Friday, August 27, 2010
A draft can be a hostile place. You may be playing with friends, but if you look hard enough, they're actually trolls trying to gut you and play double dutch with your insides. One wrong move by you and you'll be emasculated and left to die in a puddle of your own filth. It's a tension-filled situation, and one that often incorporates alcohol.
There's plenty of sites and people that do the fantasy thing for a living, and they are called pricks. They've successfully attained their and many others dream. Often their draft stories will have them turning up their noses at the loud drunkards they play with and happen to inhabit most of the Earth. Don't listen to them. No one likes being sober (destructive alcoholics excluded), and if you want to have a good time while playing fantasy football you'll drink a beer or several.
Some inherent benefits include:
-All your insults become twice as cutting and intelligent.
-A built-in excuse for when you accidentally draft Matt Leinart in the fifth round.
Friend: Why did you do that?
You: I'M WASTED.
Friend: Of course.
-Something to do with your hands while waiting with your pick. There's nothing better than stuffing a red Dixie cup into your face while others are shuffling papers trying to find the next Miles Austin.
-If you get drunk enough, you can dial ex-girlfriends and beg them for sex. That's a proactive way of seeking post-draft entertainment.
-When you pass out, your friends will select hilarious players like Yao Ming or Tom Tupa for you.
And so on.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK: BEN WATSON, TE, CLEVELAND
Whaaaaaa? A Browns player?
Even though Watson washed out of New England, and that's never a good way to start explaining, I know, he's got some value with Cleveland. While with the Pats, Watson had to fight off Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Kevin Faulk for catches; in Cleveland he has no such competition.
The Browns have but Mohamed Massquoi (34 catches), rookie Brian Robiskie, and Josh Cribbs (20 catches) as receivers. There's no catch vacuum cleaner like Welker, and Delhomme may prove himself more capable than Brady Quinn.
Am I saying go and draft Watson in the eighth? Would you even do it if I asked? Hell naw. I'm saying that as you come into the last round and you're unhappy with your tight end selections: Ben Watson. He had five touchdowns last season and is poised to grab a few more.
And with that, I must away. Sweet lady weekend, she calls to me.
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-With Darrelle Revis continuing to be left wanting, the Raiders have the league's best corner in Nnamdi Asomugha. He's so good that teams just stop throwing to his side at all. This season Asomugha will be exclusively tailing opponent's No.1 receivers, so bad times abound to those destined to play the man.
-Jason Campbell isn't Jim Plunkett reincarnate, but he's ten-times the quarterback JaMarcus Russell was. He's not going blow teams away, but he won't spend every waking minute plotting Vegas trips or raiding (eh?) local pharmacies. Oakland now has a bonafide quarterback, one who actually is serious about playing the position. That is the saddest thing I have ever had to type about football.
-Tight end Zach Miller's 66 catches led the team last year. Campbell likes to throw to his tight ends (see: Cooley, Chris) and Miller has been taking hot, stinky, garbage and making lemonade with it for a few seasons now. It's a match made in heaven, yet set in hell. Who-da thunk it?
-Tyvon Branch is on the cusp of becoming one of the league's best at strong safety. His 123 tackles were tops at the position and the team is high on his future. You might even say that they're going out on a limb for Branch?
-Richard Seymour was re-signed in the offseason. After being traded from New England last season, he kept the low profile that all Oakland acquisitions usually assume, but he played well. The team needs his seniority and leadership now that they're switching to a 4-3 defense, and are asking Seymour to play inside at tackle. With rookie Rolando McClain slotted to start at middle linebacker, having Seymour playing in front of him isn't the worst thing in the world.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The team is rife with potential busts (sans Robert Gallery, who's made a successful transition to guard)*. Michael Huff is one more terrible season from being shown the door, as he's had but four interceptions in four seasons. Asomugha can only do so much for the secondary, Huff has to assume some playmaking responsibilities if there's to be any improvement.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey was abysmal last season. Now he's being accused of "over-training" himself in offseason and had to rest for four days of training camp. And yet, Al Davis looks like he hasn't slept since 1980.
-If Darren McFadden can't find a way to stay healthy then he's superfluous. Michael Bush has shown promise as the No.1 option at running back and Run DMC may find himself without a job. Oakland though, desperately needs McFadden to justify his high expectations. With him healthy, their offense takes on a whole new dimension. The kind that requires special glasses.
-Management is dysfunctional, and that's putting it kindly. Tom Cable's violent encounters make you wonder how he kept his job (is he hitting you, Al? You can tell me). Though it is the Raiders, it's not really an example you want set in front of the players. Maybe worse, if my information is correct, Al Davis is still in charge of the team.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 6-10, THIRD IN AFC WEST
*If you don't count spending a No.2 draft pick on a guard bust-worthy.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
WITH GOD AS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF
-Joseph Addai received a concussion tonight in the game against the Packers. Not only that, but starting linebacker Gary Brackett suffered a hand injury. AND NOT ONLY THAT, but left tackle Tony Ugoh left the game with a toe injury. He was filling in for the starter Charlie Johnson, who is also hurt.[IndyStar]
-St. Louis' leading receiver from last season, Donnie Avery, was carted off the field with a "serious" knee injury. [FOX Sports]
-The Bengals are getting close to cutting ties with Antonio Bryant. If they do, it looks like they'll be on the hook still for his $7 million signing bonus. [Fanhouse]
-Though not a physical injury, Matt Leinart has apparently sucked thoroughly enough to put his job in jeopardy. [Twitter]
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-The Chiefs have two good running backs in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles exploded last season down the stretch, finishing the season averaging almost six yards a carry. Jones had his best season in the NFL, 1,402 yards rushing, at the ripe age of 31. The two have taken vastly different routes to their success, but what's important is that they've arrived. Head Coach Todd Haley continues to play games and rank Jones first on the depth chart, but for his sake and Jones' the ratio of Charles/Jones rushes should be at least 65/35. Someone like Jones only defies the odds for so long, and asking him to shoulder a heavy burden while blatantly ignoring a superior talent is just asking for trouble. Like a swift backhand from fantasy owners worldwide.
-Speaking of Todd Haley, the coach surrounded himself with a couple of decent coordinators in the offseason: Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Though both failed as head coaches, their reps as coordinators are still intact. Until Haley fires them days before the season.
-First-round draft pick Eric Berry has already assumed the free safety spot, which is exactly what any team wants to see from their first-rounder. At the University of Tennessee he was all over the field making tackles, and KC is banking on those skills transferring over to the pro game. Berry will team up with a returning Brandon Flowers at corner to breathe some athleticism into the secondary.
-Outside linebacker Tamba Hali had nine sacks last season, a career-high. He's the team's best pass rusher and is tough against the run. There's no reason not to expect more from him in his second year playing the 3-4.
-Big things are expected from wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, but KC's smartest move was re-signing Chris Chambers. Even though his personal life has taken a strange turn, he wound up being a primo target for Matt Cassel. The Chiefs can't really afford another lackluster effort from Bowe, but without Chambers they'd be broke at the position.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Aside from Hali, the Chiefs' front seven is underwhelming. A rotation of Shaun Smith and Ron Edwards at nose tackle isn't going to frighten many run games. But compared to average human being, yes, they are still very terrifying.
-At linebacker there remains more questions, and Haley has taken a disliking to Derrick Johnson. That leaves Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays to take over inside. The other outside linebacker is Mike Vrabel, who is 35.
-Last year's first-rounder, defensive end Tyson Jackson, is quickly falling into 'bust' territory. The reports coming out of training camp aren't good, and to be blunt, neither is he really. Jackson and Glenn Dorsey make up the rest of the defensive line, which was the league's worst. GET EXCITED.
-If Matt Cassel puts together another clunker in 2010, all efforts will be for naught. At times in '09 he looked calm and confident, like he did spelling Tom Brady in New England. At other times, he looked like he'd been plucked from the stands at halftime and told to play quarterback. His DYAR at footballOutsiders.com was only higher than two starting quarterbacks: Matt Stafford and, gulp, JaMarcus Russell.
There's more than a few reasons to like the Chiefs. An easy division and a dangerous offense are among them. They can taste that sweet mediocrity!
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 8-8, SECOND IN AFC WEST
Future bets mean you're betting on future outcomes of certain teams. Mindboggling right? Here's the team wins totals AND odds to win the Super Bowl (courtesy of VegasInsider):
BUFFALO- 5, 100/1
DETROIT- 5, 80/1 The Lions' schedule is tough. Four games against the Packers and Vikings, plus a Bears team that everyone is pretty high on. They also have the Eagles, Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, and Dolphins. The under looks pretty good. But the 80/1 Super Bowl odds is there just in case Stafford and co. take the leap this season.
ST. LOUIS- 5, 150/1
CLEVELAND- 5.5, 60/1 Has Vegas bought into the Jake Delhomme Era so quickly? At 60/1 for the Super Bowl, the bookmakers look to be insulating themselves against Jake's resurgence. The win total is pretty doable actually. In yesterday's preview I pointed out they have Bucs, Chiefs, and a possible Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh in the first six weeks. They also have Jags, Panthers, and Buffalo down the home stretch of the season. If Carson Palmer continues to erode, this is a no-doubter!*
TAMPA BAY- 6, 125/1
OAKLAND- 6, 125/1
KANSAS CITY- 6.5, 125/1 The saving grace of betting on the Chiefs is that their division looks pretty weak. The Chargers look like they're losing Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill. Ryan Mathews is an unproven commodity at running back and Shawne Merriman and the defense look like they're in decline. The Raiders are always good for a win or two and the Broncos seem weaker than ever. The Chiefs also have games against the Browns, Bills, and Rams. Seven wins isn't out of the realm of possibility.
CAROLINA- 7, 60/1 Just leave it alone.
JACKSONVILLE- 7, 45/1
DENVER- 7.5, 45/1
SEATTLE- 7.5, 80/1 Two games against the Rams. They also see the Raiders, Panthers, Chiefs, and Bucs. It all depends on how you feel about Pete Carroll's crew, and the prospects of the 49ers and Cards. San Francisco could always sink back into mediocrity, and the Cards appear more in disarray with every Matt Leinart outing. Plus, Larry FitzGerald is still MIA. The Seahwaks are getting Lofa Tatupu back, Earl Thomas has impressed in the preseason, and Russell Okung will be protecting Matt Hasselbeck's blind side. I don't hate their chances of winning eight.
ARIZONA- 7.5, 40/1
CHICAGO- 8, 28/1 Like with Detroit, four tough games against the Pack and Minnesota. Then there's a game away against the Cowboys, and more toughies against the Jets, Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles, and depending on how they evolve, the Redskins. They might be able to pull off nine wins, but has Jay Cutler ever won nine games at any level?
CINCINNATI- 8, 35/1
HOUSTON- 8, 30/1 It's been the Texans year for a couple seasons now, but the schedule could get bumpy. Games against the Cowboys, Chargers, Jets, and Ravens bar the way. But the Colts have to have a losing season sometime. Just make sure when you bet, it's the right time. Which is an utterly useless statement.
TENNESSEE- 8, 22/1
WASHINGTON- 8, 50/1
PHILADELPHIA- 8, 18/1
NY GIANTS- 8.5, 15/1
SAN FRANCISCO- 8.5, 45/1
MIAMI- 8.5, 30/1 A pretty tough schedule.
ATLANTA- 9.0, 20/1
PITTSBURGH- 9, 12/1 A push if I ever saw one. And I've seen (none) plenty!
NY JETS- 9.5, 14/1 I already don't like the Jets chances of even making the playoffs. They play out of conference games against the Ravens, Packers, Vikings, Texans, and Bengals. New York lost both games to Miami last season and New England will be competitive until Bill Belichick keels over during (stolen practice) game film.
MINNESOTA- 9.5, 11/1
NEW ENGLAND- 9.5, 17/2
GREEN BAY- 9.5, 19/2
BALTIMORE- 10, 24/1
DALLAS- 10, 15/2
NEW ORLEANS- 10.5, 7/1
INDIANAPOLIS- 11, 13/2
SAN DIEGO- 11, 17/2
*That's full of doubt.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
via Bleacher Report
A meeting of NFL owners brought forth the possibility of adding two extra games to the regular season. It looks to be one of the defining issues in the NFL moving forward.
The problem with changing the current NFL schedule is with give and take. Give something to one area, and you take from another.
More games means more money for owners. And, assuming that the players negotiate favorable terms in the next round of CBA talks, their payscale will rise with that of the NFL's revenues. Everybody likes money.
But more games also means that the longevity of players will be reduced. Those who are on teams in the playoff hunt will play much more in the two extra regular season games than they would have in preseason ones. That's already with having played an entire regular NFL season, which provokes its fair share of injuries.
This could increase injuries for older players and wear down younger ones, shortening careers at both ends of the spectrum. Unless they're compensated accordingly (with the general sentiment among the owners that they're losing money already) it's poison for the players.
If the players manage to secure those favorable terms it also takes away from the quality of player and salary cap flexibility of teams. And to accept an eighteen-game season, the players need to be taken care of with better contracts.
Then the teams are saddled with contracts that handcuff them to players who could be injured or slacking. Part of the NFL's high quality play comes from its cutthroat style of management. Either you're performing and producing or you're handed your walking papers. If teams signed Player X to a big deal as part of CBA compromises, they'll have to eat the dollars and subsequent loss of salary cap mobility that comes with long-term contracts. The revenue from the extra regular season games then just go to paying off bad roster moves.
And if the players are forced to accept smaller salaries and a longer season, look out. Then you have embittered employees who are making less for a game that is earning more. It opens up a world of underhanded possibilities for anyone disgruntled enough. There's also the question of worker's rights, as in how many hoops can NFL ownership make their players jump through before it becomes demeaning.
The quality of the games in an extended season would also increase and decrease. On one hand, two extra regular season games would keep teams vying for Wild Card spots in prolonged dogfights. A little more drama would ensue.
Then again, there are teams who sit starters at the end of the season when they've clinched their division. The games they'd play against teams out of the playoff race would have no meaning and generate less interest (like a preseason game). The games they would play against fringe contenders would bolster that team's playoff hopes while sabotaging those of another team forced to play someone still in contention (and playing their starters).
Fans don't like preseason games, but that's just because they want the season to come faster. Around this time of year the faithful grow stircrazy knowing another season is almost among us. The desperate would be willing to sacrifice preseason games for a taste of the genuine article.
Players on the bubble enjoy preseason games, because it's just one more opportunity to prove themselves. The NFL is an intimidating place, sometimes it takes a few swings by the players before they connect with their squad. By cutting someone too soon a team weakens itself without knowing.
But contrary to that, the extended season would allow for teams to play little used reserves in more regular season games in order to see their worth. They may even take snaps against stronger competition than they would see in preseason games, making their value more evident. The circular logic continues.
So if you're giving and taking from various aspects of the game, why not just keep things the same?
The owners are pressing, trying to squeeze more games from players while enjoying a larger slice of the money the games bring in. That won't stand with players, especially the ones left out in the cold of 2010's Uncapped Gold Rush.
So the players will strike, and the owners will stand pat. Players will see their savings dwindle and owners will be forced to keep paying the bills on mammoth stadiums. No one is making money until the other blinks. And whoever is left to pick up the tab will have a tremendous amount of contempt for the other side.
The real question, I guess, is are both sides willing to destroy the best game in town?
Until they actually turn thought into action, it's just a dangerous game of speculation, and chicken.
More football talk @ Scrawn Football.
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-I really like everything-back Peyton Hillis. Since his days at Arkansas he's shown a diverse set of skills that have cottoned to me in a weird, bronery way. He can run (five yards a carry back in 2008) and block (just take my word for it), and the Browns need to find a way to get him the ball, lest I call them chumps. And the fact that Cleveland pried him away for Brady Quinn is the icing on the cake. Not to take away anything from Jerome Harrison, of course, whose 286 yard masterpiece against KC is still fresh in the minds of many.
-Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. That's just a fact. Also, the interior of the offensive line received a boost when center Alex Mack proved he was a top-tier player at the position in his first season.
-Jake Delhomme may have choked his way out of Carolina, but he's an improvement over the walking dead the Browns have had taking snaps for them. And, he's been having a sharp preseason! CASE CLOSED. Jake Delhomme WILL be good. For the sake of Cleveland's populace, you just have to believe.
-Josh Cribbs remains an interesting asset for Cleveland. His use in the Browns' Wildcat formation is the closest thing to surprise the team has, unless Delhomme is actually a ball machine in a trenchcoat. Cribbs is also part of the reason why Cleveland wound up as one of the league's best on special teams.
-Eric Mangini is no longer running unchecked at the helm of the Browns. Mike Holmgren will probably rein in the Mangenius when he starts trying to put Colt McCoy into unpadded hitting drills. That the Browns went out and got Tom Heckert to take care of personnel is even better. Holmgren got canned as the GM in Seattle, and it wasn't until his focus was completely on coaching that the Seahawks made the Super Bowl. Heckert comes from Philadelphia, and his five trips to the NFC Championship game prove that maybe he has some gift for finding talent (but not the kind of talent that wins you that game. SNIP SNAP).
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Shaun Rogers' leg broke, he's facing a suspension for a gun charge, and he was never Johnny Go-Hard in the first place. He's supposed to be the headliner for the defense, but the man has some problems. Except at crime fighting.
-Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson isn't due back in practice for another month. In his stead, a motley crew of linebackers take over, including Matt Roth, Scott Fujita, and Chris Gocong.
-Despite what I said earlier, you don't want to have a quarterback who had a touchdown/interception ratio of 8/18 managing your offense. And not to pour salt in the wound, but his completion percentage of 55.5 last year was his worst since his rookie season. Unless Jake the Snake shakes off his two-year hangover, things will get real very quickly. If he falters, Seneca Wallace is next on the docket.
-The situation at wide receiver is thin and hinges on improvement. There's Mohamed Massaquoi, who is the number one option, but had only 34 catches and a 36% catch rate when thrown to. Rookie Brian Robiskie projects to be the X. Cribbs will be the third guy, but his 20 catches last season were a career-high. All three need to progress quickly and get on the same page with Jake Delhomme if the offense is going to be successful.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 6-10, FOURTH IN AFC EAST
-Stan Kroenke bought the rest of the St. Louis Rams. He previously owned forty percent of the team, but hey, that Sam Bradford smile is priceless. [USA Today]
-Greg Camarillo was traded to the Vikings for Benny Sapp. Miami needs depth at corner with two sophs and the oft-injured Will Allen playing nickelback. Minnesota needed a receiver to fill in for Sidney Rice who had surgery on his hip. I liked Camarillo in Miami, but he was just one possession receiver too many... [ESPN]
-Ochocino got fined for tweeting from the sidelines. Somewhere, Charlie Villanueva is nodding his head in approval. [ESPN]
-Darrelle Revis is still MIA. But you already knew that didn't you? Here's a link to the New York Times' Freakonomics blog, where one of the Football Outsiders guys has an alternate universe quarterback Revis passing for 5,000 yards. [NYT]
-Here's something obscure: Tatum Bell was cut by the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. What I didn't know was that he was once accused of swiping Rudi Johnson's bags after being cut from the Lions. Now he might join Mike Shanahan in Washington. Yeah. [PFT]
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Together at last?
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Rey Mauluaga won't be suspended for his offseason DUI. With Michael Johnson breathing down his neck on the strong side, he'll likely supplant Dhani Jones at middle linebacker. Of course, you know, he wouldn't be able to do anything for the team if he'd been suspended. It's the little things, people.
-Shayne Graham is gone and with him the ghosts of kicker's past. Mike Nugent or Dave Rayner will take over the position.
-Even with Andre Smith's bloated self and Carson Palmer's fear of being killed on the football field, the offensive line still did a pretty good job. They allowed only 29 sacks, and by re-signing Bobbie Williams they've kept their nucleus pretty much intact.
-The interior defensive line has some promise. Domata Peko has had time to heal, and he's a beast against the run. Without him, the linebackers behind him are open to harassment from opposing linemen. Nick Mangold would just not stop ordering pizzas to Dhani Jones' house in the playoffs. Tank Johnson will play the other tackle spot, and that's just interesting.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Carson Palmer might be washed up. He just doesn't have the same confidence or strength that saw him put together two straight 4,000 yard seasons. Palmer has already been put into a secondary role to the run game; and when asked to pass in his preseason displays, his arm strength has looked suspect. Balls have been fluttering, and not in a euphemistically good way. He's probably the third-best quarterback in the division behind Ben and Flacco now.
-Offseason acquisition Antonio Bryant banged up his knee before playing a game for the Bengals, and looks like he'll be released soon. He was Cincy's third receiver, and constituted most of their depth. Without him, Jordan Shipley or Andre Caldwell will take over.
-Both of the Bengals' defensive ends have been hurt in the preseason. Antwan Odom aggravated his meniscus, and Robert Geathers has been walking around in a protective boot. They should be back for Week One, but...OMINOUS.
-Marvin Lewis needs to win something of note soon. If not for years of depression, this team would have normal expectations instead of breaking out the champagne for making the Wild Card game. Two winning season out of seven isn't a stunning success. In a vacuum, Lewis would probably have been fired by now.
Listen, you've got Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, and MAYBE Matt Jones all commiserating under one banner. It's mesmerizing. If Dos Equis has the most interesting man, this is the most interesting team by far. Will they win games though?
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 9-7, SECOND IN AFC NORTH, POSSIBLY HOSTING THE GREATEST PARTIES EVAH
Monday, August 23, 2010
Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Pittsburgh Steelers, which I like to call, "Big Ben's Besmirching".
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Troy Polamalu is back and aiming to be in fine form by Week One. The safety kinda flops back and forth between being hurt and not, and the pattern has him staying healthy for this season. That's good, because without him the Steelers' secondary is pretty blase. Polamalu has a set of playmaking skills that few in the NFL can match. Assuming he doesn't have another joint explode, then they're totally matchable.
-Casey Hampton remains the team's rock at nosetackle. He's a human cannonball of sorts, being fired into opponent's O-Lines with lethal force.
-Rashard Mendenhall racked up his first 1,000 yard season and is projected to become the team's everydown back. Willie Parker has been dismissed, putting the onus on Mendenhall to take possession of an offense that will have to run a lot more with 4-6 weeks of Byron Leftwich/Dennis Dixon.
-The receiving corps is still pretty good, due to the fact that the Steelers have become a pass heavy team (or at least heavier than one would expect from Pittsburgh) in recent years. Hines Ward leads the group, and Mike Wallace's 19.4 yards per catch is promising at the X. Antwaan Randle-El is back in the fold, and the team will probably work in some trickery with him. Heath Miller is also an excellent tight end, whose 78% catch rate was tops among his peers.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, either one, will be the Opening Day quarterback. But hey, if they fail spectacularly the team always has Charlie Batch to fall back on.
Those first six games could be just enough to stop Pittsburgh from mounting a playoff run later in the season.
-Roethlisberger's impact on the team is at an impasse. If he returns and wins games, HURRAY BEN. If he loses, the fans and team will have to contemplate the fact that their quarterback may be scum. Nobody likes thinking.
-The offensive line is terrible. Only Green Bay allowed more sacks than the Steelers did, 51 to 50. If ever there was a reason to justify Big Ben's Big Mistakes, it would be the fact that he makes a living being hunted and stalked by angry, musclebound types in thick helmets.
-Everyone in their division is better. The Ravens added Boldin. The Browns have a competent supervisor in Mike Holmgren. Even the Bengals managed to bring in Terrell Owens. Er, he might be good. Last season the Steelers didn't make the playoffs, and I think the same happens again.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 7-9, THIRD IN AFC NORTH, POSSIBLY HEADED FOR AN ICEBERG
Will the Jets pay it though? If they do, it'll be regarded on par in New York with Bobby Bonilla's deferred contract options. And, every cornerback who can shut down Ochocinco will be sticking their hands out or into their employer's pockets. [Newsday]
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The Chargers have talented receivers coming out the wazoo (Gates, Floyd, Naanee), so this rough-and-tumble course of action they're taking with Jackson is par for the course. San Diego isn't budging on Marcus McNeill though. Jackson wants a contract topping that of Brandon Marshall's, and the Bolts want a second rounder in return.[NC Times]
Friday, August 20, 2010
Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Baltimore Ravens, which I like to call,
"A Dilfer-Free Zone".
GRATUITOUS WIRE REFERENCE. Let's make this snappy.
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-When I'm not busy confusing him for Ozzie Smith, I'm applauding Ozzie Newsome for finally landing his ten-point buck in Anquan Boldin. While Boldin is seemingly in a state of perpetual surliness, he sure plays a mean football. He's big, physical, and makes catches all over the field. Finally, the Ravens have their premium wideout to couple with whatever stiff they've got playing quarterback.
-With Joe Flacco at quarterback, the Ravens are obviously set. He's no stiff, despite what bloggers may say about him. They're not asking him to reinvent the position, and with a talented backfield behind him all he needs to do is keep the ball out of the opposing secondary's hands. He only threw eleven interceptions last season, which was two less than the only other first-round quarterback drafted in 2008, Matt Ryan. And, with his completion rate over sixty percent, Flacco is on track for a torrid love affair with Boldin.
-Yes, it did take me this long to get to Ray Rice. That's just because I rank players by height though. Diminutive stature and delicious surname aside, Rice is no sidedish. He rushed for over 1,300 yards last season while making room for 78 receptions as well. The man is a wrecking ball, who apparently can now bench more than 400 pounds. Neat.
-Those were three pluses for the Baltimore Ravens offense, a unit traditionally used to rag the ball while the defense rinsed the other team's blood off. What do you really need to know about the squad though? They're still good. Ray Lewis is forever young. Terrell Suggs dropped some weight. Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody are fitting to demolish unsuspecting offensive linemen. Ed Reed is Batman (I'm assuming his hip heals up real nice). Jarrett Johnson is tough as nails. People will be bludgeoned.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The cornerbacks are suspect. There's no Chris McAllister like in 2001 to lock down opposing receivers while the goon squad lights teams up. There's Fabian Washington, who's bouncing back from a torn ACL; and LaDarius Webb is next on the depth chart and he's also rebounding from a knee injury.
-While Suggs has one of the defensive end spots sewn up, the other end is up for grabs. Dwan Edwards fled to Buffalo, and his possible successors look to be a step down.
-Baltimore spent a boatload on backup quarterback Marc Bulger. Though the Ravens (and many others) believe that this is the year, isn't $3.8 million a bit much for a guy you never want to see play? Also, various media outlets are questioning Bulger's commitment to football in general, which Bulger denied.
-If you hadn't noticed, I'm starting to reach a bit here, the team is pretty good. Now watch as I question Baltimore's kicking situation: Shayne Graham is shaky. That is all.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 13-3, FIRST IN AFC NORTH, POSSIBLY SUPER BOWL CANDIDATES? YERP
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Mike Ditka handed over an entire draft for Williams' services. For the New Orleans Saints, their new running back ended up being a reclusive underperformer. When the team picked him out of Texas in 1999, it was naturally assumed they had someone who was serious about football and who had 400 carry, 2,000 yard seasons in him.
They assumed they had a workhorse. But if there's one thing Ricky Williams is, it's his own man, and nobody's to be pigeonholed. In New Orleans he flashed promise, but ultimately didn't deliver.
So Williams was packaged for a series of Miami Dolphins draft picks, and began life anew in South Beach. The initial outlook was favorable.
Arguably, his high tide came in 2002, rushing for over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. That was just his first season with Miami. There was no telling what kind of production the team could expect moving forward.
But you know the story. He got hurt. He smoked a lot of marijuana. He retired. He played in the CFL. It was the second time he employed a scorched earth policy on a team that had hedged its future on his motivation.
Now it's 2010. Williams has inserted himself back into the Dolphins' good books (or at least stayed off the bad ones). The team has massaged him into a running game that ranks among the league's best, and Williams is poised to do big things.
Selected in front of Williams in 1999, was Edgerrin James. James was the consummate professional Indianapolis expected when they drafted him in front of Williams. He played hard and produced immediately.
Where is he now? Stuck on the NFL's scrap heap. James is burnt out and been tossed aside. This raises the question: How is Ricky Williams still playing?
At 33, Williams is still a running back under NFL employ, which is a rarity in this era. His preservation is due to his own machinations, whether planned or not. Williams' retirement and subsequent odyssey was the Ziploc baggie that has kept him fresh into the new decade.
James had 3,028 rushing attempts in his ten seasons. Williams has only 2,164. The numbers point to Williams' relative youth.
Another running back in danger of flameout is LaDanian Tomlinson. For years, LDT set the pace for the San Diego Chargers. He was there everything, for lack of a better word. Now? He's a fringe back who will fight for playing time with the New York Jets. And he's two years younger than Williams is right now. Who would you rather draft for your fantasy team? Tomlinson has 2,880 rushing attempts in his career.
Williams is also fortunate enough to be behind one of the most potent offensive lines the Dolphins have had in recent years. There's some transitioning going on between the tackles, but the team just completed a season that saw them rush for a cumulative 2,231 yards.
With Jake Long and Vernon Carey leading the way, the Dolphins are grinders, to Williams' benefit. The offensive line is among the league's strongest when it comes to moving the ball (the second-highest power ranking on Football Outsiders). They'll keep Williams from absorbing more punishment than absolutely necessary.
Another factor increasing Williams' value is Ronnie Brown's mercurial career. The sixth-year man from Auburn has only one thousand yard season to his credit, and last season's injury was exacerbated by his offseason DUI. Though it's irrelevant to his health issues, the optics of the situation make Williams appear to have the inside track on the number one spot.
Then there's Miami's shiniest acquisition, Brandon Marshall. With him in the fold, Miami will look to pass more to justify their investment. Chad Henne is growing up quick, and his new target will insure that he'll have a home for wayward passes. Not only does this keep Williams' leg fresh, but it adds an element of unexpectedness that only the Wildcat really provided last season.
Finally, most of the credit for Williams' effectiveness this late in the game, is himself. If he's lost a step, it's a small one, because last season's production equalled anything he did six years ago. Though the sheer numbers aren't present, the ones he does put up are economical and exactly what the team needs from him. He's also the only back since Emmit Smith, Walter Payton, and OJ Anderson to have a thousand yard rushing season after turning 32.
Now he wants to stay in Miami another season. The NFL's mores would normally have Williams left wanting, but there's nothing really normal about Ricky Williams. That we're even having this discussion is baffling.
But considering the long, strange trip it's been, isn't there room for another season of Ricky?
No NFL preview would be complete without a few boastful predictions, and one of mine falls here. Look at that picture of Rex Ryan, downtrodden and hungry. That is exactly how I picture him for the duration of this season.WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-At the root of the Jets' newfound swagger is Rex Ryan. For all his hubris, he produced results; the man is a trans fat-infused dynamo of the coaching profession. Instead of letting the New York media slowly pick away at a team that could have been very bad, he became their lightning rod, and in turn the players responded. Ryan will be loud and obnoxious, but that's his camouflage and his source of power. He hides behind his boorishness while preparing extremely effective game plans. Everyone is just looking at his gut while he does so.
-Shonn Greene established himself as the number one option at running back during the playoffs; and the Jets' offseason jettisoning (eh?) of Thomas Jones backs that up. Greene didn't have twenty carries in a game until the playoffs, but his five yards a carry and explosive running style have him poised for a big year. Spelling him are LaDanian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight, who aren't grinders like Jones was, but will have to help Greene ease into his alpha dog role. The Jets ran the ball seventy percent of the time last season, if that continues then there will be enough yards for everyone.
-Kris Jenkins is back, and that's bad news for centers across the NFL. He's big and fast and his presence makes an excellent defense obscenely scary.
-On the defensive side, players like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard tailed Ryan from Baltimore and then excelled with the Gang Green. They're back and will lead the NFL's best defense in 2009. Leonhard is one of Ryan's success stories, he couldn't get a cup of coffee with the Bills for three seasons before becoming a Rexy staple in Baltimore and now in New York.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The Jets waved off Alan Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowler, in the offseason. He'll be replaced by Vladimir Ducasse, an enormous Haitian from UMass. Though Faneca is an elder statesmen of the sport, his departure casts a pall over a solid offensive line. Will New York still have the same push upfront they had with Faneca? And if chemistry is anything besides a subject I failed, will his absence stir up some timing issues on the front line? It's a reach, but I'm still noting it.
-Last season, Braylon Edwards was an enigma. He'd pop up for a quick home run play and then quickly retreat back into oblivion. The Jets gave up peanuts for him, but he's supposed to be a legitimate threat and safety valve for Mark Sanchez. Instead he's been aloof and inconsistent. With only six catches in the postseason, the connection between the two isn't there. Edwards has only one thousand yard season on his resume, maybe his current form should be what's expected.
-I don't think Mark Sanchez is a good quarterback, at all. The numbers back me up on this, his DYAR (like VORP, but for football; courtesy of Football Outsiders) was worse than Trent Edwards, Jake Delhomme, and Brady Quinn last season. Sanchez did manage to cut down on the interceptions in time for the playoffs, but when the run game was shut down and he was asked to shoulder the load, he faltered. Plus, they call it the "Sophomore Slump" for a reason. It happened to Matt Ryan last season, and in an offense similar to what the Jets like to run. The Jets offense will only be as good as Sanchez is, and I don't see it ending well.
-New York needs to get Darrelle Revis signed, soon. Their defense blitzes, a lot, and the success of a pressure defense is the secondary's ability to play man-to-man. Revis is arguably the best corner in the league, and without him the Jets are vulnerable when they go into kill mode. If he signs soon, knock this upstairs to the "GOOD" section, but right now Revis is detracting from the preparation necessary for an NFL defense to be successful.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 8-8, THIRD IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLE NAMATH DRINKING BUDDIES
So to recap, here's how I think the AFC East is shaking out
1) Miami Dolphins (16-0, but more likely 11-5)
2)New England Patriots (10-6)
3)New York Jets (8-8)
4)Buffalo Bills (5-11)
1) Welcome. I don't think I've said that yet so there.
2) Our message board/forum is online (note the button on right). All relevant NFL banter should be directed there. Also, one NFL Hall of Famer's name will be censored. Try to guess which one!
3) Today's profiles are the Jets and Ravens.
4) There will be other things to read besides team previews.
5) A podcast, concerning fantasy football, will be along shortly.
6) Our NFL highlight page is online. I'll be transferring Youtube clips there when they merit worthiness.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the New England Patriots, which I like to call, "The Tom Brady Truffle Shuffle".
The New England Patriots are the luckiest team of the past decade. That's not to say that they didn't make their fair share of slick personnel moves, but the clincher behind three Super Bowls was Tom Brady. Do they win one with Drew Bledsoe? Probably, considering Bill Belichick's game plan versus the Rams was his magnus opus. Would they win that squeaker against Carolina though? Hell naw.
There is no team more despised outside of the Dallas/Pittsburgh two-headed fair-weather fan club than the Patriots. Belichick is cold and conducts himself in a holier-than-thou manner. Brady is a tall quarterback with a supermodel wife. That lends itself to jealousy pretty easily. Also, New England's fanbase presents itself as a consistently woebegone bunch of ignorami that makes you want to punch a cat. The Dreaded Red Sox Syndrome is a reprehensible shield that Pats fans use to hide the fact that they're ugly and no one likes them. Also, RACISTS.*
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Tom Brady is fucking Tom Brady. I've spent time pondering this "Winner" gene that guys like Montana and Brady just seem to have and it is infuriatingly incalculable. They're just good, and they make plays that will beat your team consistently. Brady though, still has that ACL to think on, and the fact that he was thoroughly dressed down by Baltimore in the playoffs. His sheen might be starting to wear off, but Football Outsiders had him rated first at QB last season, and until he's dead you can't count him out.
-In the same breath that Brady gets dap, Belichick must get his as well. Even though he's failing to surround himself with anything but hapless yesmen, he's still the leading authority in coaching dictatorships. He's been there, done that, got the rings, and then banged housewives while wearing them. Again, until he's been staked through the heart and dumped into the Marianas Trench, don't count him out.
-Randy Moss isn't the ass-waggling troublemaker he used to be, but he's still an excellent receiver who is a mismatch against nearly everyone he plays against. His only real rival within the division is Revis, and who knows how that whole saga will finish. At times, he can disappear, but the Pats have slowly transitioned to an almost entirely passing offense. With Moss as the linchpin of that offense, they could be in worse hands.
-Vince Wilfork is still a beast and continues to dominate offensive lines with his girthy goodness. That the Patriots were able to hold on to the nosetackle is a huge coup, and even if he's unhappy he'll have to play his way out of it.
-Brandon Merriweather is an understated strong safety (BUT I AM NOW THE STATER). It's easy to make Sean Taylor comparisons due to their pedigrees, but Merriweather is still middling between ballhawk and big hitter. Every year he improves, as dictated by the fact he had five picks and 83 tackles last season. The Pats secondary is in transition, but Merriweather keeps them afloat.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Defensive end Ty Warren is on the injured reserve with a hip injury. That means the Patriots now have two subpar defensive ends the year after they gave away Richard Seymour to Oakland. What's their favorite monster truck? I'll bet it's GRAVE DIGGGGGERRRRRRRRRRR. Sorry.
-Their linebackers are a far cry from Boston's Wet Dream (Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, other assorted douchebags). Jerod Mayo has the rosiest prospects, but he's had his share of injuries that could flare up with the poke of a voodoo needle. Adalius Thomas is gone, along with his unfulfilled promise, and the Pats' best pass rusher is Tully Banta-Cain. TBC had ten sacks, but five of those came against Buffalo, who aren't good. He also got cut last year, if you recall.
-Logan Mankins' contract issues are bad juju. By all accounts, he's a mauler that dominates at the point of attack. The longer he stays unsigned, the longer the Pats' running game is that much worse, and Brady's knee is that much more vulnerable.
-The Welker/Edelman situation is a such: If Welker is healthy, Edelman becomes the third option. If Welker is still hurt, Edelman moves up the depth chart. Welker is already practicing and playing in mock games, so it looks like he's hellbent on returning. But, he had his knee demolished no longer than eight months ago. His rapid recovery might be fear over Edelman's rise, which means the Pats could be stuck with a mediocre Welker that could just hurt himself again.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 10-6, SECOND IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLE PETER KING BRONER'S
*Added for effect. Probably untrue.
Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Buffalo Bills, which I like to call...
The Buffalo Bills haven't been relevant for a while now. But will THIS be the year? No, probably not. They do have an interesting team, though. Unfortunately, like everything in Buffalo, it will slowly rust and splinter until it crushes a bunch of nuns or something.
Why They're Good
-Chan Gailey, though he officially staked the Cowboys '90s dynasty during his tenure as head coach, might actually do well for himself. It sounds like he's willing to shake things up, and if any team needed a shake up, it was Buffalo. Unfortunately (and I'll be starting many a sentence with that), the team is shaking up the same ingredients it trotted out on the field last year. Except with less Terrell Owens and more Roscoe Parrish. SEXY. Maybe Gailey will break out the K-Gun?
-There's usually a correlation between why certain middle linebackers make a lot of tackles when they play for a bad team. It's because everyone else sucks and they need to make every play. Paul Posluszny is in their midst, but the Penn State alum brings the hurt on occasion. He also breaks his limbs while doing this, but let's stay positive.
-The Bills are getting back two of their better corners in Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin. Both were injured last season and both have been part of Buffalo's return game in the past. McGee might be a little too long in the tooth to hack it on kicks, but McKelvin was averaging 28 yards a return as recently as 2008.
-Buffalo pilfered Dwan Edwards from Baltimore, giving them at least one solid 3-4 defensive end. He doesn't get a lot of sacks, but with the Bills switching their defensive front, Edwards is a boon. At 6'3'' and 290 pounds, he's not being moved off the point of attack easily. And, after years of looking both ways before exiting the Ravens locker room for Ray Lewis, he can breathe a little easier.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The offensive line is porous at best. The Bills are returning four out of five of their starters from last season, but from an offensive line that allowed 46 sacks. With Twitchy Trent and Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, that's just not permissible. Well, technically it is, but there should be some kind of human rights violation incurred.
-Fred Jackson is out 4-6 weeks with his favorite stiff-arming hand broken. Marshawn Lynch just sprained his ankle, and was already disgruntled. That leaves rookie CJ Spiller at the mercy of the aforementioned offensive line. When Lynch was drafted, there was revelry on par with what Spiller's drafting is doing for Buffalo right now. Then he had to actually play for the Bills. Now he wants out, which could happen to Spiller if Buffalo doesn't get their shit together quickly.
-Is Trent Edwards really the answer? After folding on the McNabb negotiations, Buffalo has its choice of Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, and Levi Brown. They chose the lesser evil, which is to say, they still chose evil.
-Jairus Byrd (nine interceptions last season) is now out indefinitely after having surgery on his groin. Sooooo there's a bright spot put out.
-Lee Evans is a good receiver...and that's about where the positives end for Buffalo's receiving corps. They took a chance on New England flunkie Chad Jackson, who is admittedly fast but terrible. Their tight end projects to be Derek Schouman, who is undersized as a receiving AND as a blocking tight end. James Hardy looks to be the No. 2 guy, but he has but ten catches in his entire NFL career. Roscoe Parrish will be getting another shot at playing wideout, but wasn't there a reason he was banished in the first place?
Buffalo is also trapped in the AFC East (CHORUS), which means they get six games against good to great teams. It's not exactly the environment that nurtures a team like Buffalo, which has been on the rebound for a long time.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 5-11, FOURTH IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLY SADDEST CITY IN AMERICA
Monday, August 16, 2010
Almost immediately, I have to recuse myself (and yet, this is the first team I chose to profile). I'm a huge Dolphins fan. As visited and trite as this sounds, my Sundays have always revolved around football and a bunch of giants swathed in teal. Their performance dictated the mood of the household for entire weeks at a time. I saw Don Shula's body wither away until he coached from a golf cart. I saw Dan Marino scream at any teammate who couldn't keep up with his angry standards. I saw Jimmy Johnson draft mediocre running backs in a fruitless panning for the next Emmit Smith. I saw Jay Fiedler. I saw Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban ride Miami into the basement. I saw a lot of things, I guess, is what you can take away from this.
My experiences have taught me a few things about cheering for Miami, but they've never tempered expectations for Next Year. And this year is going to be a fucking fantastic one.
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Tony Sparano is a good coach. He's not afraid to try things in order to make schemes fit players (see: Wildcat offense). The players don't seem to have a problem with him and I'm sure he smells like cured meats and espresso.
-Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is a solid backfield. The running game is usually at Brown's mercy, but when he's healthy he's a top-tier talent. Those health concerns are always at the forefront of the discussion, but his DUI has raised all the usual, "ARE YOU TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY?" questions. All I can say to that is that he's 28, and if I'm 28 and not getting boozed up just kill me now. Everybody likes to get a little saucy, and sometimes that leads to bad decisions. Get over it. If he's not ready, the team has had plenty of practice without him. Which leads me to Ricky Williams, who's an interesting backup. Interesting because his body hasn't absorbed the standard NFL punishment for his age and probably has a decent season left within his hot yoga-toned body. And there's always Lex Hilliard...oh, boy.
-Brandon Marshall isn't the burner the team really needs, but he's much, much, much, much, much, better than Ted Ginn has and will be. Sure, he has his troubles, but the man's a soldier. He went on Josh McDaniel's enemies list immediately in Denver, but still contributed. Now he might actually be happy. Consider the possibilities. I'll wait.
-Karlos Dansby is a beast. He'll shore up a middle linebacker spot that's been in flux since Zach Thomas stopped being so gritty.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The defensive line is very, very, meh. Jason Ferguson is suspended. Randy Starks, whose nine sacks lead anyone else still on the team, is now playing nose tackle to cover for Fergie Ferg. Jared Odrick will probably get time at end, but how he'll perform is up for debate. Philip Merling is out for the season with injuries compounded by domestic strife. He hit his pregnant girlfriend. There, are you happy?
-Who is going to rush the passer? Besides Cam Wake, who is a stud on third downs but who has trouble with the run game, there's not a whole lot going on. Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are gone, which might actually be a good thing, but who's taking their place? Draft pick Koa Misi is in the mix, and so is Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses. Those choices don't inspire a lot of faith.
-Pat White is still an unknown commodity. He missed the first day of camp with personal issues and has apparently looked like shit the days he has been there. Tony Sparano insists he's a quarterback, and the WildPat formation had its flashes of brilliance, but White's still a question mark.
-The interior of the offensive line is still coming together. Joe Berger and Jake Grove are in a dogfight for center. Richie Incognito and Nate Garner are battling for right guard. Justin Smiley got dinged up last year which is a concern at left guard. Jake Long and Vernon Carey? You just keep on doing what you're doing. But seriously, RICHIE ICOGNITIO. NOOOOOOOOO
What sucks for the Dolphins is that they're stuck in a division with the Pats and Jets, which makes Miami the obvious choice for third in the division. The AFC East could send three teams to the playoffs, but more likely is that one of the three will explode before then. The Pats are aging in dog years, the Jets' fate hinges on Mark Sanchez (and Darrelle Revis' contract negotiations). I think Miami sneaks in between the two and finishes second in the East. And that's just because I don't want to seem like too much of a homer. Ah, screw it. FIRST PLACE.
PREDICTED FINISH: 16-0, FIRST IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLE SUPER BOWL