Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In the Event of Disaster

The Indianapolis Colts will become the second team to finish the season 0-16, baring a We-Refuse-To-Be-That-Team win in the final game against Jacksonville, which is their only remaining game against a sub-.500 team.  They have been equally likely to lose by seven or less points (Weeks three-five) as they have been to be defeated by 24 or more (Weeks one, seven, nine).  Indianapolis’ starting quarterbacks (take your choice between the dregs of the NFL) have eclipsed 250 yards passing only twice.  No running back has surpassed 90 yards on the ground in a single game.  As a team, the Colts are second worst in total yards, third worst in total points, and dead last in head coach emotions.  Any way you look at it, the obvious fact is that the Colts suck.  The 0-16 Lions would dominate this bunch of losers and Manning-leaches. 

While The Office has thrived without their former “quarterback,” Steve Carell, Indianapolis has become the absolute worst paper company in all of Pennsylvania without their regional manager.  The struggles in Indianapolis have been one of the talking points of the season, and rightfully so.  Has a professional team – uh, we could even forget the “professional” qualification.  Has a team ever experienced such fallout from the loss of a single player? 
Hey, Indi, where'd you get your backup quarterbacks?  The toilet store?
When Detroit put up a bagel in the win column, there really wasn’t anything interesting; they were just plain, boring, and bad.  Indianapolis is more than that; they’re historically pathetic.  Unfortunately, the annual Colts vs. Pats game was taken off the primetime slot as a 21 point spread is apparently too large (I’m still taking the Pats).  I say leave it there!  As a New York City region football fan, there has been only one Colts game on my television this year. The 62 to 7 Here-Is-Your-Head-On-A-Stick-Now-Would-You-Like-Your-Dignity-Back “showdown” against New Orleans may have very well been the most amusing game of the season.  Any other fan can look at the Colts right now and say, “Well, at least we aren’t that bad.”  Aside from this reason, seemingly everyone can find something to love, or at least in which to be interested, with regards to the Indianapolis Don’ts. 

There are three different categories your average NFL fan can fall into.  Here is why each said category thinks the Indianapolis train wreck is fantastic.   

The Peyton Lovers
Typical members: (A) Jets, Bills, and Dolphin fans, (B) the Manning side of the Manning-Leaf draft debate, (C) Sprint/DirecTV owners, (D) underachievers, (E) Stat Geeks, (F) Archie Manning
Why So Happy?
-Groups A and B will point to this season as evidence that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback, not just now, but ever.  Everyone knows now that Peyton carried the team for his entire career, and basically did it singlehandedly for the last three years.  He is clearly better than Tom Brady, whose team won 11 games in his absence in 2008.    
-Group C sees their Manning-endorsed products as the last vestige of his greatness, pride-fully racking up phone and TV bills in order to keep his namesake going.
-Group D sympathizes with Manning’s lack-luster playoff career and say, “See, it’s everyone else that’s bringing him down!  Without him, they’d never win!  If Manning had any help at all he’d have won at least three Super Bowls!  That’s exactly why I’ve worked as the cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond for 27 years! Why am I such a loser? I’m such a loser because it’s everyone else’s fault!”
-Group E loves Manning because he is one of the greatest regular season performers of all time.  The failure without him puts these numbers into perspective and cements him among the greatest American athletes ever. 
Group F sees this season as a golden one for it’s three children.  Peyton is getting more praise now than he did in some of his MVP campaigns, Eli can finally emerge from his brother’s shadow, and his failure child, Cooper, is no longer the most boring Manning brother. I mean, have you ever tried talking to Peyton about non-football information for an extended period of time? Awkwarrrrrrrrd. 

The Peyton Haters
Typical Members: (A) Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville, New England, and Pittsburg fans, (B) the Leaf side of the Manning-Leaf draft debate, (C) Ugg Owners, (D) overachievers, (E) Eli Manning, (F) Dan Marino and Brett Favre. 
Why So Happy?
-Group A does not need to deal with never-ending yearly competition with Indianapolis.  With regards to the latter two of the group, they look at each other and say, “Rings are what matters, lolz! Sucks to suck, Peyton.  Talk to our quarterback when you have more championships than Trent Dilfer!”
-Group B says, “Well… whatever, you’re still dumb” and are thrilled that for the first time since draft day they are equally wrong as the Manning side. 
-Group C watch Tom Brady on Sunday, cozy by the fire and in their warm, feminine boots.  This is so much better than truly unlimited data usage.  Oh, and the eleven football games that they don’t get to watch, well, those just aren’t important.  Can a cell phone or satellite dish keep my toes warm, no!  Dumb, dumb Peyton. 
Group D hates Peyton Manning because they are better than him.  The members of this group are probably no smarter than you or I but have the connections/drive/clutch factor/experience that allow them to make millions more than us.  They are officially better than pathetic, second-rate Peyton Manning.   
Group E has been buried underneath Peyton until now and is finally playing like Peyton, now if only this group could win like Brady. 
Group F are poppin’ bottles because their career passing records will remain untouched as Manning’s injury not only takes away another prime season, but will forever halt his historic accumulation of yardage and touchdowns.
Sometimes a picture says a thousand words.  
Colts Fans
Typical Members: A spoiled bunch of people who are now wondering more than ever before how they won only one Super Bowl with Peyton.
Why So Happy?
Andrew Luck is yours!  Luck is the perfect choice for them at number one.  After four years of a Stanford education, Luck should be intelligent enough to recognize that there is no better place for him than in Indianapolis, where he would sit for two or three years and then step into the starting quarterback role with incredible success, à la Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.  He will accept slightly less money as Indianapolis will be less willing to pay a guy on the bench over ten million a season, but for this sacrifice he will learn from one of the greatest ever in the NFL’s most offensively complex and effective system.  An 0-16 or one loss season could not have come at a better time.  The eventual transition into an Andrew Luck offense will be seamless.  Lucky for them they still won’t really need to know the meaning of terrible football. 

This injury-ridden season has redefined the value of the backup quarterback.  Defensive players are more athletically freakish than ever before and even though mere dirty looks at the quarterback can result in personal fouls, they all get hit eventually.  A trip to the IR can happen on any play and teams must be prepared to handle this situation.  Losing the starting quarterback for a season can come with season-ending results, but, for some teams, would such a loss be as devastating as it has been for Indianapolis? 

We’ve all heard of the bubonic plague, but have you ever heard of the quarterbackonic plague?  Well, it’s a disease that’s has been known to spread rapidly and immobilize starting NFL quarterbacks for 17 weeks (some common symptoms include boils, blue colored vomit and urine, slurred speech, and, at it’s earliest, often innocuous stage, secretive hotdog consumption).  A quarterbackonic plague can come with apocalyptic results, and, unfortunately, it has hit with full force. 

The NFL is a new place now and after each team has lost it’s starting quarterback, here is the new NFL rankings for all thirty-two teams.  The rank reflects the ability of the backup as well as factors of the team that are not affected by losing the starting QB such as the running game, coaching, defense, and history with this type of situation. 

After Quarterbackonic Plague...

32. Indianapolis Colts
See above. 

31. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jag’s are currently the worst passing team in the league.  If Luke McCown was the solution, he’d be playing already. 

30. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona hasn’t had a legitimate quarterback on their roster since Kurt Warner retired.  Third stringer, Richard Bartel will be next in a long line of quarterbacks who can’t stay in the pocket and/or throw long enough to have a connection with perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL. 

29. Washington Redskins
Backup QB John Beck was given a brief starting role and quickly replaced with Rex Grossman – ‘Nuff said. 

28. Cleveland Browns
Even in an apocalypse, Cleveland teams will still destined for failure, sorry, Seneca Wallace. 

27. Buffalo Bills
Tyler Thigpen once played 14 games for Kansas City.  That did not go especially well and we’re talking about the Bills here. 

26. New Orleans Saints
Without Drew Brees this team wins four games at best.  The city of New Orleans prays every night that they never see Chase Daniel under center.  

25. St. Louis Rams
Eleven-year veteran, A.J. Feeley, is cursed with the same dearth of offensive playmakers as is Bradford.

24. San Diego
It’s hard to say a team that is currently 4-7 can “collapse”, but without Rivers this team is going to have a seriously difficult time producing any points.  Even in this off season Rivers is one of the most essential offensive players on any team.  Volek will struggle mightily. 

23. Philadelphia Eagles
Vick is essential to the team’s success.  Poor Philadelphia quarterback play almost always results in a loss, dating back to the McNabb days.  Do not expect Kafka to play too many gems. 

22. Minnesota Vikings
Technically, Donovan McNabb is second on the quarterback depth chart.  Of course, they could always go with Joe Webb.  The Vikings are bad in any type of universe. 

21. Miami Dolphins
J.P. Losman still has a job.  See, some people are still employed in this recession.

Few people have been as fortunate to make it through the recession.
If someone from China could do it for cheeper he'd be finished.  
20. Dallas Cowboys
As much as they’ve been using DeMarco Murray (the reason for their recent success is finally utilizing a running game), the success of Dallas ultimately comes down to quarterback play.  Stephen McGee, who has never thrown a NFL pass, would be a difficult obstacle to overcome. 

19. Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler is among the most criticized quarterbacks in the league, but with the introduction of Caleb Hanie, people have finally realized Cutler carries the offense.  Forte becomes less dynamic and the defense is on the field for over 40 minutes.  Hanie’s backup? – Nathan Enderle.  

18. Cincinnati Bengals
Journeyman Bruce Gradkowski has played on four different teams over six years for a reason. 

17. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is having possibly the greatest offensive season ever.  He is still yet to record a QB rating of fewer than 110.0.  His brilliance has masked some of Green Bay’s flaws (susceptible defense, inconsistent running game).  The Packers will go undefeated this season because there is just nobody in the NFL that can compete with Rodgers.  If someone throws for five touchdowns against the Pack, he’ll go for six.  Matt Flynn would not be able to do this.  A quarterback injury would harm Green Bay more than any other team.

16. Detroit Lions
Shaun Hill had an 81.3 rating last season over the course of 11 games. 

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Johnson knows how the hand the ball to Blount.  He doesn’t know how to toss it. 

Who is this man?
14. Carolina Panthers
In my preseason predictions, I asked if any team has ever had such a strange group of quarterbacks as the Carolina Panthers.  Backups Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen were possible starters at some point.  Newton’s put together a rookie season like few before him, but Carolina still has just 3 wins.  Nothing against Newton, but Anderson could do that.  

13. Seattle Seahawks
Charlie Whitehurst has outperformed Tavaris Jackson in his limited play.  He should be the starter! 

12. Houston Texans
Quarterbackonic plague has actually hit Houston this season.  They seem to be doing okay.

11. New York Giants
Former number one overall quarterback, David Carr, would be able to move an offensive with a very good receiving corp. 

10. Atlanta Falcons
Chris Redman has the benefit of Michael Turner, one of the few remaining backs in the NFL who can have 30+ carries a week. 

9. Kansas City
Kyle Orton was kicked out of Denver by popular opinion.  He’d have a great deep connection with Dwayne Bowe and short game with McCluster.   

8. Tennessee Titans
Any team that has produced winning seasons with Kerry Collins and Vince Young are built to withstand a quarterback loss.  Jake Locker was at one point a top pick in this year’s past draft. 

7. New York Jets
They have a complete team and it seems that Sanchez is usually the only reason they aren’t among the AFC’s best.  Mark Brunell would be sufficient, that is, unless he moves into the nursing home before season’s end. 

6. San Francisco 49ers
Quick, who is Alex Smith’s backup?.......................................................................................................
COLIN KAEPERNICK!!!!!! He sounds like a great “clock manager” to me. 

5. Baltimore Ravens
The defense and running game are excellent.  Maybe with Tyrod Taylor in at QB Baltimore will be less inclined to abandon their run game as they have so often done to disastrous results.  This could actually be a good thing. 

4. Oakland Raiders
Kyle Boller will be able to hand the ball off the Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. 

3. Denver Broncos
They are 5-1 without a quarterback this season. 

2. Pittsburg Steelers
The Steelers went 3-1 at the start of last season using a combination of Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon.  With previous experience and a defense that is always one of the two or three best, the Steelers remain among the elite. 

1. New England Patriots:
Brady, Cassel, Hoyer(?) – New England’s backups have a history of productivity, for whatever reason.  Belichick is arguably the NFL’s top head coach.  They have no running game and no defense, but it’s hard to imagine a universe where they are not among the NFL’s best. 

So there you have it.  Anyone who’s allegiances lies with a top 10 team in the above rankings might want to start rooting for quarterbackonic plague.  In fact, for top five teams, you may want to think about just benching your starter right now.  I’m looking at you New England.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Effects of the Lockout are more Long-Lasting Than we May Have Believed

When we look back on the 2011 NFL season, it is imperative that we place it in its proper context.  To say there has been inconsistency would be like saying the NBA season is officially over – no, duh. 

As the NBA continues its march towards imminent doom, I think it is an appropriate time to reflect on the 136 day heart attack that the NFL was somehow able to overcome (in the loosest sense of the word).  This past Sunday confirmed the truth about the 2011 season, the dissolved offseason has had a monumental impact on the league.  The quality of play this year is down, plain and simple.  Year of the quarterback?  Give me a break; it’s the year of the battered, unprepared pass defense coupled with the physically rusty and only-finally-getting-in-shape running backs.  Oh, and did I mention the transition of the NFL to a two hand touch league with players who are too busy catching up on missed preseason instruction to bother to learn and adapt to it?  There is one great team (Green Bay), two terrible ones (Miami, Indianapolis), and twenty-nine mediocre to above average ones (everyone else). 

There is nobody in the NFL playing like Aaron Rodgers -
the reason why the Pack won't lose a game this season.
For the ninth straight week, America was offered a plethora of head scratching performances.  The Patriots, who were coming off a game against Pittsburgh in which they looked totally outmatched, lost consecutive games for just the third time since 2003 and had their first home defeat of the Obama administration.  New England looked ugly start to finish and Brady, who recorded his worst game of the season, looked, at times (gasp!) terrible.  The G-men had his number and he looked legitimately afraid of getting hit, missing wide open targets more often than (of all people) Marc Sanchez.  It’s hard to believe this is the same quarterback who, after the first three weeks of the season, had many ludicrously believing that he would surpass Marino’s single season passing mark.

Meanwhile, the Giants look like the second or third best team in the NFC, but in what season would a team that barely squeaked wins over the hapless Dolphins and Cardinals, not to mention a Bills team that this week looked like, well, the Buffalo Bills, be regarded so highly (although, I have to give major props to Eli right now)?  They’re second best by default.  It’s going to take a seriously intimidating handshake from Jim Harbaugh to convince people that his 49ers are for real.  The Lions still are yet to play the Packers.  The Saints got destroyed by the Rams.  Is there really any reason for teams to be afraid of the Cowboys or Eagles aside from the fact that they should be?  The point is, in any other season, would these be the teams that make up the top five in the conference?  No way.

The AFC might be even worse.  Are any of the three first place AFC East teams for real?  In answer to that question, I pose another one: Would you really feel confident taking any of them over last place Miami?  The Bengals are tied atop the North, but the two best teams they’ve beaten are 5-3 Buffalo and 4-4 Tennessee (maybe the two worst .500 plus teams in the NFL.  Then again, KC, Oakland, and Tampa might have something to say about that).  We all know why the Texans are in the playoffs.  Philip Rivers it playing the best football of any AFC West quarterback. The division may overtake their NFC counterparts as the NFL’s worst.  A 7 – 9 playoff squad is a distinct possibility.

All hail the best QB of the AFC West
Even more curious than the Giants-Pats game is the Baltimore – Pittsburgh affair.  Coming into this game, I was almost ready to announce that Pittsburgh had assumed the role of the AFC’s best and as a legitimate Super Bowl caliber team but, now, that is totally forgotten.  The Ravens are clearly better, especially when we recall the week one ass-kicking.  But are the Ravens really the class of the AFC?  Is this not the same team that played the second ugliest game of the entire NFL season in a Sunday night game against the Jets (the ugliest being the Jet’s performance that same game), scored just one touchdown in a losing effort against Jacksonville, and needed the biggest comeback in franchise history to beat the Cardinals?  If that’s the team the road to the Super Bowl is going to run through, it’s going to be smooth riding for whoever takes it. 

So, what does all this mean?  Obviously this means that I am a football genius and have correctly predicted a 19 – 0 season for Green Bay.  However, if we pretend for a second that this is not the case (but we all know it is), who can challenge the Packers? 

I see four teams that can stand in Green Bay’s way.  Keep in mind, these do not represent the four next best teams, but the ones who matchup best against the God, Aaron Rodgers. 

4. Atlanta Falcons – The one NFC threat, Atlanta, is the only team in the NFL to suffer only “acceptable” losses (week 1 at Chicago, week 3 at Tampa, week 5 vs. Green Bay) and have wins against “quality” opponents (week 2 vs. Philadelphia, week 7 at Detroit, could maybe argue week 6 vs. Cam Newton-ina).  Atlanta can run the football and dominate time of possession, taking the ball out of Rodgers’s hands.  They also have playmakers to match, especially in the form of rookie Julio Jones, who after this weekend’s breakout performance, is showing shades of Mike Wallace.  Once Roddy White awakens from his fantasy-team-tanking slumber the fun will really begin for ATL (expect this to happen next week against New Orleans). 

3. New York Jets – Homer pick! Homer pick!  Think what you will but the fact is the Jets defense probably matches up better against the Packers offense than any other D in football.  Opposing quarterbacks have a 59.4 rating against New York this season, the lowest in the league.  Revis is having the best season of his career, Cromartie looks more comfortable in his role than ever before, and Kyle Wilson is quietly looking like a pro-bowl caliber DB.  If their run game continues to improve, then, much like Atlanta, they can take the ball away from the future 2011 MVP.  Also recall the Jets vs. Packers game from last season in which Rex Ryan and crew held Rodgers to 170 passing yards (his fewest of the season) and the offense to just 9 points (their second lowest number).

2. Baltimore Ravens – I’m hesitant to include them, but, to be fair, their offensive woes are certainly no more insulting than those of the Jets.  Their pass defense ranks in the top five, but a lot of this is due to dominance in the front seven rather than the back four.  Their corners are beatable.  Nonetheless, Ray Rice can keep them in a game and they have shown the ability to win ugly, a skill that may supersede any other in this lockout-altered season. 

1. Houston Texans – Don’t look now but the Houston Texans have a top two pass defense.  They rank second in both yards allowed and QB rating against.  Even more so than anyone else on this list, Houston can compete with the firepower of Green Bay. Schaub has been good, not great, this season but has been without Andre Johnson for some time now.  Meanwhile, Arian Foster is making a serious case for best running back in the NFL. 

Notable exclusions:

New York Giants – Manning has been great late, but inconsistent early.  Rodgers is great all the time.  Unlike Sanchez, Manning does not have the best 3-cornerback scheme (sorry Phili) in football to bail him out. 

New England Patriots – What is pass defense?

Pittsburgh Steelers – The running game must be more reliable.  Rodgers will outduel Roethlisberger (again).

As the second half of the season begins, it is important not to be overly reactionary to recent results.  However, I seriously believe that the top teams in football right now are the same teams that are going deep into the playoffs.  Teams finally have entered a level of preparation and football fitness that they usually have at the start of seasons.  It just took some time for this to happen.  Everything before now has been as much about luck (i.e. avoiding injuries and mindboggling losses from lack of preparation) as it has been about skill.       

In the meantime, here are the results for the Sweet 16 in the WFHCB.  As usual, it was thrilling. 

Busted Gut Region
Mike Munchak vs. Sean Payton
It’s official; there’s a new fan chant/arm display, which is a hybrid of two of the world’s most beloved simple orchestral and action performances.  It combines the famous J-E-T-S chant with the “Florida Chomp” to create a multi-faceted assault.  Behold: “M-I-K-E, (now using the gator chomp) MUNCH! MUNCH! MUNCH!” Winner: Munchak 

Marvin Lewis vs. Pat Shurmur
With his only win over the lowly Tony Sparano, Lewis is yet to defeat a quality opponent.  Meanwhile, trainer Heyton Pillis is still no where to be found for Shurmur.  Nonetheless, Shurmur is able to overpower the boring Marvin Lewis to set up an ex-offensive lineman battle in the regional final. Winner: Shurmur

Ass Kickin’ Region
Jim Harbaugh vs. Jim Schwartz
Last week the Jims were fighting with a purpose for the opportunity to face off against one another in the Sweet 16.  The marquee game of the tournament thus far, Harbaugh is finally given the opportunity to smash in the face of Schwartz.  Schwartz is finally given the opportunity to body rush Harbaugh.  Interestingly enough, Schwartz is none too pleased with Harbaugh’s “poor sportsmanship” in the pre-fight, topless stare-down.  Harbaugh later admits his wrong doing, claiming, “I blinked too aggressively.”  Like most highly anticipated affairs, the actual fight itself fails to live up to the hype.  Harbaugh channels his inner Mike Singletary (I can’t lose to him… CAN’T DO IT!).  Winner: Harbaugh   

Hue Jackson vs. Bill Belichick
Hue Jackman – I mean, Jackson – continues to look as though he was destined for futuristic fighting.  Belichick again comes out very well prepared and during the past week, curiously told reporters, “Hey, at least I don’t wear bright pink, polka dotted short-shorts when I train!” Jackson was obviously confused as to how Belichick could have possibly known this.  Winner: Jackson 

Bone Saw Region
Jim Caldwell vs. Ken Whisenhunt
Coming off his shocking dismemberment of John Harbaugh, Caldwell continued his rigorous training program with Madame Tussauds.  Whisenhunt gets the first jab in this fight, but curiously breaks his hand upon colliding with Caldwell’s face.  Let’s just say it was all downhill from there.  Winner: Caldwell

Jack Del Rio vs. Raheem Morris
Everyone’s favorite underachiever, Jack Del Rio, cannot compete with the agility of Morris.  Winner: Morris

Jersey Shore Ron Region
Mike Tomlin vs. Mike Smith
Tomlin carries his momentum from crushing the librarian, Chan Gailey, into this bout with Mike Smith.  Smith comes out hot, sending Tomlin into series jeopardy of losing.  However, Tomlin harnesses his inner Dr. Eric Forman, self-patches up his wounds, and produces the most dramatic come-from-behind victory of the round. Winner: Tomlin

Jason Garrett vs. Ron Rivera
The six foot, three inch Rivera eats pieces of shit like Jason Garrett for breakfast.  You eat pieces of shit for breakfast? Yes. Winner: Rivera

Updated Bracket:

Round Summary
Much like in the first round, the story continues to be number 29 overall seed, Jim Caldwell, continues to cruise effortlessly through the competition.  Meanwhile, the other top seeds seem determined to win their region.  Caldwell and Hue Jackson are the only coaches left who were originally seeded outside of the top 2.  Prepare yourself for Round 3, where we separate the men from the boys and the heads from the bodies.