Category Archives: Football Friday

Football Friday 2012 Premiere: Predictions for all 32 Teams

Those who know me know my love of the Socratic method, and that answers with any meaning are only arrived at after excessive probing and questioning. It is in the Socratic method that I provide you with predictions for all 32 teams.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys 12-4

  • What if Tony Romo is healthy all season long?
  • What if their two shutdown corners actually do their job?
  • What if all the attention paid to the abundant storylines of their three division foes makes for six winnable games?

New York Giants 9-7

  • Is Eli really THAT good?
  • Wasn’t it just two seasons ago that the G-Men lost to the Eagles on a last play punt return touchdown by DeSean Jackson?
  • Can someone please explain how a four-man front got that kind of consistent pressure for six game win streaks that run from December through February two out of the last five years without blitzing?

Washington Redskins 8-8

  • Will DC sweep the Eagles and the Giants and be swept by the ‘boys?
  • Will RGIII out-luck Luck or end up on the IR by Week 9?
  • Only men that own a 37,000 square foot non-primary residence can rock this fake of a tan.

    Will “the Mastermud” Shanahan still have job in January?

Philadelphia Eagles 5-11

  • Will Mike Vick survive to start 10 games?
  • Will Andy Reid last the season?
  • Or will Philly just finally win it all? (I can’t help an aside… there is nothing more fatalistic than a Philly fan in any sport. So I LOVE this story line of Super Bowl or bust for the ‘Iggles. The NFC is so strong, and Andy Reid so suspect in clutch moments, I see it all collapsing. But if it doesn’t collapse, the Eagles are as strong as anyone to win it all).

NFC Central

Detroit Lions 11-5

  • Will Detroit sweep the Pack for the first time since the Lincoln Presidency?
  • Will Matt Stafford throw for 8000 yards (4000 to Megatron) if he can somehow play 16 games for a second straight season?
  • Who will Jim Schwarz challenge to a pay-per-view coach’s cagematch the Saturday before the Super Bowl (since they won’t be in New Orleans)?

Green Bay 10-6

  • Quick aside for some preaching amidst the questions… Cheeseheads used to be an endearing species of sports fan, but it became far less so under Aaron Rodgers. Don’t count me in the Rodgers fan club. Many forget that Rodgers had not one, but two concussions in 2010, and he plays with a single chin strap (compare his head gear to either Manning for instance). Safety net Matt Flynn is now in Seattle. You need look no further than Indianapolis last year to see the perils of teams being built around the modern quarterback. My concern with Rodgers is that he plays with fire. He runs the ball a fair amount. Name another quarterback with a touchdown signature dance. Ever. He doesn’t have a great offensive line and they drafted six defensive players this year which likely means it will be up to Rodgers, a highly talented and capable, but still-mortal, quarterback, to make plays and take chances in high-scoring, last-possession-wins shoot outs this year. There is no way he will be plus three dozen on touchdowns over interceptions a 2nd straight year, that was a combination of great skill and a ridiculous amount of luck. Due to his mobility and the expectation for Arena Ball points out of the offense, I fear he will take chances. The Packers won the Super bowl in 2010 despite more than a dozen players on IR in February. They were far more lucky in the injury department in 2011 and went out after round two. If they get in as a wild card, disrespected and questioned, bet heavy on them. But 10-6 could leave them in the long winters of Lambeau and out of the tournament.

Chicago Bears 10-6

  • How will Brandon Marshall avoid any more meetings with Roger Goodell?
  • How can defensive-minded Lovie Smith run a team that should score 450 points… and might give up 500?
  • Will Chicago have 2 1000 yard rushers, a 100 catch receiver, a 4500 yard quarterback… and still miss the playoffs?

Minnesota Vikings 3-13

  • Quick: Name Minnesota’s coach?
  • After Ponder to Harvin… what is there?
  • When was the last time Jered Allen actually tackled a running back running off guard (I mean 22 sacks in a year is amazing, but when you rush the quarterback every single down, running the ball right at Allen is a pretty easy tactic. See Tebow, Tim)?

NFC South

New Orleans Saints 12-4

  • With a defense gashed by suspensions, The Saints will be in a bunch of barn burners. Is it possible Drew Breese closes in on 6000 yards this year?
  • Rising to the occasion for bounties and over-blitzing were hallmarks of the Gregg Williams defense. With him gone, could fundamentals like tackling (see NFC Championship game) return?
  • Has there been a team more prepped to play with a chip on their shoulder and actually succeed, than this year’s version of the Saints? Did I mention the Super Bowl this year is in New Orleans and no team has ever “hosted” the Super Bowl, ever? Would a New Orleans over the Broncos and Peyton Manning (and New Orleans native) be Roger Goodell’s dream (or worst nightmare?).

Carolina Panthers 11-5

  • I swear, I googled Cam Newton, and this came up

    When did Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson learn to throw such a catchable ball?

  • When will someone relicense Tecmo Bowl for the unique playmaking abilities that are Cam Newton?
  • Can Ron Rivera please field a defense of incompetents so Cam has to roll up freakishly huge numbers all 16 weeks?

Atlanta Falcons 10-6

  • With great expectations come even greater playoff disappointments. Will Atlanta ever will a playoff game with Mike Smith and Matt Ryan together?
  • With the addition of the hurry-up to their routine, will Mike Smith still call the same “Ryan over guard” sneak on every 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 they face all season long?
  • Playing in easily the best division in football, why exactly are great things expected of this team every year when they lack either swagger or a killer instinct?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9

  • While likely last place in this division, how many other divisions would they be a contender to win?
  • Does Josh Freeman have only this season to redeem himself for the final 10 game implosion he suffered last year?
  • How on earth is Vincent Jackson really worth $55 million? What team ever made such a signing, and then at the Super Bowl in February pointed to it as “the reason we got here”?

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks 10-6

  • Is the NFC West improving or regressing?
  • Will Matt Flynn start Week 17? That’s always fun.
  • Is Pete Carroll really capable of taking a team to the playoffs in two out of three years?

San Francisco 49ers 10-6

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

  • What did Ken Whisenhut do to deserve this quarterback situation?
  • What did Larry Fitzgerald do to deserve this quarterback situation (well, I guess even Forbes thinks he shrewd) ?
  • Outside of Whisenhut and Fitzgerald, who cares?

St Louis Rams 4-12

  • How much does it stink to have Sam Bradford regressing, and the top two quarterbacks next year in the draft are Matt Barkley (Marinovich! Palmer! Leinart! Sanchez! Go Trojan QB’s!) and Landry Jones (see Sam Bradford. Go OU Sooners!)?
  • Who among Stan Kroenke’s 16 rookies could be named a captain? Oh wait, that’s one of Stan’s Colorado teams that just names a 19 year-old captain.
  • As an heir to the Wal*Mart fortune, is there a P&L based-motive to get the average player age at Arsenal under 23? I see a trend with Kroenke’s global sports enterprises.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots 13-3

  • Which one loss will send all of New England into a spiral about Bellichek having “lost his touch” combined with Brady “getting over the hill like Pappi”?
  • If you picked Gronkowski for your fantasy team, do you keep a voodoo doll or Aaron Hernandez in your drawer?
  • Image

    This is Hoody Jr. aka, former Broncos Coach, Josh McDaniel

  • Please explain how you can go 3-9 and be disgracefully canned in Denver, hired within 2 months as an offensive coordinator, be investigated by the NFL for illegal meetings with a quarterback during a lockout, precede to aid that quarterbacks rapid regression behind one of the worst offensive lines in decades, and then weasel into the playoffs with a whole other team the same year as a “special offensive assistant” on a team that ends up in the Super Bowl while the guy you’re eventually replacing as coordinator sucks up his pride under the double-death sentence at Penn State
  • Mr. McDaniels Unfortunate Hollywood Likeness, Psychotic Omega ROTC Commander Doug Neidermeyer from Animal House

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills 8-8

  • Is it possible to miss the playoffs 14 straight seasons and not play in either Detroit or Cincinnati?
  • Why will the pass rush of Mario Williams matter when the opposition will often play from ahead and try to grind out the clock?
  • Is there really a third reason to tune-in for Bills football ’12?

New York Jets 5-11

  • Which team would you most enjoy seeing Rex Ryan be the defensive coordinator for in 2013?
  • What’s the over/under on Santonio Holmes just flat abandoning the team and moving to Aruba by December?
  • Tim who?

Miami Dolphins 3-13

  • Is owner Stephen Ross actually from a CBS crime series, or just accidentally a composite of creepy clueless ownership types?
  • How will Joe Philbin adjust from having Aaron Rodgers and a handful of household name playmakers to Ryan Tannenhill and…, oh yeah, there’s a guy who pitches Subway sandwiches, and I think he won the Heisman several years ago, but I forgot his name?
  • Is it really possible that Don Shula won more games than any other head coach and is synonymous with the same “storied franchise?”

AFC Central

Cincinnati Bengals 12-4

  • Can a young offense overcome two of the most fearsome (but aging) defenses four times a year?
  • Is Andy Dalton set for a sophomore slump?
  • Can a defensive-minded coach actually get his team to play meaningful defense?

Baltimore Ravens 11-5

  • Why are some teams better and more dangerous when less is expected of them? (See Harbaugh family)
  • Can the Ravens play at least 0.500 ball with an aged Ray Lewis and injured Terrell Suggs and just plan on being healthy enough for a run in November and December?
  • If Joe Flacco isn’t overrated, than how come he doesn’t strike fear in any other team’s fan base?

Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

  • Why are some teams better and more dangerous when less is expected of them? (See Pittsburgh’s last three runs to the Super Bowl)
  • Can the Steelers play at least 0.500 ball with an aged defense (average age of 30.1), an injured James Harrison and heavily concussed Polamalu, and just plan on being healthy enough for a run in November and December?
  • If Big Ben isn’t under-rated, than how come he constantly makes plays while receiving a pounding unlike any other quarterback in the league?

Cleveland Browns 3-13

  • If you can put up with the political ad at the beginning of the YouTube clip, the “Factory of Sadness” says so much more than I can about Brandon Weeden starting ahead of Colt McCoy.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts 9-7

  • Is Andrew Luck really that good or is this just the privilege of a 2-14 schedule?
  • Are the Colts for real, or is the AFC South just that bad of a division?
  • Is the AFC South the worst division in football or is that the AFC West?

Houston Texans 8-8

  • Are the Texans going to take three steps backwards, or is Ben just scheming a way to have Mike McCoy gone and Gary Kubiak be Peyton Manning’s OC in ’13?
  • On the other hand, even with Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, how do you survive losing your top two defensive players (both Pro Bowlers) and one of the best guards in football and expect to improve?
  • In the game of Running Back Roulette that is Fantasy Football, is Arian Foster really such a blue chip?

Tennessee Titans 8-8

  • The NFL has structured itself to achieve parity; are the Titans chronically confusing that with mediocrity?
  • How big of a jump will Jake Locker have to make in order for this team to make the playoffs?
  • Will a modern running back make the Hall of Fame? I call it the Curse of TD. Case in point, Chris Johnson. After almost breaking Eric Dickerson’s season rushing record, Johnson has regressed dramatically. It appears he may be a far less special Terrell Davis. TD has the record for the most rushing yards in his first four seasons, but he ran for 100 yards in a game once after he broke 2000 yards in a season in 1998. Despite being the most dominant post-season back in history (8 games, 8 100 yard performances, two Super Bowl Wins, one Super Bowl MVP), but he is dismissed as a flash in the pan performer, even though he (and to a lesser degree Mike Shanahan) reinvented the position into a high-mileage, high-production, career-killing machine. Jamal Lewis, Priest Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, all had similar magnificent runs (without any postseason success) that last no more than four years, and only Tomlinson could possibly be considered for enshrinement (if he gets in, it would make TD’s exclusion a greater travesty). Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, All-Day… take notice.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

  • Last year, I predicted Jacksonville as “(7-9) plucky, just not very good. Jacksonville has the advantage of always being overlooked and that is good for three wins a year. But they have nothing to build from and no destination to organize their team around… other than maybe Los Angeles.” Since that time, they were one of the worst teams in the league, changed ownership, had their single star hold out all of training camp, and signed a licensing agreement with London. None of the questions worth asking about the Jacksonville Jaguars pertain to the game of football.

AFC West:

Denver Broncos 11-5 (Slightly less obvious questions than the usual Lindsey Jones/Mike Kils/Post fodder)

  • Shouldn’t Von Miller adapt his speed game to tight end coverage, as few other linebackers possess his speed, he’s already outside, and he appears to have no interest in the running game?
  • Is it possible that Derek Wolfe could be the first great Broncos DT/DE since Trevor Pryce, who was a key cog in the Broncos two Super Bowls?
  • If John Elway gets his team to the Super Bowl, is Ozzie Newsome officially displaced as the best Hall of Fame player turned GM?

Kansas City Chiefs 7-9

  • How were they not compelling enough to convince Kyle Orton to stay around as a potential starter when he’s now choosing to back-up Tony Romo?
  • Will their big three return to game form after all suffering what just 15 years ago  were career-threatening injuries?
  • Will I ever give the Chiefs a lick of respect (which they apparently deserve as they play at Sports Authority likes it’s a friendlier version of Arrowhead).

San Diego Chargers 6-10

  • Will anyone else crack a smile when they see the headline “Turner done in San Diego”
  • Which one player’s injury will be looked at as a tipping point for San Diego’s perpetual underachievement this year?
  • How deep is the pattern of underachievement when you Google “San Diego Kicker” and these are the results you get?

Oakland Raiders 3-13

  • I beat this drum earlier, but doesn’t the sight of Carson Palmer make you at least a bit suspicious of the likely Number One pick and fellow USC QB Matt Barkley?
  • How good does Ndami Asmougha’s agent look for that contract clause that got him out of his Oakland deal?
  • Can Dennis Allen, a good guy who maybe should have waited for a better opportunity, do enough to keep himself employed into 2013?

 

Football Friday: Almost Year-End Addition

Peter King of SI picked the Chargers versus the Falcons for the Super Bowl. I have the Steelers versus the Saints. I like it when I am doing better then Mr. King.

I also had the Broncos at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. There is a very good chance that could be dead-on right at 5:30 on Sunday night.

Look, when it comes to football, I had some wretched picks this year. I had the Chargers at 13-3. I had the 49ers at 2-14. I had the Colts at 8-8 and division champions. I had the Vikes winning 7 due to improved quarterback play from McNabb (what was I thinking) and the Pack in the playoffs but only winning 10 because they looked “rusty” in the preseason (and then started 13-0). I had the Chiefs at 3-13 and the Bengals at 1-15. If the latter wins Sunday, they’re “in the tournament” as Buddy Ryan likes to call it. But I did have some pretty good picks:

I had the Raiders at 7-9 and out of the playoff, which San Diego can insure with a win Sunday. I might have picked the NFC North big guns perfectly, predicting Baltimore would sweep Pittsburgh and win their division at 12-4 and the Steelers would finish 2nd at 11-5 (they’ll probably finish 12-4). I picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East, picked the Redskins perfectly, picked the Eagles as out of the playoffs, I might have nailed the Lions record at 10-6 (although I said out of the playoffs), I picked the Top Two seeds in the NFC South in order with the Saints division winners over the Falcons (Bucs and Panthers, different story). I picked the AFC East correctly in order with New England as the number one overall seed in the AFC and the NY Jets as a wild card (the latter is possible, and if it happens, I picked Miami perfectly in last place at 5-11).

As TMQ says, “all predictions right, or no money back.” My last Football post two weeks ago was about the huge tilt between Denver and New England, where I predicted either a close Denver win or a New England blow out. Nice safe pick that, I was 50% dead-on! I also said that the keys to the Broncos winning were good pressure from the defensive front, excellent special teams play continuing and a 100 yard rushing game from Willis McGahee and that the outcome was not all on Tebow. Largely because the Broncos did none of those things, they lost.

Reader Stu Kilzer likes the Allstate Mayhem ads..

The Broncos  defensive tackles were playing well until New England and have been savaged the last two weeks. I went so far as to single out Lonnie Paxton before that game for his steady play at long snapper and he went out and muffed his first snap of the game costing the Donks their first extra point (blowing an extra point in the NFL is like not scoring a goal with a 5-3 in the NHL. Name the last time you remember a team blowing an extra point early in a game and still winning?). Willis started out great before reinjuring his hammy. The Broncos had almost 170 yards of rushing in the first quarter alone and had a 9 point lead, but had to abandon the run when disaster after disaster befell them.

…but would like to see Pro Bowl Starter Von Miller starring in them. I 2nd this motion

The Broncos defense has not been the same since Von Miller got his hand surgically repaired. Von has one sack in the last four weeks and only Dumervil and Bailey have had decent games since they lost the huge play of “Mayhem”.  With Mayhem in the line-up but saddled with the big cast, the Broncos have been minus 8 in turnover differential the last two games, and have forced exactly zero turnovers. Good teams like the Steelers can be a minus in turnover differential and still win, and the Saints were minus 2 Monday Night in their shredding of the record books and Falcons. But an average team defined by being young and scrappy cannot afford offensive turnovers, and must shorten the field for the inexperienced offense by creating defensive turnovers. I have said many times that the term “playmaker” is over used when describing offensive players, as defensive playmakers really reset the tempo of a game. If the Raiders get into the playoffs by beating San Diego and the Broncos lose, they should send a fruit basket to Norv Turner’s boys for messing with Mayhem’s thumb. For those wondering, the pins are supposed to be in for a total of eight to ten weeks, which means mid February, which further means that a Broncos Super Bowl run is all the more unlikely.

As a Bronco fan since the days of Red Miller and fullback Dave Preston (#46, think he retired in 1981), December has been an especially cruel month in Colorado the last half decade, and this year looks much like the 2008 and 2009 collapses where Denver lost their last three and four in a row to miss the playoffs, despite controlling their own destiny.

Here is why that won’t happen, and Denver will get a tilt with the Terrible Towels next weekend at home (@wilsoncj14, I’m sorry, but the Ravens will come into sold out Cincy and leave victorious Sunday. ‘Tis true).

1.) Captain Neck Beard and The Two-Way Street. Much has been made of Kyle Orton’s knowledge of the Broncos playbook and tendencies. All media attention has been casting Kyle Orton as a Jason Bourne-type super-hero with superior knowledge of the inner workings of the Denver playbook. Did all that media forget that the Broncos defense lined up against him every day for 2.5 years and never had the pleasure of live fire drills? Kyle Orton is a brilliant practice quarterback and plays well when he has the lead. Kyle Orton like a well-defined pocket and takes what Trent Dilfer likes to call “good sacks” and makes “smart throwaways” to “preserve field position and get his team a field goal.” Kyle Orton and Trent Dilfer are actually one and the same person I think, except Trent was lucky to spend a season or two with the most voracious defense since the ’85 Bears when he won a Super Bowl with the 2000 Ravens. It was hard to play from behind with that defense. Neckbeard never enjoyed such luxury. Without good tight ends in KC right now, or good third down tailbacks as check downs, the way you get after Orton is to release the wolves. Dennis Allen comes from New Orleans and the Gregg Williams school of mad dog blitzes. Ryan Fitzpatrick had more weapons at his disposal last week then Orton will enjoy this week. After Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin, Orton has few choices. Orton has been great between the 20’s in KC just as he was in Denver (599 yards passing in two weeks, or two months worth of Tebow-yardage), but his team has settled for six red zone field goals. Last week he threw two red zone picks. Just as Orton knows the Broncos playbook, the Bronco defense knows his hot buttons. He is immobile. He likes check downs. He has great difficulty converting 3rd and long. The Bronco defense never had the chance to lay the wood to Orton in practice, and I have to imagine Dennis Allen is salivating at the chance to send five and six constantly given Orton’s limited offensive arsenal.

Wait, was this the Broncos quarterback Christmas Eve?

2.) Tebow was due for a wretched game. Tebow’s best game of the year so far was actually New England, when he had high command of the offense and passed with great effectiveness. He was tomahawked on his fumble and contributed to the second quarter deluge, but played well throughout the game. Last week, he was wretched. He was worse than he was against Detroit. Some of that was play-calling, as the Broncos got away from running the ball in the 2nd quarter when they didn’t have to. A lot of that was Tim airmailing balls all over the place. The game plan in both the Detroit and Buffalo games called for a lot of pocket passing and put the offense on Tebow’s shoulders. Denver chose not to patiently wear out the opposition. Tebow is not yet, and may never be, a pocket passer. He looked a lot like Jake Plummer early in his career. The entire Tebow train is officially derailed, just like it was after Detroit and going into Oakland. The time has come when conventional wisdom says “I told you so” and that’s exactly the time when Tebow and the Broncos show up and find a way to win.

3.) Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. Much has been made of the Broncos young safeties and their long-in-the-tooth veterans in their secondary. Raheem Moore has had a lousy rookie year, Chris Harris has been inconsistent, David Bruton is average. But there are two wily vets in Bailey and Dawkins that I think will turn the game. Bailey is one of the smartest defensive football players in the game, and is the best tackling shutdown corner in decades. Dawkins is hurt, but there is no way he will miss this game. Bailey almost left Denver in the offseason because the McDaniels era chapped him so badly, and John Elway’s first order of business was getting Champ back. Elway is given very little credit for that move. The man who was leading the cheers from the sideline during Tebow’s first big comeback in Miami was none other than Champ. And if you ask Tebow which guy he looks up to the most on the Broncos, it is Dawkins. Champ has a couple more great years left in the tank, but if the Broncos lose, this is probably Dawkins last game. One of these two, or both, will likely address the Broncos Saturday night. In a game where emotional edges are hard to manufacture, I like that one a lot.  The Chiefs by contract have an interim coach, an interim quarterback, three Pro Bowl players on IR, and a penchant for getting blown out.

I can see the Broncos losing a heart-breaker. Bronco fans have come to expect little of this team, and so it wouldn’t surprise me at all. But I think the Broncos win, and by more than two scores, 23-14.

Football Sunday

Football Friday: Season Opener Edition!

That’s right, it’s time to engage in the fall smackfest and make predictions guaranteed to be wrong the second the blog posts. Engage in the color, the pageantry, and the God-awful misplaced prognostication every Friday during football season! This week: picking all 32 teams. My football arrogance and undermining idiocy knows no bounds.

So why bother? Because football is the great collective online water-cooler. I don’t play Fantasty, don’t even know how to score it, but I respect teams and how they function. And one of my real estate abilities is to look for and identify actionable patterns. Some of the patterns in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (that would be the Phil Simms-voice, people):

  1. You build in the draft, not in free agency
  2. Good coaches are more important than great quarterbacks
  3. Playmakers are more important on the defensive-side of the ball
  4. Conventional Wisdom in football and real estate is something nice and friendly to cling to when you don’t know the real answers to a question. And it’s usually wrong.
  5. San Diego will never win a Super Bowl. Because.
  6. By the way, unless you’re reading in Hebrew, most people read from left to right, so just this once, I will put the AFC WEST as the first of the division picks since the Left Coast gets no respect or love from the media-heavy East Coast. I dare say no American sport is more media-focused, and therefore, more East Coast-centric than THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. So any hype or hyperbole you hear about the East Coast teams? The Jets are merely a reflection of the media-fixation.

AFC WEST:

Caption Contest!

1.) Chargers (13-3). The Chargers could have Norv Turner be Norv and the over-rated Ryan Matthews piddle his way through the year and still win 11-12. They are a loaded team. But I still see them losing on home field in one round in January. 2.) Denver (8-8). Every year a team improves their win-total by five games and Denver is as good a candidate as anyone. They will be much more competitive due to their potential top-ten defense, but lack depth to win more then eight in the war of attrition that is THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. Thank goodness the season stayed at 16 games. For now. 3.) Oakland Raiders (7-9) I would not be surprised to see the Raiders steal an opener from Denver on Monday night and start out strong due to their running game and overall team speed. But passing their defensive holes are many and teams will figure them out. Poor Hue Jackson is such a great cheerleader for the Raider-way, and yet it’s easy to see him as another team’s coordinator next year. 4.) KC Chiefs (3-13) Yes, I hate the Chiefs and that influences my pick, but this looks like another failed experiment at the Patriot-way. There is no depth behind Matt Cassell and Brian Waters is now a Patriot. They have two major prima donna do-nothings as wideouts and if they get behind, their best attack, the run, is neutralized. Add to that a brutal schedule.

AFC SOUTH:

Indianapolis Colts (8-8): this is the most overrated division in football, especially if (or likely with) Peyton on the sideline. There is no quick recovery or guaranteed timeline on neurological issues and Peyton’s injury is to his cervical nerves. He’ll be back this year, but not before the damage is done. Kerry Collins couldn’t help a team with Chris Johnson last year… how the junk will he help a team with this running attack? Look for the Colts however to be dangerous when it counts in December and January. Houston Texans (7-9) This is a team others will adjust to. It must be maddening to be a Texans fan because realistically they could win or lose any week of the year. They have the studs on the offense to beat the Packers, and playmakers on defense to embarrass the Steelers, but rarely are they ever on the same page in the same game. The big question is this: will Mike Shanahan dump his son to hire Kubiak as his offensive coordinator in Washington next year? Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9) plucky, just not very good. Jacksonville has the advantage of always being overlooked and that is good for three wins a year. But they have nothing to build from and no destination to organize their team around… other than maybe Los Angeles. Tennessee Titans (3-13). Oops. You drafted Jake Locker 8th overall this year and are in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes this year. They don’t have a culture to believe in which allows Chris Johnson to be a huge distraction. When you’re behind 14 in the third quarter, the best running back in the league has a hard time getting to 1200 yards.

AFC NORTH:

Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Good luck beating the Steelers three times in one season, but I expect them to sweep the regular season. Will they have it when it counts? Nope. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5): bound to be injured, no real running game, too much reliance on Big Ben to throw it around… just get them in the playoffs as a written-off team and look out. Cleveland Browns (8-8): in it until the end, but what could be worse for a team than your lunch-pail 255 pound running back on the cover of Madden 2012? Is there any worse fate to a player’s health? This is a guy who once shredded his hamstring making a catch. Cincinnati Bengals (1-15). The temptation to say 0-16 is there, but I love reading about these guesses that they’ll improve once Carson Palmer decided to come back. Are you serious? Come back to this disaster?

AFC EAST

New England Patriots (12-4) Now see, I could see Randy Moss coming back to be a Pat.  New Jersey Jets (10-6) A great wild card team. Strangely weak in the front seven. Better and more dangerous offensively than last year, thinner with less depth defensively.  Buffalo Bills (9-7). I have no idea how Ryan Fitzpatrick and a decent offense could be viewed as inferior to Chad Henne and the Miami Dolphins (5-11) with their terrible offense. Note to the AFC East: Double cover Brandon Marshall and jam him at the line of scrimmage. He’s a big wuss with a temper in the first five yards.

Wild Card Round: New England over New York. Pittsburgh over Indy. Second Round: Pittsburgh over San Diego. New England over Baltimore. Third Round: Pittsburgh over New England

NFC

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (10-6) Kevin Kolb is a good quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald will actually live up to his contract. St. Louis Rams (10-6): It’s not like Sam Bradford is going to get worse, but I do see them on the outside looking in come playoff time. Seattle Seahawks (5-11) Remember that fan-created earthquake you experienced in the Wild Card round last year? Yeah. Remember that. Savor that. I give Pete Carroll another year, tops. San Francisco 49ers (2-14). Oh, now we see why Harbaugh took that job. It’s vaguely Jimmy Johnson, 1988 isn’t it? Leave college for a sexy pro program, have a terrible first year, but through the draft you build a dynasty? Might actually work. This has to be one of the three likely Andrew Luck destinations in 2012.

NFC SOUTH

New Orleans (12-4) This is why St. Louis ends up on the outside looking in. These guys will have a hard time losing outside their own division (and Lambeau). Atlanta Falcons (12-4) possibly a better team than the year before, but for the kings’ ransom they gave up for Julio Jones, they need to be 14-2 and unstoppable. I don’t think they are. You can’t be nicknamed “Matty Ice” or considered an elite quarterback until you do a thing in the playoffs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) Josh Freeman might be the third best quarterback in his division and the fourth best in his conference. This team is better positioned for the long haul than Atlanta. Carolina Panthers (3-13) Something about “when all you’ve known is winning your ‘amateur’ career…”

NFC NORTH

Green Bay Packers (10-6) Remember, 10-6 got them a ring last year. But they haven’t been sharp. Detroit (10-6), that’s right, Matt Stafford and Sam Bradford can tweet smack in the Wild Card Round all they like. This could be a team a draft away from a Super Bowl however. Minnesota Vikings (9-7) Donovan might win them a game, but Peterson ought to win them their other 8. Expect a gargantuan year from All-Day. Chicago Bears (6-10). I don’t know how Cutler stays healthy again through this year, or keeps his head, or Mike Martz doesn’t go Holy Martz as he is apt to do. Lots of juicy bylines out of Chicago this year, with no apparent tight ends, no apparent running game, a concrete field, Cutler, Martz, etc.

Best Announcer Line ever: 2003 opener, John Madden on a horizontally-striped shirt-wearing Andy Reid. "Andy, have a word with the office in New York. That's not a good look."

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys (11-5) I’m picking this one for Gordon. I think he’s right. I think Romo will lead to several victories, they are rebuilding but doing so in a scalable way, I think they’re actually building a model of a post-lockout team similar to the way hockey teams adapted post-lockout and changed their game around. This is going to be a good team for several years. Although I’m not sold on Rob Ryan. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) and out of the playoffs. I don’t see it. Vick is one scramble from the IR and then Kafka leads them into January? I don’t know how they juggle three possible All-Pro corners at once. Washington Redskins (7-9) win-now Mike can show progress, but not a winning record. This franchise is being built for what exactly? Mediocrity? New York Giants (5-11) I see the end of Coughlin’s reign in New York. The Matt Dodge punt to DeSean Jackson was the start last year. This is an openly dysfunctional and almost altogether unlovable team. Yeah, Herzlich is a nice story, making the team as a cancer survivor. It pretty much stops there. Steve Smith and his team record 100 catch season doesn’t have room on your team after microfracture surgery? Does anyone else see the Coughlin > BC > Herzlich parallels as at least a little fishy?

Wild Card Round: Tampa over Arizona. Atlanta gets revenge on Green Bay. Second Round: New Orleans over Tampa. Dallas over Atlanta. Third Round: New Orleans over Dallas.

Super Bowl: Pittsburgh over New Orleans.

Football Friday from Dive Valley

I’m imagining (key word and concept) a better future for the Broncos. This future has a safe harbor for my Broncos Santa Hat and my Snuggie.

I have not given up on the snarling horse of the apocalypse.

But in my reflecting on the lessons of the Josh McDaniels-era in Denver, I keep coming back to how many of the mistakes the Broncos made are mistakes I have made too. It’s the tale of decision-making in our modern lives.

First, a movie clip. One of the great scenes in movie history, “Rip it Out” from Dead Poet’s Society.

Apparently, Dr. Jay Allen Pritchard, PhD (he’s a double doctor, a great little joke I’m sure Williams put into the script) has infected the brains of so many football scribes and the Denver Broncos leadership. Dr. Pritchard, PhD is what Seth Godin calls the “The Lizard Brain”. Others I know call it the Resistance, Satan, Crowdthink, The Other, That Voice in My Head, etc. The point: we seek greatness because we know it is good, but then we damn that greatness to hell with our insatiable desire to measure and quantify said greatness. The whole idea of measuring poetry (or art of any kind) is moronic. Providing a graphic mass of consequence as a tool to determine greatness? Idiocy.

But that’s what the Broncos did with McDaniels. Sketch him out. He fits the profile. The guy is smart. He’s an offensive guru. He’s a math guy. He is of good stock. He plots well.

But he had (has) no people skills. He’s infected with hubris. He had no background in personnel decisions – at all – and was entrusted with those decisions in addition to head coaching duties, play calling duties and offensive coordinator duties.

Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis are just like you and me. We let the Lizard make these decisions for us all the time. I see it in how REALTORS try and run their business. It is the thirst to quantify everything. More listings. More ads. More photos. More apps on their iPad. Are they graphing any higher? Sure. Are they happier. Ha. Trust me, I know of what I speak. Guilty as charged.

Politicians do this. More pork, more press conferences, more sound bites, more Sunday morning shows. Are their citizens any better?

Your boss might be doing this. More meetings. More productivity. More slogans. More more. Are you going anywhere.

You might be doing this if you’re looking for a job. More time on the resume. More applications. More posts in your blog reader to read more about more.

Where is any of this measurable-more going? Is there any story behind it? Is there even the semblance of a plot?

The reason to bring this to light is the ability to lead people is often overlooked. In football terms, the brilliance of Mike Tomlin as a hire in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with where he plotted on any graphs. It had to do with his ability to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, understand 80 years of football obsession and culture, and then ratchet that up even more. There are many articles out there this week about Bill Bellichek’s hollow coaching tree, that he can’t spin off great coaches who use his system. I’m sorry, that’s not at all fair to Bellichek, and I don’t care what you think of him. He’s 10-2 right now and has the best team in football despite a lousy defense. He allocates his strengths better than anyone else in the league. What’s the hardest stadium to play in right now? Foxboro. I think the dude knows what’s going on. Like the aforementioned Godin says in Linchpin, in terms of leadership, there is no map when leadership is at stake.

The era of systems (in business-terms, the 80’s and 90’s, in football-terms, Bill Walsh) is dead. We live in a tribal culture (Twitter, Facebook, MobileMe, Ning) and an increasingly tribal economy. The internet is a tool that profoundly expands the ability of individuals to connect with one another and disseminate ideas. At the same time, what it does best is tighten bonds in small audiences. The small audience of ardent fans is the most important. It’s much harder to go and get new converts, then it is to maximize the benefits of the already-on-board diehards.

If Shannon Sharpe is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this winter, will the entire Denver Broncos franchise show up for his induction next summer? No way. When Dick LeBeau was inducted this summer, did the entire Steelers organization show up? Yes.  Now some will be quick to point out that when Elway was inducted, there was a huge turn out of Broncomaniacs. Fair enough. But Elway was a transcendent player, possibly the best quarterback ever, and the first Bronco ever inducted into the Hall. Dick LeBeau never even played for the Steelers, he’s their flippin’ Defensive Coordinator, and there are something like 5678 members of the Steelers organization already in Canton. Is it likely that on a Friday morning in Pittsburgh, a small group of friends get together, and heading out the door plop their Steelers lid on the mussed-up hair? No. But there were multiple people wearing Steelers gear this morning at Panera at 6:45 in Colorado Springs (The Broncos were shut out).

To that end, Mike Tomlin is as good a business decision as he is a football coach. I have nothing more to measure this on other than the fact that his tribe is growing. The Broncos tribe is shrinking.

The Denver Broncos are yet another dinosaur that is clinging to the Dr. Pritchard, PhD, school of measuring greatness. A lot of businesses are still clinging to stupid graphs. Rather than making art, they’re worried about defining measurable metrics and creating some mass and hoping that this mass (what some might better call a tumor) has weighty enough stuff to go forth and do good. They call this a plan. It’s sabotage.

If you were to do an unflinching SWOT analysis of your business or your career, would you spend your time really looking at your strengths (like you should), or would you look instead at what other people were doing and focus entirely on your shortcomings? Clearly, the Denver Broncos take the SWOT approach and focus on the W & T and forget the S & O. Think about this for a second: is your career or your business doing what the Broncos do?

Here is what the Broncos are doing (compare this to your career or your business): The Broncos have for too long under-utilized John Elway (“The Duke of Denver”) as a marketing engine for the company. He’s practically begging his way back in. STRENGTH: Put Elway on as the face of your franchise. He’s Colorado Royalty. They have the perfect quarterback (Tebow) to run the Oregon Blur Offense which would be particularly devastating for teams that have to travel to Denver and play at an elevation 4000 feet higher than any other stadium in the league. STRENGTH: Tebow sells more jerseys than any player in the league, could run a unique offense, and make Denver a terrifying place to play again. A once loyal and passionate fan base is shut out of training camp because the team practices in a sterile suburban setting called “Dove Valley” (which I have misappropriated “Dive Valley” for this post). STRENGTH: Practice two weeks in Greeley or Pueblo and make the team accessible to the masses for at least a few weeks out of the year. This will re-energize the common citizenry to actually save up to pay for tickets for a game or two a year. The teams colors are blue and orange.

They insist on wearing navy uniforms, which excite no one, and have reduced a potentially hallucinatory color in their pallet to secondary status (orange, see example, Barrelman). STRENGTH: revert to orange and blue. There is no mistaking where you’re playing when the blur offense is gassing you and 72,000 fans are re-energized behind their team, for good or for bad, as they don a hideously loud shade of orange apparel. That’s gonna be good for a win or three a year.

This is not the story you want people talking about

How many more wins will these actions produce? Silence, Lizard! It may not create more wins in the short-term. But it does creates a story worth talking about. That’s long-term value. It creates something (a tribe) worth buying into. Todd Haley famously wagged his finger at McDaniels and said “There’s a lot of #*@! being said about you.” That’s not worth talking about. That’s the stuff that jeopardizes teams abilities to grow, sign talent and improve. The Dr. Pritchard, PhD graph might measure things well, but it eventually is the last thing you want someone talking about.

What the Broncos have done over the last 15 years (yes, the start of the Shanahan-era) is take everyone of their strengths and found a way to convert it into a weakness. They have abandoned what made them lovable and unique, and instead chosen to follow what everyone else did. They were orange, and they went navy. In the end, the organization itself has become like so many others. Except, they’ve become insufferable because the only thing people can measure – their record – is terrible.

This behavior is not unique to Bronco-Town. People sabotage their own careers, businesses and lives all the time in similar ways.

  • What strengths have you kept under wraps for too long?
  • What leadership stake have you not exercised?
  • What story can your business and career tell better?

Football Friday, Thursday Edition! Use Your Talent for Maximum Benefit

I am not a bandwagon University of Oregon Ducks fan. I actively rooted for the Quackfest in the 1991 Holiday Bowl against CSU because at the time, their starting flanker was my cousin, Joe Reitzug. That’s the extent of big-time college football fame I enjoy, a maternal cousin who was a two-year starter and at 5’9″ could dunk a basketball (two-handed, mind you). The Ducks and their crazy Phil Knight uni’s are the toast of college football this year (thank you Cam Newton for helping everyone so quickly forget Jeremiah Massoli) and are in line to hold off TCU and Boise State for a chance at a national title.

From the NikeBlog Titled "What Will the Ducks Wear Saturday" Oh to have Phil Knight as an Alum.

If you don’t follow college football, you might not know about the Ducks brand of offense. It’s not called the hurry-up or the run-and-shoot. It’s three-steps crazier. It’s called The Blur.

The Blur is so interesting because as I wrote earlier about the launch of Pikes Peak Urban Living, there is something radically enjoyable amidst the disruption when the unicorn enters the balloon factory. The Ducks are that unicorn and everyone else is a quick-popping balloon. The Blur averages a snap in less than 18 seconds between possessions and unlike previous quick-strike offenses, it relies just as much on the run as it does the pass. Defenses have struggled to stop the Ducks from scoring 50 points a game in every contest this year and their ability to throw up massive points, fast, creates an emotional avalanche to opposing defenses. Even better as far as Oregon is concerned, it forces the other team to increase their tempo and not practiced in doing this, they tend to turn the ball over.

The Blur is so great because the Blur changes everything. It turns football into a track meet. It exerts the will of one team onto another team and forces that other team to compensate or change. The Blur reminds everyone that life is not fair, and that those that lead change, often get to harvest the first fruits. There are plenty of theoretical ways of stopping The Blur, yet no one has yet to put theory to action, and until they do, it is unstoppable.

Last year I wrote a post about how the Broncos need to exert their will on their opposition by changing the way they played. The way to do this was the hurry-up offense, I argued. Thinking conventionally, I attributed the 5280′ elevation as the ultimate home-field advantage and that the best way to utilize that advantage in warm weather or cold, was to gas the opposition with a blistering high-tempo passing game. Again, great example of conventional thinking ignoring other variables like cold-weather running teams and the Broncos propensity to give up 300 yard rushing games after December 1st. Well that’s basically what the Broncos have done this year and Kyle Orton is on a pace for 5000 passing yards, that is, with a couple exceptions. One, there is no quick tempo between plays, and two, Orton has the mobility of a dining room table. The painful exercise known as the Broncos running game shows the difficulties of one-dimensional passing and despite some gaudy numbers, a 20 point Bronco game is rare this year.

Enter Tim Tebow.

In business and in sports, allowing your competition to be comfortable is a sin. The Blur is so far a college phenomenon with no disciples in the pro game, but there are some similarities to be found in some of the class organizations in the league: In Indy, Peyton Manning effectively runs the Frustration Blur as he is the on-field coach and creates all sorts of weird looks for defenses to adjust to and then tests their patience with odd cadence snap counts that are sometimes fast and sometimes drawn out to the last millisecond. Even stodgy Pittsburgh has been one of the last outposts of old school trick plays, an every now and again wrinkle that keeps defenses guessing, a technique that allows the offense to sometimes be plodding, but just unpredictable enough to keep the defense from getting comfortable.  point is that neither franchise has the running ability and power of a Tebow at quarterback. Tebow certainly is not as cerebral or accurate as Manning, nor as pocket aware and experienced as Roethlisberger, but then again, the run and shoot, the spread and the west coast all came out of the college ranks before making it to the big league. The reality is that The Blur changes everything. As a Bronco Fan, I’m happy to let McDaniels keep Tim on the bench until next year; as long as he is trying to work something like The Blur into the Broncos future. The Broncos “need to make their plumbing work” and the first way to do that is to re-engineer the system. If the talent level of the team (Thomas, Royal, Lloyd, Moreno, Tebow, Clady, Harris, no dominant tide end… so far, so good) allows you to do something really radical and really different… it becomes inexcusable not to use your talents, to their maximum. If not this year, the Broncos more than any other team in the league have the personnel and the need to adopt The Blur as their own.

It’s one thing to make a sports analogy and it’s another to execute the same thing in real life. I haven’t cared a lick about my investments since 2007 and haven’t paid attention at all to what they’re doing. Charles Schwab has decided to take me on as a project (or at least that’s what it felt like) and contacted my $16,000 uninvested cash position five different times by phone this month to help. That alone is amazing. What’s better is that the leading discount broker in America has a little tool that helps you assess your investment tolerance, gives you percentages in how you can allocate, and let’s you put any publicly traded information into it.

Of course I’m going to use this tool. I’m a measly little investor and they made me feel special. Game-changer number one. Their competition ought to feel uncomfortable right now on that fact alone. Schwab might as well be playing on a totally different field then everyone else as far as I’m concerned. Then they showed me a tool where I can put my entire retirement plan and measure it according to my goals, age and desires. It is so simple, it took 90 seconds to explain, but they didn’t even really need to explain it.

I’m sure other brokerages offer this. It’s pathetic if they don’t. But this is painfully simple and easy to use. But better for Schwab, most of those brokerages aren’t interested in me. Because of that, I’m not writing a blog about them. Schwab has changed the game as far as I’m concerned. I’m not as complacent today about my investments because they 1.) pursued me (which alone changed the game) and then 2.) made life easy for me (a cout d’etat in finance world).

Game-changers are worth talking about. Using talent to the maximum benefit is worth talking about. Tim Tebow should be given the option to run The Blur just as I should have the option of using one website to monitor all my investment information. I don’t care if Schwab sees what I have with Fidelity and Oak and Pimco and Edward Jones. They’re making things easier. In my world, making things easier is remarkable.

Onto picks. The focus this week is on quarterbacks and the over-used tendency to pan or praise the remarkable or unremarkable play at this position. It’s also my nice jab at ESPN’s John Clayton and his totally subjective “elite quarterback” rating system (65% efficient, 4000 yards annual passing, 4th quarter comeback ability). This is such a stupid compromise of minimal fantasy-metrics and Jon Gruden “intangibles” and way, way too many quarterbacks get the elite status. I will break the quarterbacks down in this manner, using a name to say “this is the maxed-out potential this guy has. They’re probably not as good as the body of work this guy embodied, but at their best, this is who they’re most like”:

Montana’s: I’d rather have Elway for entertainment value, but all Joe did was win, do it prolifically and act as Walsh’s catalyst to reinvent the game. A singular talent that would have won Super Bowls without his talented supporting cast. See Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, possibly Drew Brees and no one else. Brees has never had the deficiencies to play through that Manning and Brady have had on multiple occasions. Manning probably deserves his own category, but he really needs to win another Super Bowl to top Montana.

Elway’s: Always Entertaining, but not a singular enough talent to bring a team to greatness on his own shoulders. When he had talent around him, he made the most of it.

Marino’s: Prolific as anyone, often must-see TV, but no Super Bowl rings, so what?

Bradshaw’s: Destiny had a special place in her heart for his destination. Surrounded by superb players, his many deficiencies somehow were glossed over for a multiple championship career.

Fouts’: Just as prolific, but cursed with only slightly better than mediocore teams.

There’s a pretty big talent drop off after this. Because remember, this is as good as these guys can be at their best.

Plunkett: Really not at all responsible for winning it all, but had the ability to throw one or two big passes a game and had the intestinal fortitude to not cost his team a win. Required an awesome supporting cast and a team with attitude. There are a lot of guys that can get to this status. It should be remembered that the world was expected of Plunkett when he entered The National Football League. Plunkett left college football as the all-time leading collegiate passer and went to Stanford. He was a bust as a Patriot but surrounded with the attitude in Oakland (and later LA) made the most of his little. If anything, this moniker which is widely used is aspirational for most of the guys. Plunkett is one of the rare guys who had some talent, failed, and then found the rejuvenator one day.

Dilfer: the anti-Fouts, a fairly worthless journeyman who somehow sticks around for 15 years like a virus. The best thing you can say about him is that he doesn’t always get in the way. Not to be confused with

Kitna: also an anti-Fouts, but with a decent arm, who ends up surviving being a journeyman for 15 years in the league on teams that have given up as entire franchises. Would actually make a great commentator after he retires, but is too honest and humble and nice for TV.

Majikowski: The Majik Man’s fatally flawed career: felled by injuries and a ruthless back-up whose name shall not be uttered (but it kind of rhymes with “barf”)

Craig Morton: You’re really just a placeholder in the saga at quarterback, keeping things warm for Roger Staubach or John Elway to replace you.

Akili Smith: some talent scout grotesquely over-valued your stock so it’s not your fault you’ve been thrust onto a stage too big for you. See also Joey Harrington. Shoot, see Bill Musgrave and every Oregon quarterback ever since… Dan Fouts.

George: you are a loathsome, uncoachable, me-first guy designed for one-purpose: to undo entire franchises and fan bases.

Kurt Warners without the Glass Slipper: This is what happens when fate doesn’t intercede on a man’s life catapulting him from grocery clerk to Super Bowl MVP. This happens to teams like Carolina.

Winner picks are Bold Underline (last picks were two weeks ago, 10-4, 33-23 for the year).

TONIGHT: Ravens (Flacco = Plunkett) at Falcons (Ryan = Marino): The Falcons have a lousy last eight games to plow through, but Matt Ryan has lost one-time at home as a starter. I don’t know how you dismiss that stat in an age of parity. If Roddy White really is a man among boys, tonight will tell the tale. So far, so true.

Lions (Stafford = Majikowski) at Bills (Fitzgerald = Plunkett): The Lions sad sack ways continue with Matt Stafford now suffering his third major shoulder injury in less than 20 games in the league. Buffalo has been the most competitive mid-season winless team ever (they put up 30 on the Pats) and at home, this has to be their last best chance for a win.

J-E-T-S (Sanchez = Smith) at Browns (McCoy=Plunkett): How did Colt McCoy go three rounds without getting picked? He’s not a big-time stud and he’s too small to beat a team single-handedly, but name another quarterback in the last four years who was more like Drew Brees? Drew Brees is probably the uber-Plunkett, and that might be the perfect motivational handle for McCoy. It’s only been three games, but you can’t take lightly wins over New Orleans and New England.

Carolina (Moore, Clausen, doesn’t matter, = Non-Cinderella Warners) at Tampa There is No Bay (Freeman = Elway): Josh Freeman is the closest thing to Elway’s first two years in so many ways. Johnny 7 couldn’t get out of his own way fast enough the first 3/4 of his rookie season… kinda like Josh. Then he erupted late in his rookie year and lead the Broncos to 13-3 his second season when he started his role as a clutch, scrambling, cannon-armed fun-fest. So far, Josh Freeman has 7 come from behind victories. He’s been around for 23 games!

Houston (Schaub= Fouts) at Jacksonville (Gerrard = Dilfer): Matt Schaub can sure put up some gaudy numbers. Yet he seems destined to be saddled with a franchise that finds ways from achieving it’s own elite potential. David Gerrard can be Fouts-like, but only when playing the Cowboys.

Tennessee (Young = Elway or Smith, I’m still not sure) at Dolphins (Pennington = Plunkett): I love Tony Sparano as a coach. I love that this week he dumped Henne (George in the making) for Pennington (can’t beat anyone on his own, but gives your team that chip on the shoulder edge). I love Vince Young as a player way too much so just ignore my Elway comparison. It’s totally illogical.

I forgot on Thursday to put the best quarterback comparison game of the week in the post. Here is a Sunday morning revision: Minnesota (Favre=Elway) at Chicago (Cutler = George… and maybe Favre). Brett Favre will retire after this year with most every important quarterback record and all the network talking heads will start their debate in earnest if he was the best ever. He’s not. Not remotely. The amount of talent he’s been surrounded with most of his career has been significantly better than either Marino or Elway, and despite his prolific yardage, a single Super Bowl title (and a couple totally on-him Conference Title meltdowns) is fairly inexcusable. The real greats make everyone around them better. All Favre has ever done has allowed his team a chance. While it has lead to regular season wins, it has not mattered when it mattered most. Cutler on the other hand is clearly falling into Jeff George territory by the week, but the dirty little secret about George both he, and his contemporary Favre, have so many similarities in common. All three are me-first gunslingers who throw mind-numbing interceptions at critical junctures. Cutler lacks the talent around him to overcome this debilitating habit (much like George). The only difference between Cutler and Favre’s mannerisms is that Favre has had superior talent, on both sides of the ball. He’s remarkably fortunate to have played where he has. JC? Not so much.

Kansas City (Cassell = Morton) at Denver (Orton = Morton): C’mon, are either of these guys ever going to the Pro Bowl?

Dallas (Kitna = Kitna, Romo = Marino) at Giants (Manning=Bradshaw): Now that Eli Manning has multiple high-quality receivers (like Bradshaw) and the entire NFC is terrible, the similarities are getting spooky.

Seattle (Hasselbeck = Kitna because he’s a nicer guy than Dilfer) at Arizona (Anderson = Dilfer): Oh to be a quarterback in Sam Bradford’s division.

St. Louis (Bradford = Montana) at San Francisco (Smith = Smith): Yeah, he’s nine games into his career and already Sam Bradford looks like Peyton Manning, circa 2000 on the cover of SI: “So Good, So Soon.” Manning was 3-13 his first year. Bradford has him in wins already by one. Folks, the Rams are not a good team. They’re well-coached, but they have talent at three positions. They have four wins. They are over-achievers because they have a singular talent at the most important position in the game. I think they win this division.

New England (Brady = Montana) at Pittsburgh (Roethlisberger = Elway/Bradshaw): I can’t quite tell on Big Ben. Elway never had the kind of defense he’s been blessed with, and only late had a decent coach. Big Ben has had superb coaching and a team with a singular attitude his entire career. Not many guys outside of Bradshaw have ever enjoyed such fruits. The pick is because of the Pittsburgh Defense at home in a night game.

Washington (McNabb = ???) at Philadelphia (Vick = Marino). The Vick / Marino analogy is sure to infuriate plenty of diehard Dolphin fans, but consider: when Marino was on Monday Night, you tuned in. When Michael Vick is on his game, you tune in. They approach the game totally differently, but in the regular season at least, always gave their team a chance. The biggest win for Vick was a frozen playoff win at Lambeau. That might be the best he ever does. McNabb is a totally different wrinkle. He’s got some Fouts, he’s got some Plunkett… and he’s got Craig Morton in him. If he played in Kansas City for instance, he might have gone to one Pro Bowl. That isn’t to say he’s bad. But there’s a part of him that will always be a whisper of Jeff George (a rating no one gets this week because Cutler is on his bye), gassed down the stretch in the Super Bowl, pulled last week from a two minute drill. Who in this sport plays such a bad team game to ever be caught in that position?

Football Friday: Week Eight!

Happy Halloween from your ghoulish armchair quarterback! It’s the Halloween Edition of Football Friday where it seems a number of seasons have gone from bad to frightful, coaching decisions have gone from questionable to phantom, and The Broncos are being thrown to the Werewolves in London. Okay, it’s just The Niners.

The Ghost Horses at The Zombie Miners (in London): Two terrible teams collide in a game that will undoubtedly feature bad turnovers, bad penalties, and one coach loyally executing his gameplan and another making constantly new decisions with caprice. I think Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit would be better suited at the game featuring two past Heisman Winners. The improbability of picking a tie is reserved only for the Wall Street Journal computers (which likes to pick games with fractional points scored), but these two weak sisters should kiss for the disasters they’ve infllcted on their fandom. But when in doubt, pick dumb, pick your historical favorite. If the Broncos have the chance to get Tebow involved and if Eddie Royal is healthy enough to do some gimmickry (both of which I think will happen), the Niners will implode.

The Blue-Tongued Extinct Swamp Pumas at I Wanna Be a Cowboy: Eventually, karma catches up with hubris. But Jerry Jones will catch a break and in this battle of back ups (I can’t remember if Jacksonville is playing a 3rd string NFL quarterback or a 2nd string UFL quarterback. And he’s playing against Jon Kitna), I think the Cowboy defense will eventually show itself. I’m also on pain meds this morning.

There is Nothing Scary About Dolphins. They are Friendly, Entertaining & Intelligent Marine Mammals at Nightmare in Northern Kentucky: Is it irony or fate that the little black stormcloud of no titles follows Terrell Owens around? He’s almost 37, has 40 catches for 563 yard, 3 scores and gets 14.1 per catch. Those are super numbers in only six games. He hasn’t been a jerk, yet his team is 2-4. Both of these teams have found some inexplicable ways to lose lately, but it’s the Dolphins who have been royally robbed. Because they’re on the road (3-0) and not at home (0-3), we’re going with the Pixar Mascot among all the Freddy Kreugers.

This Halloween, Mommy, I want to Dress Up as a Football Player! Can I Borrow Dad’s Bills Helmet? at The Ghost of Hank Stram: Is it the coordinators? Three weeks ago, I theorized that New England would next year pick up all the defensive coordinators that were incompetent at head coaching, and create the all-time greatest defensive coaching staff, ever. Mike Singletary. Lovie Smith. Wade Phillips. Jack Del Rio. John Fox. All coaching the New England Sidelines. Well, New England Midwest had obviously come up with that idea ahead of time. Charlie Weis could recruit,  and Romeo Crennel could make good beer ads, but neither could make the final jump to the HC. Todd Haley often looked lost and confused much of last year. This year? This is a team no one wants to play. If Haley starts wearing a sporty red blazer and patrolling the sidelines with his hair fopped and a game program rolled in one hand, the rest of the National Football League is in serious trouble.

If you Dressed your Child as a Redskin in a DC School, You Would Likely Be Suspended, Beaten Up and Arrested at The Most Horrifying Pro Football Franchise of the Last Decade: Trap Game for Shanny. Last year, the Lions ended their epic losing street at Washington’s expense, and no one gives up more yards per game than the DC-D. Stafford is back. The Lions are as good as their record says they are, but there is no prayer they would have won the game last week if it wasn’t Jay Cutler quarterbacking the Bears.

Monochromatic Unis Apparently Have Been Banned by the BCS. So Why Wear Them in the NF?

Cape Fear at The St. Louis Professionals Still Dressed as the St. Louis Amateurs: Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Solution? Paint your Field Blue & Bring Back the Greatest Show on Turf

Mr. Blackwell I’m not, but Halloween is about what you wear, right? If you dreamed of making the pros as a kid, would it be to dress as a Ram? Wouldn’t you ask yourself, am I in the NFL or the WAC? Well I think the answer is obvious. If you have Sam Bradford as quarterback, wearing WAC-unis in a few years will only seem to make sense. If the Kroenke Dome decides to go full-tilt gimmick in a remodel, the natural progression should be a deep indigo Fieldturf. The No Fun League ownership will likely collude to block this, because it’s hard to sell samples of deep blue field turf to your fans, but it would actually match better with the assault of pink the same ownership pretends to care so much about in the month of October. Anyhow, the author will admit, I kind of think I’m starting to like Kroenke’s kids and is Bradford gets a receiver or two, St. Louis Fans will have reason to believe they have a full (rather than 1/3rd) career of Kurt Warner ahead of them to enjoy.

Our Fans Wear Cheese on their Heads to Work in April, and They’re Apt to Bathe in Limburger on Halloween at Rex Ryan’s Real Deal: You can wear a fake hatchet on your head for shock-value, or you can wear a XXXL Jets Vest and stuff a could dozen pillows inside it and perplex your co-workers for 59 minutes and yet somehow win the office costume contest when the final votes are cast. The guy who obsesses over the fake blood and the steely appearance of the hatchet and how the fake blood spectacularly splatters down his neck and shoulder is so obsessed on the realism of

Don't be this guy at your office Halloween Party

the outfit, that he misses the key part of the Halloween Proceedings: Have Fun. The Guy that’s For Real, Has Fun. Teams that are For Real find ways to win, either in terms of execution, talent, game-planning, or idiotic antiquated definitions of penalties on fourth down (see 46 yard game-deciding pass interference call, week 6). Sometimes they do it by having fun. Not ONE of those definitions applies to the Packers, who barely beat a Vikings team on Sunday Night with a suddenly color-blind Brett Favre throwing darts at Packer defensive players. The Packers very much look like they are a team that is struggling to have fun. With the droves of talent on the team, that shouldn’t be a problem. But even rituals like the Lambeau Leap now look contrived. Sunday Night, Greg Jennings scored a big, clutch touchdown, and almost forgot to leap into the stands. Once there, he didn’t look either happy or comfortable. Then there are the J-E-T-S and their cheeseburgers and their coach who happily pays a $50,000 fine for flipping the bird at an MMA Event and is the first image you’ll get when you search him on Google Images. The critical outcome of this game is whether or not Aaron Rodgers will go Tony Romo and be available for future contests this year. Rex has had two weeks to gameplan for a sieve offensive line in Green Bay. That’s trouble.

Ancient Grecian Gods Confused with Gladiators at How do I Dress as a Brain Cramp? The mythical parents of the Greek Gods, the Titans were far more powerful, but also far less capricious than their offspring, the adulterous and indiscriminate mythological pantheon of Ancient Greece. The present crop of professional “Titans” fancy themselves  as the greatest of Gladiators, sometimes throwing out such trivial and inconvenient roadblocks like sportsmanship, fair play and legal hits. It makes for an odd mix, the parents of ancient divinity who play like Roman plebians slaughtering animals and one-another… while dressed in powder blue. Interestingly,

Hi. I'm Dressed as Norv Turner.

they face the powder blue bombers themselves in Southern California. The Mullet’s Men are playing well and the Chargers are not. But they are terribly overdue, and while the statistics have lied all year with the Number One Offense and Defense and a 2-5 record, eventually, the Chargers talent base will prevail.

The Purple People Autophages at The Revolutionary Minutemen: When Minnesota Supreme Court Justice John Marshall played in the 1970’s, teams had to not only fear, but respect the Vikings. Yes, they lost four super bowls in less than a decade, but they never really got whupped (like my team, the Broncos, the first to five losses). They also had some people involved in the organization that were class acts. Bud Grant. Marshall himself. Now there is this generation. Like everything this season, this game will probably be painfully close. But playing at the Pats coming off a bye? Not a prayer.

Aargh, Matey! What means you’ve never seen a Pirate dressed in Tangerine? at Maybe Your Daughter should be dressed as a songbird, not your NFL Team. This is probably the hardest pick of the day. Who’d a thunk that four weeks ago? Josh Freeman is not only skilled, but clutch, leading a 90 yard game winning drive last week at home and scoring the deciding points with 10 seconds left. That’s Elway Material. But it’s hard to go across country on the road and win the next week after such heroics.

Flannel Shirt. Coffee Mug. Surf Board. It’s Pete Carroll 3.0 and Your Seattle Seahawks! at I couldn’t loan you $20, I spent my last cash on a shriveled skull for my studded shoulder pads that I have to wear to the third deck at Alameda for the game: Pete Carroll has been the epitome of cool and has some sportswriters saying “you know what? I think the ‘hawks might be the best team in the NFC.” These men all seem to forget that the ‘hawks are coached by: Pete Carroll. The Raiders are suddenly frisky. They played a Bronco team that laid one of the biggest eggs in the franchise’s history (this is a team that lost a Super Bowl 55-10, has given up over 50 three times in night games in the last 20 years, and lost to Detroit on Thanksgiving twice, so they know a thing or two about eggs) but it would be foolish to overlook what the Raiders did in that whipping. They always have great athletes. They just never play football. Well somehow, Tom Cable united his athletes, and they played football. BTW: can you seriously imagine a more NC-17 venue then Oakland for a Halloween Football Game?

I own a black and yellow toilet and live in Anchorage, of course I’m dressing as Polamalu for Halloween! at Let’s Give the Raiders Fans a Run for their Money, we’ve got the night game on Halloween and we da’ Who Dat! Yes, there is a scarier place to play on Halloween then Oakland Alameda Anti-Virus Norton Test Patch House of Horrors. It’s called the Super Dome. On Halloween. The year of living dangerously is about to get very, very interesting for Pittsburgh.

We be the Cow and You be the Horse: Three Words: Peyton. Manning. Night Game.