Archive for the 'NFL' Category

22
May
08

Football, in the cold? Commence whining

Super BowlThere is one argument in professional football that draws more whines than any other.

It’s not the validity of preseason games, or even instant reply.

It’s the site of future Super Bowls.

Recently, the league announced that the 2012 version of the world’s biggest game will be played in Indianapolis.

This, apparently, made ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski very upset.

Apparently, Gene would prefer enjoying his complimentary Diet Coke and Chipotle inside a 72-degree climate controlled stadium in Arizona — rather than a 72-degree climate controlled stadium in Indiana.

Note: If you have to write a sidebar defending your completely uncontroversial column, it was probably a waste of space.

In between my involuntary vomiting over the fact that people get paid to write garbage like this, I pulled out the following one-liners and nuggets of wisdom for your enjoyment:

I don’t get it. Playing in a Super Bowl is supposed to be a reward, not a reason to visit your local North Face outlet. And attending a Super Bowl as a fan is supposed to be the experience of a lifetime, a chance to break out multiple bottles of SPF 30….The only things you’ll break out in Indy are space heaters.

–Aren’t the playoffs a “reward” for playing well in the regular season? Because they are frequently held outside. Also, raise your hand if you’ve been to a Super Bowl? Final tally: 0. Editor’s note: Space heaters are not allowed in Lucas Oil Stadium.

That’s another thing. The owners needed four secret votes to decide between Indianapolis, Houston and Glendale. Let’s see: In Houston and Glendale, there’s this orange orb called the sun. In Indianapolis, there’s this white orb called a snowball. What was there to decide?

–(silence)

Maybe the owners owed Colts owner Jim Irsay a favor. Maybe Irsay promised them a cameo in Peyton Manning‘s next cell phone commerical. Or maybe Mystery, Alaska, wasn’t available.

–Gene’s notes to self: Don’t forget, three derivatives of the word “own” minimum in this graph. Also, Peyton Manning doing lots of commercials = funny. Lastly, reference funny Netflix movie everyone else saw (and forgot) 10 years ago.

I guess we just don’t see the Super Bowl in the way Gene does (most likely because we don’t walk around gathering free goodies at Media Day). You simpletons don’t see the experience of a lifetime, free of corporate sponsors stealing your seats or endless pageantry (see photo above).

I’ll put it this way for all of our 13-year-old female readers: This column is the girl on “My Super Sweet Sixteen” lobbying daddy for the Range Rover instead of that peasantly Beemer.

But daddy, I want my Super Bowl in Glendallllle.

20
Feb
08

Just like cheatin’ on your wife…

It’s not illegal unless you’re caught on tape.

Or at least, that seems to be the road the whole “Spygate” scandal is headed down. Leave it to the New York Times to put a seemingly unethical situation into perspective with this fantastic article. Most people are very fast to bury Belichick, others are holding out hope that this will all wash over, and an even smaller portion of us are just so enraged that the media resorted to throwing a “gate” suffix at the end of another scandal that we can’t mentally progress any further.

But one option that nobody seems to have considered is that it ends up being the NFL that gets all shook up after this — not the Patriots. I mean, they have a very intense ethical dilemma on their hands here that the likes of Socrates would appreciate. It’s your classic slippery slope argument of asking where to draw the line on a particular issue. I guess the main question here isn’t Is it wrong to steal signals? but rather, Is it wrong to use a camcorder? Because if you think the first question is at the heart of this, well, let me allow the commissioner to field that one…

“I’m not sure that there is a coach in the league that doesn’t expect that their signals are being intercepted by opposing teams.”

We hear of this a lot in baseball. It’s pretty much common knowledge that if a man is on second base, that batter is going to have a clue as to what’s coming. And hell, in that sport we have national television revealing the signals, so tell me that teams don’t watch tape of opposing signs.

All I’m saying is: This isn’t as open and shut a case as it may see. The door will inevitably remain open here. And if the hammer falls on Belichick, don’t think he won’t come right back and hire some savant from Pawtucket that reads lips, hand him a pair of binoculars and a pen, and ring the bell for Round 2.

10
Jan
08

’09 Resolution: Rid sports of bulletin boards

The new year is time to reflect on the year that was, but more importantly, purge ourselves of all the filthy habits that ruined 2008. And oh there are plenty. Especially in the world of sports.

Ideally, we as a nation could resolve to slap on a giant crap-otine patch and ween ourselves off of Hollywood starlet stories, “Who’s Now” features and Andy Katz’s “sources close to the team.” But maybe more than any of those, I’m personally calling for a halt on all mentions of “bulletin boards.” I put it in quotes because they don’t even, actually, exist. Which leads me to my list of reasons for this resolution:

1. Bulletin boards don’t really exist
– Aside from 1st grade classrooms, Town Hall lobbies and the occasional college dorm, the bulletin board is an endangered  species. White boards — maybe. Plain white walls with stuff taped up — sure. But no bulletin boards. Especially in locker rooms. What, are the Patriots are going to post negative comments in between Teddy Bruschi’s “used snow blower” flyer and Wes Welker’s offer for $50 piano lessons? 

2.  99% of players could care less
–  Look no further than the litany of Patriot interviews featuring quotes ranging from, “I don’t pay attention to that stuff” to “I could care less.” And all that despite the obvious reason to be dreadfully upset and motivated. How obvious, you ask? ESPN obvious. Just two days ago the headline was right there: “Spicer gives Pats bulletin board material.” I mean, what’s more worthy of the bulletin board than something with “bulletin board” right there in the title? And on top of that, there is a semi-agitating quote, only two graphs in, that is only 17 weeks old! How dare somebody verbally attack their opponent four months before a game. What has this league come to?

3.  The players that do care, don’t even know what they’re doing
– Case in point: Plaxico Burress. Last week, before the Tampa game, he posted a sheet of paper above his locker (on a wall, not a bulletin board, cork board or board of any kind, mind you) with a quote from Buc’s corner Ronde Barber. I’m sure you saw it on the news cuz they love shots of printed paper in lockers.  Anyway, Plax had two out of three lines of text highlighted in size 36 font. They read:

 “Plax is kind of a special athlete. Not that he’s overly fast or real, like Randy Moss, athletic, because that’s just not his game.”

On the trash talk scale, that alone would be about a 3.5, especially considering the first sentence is a compliment. But then, just below the highlighted, size 36 font was a non-highlighted, regular-sized sentence reading: But he’s a [beast] to deal with. Plax, please, if you’re going to post something for effect, at least take it out of context. The media has done it for years, really, it’s OK.

4. Even if they do care, nobody’s going to say anything
– Short of the Shawne Merrimans and Joey Porters of this world, players are smart enough to know that commenting on how much a quote bothers them only accomplishes two things — proving they are mentally weak enough to let words affect their approach and generating an even bigger media stir/distraction. Neither of which is desired by any player or team.

So let’s retire the “bulletin board” for 2009 — especially for the playoffs — and leave this entire brand of quotes where they belong. In pregame pep talks and bad news stories.

04
Jan
08

We’s Loves Playoffs (divisional preview)

So… Whachya up to this weekend? Been a bit of a long week? Just now getting over that second bottle of Korbel you decided to drink bedside at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday? Yeah, me too.

You know what? You owe it to yourself to watch some football. Cuz 48 hours is just far too long to go without watching men in pads during this time of year. And because you can only hear creative knick-names like “V.Y.,” “L.T.,” and “Big Ben” so many times, here five names you assuredly won’t hear leading up to this weekend’s games. Oh yeah, and the reasons why they will ultimately dictate who will get to loose next week instead of this week.

Reed Doughty, FS, Washington Redskins
First game of the weekend is Redskins @ Seahawks, 4:30 on Saturday, and this has the makings to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. Seattle throws well and Washington runs well, and surprisingly, both teams have seen the other side of their offense improve at the tail end of the season despite Jason Campbell going down and Shaun Alexander recovering. But in offensive games the tide generally turns on either: a. A key defensive turnover, or b. One big knockout play on offense. And considering Seattle has the upper hand (home/experience), it’s going to be up to Washington’s defense to both deliver and prevent those two types of plays. With the passing of Sean Taylor, Reed Doughty is now the center fielder for Washington. A key catch at the wall can swing things in his team’s favor. Allowing the home run could be the ball game.

Trai Essex & Willie Colon, OTs, Pittsburgh Steelers
Game two on Saturday (8 p.m.) offers a rematch from a few weeks ago when Jacksonville rolled into the Steel City and ran all over the Pittsburgh defense. Count on Pitt’s D coming in more motivated, but still, Jacksonville is more than capable of setting the tone of this ball game. Considering the Steelers are without Willie Parker, don’t be surprised to see 40+ passes from Roethlisberger. A big reason for the black and gold’s recent struggles has been the injuries to their starting offensive tackles. Both are out again, meaning Essex and Colon have the task of preventing Big Ben from getting clocked all afternoon (apologies… I couldn’t help myself). If they struggle, the Jaguars’ lightning quick defense will smack people around, force turnovers, and their tandem backs will run this baby all the way home.

Lawrence Tynes, K, New York Giants
Sunday’s 1:00 game, while it should be close, should be about as exciting as a BCS bowl game. When Eli Manning enters a playoff game as the most significant offensive player, you know you’re going to have a low-scoring affair. Almost every year there is one divisional game where neither team reaches 20 points. This will be that game. And in games like that, a kicker going 5-5 vs. 4-5 can be all the difference. Fortunately for Tynes and Buc’s kicker Matt Bryant, the game is in Tampa and not windy, crappy, stinky New Jersey. Which means conditions should be alright for kicking, but that didn’t stop Tynes from sucking in Kansas City — earning him a swift kick in the stitches right outta town. Watch for one botched kick to be the difference in this game.

Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans
Ah, the last game of the weekend. And much like the last games of recent NFL, NBA, NCAA seasons, it’s due to be the least exciting. Vince Young is iffy, Lendale White is iffy, and the San Diego Chargers have been looking spiffy. All of which adds up to a game that is out of reach by halftime. But think of it this way, at least you can start getting amped up for that surely-exciting National Championship game that much earlier. Or, at least you can hope that LSU doesn’t beat Ohio State by as much as San Diego beats Tennessee. Digressing back to the game, if the Titans want to have any chance they’re gonna have to whip it (whip it good) all over the field. And considering Roydell Williams broke his ankle in practice this week and Bo Scaife went on IR, Gage is going to need the game of his life just to keep the Titans close. Did I mention this game won’t be exciting?

24
Dec
07

Back to Normal, Ohio

Browns blow itUnlike some other, lazier blogs, The FynalCut does not sleep – or break for egg nog and 24 consecutive hours of “A Christmas Story.”

Which is why we are able to bring you a complete wrap of NFL playoff “action” from Sunday – a day that seemed to crush more playoff dreams than it helped come true. (the photo to your left is about as symbolic as it gets).

Browns 14, Bengals 19: Well, no one knows better than Cleveland that it’s hard to shake a recent history of suck. The Browns (and Derek Anderson’s four interceptions) showed no team is better at being a perennial disappointment than that the one that hails from the Mistake By The Lake. A season that started with high hopes (51 points against the rival Bengals in the teams’ first meeting) is all but over. When the Titans beat the Colts next weekend (a Cut guarantee), things will be back to normal in Ohio.

Redskins 32, Vikings 21: You’ve heard it from the Talkin’ Heads for weeks – “You don’t want to play the Vikes in the first round.” Why? Because of that killer run game they hone up north. Turns out, all you need is a mediocre defense and a quarterback who’s been on the bench for the past decade. Washington held Minnesota’s Purple Saviour Adrian Peterson to 27 yards on the ground and can clinch a playoff spot by winning next weekend against Dallas’ B-Team — assuming Jessica Simpson doesn’t distract them.

Giants 38, Bills 21: Everyone knows Eli isn’t Peyton. He at times makes horrible decisions, worse throws and can be an inconsistent part of the Giant’s playbook (7 completions against Buffalo). But, all that said, the Giants are in the playoffs for the third time under the younger (and much better looking) Manning. What they do (tank) once they get to the dance can’t be put solely on Eli’s shoulders, but a first-round matchup in Tampa is about as easy as it’s gonna get this year.

So, as it looks right now, Jacksonville at San Diego in the first round is probably going to be the most intriguing matchup. If Cleveland wins next weekend and Tennessee loses, a Browns-Steelers showdown could also be pretty entertaining.

Once the playoff picture is a little bit clearer, we’ll hit you with our complete playoff preview. Until then, you can always try and figure out what’s going on here.

17
Dec
07

Fun with falling frozen water

It’s official: time to start getting really excited about football.

Once you start seeing images like this, and this, and this, and this… you know that special time of year has officially arrived. When football conversations bounce from topic to topic faster than a CNN Headline News brief.

So in that spirit, here’s some of the banter bouncing around this Monday:

One for the history books?That’s what the Miami radio commentators were saying as a simple slant turned into a touchdown that saved the Dolphins from infamy and may have sent Brian Billick searching for a new job. But the best part of this whole storyline is seeing the owner of a ONE WIN team in tears. Now that’s something for the history books.

Hardly Jaggin’ off, it seems as though Jacksonville is for real. Sure, they lost to the Colts a few weeks ago. But that was truly one of those games that could have gone either way. But after giving it to the Steelers, there seem to be few teams playing better football. And something to store away for the playoffs, this is the only legit contender in the AFC that New England hasn’t seen. In a cold-weather game, with crappy conditions, I’m going to go out and say it right now, this team would be better than the Patriots.

The return of Tony “Oh no.” After breaking Dan Marino’s all-time passing yardage record, Brett Favre said Marino was the kind of passer you use as a basis for teaching quarterbacks how to throw and Brett, well, not so much. And he’s the first to admit it. Well, Tony Romo proved those words to be true as the oft-compared quarterback had his worst statistical outing of his career. 13-36, three picks and two fumbles may have Cowboy fans wishing everybody had compared Romo to somebody a little less sporadic.

02
Dec
07

Chicago Bears, were you watching?

Boy, where do you even begin after a weekend like that?

Ol’ Captain Kirk Herbstreit got us off to a great start  by reporting something, eating his words, then spitting them right back out again. And I don’t want to get all high and mighty here (I am presently writing a blog after all), but it just seems like we see more of this premature/flat-out-wrong reporting when it’s former athletes “breaking” the news and not real reporters (no, that doesn’t include you Andy Katz). Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure there is another blog out there keeping tabs on that kind of stuff.

And as for what happened after Les Miles left, then stayed, then made the National Championship, well… I’m still processing all that. All I know is that I’m not holding out much hope for exciting games between USC & Illinois nor Virginia Tech & Kansas.

Rather, I want to turn some attention to something very easily lost in all the shuffle of a full weekend of sports. Watching the Missouri-Oklahoma game, it was hard not to be impressed by Mizzou freshman Jeremy Maclin. As some may say, “Kid’s got skills.”

To me, Maclin is another example of the newest weapon to grace a football field. Jerry Rice ushered in the age of do-it-all receivers, Lawrence Taylor brought the DE-LB hybrid, and guys like LT and Brian Westbrook are closing the gap between running backs and wide outs. But until Devin Hester, special teams were just that — special. As in, not nearly as significant.

But now we are seeing more and more of these super fast, super agile, able-to-hit-the-gap-between-Strahan’s-teeth kind of players. The trick, however, is getting the ball in their hands with some running lanes in front of them.  Getting back to that Mizzou game, the Tigers thoroughly convinced me that they have figured out with the Chicago Bears have not: it’s not that hard to get somebody the football.

Leave it to the time-tested play calling of the Chicago Bears to screw this one up, but punts and kicks are easy to steer away from somebody. Nifty little slot-receiver sweeps and screens — not so much. Now I’ll grant you that Maclin might have slightly better hands than Hester (though not a better whip), but one way or another Missouri managed to get him 12 offensive touches for 109 yards (40 rushing, 69 receiving). And none of those touches came from plays like, “Hey, why don’t you line up in the slot, there, and run real straight, real fast.”

In closing, I’ll concede that college is a different game and, yes, there are a lot of things that work on that level that don’t work in the NFL. The point I’m getting at is that Saturday I watched a team with a player that gave them a distinct advantage over their opponent, and utilized creative play calling to tilt that advantage in their favor. On Sunday, I saw a lot of kicks out of bounds, and a Bears loss.