28 September 2006

2006 Week 4 Picks

Memories in the NFL are remarkably short, and with our awful 2005 season and the Packers sucking royally for most of, well, this millennium, why on earth was this picked for a Monday night game? After the aberration that was last season, we've returned to our more customary excellence, while Green Bay remains craptacular. Can someone explain to me how this is not going to be a blowout? The Packers have been allowing over 300 passing yards per game so far this season. They've played one great team (Bears), one good team (Saints), and one terrible team (Lions). However, none of them are particularly known for airing it out. We, on the other hand, are. The Packers offensive line couldn't hold off a squadron of grannies with walkers. Favre will be lucky to escape without having to call for the cart. Even with Lito and Rod Hood out and Dawk, Westy, and Stallworth all questionable, I just don't see how this is going to be an interesting game. Has any football team ever scored into 3 digits? Oh! I know! Anybody up for a Favre pick pool? I'm in for $25 and give me 3 - in the first quarter.

As far as the other games are concerned, look for the Falcons to go medieval on the hapless Cardinals as they seek to avenge their loss to the Saints. Even if "the player" is still out, I can't see the Cowboys losing to the Titans. Damn. Colts will no doubt kill the Jets.

Dear Dolphins, the Texans are a gimme. Y'all better win this one, or look for me to open up a can of whup a** on your sorry butts! The Vikings should have no trouble with the Bills. Hey! It's the battle of the hideously ugly uniforms! Steve Smith is back, but I don't think it's going to matter. Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Well, it ain't the Panthers. Chargers/Ravens should be a great game. I'm not even going to try to call that one.

49ers/Chiefs is my official pick for Most Painful Game of the Week. No, wait! Lions/Rams is my official pick for Most Painful Game of the Week. No, wait! Browns/Raiders. Hey! The Browns will finally get to win a game! Of course, Chef Spouse and I could pull together a few of our friends and beat the Raiders, but a win's a win, right?

Sorry, Cool Web Dude (Skins fan), but I don't think the Skins will be able to pull past the Jags. And look for the Patriots to get stomped by the Bengals (who are definitely in the running for ugliest uniforms). Testaverde watch: rumor has it the Patriots gave him a tryout this week. Why, I have no idea. I don't think the Patriots' problem is their QB. I think their problem is that Brady has no one to throw to.

Seahawks/Bears could be a great game. Although Shaun Alexander seems to think that praying has healed his broken foot in, like, two days. Now I'm not dissing the power of prayer - or faith - but there's this thing called x-rays? Might want to check that out. Wonders of modern medicine and all that.

And finally, about the whole TO mess. First of all, I'm SOOOOO glad this is all happening in Dallas and NOT Philly. Secondly, whether it was accidental or intentional, of course they're going to spin it as accidental. And finally, to paraphrase The Editor, leaving Philly is depressing, but TO's response seems excessive.

25 September 2006

2006 Week 3 Recap

Week 3: Eagles at 49ers, Sunday, September 24, 2006

In attendance: Ex-Navy Cheesehead and Shoegal, fresh off her successful triathalon.

Menu: Chef Spouse was uninspired this week. He did make homemade guacamole, but we ended up ordering pizza.

About the game? Well, that's MUCH better. You know, when I'm shrieking like a banshee, Chef Spouse is fond of reminding me that AR can't hear me. Sez you! I picture it like that scene from the Waterboy where Adam Sandler isn't even lining up - he's pacing back and forth behind the line of scrimmage, listening to the voices that make up his "tackling fuel." And then he charges across the line and pretty much takes some guy's head off. I'm convinced that's what happened this week. AR's not schizophrenic - he's just channeling me.

Loved the opening trick play - so out of character for Mr. Serious, but such a great idea! Once again, we got out to a huge lead. When our O is clicking, they are looking pretty unstoppable. My boy D-Mac is so consistently excellent we take him for granted. My boy Westy, who played even with his sore knee and missing practice, put up over 100 yards and had THREE TDs. My boy Reggie caught a TD. My boy LJ is looking to have a breakout year. My boy Buck's actually played three whole games. Reno had some decent returns. D was looking good, too, even with all the early injuries we've suffered. Dawk is, as always, a beast (up until he got his clock cleaned). And it was a slow week - we only had 3 sacks. QBs who play us better learn to love the smell of grass, 'cause it's gonna be so far up their sinuses, that's all they'll smell for a month.

Seemed like it was half time before you knew it, and we were up 24-3. Know what it reminded me of? Last week.

Then there was the second half. The wheels came off. Again. Now I know why Donte Stallworth wasn't playing - they needed somebody fast to chase down the wheels and help the pit crew jam them back on quick before the whole game went to hell. The third quarter was just weird - we had negative yards on offense, then there was the D's goal line stand led by some sick plays by Dawk and Mike Patterson's "run" (I use the term loosely) back of the fumble. I think he trundled straight off the field to the sideline to take a little nap. Credit to Alex Smith for running back and thinking about trying to tackle him, but fortunately for him he was tripped up by Quentin Mikell. Dude, it's not smart to try to stop a freight train with your bare hands.

But the good was mixed in with dumb mistakes and dumb penalties and our offense apparently kickin' back with umbrella drinks on the sideline. Guys? Game's not over yet. And then Chef Spouse's boy Akers misses another FG (39 yards this time), which is starting to freak me out. We've won a lot of games on his leg. First he was going wide right and now he's going wide left. ARGH! At least we didn't need the points this time, but this is not a good trend. But don't worry, David, you're still Chef Spouse's boy.

And let's talk about the end of the game. 49ers are down by 3 TDs with 5 minutes left. We manage to keep their drive going by more dumb penalties, and then they go on this totally asinine final push. Two minutes left, out of time outs, down 21 points, and they're still running major plays. Sure, they got a meaningless TD and only lost by 14. Maybe I'm a little over sensitive because of what happened to The Freak last week, but let's play this out another way. It's mathematically impossible for the 49ers to win. They keep playing for points and get them, and their QB sustains a season-ending injury. Sorry, I understand it made the home crowd happy, but it was just incredibly foolish.

And speaking of dumb penalties, ever notice how no matter what opposing Ds do to McNabb, it (almost) never gets called, but if one of our guys taps Alex Smith on the shoulder as he's releasing the ball, it's an automatic 15 yard roughing the passer penalty? I know D-Mac's big and strong and Alex Smith is, comparatively, a skinny little white guy, but come on! Just because D-Mac's as big and strong as a linebacker doesn't mean he is a linebacker.

Around the rest of the NFL...

I was right about one part of the Jags/Colts game - it was a low-scoring game. But the Jags couldn't pull it out. But they did just about shut down Peyton. If it hadn't been for a lucky run back on a punt...ah well, I still think they'll win the division.

Chicago managed to squeak a very exciting win over the Vikings. Panthers managed to squeak a very exciting win over the Bucs. Ravens managed to squeak a very exciting win over the Browns. These were all a lot closer than I'd predicted. But all the teams I picked won - thanks guys! I'm sure they did it just to make me happy. And Bengals beat the Steelers, who are really having a rough time of it this season. It's supposed to be the losers of the Super Bowl who have a terrible next season!

Speaking of, the Giants got STOMPED by the Seahawks. Seriously - Tiki Barber is two-dimensional now. Deion Branch seems to fitting in well in Seattle. Which is a good thing since word just came out that Shaun Alexander broke his foot and will be out for a few weeks. I think the Giants beat themselves, though. How many INTs did Manning throw again? 5? 18? 72? It was something crazy. And even with that, they managed to climb back into the game, albeit too late.

Am I the only one who's noticed that Jeremy Shockey seems to think he's Becks (minus Posh Spice)? Bet he has a footie poster on his bedroom closet door. And he's beating Coughlin to the punch on who gets thrown under the bus.

What is up with the Patriots? Tom Brady is playing like he's old and worn out. You're 29, man! Is he just bummed at the loss of all of his offensive targets? Did someone run over his puppy? Did Belichick get over-confident in his system and think he didn't need any good players to make it work? Did the devil show up early to collect on that pact?

Redskins totally dominated the Texans. In other news, Clinton Portis was back. This is not necessarily a good sign for the Redskins. They've spent about $9 gazillion on offensive players, and only one is any good? And Dan Snyder's supposed to be some business genius. Guess he used all his brain cells making all that money he keeps throwing at players who apparently can't play. Tony Kornheiser is a disaster as an announcer, but he is right about one thing: Snyder treats the Skins like he's running a fantasy football team.

Dolphins finally managed to win a game. Of course, the Titans just might be as bad as the Raiders, so it wasn't a major challenge. Dante Culpepper managed to avoid throwing any INTs for a change, but he also stuck with his plan of avoiding throwing TDs too.

And then there's the "who cares?" games. Yeah, yeah, yeah, 400 TD passes. Big whoop. Brett Favre's thrown that many INTs this season. And the Packers beat the Lions. Whoop-de-do. Not gonna help 'em climb pass the Bears and Vikings. Jets beat Buffalo. I just can't seem to get excited about either team. Rams beat Cardinals, who've dumped Kurt Warner as starting QB in favor of Matt Leinert. If that doesn't work out, I hear Vinny Testaverde's free.

The Editor emailed me this afternoon to discuss the reopening of the Superdome. Both of us we in agreement - wish they'd knocked the place down. Too many bad memories. Morial Convention Center too. First time I went by each one when Chef Spouse and I went to Jazz Fest this spring, I burst into tears - and I'm not the weepy type. Swearing and throwing things, yes. Crying, not so much. But with the other financial struggles the city's going through, I know they couldn't. Given that, having the Saints playing in New Orleans again is a huge emotional boost to people. They've sold out their season tickets for the first time ever, so that's a good indication of the position the residents are taking on this, I think. And if they can reclaim the Superdome for something other than horror and death, more power to them.

You know, one of the interesting things about New Orleans culture is the whole idea of jazz funerals, the second line, and grieving and partying all at the same time. Maybe coming back to the Superdome fits in ways non-locals just can't understand.

PS: Saints are up 17-3 right now. Maybe that pick wasn't so dumb after all...

PPS: Saints WON! Decisively. Michael Irvin, you're a bigger idiot than Troy Aikman this week. Congratulations. No, the Falcons didn't throw the game because they felt bad for the Saints as you implied in your typically dense post-game commentary. You're just pissed because you were wrong. Again. Moron.

22 September 2006

An Open Letter to the NFL

Dear NFL Honcos,

I love America, but it's a fact that the US just hasn't made many major contributions to world culture. Hey, this isn't surprising - we're an adolescent of a country, relatively speaking.

However, one of our few indisputable contributions is 20th century music, notably jazz and its derivitaves, R&B, rock-n-roll, swing, hip hop, and rap.

The NFL has made a practice of providing additional spectacle to accompany games in recent years. This has especially been the case for major events like MNF, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl.

There are several cities that are particularly identified with these specifically American musical styles - Chicago, Memphis, Detriot, New Orleans. New Orleans. NEW ORLEANS.

So how is it that for the half time show at Super Bowl XL in Detroit you hired an over the hill BRITISH band rather than ANY of the stellar local talent and now for the big reopening of the Superdome MNF football game, you've hired U2 and frapping GREEN DAY?!? Are you people complete dolts? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY REALLY FAMOUS NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS ARE STRUGGLING AND COULD REALLY USE THE EXPOSURE OF MNF? AND YOU'RE BRINGING US BONO?!? DON'T MAKE ME HOP ON A PLANE SO I CAN PIMP SLAP EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU. 'Cause I'll do it. Oh yes, I'll do it.


The Redhead

(and as Chef Spouse says, do NOT mess with the Redhead)

21 September 2006

2006 Week 3 Picks

This is a totally winnable game, but it's not the gimme we all initially thought it was. The 49ers are looking like a much tougher opponent than they looked last season (admittedly not that challenging, but still). Alex Smith has some experience now, and they've put up a decent amount of points in their first two games (47 total), but they're still 1-1 after playing two pretty crummy teams. On the other hand, as I predicted last week, it looks like we're going to have to sit Westy this week. So we'll get a chance to see what Buck's made of. And if anyone can fill The Freak's cleats. And if our secondary can recover from the loss of Lito Sheppard and Rod Hood. Piece of advice? If we're up by 20 points at the half, maybe we should just keep on pounding those nails into their coffin, hm? And Akers? You might want to think about taking one more step to the left. The right upright's feeling the hate for you. I see us winning a high scoring game as long as we don't fall asleep at the wheel in the fourth quarter again.

In the other games...

Can the Bucs score their first win against a Panther team that is struggling without Steve Smith? No. N-O. End of story.

Pre-season, I would have predicted a low-scoring game in the Bears/Vikings matchup, with the Bears D winning it for them after their O is only able to put up a couple of FGs. Uh, no. This is probably going to be a pretty hot game - Rex Grossman is playing great so far, and if he manages to make it out of this game in one piece, will tie his NFL games played in a season record. And the Vikings are looking surprisingly good with a brand-new head coach and no real "stars" on the team. They beat the Skins (OK, without Clinton Portis) and the Panthers (OK, without Steve Smith), but after last year's fiasco of a season, two wins against two 2005 playoff teams is pretty damn good. I'm still calling a Bears win, but I think it's going to be a close game.

How's Big Ben feeling this week? Probably pretty fired up to go kick some a** after the Steelers' disappointing loss to the Jags on MNF. But it's hard to get a feel for the 2006 Steelers yet. They lost some key players in the off-season, and it might be affecting them, but given the fact that Roethlisberger hasn't played a healthy game for them yet, it's hard to say. Anyway, I'm picking the Bengals.

Packers/Lions is my official pick for Most Painful Game of the Week.

In the Colts/Jags matchup, I'd normally pick the Colts (until the playoffs, of course). Even as well as the Jags have been playing so far this year, I'd be inclined to pick the Colts. Even though I picked the Jags to win the division, I'd be inclined to pick the Colts. The Jags just don't put up enough points. But something like 1/3 of the Colts are on IR at this point. Can Peyton Manning still put up 40+ points if he's being protected by guys who were playing for NFL Europe last week and throwing to guys from the practice squad? Not likely. Call it Jags in an unusually low-scoring game.

Jets/Bills...eh. Both teams are 1-1 after beating a bad team and losing to a decent team. Both look better this year than last, but AFC East is just a seriously weak division no matter how you slice it. At least Vinny Testaverde hasn't made an appearance on either roster (yet), and that's got to be a good sign.

Titans/Dolphins - wait, I might have to revise that Most Painful Game of the Week pick. Yikes. Culpepper has so far thrown three INTs and only one TD. This is not a positive trend.

Texans looked like a gimme for the Redskins pre-season. Not anymore. With Clinton Portis likely to return, hopefully the Skins can find an offense. And it's pretty easy to get to David Carr, so that should provide a needed confidence boost to the Skins D. With all their expensive talent, if they can't win this game, they should probably pack it in.

Browns are playing the Ravens. Poor Browns. No win for you this week, either.

Can the Giants take the Seahawks? For the sake of our standing, I hope not! They should be pumped after they managed to steal the game right out from under us last week, but they may have spent too much physical and emotional energy getting that win to be able to sustain the hype. And the Seahawks get to activate Deion Branch this week. They're 2-0 after playing two terrible teams, so the Super Bowl Curse may still bite them (hey, we were 3-1 in week 4 last year). Honestly, this one could go either way.

Rams/Cardinals - ugh! Now I'm thinking I need to revise my Most Painful Game of the Week pick AGAIN. How can there be so many bad teams so soon?

The Broncos/Pats game is going to be a lot worse than it looked in the pre-season. Both teams have looked pretty shaky so far.

And for MNF, I'm picking the Saints to beat the Falcons in their home opener/re-opening of the Superdome. The Superdome is totally sold out for the first time since about its construction, and the Saints are owed after everything they've been through in the past year. Oh, shut up! I know it's a dumb pick. I'm picking it anyway. So there.

Oh - King Kaufman's picks are at least as funny as mine, and probably more accurate.

18 September 2006

2006 Week 2 Recap

Week 2: Eagles/Giants, Sunday, September 17, 2006

In attendance: Only Ex-Navy Cheesehead. (Shout out to Shoegal, who missed the games for a very good reason: somewhere north of 40 - a lady never says how much - she was participating in her first triathalon - and called in from the road to check on the game status anyway! Congrats on a successful race, Shoegal!)

Menu: Chef Spouse treated us to a lovely end of summer repast of shish-kabob and corn on the cob (both cooked on the grill), accompanied by mojitos with fresh mint from the garden. Yes, in a departure from my usual bourbon, the bottle I was hitting after the game was rum, mon.

The game...ah yes, the game. There's a French expression called coup de grace, which translates to "blow of kindness" and is used idiomatically for the mercy blow - the killing blow. That's exactly what we were unable to deliver this week. How the hell do you sack their QB 8 times, hold their leading receiver to 50 yards, hold Shockey to 2 catches, while your own QB puts up 350 yards and throws 2 TDs and still lose? Beats me, but we played amazingly well for the first half, and not bad for the 3rd quarter. And then, with a sickening and all too familiar lurch, it all freakin' fell apart (literally - the Freak was seriously injured and is out for the season due to an overtime play that never should have happened). I think the term I'm looking for is poleaxed.

Guys, I thought we were clear on this after last season. I know it was confusing - lots of rules changed in the off season and the officials seemed to be making it up as they went along yesterday - but in fact, a football game remains four 15 minute quarters. Yes, I know it's just not done to run up the score and kick 'em when they're down (news, apparently, to Trent Cole), but need I remind you that the Giants won the division last year? Sometimes you find yourself in need of those "extra" points. Trying to sit on a lead for half the game? Not a good strategy.

Let's address those officiating problems for a moment. Eagles/Giants tussle over the ball when it would've been an Eagles TD? Incomplete pass. Brian Dawkins INT that Shiancoe manages to get a hand on? Completed pass for the Giants. Review after next play has happened? Nick Saban's out of luck, but the zebras can apparently do it any time they like, including at the end of a close game when the Giants are out of time outs, giving them both extra downs and extra time to discuss the next few plays, overall game strategy, how their fantasy picks are doing this week, and plan a barbeque at Michael Strahan's for MNF (I hear Shockey's bringing his famous hot wings). And the worst of all, Trent Cole basically trips over a guy (OK, that's not exactly accurate, but he didn't exactly roundhouse McKenzie either) and it's a 15 yard personal foul penalty that allowed Feely to make a 35 yard FG rather than take an almost certain miss on a 50 yarder. You may recall that Trent Green of the Chiefs took a monster hit last Sunday. It went through a formal review and the NFL agreed that although it nearly resulted in a decapitation, it was unintentional, as players cannot properly control their bodies or momentum after a block in the back. You know who else got blocked in the back recently? David Akers! He gets blocked into a Giants assistant coach, and the Giants on the sideline rip off his helmet, throw him to the ground and start kicking the crap out of him. And the officials do...nothing. (Oh, and Troy Aikman? You're an idiot. Just FYI.)

I know, I know - only big babies blame a loss on bad officiating. I'm not blaming the bad officiating alone, but while the officials were wrapping the game up with a big, pretty bow for the Giants, I hope they got 'em a pony too. Who doesn't want a pony?

Now let's get on with what we did wrong.

1. Missed FG (But to be fair, only the fact that it was Akers even allows a missed 49 yarder to make this list. It's his own fault we have such high expectations.)
2. The Michael Lewis fumbled INT (And if you were paying attention, you could feel the momentum of the game shift right there.)
3. Westy fumble (But it's hard to fault him, too, as he otherwise had a great game on a bum knee.)
4. Our offense fell apart - in the 4th quarter, we couldn't move the ball at all. (But was that their fault, or was it bad play calling?)
5. Our defense fell apart - in the 4th quarter, we couldn't get to Manning all of a sudden. (Or did the Giants figure us out and we just didn't - or couldn't - adjust?)
6. The Trent Cole penalty. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
7. Going for it on 4th & 1 not once but twice, when we could've pinned the Giants back and made 'em work for it.
8. The all out blitz on the last play.

Those last two were risky coaching calls that went the wrong way, and once again, the Eagles couldn't catch a break with a net, live bait, and break pheromones. It's easy to blame the coaches, and the play calling was poor in the second half. You can't sit on a lead for 20 minutes and expect the Giants to just give up. Our clock management woes seem to be back in force - we once again burned up time outs we were going to need. But you can't say it was all the coaches' fault, either - after all, who's on the field?

And once again, everyone takes the blame in the press conferences. Which is great, and makes me proud that my team's not a bunch of whiners (unlike some Mannings I could mention), but guys, maybe it's time to stop saying, "It was my fault," and start saying, "Now how do we prevent this from happening again?"

It's often the case that teams get off to a slow start and get hot later on - hell, even in our 12-4 and 13-3 years, we pretty much always lose the first game or two. It also happens that teams lose a tough one early on and find their cojones as a result. We know we have the skills. Now it's time to test the content of our character.

Around the rest of the NFL...

Shout out to the Saints for starting their season 2-0 with a big win against the hapless Packers. Next week, they get to re-open the Superdome. Unfortunately, they have to do it against the hot Falcons, 2-0 after a win against Tampa Bay. Too bad they didn't draw the Bucs. They'd probably rack up another win. Of course, it's only a matter of time until the Falcons fall apart under the weight of Mike Vick providing their entire offense, but it probably won't happen by next week.

Lots of 2-0 teams at this point, and lots of 0-2. And lots of blowouts. There are several teams who might want to start considering the idea of forfeiting some games. If you forfeit, you only lose 1-0. Raiders, Packers, and Bucs, I'm looking at you.

[An aside - I'm seriously going to jump on a plane in about a minute to kill ESPN's MNF announcers. There's this thing? Called a game? Going on on the field? Right now? You might want to think about talking about it? Good game, though. Now if we could just convince the announcers to pay a modicum of attention...]

The Texans got spanked. Again. But after being down 30-3, they did at least fight back into double digits. The Browns got spanked. Again. The Raiders? Y'all might want to pack it in for the season while Aaron Brooks still has all his limbs. Is every AFC division promised one JV team or something? The Lions' Roy Williams didn't realize he was guaranteeing a Bears win. The Vikings pulled off another upset win (of course, the Panthers are still missing Steve Smith, but good on Brad Childress and all the rest of those former Eagles out there in Minnesota). The Seahawks unsurprisingly beat the Cardinals, and the 49ers surprisingly beat the Rams. Bad news for us next week? Maybe - the 49ers have been putting up a lot of points so far this year. The Broncos managed to sneak a win in another all-FG game over a Chiefs team that was missing their starting QB. The Jets made it a game against the Patriots after the Pats had jumped out to an early lead. And the Titans, sadly, did not, getting rolled in a really ugly way by the Chargers. And talk about ugly! The Skins/Cowboys game was just...not good. Cool Web Dude (Skins fan), this could be a long season.

And Dolphins, don't think I've forgotten you. You're moving to the head of the line for Team I Will Mock Mercilessly All Season. The Packers say thank you, and that the truck of pony kegs is on its way.

17 September 2006

WHAT happened?

A full game recap later, but seriously, what the hell just happened? OK, weird calls did strange things to our momentum, but you can't blame it all on the bizarre overtime stuff. Key mishaps:

1. I hate to say it, but Akers' missed FG. Without that, no OT.
2. Dear Michael Lewis: when you're in the END ZONE you must HANG ON TO THE FUMBLED BALL.
3. The entire 4th quarter.

You know, we used to be a really strong second half team, and last year, it was like we were constantly running out of gas. I will not be thrilled to see that happen again this year.

Time to hit the bottle...

16 September 2006

2006 Week 2 Picks

OK, I know only a very foolish person would make sweeping predictions about what's going to happen in our division after only one week of football, but, by God, I am that fool. Here's how I see the division falling out after only one week:

I think the contenders for winning the division are us and the Giants. I see us each winning one and dropping one to the other team. Because we're playing in our house this week, call tomorrow a win for us in a close game, with a likely loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands in December. (All bets are off on that game if either team is playing for a playoff spot, though.)

So what needs to happen for us to beat the Giants tomorrow? One major piece will be which Eli Manning shows up - the guy who's starting to look like Peyton's brother, or the guy who gets easily flustered and makes a lot of dumb mistakes? If our strong D line can pressure him enough, I think we'll see Mistake-Prone Manning, rather than Getting-to-the-Playoffs Manning. Our D line needs to contain the Giants' Westy (Tiki Barber, and I thought it was time to compare him to Westy rather than the reverse), and our secondary needs to shut down Plaxico Burress. Shockey shouldn't be a problem if we're hitting Manning hard, because the Giants will have to keep Shockey back to block. Look for contributions from Rod Hood, who's looking to have a big year this year so he can go elsewhere next year, and Dexter Wynn, re-signed after Lito's sprained ankle and who thus has something to prove, in the secondary. And I'm also hoping the entire Giants team evident dislike of Tom Coughlin works in our favor.

On the O side, our line needs to give Big D time to complete those long passes to my new favorite player, Donte Stallworth, and open up some lanes for Westy and Buck to pound out some yards on the ground. Look for Buck to have a big day, although I think the chances that they sit Westy this week are nearly zero, unless his knee's in much worse shape than they've been letting on. Game's too important. Look for Westy to play this week and sit next week against the 49ers if he's still hurting. I hope to see our Reggie and Hank Baskett making some big offensive contributions this week, too.

Apologies to Cool Web Dude (Skins fan), but I think there's no way the Skins beat the Cowboys this week. Which is sad, because, as you loyal readers know, I hate the Cowboys above all others. But the Skins D seems to be taking lessons in suckitude from their O, and the Cowboys are likely to be fired up for the whole game, rather than just the first quarter, this week. Looking ahead, I could see us winning one and dropping one to the Cowboys this year, too, depending on how quickly TO is able to decimate their locker room, but we do have the advantage of playing them in our house early, possibly before things have completely fallen apart, and playing them in Texas late in the season, by which point I predict The Tuna will have burst a blood vessel, TO will be having daily on-air confessionals with his BFF Michael Irvin, and Drew Bledsoe will be in hiding somewhere with his teddy bear and a bottle of Beam.

Looking at the rest of the games, the Dolphins had better beat the Bills, or I may have to retroactively take away my vote for them to win AFC East. I'll turn this car right around, Mister! Even without Steve Smith, I see the Panthers beating the Vikings. On the other hand, I never would have picked the Vikings to beat the Skins in their home opener, so they could surprise me. Bengals will likely destroy the Browns, likewise Bears, the Lions. The Texans just can't catch a break, playing us first, and now the Colts. Did they lose a bet? Look for the Raiders to be shut out again (this week by the Ravens) advancing them in their quest for 0-16 season. Figure Aaron Brooks to either get killed mid-way through the season or to just wise up and refuse to take the field anymore at some point. "Mr. Brooks, meet Mr. Turf. Oh wait - you already know each other, don't you?" Same deal for Green Bay against the Saints, who will get to start the season 2-0 for the first time in, I think, forever. The Bucs/Falcons thing could be pretty ugly for the Bucs, too - sorry Chuckie (no I'm not). If the Seahawks don't stomp the Cards, my crystal ball predicts that they'll get killed in their first playoff game this year. And as long as Jeff Wilkins' leg holds up, the Rams should be able to take the 49ers...THIS year. Broncos/Chiefs could be a pretty close game, although the Chiefs lost to a much better team last week than the Broncos did, and by not much more. I think the Pats/Jets game will be a lot better than anyone would have thought when the 2006 schedules were being set up. Titans/Chargers should be a pretty good game, too. Steelers/Jags is going to turn on whether Big Ben plays (and if he's really ready to be back), whether Polamolu plays (and whether he's really ready to be back), and whether Byron Leftwich plays like he did first quarter last week or rest of the game last week.

11 September 2006

2006 Week 1 Recap

Week 1: Eagles at Texans, Sunday, September 10, 2006

In attendance: Shoegal, Ex-Navy Cheesehead, Californian Football Novice, and his Cute Vegan GF, plus of course Chef Spouse.

Menu: Chef Spouse prepared a delicious repast of homemade guacamole, salsa and chips (Scoops! My favorite! 'cause I'm all about the condiments), chicken fajitas and vegan black bean corn burritos, accompanied by Yuengling (a Sunday tradition) and pomegranate margaritas.

All right, all right, all right (to quote Wooderson from Dazed & Confused) - we started the season with a win. It was over the Texans, but a win's a win. Does anyone else get the feeling that we drew the Texans first because the NFL schedulers felt bad for us after the debacle that was last season? It's like trying to convince a 3 year old to eat her peas: "C'mon Eagles! You like football! Yes, you do! Yes, you do!"

I will admit to expressing a bit of concern during the Texans' first drive. I believe I may have shouted, "Get it together, you bums!" or perhaps something a bit more colorful, although my memory is somewhat hazy at this point. I do remember a phone conversation with Life Long Eagles Fan Mom that featured a lot of "What the heck was that?" (LLEF Mom, a lady - unlike her errant daughter - does not swear.)

The Texans seem to have improved in the off season, and they clearly hit the field prepared to make their opening drive count. Fortunately for us, their offensive coordinator doesn't seem to have made any plans beyond the opening drive. Of course, the Texans may have been so flummoxed by scoring that they didn't know what to do next. And I guess this does put the lie to my contention that they were actually a really elaborate practical joke Paul Tagliabue was playing on all of us, seeing as he's retired now and all.

I will also admit to being a little worried after D-Mac's INT. We hadn't yet scored when the Texans' D-Back Jason Simmons, who seemed like he was just trying to tip the pass, actually managed to hang on to the ball (and thank you for that timely tackle Todd Herremans!). He looked as surprised as anyone by the INT, and then the camera flashed to D-Mac on the sideline. Trying to hide behind the down marker. Yikes.

We have, of late, been a stronger second half team. Which is fine, as long as we're not so far behind at the half there's no way to catch up without divine intervention. Which was rarely the case last year. Fortunately, my boys obviously worked on bringing the A game sooner in training camp. Now it just takes until the end of the first quarter, rather than the end of the first half. Maybe by the playoffs, we'll actually come onto the field at the beginning of the game ready to play. Don't laugh - it could happen.

Speaking of the second quarter, on our first possession, Big D led the guys down the field as easily as he had in all those pre-season opening possessions, capping off a great drive with a beauty of a bomb to a wide open Donte Stallworth. "Watch this!" indeed, Mr. Reid. And it looks like that clock discipline AR used in training camp worked - final possession of the half took us the whole way from our own 20 to a second TD (this one to Reggie Brown, who otherwise had a pretty low-key game) in just over 40 seconds. Dramatic change from last year, when we were well known for burning 40 seconds putzing around trying to figure out what to do on the next play. Watching AR run down the sidelines to call in that time out was pretty amusing, but I'm not sure a man of his size should be exerting himself like that. At least Tammy seems to have put the kibosh on any more horizontal stripes.

The rest of the game was more of the same - Westy got a TD, AR actually called running plays, Buckhalter definitely didn't play like a man with two bum knees, Stallworth had some more good catches (memo to the Texans: it ain't flag football, baby - grabbing the guy's towel is not gonna cut it), and we seem to have picked up something about the other side of clock management, too, namely: This is how to burn time at the end of the game when you're ahead. Running out the clock at the end when we could have easily added another FG was just classy. No need to rub it in.

Our D on the other hand was, well, not as good as I'd hoped. The line is strong - 5 sacks on a highly mobile QB is pretty damn good - but our secondary still looks kind of squishy. Could be trouble later on against better teams.

Around the rest of the NFL:

The Cowboys lost. HA-ha (to quote Nelson from The Simpsons). The Jags took long enough to get it together, but once it stopped raining, they came on strong, erasing the Cowboys' early lead. It was fun watching TO's hair catch fire in the post-game from the effort of not throwing Bledsoe under a bus. My estimate of 10 weeks until he popped may have been too generous. A few more games like this, and I predict he'll be questioning Bledsoe's sexual orientation and bad-mouthing The Tuna on ESPN by Columbus Day.

The Panthers, minus Steve Smith, got spanked by the Falcons. Why am I thinking that in about a month I'll be writing, "I can't believe I fell for the hype"? The Bucs got REALLY spanked by the Ravens. Told you AFC North was looking tough this year. Poor Browns. They're gonna need a fireman without a collarbone to come get them out of that hole by mid-season. But at least the Saints won a game. And Reggie Bush did look amazing. Not sure if the team as a whole is really going to be much better this year (although I am keeping the faith for them), but Bush will be fun to watch for sure.

The Packers got REALLY, REALLY spanked by the Bears. The Bears have no offense, huh? That 49 yard Grossman bomb to Berrian sure looked like some offense to me. Some commentators are hinting that if Favre refuses to retire, Mike McCarthy should cut him for the good of the franchise. Well, DUH, but I think it's unlikely that anyone would dare to oppose the whims of St. Brett. It's gonna be another long year at Lambeau.

In other news, what was with the FGs? They were the only points scored by the Rams in their win over the Broncos (looks like Jake the Mistake has been resurrected), and the only points scored at all by either team in the Seahawks ugly win over the Lions. Hey guys? Pre-season's over. You might want to step it up a notch. On the other hand, now that the Pats have lost Vinatieri and will no longer win every game by 3, they appear to be going with a new strategy: win by 2 on a safety. Hey, man - whatever works.

About the totally over-hyped Manning bowl? I know I sound like a broken record, but read King Kaufman. Also, the officiating? Sucked. Not only was that offensive pass interference call against Tim Carter completely bogus, it totally killed the Giants' momentum. Not that I ever want a team in my division to win, but I hate to see any team lose because of bad officiating (well, OK, any team but the Cowboys). Now if the Redskins can just manage to lose to the Vikings tonight (which if the pre-season was any indication shouldn't be a stretch for them), my week 1 will be complete.

PS to the Dolphins: Don't think I forgot about Thursday's mess in my joy over our win and the Cowboys' loss yesterday. I went out on a limb and picked you people to win the AFC East over the Pats only last week. This is no way to reward my confidence in you! To be fair, that was a missed call on the Heath Miller "TD" (and a missed opportunity by Nick Saban - get that flag out of your pocket a little faster, son), but Charlie Batch played a surprisingly good game, and the Steelers won by more than 7 anyway. Yeah, yeah, the missed call TD occurred early enough in the 4th quarter that, had it remained a one-score game rather than a two-score, you had enough time left to play differently and maybe win it, but guys, come on! A little effort here! Mr. Culpepper, I'm looking at you. Two INTs and no TDs? That's definitely not getting off on the right foot with your new team there, Sparky.

PPS to the Redskins: Thanks, kids! You made my week...

06 September 2006

2006 Dvisional Picks

Want to read some good picks? Check out the Phreak Report. Want to read something I pulled out of my a**? Continue on...

AFC South - Jaguars

Why pick the Jags? Why not? They're the up and comers in this division, and the more I see of the Colts, the less I like them. Here's a typical Eagles press conference after a loss:

AR: "It's my fault."

D-Mac: "It's my fault."

Jim Johnson: "It's my fault."

Trott: "It's my fault."

Dawk: "It's my fault."

Westy: "It's my fault." (even though he didn't play because he was on IR)

Akers: "It's my fault." (even though he made every single extra point and FG)

The team parking attendant: "It's my fault."

Here's a typical Colts press conference after a loss:

Tony Dungy: "..." (guy's even more close-mouthed than AR)

Peyton: "It's my coach's fault. It's the O-line's fault. It's The Edge's fault. It's that bum Vanderjagt's fault. It's my agent's fault. It's my brother's fault. Maybe it's your fault. Next question..."

AFC North - Bengals

That little black cloud that's been following Big Ben around is starting to look like Hurricane Bad Luck. Even after the accident and the continuing problems with his thumb (which are starting to look chronic) and the loss of Randle El and Bettis' retirement, I was still feeling the Steelers love. But an emergency appendectomy? What's next? Plagues of locusts? Rivers of blood? 40 days of darkness? Whatever you do, Cowher, don't let 4 guys on horseback into Heinz Stadium. Carson Palmer has made an amazing recovery, and the rest of the Bengals team looks strong. The Ravens figure to have a pretty good year, too, though, so this could be a very tough division.

AFC West - Broncos

But only if Jake the Snake can avoid regressing to Jake the Mistake. Has he grown his beard back? I like Herm Edwards, and he certainly deserves something nice after that mess last year in New York, but I don't think this is his (or the Chiefs') year, either.

AFC East - Dolphins

OK, OK, I realize this is a risky pick. It's never a good idea to pick against the Pats, at least as long as they still have Brady and Belichick. But the Deion Branch thing has to have been disruptive, and they do have a history of winning games by three points thanks to Mr. Clutch Kicker Vinatieri. Who's now in Indianapolis. The Dolphins probably tie with the Jags as my What The Hell pick. If Culpeper can come back full speed and their receivers can keep up, this could be a good year for the Dolphins in a soft division.

NFC South - Panthers

This is a tough division. But I can't see the Falcons or the Bucs pulling past the Panthers, who frankly, are the team to beat in the NFC this year. As you may already know, I have a soft spot for the Saints and would love to see Reggie Bush and Drew Brees help them turn it around, but let's be realistic here.

NFC North - Bears

I see the Bears winning it old school again. It's hard to beat a team when your sideline looks like the scene at the Atlanta train station in Gone With The Wind because they've flattened your entire offense. Although the Vikings look to be much improved this year, in no small part due to Head Coach Childress, who picked up a bunch of ex-Eagles. But I don't think Mike McMahon and Todd Pinkston are the future of that team.

NFC West - Seahawks

This is less a reflection of my confidence that they're strong enough to break the Curse of the Lost Super Bowl and more a reflection of the weakness of the rest of the division. Really, who else is going to win it? The 49ers? Don't think so.

On a side note, has anyone other than me noticed that many of the coaches who came up under Mike Holmgren look suspiciously like him? What was going on out there in Green Bay?

NFC East - Eagles

Of course I'm picking us, but the more interesting question is: what's wrong with the other teams?

Dallas - one word: TO. I give him 10 weeks, tops, before he implodes, taking the whole team with him. As a side note, they picked up another major attitude problem in Vanderjagt, whose percentage is likely to drop now that he'll be kicking outside most of the time. Also Drew Bledsoe? You know how Brett Favre woke up at the beginning of last season, realized he was old, and fell off a cliff? Look in the mirror, bro.

Giants - sure Eli Manning has the genes, but he also has the curse. Not that we haven't had our own problems with the playoffs, don't get me wrong, but dude, that was humiliating. For realz.

Redskins - being down here in 'Skins country, all I've been hearing (even from people who should know better) is that the 'Skins are going to win the Super Bowl this year. All respect to Coach Gibbs, but the man's not a frappin' miracle worker! I know, I know, the preseason's meaningless, no one really tries to win the games, we have to save all our good stuff for the season, blah, blah blah. But did any of these jokers actually watch the preseason? The 'Skins played like the Raiders...without Randy Moss. In what crazy, delusional alternate universe does that equal a Super Bowl? After years of this crap, 'Skins fans (and front office) still seem to think that picking up boatloads of free agents for big money equals guaranteed wins. You know what they call it when you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result? Insanity.

Now the big question for the Eagles is: can we go all the way? I *believe* we can. I love my Iggles. But I *think* it'll happen next year, after all our promising rookies and second year guys get some more experience.

(And another big smooch to King Kaufman, who at least puts the Birds in the playoffs.)

So how are the playoffs going to fall out? Dawg, are you crazy? I'm not even going to try to get into that at this point. I know my limits.