Friday, November 30, 2007

Week 13 - NFL picks

I'll update this tomorrow morning, but wanted to get the Packers-Cowboys pick up before tonight's game...



Green Bay (+7) at Dallas - Robin Williams is an incredibly talented comedian, but he can be tough in a film role. It is too easy for him to go over the top and back around the other side, too easy to lose focus and end up distracting from what should be going on. But when he gets good direction and editing ("Good Morning, Vietnam" or "Aladdin") the results are marvelous to behold. Relevance? Bret Favre is Robin Williams, and Mike McCarthy is the director that he needed. He's staying on script, the interceptions are down, and the Packers are a real team, which I wouldn't have believed before the season started. Both of these teams are 10-1, and you don't get to 10-1 without being very good, but it's hard to tell how good, because the NFC, as a whole, is still relatively week. The Packers are playing the AFC West, which is down, the Cowboys are playing the AFC East, which is awful except for the Patriots, to whom they lost. So these are good teams, clearly the best in the NFC, but how good? I've gone back and forth on the winner here (picking Green Bay to beat the spread is fairly obvious, I think) and in the end, I trust the Green Bay defense a little bit more than the Cowboy defense. So Green Bay wins a close one, 34-31.

UPDATED WITH SUNDAY'S PICKS....

Atlanta at St. Louis (-3) - This used to be a division rivalry. That wouldn't make it any more exciting.

Buffalo at Washington (-5.5) - Interesting matchup of the two teams that have faced the most difficult emotional situations in the NFL this season. The Bills started the season losing a teammate to a potentially crippling injury during week 1, and the Redskins just lost a teammate as Sean Taylor was murdered. I cannot pretend to have any idea how either of these teams will perform this week. All things being equal, I believe that Washington is a better team, but not a lot better. I don't trust either Buffalo quarterback but I also don't trust Washington's quarterback. Forced to make a call, I'm going to pick Washington playing emotionally high and winning by a touchdown or more, but I wouldn't bet a plugged nickel either way on this one.

Detroit at Minnesota (-3.5) - That these two teams are still relevant to the playoff discussion is really all one needs know about the NFC. Detroit has collapsed, and unless they turn it around, they will not remain relevant much longer. That doesn't mean that Minnesota's a great bet, just a better one this week. There is not a potential result from this game that would surprise me.

Houston at Tennessee (-3.5) - Don't know. Don't care. Flipped a coin, heads came up - obviously, home team Tennessee is the eary pick here.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-7) - The Colts are wounded. The Jaguars beat them last year. There are a lot of people thinking that Indianapolis takes their third loss of the season this week. I don't think so. Colts win by 10.

N.Y. Jets at Miami (-1) - I said earlier that I wouldn't end up picking Miami any week even though I expect them to win a game. Well, I changed my mind. I expect them to win this week, at home, against a Jets team that followed up a shocking home win over the Steelers by getting blown out at Dallas. This won't be a blowout, it won't be a treat for the eyes, you won't want to watch it, but for the Dolphins, it'll be the greatest game ever as they remove that 0 from the win column.

San Diego (-5.5) at Kansas City - When these two teams played in San Diego earlier in the season, I got it wrong. I'll probably get it wrong again this week, but I'm staying on the Chargers (or, rather, off the Chiefs).

Seattle (+3) at Philadelphia - The Eagles played the game of their season on Sunday night. They won't duplicate it. Seattle wins outright.

San Francisco at Carolina (-3) - The fact that I, however briefly, even considered San Francisco in this game is an indication of how far Carolina has fallen. I will not be shocked if the 49ers win, but they've been so pathetic, last week's victory-that-should-have-been-a-loss notwithstanding, that you just can't take them, regardless of how poorly the Panthers have played.

Cleveland (+1) at Arizona - The Browns should not be underdogs in this game. If you lose to San Francisco, you should forfeit any right to be favored again.

Denver (-3.5) at Oakland - Mediocre vs. sub-mediocre.

Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans - If the entire NFC West and NFC South went away, the quality of NFL football would increase by 25%.

N.Y. Giants (-1.5) at Chicago - The Giants are a better team than the Bears, despite being blown out by Minnesota while Chicago was winning a thriller against Denver last week. That doesn't mean that they'll win, though that's clearly the way that I'm picking. I absolutely could see another NY meltdown, it wouldn't shock me, it wouldn't surprise me. But that's not what I expect. If it does happen, they'll be done.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-7) - There have been various noises out of Cincinnati to the effect that they've got it figured out, they've got it together, they're going on a run, they're going to win out and go to the play-offs. You can believe it, if you like - I don't.

New England (-20.5) at Baltimore - Will the Patriots cover? Probably. Will they win? Almost certainly. Can the Ravens offense outscore the Patriots defense? Ah, that's a good question...

Labels: , , , ,

| Links to this post

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just testing...

| Links to this post

Idle question

Just rhetorical, I suppose...
"If Fox hosted a Democratic debate and many of the most pointed questions turned out to come from Republican activists, but Fox didn't disclose that, do you think it would pass unremarked?"


Background here.

| Links to this post

C.S. Lewis' birthday

In honor of the 109th anniversary of the birth of Clive Staples ("Jack") Lewis, a passage from The Great Divorce...


The teacher exposes the blackmail scheme:

"What some people say on Earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved."

"Ye see it does not."

"I feel in a way that it ought to."

"That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it."

"What?"

"The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the univers: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven."

"I don't know what I want, Sir."

"Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in other the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye'll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye'll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe."

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NFL week 12 wrapup

Week 12 in the NFL...

  • At 6:00 this morning, ESPN's SportsCenter led with the Sean Taylor story, including quotes from Daniel Snyder to the effect that they were "cautiously optimistic." When the next broadcast started as 7:00, that report was missing, replaced by a breaking news report that Taylor had died. It is obviously a sad event for his friends and family, but I can't pretend that it is anything other than a news story to me.

    It should go without saying that you never want things like this to happen. And the story seems not just tragic, but odd. There is not enough context or information to determine what happened, but there is enough information to make one wonder. Assuming, always, that the information in the public domain is actually correct, which isn't necessarily a great assumption, or one that I like to start with. But if it is, this doesn't seem like a random act of violence. In any event, it is a tragic event for his friends and family, a sad event for his coworkers and Washington fans, a depressing story for NFL and football fans, and just another piece of news for everyone else.


  • The word on everyone's lips yesterday was "blueprint." As in, "the Eagles have given everyone a blueprint for stopping the Patriots." Right. The Patriots offense got the ball three times in the first half and scored three times, two TD and a field goal. They did punt twice in the second half, and they also had a drive end on a "missed" field goal after the officials took away a touchdown on a phantom offensive pass interference call.

    The Eagles did some of the things that you need to do to beat them. They went for it (and made it) on fourth down. They recovered an onside kick. They did "hold" New England to 17 points in the first half, not because the Eagles defense held down the Patriots offense, but because the Eagles offense kept the Patriots offense off the field.


  • That said, the Patriots defense played very poorly Sunday night, and there are a couple of teams left that could threaten them if they play that way again. And if Hobbs and/or Gay are gone for any significant length of time, that weakens a secondary that can't really afford to be weakened.


  • One play warrants mention - early in the second quarter, the Eagles pulled a trick play out. Feeley pitched to Avant, who then looked to pass downfield. I've seen the play dozens of times - I have never seen the player pull the ball down because there's no one to throw to. The Patriots, though they played poorly defensively, are so disciplined that they didn't bite, and the receivers remained covered.


  • I still expect the Dolphins to win a game this year, possibly this week against the Jets, but you can't read much into that performance in Pittsburgh last night. The field was unplayable. When a punted football plugs like a 9-iron into a sand trap, you know that nothing good's going to happen.


  • The Thanksgiving football was every bit as bad as I thought it would be.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and there isn't much, as I'm finally in mid-season form):

    Houston at Cleveland - "The Texans played a great game last week in getting back to .500, but the Browns have too much offense, and great special teams. Cleveland by a touchdown. Or more."

    New Orleans at Carolina - "How often is the 4-6 team with two straight losses the hotter team going into a game? If someone wants to complain that this pick suggests contempt for Carolina, well, yes, it does."

    NY Jets at Dallas - "After their stunning upset of the Steelers, I'm sure that there are Jets fans and players with delusions of going down and beating the Cowboys. Ain't. Gonna. Happen. There is no way that the Jets can stop the Cowboys, and if they score a little, it will be too little."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    San Francisco at Arizona - "Somehow, the 49ers beat the Cardinals at home in week one. This week, Arizona returns the favor, with interest."

    Tennessee at Cincinnati - "How is it that the Titans are only a 1 point favorite over Cincinnati? Because they can't score. Well, they'll score against Cincinnati, enough to cover a one point spread anyway."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 9-7
    ATS: 7-9-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 113-63
    ATS: 90-76-10


Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Friday, November 23, 2007

Week 12 - NFL picks - part II

Buffalo at Jacksonville (-7.5) - The Bills have done some great things this season. Sunday night was, obviously, not one of them, but it's difficult to tell how much of that performance was Buffalo playing poorly, and how much was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are a better team than they looked on Sunday night. Unfortunately for them, it won't help them when they, again, face a better team on the road. I'd be a lot happier with this pick if the spread were 6.5 instead of 7.5, but I've got to go with the Jaguars anyway.

Houston at Cleveland (-3.5) - The Texans played a great game last week in getting back to .500, but the Browns have too much offense, and great special teams. Cleveland by a touchdown. Or more.

Minnesota at N.Y. Giants (-7.5) - Minnesota, at 4-6, has a better record than I'd predicted before the season started. None of the losses surprised, the wins over Chicago and San Diego did. I don't have such confidence in the Giants that a win here would absolutely shock me, but I would be surprised. I see the Giants winning by 10+.

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina - How often is the 4-6 team with two straight losses the hotter team going into a game? If someone wants to complain that this pick suggests contempt for Carolina, well, yes, it does.

Oakland at Kansas City (-5.5) - Did it seem, for a moment, much earlier in the year, that the Oakland Raiders might be a real football team again? How does that happen? Well, one way is to beat a team that people think is much better than it actually is, as the Raiders did when they won in Miami. That took them to .500 at 2-2. It also represents their last victory. And when they host Denver next weekend, it will still represent their last victory.

Seattle at St. Louis (+3) - Seattle is very likely to win the NFC West. St. Louis is not. But the Rams were a hot pre-season choice to be very competitive in this division. I have no good reason for this, but I think that the Rams come up big at home here.

Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati - How is it that the Titans are only a 1 point favorite over Cincinnati? Because they can't score. Well, they'll score against Cincinnati, enough to cover a one point spread anyway.

Washington at Tampa Bay (-3) - Since there are three Thursday games and one Monday game, this week sees 12 NFL games on Sunday. Washington at Tampa Bay is one of them.

San Francisco at Arizona (-10.5) - Somehow, the 49ers beat the Cardinals at home in week one. This week, Arizona returns the favor, with interest.

Denver (+2) at Chicago - The Bears are 1-3 at home and don't do anything particularly well. The Broncos are 2-2 on the road, and showing signs of "getting it." The Bears are playing out the string, the Broncos are playing for a division title. I don't see a good reason for the Bears to be favored, and I don't think they'll win.

Baltimore at San Diego (-9.5) - These teams were 27-5 last year - they're 9-11 this year. The Ravens can't score at all. The Chargers can't score the way that people think they should. The Ravens have no quarterbacking. The Chargers quarterback has regressed. But they're both bullies if they get a lead. This week, San Diego gets a lead at home, and the Ravens can't do anything about it.

Philadelphia at New England (-22) - The spreads just keep getting more and more ridiculous, but they still fail to match the performance. To paraphrase one of the great philosophical questions, could the Patriots themselves set a line that the Patriots could not cover?

Miami at Pittsburgh (-16) - There was never going to be a good time for this Dolphins team to go into Pittsburgh, but the week after the Steelers loss at NY to the Jets is ... sub-optimal. I still think Miami wins one, but it won't be this one. The Steelers cover the 16 in the first half, and pad it in the second.

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The First Thanksgiving and the tragedy of the commons

Rush Limbaugh does a piece on this every year, but here's a very good article from John Stossell on the First Thanksgiving, and the message that isn't normally taught.
Because of sharing, the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.

The failure of Soviet communism is only the latest demonstration that freedom and property rights, not sharing, are essential to prosperity. The earliest European settlers in America had a dramatic demonstration of that lesson, but few people today know it.

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

They nearly all starved.

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort.


(Note to any Lyfords reading this - you may follow this link)

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Another one who just doesn't get it

This comment from an ESPN.com story on the Patriots point spreads jumps out.
"Nowadays, you don't see too many spreads over 16 or 17 points," said Sean Van Patten, an oddsmaker at Sports Consultants in Las Vegas. "That's because most teams take their starters out in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game. The Patriots don't. I call this phenomenon The [Bill] Belichick Factor."

Actually, there have been several games in which the Patriots starters, as many as feasible, came out in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game. What's happening is that the Patriots are actually making the games lopsided early. They were 16 point favorites against Buffalo and led by 28 at the end of the first half. They were up 24-0 on Washington at halftime. It was 42-7 against the Dolphins. They covered 20+ points IN THE FIRST HALF in those games.

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Week 12 - NFL picks

I'll be doing this in two parts this week. I wanted to get these up before Thursday. The rest will go up on Friday, I hope, but before play starts on Sunday for sure....

One comment about Thanksgiving - this has the potential to be an awful day of football. The only one more likely to be competitive than not is Green Bay at Detroit, and that's certainly no guarantee.

That said, here we go...

Thursday:

Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit - There is no area of play that favors the Lions here. The Packers have the better quarterback, better offense, better defense and better special teams. What the Lions do have is the home field advantage, which has, at times, proven to be very effective on Thanksgiving. The 2003 Lions, for example, finished its their season by losing 5-of-7 while the Packers were winning 6 of their last 7. The Packers loss was one of the Lions two wins, on Thanksgiving in Detroit. Now, they've lost their fair share of Thanksgiving games, too, but even though there's no reason to pick the Lions this week, I'm going to pick the Lions this week.

N.Y. Jets at Dallas (-14) - After their stunning upset of the Steelers, I'm sure that there are Jets fans and players with delusions of going down and beating the Cowboys. Ain't. Gonna. Happen. There is no way that the Jets can stop the Cowboys, and if they score a little, it will be too little.

Indianapolis (-11.5) at Atlanta - Over the last three weeks, the Falcons are 2-1 while the Colts are 1-2. Here endeth the argument for the Falcons not losing by two touchdowns or more. When you actually look at the games, you realize that it isn't a good argument. This is a mismatch that may actually prompt more calls to cancel the NFL Network than to add it.

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NFL week 11 wrapup

Week 11 in the NFL...

  • There's been a lot of discussion about whether referee Pete Morelli handled the field goal attempt in Baltimore properly. There is, that I'm aware of, no evidence that he went to the replay. There are two comments to make.

    1) They got the call right.

    2) It should not have taken 4 minutes to do it. It was obviously good. The official who ruled it not good was wrong, and should have been in position to know that.


  • I don't know whether it was QB Kellen Clemens' fault, or head coach Eric Mangini's, but the Jets helped cost themselves the opportunity to win the game in regulation by spiking the ball at the 5 yard line with 37 seconds left. Instead of three chances to the throw the ball into the end zone, they only got two, and ended up kicking a game-tying field goal with 26 seconds. There was no need to spike the ball at that point. They couldn't get another first down, they weren't going to run the ball because they were out of timeouts. All that spike did was waste a down and leave the Steelers with time after the tying score. They ended up winning in overtime, but that was a bad play.


  • Is Peyton Manning a product of his receivers? Coming out of the bye, without Marvin Harrison, the Colts have played 5 games. Manning's 103 for 182 with 6 TD and 9 INT, for a rating of 67.78.


  • I've seen criticism of John Kitna and Mike Martz for throwing to the wrong receiver on the last INT that sealed the Giants win. The receiver was open - Kitna underthrew him. If Kitna throws the ball two feet further, the Lions win.


  • I asked, yesterday, "what kind of a spread would be required to get you to bet on the Eagles next Sunday night?" Well, we know what Vegas thinks. The game opened at 22. We're approaching "Maintain Dignity Against Nebraska" territory (and yes, barring something catastrophic, I will use that again, with explanation, before this season ends...) I don't know what the record is, but it's not inconceivable that the Jets and/or Dolphins game could approach 30.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    Arizona at Cincinnati - "I don't have great confidence in Arizona to travel well, but I have great confidence that the Bengals defense stinks, and they shouldn't be favored over anyone who's offense is better than Baltimore's and San Francisco's. Which means pretty much everyone else."

    San Diego at Jacksonville - "There's just no way, right now, that you can pick a team with Norv Turner calling the shots and Philip Rivers calling the shots unless the spread is just enormous. This one isn't. Jacksonville covers."

    Carolina at Green Bay - "It would not totally shock me if the Panthers came out and played the kind of game that makes people think that they're a good team and John Fox is a good coach. But I won't bet on it. Given what the Panthers are likely to do offensively, I feel comfortable in saying that Green Bay wins by two touchdowns or more."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Pittsburgh at NY Jets - "The Jets are bad. The Steelers are good. Is there really any more commentary warranted in this case?"

    NY Giants at Detroit - "these teams are both 6-3, and while neither of them has really beaten a good team yet, the Lions are undefeated at home, and I don't know why this wouldn't be considered a pick 'em game on a neutral field, and the Lions favored at home. I think that Detroit wins this game fairly easily."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 12-4
    ATS: 9-6-1


  • For the season:
    Winners: 104-56
    ATS: 83-67-10


Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Monday, November 19, 2007

Patriots Monday


  • Going to the theatre and going to a sporting event are different experiences. You go to a theater, frequently, and see a work that you already know. You aren't there to learn how it ends, but to appreciate the performances, to see what the artist on stage will come up with on that particular event. You go to a sporting event driven by the thrill of competition - two groups put their best out on the field to determine who walks off the field victorious.

    The 2007 Patriots experience has been more of a theatrical performance more often than not. There's only been one game where there was sporting competition in the 4th quarter. The rest of the time, you're watching to see what the artists are going to do. And how they're going to do it. The game last night was decided before the first quarter was open, but you couldn't turn away. The Patriots are like a how-to demonstration right now. "This is how you pass block. This is how you run a passing play. This is how you approach third down. This is how you step up in the pocket. This is how you beat coverage." It is artistry.

    It has been unbelievable to watch.

    UPDATE: "This isn't an average NFL team blowing out another NFL team. This is one of the great teams of all time, doing work, and it's a pleasure to watch."
    - Michael Holley, WEEI

    Couldn't agree more.


  • And it should be savored and enjoyed. We're seeing something that has never been seen before, and is unlikely to be seen again. I certainly don't expect to see it again in my lifetime. These are the good old days.


  • This may be the first time this has ever been said about a 56-10 game: It was not as close as the final score indicated.

    Seriously.

    The Patriots scored their last offensive touchdown with over 14 minutes remaining. Brady came out of the game. Their last two offensive drives, both of the drives that Brady played in the second half, took 12 and half minutes, and 22 plays in covering 158 yards. They were killing the clock on the first drive of the second half. There is no way to look at that game and not think that the Patriots could easily have scored 70 had they chosen to.

    And Buffalo's lone touchdown came as a result of a fluke/breakdown/scramble third-down conversion, followed by a badly underthrown ball against perfect coverage. A good pass is picked off, but the pass to Parrish was short, and Hobbs wasn't able to react quickly enough to it.

    The final differential was 46 - it could have been worse. Much worse.


  • Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, the teams with the second and third best point differentials in the NFL, have outscored their opposition by a combined 243 points (124 for the Steelers, 119 for the Colts). The Patriots have outscored theirs by 254.


  • The 1985 Chicago Bears, considered by many to be the greatest team of the Super Bowl era, outscored their opposition by 258 points over 16 games. The Patriots, again, have outscored theirs by 254 over 10.


  • The NFL record for points in a season is 556, set by the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots are currently on a pace to score 658 points and break it by 102, over 18%.

    Read that again.

    The NFL's been in business for a long time. When the Vikings set that record, they broke the old record, held by the 1983 Redskins, by 15, a little less than 1 point per game. The Patriots are outscoring the 1998 Vikings by over 6 points per game.


  • Record watch:


    Patriot (and Brady) Record Chase
    TD passesPoints (team)TDs (team)PPG (team)RatingComp %

    Record495567038.8121.1070.55

    Current384115441.1133.9773.96

    Need1214617211

    Average224.332.8335.17


    49 TD passes - Peyton Manning, 2004
    556 points - 1998 Minnesota Vikings
    70 Touchdowns - 1984 Miami Dolphins
    38.8 PPG - 1950 Rams
    121.1 passer rating - Peyton Manning, 2004
    70.55 % completion - Ken Anderson, 1982

    Some of those (TD passes, points, touchdowns) seem inevitable at this point. The team has to continue performing, but something dramatic and drastic would have have to happen for those records not to fall. Assuming that Brady throws another 150-250 passes, he needs to complete 64%-67% of them to take the completion percentage record. The passer rating is a little bit tougher to project, but he's got some room to perform worse than he has so far and still take it.


  • Serious question - what kind of a spread would be required to get you to bet on the Eagles next Sunday night?

Labels: , , , , , ,

| Links to this post

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 10 - NFL picks

Arizona (+3) at Cincinnati - Cincinnati, for one week, gave a superficial appearance of defensive competence. Superficial, because the Baltimore Ravens were lined up across the ball. I don't have great confidence in Arizona to travel well, but I have great confidence that the Bengals defense stinks, and they shouldn't be favored over anyone who's offense is better than Baltimore's and San Francisco's. Which means pretty much everyone else.

Carolina at Green Bay (-9.5) - It would not totally shock me if the Panthers came out and played the kind of game that makes people think that they're a good team and John Fox is a good coach. But I won't bet on it. Given what the Panthers are likely to do offensively, I feel comfortable in saying that Green Bay wins by two touchdowns or more.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Baltimore - Didn't we just do this? Apparently not. It was almost two months ago, and Cleveland won by two touchdowns at home. At the time, it was a shocking outcome. In retrospect, it's surprising that it wasn't more. This one probably won't be more, either, but it'll be enough for the Browns to cover. There are some very bad offensive teams in the NFL right now. The Ravens are one of them. Probably not as bad as the 49ers (which is the very definition of damning with faint praise.)

Kansas City at Indianapolis (-14.5) - Dwight Freeney's gone, adding to what seems a massive injury problem for the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts lost a game that they should have won (though they should have lost) on Sunday night, and have a two-game losing streak. Kansas City won't cure everything that ails the Colts, but they'll cure the losing streak. The spread's uncomfortably high, but I'd rather be looking at the Colts to score in the 4th to cover than for the Chiefs to score or prevent Indy from scoring to beat the spread.

Miami (+10) at Philadelphia - The John Beck era begins. And the pressure on Ted Ginn increases, because if Beck can't play, passing on Brady Quinn for Ginn looks even worse. Obviously, the Dolphins haven't won yet. Less obvious, but true, I don't think that they'll win in Philadelphia, either. But I think very little of the Eagles, and suspect that this will be yet another in a long line of close losses for Miami.

New Orleans (0) at Houston - For one brief, shining moment, it looked like Houston had a real team. For one brief, shining moment, it looked like New Orleans was back. Staring at this game, it looks like the sort of thing one finds on Satan's DVR. If one has nothing interesting to say, one should just stop typi

Oakland at Minnesota (-5.5) - I could actually see the Raiders winning this game. It depends on whether the Vikings have completely quit on Brad Childress, or whether they just quit last week. If the former, Oakland could win. I'm going to bet the latter.

San Diego at Jacksonville (-3) - The San Diego Chargers played as badly as you could possibly play and still win a game against a good team last week. They won because of four special teams plays, any of which going the other way results in a loss, and they won because Peyton Manning through six picks. Jacksonville's not as good as the Colts, but who knows which Jacksonville team shows up? Or which San Diego team? There's just no way, right now, that you can pick a team with Norv Turner calling the shots and Philip Rivers calling the shots unless the spread is just enormous. This one isn't. Jacksonville covers.

Tampa Bay (-3) at Atlanta - This week's entry in the "Peanut Farming in Senegal" documentary competition. I suppose that Tampa is an NFC excuse for a mediocre team, but wow, does this have the potential to be tough on the eyes.

N.Y. Giants at Detroit (+2.5) - I had to look at this three times to make sure that I got it right. Here's a spread that I absolutely do not understand. Yes, the Lions looked weak in the desert last week. Yes, they got blown out by Philadelphia earlier. But these teams are both 6-3, and while neither of them has really beaten a good team yet, the Lions are undefeated at home, and I don't know why this wouldn't be considered a pick 'em game on a neutral field, and the Lions favored at home. I think that Detroit wins this game fairly easily.

Pittsburgh (-9.5) at N.Y. Jets - The Jets are bad. The Steelers are good. Is there really any more commentary warranted in this case?

Washington at Dallas (-10.5) - Picking the Cowboys because I just can't come up with a plausible scenario under which Washington keeps it within two touchdowns.

St. Louis (-2.5) at San Francisco - St. Louis woke up last week. San Francisco looks as if the question for them isn't whether they'll win another game this year - it's will they ever score again. If the 49ers were hosting Notre Dame this weekend, I'd predict a scoreless tie. As pitiful as the Rams have been, they'll come out of this weekend with a two-game winning streak.

Chicago at Seattle (-5.5) - These two teams each won their division in 2006, combined for a 22-10 record, and met in the 2nd round of the playoffs. This year, they're 9-9 and they won't be meeting in the playoffs. Seattle will probably make it again, because the rest of its division is so pathetic, but neither of these is a very good team. There's about a 10% chance of Good Rex showing up in the Pacific Northwest and an easy Bears win. The more likely scenario is weak Seahawk offense overcoming pathetic Bear offense. Seattle by a touchdown.

New England (-15.5) at Buffalo - The Colts held the Patriots to 24, the only time this season that they've failed to reach 34. Even if Buffalo holds them to 24 again, which I don't expect, they'll cover 15.5. The only team that's a better bet to get shut out this weekend than Buffalo is San Francisco.

Tennessee at Denver (-2) - Tennessee's a better team. In most regards. They're certainly better defensively. They are, I think, more consistent. But Vince Young is not yet trustworthy. And this is, I think, his first trip to Mile High. I'm going with the Broncos, who I also don't trust, to play a big game on national television and cover the small spread.

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Seven down...

eight to go.

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seven games is a little early for the "best ever" discussion...

The Celtics are off to a fantastic start, they've been a lot of fun to watch, and they appear to be even better than we thought they might be, but this is ridiculous...

Labels:

| Links to this post

Mike Lowell

Mike Lowell is apparently a good guy. He's a great defensive third baseman, he is, by all accounts, a great teammate and valuable guy in the clubhouse, and he had a very good season in 2007.

But the contracts that people are talking about are just silly. He had a career year, and suddenly, the last contract, which was an albatross at $9 million a year, is chump change. The Red Sox have reportedly offered him $12 million per year for 3 years, which is a 3 year extension and a 33% pay increase. But people are talking about 4 years guaranteed at $15 million. If someone gives him that, then so long, Mike. It was nice having you for a couple of years.

I said that he had a career year. I repeat it. His previous career high OBP was .365, in 2007 it was .378. His previous career high batting average was .293, in 2007 it was .324.

Knowing that I don't think much of batting average, why do I mention that? Because it's relevant. What he did in 2007 represented, I believe, not a new performance level, but an extremely fortunate level of hits. Particularly singles. Basically, his rates for walks, strikeouts, doubles, home runs are all basically in range of what he has typically hit over the course of his career. His singles rate was about 33% higher. His AVG, OBP and SLG were all inflated by 36 balls that he put in play which are typically outs, and were singles this year.

I do not believe that represents a change in ability. I believe it represents a change in luck. And I don't believe that it is sustainable.

If order to get his number of singles down to a typical Mike Lowell level, you've got to take away 36 of them. This table shows his rate stats for the past 7 years on all of the items that I've mentioned. And there is one more data point, labeled "2007 (adj.)." What that represents is Mike Lowell's 2007 season if you turn 6 singles into doubles, and 30 more into outs.

Lowell's rate stats

Assuming that you turn 36 singles into 6 doubles and 30 outs, all of a sudden his line drops from .324/.378/.501/.879 to .282/.340/.469/.809. Any offer that anyone makes should be made with the assumption that that's his baseline.

Furthermore, that's his baseline at age 33. He's going to be 34 for the 2008 season. If someone gives him four years, he'll be playing for that team at age 37, and getting paid for it based on this year's performance. I'd be willing to be large amounts of money that he won't put up anything like a
.324/.378/.501/.879 line at age 37. I don't expect to see that again for a full season at any age.

And if he signs with anyone other than Boston, he'll be playing those aging, "twilight of his career" seasons in a park that is less conducive to his particular offensive abilities than Fenway. Over the last two years, he's hit .317/.372/.506/.878 with a home run every 25 at-bats at Fenway, .293/.345/.470/.815 with a home run every 32 at-bats everywhere else.

As a Red Sox fan, I'd love to have Mike Lowell back at 3rd base in 2008. But I have no interest in the team being committed to $15 million for him in 2010 and 2011. The contract that they've offered strikes me as more than fair. I wish him luck, but someone's going to overpay him. The Red Sox are offering to overpay him by a little bit, and I hope he takes it. But if someone's going to overpay him by a lot, I'd rather it were someone else.

Chris Lynch thinks that Lowell will be back. I'm less optimistic, but not really concerned. I think Boston got Mike Lowell's best season in 2007, they won a World Series with it, and if he leaves, they'll replace him.

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression...

Don Surber channels Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in looking at the stages of a Clinton scandal...
"...The fifth stage is Acceptance. I don’t know how this works. The Clintons have never accepted responsibility for anything."

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NFL week 10 wrapup

Week 10 in the NFL...

  • Mixed emotions watching the game last night. Obviously, there was the whole "wow, is this pathetic - what a horrible team San Francisco is" thing, but as a rule, when watching a neutral game, we tend to root for the underdog. Goliath's supporters support Goliath - everyone else supports David. And I don't like the Seahawks. And there was a tremendous urge to root for Mike Nolan, after the death of his dad, as the greatest possible storyline for the night.

    On the other hand, the Patriots get the 49ers first round draft pick, so I want the 49ers to lose. I wanted to root for Nolan and the 49ers, but just couldn't do it.


  • After dropping their first two games, the Giants reeled off six straight wins, leading people to think that they might be a real team, and might challenge the Cowboys in the NFC East. After a thorough demonstration on Sunday that that's not the case, people went back to that six-game winning streak.

    5-4 Redskins.
    4-5 Eagles.
    1-8 Jets.
    3-6 Falcons.
    2-7 49ers.
    0-9 Dolphins.

    That streak was obviously far more about the level of competition than the Giants' performance.


  • The Colts came out slowly, as I thought that they might, but were clearly the better team on Sunday night. They were just never able to overcome one of the worst special-teams performances of all time. In the first 9 minutes of the game, they gave up both a kickoff return and a punt return touchdown. They missed a field goal at the end of the first half, they missed a field goal at the end of the second half. And they lost by two. If they make the play on any one of those four special teams plays, they probably win the game.

    Which is not, actually, to say that they played well. Manning was pretty bad. The amazing thing is that San Diego was worse. But they had those two big early plays, and just hung on for dear life.


  • Everyone's played nine games, now, so you can look at things like these:
    • Pittsburgh, Indiapolis and Dallas are 2, 3 and 4 in point differential, having outscored their opposition by 127, 116 and 101 points respectively. The Patriots have outscored their opposition by 208.

    • The Patriots point differential is higher than the number of points scored for 22 of the NFL's 32 teams.

    • In their first three games, the Patriots scored 114 points. The San Francisco 49ers have scored 104 in their first 9. In 2 games, weeks 7 and 8 combined, the Patriots scored 101.

    • In 48 weeks of NFL football over three years, 1990-1992, the New England Patriots won as many games (9) as they won in the first 9 games of the 2007 season.

    • The offense has (rightfully) gotten the lion's share of the acclaim thus far, but the Patriots have allowed fewer points than all but four other teams, despite several games against some of the NFL's best offenses. (They've played the top-3, and 5 of the top-9 non-New England teams in the points scored list.)



  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say [and there's a lot of it this week]:

    Dallas at NY Giants - "The Cowboys spanked the Giants in week one, but New York is currently on a six game winning streak. They've been beating up on the little sisters of the poor, however, and the questions about the actual quality of this Giants team have not been anything close to answered. We may get some answers this weekend. Until I see them do something against a real team, I'm an unbeliever."

    Minnesota at Green Bay - "Minnesota is undefeated when Adrien Peterson runs for 296 yards. There's a good chance, however, that Green Bay won't spend the afternoon in a nickel defense. Since the Vikings can't do anything else to score, it's tough to pick them unless you think that Peterson's going wild. So I'm not picking them. Packers win, Packers cover."

    Cleveland at Pittsburgh - "I know that Pittsburgh went into Cleveland and won big in week 1. That resulted in Charlie Frye being dispatched to Seattle and, since then, the Browns have been very competitive. More than that, they're 5-2, and 5-1 outside of New England. They kept the Patriots game relatively close, and only a last-second fumble return for a touchdown prevented them from losing by just 10. Pittsburgh will win this game, but it won't be a blowout, and 10 points is too many against a team with Cleveland's offense."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    St. Louis at New Orleans - "The Rams averaged 40 points a game last year - if they score 7 this week, it'll give them 40 for the season. OK, both of those figures are obviously lies. Hyperbole, exaggeration, literary license, "meant to give an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative." Suffice it to say, the St. Louis offense has been weak. Bad. Practically non-existent. The Saints spent a month that way, too, but unlike the Rams, have chosen to actually play the NFL season after taking the first four weeks off. 12 points is a lot to ask of any non-Foxborough-based team to cover, but since it actually only requires that they score 13 (OK, more exaggeration - bear with me), I'm willing to give the points."

    Atlanta at Carolina - "Well, here's a scintillating division game. Not. I can't believe that I'm actually picking the Panthers to cover a 4-point spread, but the alternative, picking Atlanta on the road, is equally unpalatable."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 7-7
    ATS: 7-6-1


  • For the season:
    Winners: 92-52
    ATS: 74-61-9


Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Monday, November 12, 2007

Congratulations, Dustin Pedroia, Rookie of the Year

In a non-surprise, the writers got it right and awarded the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year award to Boston 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia. The NL award went to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun.

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Friday, November 09, 2007

Kuechenberg on WEEI

A couple of interesting comments this morning from former Dolphin lineback Bob Kuechenberg on WEEI. I didn't have a recorder going, so can't provide a transcript right now, but hopefully they'll post the audio later.

- On the Patriots "spygate" issue, he thinks (as I do) that it was vastly overblown. "Why should it be illegal?"

- There's been a portrayal of the 1972 Dolphins as desperately protective of their "legacy."
Here they come again, the NFL's grumpy old men, tarnishing their legend a little more each time they grumble about another team's attempt to fashion a similar piece of history. The 1972 Miami Dolphins will forever be remembered as the first NFL team to achieve an undefeated season, but for some Dolphins it has always seemed that being the first is not enough. They desperately want to remain the "only."

And there's also been backlash against that portrayal. Former TE Jim Mandich says that they are not "pathetic losers down here clinking champagne glasses and desperately clinging to a record set 35 years ago."

Well, Kuechenberg said (and I'll have to get the exact wording later) that he's rooting as hard as he can for the Patriots to lose.

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NFL picks, week 10

Buffalo (-3) at Miami - There is apparently no truth to the rumor that Senate Democrats demanded that Michael Mukasey pre-emptively declare that the showing of videotapes of this game to incarcerated prisoners be considered illegal torture. CBS is, however, wisely limiting its distribution, hoping not to drive too many fans away from the NFL. As bad as the Dolphins have been, they'll beat someone, and it wouldn't shock me if it were this week, at home, against an offensively-limited Bills team. But when they do beat someone, it'll happen without me picking them, because there won't be a game when they represent a good bet. Unless it's the Jets re-match.

Cleveland (-10) at Pittsburgh - I know that Pittsburgh went into Cleveland and won big in week 1. That resulted in Charlie Frye being dispatched to Seattle and, since then, the Browns have been very competitive. More than that, they're 5-2, and 5-1 outside of New England. They kept the Patriots game relatively close, and only a last-second fumble return for a touchdown prevented them from losing by just 10. Pittsburgh will win this game, but it won't be a blowout, and 10 points is too many against a team with Cleveland's offense.

Denver (+3) at Kansas City - I have made no secret of my dislike for the Chiefs. Intelligence would suggest that the Broncos are done, the Chiefs are at home, Kansas City's defense against Denver's back-up QB is a bad match-up for the Broncos, and I don't disagree with any of it. I'm picking Denver to win anyway.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4.5) - I like Peter King. A lot. I think his "Monday Morning Quarterback" is appointment reading, because he has a ton of information and opinions. Despite that, he never writes anything that makes me say, "wow, I wish I'd written that." But in his picks this week, he did. (He wrote it about Cincinnati-Baltimore, I'm going to use it here, recognizing that these are better teams than those two.) "Do I have to pick someone in this game? OK. I'll take the [Titans]... but only if you don't make me watch it."

Minnesota at Green Bay (-6) - Minnesota is undefeated when Adrien Peterson runs for 296 yards. There's a good chance, however, that Green Bay won't spend the afternoon in a nickel defense. Since the Vikings can't do anything else to score, it's tough to pick them unless you think that Peterson's going wild. So I'm not picking them. Packers win, Packers cover.

Philadelphia at Washington (-3) - If an NFL player had a judge in open court refer to his home as a "drug emporium," I'm thinking that Commissioner Gooddell would have something to say about it. While one can feel tremendous sympathy for Andy Reid, it's tough to see how that sympathy ought to lead to the position that "of course he shouldn't step down." If one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, what is Andy Reid doing to avoid with his younger children the fate that has befallen his older children? And what, exactly, is Reid accomplishing with the Eagles right now? The Redskins have been inconsistent at best, and I think you might even expect Philadelphia to play better on the road right now, but I've got to go with Washington to cover here.

St. Louis at New Orleans (-12) - The Rams averaged 40 points a game last year - if they score 7 this week, it'll give them 40 for the season. OK, both of those figures are obviously lies. Hyperbole, exaggeration, literary license, "meant to give an air of artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative." Suffice it to say, the St. Louis offense has been weak. Bad. Practically non-existent. The Saints spent a month that way, too, but unlike the Rams, have chosen to actually play the NFL season after taking the first four weeks off. 12 points is a lot to ask of any non-Foxborough-based team to cover, but since it actually only requires that they score 13 (OK, more exaggeration - bear with me), I'm willing to give the points.

Atlanta at Carolina (-4) - Well, here's a scintillating division game. Not. I can't believe that I'm actually picking the Panthers to cover a 4-point spread, but the alternative, picking Atlanta on the road, is equally unpalatable.

Cincinnati (+4) at Baltimore - This is actually an interesting game, a match-up of obvious weaknesses and overblown strengths. Cincinnati is not the offensive powerhouse that people perceive or expect them to be; Baltimore is not the stalwart defense that people still imagine. The Bengals defensive ineptitude is matched by the Keystone Kops Kluelessness of the Ravens' offense. I was trying to come up with an outcome to this one that would surprise me, and I just can't do it. In the end, I won't give 4 points with a team as woeful offensively as Baltimore, and I won't pick the Bengals to win on the road. The Ravens win by a field goal.

Chicago (-3) at Oakland - I remember a Mad Magazine piece about "If TV Guide had to follow Truth in Advertising Laws" (or something like that) which had a set of TV listings, one of which was for a PBS documentary. "Peanut Farming in Senegal - This would be dull if the main crop were something other than peanuts. As it is, the potential for viewer boredom is unlimited." Not sure why I'm thinking of that right now...

Dallas (-1) at N.Y. Giants - There are a couple of interesting games this weekend, and this is one of them. The Cowboys spanked the Giants in week one, but New York is currently on a six game winning streak. They've been beating up on the little sisters of the poor, however, and the questions about the actual quality of this Giants team have not been anything close to answered. We may get some answers this weekend. Until I see them do something against a real team, I'm an unbeliever.

Detroit (+1) at Arizona - If this game were in Detroit, I'd pick the Lions to cover anything up to double-digits. I haven't yet seen compelling evidence that they're capable of traveling effectively. In this case, I think that the Lions are enough better that they can win.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at San Diego - The game of the week. Questions abound. Do the Chargers react to that embarrassment in Minnesota? Do the Colts suffer from Patriots Hangover? Are they beat up? Has San Diego given up on the season? The Colts are a better team, better coached, with better talent, but they're also coming off a really tough weekend. I see them starting slowly, but not falling far enough behind to let the Chargers get comfortable in bully mode. In the end, Indy wins by a touchdown or more.

San Francisco at Seattle (-10) - This may be the first time ever that ESPN pre-empts NFL football for replays of the 2006 World Series of Poker, on the grounds that the year-old, muliply-shown and viewed Poker tournament will be more action-packed and interesting for sports fans than a "live" "NFL" "football" game.

Labels: ,

| Links to this post

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NFL week 9 wrapup

Week 9 in the NFL...

  • I covered the Patriots-Colts game yesterday, and don't really have much to add. Yes, the Colts had some injury issues but everything else, including some of the worst officiating in the history of organized football, was against the Patriots, and New England scored 14 points in 2:26 of possession time in the fourth, forced two fumbles, and put together an extremely impressive 6+ minutes of football to walk out with the win.


  • The storyline, which was being talked about already, gathers strength - can the Patriots finish 19-0? They've been favored in every game they've played so far and, assuming that Brady doesn't get hurt, will be favored in every game left to play. They've got to win 10 straight through the Super Bowl to match (and, frankly, significantly surpass) the feat of the 1972 Dolphins. Well, they've done that before, as the 2004 Patriots, led by Brady and Belichick, won their last 15, 12 in the regular season and three in the playoffs. There were columnists talking about them needing to lose before they got to the playoffs that year. They didn't, and they didn't lose in the playoffs that year, either.

    If you assume that they are 80% likely to win each of their remaining games (and Pythagoras thinks they're actually about an .817 team), they have a 20% chance of finishing the regular season undefeated, and about 10% chance of running the table to finish 19-0.

    I wouldn't bet against them.


  • Perception tends to lag reality. For some reason, people seem to still believe that the Baltimore Ravens have a dominant defensive football team. While it's true that they were (before last night) fairly high on the points-allowed list, they've done so by playing offensive cripples. They gave up a total of 10 points, for example, to St. Louis and San Francisco, two of the worst offensive teams in football. They've also played the NY Jets, Buffalo and Arizona. Against the decent offenses they've played, they allowed 27 to the Bengals (in one of Cincinnati's two wins) and 27 to the Browns. And now 38 to the Steelers (though the Raven offense had a lot to do with Pittsburgh's total.) The fact is, defensively, they are not a great team, and I was surprised by the number of people that thought the spread on last night's game was way too high.

    (I first said this two months ago, by the way.
    I'm developing a level of skepticism about the Baltimore defense. If they were what people think they are, they wouldn't have let the Jets drive down the field with a QB making his first NFL start and tie the game inside the last two minutes. What's that? They didn't? Well, yes, they did. The Jets just failed to score the points. McCareins dropped one touchdown, Clemens overthrew a second. No credit to the Baltimore defense.

    It was there for everyone to see, but most seem to have chosen not to.


  • How on earth did the Broncos beat the Steelers two weeks ago?


  • Were the Minnesota Vikings not aware that missed field goals can be returned? Antonio Cromaritie ran the entire length of the field without a Viking getting within hailing distance. Missed tackles are a bad thing, but better to have few of those than what actually happened, which seemed to be the Viking field goal team heading to the sideline as soon as the ball was kicked.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say [and there's a lot of it this week]:

    Seattle at Cleveland - "On my pre-season list of "Phrases That Won't Be Needed During The 2007 NFL Season," sandwiched between number 3 ("it's a long bomb from Pennington to Cotchery!") and number 5 ("the 49ers are ready to assert control over the NFC West") was number 4 ("Cleveland just has too much offense for the Seahawks to match.") So the list needs some editing. Because, frankly, Cleveland just has too much offense for the Seahawks to match."

    Dallas at Philadelphia - "Philadelphia could win this game. If they bring their absolute best performance and Dallas plays their 'C'-'D' game, and Philadelphia wins the turnover battle +3 or more. Otherwise, the Cowboys win. Comfortably."

    Baltimore at Pittsburgh - "If the Ravens really had the defense that people seem to think that they do, 9 points would be far too much for the Steelers to give. But they don't. Baltimore's inept offense will score 10 or fewer, and the Steelers will score 20+ for the cover."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite [slim pickings, in one of the best weeks I've ever had.]):

    San Diego at Minnesota - "I knew that the Chargers would go up to Green Bay and win. I was wrong. While I sometimes learn from mistakes, I know that the Chargers are going to go up to Minnesota and win."

    Green Bay at Denver - "The Saints have awoken. But how good are they, really? And who's playing QB for the Jaguars this week? Do I care? I can see a New Orleans win, but I'm going with the better team from the better conference."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 11-3
    ATS: 9-4-1


  • For the season:
    Winners: 85-45
    ATS: 67-55-8

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Monday, November 05, 2007

Colts cheating?

(Gathering into one post...)


Earlier I said that
There have been accusations for years that the Colts were "pumping in" crowd noise, accusations that were denied, of course, because that would be "cheating." Listen to this and tell me that isn't the sound of pumped in crowd noise. The "loud crowd" starts skipping, and then cuts off instantly. It will be interesting to see whether the people who started in on the Patriots the next day after the camera incident actually start on this.

I will make one comment here, though - if the Indianapolis Colts were artificially inflating the noise in that dome when the opposition had the ball, and turning it down when the Colts had the ball, that is far more of an advantage for them than anything that could possibly have accrued to the Patriots by videotaping opponents signals.


UPDATE: There have been a couple of reports that the sound does not appear on the radio broadcasts, which would implicate CBS and exonerate the Colts. Don't know, haven't heard them.

Presumably, if either of the radio broadcasts demonstrates that noise, we'll hear it at some point, and that would be conclusive, or close to it. Interestingly, no one is saying, "Gosh, the Colts would NEVER do that..." We are, in fact, seeing references to past accusations of the Colts...piping in crowd noise.

UPDATE: Initially, the allegations were based on the CBS broadcast with no on-site confirmation. Now, according to yahoo sport, "observers at the game said there seemed to be a "skip" in the sound during the game Sunday..." And apparently, the Patriots complained to the league before they left the stadium.

If the radio broadcasts could either confirm or refute, I would expect to have heard about it by now. Which makes me think that this story is going to last for a few days.

(How would you like to be the San Diego Chargers right now? They got the Patriots the week that everyone was piling on New England. Next week, they get the Colts, who could conceivable be operating in the same "us against the world," "everyone's running down our accomplishments" mode.)

Update: CBS checks in - "CBS has informed us that the unusual audio moment heard by fans during the Patriots-Colts telecast was the result of tape feedback in the CBS production truck and was isolated to the CBS broadcast. It was in no way related to any sound within the stadium and could not be heard in the stadium." So, whether they're doing it or not, they're apparently off the hook for this one. Which makes the previous San Diego Chargers comment inoperable.

C'est la vie.

Update: From Michael Felger in the Boston Herald - "One final note: We don’t believe CBS. It felt artificially loud at the RCA Dome."

WEEI has a sound byte from a cameraman who was at the game for one of Boston's local stations, who was told (don't know by whom) that the Colts were picking up the crowd noise and playing it back over the PA.

So, regardless of the CBS statement, it apparently has enough legs to start another day here in Boston.

Labels: , , , , ,

| Links to this post

One more Pats-Colts note

After Manning's TD made the score 20-10, the Patriots had three more possessions. The final one, they led, and one first down enabled them to run out the clock. Their two drives while trailing covered 124 yards in 10 plays for two touchdowns, and consumed a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Patriots 24, Colts 20

Thoughts on "Super Bowl XLI 1/2"...


  • The New England Patriots are the best team in football right now. There are three NFL teams at 7-1 - two of the three losses that those teams have are to the Patriots. Despite the claims that "the Patriots haven't played anyone" or "the Colts have had a much tougher schedule," according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings, the Patriots are now 4-0 against the top 10 NFL teams. The Colts are now 1-1. The Patriots are the only team to have beaten either the 2nd or 3rd ranked team, and they beat both of them on their own home fields.


  • The Colts played a tremendous game, got several gifts from the officials, had a fluke touchdown on a dump-off when three Patriots ran into each other, got the worst game that the Patriots have played this year, and still couldn't hold a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes left. Now, the excuses from the Colts point of view are legitimate - Marvin Harrison didn't play, Gonzalez went out with a bad thumb early, the Colts were playing without wideouts. There's no question that that's true, and it affected their performance. And it is equally true that much of the Patriots poor performance was forced by the Colts. But there were advantages that offset at least some of that. And the Patriots helped them out for a while. As good a play as the 2nd quarter touchdown was for Joseph Addai, that was poorly played by 5 Patriot defenders who had him surrounded. The Brady interception that set that up was a great play by Bethea, but a great play on an underthrown ball - if that ball is thrown three feet further, it's a touchdown for the Patriots, because Stallworth was behind the defense.


  • If the Colts had won, given the way New England played for 45 minutes, discussion of the the officials would be whining and off limits. Since the Patriots won, we can do this.

    The officials were awful. The first thing was the challenge required on Morehead's first quarter catch. He clearly came down on the sideline, there were two officials right there watching, and the Patriots had to burn one of their challenges in order for the officials to get the call right.

    And the Patriots were penalized 10 times for 146 yards. That set a new team record for penalty yardage. Many of those penalties were legitimate. But there were at least three that were questionable, or worse. I'm willing to give the officials the benefit of the doubt on the Assante Samuel pass interference call for 37 yards that set up the Colts first score. It looked like it might have been legitimate at game speed, though on replay it looked as if Samuel had good position on a ball that was overthrown. But the Ellis Hobbs call was absurd. Hobbs was in perfect position and Reggie Wayne pulled him down from behind. An awful, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad call. As was the Randy Moss offensive pass interference in the fourth quarter.

    Oh, and I missed a blatant non-call. Gary Brackett hooked Kevin Faulk on a third-down throw, turning his body and preventing him from catching the pass. Faulk and Brady both went off at the officials on that, it was obvious, it was blatant, it was clear. And it wasn't called.

    This isn't just me, and it isn't just Patriot homerism. As the comments from Mike Sando's ESPN blog would attest.


  • There have been accusations for years that the Colts were "pumping in" crowd noise, accusations that were denied, of course, because that would be "cheating." Listen to this and tell me that isn't the sound of pumped in crowd noise. The "loud crowd" starts skipping, and then cuts off instantly. It will be interesting to see whether the people who started in on the Patriots the next day after the camera incident actually start on this.

    I will make one comment here, though - if the Indianapolis Colts were artificially inflating the noise in that dome when the opposition had the ball, and turning it down when the Colts had the ball, that is far more of an advantage for them than anything that could possibly have accrued to the Patriots by videotaping opponents signals.

    UPDATE: There have been a couple of reports that the sound does not appear on the radio broadcasts, which would implicate CBS and exonerate the Colts. Don't know, haven't heard them.


  • Right now, it's tough to picture a realistic scenario that doesn't involve a re-match in Foxborough for the AFC Championship Game.



Update: Welcome to yahoo and craigslist. I've gathered the "Colts cheating" updates into one post here. And for my thoughts on the Patriots "cameragate," as well, click here...

Labels: , , , ,

| Links to this post

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Where was Phelps?

We were braced for unpleasant company this morning. For some reason, the Westboro Baptist Church had announced their plans to picket outside Park Street Church this morning. I understand that we're only 100 yards from the Massachusetts State House, but there is no reason I'm aware of for them to single out Park Street among the churches of Massachusetts. That's neither here nor there - for whatever reason, they were expected outside our doors at 8:00 this morning, to be followed by visits to two other churches in downtown Boston.

They didn't show up.

It was there on their website - I checked it earlier in the week (though I'll never link to it). But on Wednesday, a jury awarded $11 million to the family of a slain US marine on the grounds that "the family's privacy had been invaded by a Kansas church whose members waved anti-gay signs at the funeral."

And I'm wondering - did that put a damper on their activities? Not only did they not show up in Massachusetts this morning where they had announced that they would be (or anywhere else, at least not that I can see), but the website itself is down this afternoon. Has the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder put this loathesome group out of business?

Probably not, but it would be wonderful if it had...

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Friday, November 02, 2007

Celtics Opening Night

I'd love to have more to say about the Celtics right now, but, suffice it to say, I've been looking forward to tonight since the Garnett trade was announced. I don't watch a lot of out-of-market NBA, and the Celtics have been hard to watch, so while I've known that Garnett was one of the best players in the game, I didn't understand his game. The pre-season was a revelation. I believe that a case can be made that he's the best player in the game right now. There has been talk that the supporting cast is weak, and I can't judge the truth of that, but clearly, this is a team that is a threat to win the East. At the very least, they are relevant now, for the first time in close to 20 years.

And I'm looking forward to watching them play with a hope that they'll be playing late into the playoffs, as opposed to the last few years where we were looking for signs that some of them might turn into NBA players at some point. Danny Ainge has taken a lot of abuse, but he did a great job stockpiling assets, and when possibly the best player in the game was available, he had what it took to get him.

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Nit-picking nit-pickery

Yuval Levin is nit-picking Bill Richardson's claim that "we elect governors as president. Seven out of the last eight have been either governors or ex-governors." According to Levin
This is a terribly minor nit-pick…but what’s blogging for? So for the record, the last eight men elected president were:

George W. Bush
Bill Clinton
George H.W. Bush
Ronald Reagan
Jimmy Carter
Gerald Ford
Richard Nixon
Lyndon Johnson

Four of them had served as governors, and four had not. So why not just say “four of the last five” instead?

Richardson talks a lot about his state’s great emphasis on education. Let’s hope New Mexico students aren’t getting their American history education from their governor.

Given that nit-picking is apparently what blogging is for, let's address the nit-pick.

1) Gerald Ford was never elected President. He wasn't elected Vice-President.

2) Richardson can defend the claim. Seven of the last presidential elections have indeed resulted in the election of governors or ex-governors.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton

George H.W. Bush
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Jimmy Carter

I don't know how Richardson has said it, and I suspect that, at least on occasion, he's said something like "seven of the last eight men elected President" which is wrong. But in seven of the last eight Presidential elections, we have elected men who were either governors or ex-governors.

I'm not a Richardson fan, my main feeling about him being that he may be less loathsome than much of the rest of the Democratic field, but that doesn't strike me as a comment that's particularly egregious...

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Ya think?

"Maybe that the "torture" debate is a political tool, and otherwise unserious?"

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

Keys to the game...

The Onion has the keys to the game. But apparently, they stole some of them from CBS...
New England - Keep playing better than anyone else in the history of football...


Indianapolis - Remember to win game, or else undefeated season is over...


And more...

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Week 9 - NFL picks

Carolina at Tennessee (-4) - The Panthers were a fraud team even when they had their quarterback. The more time passes, the more Carolina's appearance in Super Bowl XVIII looks to have been a fluke of epic proportions.

Cincinnati at Buffalo (+1) - This is a very dangerous game. Buffalo has been decimated by injuries, but they've played tough, disciplined football, and are two plays (one against Denver, one against Dallas) from a 5-2 record. They're one of only two teams who have actually led the Patriots this season for any time at all. But an offensive juggernaut, they aren't. The Bengals won't play defense, but they don't need to this week. The question is this - can the Bills hold the Bengals under 17? If so, they've got a chance to win. The Bengals have got the skill players to make that iffy. I'm going with Buffalo, but have no great amount of confidence - I could easily see Palmer connecting with Johnson a couple of times, and putting 21-24 on the board, and the Bills just don't have the offense to overcome that. I'm picking the Bills anyway.

Denver at Detroit (-3) - Because the Lions are just a better team. (How long as it been since that was a true statement?)

Green Bay (+2) at Kansas City - What do you do when two teams that you always pick to lose match up? Particularly, when you're alway wrong on both of them? Well, my feelings about Kansas City are stronger than my feelings about Green Bay, so I'll pick the Packers (thus, probably, ensuring a Chiefs victory...)

Jacksonville (+3) at New Orleans - The Saints have awoken. But how good are they, really? And who's playing QB for the Jaguars this week? Do I care? I can see a New Orleans win, but I'm going with the better team from the better conference.

San Diego (-7) at Minnesota - I knew that the Chargers would go up to Green Bay and win. I was wrong. While I sometimes learn from mistakes, I know that the Chargers are going to go up to Minnesota and win.

San Francisco at Atlanta (-3) - Somehow, the San Francisco 49ers have won two football games. Part of me thinks that they don't win again. Part of me hopes that they don't win again. They may win again, but it won't be 2500 miles from home.

Washington (-3) at N.Y. Jets - There has, occasionally, appeared to be a "Patriots Hangover Effect." That is, teams that lose to New England get beaten up physically, get beaten up emotionally, and have their weaknesses exposed to the cold light of day. Fortunately for the Redskins, they face a team that is unequipped to take advantage of that.

Arizona at Tampa Bay (-3) - Since I think Tampa Bay is going to win and cover, I should be taking the Cardinals. But the specter of Kurt Warner, held together by baling wire, twine and duct tape, is just too frightening. Now, 3 points is a lot for the offense of the Buccaneers to cover. But I have confidence that they can do it.

Seattle at Cleveland (pick 'em) - On my pre-season list of "Phrases That Won't Be Needed During The 2007 NFL Season," sandwiched between number 3 ("it's a long bomb from Pennington to Cotchery!") and number 5 ("the 49ers are ready to assert control over the NFC West") was number 4 ("Cleveland just has too much offense for the Seahawks to match.") So the list needs some editing. Because, frankly, Cleveland just has too much offense for the Seahawks to match.

Houston at Oakland (-3) - In a game that will seen by families and close friends of the players, but not acquaintances, the Raiders and Texans play a game that is ugly enough to crack television screens. Fortunately, there won't be any tuned to it.

New England (-6) at Indianapolis - The Patriots have played better offense relative to their competition than the Colts have. The Patriots have played better defense relative to their competition than the Colts have. The Patriots are going to have better field position because of better special teams. The idea that a dominant Super Bowl champion can be undefeated, blowing out the competition and a 6-point underdog at home is mind-boggling, but the Patriots make the line reasonable. And they'll go out to Indy and cover. Again.

Dallas (-3) at Philadelphia - Philadelphia could win this game. If they bring their absolute best performance and Dallas plays their 'C'-'D' game, and Philadlphia wins the turnover battle +3 or more. Otherwise, the Cowboys win. Comfortably.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-9) - If the Ravens really had the defense that people seem to think that they do, 9 points would be far too much for the Steelers to give. But they don't. Baltimore's inept offense will score 10 or fewer, and the Steelers will score 20+ for the cover.

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Kitchen... light switch... roaches...

Derb has an ... interesting vision of why Hillary is not, perhaps, as prepared for tough questioning as she could be...

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

Patriots-Colts Preview

It's the first meeting ever between two NFL teams at 7-0 or better. It's a meeting between two teams that have won four of the last six Super Bowls, and three of the last four. They are lead by certain Hall of Fame coaches and certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

And they are running roughshod over the rest of the NFL.

"They" are, of course, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, and they're meeting this week in Indianapolis for what everyone assumes is a preview of the AFC Championship Game. And there's absolutely no reason not to so assume.

  • The Colts, after several years of falling to New England, have won the last three meetings between the two teams. The last of these was the last loss for the Patriots, last year's AFC Championship game, when the Colts came back from a 21-3 deficit to win 38-34. The Colts appear to have improved. The Patriots appear to have improved more. On the field for New England will be the following players who were not active for that game: Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison and Adalius Thomas.


  • The Colts are allowing 14.6 points per game, while the Patriots are allowing 15.9. Advantage Colts? Nope. The Colts have played a far weaker offensive schedule. Removing the points allowed by the Colts and Patriots, the teams on Indy's schedule are averaging only 20 points per game, while the Patriots opposition is averaging 23.7. The Patriots have played 4 teams (Cowboys, Browns, Bengals, Chargers) who score more than than the highest-powered offense the Colts have played (Texans). The Colts have held opponents to ~73% of their average point production. The Patriots have held opponents to ~67% of their average point production. Advantage Patriots.


  • The Colts are averaging 32 points per game against teams that allow 18.6. The Patriots are averaging 41.4 against teams that allow 21.7. The Colts are scoring 70% more against their opposition than they normally allow. The Patriots are scoring 90% more against their opposition than they normally allow. Advantage Patriots.


  • If the Patriots weren't weakened by the flu, I believe that they'd have won their fourth Super Bowl last year. But they were and they didn't. And the Colts put on a tremendous performance, and deserved to win.


  • But they won't win this week. They'll score some points, but they will not be able to stop the Patriot offense. The Patriots have always been able to put up points against the Colts, and this is far and away the best offense that New England (or, possibly, anyone else) has ever put on the field. This one won't be a blow-out, there are unlikely to be cries about running up the score, but I'm not at all certain that the Patriots streak of 17+ point wins ends.

Labels: , ,

| Links to this post

"more true than ever that the postseason remains a crapshoot"

I mocked SI's Jon Heyman for saying
The Red Sox disproved the old "crapshoot" theory espoused by a lot of folks who keep losing in the playoffs. The best team won in 2007, and that is no fluke.

Today, Jay Jaffe at Baseball Prospectus looked at the history of "best teams" in the playoffs and concluded that
In other words, it's no cakewalk for even the best of teams, with roughly one in four emerging as champions. It's more true than ever that the postseason remains a crapshoot.

There's no question about which side of that question that I'm on...

Labels: , , ,

| Links to this post

"The Pats' No-Pity Party"

Interesting piece from Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post this morning.
The Patriots' philosophy is a lot more understandable -- and likable -- if viewed from the angle of what the alternative is. What should they do when the game gets out of hand? Let up? Pretend to play? Take pity? Eugene O'Neill said of that kind of pity, it's "the kind that lets itself off easy by encouraging some poor guy to go on kidding himself with a lie."

When you've already beaten a team so badly over the previous 45 minutes, why is it respectful to suddenly go easy, so they'll falsely feel better about themselves? What the Patriots are saying when they continue to go for the end zone is, "Hey, both teams out here on the field are pros, and this is what pros do." It would be far more demeaning to say, "We could score again, but we just feel too sorry for you to do it." When the Patriots score on an opponent, in an odd way, it's a gesture of respect. Albeit in a tyrannical, domineering, world-conquering kind of way.

There's more, and it's a good read.

Labels: , , , ,

| Links to this post