Murder for Brunch
We went to the library this afternoon since it was about 25 degrees outside for the 124th day in a row and the city is in deep hibernation. I don't know how you Wisconsinites do it. Anyway, I was struck whilst browsing the mysteries at how there is a mystery series about every possible profession and theme.
In an effort to break into the business, authors will take any gimmick they can get. The alphabet (my money's on X being for Xenophobe, but what about Z?), holidays (is a bake sale truly a holiday?), or the fact that the author was the daughter of a US president, all lead to a prosperous career.
Authors also attempt to stand out by making their detectives as eccentric and odd as possible. We have a Native American policeman, an investigator who catches casino swindlers (these are actually pretty good), a -- I kid you not -- computer, and, of course, noted American supersleuth Eleanor Roosevelt.
But seemingly the easiest way to break into the mystery business is to write a book where the detective is a cat. There are many, many series starring mystery cats, and there is even a series of short story collections entitled Mystery Cats.
Here at the Festival we're big fans of mysteries, but the gimmicks are a little repetitive. I mean, really, another frickin' cat? Another independent female? Another grizzled ex-cop? If I wrote a mystery series, the detective would be the roadie for a mildly popular independent band that tours the midwest in a van. He'd need an animal, but cats are so played out, how about a badger named Professor Clawsington?
I apologize for not posting very much recently, but my home computer has been acting quite flaky. I've backed everything up, as it appears to be about to die any day now, and I've already started scouting out a replacement. I had wanted to wait to get a new machine until quad core processors were faster or solid-state hard drives were perfected, but I don't have the luxury of waiting at this point.
One machine I won't be getting is the totally useless MacBook Air. Normally I would say that a laptop could at least be used as a paperweight, but I don't think the Air is even heavy enough to serve that purpose. I can see the need for a stripped down internet and email machine, but not at a $1,799 price point. An 80GB hard drive doesn't make it an ideal multimedia machine, along with the fact that it has no optical drives or ethernet port. This reminds me of when the original iMac first shipped with no floppy drive in 1998. They had the right idea, but reasonably-priced CD burners were still 2-3 years away. I'm sure the Apple fanboys are already emptying their wallets, though.
But the important news this week is that the Super Bowl is this Sunday, and the Patriots are attempting to become the first team to go 19-0. The talking heads have gushed over the high-scoring offense and gnashed their teeth and rended their garments over Tom Brady's ankle sprain, but no one has actually analyzed what they do and given a blueprint for beating them. At the risk of Tom Coughlin reading this blog, I therefore present my blueprint for beating the Patriots.
1) Toss out your gameplans. The Patriots coaching staff studies more film than anyone, be it official film or bootlegged signals. The Giants are probably planning on big passing plays to Plaxico Burress and power rushes from Brandon Jacobs. This is also what the Patriots are planning for. Instead, run Ahmad Bradshaw on tosses and stretch plays side to side. The Patriots' corners are small, and their linebackers are old and slow. Even if these plays aren't effective, they will tire out the linebacking crew, which is not deep.
2) Whatever you did in the first half, abandon it, regardless of how successful it was. The Patriots coaching staff also is adept at making halftime adjustments. The Patriots won't blitz much in the first half, so plan for more of a passing offense at the start, but they will start blitzing in the late 3rd or early 4th quarter. To prevent this, use the running game extensively coming out of halftime. At this point, start mixing in Brandon Jacobs more, and when you do need to pass, call screen plays to negate an overpursuing blitz.
3) Never punt on 4th down in New England territory in the second half, regardless of score or yards to go. This pretty much singlehandedly doomed San Diego in the AFC championship game. Also, as Tuesday Morning Quarterback often urges, always go for it on 4th and less than 3 outside of your own 30 yard line.
1) If you're going to blitz more than 5, double-team Wes Welker, even if it means leaving Jabar Gaffney or Donte Stallworth uncovered. He is the outlet receiver even moreso than Randy Moss.
2) The Patriots will start the game in either 4 or 5-wide set. This is the time to blitz, before Brady gets in a rhythm with his receivers.
3) When the Patriots go to their big 2 or 3 tight end set, usually midway through the 3rd quarter, put 8 in the box, double cover Randy Moss as the single wide receiver, and keep the free safety on Kyle Brady, who will run a seam up the middle on passing plays.
And above all else, hope you get all the breaks, because at this point I don't even need to make my obvious pick: NE
As I mentioned in my last post, I attended CodeMash last week in Sandusky, OH, just minutes from delightful Lake Erie. The conference was held at an indoor waterpark resort and featured a geekily hilarious keynote by Scott Hanselman which included an attempt at converting the syntax of the LOLCats into a programming language. The conference also unfortunately featured my vocal stylings (Rock Band was set up, there is a Pumpkins song in Rock Band, nobody else wanted to sing, I had no choice) and as it was a "cross-language" conference, a lot of good-natured needling between the disciples of different programming languages (although Java seemed to take the brunt of the needling).
But by far the featured presentation was a robotics presentation by Columbus' own Scott Preston, who builds his own robots and, from what I can tell, has a house full of electronics, motors, and parts. Sounds outstanding! His presentation reminded me a lot of some of the courses I took at WashU such as computer vision and obviously the two robotics courses, as he was trying to accomplish some of the same things that we were in our projects. He went through some of his past designs for robots, and some of them looked remarkably like Lewis, albeit without the ring of incredibly loud sonar sensors or the "The robot has gone sentient!" emergency stop buttons.
I spend most of my coding time head down in .NET land, so it's good to eventually look up and see what else is going on in the world.
SD at NE: No surprise here, I'm going with the Patriots. NE
NYG at GB: Not only am I picking the Packers, I am openly rooting for them. I may have previously mentioned my dislike of Eli Manning, and Pats-Packers would pit this blog directly in competition against Lucas' for two entire weeks of scintillating back-and-forth fanboyism. GB
I will be in beautiful(?) downtown(?) Sandusky, OH for the CodeMash conference for the next few days, so I'll respond to Lucas' post and do my NFL picks before I leave.
First off, Lucas asked for an unbiased opinion on Eric Gagne unfortunate tenure with the Sox last season. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see much of Gagne on TV, because they acquired him right at the trade deadline, and I began packing and moving to Columbus soon afterwards. Earlier in the season there were many Sox games on TV, but once the AL East got out of hand they were not on national television very often, especially in the Indians/Reds market. By the time they got to the playoffs and were on TV every game, Terry Francona had lost any confidence he had in Gagne and as a result he rarely pitched. One thing I noticed from his box scores was that his strikeout rate stayed consistent with how he did with Texas earlier in the season, but his walk rate went up and he gave up way more hits.
It's not a scientific opinion, but I'd guess that a significant part of the problem was that he was used in different situations than he was used to. Rather than pitching in high-pressure save situations, he was often used as a setup man or in a mop-up role, where the adrenaline isn't as prevalent. If the Brewers put him in pressure situations and he feels critical to the team's success, I could definitely see him bouncing back to at least as good as he was with Texas (especially since the NL is the weaker offensive league and he has familiarity in the NL). He also had a number of games where he would strike out the first two hitters and then things would get unraveled. Was this because of poor conditioning? Loss of focus? Injury? Either way I think he is still capable of being a quality major league pitcher barring injury (which given his history is a definite possibility).
Now for the picks:
SEA at GB: I'll make this my lock of the week. The Seahawks don't get to play against a journeyman quarterback at home this week, instead a poor road team will now be on the road against the rested Packers. No chance. GB
JAX at NE: I've seen a lot of talking heads going with the Jags and their running game, even though the Pats will be selling out to stop the run. The Jaguars will be forced to pass, and the best I see happening from that is that David Garrard plays like Kyle Boller did against the Pats and is forced to win the game himself. The Jags are not built to play from behind, nor are they built to defend a pass-first team. For all the talk of how they match up perfectly against the Pats in winter, the weather is supposed to be mild and the crowd will be hostile. NE
SD at IND: Another poor road team goes on the road. San Diego has had success against Indianapolis in the past by running the ball at them, but Indy's run defense is improved and the Chargers' success was always with Marty Schottenheimer in the regular season, not with Norv Turner in the playoffs. IND
NYG at DAL: I hate to go with all favorites, but the Giants are getting a little too much love considering that up until 2 weeks ago Eli Manning was considered one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and they are banged up. If Terrell Owens doesn't play the Giants have a chance since Tony Romo will be keying on Jason Witten too much and Wade Phillips will insist on running Julius Jones instead of Marion Barber. But they'll still have to play almost a perfect game, and Eli has been way over his head lately. DAL
NFL Picks, Playoff Edition
Another year, another NFL Picks loss. This is starting to get old.
WAS at SEA: It blows my mind how the pundits have started slobbering all over the Redskins, despite Todd Collins being the quarterback, thanks to 4 straight wins over either mediocre teams or teams resting their starters. I believe that in a previous week I promised to pick against the Redskins if they made the playoffs, so here it is. SEA
JAX at PIT: The Jaguars are getting a little bit too much love for my taste, but I just can't see the Steelers winning unless their disgusting field makes a gigantic difference. The Steeler defense has gotten steadily worse as the season has progressed, and Ben Roethlisberger is definitely not someone who can win games on his own. JAX
NYG at TB: The Giants sure did look good against the Patriots thanks to the Pats having one of their "make a terrible QB look like John Elway" games. I believe I previously promised to pick both of these teams to lose in the playoffs, which obviously isn't possible here. On one hand, the Giants didn't rest their starters and as a result are more used to playing pressure games. On the other hand, because they didn't rest their starters, important players got hurt. Jeff Garcia, meanwhile, has been half-injured all year. Something just keeps telling me that Whinin' Eli will revert back to his normal self, especially on the road. TB
TEN at SD: Talk about teams that don't deserve to be in the playoffs. When you see the headline "Titans have better chance with [Kerry] Collins", you know you don't have much of a shot at all. The only x-factor is Norv Turner on the other sideline and the fact that the Chargers are a bunch of loudmouth showboats who will most likely look ahead to next week's game. SD
Random Thoughts and Rebuttals
A random thought and then a response to Lucas' Mitchell Report comments:
-In the Tom Brady vs. Randy Moss MVP debate, I've been up in the air all year. The difference in the Patriots' offense between last year and this year has been astronomical, mostly in part to the attention that Moss draws from defenses, the pass interference calls that Moss draws (despite the offense PI calls that he generates himself), and his ability to make tough fingertip catches in traffic. At one point in Saturday night's game, Brady dropped back to pass and was immediately surrounded by rushers, at which point he sprinted backwards for 10 yards, pratically closed his eyes, and heaved the ball at about a 70 degree angle up the field in the direction of Moss. Randy didn't make the catch, but he almost did, and last season when it was either take the 15 yard sack or throw in the direction of Reche Caldwell it would have most definitely been a sack. However, my decision in the MVP debate was made the moment that Moss laid on the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit, seemingly injured. The first thing that went through my mind was "now maybe Brady will spread the ball around a little more instead of trying to force it to Moss to break Jerry Rice's record". If it were Brady lying prone on the field, my first thought would have been "the season is over". Moss has been a fantastic 4th round draft pick, but Brady for MVP.
Now to respond to Lucas' Mitchell Report thoughts:
On whether it was right for Mitchell to lead the investigation: I'd also have to say no here, although I don't buy any of the nonsense floating around that the New York teams were singled out and the Red Sox were spared because of George Mitchell's ties to the Boston organization. Because he had no subpoena power, his entire investigation relied upon finding quasi-credible witnesses who would roll over on players in order to save their own asses or because they had nothing to lose. You're much more likely to find this in a large organization, especially one with many players already under investigation for steroids purchases (Giambi and Sheffield with the Yankees). All Mitchell needed to do was find somebody already involved in federal steroids investigations who no longer feared legal action due to already being involved in legal proceedings. Seeing names of Yankees and Giants players did not surprise me at all as a result of this, not because of some vast conspiracy. Still, if you're trying to clean up your image and you're intent on airing the dirty laundry and cleaning house anyway, there's no reason not to go with an independent, third-party investigator.
On what to do about the records/statistics from convicted users: The media hand-wringing about revising statistics is patently ridiculous. The Mitchell report contains the names of players who were tangentially connected with two or three core witnesses, not an entire encyclopedia of every player who ever jabbed himself with Winstrol. It may seem easy to go back and wipe Barry Bonds' home runs off the record books, but what about the pitchers who surrended those shots, do we lower their ERA's accordingly? What if it was a game winning home run, do we credit the other team with a victory? If so, how do we explain that the Giants finished 1 game behind team X in the historical standings even though the Giants went to the playoffs? What if the pitcher who surrendered the home run was also using steroids? Statistics are a factual record of what occurred when, they can't be changed by waving your hands around like the kids at the end of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. In the early 1900's there was the Deal Ball Era, the mid to late 1990's and very early 2000's is the Steroid Era. Comparing statistics between eras is pointless anyway, just leave them be.
Now for a more personal question, how do you feel now that your favorite team has signed a player (Eric Gagne) named in the Mitchell report? Does this affect at all how you feel about him or your opinion of the Brewers organization? I have some HGH thoughts also, but I'll save them for later in the discussion.
For my most recent foray to sunny Florida for Christmas I had the opportunity to fly Skybus "Airlines", a new low-cost carrier based out of Columbus. The perks are $10 tickets and that Columbus is their "hub". The bad news is that to get the $10 tickets you have to wake up at 6 AM the day they release the tickets, which is usually 6-8 months before the flight, and that they only fly to a few cities.
In order to keep costs down they don't have things like a 1-800 number to call to schedule/check flights, free snacks on the plane, or things like "employees". Ha! Kidding about that last one. Kind of, at least. Although you have to buy your tickets online and can check in to your flight online, you have to wait in an interminable line at the airport to check your bag, despite paying to check the bag online (yes, you have to pay $5 per bag you check).
The same slow-moving people who take the bag from you are the ones who meander down to the gate in the basement of the airport (yes, the Columbus airport has a basement. No, there are no "gates" per se as much as doors directly out to the tarmac with numbers on them.) when it is almost takeoff time to announce that the flight is on-time, despite the departure time being 30 minutes later than the time on your ticket. If they do dare to admit that a flight is late, they will notify you by posting a paper sign at the gate (and by "gate" I mean "podium") with the updated departure time. But at least it's a very professional sign. Or one written on a torn-off sheet of printer paper in magic marker, one or the other.
Once it is time to board your "on-time" flight, you can kindly line up in 3 groups for "open boarding", much like Southwest (although I hear they don't do this anymore). To get into group 1, you pay $10. To get into group 2, you check in early online and then promptly go to the airport and sit on the floor in the basement, with all your children and things spread out as if you're having a picnic, so that you and your children can be tripped over by everyone else trying to use the restroom (yes, at least the basement has restrooms).
One redeeming quality about Skybus is that they have all new, full-sized aircraft. At least until they realize that they are hemorraging money despite having seemingly no staff and can save on jet fuel by flying old aircraft straight out of Catch Me If You Can or cramming everyone on a regional jet. Manning this full sized aircraft are trained, professional flight attendants in tasteful uniforms. Either that or possibly-over-21 girls in sparkly t-shirts advertising Skybus' few destinations who make jokes about the amount of turbulence that will be on the upcoming flight, giggle with each other, and chitchat with the copilot whilst the plane is in flight (to be fair, the copilot was out of the cockpit to use the restroom).
As I mentioned previously, there were no free snacks on the plane, everything was for sale. You could get a can or soda or tiny bottle of water for $2, a dinner (i.e. sandwich) for anywhere between $5 and $10, or a piece of jewelry or last minute Christmas gift for various prices. Yes, there is a skymall-esque catalog in the seat pocket in front of you containing not overpriced motorized tie racks or massage pillows/gloves/chairs/headrests/blankets/pants but instead jewelry and trinkets that they wheel around on a cart near the end of the flight.
Finally, the plane touches down (unless you experience the unlikely event of a water landing) and before you leave you are informed that your flight today was sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, the Free Maurice Clarett fund, or some other local Columbus outfit. Approximate flight time: 2 hours. Approximate time in line waiting to check your bag or board the plane that is somehow still "on-time": 1.5 hours. Similarity to that TV commercial where the people put a quarter in the slot to use their tray table or window shade: startling.
NE at NYG: The Pats are playing for history, the Giants are playing to restore any shred of confidence that Eli Manning may still have. NE
NO at CHI: The Saints apparently still have some remote, bizarre way they can make the playoffs, but after the way they laid an egg last week against the Eagles don't count on it. CHI
CAR at TB: The Bucs lost to the 49ers last week. Pencil in my pick for them to lose in the first round of the playoffs. TB
BUF at PHI: One of these teams will be mediocre, the other will also mediocre. Can they just cancel this one? PHI
CIN at MIA: The Dolphins played like an actual team during the second half last week, for the first time all season. CIN
JAX at HOU: I still don't buy the Jaguars. Can they beat the Colts on the road in the playoffs? Probably not. Can they beat the Pats on the road in the playoffs? Probably not. They just might be good enough to win a 1st round game against a team that won't realize that their offense is 1-dimensional, but that's it. JAX
DET at GB: I don't want to upset the NFC fans out there, but both the Packers and Cowboys have kind of wheezed to the finish line. Not a good sign. GB
SF at CLE: The Browns showed last week why they will lose in the first round of the playoffs if they make it. Unless they play that other team that I said would lose in the first round. CLE
SEA at ATL: I'm not sure if it's possible, but can I pick 4 NFC teams to all lose in the first round of the playoffs? SEA
DAL at WAS: This is a classic nothing-to-play-for game. WAS
PIT at BAL: I'm not sure if the Steelers have anything to play for, but the Ravens lost to the Dolphins. PIT
KC at NYJ: I'm not really sure what direction either of these teams are going in. Neither has a blue-chip QB of the future, neither has a solid defense to build around, neither has a solid offensive line to build around. GIDCAOTW. NYJ
SD at OAK: It's kind of disappointing to see the Chargers winning after the amusing early-season struggles. A lot of people hate the Patriots for various reasons these days, but it's hard to like a team as loudmouthed, underachieving, and steroid-ridden as the Chargers. SD
MIN at DEN: People say Adrian Peterson has no chance to break the rookie rushing record since he missed 2 games with injury and is about 400 yards behind, but I say have you seen the Broncos' run defense? MIN
STL at AZ: The Cardinals are like the Bengals' non-felonious doppelganger. Equally powerful offense on paper, equally poor record to show for it. AZ
TEN at IND: Even with nothing to play for, the Colts will knock the Titans out of the playoff picture, finally. IND
Another Point Counterpoint?
Lucas, now that the dust is settling a little bit on the Mitchell report should we share our expert opinions on it? There are a number of interesting things to debate more rationally than the experts including: Was Mitchell being a Red Sox employee a conflict of interest? What to do about records/statistics from convicted users? Should steroids and HGH be treated the same way by major league baseball in terms of enforcement and punishment? Did the east coast bias work against teams like the Yankees for once in that more information was available about steroid purchasers than for smaller-market teams? Jose Canseco: big jerk or the biggest jerk?
Care to take me up on any of these?
NYG at BUF: I think there's a little too much support for the Bills in this game, and normally I'd go the other way, but this is a classic Giants collapse at work. BUF
GB at CHI: Which came first, the boring Chicago offensive scheme or the bad Chicago QB? The world may never know. GB
CLE at CIN: This is exactly the type of random, meaningless game that the Bengals win. Upset special. CIN
KC at DET: Normally a .500 record would be a positive improvement for the Lions, but after their fast start it'll only be viewed as a disappointment. DET
HOU at IND: Time for the Colts to rest their starters, ensuring that in their first playoff game it will take Peyton Manning until the 3rd quarter to get in rhythm again. IND
PHI at NO: The Eagles had their Super Bowl last week, now it's back to normal. NO
OAK at JAX: Jacksonville looks great now, but they still aren't good enough to beat the Pats or Colts on the road. JAX
ATL at AZ: The fact that the Falcons won three games this season is a testament to how many bad teams are in the NFC. AZ
TB at SF: Tampa Bay has a chance to be the worst 11-5 team ever. I already will predict they lose their first playoff game, no matter who they play. TB
NYJ at TEN: The Titans are one of those mediocre AFC teams that would be 12-4 in the NFC. TEN
MIA at NE: I was really hoping for 0-14 vs. 14-0, but this will have to do. NE
BAL at SEA: I'm sorry Brian Billick apologists, but when a team almost beats the Patriots but then loses 2 weeks later to the atrocious Dolphins that is the surest sign their is of a poorly coached team that relies totally on motivation. SEA
WAS at MIN: I don't really like the Vikings, but I can't see Jason Campbell winning a game where the running game is taken away yet. MIN
DEN at SD: You sould not believe how relieved I am that the Broncos are eliminated. SD
What are this week's uninspiring NFL Network matchups?
PIT at STL: The Steelers are in danger of losing their division to the Browns. I just can't see that happening. PIT
DAL at CAR: I don't care if Homer Simpson is at this game, there's no way the Cowboys lose this one. Bonus observation: Guess who the Panthers' team leader in touchdown passes is, by almost a 50% margin over the player in second place. Did you guess Jake Delhomme, with 8, who has been injured and on IR since week 3? This would be why the Panthers are terrible. DAL
A Bitwise Death in the Family
Yesterday our Tivo-like device died, a death made even more painful considering the backlog of new scripted shows from this past season that I've been watching in careful rations during the WGA strike that was lost with it. While it is to late for me, it's worth pointing out that I've now had two shoddily-designed knockoff Tivo-like devices behave in the same manner when the hard drive starts getting full. Despite the fact that there is a clear system in place for automatically deleting older material when disk space gets short, both times this has happened to me I've had similarly bizarre results.
The first time, with my Dish Network knockoff DVR, about 50 hours of random programming spontaneously disappeared when the 100-hour disk got down to 20 hours or so. There was no rhyme or reason to what disappeared: old shows, new shows, shows marked "keep", shows not marked, a random assortment of all were banished to the realm of wind and ghosts.
Yesterday, with my Time Warner knockoff DVR, all shows recorded in the past 3 weeks spontaneously disappeared when the woefully-small 40-hour disk got down to about 5-10 hours. Again, shows marked "keep" were not kept, and I had the added bonus that the list of recorded shows magically reverted back to one from 3 weeks ago. If I tried to watch one of the listed shows that magically reappeared after being deleted last month, I would get a "this show could not be found" error, since the data didn't actually exist.
This strikes me as extremely poor for a number of reasons. These are consumer-level electronics that should not need massaging or assistance by a career programmer. My microwave also contains a computer, but when my Hot Pocket is almost done cooking the timer never spontaneously resets itself. Plus, thanks to pointless attempts at copy-protection, I am unable to back up the data on the DVR like I can on my computer in the event something bad happens. I am stuck relying on the programmers of whatever OS is running in there to be able to properly handle auto-deletion without corrupting all of my data.
The good news out of this was that Time Warner's customer service was much better than I was expecting. I called last night and was on hold for maybe 30 seconds, the service representative was polite, and they were able to come out and replace our DVR this morning (and the maintenance person actually came at the time we were promised). Let this be a lesson to all manufacturers of substandard products: good customer service masks shoddy production.
BUF at CLE: The best game of the day, and I can't say I'm sold on either team. Neither has a particularly good defense, and Buffalo's offense is also spotty. Whichever team makes the playoffs will be easy pickin's for the Steelers in the first round. CLE
TEN at KC: We're about due for a random KC home win over a mediocre team. KC
GB at STL: Remember when the Rams were unbeatable at home? We may have another Brock Berlin sighting this weekend. GB
BAL at MIA: I'm sticking witht he Dolphins here. This is it guys, your last best chance. MIA
NYJ at NE: Unfortunately it looks like snow this weekend, I was hoping for a big blowout this week. As much as I felt uncomfortable about running up the score in other Pats games, in this one I want to rip out the Jets' heart and stomp on it, providing no one gets hurt. NE
AZ at NO: Even in the NFC, advertising this game as "playoff-environment" is false advertising. AZ
JAX at PIT: The Steelers have taken over the mantle of "worst field in the league" from the Pats, and they'll be more used to playing on that slop than the Jags will. PIT
ATL at TB: Remember when the Falcons were Bill Simmons' sleeper playoff team? TB
SEA at CAR: Only the Patriots are good enough to pass on every down. Upset special. CAR
IND at OAK: The Colts make a surprise appearance in my GIDCAOTW, the Raiders are bad enough to drag the whole game down. IND
PHI at DAL: If this game were in Philly, I could see an upset, but not in Dallas. DAL
DET at SD: If this game were in Detroit, i could see an upset, but not in San Diego. SD
WAS at NYG: I don't know what to think about either of these teams. They both have decent defenses and streaky QBs, and neither will do a thing in the playoffs if they somehow make it there. NYG
CHI at MIN: Two Adrian Petersons? Which one will rush for 3 yards this week? MIN
According to the Christmas songs they play so often on the radio, I'm too busy "mistletoing" and "jingle belling" to make picks, but I will tear myself away from my "scary ghost stories" to pick these meaningless boring games.
DEN at HOU: Like the '72 Dolphins, I will pop the cork on the champagne once the Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs. I don't care how bad they are, they still scare me. DEN
CIN at SF: I could easily see the Bengals losing this one, but then they wouldn't finish the season at 8-8 and make it seem like they were actually respectable this year. CIN
Lucas had a great idea last week to do 4-word picks, but I'll do him three better: 1-word picks, at least one for each team with no repeats. It's your job to figure out what, if any, significance they have.
MIA at BUF: MIA: Due. BUF: Mediocre. MIA
STL at CIN: STL: Injured. CIN: Underachieving. CIN
DAL at DET: DET: Reeling. DAL: Streaking. DAL
OAK at GB: OAK: Scrubs. GB: Home. GB
SD at TEN: SD: Mouthy. TEN: Inconsistent. SD
NYG at PHI: NYG: Rush. PHI: Controversy. PHI
CAR at JAX: CAR: Decrepit. JAX: Close. JAX
TB at HOU: TB: Overrated. HOU: Overachieving. TB
MIN at SF: MIN: Resurrection. SF: Pathetic. MIN
AZ at SEA: AZ: Unfathomable. SEA: Coasting. SEA
KC at DEN: KC: Rebuilding. DEN: Demolishing. DEN
PIT at NE: PIT: Overconfident. NE: Tired. PIT
CLE at NYJ: CLE: Upset. NYJ: Special. NYJ
IND at BAL: IND: Impressive. BAL: Whiny. IND
NO at ATL: NO: Underwhelming. ATL: zzzzz. NO
Week 12 and a Half
Apparently there is another football game tomorrow night, so let's continue my quixotic attempt at catching up to Lucas.
CHI at WAS: Ugh, two incredibly boring offenses square off. A few weeks ago Tim Keown wrote a great article about how NFL coaches often try to shoehorn players into their own systems rather than designing a system around the players they have. This seems incredibly foolish and is another reason why the Patriots do so well while other teams do not. Last year, when the Patriots' receiving corps consisted of a bunch of has beens and nobodies, many of whom couldn't run reliable patterns, the offense relied on short pass after short pass. This year with better, more experienced receivers, the Patriots only use the short pass to get Donte Stallworth the ball and go deep much more often. The Bears are the perfect example of using the same system regardless of players, as they attempt to be a ball-control running team when their running back is Cedric Benson (or at least until he got hurt). Not that Rex Grossman is a great quarterback, but Devin Hester is an exciting player. How about occasionally letting Hester run draw plays as a running back or catching screen passes? Later in the season you often see the worse teams start doing well as they enter "nothing to lose" mode because they start playing more aggressively and using more gadget plays and going for it on 4th down. Wouldn't they be better off using the gadget plays, which only work once or twice anyway before other coaches have them on film, earlier in the season when they still have a shot at winning something? Where was the Jets' Brad Smith in week 3 or 4 when the games meant something? WAS
I only vaguely follow political news, especially with the Daily Show and Colbert Report on hiatus during the WGA strike, but from what I can tell Hillary Clinton has already been declared the winner. Having just moved to Ohio, I'm not sure whether we have a primary or a caucus or a whatnot, but I don't see much point in voting in it since after Iowa and New Hampshire (or as I like to call them "the only two important states in the country 1 out of every 4 years") the winner will already be decided and the rest of the states will just be voting out the string.
I find Hillary slightly unsettling, kind of like the "uncanny valley" effect you get when you see realistic computer generated humans in a CGI movie. She seems decent enough and was a fine First Lady, but when I see her on television I get the vague sense that she is a killer robot from the future sent to destroy us all, a la Terminator 2, despite her pointless crusade against violent video games.
After all the testosterone-laden alpha-male posturing of our current president, I would certainly welcome a female president. She is certainly well educated and has the domestic experience, if not any military commander-in-chief experience. But there's just something off about her that I just can't shake, even if I'd vote for her over a corpse or zombie.
HOU at TEN: The media has finally found a new superhero MVP in the NFL to replace the immortal 2006 Bob Sanders: 2007 Albert Haynesworth. His Madden '09 rating for "Awesomeness" will be a perfect 100. TEN
JAX at IND: The Jags already lost this game at home, why would the outcome be any different on the road? IND
SD at KC: The Chargers have the same road record as the Falcons, yet they're currently leading their division? Upset Special. KC
ATL at STL: One of the few truly bad games this weekend, as almost all games are between evenly-matched teams. Unfortunately 3-8 and 2-9 are the bad kind of "evenly-matched". STL
NYJ at MIA: Everyone is picking the Dolphins to pull off their first win, and normally I'd always go against the crowd, but in doing so I would be pretty much picking them to go 0-16 and I just can't see that happening. MIA
DET at MIN: In this one, though, I will go against the crowd. DET
SEA at PHI: The Seahawks are like the mini-Patriots: a one dimensional passing team but without any of the weapons or coaching. The Eagles are getting a little too much love for a 5-6 team, though. SEA
BUF at WAS: Hmm, picking middling AFC teams over middling NFC teams has been a sound strategy so far, think I'll stick with it. BUF
SF at CAR: The 49ers "win" last week was an abomination and took the Patriots out of the running for the #1 pick in the draft next year. The good news for the Panthers is that David Carr won't be starting this one. The Saints have the worst pass defense I've ever seen, and the Panthers couldn't even score a touchdown agains them last week in a truly putrid performance. CAR
DEN at OAK: The Broncos are 5-6 despite the softest schedule ever. Please don't let them make the playoffs... DEN
CLE at AZ: Just to play with everybody, this will end up being one of those 13-10 games. CLE
NYG at CHI: No amount of negative press is enough where Whinin' Eli is concerned. Still, Rex Grossman is what Eli would be if he were the Bears' QB. NYG
TB at NO: I refuse to accept that the Buccaneers are a good team, no way. NO
CIN at PIT: Last week was the Bengals random no-explanation win of the year. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program. PIT
NE at BAL: The Pats game last week was frightening. Luckily the Ravens don't have the offense to take advantage of the "blueprint". NE