the scripted offense, and then fell apart, keeping Oakland in the game. Against the Rams, again he struggled after the first half. His quarterback ratings have been overall good, another indication of their inability to give a totally accurate picture of effectiveness.

Today Wallace was beyond abysmal. All three interceptions were inexcusable. On the first, Darrell Jackson had three Broncos around him. On the second, there was no place to put the ball. The third, of course, was the backbreaker. The defense (who had a valiant effort today, especially in the second half) came up with a key turnover. We had a minute and a half to march down the field with all three timeouts, and all the momentum on our side. So Wallace first completely misses seeing a rusher (boo on Walter Jones for allowing that sack too), and then stares down an interception to nowhere. What was so awful about that pass was that he didn't even go through progressions. He was looking exactly where he threw it the entire play, and then put it into a space where there wasn't a Hawk within ten yards.

What about the defense? Well, if the coaching staff belives Jordan Babineaux is an improvement on Michael Boulware they sure weren't watching the same game I was. Babineaux missed the final tackle on EVERY single big run Frank Gore had, and got beat bad deep by Antonio Bryant (lucked out on the holding penalty nullifying that one). Boulware needs to be reinserted into the lineup, and now. The "D" held up against the run later in the game, and did a fairly decent job through most of the second half on Gore. In the second quarter they were basically out there the entire time backed up on our own thirty after another turnover.

What about Shaun? Well, he was definitely starting to get his legs under himself in the second half, hitting the line with more authority. We couldn't go to him more because of the situation. On the 4th down play, the commentators got on Holmgren for calling a Shaun run. I thought it was the correct call. With how poorly Wallace had been playing, you want the biggest play of the game decided by your two best players, Shaun and Walter Jones. It didn't work out, but I sure didn't have confidence that Wallace would have picked it up himself. I think that we'll get a much better performance out of our MVP next week.

That's the great news. Hasselbeck will be back next week. Shaun will be back with more confidence. We don't have to make apologies for mediocrity anymore. We'll actually get to see if this team can be what we thought it was over these last six weeks. I can't wait. I'll be that crowd next Monday night, and it is going to be unbelievable when they introduce those offensive starters and we can tell our best players how much we appreciate having them around again. Back when Matt went down I predicted we'd go 2-2 without him. Well, that's exactly what we did, except our 2-2 record was slightly better because we beat the Rams. We are a far better team than the 49ers. I think the second half proved that, and I really don't think the home game is going to be very close. So we still are on track to get the #2 seed in the NFC, we still are on track to get the NFC West, and we are still on track to be a very dangerous underrated team come playoff time.

I'm really excited I don't have to see another batted down pass.

posted by Gavin @ 6:42 PM  1 comments

Friday, November 17, 2006

Apple Cup '07

So... Tomorrow's game has the making of one of the worst Apple Cups ever. The facts:

1) WSU sweaters on paunchy balding men at work vastly outnumbered UW parephenalia. I don't care how it's spelled.
2) That's right. Co-workers. I have a job.

I have to say the 'Cougs have a shot at winning and thus, justifying their existence for another season. In fact, they should win this game. Despite the fact they only win 1 out of every five Apple Cups, this is that one. Not only is the game in Pullman, home of nothing, these Huskies have no bite. They'll likely have a #3 QB playing significant time with a running game that gains maybe a yard a carry. Booyah. Still, WSU managed to lose by over 30 points to a team from Arizona. These teams are playing awful football right now.

The upside? The 'Cougs also have maybe the funniest broadcasters outside of east-side (of the mountains) high-school football, which Thiel writes on well. Also, this guy is funny. I hope he writes more for the PI. This game is all about bragging rights--more of a at-least-we-don't-suck-as-bad-as-they-do cup than anything else.

posted by nach @ 7:14 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Playoff Picture: Week 11 - NFC

I should start out by mentioning that apparently there was an error in yesterday's analysis. Since Jacksonville beat the NY Jets (crushed them) earlier in the year, the Jags are the #6 seed right now in the AFC. So... the Jets are a great story, and are right in the thick of it, but not in yet.

On to the NFC!

1. Chicago (8-1)
2. New Orleans (6-3... better conference record than Seattle, NY Giants)
3. Seattle (6-3... beat NY Giants head to head)
4. NY Giants (6-3)
5. Philadelphia (5-4)
6. Atlanta (5-4)

This conference gets a bit tougher to figure out. There are four teams at 5-4 (Philly, Atlanta, Dallas, Carolina). As I understand tiebreakers, you get the "winner" out of each division. Since Philly beat Dallas and Atlanta beat Carolina, you have your top two wild cards at this time. The biggest change from week to week has to be the Giants, who move from the #2 seed all the way to #4 by virtue of their flop against the Bears. That's also two home losses for the Giants, a bad omen as the season winds down.

There are also four 4-5 teams that I feel obligated to keep in the playoff picture, including St Louis and San Francisco. Look, we all know they suck, but they are only one game out of it, and since the NFC South and NFC East are going to pound one another into the ground there is definitely an outside chance of sneaking in. The Hawks, obviously, are in a terrific position to snag the #2 seed, but without another team getting hot, the Bears cooling off, and having a three-way tie for first, there really isn't a legitimate chance at catching Chicago. So, as odd as it seems, both #1 seeds are virtually assured with most of the season still to go. How do the schedules look?

Oh... and to the NFC-haters, when you don't have a league that contains just about every single awful team available (Oakland, Tennessee, Houston) that helps prop up your "dominant teams", you can talk. Until then, shut up.

Chicago - at NY Jets, at New England, vs Minnesota, at St Louis, vs Tampa Bay, at Detroit, vs Green Bay
New Orleans - vs Cincinnati, at Atlanta, vs San Francisco, at Dallas, vs Washington, at NY Giants, vs Carolina
Seattle - at San Francisco, vs Green Bay, at Denver, at Arizona, vs San Francisco, vs San Diego, at Tampa Bay
NY Giants - at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, vs Dallas, at Carolina, vs Philadelphia, vs New Orleans, at Washington
Philadelphia - vs Tennessee, at Indianapolis, vs Carolina, at Washington, at NY Giants, at Dallas, vs Atlanta
Atlanta - at Baltimore, vs New Orleans, at Washington, at Tampa Bay, vs Dallas, vs Carolina, at Philadelphia

Dallas - vs Indianapolis, vs Tampa Bay, at NY Giants, vs New Orleans, at Atlanta, vs Philadelphia, vs Detroit
Carolina - vs St Louis, at Washington, at Philadelphia, vs NY Giants, vs Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, at New Orleans
St Louis - at Carolina, vs San Francisco, vs Arizona, vs Chicago, at Oakland, vs Washington, at Minnesota
San Francisco - vs Seattle, at St Louis, at New Orleans, vs Green Bay, at Seattle, vs Arizona, at Denver
Minnesota - at Miami, vs Arizona, at Chicago, at New Orleans, vs NY Jets, at Green Bay, vs St Louis
Green Bay - vs New England, at Seattle, vs NY Jets, at San Francisco, vs Detroit, vs Minnesota, at Chicago

Okay, what do we see here? Well, hopefully a bunch of teams who will drop off this list shortly, but none probably will until they hit seven losses. At least one 9-7 team will make the playoffs in the NFC. I think it will be fascinating to see if (as Colin predicted) one NFC West/North team sneaks in because of their inferior schedule. San Francisco and Green Bay are not good teams. Not even close. Yet, if they get on a hot streak, they have a bunch of winnable games on their schedule. I hate the Rams, but don't be surprised if they sneak past a better team like Carolina or Atlanta to get in.

Just for kicks, I'm also throwing in the Games of the Week that I picked at midseason to see if they're still enjoyable, and to throw in anything more if necessary...

Week 11
Chicago at NY Jets - I called this one for NY
Atlanta at Baltimore
St Louis at Carolina
Indianapolis at Dallas - Making the pick again. Indy will be 8-1.
San Diego at Denver
NY Giants at Jacksonville

Any other games? Nope. Maybe our game (but I can't make myself care that much) or the New Orleans-Cincy tilt. But the games above are all going to be awesome. This week looks like it could be the best of the season. Be sure to grab a seat and ride the wave.

posted by Gavin @ 2:58 PM  0 comments

The Scientific Method: Week 11 (Abbrev.)

Once a year, on the shores of Galgalek, near the towering Mt. Enduin, a scenic valley is disrupted from the normal pursuit of life. Animals scurry into caves, hide under rocks, and in trees. The very clouds appear to dim, casting a depressing pall over the entire sum of the region. Even the wind hints at discontent, whispering a message of dismay as it flits over loping hills and around overgrown bushes and ferns.

"The academics are coming......sssssss......"

"The academics are coming......sssssss......"

For, at a time known only to themselves, various communication scholars from across the world gather here to discuss studies of equitable relationships, the phenomenon of friends with benefits, and the correlation between the communication of affection and an individual's rise in cholesterol. It is a time of immense insufferability, hints of grandeur, and, for many, a few dozen trips to the mini-bar.

Needless to say, I am going to said convention this week, leaving tomorrow, which means that I must submit for you my scientific picks today, a Wednesday, leaving me at a severe disadvantage for no apparent reason. Who knows? I might learn a piece of information about communication over the weekend, one bit that I will gladly share with all of you loyal readers (except for Jimmy McWhiskers, who wishes us to stick only to the realm of sporting events and various tomfoolery).

I should (nay, I MUST), though, mention one other bit of my week. My regular night class was cancelled yesterday (praise be to the Most High), leaving me home on a Tuesday night with little to watch (unless I wanted to talk with my wife ). To my surprise, a new game show was appearing on ABC starring one William Shatner, one "Show Me The Money".

I watched this show for about fifteen minutes. I wish to tell you all to flee from ever considering doing the same. Take this warning, for the sake of your family, for your children, and for your love of life itself. All I saw was a looooong dance sequence with fifteen bee-yoo-tiful ladies (stealing from "Deal or No Deal"), William Shatner dancing (not bee-yoo-tiful in the least), a contestent dancing multiple times (there's gay, there's super-duper-nuper-kee-uper gay, and then there's this contestant), and questions that wouldn't challenge Earl Hickey, like "On what show did the Soup Nazi say, "No soup for you!"" This guy won $220,000 for knowing that. That is boggling to the gray area known as the mind. So..... please..... for your sake.....

On to the picks!

Sunday:
Atlanta at Baltimore
Let me get this straight. Michael Vick sucked against Detroit. Michael Vick sucked against Cleveland. Michael Vick is now playing Baltimore. What is the logical conclusion of this progression? I can't believe that I am actually picking Baltimore to go 8-2. Great googly-moogly.
Scientific Pick: Baltimore

Buffalo at Houston
Well, here's a game that we can all care about not even slightly. Losman! Carr! Gado! A-Train! Jauron! It's an actual NFL game! Seriously, though, it's time to see if Houston can just picture Jacksonville's jerseys on another NFL team.
Scientific Pick: Houston

Chicago at NY Jets
I was completely wrong on the Jets before this season started. I freely admit that. I thought they would be absolutely atrocious. However, that win against the Pats really showed me something. Specifically, it showed me that they won't get blown out by Chicago.
Scientific Pick: Chicago

Cincinnati at New Orleans
Cincinnati, where are you? You were supposed to go to the Super Bowl, buddies! Your defense allowed 42 points in a single half to a Marty-led team! Wowsers! By the way, New Orleans' defense has been figured out. They're thin and weak at the seams. I expect this to be another high-scoring affair.
Scientific Pick: Cincinnati

Minnesota at Miami
Minnesota has just looked atrocious on offense ever since whupping us. That feels awesome, by the way, thanks. Miami just beat Chicago and Kansas City in a turn of events that can only be called.... whaaaaa? Well, why not play the hot hand here?
Scientific Pick: Miami

New England at Green Bay
New England has just lost two games in a row, causing the residents of Boston to completely lose all grip on reality and believe that their baseball team just spent $50 million simply to talk to a free agent pitcher.
Scientific Pick: New England

Oakland at Kansas City
My refusal to talk about anthing Oakland is still in effect. Good move by Kansas City starting Trent Green, however.
Scientific Pick: Kansas City

Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Now, if Pittsburgh wins their next seven games, they will be 10-6, with a shot at the postseason. Game #1 in their quest should be a snap.
Scientific Pick: Pittsburgh

St. Louis at Carolina
I'm actually a tad torn on this one. St. Louis has lost four in a row, including two to us, which is frigging sweet. Carolina simply hasn't looked good, including their win on Monday night. I'm actually going to go on a limb here.
Scientific Pick: St. Louis

Tennessee at Philadelphia
Buh. Vince Young against that ferocious Philly defense isn't a matchup that I relish watching.
Scientific Pick: Philly

Washington at Tampa Bay
Hey! These teams were both supposed to be good entering the year! Now it is the battle of Gradkowski versus Campbell, with absolutely nothing at stake. Nothing against nothing means going with my old stalwart, never picking a rookie quarterback making his first start.
Scientific Pick: Tampa Bay

Detroit at Arizona
Oh, man, this is terrible. What a terrible game.
Scientific Pick: Detroit

Seattle at San Francisco
I picked against us last week, and they gladly proved me wrong. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice in a row.
Scientific Pick: Seattle

Indianapolis at Dallas
Indy is on the trek to be 16-0 yet again! Boo-yah! 16-0! Yes!
Scientific Pick: Dallas

San Diego at Denver
If this game was in San Diego, I would pick San Diego. This game is in Denver. I pick Denver
Scientific Pick: Denver

Monday:
NY Giants at Jacksonville
Both Eli Manning and David Garrard looked flat out awful last week. The one with the best chance of turning that around? Neither, but I hear Tiki Barber is pretty sweet.
Scientific Pick: NY Giants

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:31 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Playoff Picture: Week 11 - AFC

This past week was not a very good one for teams pushing for playoff positioning.

New Orleans loses to Pittsburgh (although they did put up a good battle)
NY Giants lose to Chicago (Eli Manning absolutely hands the Bears a win... Chicago did not play well again on the road. In fact, the Bears are starting to look positively beatable. You can run on them if you get a helmet on Urlacher, and you can easily get into Rex Grossman's head.)
New England loses (at home AGAIN) to the Jets (and Bill Simmons eventually will acknowledge that Deion Branch was an enormous loss)
Cincinnati loses to the Chargers (virtually knocks them out of the playoffs)
Atlanta loses inexcusably to the Browns (they had a schedule advantage... this doesn't help)
Jacksonville loses AGAIN to the Texans (I'm speechless... just a terrible loss in every way)
Kansas City loses to Miami (went away from Larry Johnson... Damon Huard looked like he was believing his own hype)
Minnesota loses to the Packers (the Vikings officially played their best game of the season against us... which is why that loss still hurts the most)

By my count, that's eight teams who took hard losses, who didn't come up when they had to in big games (you could probably throw St Louis in there as well). The second half of the season is when it counts, when every game can be a playoff game. You have to bring it. Let's see what the aftermath was... although first we'll take a look at our Scientific Method, who didn't necessarily predict this bloodbath.

Week 10 Results:
Scientific Method: 10-6 (big kudos for picking the Browns win... we at CO love to pick further points in the "Michael Vick will never be the MVP in the NFL" bubble whenever possible"
Petey Prisco: 7-9
Bill Simmons: 10-6

Season Standings:
Petey Prisco: 90-54
Scientific Method: 89-55
Bill Simmons: 76-68

Science... you are that close. Do us proud. Don't make Prisco look good.

How about that playoff picture?

AFC

1. Indianapolis (9-0)
2. Denver (7-2... over Baltimore because of the better conference record, over San Diego with the better divisional record)
3. Baltimore (7-2)
4. New England (6-3... over San Diego because WC teams have to be #5-6)
5. San Diego (7-2)
6. NY Jets (5-4)

Round One: NY Jets at Baltimore, San Diego at New England (what a first round game!)

First off, what a turn around for the Jets to be in the playoffs right now, and here's how it happened. They are tied with Kansas City and Jacksonville with 5-4 records. However, Kansas City has an awful conference record of 1-4 (which means they definitely shouldn't be depending on tiebreakers to get in), and Jacksonville is at 3-3. So the Jets, with their 4-4 record slip in. Congrats to coach Mangini and friends. They're not a great team, but the AFC East is awful, and they are winning games. The Rams and Vikings are comparable teams who are not winning enough games against mediocre opposition.

Still in it right now (in my humble opinion) are the Jaguars, Chiefs, and Bengals (4-5). Everyone else has 6 losses, and while the Steelers have the talent, they have to virtually run the table to get in, and that's going to be quite the challenge. I'll stick them back on here later in necessary.

Okay, strength of schedule analysis...

Indianapolis - at Dallas, vs Philadelphia, at Tennessee, at Jacksonville, vs Cincinnati, at Houston, vs Miami
Denver - vs San Diego, at Kansas City, vs Seattle, at San Diego, at Arizona, vs Cincinnati, vs San Francisco
Baltimore - vs Atlanta, vs Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Kansas City, vs Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, vs Buffalo
New England - at Green Bay, vs Chicago, vs Detroit, at Miami, vs Houston, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee
San Diego - at Denver, vs Oakland, at Buffalo, vs Denver, vs Kansas City, at Seattle, vs Arizona
NY Jets - vs Chicago, vs Houston, at Green Bay, vs Buffalo, at Minnesota, at Miami, vs Oakland

Jacksonville - vs NY Giants, at Buffalo, at Miami, vs Indianapolis, at Tennessee, vs New England, at Kansas City
Kansas City - vs Oakland, vs Denver, at Cleveland, vs Baltimore, at San Diego, at Oakland, vs Jacksonville
Cincinnati - at New Orleans, at Cleveland, vs Baltimore, vs Oakland, at Indianapolis, at Denver, vs Pittsburgh

So what does this mean? Well, for starters the Colts really have the #1 seed all locked up. Any moron can tell you that. Denver took care of business (barely) against the Raiders, but are starting a completely killer stretch that will define their season. Baltimore and New England should hang on, even if the Jets continue to improve... I just can't see the Jets taking the AFC East crown. Still, the Jets have a fairly easy road compared to the other teams, especially the Bengals, who end their season with three killer games. They almost have to run the table now to reach those with an 8-5 record.

Who knows what the Jaguars are going to do week to week? They simply can't afford to continue giving these games away? It's nuts!

My predictions continue to hold steady though... we'll see what happens when Denver hits this run of bad games. If they move through easily, I'm a moron. If they don't, I'll be the only pundit to pick the collapse. Go Gavin!

I have to jump into a seminar and so have to wait to do the NFC until later, so everyone can look forward to that.

posted by Gavin @ 2:09 PM  0 comments

Some Quick Thoughts...

Thanks to Colin for actually writing a game recap for once in his miserable existence. I would only add, from being at the game, a few thoughts...

- Kaz pulled a Jerome Bettis by running onto the field in front of the rest of the Rams by fifteen yards. Then fans who weren't at the game wonder why we rag on him now. This would be because 1) he was perhaps our least favorite Seahawk because 2) he was awful. The dude wants to be the center of attention as a Ram. This means I will yell phrases in his general direction that would make impressionable young children cry.

- The turning point of the game for the defense was the 2nd drive for the Rams, when the Hawks stopped them on 2nd and 1, and then stuffed Stephen Jackson on 3rd and 1. It got the ball back to our offense quickly and returned momentum to our side.

- Our offensive line's performance is probably going to be severely underrated because of the six sacks allowed. They were overall brilliant. It's not their fault Seneca Wallace doesn't know how to throw the ball away.

- Speaking of Mr. Wallace... he wasn't very good. His second half was beyond abysmal. Let's stop with the obscene praising. If Burleson doesn't run that ball back, we're talking about how Wallace took giant steps back in the second half to not allow our team the chance to come back against a terrible defense.

- The stadium was utter bedlam during and directly after that return. Bedlam.

- The defense came within a second of disrupting half of the plays on the Rams' final drive. They are finally starting to consistently bring pressure. I like it.

On to other teams...

- The Sonics are now 4-4. Seriously. You know what? I watched the game last night against New Jersey and enjoyed it. This will be a fun team to watch, with four legitimate 20 point scorers on the court in our starting rotation (Ridnour, Lewis, Allen, Wilcox). I think they'll repeat their success again this year. I really think this team can make some noise, and was remembering how excited I was for this season before that whole "Oklahoma City" thing. Maybe I'll start being more excited now.

- Speaking of excited, I did watch the UW Huskies men's basketball team last night, and can tell that they are young, judging from the turnovers, but supremely talented, judging from the three point record they set. My prediction is that Spencer Hawes is going to struggle, his footwork is good but could be better, and I think Artem Wallace is going to push him for playing time. However, Quincy Pondexter is a stud, and probably a one-and-done. He was the best player on the court last night. What's going to be so interesting is how we can dominate the glass this year, between Brockman, Hawes, Wallace, Pondexter, etc we have the ability to own the paint. Nicholls State simply could not drive the lane without fearing the result. This could easily be the most talented Husky team ever. Isn't that strange to say? Well... they're really really good.

- Richie Sexson is a darn good baseball player that one particular site is dramatically underrating. Yeesh. Yes, let's replace him with David Dellucci. That would be a wonderful move. For a far superior analysis, read LL or Dr. D.

posted by Gavin @ 11:49 AM  0 comments

Monday, November 13, 2006

Can't Sleep..... Stupid Hawks

It's frigging 2AM here in Phoenix and I have to go to work tomorrow at 7:30.

On the other hand, the Seahawks pulled off an amazing win today that has kept me up all night.

You see, there is something a little special about being the underdog. We haven't had to experience it much the past couple of years, as we entered the top-tier of the NFC. Thus, we would be in these tight matchups in games that we were supposed to win. Detroit. The Rams. Oakland.

This was the second game this season that we were truly the underdog entering the game. No Hass, no Shaun, you still had Kaz on the other side giving the Rams our entire playbook and complaining about how the Seahawks didn't respect the Rams, which is entirely not true and idiotic, Chris Spencer was starting at center, Marcus Tubbs had just landed on IR...... woof.

You get the picture. This was not a healthy, elite team that prepared to play their main division rival on Sunday. A win would go a loooong way towards a win of the NFC West, while a loss would put them in a tie with the Rams. I had almost no hope for a victory as I sat down at the sports bar. Almost none. I wasn't even as excited as I normally am for a Rams game, due to the fact that I thought the Rams had all their weapons, while we obviously did not.

Our first drive looked extremely promising, as Mo Morris continued his solid performance on Monday night and Seneca promptly took us within the Rams 10 yard line. Glimmer of hope? Absolutely not. I could see Leonard Little (who hit and killed a human being while driving) coming around the outside clear as day. It was obvious Seneca didn't feel the heat, and I groaned as Tom Ashworth vainly chugged after the other Rams defensive end (who, by the way, is pretty doggone fast). 7-0 Rams. Just like that. If there was one aspect of gameplay that we couldn't, JUST COULDN'T afford, it was to give the Rams free points, and we had done it.

However, Wallace and Morris drove us down the field once again, finally tying the game on a TD pass to D-Jack. There was a faint glimmer of hope. Actually, that entire 1st half turned into a hope-a-rama, as Stevens finally caught a big ball and our defense actually looked like the 2005 version, bending but not allowing the Rams to get the necessary touchdown. We were actually winning at the half, 14-13.

There was good news and bad news to this half. The good news was, obviously, that we were ahead and that Wallace was playing well. The bad news was that I saw no way for us to play better with the talent we had on the field, and we were only winning by a single point. I told Gavin as much, only to have my thoughts dismissed as, "depressing."

I don't know what Seneca Wallace does during halftime, but he should switch up his routine, because he is just terrible in the second half, and he was again today, leading the offense to go all of 11 yards before the final posession, and only 40 yards total in the second half. That's pathetic, especially against a Rams defense that doesn't scare anyone. Seneca's lapse put the burden of this game on the defense, and they actually responded.

Well, I take that back. They responded, and a new friend responded. Scott Linehan. Personally, I had been under the impression that the Rams fired a maverick head coach who played by his own rules precisely because he lost several games shooting from the hip and predictably calling wacky plays. In the second half, it appeared as if the ghost of Mike Martz temporarily took over the body of Scott Linehan. Call #1: The Rams have a makable 48 yard field goal. Linehan declines, instead calling a deep ball that had a low probability of success and is intercepted. Call #2, which was just boneheaded: Jeff Wilkins is in the process of giving the Rams a 19-14 lead when Linehan challenges the previous play, that Kevin Curtis had caught the ball an additional seven yards down the field. "Fine," I think to myself. "It'll just be another easy attempt for Wilkins." Sure enough, the call is overturned, and the Rams face a fourth and 1. This leads us to stupid Call #3: An imcomplete pass to the tight end in the end zone. Let's break down just how stupid this was.

-- The Rams, to the best of my knowledge, have, at their disposal, Tory Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Stephen Jackson. Holt owns us, Bruce was owning us throughout the game, and Jackson is an elite running back. Basically, you have Options A, B, and C (in no particular order) staring you right in the face if you are Linehan. Heck, Option D can be a quarterback sneak with Bulger, who is a pretty strong guy himself.

-- The Rams had an entire challenge to come up with said play. Honestly, if Linehan wanted to go for it, he could have started planning the SECOND that he challenged the ruling on the field. He did not.

-- Instead, Linehan called Option E, a short pass to the fullback. He also didn't make that call until the offense was already huddled, meaning that the 12th Man (who can be a tad loud) was already in full throttle, and no one could hear, including said fullback. Thus, not only was it a stupid play-call, it was a horrible use of time management, an empty-headed display of not knowing where you are (in Qwest), and fittingly ended with an off-kilter pass in the end zone.

Just horrible, and opened the door for Seattle. Personally, I had been praying for a game-changing turnover, but Burleson's return worked just as well. That was insane. In. Sane. I have zero superlatives to write about how awesome that was. It was the first point all game that I actually thought we might pull it out. My feelings remained even as the Rams predictably drove down the field and scored. A few thoughts on that.

-- Our defense sucks playing a soft vanilla zone. That is all.

The penalties on Incognito seemed fair. He should have known that he would have gotten flagged for the shove, and then for the obvious hold. Our special teams then again showed up, as Scobey took the ball to midfield.

Two mintues later.... victory. Winning this game, without our stars, was one of the most exciting wins that I have experienced as a Hawks fan. I'm dead serious. We are well on our way to break the Super Bowl loser's curse. We now have a running game. We have a revitalized defense. We have our stars coming back. We now have the inside track on the #2 seed in the NFC (Gavin will write about this later this week).

What an awesome day. That is all. I'm going to bed.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:11 AM  0 comments

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Skip Bayless = Awesome

Even though I still work at home for a couple of days a week, I have stopped watching ESPN at all during the afternoon, particularly that crap-fest "1st and 10", where Skip and Woody "debate" the top sports topics of the day.

However, I was just about to watch an episode of South Park I had recorded on the ol' DVR (which I praise the all-powerful Messiah for most days) when I saw two minutes of this tremendous show.

The question? Who has been the rookie of the year so far in the NFL?

Now, if you follow the game of football, there is only one right answer. I'll trust that our readers are smart enough to know this. (Hint: He plays wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints).

Woody Paige did, surprisingly, go with Colston, leaving the proverbial ball in Skip's court. He did not disappoint.

Skip immediately proclaimed that the rookie of the year so far in the NFL was New England running back Laurence Maroney. Now, that MIGHT be marginally arguable, but Skip wasn't finished. Oh no. He continued to say that, RIGHT NOW, Maroney was one of the top-5 running backs in the entire NFL.

Wow. Top 5 running back. In the entire NFL.

-- Larry Johnson
-- LT
-- Tiki Barber
-- Shaun Alexander
-- Stephen Jackson

That wasn't difficult. You could also argue for the inclusion of Edgerrin James (talent didn't disappear, blocking did), Frank Gore (I personally wouldn't, but his stats are nice this year), Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis (hello!), Warrick Dunn, Deuce McAllister, and Ronnie Brown (who just OWNED the Chicago Bears defense).

But Maroney plays for the Patriots, and, thus, is already super-duper-neato. Don't get me wrong. Maroney looks like the type of back who COULD, at some point, be a top-5 running back. He is not one at the moment. At the present time.

Needless to say, I watched the episode of South Park instead, where Stan's dad gets served.

posted by colin_hesse @ 9:29 AM  1 comments

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Scientific Method: Week 10

Oh..... my....... science......

A huge hat-tip to South Park for a hugely entertaining couple of episodes, except, of course, for showing us Ms. (Mr.) Garrison having sex. That was terrible.

A huge hat-tip to Bill Simmons. It only took Brady throwing four interceptions against the Colts to make him realize that, yes, the Pats would miss Deion Branch.

Yes, this NFL season has turned predictably wacky, with the Lions and 49ers actually winning on probably the only week that I didn't pick either of them to win. Go me! What does week 10 have in store for us?

Sunday:
Baltimore at Tennessee
Baltimore is one of the toughest teams for me to root for in the league. I hate Brian Billick, I hate Richard Neuheisal with a passion for ruining the Dawgs, and I hate how everyone hypes love onto Ray Lewis after he was involved in another person's death. On the other hand, I'm a big fan of Jeff Fisher (who called Haynesworth his "defensive tackle"), Vince Young has his moments, and the Titans seem to be learning how to play the game of football. However, it is hard to imagine the Titans offense not giving away a couple of huge turnovers that allow that mediocre Ravens offense a couple of scores. By the way, I love how everyone is talking about how the Ravens are 2-0 since Billick took over the play-calling. Did the offense win the game for them last week? Negatory.
Scientific Pick: Baltimore

Buffalo at Indianapolis
Willis McGahee is out, meaning that the Buffalo offense will go completely through one JP Losman, which should scare people from northern New York. Indy still has a ridiculous offense and a ridiculously bad rushing defense, and I know (I KNOW) that they will not end the season undefeated. However, unless someone can tell me how the Bills would score more points then the Colts (outside of Peyton pulling a Grossman and tossing 4-5 interceptions), I just can't do it.
Scientific Pick: Indy

Cleveland at Atlanta
Hmmmm. As always, this game hinges on one Michael Vick. Super in some games, absolutely terrible in others, Vick is, and always will be, an enigma. Who I am starting in fantasy football this week. Actually, not many people are talking about this, but the Falcons fast start was also buoyed by a fantastic performance by that defense, which has become rather invisible in recent weeks. Cleveland, by the way, has started playing folks tough, including San Diego last week until a final push by LT took away all hope. I am seriously tempted to do something stupid.
Scientific Pick: Cleveland

Green Bay at Minnesota
I finally put my trust in Brett Favre, and he reverts to last season. I finally put my trust in Brad Johnson, and he remembers that he is 68 years old. This is ridiculous. However, the one side of the football FOR EITHER TEAM that looks potentially elite is the Minny defense, who should easily get a few picks tossed their way by Favre, while Chester Taylor continues his strong play. Yes, the Vikings climb back above .500.
Scientific Pick: Minnesota

Houston at Jacksonville
Honestly, I don't understand the quarterback controversy in Jacksonville. In my opinion, NEITHER quarterback appears to be all-world, but Leftwich has the upside in talent and zip on the football. However, Garrard has that "escapability" and "desire to win" that I'm always hearing about. Maybe, um, Jacksonville won those last two games because of DOMINANT performances by that defense, eh? I should know. My fantasy team has enjoyed it. As for you, Houston, that was a winnable game that you let slip away in New York last week. You hold the Giants to 14 points, you should get a win. Easy.
Scientific Pick: Jacksonville

Kansas City at Miami
Miami won on Sunday because of three reasons, which I will list in ascending order....
3. Jascon Taylor was a monster
2. Ronnie Brown was a monster
1. Rex Grossman decided that a perfect season wasn't for him

Do not tell me that Joey Harrington won that game for them, or even that the Miami performance is repeatable. You know what's repeatable? Larry Johnson running for 150 yards like every week the past four weeks, making the job of Damon Huard super duper easy because he knows he has single-coverage on a Tony Gonzalez or an Eddie Kennison. That KC offense is in sync right now, and should continue to be through Sunday.
Scientific Pick: Kansas City

NY Jets at New England
Bill Simmons is picking the Jets to win, just like he did earlier in the season when the Pats visited the Jets. The Jets played the Pats tough, but once again, I can't see the talent differential playing out any different way. The Pats will run all over the Jets, and the Jets won't be able to run. That's all the difference. Oh, and by the way. Thank you, New England, for Deion Branch. Thank you. Have fun with Reche Caldwell. Did you see Brady on Sunday night? Every pass was going to Kevin Faulk or Ben Watson. The wide receiving corps was almost nonexistant, especially in clutch-time.
Scientific Pick: New England

San Diego at Cincinnati
If there is one team that has been killing my picks on a weekly basis, it has been the Bengals, a team that I honestly thought would challenge for the Super Bowl. Instead, they are on the brink of imploding. Now, we said the exact same thing about the Giants earlier in the season, but the Bengals have a few more turds than the G-Men. And what's the Bengals main weakness? Defending the run. Hmmmm. What's the huge strength of the Chargers? Running the football. I expect to see a very similar game to the one between the Pats and Bengals earlier in the season.
Scientific Pick: San Diego

San Francisco at Detroit
Ha! I HAVE to pick one of them to win this week. God has forced my hand, telling me that it was foolish to disregard both of them last week. I am a foolish mortal, indeed. Should I go with the team that scored 9 points to beat the Vikings last week? Should I go with, in the words of Roy Williams, the best 2-6 team of all time? Decisions, decisions. Well, shee-oot. When in doubt, go with the veteran quarterback over the up-and-comer, which means that I am sticking with Kitna, a revitalized Keven Jones, and that awe-inspiring (yes, sarcasm) Detroit defense.
Scientific Pick: Detroit

Washington at Philadelphia
Washington should have lost that game to Dallas in about fifteen different places last week, highlighted by T.O.'s dropped pass and the blocked field goal by Vanderjagt. Philly has lost a few of those sort of games this season, highlighted by Eli Manning's comeback and the 62 yard field goal by Matt Bryant in Tampa Bay. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that one of these teams should be 2-6, while the other team should be 6-2. Which team do you think I will be picking to win?
Scientific Pick: Philly

Denver at Oakland
There is nothing more to write about how bad the Oakland offense is. Their ineptitude rivals my love of all things war-related. Art Shell has responded by saying that they will be working on becoming more balanced. That's an excellent decision. Spread out the suckitude, Art, letting it seep through all facets of the team. Oh, and don't forget to have someone attempt to knee Javon Walker in the nads, ok? Personally, I didn't mind Brayton doing that, mostly because the recipient was Jerramy Stevens, who lost his nads a loooooooong time ago.
Scientific Pick: Denver

Dallas at Arizona
Tony Romo hasn't looked that bad the last two weeks, leading the Boys to a nice win over the Panthers and a should-of win (though they lost) over the Redskins. Arizona, on the other hand, has looked terrible after that loss on Monday night. It's like the entire team, especially the offense, just laid down and said, "We know who we thought we were. We're the Arizona Cardinals." Matt Leinart, in particular, has just looked awful, though having no running game hasn't helped. Just wondering. You have, on the same team, Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnston, Leonard Pope, etc. How does this offense not score points?
Scientific Pick: Dallas

New Orleans at Pittsburgh
Big Ben threw for over 400 yards last week. That's right. 400 yards. The Steelers should have whupped the Broncos last Sunday, just as they should have whupped the Raiders, and the Falcons, and so forth. Willie Parker finally called the team out, saying that they just didn't care because they had their rings. I agree. I mean, how do you even WEAR those rings when you start the next season 2-6? What are you, a champion? Are you kidding me? Here's a prediction, and take it how you will. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't just going to win on Sunday. No, the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to destroy the New Orleans Saints.
Scientific Pick: Pittsburgh

St. Louis at Seattle
A win here would basically cement the NFC West for Seattle. In theory. Unfortunately, you know the Rams will score points, since Tory Holt owns us, Isaac Bruce owns, us, Marc Bulger owns us, etc., etc. On the flip side, Mo Morris owns no one, Seneca Wallace ditto, and Tom Ashworth ditto. This would actually be an upset win for the Seahawks, winning this game without several of their best players. Couple that with the fact that I'm a wuss, but I really don't see how we win this game on Sunday.
Scientific Pick: St. Louis

Chicago at NY Giants
What a great game. This is what NBC wanted when it got the optional games in the second half of the season. Otherwise you might be stuck with Washington/Philly, or Cleveland/Atlanta. A couple keys here. First, the Giants are missing their pass rush, which is what rattles Rex Grossman and turns him into a turnover machine. That will hurt. Second, Brian Urlacher won't be playing at 100%, and Tiki Barber should be able to exploit what Ronnie Brown did the week before. However, if there is one thing that the Bears are great at, it's creating turnovers, and Eli Manning loves to oblige. In my mind, that's the difference in the game. Right there.
Scientific Pick: Chicago

Monday:
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Buh. Which game is better, Sunday or Monday night? Not going to waste my time here.
Scientific Pick: Carolina

posted by colin_hesse @ 10:29 AM  0 comments

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hawks at the Halfway Point

I wanted to take some time to correct a wrong assumption about why our beloved Seahawks are 5-3. Most people blame the departure of Steve Hutchinson and the other offensive injuries (Hasselbeck, Alexander, Engram). They look at the offensive dropoff from the juggernaut of a year ago and throw up a "of course" at the team.

"Of course", they're wrong. Don't misunderstand, the offense hasn't been good. However, it's virtually impossible to put together a decent statistical analysis of their efforts. It's been like a season of one-game sample sizes, what with all those injuries. When we get to the end of the season and look back, who's going to care about our overall ranking? I sure hope the answer is no one, because we're going to be a heck of a lot better than currently constituted with the NFL MVP and best QB in the NFC.

No, my friends, the reason we are 5-3 is because of a wildly inconsistent defense. The easiest way to see this is simply taking a look at the scoreboard. We held the Lions to 6 points, the Cardinals to 10 points, the Giants to 3 through three quarters, and shut out the Raiders. You could even argue they were the biggest reason for the defeat of the Rams in the second half of that one. When we lost they got dominated, giving up 37, 31, and 35 points respectively.

The question begs some similarities between our defense and Rex Grossman. You put the season together and it looks mediocre, but that's a lousy analysis. Either you've been great, or terrible beyond belief.

So, are there threads between the wins and losses that can be tied together? Are there further discrepancies?

Of course, there are the big plays. We've gone over these before, but it's worth mentioning again. The ONLY reason Minnesota beat us was because we could not contain the big play against a mediocre offense.

Next up are third down conversions. Chicago (6-15), Minnesota (5-14), and Kansas City (6-13). That's actually not too bad, although (and I can't find the appropriate data) I know we've given up far more than our share of third and longs. In our wins Detroit (5-14), Arizona (6-14), NY Giants (2-9), St Louis (8-15), and Oakland (3-15) all (except Oakland, of course) had similar success on the down, and the Rams were almost dominant (not a good sign for Sunday). I'm actually moderately surprised by this, as I thought we'd done a lot better during our wins. Overall, we give up 37.6% of third down opportunities, obviously very very bad (although not as bad as the Rams, who are at 47.2%). To be where we thought we'd be, that number has to be closer to 30%.

How can we improve this? Well, it should definitely start by stopping other team's third WRs and TEs. We are allowing an absurd 56.0% DVOA for third, fourth, and fifth options for opposing teams. To understand how bad that is, 2005 Steve Smith, tops in DVOA, was at 30.7%. Seriously. TEs are at a bad 25.6%, pretty much equal to 2005 Santana Moss.

So besides facing #1 and #2 WRs (and we aren't great in those categories), we're also facing Steve Smith and Santana Moss... EVERY WEEK. Unbelievable. Many of those catches are on third down.

There are good signs. We're still good against the run, ranking #5 in STUFFED, with a nice 31% percentage (better than San Diego, for example). Our big play tendencies bite us here, as we rank 31st in 10+ runs, as an absurd 24% of runs against us go for 10 of more yards. That should be something we can quickly address and goes to the lack of consistency and overpursuit from our aggressive linebacking corps.

We're also not bad at rushing the passer (although those numbers are padded with the St Louis and Oakland affairs), sacking at an adjusted 8.6%.

We can do this. We have the talent to be a good defense. It always starts with stopping the run, and we stop the run well. We just have to add discipline to the mix that we had last year to cut down on third down completions and role player susceptibility.

I started this post with the intent to see if we really are a bad defense. I think the answer is a qualified "no". The peripherals are there for success. It comes down to execution.

posted by Gavin @ 4:25 PM  0 comments

NFL Midseason Report: A Look Ahead

I thought I'd take a second to go through the games I'm most looking forward to as the season winds down... while I'm no John Clayton (far sexier man than myself), we're starting to enter the games that truly matter.

Week 10
San Diego at Cincinnati - If the Bengals lose, put a fork into them.
Washington at Philadelphia - The loser of this game is done.
Chicago at NY Giants - Ummm... need any explanation?

Week 11
Chicago at NY Jets - I'm making the pick now... Jets win this one.
Atlanta at Baltimore - Two totally overrated teams need this game for playoff positioning.
St Louis at Carolina - If the unthinkable happens and we lose, do we become Carolina fans here or simply enjoy the continued falloff of everyone's preseason Super Bowl pick?
Indianapolis at Dallas - Making the pick again. Indy will be 8-1.
San Diego at Denver - Front runner in the AFC West.
NY Giants at Jacksonville - What an end to an incredible week. If the Giants lose this past Sunday, this game takes on gigantic proportions.

Week 12
Denver at Kansas City - How would you like to be a Denver fan and go from San Diego to Kansas City to Seattle (with healthy offensive players) in three weeks? That's how a 6-2 record can quickly end up 6-5.
New Orleans at Atlanta - The NFC South will get messy after this game and the Saints' loss.
Chicago at New England - The Bears will be the next team to beat New England at Foxboro and avoid a four game losing streak.

Week 13
Baltimore at Cincinnati - If my prediction is right about the Bengals (and Lord knows that hasn't been the case up to now), this game will put Cincy back into the top of the AFC North.
Arizona at St Louis - The Rams will blow this one.
Dallas at NY Giants - The top two teams in the NFC East face off for the crown.
Carolina at Philadelphia - If Carolina loses, they will be out of the postseason.

Week 14
New Orleans at Dallas - The fall of the Saints will continue as pundits scramble to claim that they predicted that the Saints really weren't that good.
Baltimore at Kansas City - The Chiefs cement their status as a legit playoff contender as Arrowhead strikes again.
New England at Miami - Remember how Tom Brady always sucks in this game?
Indianapolis at Jacksonville - Only putting this there because people think it'll be good and meaningful... but they'd be wrong.
NY Giants at Carolina - Notice how the Giants and Panthers are on this list a lot?
Denver at San Diego - Final game for AFC West domination (unless Chiefs steal it)

Week 15
Kansas City at San Diego - Must win on the road for the Chiefs as they seek not to be Team #7 for the second year in a row.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis - Only other good game in an otherwise forgettable week.

Week 16
Honestly, outside of our game against San Diego, not seeing many games I'm looking forward to.

Week 17
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - I think it may come down to this game for the Bengals to take the AFC North.
Green Bay at Chicago - I also think this will be a big game for playoff seeding.
Jacksonville at Kansas City - See below
Carolina at New Orleans - See below

How does the playoff picture itself stand right now?

AFC
1. Indianapolis: 8-0
2. Denver: 6-2 (over Baltimore because of better conference record)
3. Baltimore: 6-2 (over New England because of better conference record)
4. New England: 6-2
5. San Diego: 6-2
6. Jacksonville: 5-3 (over Kansas City because of better conference record)

First Round: Jacksonville at Baltimore; San Diego at New England

Teams Still In It: Obviously many from a mathematical perspective, but we'll stick with the following: Cincinnati and Kansas City.

Check out that game the last week of the season as Jacksonville goes to Kansas City. Looms large right now, doesn't it?

Taking a look at the schedules (we'll post these as they shorten), here's what I see...

Indy has a fairly easy road, and should easily clinch the #1 seed in the conference, especially with the killer schedules that the remainder of the contenders have.
Denver only has three "gimmes" left on the schedule, including this stretch of games: vs San Diego, at Kansas City, vs Seattle, at San Diego. It's difficult to see them holding on to the #2 seed during that stretch, leaving the door open for New England, who should easily cruise to another 6-2 run and grab that #2 ranking.
Baltimore's road depends on offensive consistency and whether the Pittsburgh Steelers give up, they play the defending champs twice.
If not, Cincinnati could jump in, but I now have to already go back on my prediction of above. The Bengals have a killer second half schedule, including games against San Diego, New Orleans, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Denver, and Pittsburgh. That's six of their eight games that could easily be losses. I don't see them getting through that well.
That leaves us with the two other AFC West teams, San Diego and Kansas City. Of the two, Kansas City has the far easier road, with two games still against Oakland, as well as "showdowns" with Cleveland and Miami. They do have tilts with San Diego and Denver, but not two, and neither Jacksonville or Baltimore are "elite" teams. When you compare that with San Diego's two games with Denver, at Seattle, at Cincinnati, and against Kansas City, the Chiefs hold an obvious edge.

So here's the prediction right now...

1. Indianapolis
2. New England
3. Baltimore
4. Kansas City
5. Jacksonville
6. San Diego

NFC
1. Chicago: 7-1
2. NY Giants: 6-2 (over New Orleans through better divisional record)
3. New Orleans: 6-2
4. Seattle: 5-3
5. Atlanta: 5-3
6. Minnesota: 4-4

The sixth spot is complex right now. First, Philadelphia and Dallas are tied in the NFC East with 4-4 records. Only one of those teams is wild-card eligible, according to tiebreaker policy. Because Philadelphia beat Dallas, they go on to a tiebreaker with Minnesota, Carolina, and St Louis. Minnesota has the best conference record (4-2) versus Philadelphia (3-3), Carolina (2-3), and St Louis (3-2), so they get the nod. So right now at the midway point the Carolina Panthers are out of the playoffs. Wierd.

With the absurd number of 4-4 teams still "alive", I'm not going to go through strength of schedule for all of them, except Carolina, Philly, Dallas, and Minnesota.

Chicago - Starting a tough run of four games, but end up with four snoozers. I don't see them losing the top spot unless Seattle really makes a run.
NY Giants - Yikes. As with any NFC East and NFC South team, the strength of schedule is going to make for some killer losing streaks, and with the injuries on defense, it's difficult to see the Giants maintaining their current momentum, although I do think they're going to win this Sunday. They end the season vs Dallas, at Carolina, vs Philadelphia, vs New Orleans, at Washington. The good news for them? The worst games are at home.
Seattle - After we get Shaun and Matt back after this St Louis game, the only games to be concerned with are at Denver, vs San Diego. Niiiice. Look for us to get that #2 slot.
New Orleans - Ummm... I have bad news for Saints fans. Your team is not making the playoffs, barring a total collapse in Atlanta and Carolina. Besides a game against San Francisco, you have at Pittsburgh, vs Cincinnati, at Atlanta, at Dallas, vs Washington, at NY Giants, vs Carolina. The only consolation is that your division opponents will have the same problems, but don't expect to hold the #3 ranking.
Atlanta - I hate to do this, and maybe I'll change my mind when I see Carolina's schedule, but I think Atlanta has to be the favorite in the AFC South. The schedule is just in their favor. The current run of vs Cleveland, at Baltimore, vs New Orleans, at Washington and at Tampa Bay gives them a huge lift.
Minnesota - The good news? An incredibly favorable schedule. The bad news? Playing like how they did against New England and San Francisco. They'll definitely be in it until the end.
Philadelphia - No way. No way. They end at Indianapolis, vs Carolina, at Washington, at NY Giants, at Dallas, vs Atlanta. No way.
Dallas - For an NFC East team, actually a lot of winnable games. I think they have the leg up, not to mention the better team.
Carolina - It's going to come down to the last two weeks, at Atlanta and at New Orleans. They will be in the playoff hunt if they sweep, eliminated if they don't.

Here's how it looks then, campers...

1. Chicago
2. Seattle
3. Atlanta
4. NY Giants
5. Dallas
6. Carolina

Again, my apologies to Saints fans. That schedule, however...
For any Vikings fans, it would reasonable to be upset with me, but quit losing to the 49ers.

posted by Gavin @ 2:23 PM  2 comments

 


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