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 November 30, 2007 - 05:06 PM | chris
Forget November

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

 November 28, 2007 - 06:31 PM | chris

David didn't do his usual Fall TV preview this year so I had to seek out other sources for recommendations on new shows to watch. At around the halfway point of a season that is most likely going to end at its halfway point, I'd have to go with Chuck as my favorite new show this season. Sure it's a blatant geek-fantasy show, where every girl wears ridiculously revealing outfits at all times (including the girl who works at the Best Buy-clone, apparently I'm shopping at the wrong electronics stores), but it's also well made and the overall plot arc is getting interesting after starting off very slow (I'm only up to the episode from 3 weeks ago on the Tivo-like device). Anyone else have a favorite new show they'd like to recommend?

Speaking of things I *won't* be watching, there's a football game tomorrow night on the NFL Network.

GB at DAL: I want the Packers to win this, because I think a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl would be a great game and we would be spared the Super Bowl week subplots of "who is Tony Romo dating?" and "Isn't T.O. a great guy now?". The key to stopping the Cowboys is to take away Jason Witten, as their running game is mediocre and Romo can be pressured into mistakes when T.O. is covered. The Cowboys' secondary is bad enough where the Packers can take advantage, but I think Dallas pulls it out at home. DAL

 November 24, 2007 - 05:17 PM | chris
Week 12

My parents are still here playing the Wii, so just picks this week.

SF at AZ: AZ

 November 21, 2007 - 12:59 PM | chris

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. This year I am most thankful for not having to fly anywhere for Thanksgiving, as my parents drove up here from North Carolina to spend the holiday in Columbus. I am also thankful for:

-Randy Moss
-being able to play Civilization IV online against some of my friends from college
-electric blankets
-the continuing descent into embarassment of the New York Yankees franchise
-the few moments of free time that Eileen has amidst her hours and hours of schoolwork
-the third football game added to the Thanksgiving schedule so that I can watch football for 11 hours straight even if the games are mismatches

May next year bring:
-some semblence of online play for the Wii so that I can beat Bob and David at Smash Brothers
-Eileen's classes spontaneously being cancelled
-A miracle that enables me to surpass Lucas in the NFL picks

GB at DET: Remember when the Lions were 6-2 and a lock to make the playoffs? Neither does Jon Kitna, who thanks to one-dimensional play calling gets teed off on by opposing defensive linemen. Over/Under on passes thrown in this game: 80. GB

NYJ at DAL: The Jets threw the kitchen sink at Pittsburgh and still needed overtime to win. Not a good sign when you're going on the road on a short week against a team with one loss. DAL

IND at ATL: When is a road game not a road game? When you're a dome team going on the road to play in a dome against a team with no fan base. It's funny how much Peyton Manning struggles without his all-world receivers. Kind of like how Tom Brady struggled with Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, and Doug Gabriel last year. Oh wait, he didn't struggle at all and the team was within one play of going to the Super Bowl. IND

 November 16, 2007 - 07:41 PM | chris
Week 11

Normally I'm a big fan of Bill Simmons and his Boston-centric columns gushingly praising every move by a Boston team (example: in his book Now I Can Die in Peace he has an entire column about what a wonderful addition Carl Everett was to the Red Sox and how Everett is such a professional hitter. Yes, that Carl Everett.), but this week he succumbs to one of my media pet peeves. In his weekly NFL Picks column, Simmons derisively makes his description of the Texans-Saints game "ReggieBushMarioWilliams" over and over again to signify the overhyping of the Bush/Williams matchup. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't read a single thing about this game all week, never mind about Bush or Williams. Now maybe during the game the announcers will talk about it too much, but I hardly think that is overhyping, and it's nowhere near the level of hyping of such Super Bowl nonstories as "Jerome Bettis playing in his hometown" or "Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith used to work together". Save your complaints at least until the overhyping begins, otherwise you're just contributing to the problem.

TB at ATL: It's a tribute to how poor the NFC is that you can't automatically dismiss this as an easy win for the first-place Bucs. I think they'll win, but it'll be closer than it should be. TB

AZ at CIN: The Cardinals showed a little something in beating the Lions last weekend, but let's not forget that it was the Lions. If he makes it through this game, this would be Kurt Warner's 3rd consecutive start, I believe, for the first time since about 2001. CIN

NYG at DET: And with one loss last week the Giants have reverted back to "flawed NFC team with crazy coach". Luckily this week they're facing "flawed NFC team with crazy coordinator who passes on every down". NYG

CAR at GB: The weather in Green Bay is going to be bad, Vinny can feel it in his bones. I hope he remembers his sweater. GB

KC at IND: The Colts are banged up, but they're not that banged up. IND

OAK at MIN: Adrian Peterson got hurt? You're kidding me, I never would have guessed. Since I can't pick a 0-0 tie in this one, I'm going to go with the Raiders to give the 49ers/Patriots the inside track at next year's #2 draft pick. OAK

MIA at PHI: The Dolphins have supposedly been paying celebrities to be in the stands during games, why not pay them to play quarterback? You can't tell me you wouldn't want to see Keanu Reeves reenacting The Replacements. For that matter, I think the rest of the cast of The Replacements would probably give Miami a better shot than their current cast of down-and-out misfits. PHI

SD at JAX: The Chargers won last week despite playing as poorly as physically possible. I know everyone is going with the Jags as a result, but I think San Diego pulls one out this week in order to make sure it is as difficult as possible to pick their games. SD

CLE at BAL: I'll go contrarian here as well, make it my Upset Special. BAL

NO at HOU: Supposedly Andre Johnson is finally coming back, but sadly I don't think the Texans can recapture what they had during those 2 glorious weeks to start the season. Ahh, memories... NO

PIT at NYJ: The Steelers are inconsistent, but the Jets are consistently horrible. PIT

WAS at DAL: I hate to say it, Lucas, but I think the Cowboys will beat the Packers in the playoffs unless the game is in Green Bay. And if they keep playing teams like the Redskins I don't think that'll happen. DAL

STL at SF: The 49ers can't possibly play worse than they did last week, can they? STL

CHI at SEA: In the clash of the overrateds, Shaun Alexander will rule as the most overrated of all. SEA

NE at BUF: This one will be tough, with the bad weather predicted, but I don't see the Bills keeping up with the Pats even if they can hold them to 17 or 20 points. NE

TEN at DEN: The Broncos have been surprisingly weak at home this year, and are perfectly suited to lose to an all-run no-pass team like the Titans. TEN

 November 15, 2007 - 06:18 PM | chris

Before I do my picks later this week I'd like to revisit my discussion with Lucas that he last responded to here. I actually agree with a majority of what he said (including, shockingly, his Red Sox comment, although I'd say that A-Rod is worse for the game than Manny even though I can see how a non-Sox-fan would quickly tire of Manny's quirks), so I have just a few responses before I get to another topic.

Lucas said:
There are plenty of other high-class organizations out there, so it's a poor argument by TMQ. However, Chris, I don't believe you can honestly tell me that bringing up an argument to the rules committee in the offseason about them enforcing an already-existing rule is at the same level of "poor sportsmanship" as willfully breaking a rule to gain a competitive advantage (no matter how small that advantage might actually have been).

First of all, it was not an already-existing rule. The rules for wide receiver contact were changed after those meetings to the current system where no contact with wide receivers is allowed beyond 5 yards. Before that, contact was allowed so long as the ball was not in the air.

Secondly, let's play make-believe for a moment. Remember when we played basketball in the mornings with the CS department and then diagrammed on the board in the DOC lab where our shooting range was, with you making many layups and me making many outside shots but no layups and you often winning? Imagine that, frustrated after losing once again, I refused to play again until we changed the rules to not allow any shots from the paint. Wouldn't I come across as a whiny sore loser? Which would be more of an example of "sportsmanship", the aforementioned behavior, or me practicing layups and/or wearing Bart Simpson's platform shoes that he used to audition for the role of Fallout Boy (the character, not the band)?

Now, I think I'm ready to tackle the running up the score question. There were three games where the Patriots were accused of running up the score, their win over Dallas, their win over Miami, and their win over Washington.

The Cowboys are an elite (at least for the NFC) team that was actually beating the Patriots as late as the latter part of the 3rd quarter. In that situation, I don't think you take out starters, even if you're ahead in the 4th quarter. The Cowboys had already rallied from a deficit once in that game, there's no need to let that happen again.

In the Miami game, the Patriots were up 42-7 at the half and went on to win 49-28. First of all, I don't think there's such thing as running up the score in the first half. I have no problem with them scoring 42 points in the first half. The Pats had only 1 possession in the 3rd quarter (play by play) and were fairly pass wacky, but 3 of the passes were short passes that the Patriots use instead of runs, especially with Sammy Morris out and Laurence Maroney injured. But the main contention the media had with this game was removing backup Matt Cassel (who had been put in the game to start the 4th quarter, not exactly a running-up-the-score move) and putting Brady back in. I can agree with benching Cassel after the interception, but I think putting Brady back in was kind of a schoolyard move. Their 3rd QB is actually pretty decent and could use the work, so I would've liked to see them put him in instead of Brady. I think the running-up-the-score accusation in this game were not completely outrageous, but I'd argue that if this was another team nothing would have been said.

That brings us to the 52-7 victory over Washington. I watched this game on TV, and I actually agree with the accusations here. The Redskins were completely overmatched for the entire game. Up 45-0, there is no need to have Brady in to start a drive near the end of the 3rd quarter, and especially no need for him to throw deep balls to Randy Moss or scramble for first downs. Not only was this uncomfortable to watch due to the lopsidedness, but even if nobody took Michael Wilbon's advice to go after Brady's knees, there's a chance he gets hurt anyway.

I understand the reasoning behind the scoring was to practice "playing all 60 minutes" after blowing a large 2nd half lead against the Colts last year, but there is also a lot of value in giving backup players reps in a game. It's possible to retain the intensity of trying to finish the game with the backups in, and if the backups aren't able to retain that intensity then that tells you that maybe you should have someone else on your team.

With the weather getting colder and the quality of opponents mostly solid from here on out (with the exception of the Dolphins), I don't think we'll see too many more 52-7 games. What's your take on it, Lucas? At least if you disagree and think they've been running up the score all season you won't be hypocritical like, say, Steve Young.

 November 09, 2007 - 03:21 PM | chris
Running Up the Score

One of the things that I enjoy about reading other pundits' picks is how they make reference to insider info and sources that are totally unverifiable and never mentioned again if the information turns out to be incorrect. And that's in addition to the wild speculation that about 75% of teams will make the playoffs. In celebration of this, my picks this week will feature completely made-up "rumors" that I will pass off as fact and wild predictions with no basis in reality.

MIN at GB: Word out of Vikings camp is that Chester Taylor is not happy with his reduced workload in recent weeks, causing divisiveness in the locker room. Look for the Packers to take advantage of this lack of focus on the opposing sideline. GB

JAX at TEN: Vince Young hasn't been running much this year, and rumor has it that this is due to an injury he suffered in training camp that he is being paid to cover up by Electronic Arts so as not to draw more attention to the dreaded "Madden Curse". TEN

DEN at KC: Veterans in the Broncos' locker room have quit on their coach after last year's benching of Jake Plummer in favor of rookie Jay Cutler. Unfortunately for Denver fans, this quitting won't be nearly as effective as when the New England veterans quit on their coach after the release of Lawyer Milloy, lost one game, then won the next 21 in a row. KC

BUF at MIA: John Beck took 50% of the snaps in practice this week and will see some action at quarterback this week for the Dolphins, not that it makes a lick of difference. BUF

STL at NO: Looking at the Saints schedule I don't see any games they will lose from here on out, and that includes the Super Bowl! NO

CLE at PIT: Hines Ward is playing with a chip on his shoulder after comments this week by Ravens players that his blocks were dirty in Monday night's victory. During practice he sent two scout team corners to the hospital with chest pains, and he should be good for 150 yards against the porous Browns pass defense. PIT

PHI at WAS: "Andy Reid should retire and spend more time with his family" says the majority of the sports media, many of whom also spend most of their time on the road yet do not have PTI talking about the shortcomings of their own children. Look for Donovan McNabb to have a big week in order to justify his comments earlier in the season that reporters were picking on him because he is black and not because he consistently choked in big games and was repeatedly injured. PHI

ATL at CAR: The Falcons have really turned it around as an organization thanks to that one win they had last week. Seriously, I've totally forgotten about everything that has happened up until that point and that last week's game was against the 49ers. CAR

CIN at BAL: Word out of Bengals camp is that players are considering committing violent crimes under the rationale that they had a much better record when they were more felonious. BAL

CHI at OAK: The Bears have finally found their quarterback of the future! Brian Griese has looked much more poised while throwing interceptions than Rex Grossman has, and coaches are raving about the way he rallies the team to recover from deficits that he causes. CHI

DAL at NYG: Sources in New York say that the Giants are much happier because {insert one of the following: Tom Coughlin is a big teddy bear, Tiki Barber is gone, Plaxico Burress is only dropping 50% of balls thrown to him instead of 75%}, not because they have been winning. Their 13-10 victory over the winless Dolphins shows just how dominant they are. DAL

DET at AZ: Not only has Jon Kitna converted the Lions locker room to Christianity, but also opposing players, fans, and the local media, all of whom are so blinded by their newfound faith that they haven't noticed the Lions' upcoming schedule. DET

IND at SD: Under Norv Turner's brilliant tutelage, the Chargers are gearing up for a run at mediocrity in the league's easiest division, but sources say that LaDainian Tomlinson stormed out of practice when Coach Turner mocked Shawne Merriman's "Lights Out" dance after Philip Rivers completed a pass to a wide receiver for the first time this week. IND

SF at SEA: When teams are knocked out of the playoff picture, they often lose their edge because they have nothing to play for. The 49ers really have nothing to play for, since they won't be able to win enough to make the playoffs and even if they lose every game and secure the #1 draft pick next year, that pick goes to the Patriots. Oh, and Shaun Alexander has lost two steps, maybe three. SEA

 November 03, 2007 - 09:00 AM | chris
Revenge of the Nerds

I have a response to Lucas' post from last week, but I'll save it for later so that this doesn't become a football blog. Without David's annual Fall TV recommendations this year I was unsure about what new shows to watch, so I did more research than I normally would into this year's premieres. What I found was that all the new shows fell into three camps: 1) Non-SciFi Shows with a slightly scifi edge (i.e. Heroes ripoffs) 2) Shows about rich people and their various trappings of success (i.e. Desperate Housewives ripoffs, seemingly ABCs entire Fall lineup) and 3) Horribly-conceived comedies based on characters from 30-second commercial spots (OK, fine, I guess there is only one of these, but it's still one too many). I'd like to talk about #1 for a bit, because I think that it's an interesting offshoot of pop culture as a whole.

Due to the efforts of networks to copy each other's successes, TV shows travel in packs. In the mid 90's, thanks to the success of Seinfeld and Friends ensemble comedies about single 20-somethings ruled the airwaves (anyone remember Townies?). In the early 2000's, it was all about cheaply-made reality shows. But between these two periods there were a couple of years where the trend was what I like to call "fat oaf with hot wife" shows.

The husbands didn't necessarily have to be fat, nor the wives hot, but the husbands invariably worked at middle class-ish jobs and were clueless about anything having to do with the household and the wives were successful businesswomen who also had to do all the housework and shopping and take care of their men like children. Somehow we went from Cliff Huxtable, doctor and head of the household, to the King of Queens, for whom an hour at the grocery store was more complex than brain surgery. Anyone from another country who turned on a television then must've thought that, between these shows and the commercials that still run to this day, American men are all overweight idiots financially supported by their wives who would neglect their children and live in a cesspool of filth if left to their own devices.

A common joke in these shows would feature a husband having to run to the grocery store to pick up something small, like a bottle of ketchup, and they would end up coming back with all manner of snack foods but either no ketchup or the wrong kind of ketchup, as if to say these men are so stupid they can't even mentally compare the products in the store to the product they see on their kitchen table every night. Ha! I'm rolling on the floor...

Well we seem to have come full circle. Now more and more men in television shows are quirky, adorable nerds who are socially-awkward geniuses. Many have written on the geeking up of Hollywood, to the point where on a show like The O.C. the fan favorite and star of the show was not the hunky protagonist or the star athlete or the waifish female eye candy but the lovable geek who draws comic books.

Our all-American archetype is no longer the quarterback of the football team but instead the geek who does the QB's homework and fixes his computer. This paradigm shift has mostly been attributed to the fact that all of the Hollywood writers were the socially awkward teens on the fringe of high school society and are just writing what they know, but I think there's more to it. In our high-tech culture, advertisers have realized that the ones with the most disposable income to spend are the former high school nerds. Watch one of these geek hero shows and you won't see the usual "This is ouuuuuuurr countryyyyy..." car ads, but instead ads for business productivity software and all flavors of cell phones (including the iPhone, which in a recent spot managed to prevent a flight from being delayed. Apple. Is there anything it can't do?). All the kids who grew up watching Mr. Wizard and playing with Legos are now the ones driving the economy. This all begs the question, has the shift made it down to the high school level? Is the A/V club the place to be now, or is it still the quarterback hooking up with the head cheerleader?

Now for some picks:

SF at ATL: The funniest thing about the 49ers is that the Patriots get their 1st round draft pick next year, so the more they lose the better it gets for the Pats. Somehow I can't see them losing to Joey Harrington, though. SF

CIN at BUF: Trade Chad Johnson? Why would they get rid of the one player on their team who is crazy but not a criminal? BUF

DEN at DET: This feels so wrong... DET

CAR at TEN: A 43 year old quarterback got hurt in his 2nd game back from retirement? I'm as shocked as you are... TEN

GB at KC: The Packers have the worst running game I've ever seen. I think they're better off spotting the other team 14 points and then having to come back than taking an early lead and having to run out the clock. GB

SD at MIN: "Chargers have a clear edge against Vikings" says Really? What makes you say that? Is it the fact that the Vikings have no QB or that their coach refuses to start their best running back? SD

JAX at NO: Don't call it a, I'm serious, don't call it a comeback. They're not very good. JAX

WAS at NYJ: Boy, those Redskins looked great last week in New England. Now it's their turn to run up the score. WAS

AZ at TB: I have zero clue about this game, none at all. TB

SEA at CLE: The Cleveland Browns are proof that having a good offensive line will make the whole rest of your team look better. CLE

NE at IND: It kind of annoys me that people were already complaining that this game was overhyped last Sunday. It's one thing to complain about it on Wednesday or Thursday after ESPN has beaten it into your heads all week that this is the only game worth watching, but it is kind of a big deal that two undefeated teams are facing each other in November and they're both actually good. NE


DAL at PHI: At this point I think the Eagles have a reverse home field advantage. DAL

BAL at PIT: I'd be tempted to pick Baltimore, but they already lost to Cincinnati on a Monday night and their offense rivals the Bears' in terms of boredom. PIT