Saturday, September 30, 2006

Month in Review: September '06

Here's what our writers covered this month:

JAY (26 posts):
50 HR club; ESPN.com sucks; USA loss no big deal; NFL refs' new outfits; NFL preseason predictions; the Friedgen code; Marion Jones vindicated; effective relief pitchers; another Clemens comeback?; Sunday observations (9/10); NFL Week 1 wrap up; Liriano hurt again; Maryland-WVU; Fire Friedgen?; NFL Week 2 preview; Sunday observations (9/17); Redskins-Cowboys; NFL Week 2 wrap up; hope for Terps; Nationals' stud trio; Gridiron Gang; Sunday observations (9/24); Trevor Hoffman saves leader; NFL Week 3 wrap up; T.O. suicide attempt?; NFL Week 4 preview

NING (15 posts):
Attitude problem not Team USA's; international ballers; NFL greatest #1; #2; #3; #4; #5; #6; #7; NFL Week 3 preview; NFL greatest #8; #9; #10; #11; #12

MOOSE (2 posts):
Note to Parcells; NFL greatest #8 (rebuttal)

ANDREW (1 post):
NFL Week 1 preview

NFL Greatest Numbers (#12)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.

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#12

This situation is the mother of all battles, a fatal five-way between some terrific quarterbacks: Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Joe Namath and Bob Griese. Who do we give the number to? As usual, we will arrive at our conclusion via process of elimination.

Let's consider Super Bowl rings. Kelly has 0, Namath has 1, Griese has 2, Staubach has 2, and Bradshaw has 4 (coincidentally, Tom Brady, who also wears #12, has 3, but as a modern era player who is still young he does not yet have the other credentials that these other players have.) That seems to remove Kelly from consideration, even though he managed to play in four straight Super Bowls, he did not win any, and thus cannot be considered on the same level as the multiple-winners such as Staubach, Griese, and Bradshaw. So now we're down to four.

Second is the importance to the team factor. Griese was the only quarterback to take his team through a perfect season (in 1972), but he was arguably less important to his team than Larry Czonka, among others, so he is eliminated. The leaves us with Namath, Staubach, and Bradshaw.

Namath only managed to make it to one Pro Bowl, and, Super Bowl guarantee notwithstanding, had a surprisingly pedestrian career by Hall of Fame standards. Unfortunately for those of us who prefer a bit more color to our representatives, "Suzy I want to kiss you" Namath does not make the list.

That leaves us with Staubach and Bradshaw. Bradshaw certainly had more Super Bowls, but he also had a better supporting cast; Staubach was known for being more clutch, but Bradshaw had the better numbers. Bradshaw had the longer career, but Staubach preceded his career (and thus sacrificed part of his prime) with a four year stint in the Navy.

There will almost certainly be a counterargument to every argument for or against either of these players. I personally can't decide between the two of them. Therefore, I present your first co-Greatest Number players at #12, Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach.

Friday, September 29, 2006

NFL Greatest Numbers (#11)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.

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#11

Norm Van Brocklin is my pick at #11 because of the extreme competition that he had to endure day in and day out not just from the opposing team, but from his own team--he spent much of his career sharing snaps with fellow quarterback Bob Waterfield, another Hall-of-Famer. Even while splitting offensive possessions, Van Brocklin managed to lead the NFL in passing in '50 and '52. In the year in between, he threw the game clinching 73-yard touchdown pass in the 1951 NFL championship game, and threw for 554 yards against the New York Yanks. When he gained complete control of the team's offense in 1954, he responded by answering questions about his durability as a full-time quarterback by leading the league in passing once again.

Disputes with the management of the Rams moved Van Brocklin to Philadelphia, where he ended his career by leading the Eagles over the Packers in the 1960 NFL championship game, the only quarterback to ever beat a Lombardi-coached Packers team in a championship game.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

NFL Week 4 Preview

Arizona at Atlanta (Sun., 1:00 PM) - For some reason this game reminds me of that old "Goodfeathers" skit from Animaniacs. Anyway, let's get one thing clear: Matt Leinart isn't ready to be starting, so lay off. By the way, I seem to recall that way back in Week 1, Kurt Warner was Player of the Week.

Dallas at Tennessee (Sun., 1:00 PM) - If I were a Titans fan looking at the wreckage of a once-proud franchise, I'd contemplate mixing painkilllers and supplements too. (Haha o.k., that's the only T.O. reference you'll see, promise.)

Indianapolis at NY Jets (Sun., 1:00 PM) - I like that Jersey has won their two road games, but they were against Tennessee and Buffalo, so let's not get carried away. The J-e-t-s are still a year away from contending for their division.

Miami at Houston (Sun., 1:00 PM) - There's no point in piling on Mario Williams for his lack of production, because honestly, what did y'all expect? That said, Miami has such a bad offense, they won't be able to make the Texans look like the JV team they are.

Minnesota at Buffalo (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Despite a reputation for anemic offense, Buffalo had 475 yards last week, but still lost to the Jets. The Vikings offense has scored only 2 TDs in three games, making kicker Ryan Longwell an unlikely star--he has two game-winning kicks and a game-tying TD pass.

New Orleans at Carolina (Sun., 1:00 PM) - I know N.O., my preseason pick for the division, is 3-0, but this weekend's game will be tougher than their victories over Cleveland, Green Bay, and Atlanta. Carolina's WR duo of Smith-Johnson is so freaking good, imagine what they could do if Jake Delhomme was a better QB. The Panthers 'D' has underperformed this year.

San Diego at Baltimore (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Chargers' safety Terrence Kiel was arrested this week for trying to make Sizzurp, but that doesn't mean the Chargers won't "lean" on Baltimore this week. I just think it's refreshing to see how the Bengals and Chargers have finally surpassed the Ravens for run-ins with the law. Parity in the NFL works!

San Francisco at Kansas City (Sun., 1:00 PM) - The Chiefs have scored 1 TD this season (only 2 games played though), while the 49ers are just hoping to avoid injuring multiple star players on the same freak play. (Last week RB Frank Gore was hurt on a goal line dive, fumbled the ball, and TE Vernon Davis broke a bone in his leg while chasing the recovering defender, who scored on a 98-yard TD return.)

Detroit at St. Louis (Sun., 4:05 PM) - Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins has kicked 13 field goal tries in just 3 games this season. The Lions...well, to paraphrase Roy Williams, it's stupid how close they are to maybe winning a game. That's about the best I can say for these two teams which define mediocrity.

Cleveland at Oakland (Sun., 4:15 PM) - Two teams only relatives of the players would pay to watch. If you really want me to analyze this game, I'd tell you that at least Cleveland isn't as terrible as Oakland. Needles to say, they're both flat-out terrible.

Jacksonville at Washington (Sun., 4:15 PM) - I want to find a way for the 'Skins to win this game, but it's hard. The Jags' have a formidable defense and solid running game, while the 'Skins have a porous defense, Mark Brunell (circa '06, not circa '97), and the most penalties in the league. On the bright side, Leftwich has not been good this year, Clinton Portis can be a spark, and dink-n-dunk has achieved grander things before.

New England at Cincinnati (Sun., 4:15 PM) - When the Pats' don't win, the O-line doesn't get to be be in Visa commercials, so you know the urgency is there. This should be a very good game, but tarnished by the Pats' offensive struggles and the Bengals' injuries and an upcoming Chris Henry arrest.

Seattle at Chicago (Sun., 8:15 PM) - I think it's a little funny how the Seahawks got their hopes up when they thought Shaun Alexander's foot might not be broken after all. What, did the X-ray printout have a crease in it or something? The foot's broken, turning this game into a real dogfight.

Green Bay at Philadelphia (Mon., 8:30 PM) - If it hadn't been for one bad quarter (the 4th quarter against the Giants in Week 2), everyone would be talking about how unstoppable Philly looks this season. And as big a Brett Favre fan as I am, I don't see them derailing the Iggles this week.

Byes: Denver, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay

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JayMooseAndrewKevinNingZFavorite
Arizona at AtlantaATLARIATLATLATLATLATL
Dallas at TennesseeDALDALDALDALDALDALDAL
Indianapolis at NY JetsINDINDINDINDINDINDIND
Miami at HoustonHOUMIAMIAMIAMIAMIAMIA
Minnesota at BuffaloBUFBUFMINMINBUFMINBUF
New Orleans at CarolinaNOCARCARCARCARCARCAR
San Diego at BaltimoreSDSDBALSDSDSDSD
San Francisco at Kansas CitySFSFSFKCKCSFKC
Detroit at St. LouisSTLSTLSTLSTL STLSTLSTL
Cleveland at OaklandCLECLECLECLECLECLECLE
Jacksonville at WashingtonWASJAXJAXJAXWASWASJAX
New England at CincinnatiCINCINNECINCINCINCIN
Seattle at ChicagoSEACHICHICHICHISEA CHI
Green Bay at PhiladelphiaPHIPHIPHIPHIPHIPHIPHI

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Andrew 12-2, Kevin 11-3, Favorites 8-6, Jay 8-6, Moose 8-6, Ning 8-6, Z 7-7

Season:
Andrew 36-10, Kevin 32-14, Moose 30-16, Jay 29-17, Favorites 28-18, Ning 26-20, Z 26-20

NFL Greatest Numbers (#10)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.

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#10

At #10 the award goes to the first great scrambling quarterback of the modern era, Fran Tarkenton. Sure, in the olden days players like the golden boy scrambled and ran for first downs and touchdowns from the quarterback position, but Tarkenton was the first player to make it a major part of his game in the Super Bowl era.

The fact that he did scramble, however, by no means meant that he was an incompetent passer. At the time of his retirement, he owned the NFL records in attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns. A 9-time pro bowler, he led the Vikings to 3 Super Bowls over a ten-year career, and redefined what it meant to be a quarterback in the NFL from his very first day on the job, where he passed for 4 touchdowns and ran for one more. At #10, I give you Fran Tarkenton.

* * *

A recap of the players at each jersey number that we have selected so far:

1. Jim Thorpe
2. John "Paddy" Driscoll
3. Bronko Nagurski
4. Brett Favre
5. Paul Hornung
6. Benny Friedman
7. John Elway
8. Steve Young
9. Sonny Jurgensen
10. Fran Tarkenton

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

T.O. in O.D. Suicide Attempt

Late last night I read the news that Terrell Owens had been rushed to the hospital and that doctors were inducing vomiting. For me, that briefly triggered connotations of an overdose, but I dismissed the notion without even giving it a second of serious thought. This is T.O. we're talking about here.

When I woke up this morning around 9am, I saw that ESPN and Yahoo! were both reporting that T.O. had suffered an allergic reaction to his painkiller medicine (the guy has a broken hand, remember.) Oh good, that's all it was, I thought to myself. A non-story. Then, as part of my usual pre-class reading habit, I went over to the Drudge Report to get my latest political rumors and other weird stories. The headline shocked me: Drudge was linking to a local Dallas affiliate's story that cited the police report saying that T.O. had attempted suicide by overdosing on his painkillers. (The Smoking Gun already has the police report up here.)

This is really sad and I feel terrible for the guy. I don't want to speculate, so let's hope this isn't as serious as it sounds, and if it is, that T.O. gets well soon. Whatever you think of the guy's antics as a teammate, he's not in the category of Maurice Clarett or Marcus Vick or (as some commentators make him out to be) Rae Carruth or whoever you want to compare him to.

From a sincere Redskins fan, get better T.O. We want to see you on the field playing football.

* * *

Update: Well, by afternoon it appears that this whole story is a false alarm. Turns out T.O. accidentally mixed his pain medicine and his supplements, which left him groggy. His alarmed publicist called 911, setting off the whole frenzy. The whole thing was a big misunderstanding. T.O., who seemed amused (not depressed), proved it by showing up at Cowboys headquarters and catching balls from Bledsoe and Romo. As to those people who are questioning T.O.'s account or thinking this was somehow a publicity stunt, they're idiots. This story's over.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NFL Greatest Numbers (#9)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#9

At #9, I am selecting Sonny Jurgensen. One of the most prolific passers ever, at one point he owned almost every individual passing record in the books. Brilliant over the course of his 18 year career (he won his final passing crown in his final season at the age of 40), Sonny was even able to make an admirer of the taskmaster Vince Lombardi, who called him the best quarterback that he had ever seen. From the great one himself that is a vouch that I am willing to take to heart.

NFL Week 3 Wrap Up

Per usual, the first order of business is settling the DSA crew's Week 3 Pick 'Ems. Andrew continues his torrid stretch, winning for the third consecutive week. I guess all that Sunday Ticket must be paying off!

Week 3:
Andrew 12-2, Kevin 11-3, Favorites 8-6, Jay 8-6, Moose 8-6, Ning 8-6, Z 7-7

Season:
Andrew 36-10, Moose 30-16, Kevin 32-14, Jay 29-17, Favorites 28-18, Ning 26-20, Z 26-20

And now on to the unfinished business from this past week of games, and a look ahead:

- The "Madden curse" strikes again! Shaun Alexander, the cover boy for the '07 edition of everyone's favorite football game, has a broken foot and will likely miss at least 3 weeks. Alexander joins prior curse victims Daunte Culpepper ('02), Marshall Faulk ('03), Michael Vick ('04), and Donovan McNabb ('06).

- In other injury news, Chris Simms will be doing without the services of his spleen...forever. After taking a severe beating in Sunday's loss to the Panthers, Phil's Boy had emergency surgery to remove the damaged organ.

For the non-neurophysicists in the audience, the spleen is a ductless, verterbrate gland that functions in the destruction of old red blood cells. (It also functions as the body part second most commonly used in punch lines.) Wikipedia says that the absence of a working spleen can cause a predisposition to certain infections, yikes.

With Simms out indefinitely (perhaps even lost for the season), the 0-3 Bucs turn to rookie Bruce Gradowski, whose name sounds more like a New York City meter maid than an NFL starting QB.

- Well, if there's one result from this week that has me gloating, it's the New Orleans Saints administering a sound 23-3 thrashing to the Falcons on Monday night. Not only did the Michael Vick-bandwagon get derailed (told ya), but my preseason prediction of New Orleans winning this division is looking strong. Granted, it's very early in the season, but the Saints are alone atop the NFC South at 3-0, and the competition isn't stiff. Tampa Bay's 0-3 and without its starting QB while Carolina just got its first win (and they had to struggle to beat Tampa to get it). The Falcons have two months to get ready for the rematch in Atlanta on November 26.

- New England looked terrible in its 17-7 home loss to Denver on Sunday night. The RB tandem of Maroney-Dillon managed only 34 yards and The Golden Boy had to throw 55 pass attempts. Despite the fact that the Patriots have finally run out of skill players to plug into the mix, does this mean the Pats' will miss the playoffs? Nope, not as long as they remain the best team in the AFC North. Miami is atrocious, Buffalo is Buffalo, and the Jersey Jets are a year away from challenging. Sleep easier, Coach Belichick.

- Games to look forward to in Week 4: Not the best week for marquee matchups, but Sunday night's Seattle-Chicago is the clash of 3-0s to watch. Meanwhile, I see undefeated San Diego handing Baltimore its first loss, while it will also be interesting to see if New England can rebound on the road against Cincinnati.

NFL's Greatest Numbers (#8): The Rebuttal

Troy Aikman or Steve Young? Ning does indeed make a case for Aikman. But he forgets one thing. Young stepped into Montana's glory team, Aikman stepped into a 1-15 season. Unlike Young, Aikman came to a team that had virtually nobody. Yes the 7 draft picks for Herschel Walker helped (thank you Minnesota), but Aikman himself was the key to the Cowboys three Super Bowls. Norv Turner's offense was the most complex in the NFL, requiring the quarterback to make pinpoint throws on timing based routes. No other quarterback could make those throws. It was even said that if Aikman threw an incompletion during practice, everybody would say "what's wrong with Troy?"

Yes, Aikman had Emmitt one of the greatest running backs of all time, but Young ran the West Coast offense. Of course he'd have better numbers, he had to throw the ball more. Ning's problem point was citing Emmitt Smith. Emmitt would not nearly have done as much in a West Coast offense, the style Young thrived in. Plus, if it wasn't for Aikman's ability to make the playaction pay, Emmitt woulda been stuffed constantly. I do not think Emmitt would have had his numbers had it not been for Aikman. And perhaps the most important distinguishing feature between Aikman and Young was the Super Bowls. All Young had to do to win a Super Bowl was beat Aikman. He only did it once though. I love Steve Young, he's an amazing quarterback and one of the greatest ever, but its only fitting that #1 at #8, should be the one that was #1 more times.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hoffman Your New Saves Leader

Cue "Hell's Bells." Trevor Hoffman is baseball's new all-time saves leader. He got #479 today, passing Lee Smith, by closing out the Padres' 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh. With his NL-leading 43 saves this season, Hoff could be looking at an NL Cy Young award, something that eluded him when he finished runner-up for the award in 1998.

1998, incidentally, was the last year I lived in San Diego. That year the Padres made the World Series--then blew up their roster en route to 5 straight losing seasons. Of the old Padres that I grew up with--Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Wally Joyner, Andy Ashby, etc.--only Hoffman (and manager Bruce Bochy, without his once-famous mustache) remains.

Out of all those names, aside from the beloved Gwynn, Hoff is probably the greatest Padres player. It's a fitting description, considering that Gwynn played his entire career in San Diego, and Hoffman has spent all but the first half of his first pro season in 1993 playing for the Padres. (As a matter of fact, two posters of Padres players hang in my house--one of Gwynn, the other of Hoffman.) If Gwynn was the all-smiles face of the franchise, Hoff has been its nasty side. That's not a knock against him, because he's actually a great guy, but his on-field persona is something else.

Nasty grimace, nasty high leg kick, and nasty changeup--that's what opposing batters have been seeing in the ninth inning for over a decade. Congratulations on #479, Trevor.

Sunday Observations

- Wow, I wish we could play the Texans every week. This was exactly the kind of game the Redskins needed to get some confidence back. Clinton "105%" Portis made an instant impact, touching the ball on the Skins' first 6 plays and turning that into 87 yards. He finished with 164 total yards and 2 TDs.

Mark Brunell, the offense's major liablity previously this season, set an NFL record with 22 straight completions, which he fired off from the start of the game through the third quarter. Of course, don't let the stats (24-for-27, 261 yards, 1 TD) tell you he played like Joe Cool--virtually every pass was a short yardage strike to a WR or dumpoff to the RB, who then did all the work of getting the yards. But hey, Marky Mark--by emulating the Brad Johnson-style offense from years ago--did enough to help us win, and for that I give him props.

The offensive line played terrific, not giving up a sack (after 8 last week vs. Dallas), and the 'Skins rushed for 234 yards. The defense played well enough, though considering this was against the Texans, I'm surprised our 'D' didn't make bigger plays. One definite area for concern: penalties, again. 12 penalties for 126 yards this game, which exceeded the 11 penalties for 117 yards we had against the Cowboys. This better get cleaned up, because the next two games against the Jaguars and Giants are going to be brutal.

- You want drama? Every one of the 1:00 games aside from Skins-Texans went into its final few minutes with the leading team up by one score or less.

FOX showed us the end of Panthers-Bucs, where the Panthers were down 24-23 (after being up 17-0 earlier) in the final minute. On the key play of the game, 4th-and-7 from about the Bucs' 40, Jake Delhomme tucked and ran up the middle of the field for a first down. Gutsy. Two plays later, the best kicker in the league, a.k.a. John Kasay, drilled a 46-yarder for the win.

Chicago also scored the go-ahead TD with 1:53 to beat Minnesota, while Miami, NYJ, Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati all stopped their opponents' last drives to preserve a win.

- Some kickers were fantasy deciders today: Kasay hit 4-for-4 FGs from 51, 50, 49, and 46 yards. Robbie Gould was also 4-for-4, and in the same game, Ryan Longwell was 3-for-3 (though no TD passes this week). Later, Matt Stover and Jeff Wilkins each kicked 3 as well.

- I was glad to see Brett Favre get a win today. As great as this guy has been, he deserves better than the shabby treatment he's been getting from many football observers for the Pack's struggles. Today he threw his 400th touchdown pass, and after throwing two more later in the game, is now only 18 behind Dan Marino's all-time record.

- Is anyone in Miami calling for Joey Harrington? I didn't think I'd ever see anyone call for him again, but it's now a question worth pondering. Lucky for the Fins they eked out their first win 13-10 over the awful Tennesee Titans, but Daunte Culpepper was terrible yet again. He has been sacked fifteen times in three games.

- Over before it started: Giants-Seahawks. The much-anticipated debut between NFC powerhouses turned farcical early on, with The Birds taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Eli Manning has 9 passing yards and has completed as many throws to his own team (3) as he has to Seattle (3 INTs). I think I'm ready to declare an Eagles-Seahawks NFC championship match.

- Is Andrew stoppable? At 11-1, he looks poised to win his 3rd consecutive week of Pick 'Em.

NFL Greatest Numbers (#8)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#8

This is the first major rumble, by the numbers. Two quarterbacks. Same era. Troy Aikman or Steve Young? This topic was so contentious that even our own website had split views on it. Moose will make the case for Aikman, but I say it's...

Steve Young certainly has the numbers requisite to be considered better than Aikman. Statistically, there is no comparison between the two. His accolades similarly ring true. Tied with Sammy Baugh as the only players to ever win six NFL passing titles. The highest career passer rating of all time. The man who flawlessly transitioned in at quarterback for an aging Joe Montana, retooling but not resetting the Niners, thus keeping them in championship contention. By the numbers and by the books, Young has Aikman in almost every significant category.

Every significant category, that is, save one: Aikman has three rings, and Young had one. This is the one statistic that will hound any selection of Young, but I believe this to be an overstatement of reality for one reason: Joe Montana.

The '80's were the heyday of the Niners. That was when they had Rice and Clark on the outside, and the multidimensional Roger Craig alternatively banging it up the middle or spreading the field out even more with his receiving skills. As much as Niners fans hate to admit this, by the time Young took over the Niners were an aging team that had lost some of their best talent.

Also, having sat for an uncommonly long time robbed Young of some of the numbers and presumably championships he would have had had he not had to contend with Favre and Aikman in his own conference with an aging team. Aikman had the Cowboys dynasty to himself, along with a certain player named Emmitt Smith who just might have been the greatest running back of all time, and thus I feel naturally won more rings. That is the reason why I believe that Young deserves this number over Aikman.

Gridiron Gang

It was a DSA afternoon at the movies on Friday when Ning, Andrew, and I went out and saw the #1 movie in America...Gridiron Gang, starring The Rock and Xzibit. The movie, based on a true story (isn't pretty much every movie, by a long stretch, based on a true story?), was about a counselor (The Rock) at a juvenile detention facility who starts a football program for his gang-banging inmates to teach them discipline and self-esteem.

Before you ask, yeah, it's the ultra-formulaic sports movie. Yes, you know exactly what's going to happen in every scene even before you step into the theater. Yes, it's full of ridiculously improbable or melodramatic or derivative moments. But nonetheless, it was still pretty enjoyable to watch, even if half the time we were cracking up in a mostly empty theater.

Best line? The Rock is trying to inspire a fat kid to get down and do pushups, so he tells the kid to pretend there's chicken on the floor. "Do you like chicken?" he barks. The fat kid shouts "Hell yeah coach, I love chicken!"

Well, I guess you had to be there. With a movie like this, you suspend judgment, enjoy the dumb charisma of The Rock and X to the Z, and you take your highlights where you can get them. Two of the best moments actually came before it started, when we saw extended trailers for Casino Royale and Apocalypto, both of which look like they could be very good. More relevantly though, if you do go and see Gridiron Gang, stay for the ending credits as they show footage of the real Coach Porter and Mustangs team, with a number of scenes that exactly parallel the ones in the movie.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to complete the bad sports movie trifecta by watching Invincible and Crossover in a marathon tripleheader. That's probably best for all parties involved.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

NFL Week 3 Preview

Before every week of the NFL season, we preview the games, and the Da Sports Authority's football crew weighs in with their picks. Below, Ning tells you what to look forward to in Week 3.
* * *

Carolina at Tampa Bay (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Carolina is a different team with Steve Smith suiting up. Look for this game to be an unexpected blowout victory.

Chicago at Minnesota (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Chicago has been blowing teams out, Minnesota has been just squeaking by. The teams that they have beaten are a combined 0-8, however. This is the game where Minnesota’s lack of a marquee quarterback gets exposed by a strong Bears D, while Rex Grossman will come back down to earth and play just well enough to win.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Sun., 1:00 PM) - The Bengals, though 2-0, are physically banged up at a number of positions, particularly wideout, where both TJ Houshmanzadeh and Chad Johnson are both nursing injuries. Pittsburgh has a horrible taste in its mouth from being smacked by Jacksonville, and looks to avenge itself against its division rival with (hopefully) a fully healed Ben Roethlisberger. I go with the Steelers on this one.

Green Bay at Detroit (Sun., 1:00 PM) - There is no way that Brett Favre lets his team fall to 0-3. There is no way Brett Favre lets his team lose to the Lions. Put these two together, and the outcome of this game is clear.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Perhaps the most intriguing matchup this week, it’s offense vs. defense in a strength-on-strength trench fight that will be decided by the offensive and defensive lines. If the Colts can keep Peyton Manning upright, he should be able to put enough points on that board to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Even without Vinatieri and Stokley, Jacksonville sans Matt Jones will not be able to match.

NY Jets at Buffalo (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Chad Pennington is playing like Chad Pennington played in 2002, when Gang Green made it to the playoffs and won a wild card game. J.P. Losman is just not there yet. Nevertheless, Jets WR Laveranues Coles is dinged up, and the Bills defense has played inspired football. Buffalo wins a close one.

Tennessee at Miami (Sun., 1:00 PM) - This is not a matchup where the winner is in question; Miami should win even with the sub-par play of their entire offense. Rather, the question here is, how long into the game will it be before Vince Young comes in for a battered Kerry Collins?

Washington at Houston (Sun., 1:00 PM) - Clinton Portis is coming back, and he should rush well enough to beat a weak Texans team and draw attention away from the Redskins’ anemic passing game.

Baltimore at Cleveland (Sun., 4:05 PM) - No contest. Really. But will McNair finally get on track?

New York Giants at Seattle (Sun., 4:15 PM) - The Giants may have a fantastic pair of bookends in Stahan and Osi Umenyora, but their run defense has not yet been tested this season. Shaun Alexander and the powerful Seattle Seahawks running game is that test. Look for Seattle to control the clock in this matchup between stud running backs and put the Giants in an early 1-2 hole to start the season.

Philadelphia at San Francisco (Sun., 4:15 PM) - The McNabb-led Eagles should beat San Francisco, though perhaps not by as much as some may think, on the strength of a couple D-Mac to D-Stall highlight-reel touchdowns.

St. Louis at Arizona (Sun., 4:15 PM) - Lots of offense means that either team could be there at the end of the game, but Kurt Warner will find that extra giddy-up in his step to beat the team that gave away his job. Instead of Holt and Bruce, he's got the younger (and maybe better) Fitzgerald and Boldin.

Denver at New England (Sun., 8:15 PM) - New England should win, as Denver’s offense is horrible due to chemistry issues. Tom Brady will still not be at peak efficiency, but he will be closer as he tries to gel with his newest batch of wideouts.

Atlanta at New Orleans (Mon., 8:30 PM) - Vick vs. Bush. If only Bush would score, perhaps that storyline would be more compelling. As is, it’s hard to pick against Atlanta, who soundly beat divisional foes Carolina and Tampa Bay. New Orleans, meanwhile, barely beat league doormats Cleveland and Green Bay.

Byes: Dallas, Oakland, Kansas City, San Diego

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JayMooseAndrewKevinNingZFavorite
Carolina at Tampa BayCARCARCARCARCARCARCAR
Chicago at MinnesotaCHICHICHICHICHIMINCHI
Cincinnati at PittsburghCINCINPITCINPITCINPIT
Green Bay at DetroitGBDETGBGBGBDETDET
Jacksonville at IndianapolisJAXINDINDINDINDINDIND
NY Jets at BuffaloNYJBUFNYJBUFBUFBUFBUF
Tennessee at MiamiTENMIAMIAMIAMIAMIAMIA
Washington at HoustonWASHOUWASWASWASWASWAS
Baltimore at ClevelandCLEBALBALBALBALBALBAL
NY Giants at SeattleNYGSEASEASEASEANYGSEA
Philadelphia at San FranciscoPHIPHIPHIPHIPHIPHIPHI
St. Louis at ArizonaARIARISTLARIARIARIARI
Denver at New EnglandNENENENENENE NE
Atlanta at New OrleansNOATLNONOATLATLATL

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Andrew 13-3, Kevin 13-3, Moose 13-3, Jay 12-4, Coin Flip 11-5, Ning 11-5, Z 11-5, Favorites 11-5

Season records:
Andrew 24-8, Moose 22-10, Jay 21-11, Kevin 21-11, Favorites 20-12, Z 19-13, Ning 18-14

NFL Greatest Numbers (#7)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
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#7

Some picks are difficult to make. This is not one of them. At #7, I give you the incomparable John Elway.

Elway redefined what was possible for a quarterback in the NFL at every phase of his career. Before him, rookie quarterbacks were supposed to struggle in their first season; not so Elway, who went 12-2 in his first full season of starting action. Quarterbacks are not supposed to regularly bring their teams back from the brink of defeat; Elway's 47 game-winning or game-tying drives in the 4th quarter alone not only is far and away an NFL record, but also gave rise to the new breed of clutch quarterbacks of the 1990's, and immortalized the never-say-die attitude that now emblemizes the great passers.

Finally, great athletes rarely ever get the chance to go out on top. Elway, having won back-to-back Super Bowls in the '97 and '98 seasons, did just that. It was a fitting capstone on a transcendant career.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

NFL Greatest Numbers (#6)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#6

Like #2, #6 seems to be poorly represented in the Hall. Both players in the Hall at #6 were entered under a different primary number. Nevertheless, there are no superb modern-era players at #6 either, so my selection for best player is Benny Friedman, the league's first iconic QB and the first great passer to play the game.

Though his numbers are not as gaudy as those of modern player--his then-NFL record 11 touchdown passes in 1927 (as a rookie) would have ranked 25th in the league in 2005--his passing gave the teams that he played for a dimension theretofore unseen in the run-dominated NFL. Friedman added much-needed aerial excitement to a game then too often settled in the trenches to attract the attention of the common fan. Leading the league in touchdown passes from 1927 to 1930 (with a record 20 in 1929), Benny Friedman also showed off his versatility by managing to lead the league in 1928 not only in passing touchdowns with 9, but in rushing touchdowns as well with 6, a feat which no other player has accomplished to this day.

Though he never did win the "big one", Benny Friedman's multidimensional game, in particular his breathtaking ability to take the game to the skies, reinvented the game of football at an early stage in its life. He helped give the game a fan appeal which, unlike some of Friedman's records, has stood the test of time and defines the game to this day.

Nationals Have Diamonds in the Rough

In the standings and at the ballpark, it hasn't been a banner year for the Washington Nationals. With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Nats' record is 66-86, making them the 3rd worst team in the National League. Now at 26.5 games back in their division, even the Nats' most optimistic fans (I count myself as one) stopped thinking about an improbable playoff run back in May. After the smash success of last year's inaugural season in The District, attendance at RFK has declined and the team will likely wind up with 10-15 more losses this season.

With all that said, I don't feel too bad about this ballclub, even if their hideous 5.04 team ERA is dead last in the NL. Why haven't I, and countless other Nats fans, lost interest in this foundering ship? Because of a trio of bright offensive stars who have each been terrific this year in their own right. These three guys in particular give me hope that the Nationals rebuilding projecting will be a success in a few years.

Ryan Zimmerman should be on everyone's shortlist for Rookie of the Year. Simply put, this kid has justified the hype that made the Nats' declare him their 3B for the next decade. He's compiled 19 HRs and 99 RBI (and with two weeks to go, he should clinch the 20-100 plateau) and has already become a fan favorite with his reputation for clutch hitting. He's also done a capable job of manning the hot corner.

Nick Johnson, my favorite Nats' player from the '05 campaign, has finally proved to critics what he can do when healthy. Having finally played a season not derailed by injuries, Johnson has quietly put up some boffo numbers. What more could you ask from this solid 1B? He's got 23 HRs, 77 RBI, 99 runs, and a .292 average. He leads the team with 45 doubles. The big fella's even got 10 SBs to boot. But none of those numbers is indicative of his biggest contribution: the guy gets on base, period. His .430 on-base percentage is tops in the NL, and third overall in the entire league. He's walked 109 times, behind only Bobby Abreu and Barry Bonds. That's the kind of patient, disciplined slugger you want in your lineup, and I'm glad we have Big Nick locked up with our team for the next few years.

Alfonso Soriano has received the most attention of any Nationals player, and justifiably so. He has a tremendous season that not even the most rose-tinted observer could have predicted. Does anyone still remember that he came to us in a trade from Texas and was refusing to play in the outfield? Now it seems he was born in left field and in a Washington uniform. In 2006 he has set career marks for HRs and walks, and could also have his best SB year before the season ends. He started the All-Star Game in left field, a position he has apparently come to love, and he leads the league in outfield assits. He has become only the 4th player in MLB history to hit at least 40 HRs and steal 40 bases in a season, and, currently sitting at 45-40, could become the first 45-45 man ever. He is now the franchise's single-season HR leader. He has scored 112 runs and has 93 RBI while currently hitting 15 points higher than his average last season. The numbers are huge and the list of superlatives endless. All I can say is, if he honors his word and commits to stay in DC, baseball fans in the region are in for a real treat, because Alfonso Soriano is a special, special player.

The three above guys form the core of a lineup that, with the addition of guys like Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, is pretty good. The Nationals have got to focus on acquiring a couple of high-caliber starters in the next couple of years, while developing the rest of their rotation and the bullpen. Assuming their lineup holds up, by 2009 when they're in their new stadium, the Nationals should be a damn competitive team.

Hope for the Terps?

In a fit of passion last week after suffering through Maryland's loss to West Virginia, I questioned whether coach Ralph Friedgen can lead this team back to its winning ways. In today's Diamondback, Ryan Cooper's column dismisses the question, arguing that we've got a young team that is still developing and that we've got some good prospects to look forward to. For those of us uncertain or impatient, Cooper says not to worry:

I don’t even think this [season] is a lost cause. Have you checked around the ACC lately? Virginia just lost its homecoming to Western Michigan. NC State is coming off losses to Akron and Southern Mississippi. Boston College needed two overtimes to beat Brigham Young. And vaunted Miami and Florida State were beaten by Louisville and Clemson, respectively. We’re 2-1, people. Calm down. A win over FIU this week would make us 3-1, needing to win only three games in conference to become bowl-eligible, and Virginia, Wake Forest and NC State are all gimmies at this point. All the ACC teams have substantial flaws, and I seriously believe Maryland can even contend for the conference title. At the very least, the team can attend a bowl this year.
Well, I sure hope he's right. It's all well and good to suggest that the Terps are not the Buckeyes or Trojans and don't need to be competitive this year, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying. The University of Maryland has been expending a lot of energy in recent years to put its name on the map. Having winning basketball and football programs (now we don't even have the former, just 4 years removed from a national title) is a critical element to raising the school's profile. A surprise bowl bid this season for The Fridge's team would be just what Maryland needs.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NFL Greatest Numbers (#5)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#5

At #5 I have to go with another talented halfback, this time from the 50's and 60's, in Paul Hornung. The premier power back of the era, he scored 62 touchdowns in 9 seasons, as well as kicking 66 field goals and 190 PAT's. That's an average of almost 7 touchdowns a season, a feat that was far more difficult to achieve in that era than in today's relatively high scoring game.

The go-to man for Lombardi's Packers teams, Hornung shone on the league's premier team at both the college and professional levels, first winning the Heisman as a QB at Notre Dame, and then winning back to back NFL player of the year honors in 1960 and 1961, and tallying a record 19 points by himself in th 1961 title game.

One of the early stars of the modern era that helped bring the game to national prominence, at #5, I give you the Golden Boy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NFL Week 2 Wrap Up

First order of business is settling the DSA crew's Week 2 Pick 'Ems. Andrew repeats on top again, but has to share honors this time in a crowded field of Moose and Kevin. These three topped an easy week of picks by going 13-3.

Week 3 picks are coming in a few days. In response to a suggestion by Z, the "Coin Flip" pick will be replaced by the betting favorites, and you will see standings/results published retroactively later in the week. But for now, a standings update:

Week 2:
Andrew: 13-3, Kevin: 13-3, Moose: 13-3, Jay: 12-4, Coin Flip: 11-5, Ning: 11-5, Z: 11-5

Season to date:
Andrew: 24-8, Moose: 22-10, Jay: 21-11, Kevin: 21-11, Coin Flip: 19-13, Z: 19-13, Ning: 18-14

Now to take care of a few odds and ends we haven't had a chance to get to:

- The Jaguars D looked good in pitching a Monday night shutout against Big Ben and the Steelers. Roethlisberger is clearly not back in form, and with Jacksonville already looking so good and Baltimore figuring to be a threat, the Steelers need to forget that their window of opportunity isn't as large as a defending Super Bowl champ might expect. Most impressive stat line of the night: holding Willie Parker to just 20 yards on 11 carries.

- Blast from the past: I just mentioned Morten Andersen on the blog this past week, and today the Falcons announced they signed the 46-year old kicker for field goal duty. This guy is the second-leading scorer in NFL history (behind that guy you get him mixed up with, fellow kicker Gary Anderson) and has long said he wants to play past 50. I say, let the old man do it. Just hope you don't need to kick too many FGs over, say, 40 yards.

- It was a tough weekend for injuries in the already banged-up NFC East. The news of most consequence is that Philly "Freak" Jevon Kearse suffered a serious knee injury (I was watching the game when it happened) and will miss the rest of the year. Meanwhile, down in the Big D, Parcells knows he's lucky that the Redskins' severe incompetence enabled his team to avoid starting 0-2 going into the bye week. Terrell Owens broke his hand on one of the first plays of that game, and is scheduled to be out 2-4 weeks, but I imagine he really wants to get back in time for the Cowboys-Eagles matchup in Week 5.

- Billy Volek is donning Chargers blue, baby. I've been plugging this guy so long, you probably think I'm his agent or mother. Actually, I'm neither, but I love seeing this capable veteran backup brought in to shore up the position in San Diego. Like I mentioned recently, the Chargers' combination of having a good team and a weak schedule means they are a lock for the playoffs. It's important to make sure that this is not derailed if Philip Rivers gets hurt, and I think the Volek trade is perfect insurance.



- Three games to look forward to in Week 3: Jacksonville-Indianapolis (*), Cincinnati-Pittsburgh, and Atlanta-New Orleans (on MNF).

NFL Greatest Numbers (#4)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#4

You may have noticed that my first three players selected were all undeniably old-school: In fact, all three of the predated the Super Bowl era. That changes with this pick: at #4, I select Brett Favre. Do you remember when Brett was a lazy slacker who was deemed barely good enough to hold a clipboard for the Atlanta Falcons? If you don't, you're not alone: neither does most of America, and for good reason: Favre has established himself as one of the pre-eminent quarterbacks of the last 15 years, often making the Pack contenders on his sheer force of will alone.

A Super Bowl champion, and owner of a thirteen-year long streak of having never been shut out, (finally broken last week) and a still-active streak of fourteen years starting for the Packers confirm Favre's reputation as a survivor and a warrior of the gridiron. Third on the all-time wins list for quarterbacks with 139, behind only Marino (147) and Elway (148), Brett Favre has undoubtedly had a Hall of Fame career, and is the best #4 of all time. Check out this list of his remarkable accomplishments.

Monday, September 18, 2006

NFL Greatest Numbers (#3)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#3

Continuing my series on the greatest player at each jersey number to ever play the game, at #3 is Bronko Nagurski. The first ever--and thus by definition prototypical--power back, Nagurski was the MVP of the first NFL championship in 1933. A talented passer, tackle and linebacker in addition to being an all-time fullback, he passed for two touchdowns in that game, showing off his offensive flexibility.

Retiring for 5 years between 1937 and 1943 because he did not get paid enough by the NFL to become a professional wrestler (hear that, Brock Lesnar?), he came back in 1943 to guide the Bears to yet another NFL title.

An All-NFL player for 7 of his first 8 years in the league, (1930-1937) Bronko is my choice at #3 on the all time NFL greatest numbers list.

Redskins-Cowboys: A Display of Unfathomable Ineptitude

This was an ugly, ugly game I'm hoping to forget as soon as possible. The Skins offense, led by birthday boy Brunell, didn't score a TD. (Our only six came from a 100-yard kickoff return by Rock Cartwright.) Inexplicably, the Skins defense went the entire game without putting any pressure on The Immobile Statue Better Known As Drew Bledose. Gregg Williams should turn in his salary for not throwing wave after wave of blitzes.

The defense struggled, and only acquitted itself without too much damage because the Cowboys dropped about a dozen passes. (T.O.'s poor performance may be explained by the fact that he suffered a broken finger, and will reportedly miss the next 2-4 weeks.)

The offense was abysmal--the passing game was non-existent, with Brunell making terrible throw after terrible throw or clumsily navigating the pocket to take a sack. I can't believe this is the same guy who was the second coming of Steve Young back when Brunell was in Jacksonville. The running game also sucked, as Ladell Betts was a huge disappointment. He simply does not know how to run north-south, taking forever to choose a hole to cut into, and being smothered immediately.

Worst of all, on both sides of the ball, the Redskins looked atrocious at the fundamentals. The tackling on defense was as sloppy as Maryland's in the WVU game; I think Marion Barber and Julius Jones must have "broken" about 40 tackles. On offense, the Redskins couldn't execute even the most basic plays. Penalties were atrocious too, worse than I can ever remember from the much-maligned Spurrier era. Don't believe me? The Skins committed 11 penalties for 117 yards.

What I don't understand is why this Redskins team is playing so much worse than it did last year. Even if our highly-touted acquisitions aren't making much of an impact, why have we regressed so badly? It's one thing to pin the blame on Brunell for the offense's shortcomings, but how about the inability of our defense to put pressure on the QB? Especially considering their QB may be the easiest sack-target in the history of pro football. I mean, Bledsoe had so much time in the pocket the entire game, I swear I caught him teaching himself the banjo on some plays. We can't rely on Sean Taylor and Co. to pop the ball loose with bone-jarring hits on receivers on every play. We have to get to the QB, it's that simple.

We were so bad on all sides of the ball, I could go on forever, but I won't. (Brandon Lloyd, Chris Cooley, where are you?) All I can say for now is, thank God we're playing the Texans next week. Meanwhile, I don't want to be one of those typical D.C.-area fans that goes full out doom-and-gloom based on a couple of losses, but I think it's abundantly clear we need to figure out a new direction at QB.

Jason Campbell's not ready, but I'm thinking maybe we could salvage the season with a Monday trade for the guy the Titans spurned, the capable Billy Volek. They can take T.J. Duckett, we don't seem to want to use him, even if we did give away yet another draft pick for him. Give Volek a couple of weeks to learn Al Saunders' offense (it can't be that complicated--all it consists of is taking sacks and punting) and let him steer our ship for the rest of the year.

(O.K., so I guess I am that D.C. fan. But do you have any better ideas?)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Observations

I didn't think it was possible, but the Redskins looked even worse tonight against the Cowboys than they did a week ago. Yeah, it's early in the season, but there appear to be serious problems...

Anyway, a rundown of observations on goings-on around the league today:

- If you blinked, you missed the Giants comeback over the Eagles. After being dominated for three quarters, with the defense looking exhausted and Eli Manning taking a battering (sacked 8 times in the game), the G-Men mounted an assault to overcome a 17-point deficit. For Lil Eli especially, it looked like a completely different game. He looked confident and poised as he guided his team back to tie it in the final seconds of regulation and then get the winning TD pass to Plaxico Burress late in OT. You may recall, in my preview of this game, I wrote that Eli could "gut this one out on the road", and that's exactly what he did after weathing the storm.

- Just before halftime, Donovan McNabb passed the milestone of 20,000 career passing yards. Though I have little love for the Iggles, there's no denying how good D-Mac is. At this point in his career, he's the perfect QB: steady veteran, great arm, great ability to read the field, and uses his mobility effectively without being overly reliant on it to make plays. When you look at the NFC East and see three pretty good teams (as of now, the Skins no longer count), I think you now have to give Philly the edge because they have the best man behind center.

- Against Da Bears, Lions' WR Roy Williams' guarantee of victory looked foolish. Unless, of course, you believe "it was stupid how close" Detroit was to scoring 40 points. (They scored 7. Chicago had 34.) I was happy to see Rex Grossman silence everyone impatient with him by throwing 4 TDs. Give the guy a chance to show what he can do when healthy. Seeing what he can do against a team that offers stiffer resistance is another matter of course, but hey, so far, so good.

- Shawne Merriman had another dominating performance, terrifying the terrible Titans. He's off to a solid start on building on his Rookie of the Year campaign last year, and in cementing his status as heir apparent to Junior Seau's legacy in S.D. Meanwhile, the Chargers head into the bye week at 2-0, and they still have a lot of easy matchups left. After getting through Weeks 4 and 5 against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, respectively, they have a lackluster stretch against the 49ers, Chiefs, Rams, and Browns. Later in the season they also face the Raiders, Chiefs, Bills, and Cardinals. Not to mention two against Denver (see note below, haha). There's no reason the Chargers don't win 11 games this season.

- Brett Favre put up a pretty decent game today (340 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) but the Pack fell to the now 2-0 Saints, 34-27. Favre drove his team into Saints' territory down 1 TD with just over 2 minutes to play, but squandered the opportunity by throwing 4 consecutive incomplete passes. One can't help but think that the Favre of old would have found a way to win that game. At this point, there doesn't seem to be any other avenue but a long, sad season for this NFL legend.

- San Francisco's second-year RB Frank Gore continues to impress me, running for 127 yards and a TD (admittedly against a bad Rams 'D'), and he now has 3 scores on the year. He's making me look like a mighty smart fantasy owner. And like I've said before, the 49ers are making actual progress this year, with a viable running game and an improved Alex Smith with a better supporting cast around him. They may only be a year or two away from being a top-flite team.

- I told you Miami wasn't looking too sunny, and my Buffalo pick now looks, if not good, at least correct. Stat of the game has to be Bills QB J.P. Losman's numbers at halftime: 1-for-6, 14 yards. The Bills were up 3-0 at the time and held on for a 16-6 win. If the 'Fins struggle against such anemic offense, they're in a whole world of hurt. How many SI writers do you think are pegging Culpepper for the Super Bowl now?

- And how many times do I have to tell y'all that Denver is vastly overrated? No one should be impressed that they squeaked out a 9-6 win in OT against a Chiefs' team featuring QB Damon Huard in his first start in almost 6 seasons.

- Dallas-Washington. Gets a separate follow-up post for me to rant. Stand clear.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Note to Parcells: Stop Being so Freaking Conservative

Dear Bill,

You have the following players on your offense: Julius Jones, Marion Barber, Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Jason Witten, Anthony Fasano and Drew Bledsoe. Now let's see, there are four guys who are threats to cover, and a good running game. Why not put a game away instead of trying to run out the clock? This is something I noticed against the Jaguars, but I have also seen it through the past three years you have been here. In the second quarter you got away from what worked. Oh, but then you were down two touchdowns and were forced to go long. Wait a second, wasn't Jacksonville playing the Prevent, and TO still scored a touchdown? The Cowboys have too many weapons to cover. Secondly, your defense will not get burned if you are up on the scoreboard. Third of all, blitz please. You spent all this money building your 3-4, USE IT! You are a legitimate contender this year, don't let your stubborn ego stop you from winning a championship. Take chances and win games.

Yours truly,
Moose the Diehard Cowboys Fan

NFL: The Greatest Numbers (#2)

This is the latest installment of my series in which I pick the greatest NFL player to wear each jersey number. To see selections at other numbers, type "The Greatest Numbers" into the Blogger search bar at the top of the page.
* * *

#2

I feel that at #2 I must go with another old-timer, John "Paddy" Driscoll. The quintessence of old-school multidimensionality, this quarterback, halfback, punte, kicker, and linebacker was the master of the run, kick, and pass, and redefined what it meant to be a franchise player. Driscoll was the kind of guy who seemed to have another gear for the bigger games, dominating the cross-town Bears/Cardinals rivalry for whichever one of the two he was on. (He was traded from one to the other to prevent defection to the AFL.) Dominant in all phases of the game, he made the All-NFL team six times over a ten year career and helped give the fledgling league one of its first stars.

* * *
JAY adds: Honestly, the Hall of Famers who wore #2 aren't particularly memorable (they're all way old school), and Driscoll himself also wore #1, which he actually was inducted under. So that led me to see whether any current players sporting '2' might stand out. The results weren't encouraging: backup QBs Anthony Wright and Brian St. Pierre; shaky starting QBs Aaron Brooks and Chris Simms; punters Nick Harris, Chris Hanson, Dustin Colquitt; and kickers Jay Feely, Rob Bironas, and David Akers.

Of these, it appears only "Green Akers" (695 career points) has a shot at being remembered, even if only in a Morten Andersen kind of way.

Friday, September 15, 2006

NFL Week 2 Preview

Before every week of the NFL season, we preview the games, and the Da Sports Authority's football crew weighs in with their picks. Below, Jay tells you what to look forward to in Week 2.
* * *
Buffalo at Miami (Sun, 1:00 PM) - Miami was a chic preseason pick for the Super Bowl, but those prognostications were contingent on Daunte Culpepper not, uh, sucking. He really needs a good game against the Bills, who surprisingly hung tough with the Patriots last week.
Carolina at Minnesota (Sun, 1:00 PM) - Last year, Minnesota was rocked by the "Love Boat" scandal. This year, they've got a decent shot at taking their division while being led by a QB (Brad Johnson) old enough to remember The Love Boat.
Cleveland at Cincinnati (Sun, 1:00 PM) - I expect this game to be a battle. You know why? Because Kellen Winslow's a solider. Hahaha...seriously though, if I lived in Ohio, I'd jump on the Bengals bandwagon and pretend the Browns never came back in expansion.
Detroit at Chicago (Sun, 1:00 PM) - After the Lions' O put up 6 points last week against Seattle, WR Roy Williams inexplicably claimed "It was stupid how close we were to putting up 40 points on the board...No defense can stop us...We are our own defense." No, what's stupid is that he thought 6 and 40 were somehow close. That said, I kinda like this Lions team, and more importantly, they seem to have confidence in themselves.
Houston at Indianapolis (Sun, 1:00 PM) - Are the Colts' rushing struggles going to be a problem? Nope, and certainly not versus the Texans, who are entering Week 2 of the Why Didn't We Draft Reggie Bush Era.
New Orleans at Green Bay (Sun, 1:00 PM) - Andrew says "Can Brett Favre really lose two straight games at home? Yes. Yes he can." It's scary to acknowledge that he could be right, but because I'm an old fart, I gotta give Brett Favre the benefit of the doubt. That, and I'm betting the Pack won't have to contend with Reggie Bush, who'll be on the lam from private investigators.
NY Giants at Philadelphia (Sun, 1:00 PM) - This is the game of the week right here. The Eagles were underrated as usual going into the season, but this is a team that always manages to be competitive. I especially love the blooming McNabb-Stallworth connection. That said, I've been impressed with the Giants for months now, and I think Eli could gut this one out on the road.
Oakland at Baltimore (Sun, 1:00 PM) - LB Shawne Merriman had 3 of the Chargers 9 sacks against the Raiders last week. Think Ray Lewis is looking forward to this game? Just a little bit.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (Sun, 1:00 PM) - I have a pretty well established reputation as a Michael Vick doubter, but there's no question when it comes to Chris Simms. Right now, the only thing that looks good about that kid is his last name.
Arizona at Seattle (Sun, 4:05 PM) - Arizona has the offense to win this game. (No, really.) But can they make like Detroit last week and hold Seattle to single digits?
St. Louis at San Francisco (Sun, 4:05 PM) - I'm high on the 49ers offense this year, expecting a much-improved Alex Smith and a productive Frank Gore (both on my fantasy squad), as well as key contributions from Antonio Bryant and Vernon "The Duke/Click-clack" Davis. But the O-line and the defense still sucks, so the 49ers rebuilding plan is still only in like Year 8.
Kansas City at Denver (Sun, 4:15 PM) - Is it official yet that Jake "The Snake" Plummer's NFL career has been a bust? His partisans may say "he's getting better", but the guy is in his tenth season now. Hard to believe he's been a starter for so long.
New England at NY Jets (Sun, 4:15 PM) - I loved seeing a resurgent Chad Pennington look healthy and confident last week, but keep in mind that was against Tennessee. Let's see if he can do it against the Patriots' stiff defense. Meanwhile, I'm sure Tom Brady would like to complete more than the 11 passes he had last week, but he won't need to if the running duo of Maroney and Dillon keep up their stellar performances.
Tennessee at San Diego (Sun, 4:15 PM) - A highly questionable personnel decision is when Entourage announces that Kevin Federline has been hired for a guest stint next season. An inexplicable lunacy of a personnel decision is spurning both Steve McNair and Billy Volek for Kerry Collins.
Washington at Dallas (Sun, 8:15 PM) - Coach Gibbs has surprisingly ruled RB Clinton Portis out, despite (or perhaps because of?) Portis's encouraging play in limited action against Minnesota on Monday. Meanwhile, Drew Bledsoe has exactly one week left to disprove the notion that the problem in the Big D isn't T.O., it's him.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (Mon, 8:30 PM) - This should be a terrific game even if Ben Roethlisberger (questionable) doesn't play. The Steel Curtain's D clamped down on Miami last week and the Jags had a convincing victory over Dallas, so both teams are feeling confident. It's quite likely you'll see both of these teams in the playoffs.

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JayMooseAndrewKevinNingZCoin Flip
Buffalo at MiamiBUFBUFBUFMIAMIAMIABUF
Carolina at MinnesotaMINMINCARCARCARMINMIN
Cleveland at CincinnatiCINCINCINCINCINCINCIN
Detroit at ChicagoDETCHICHICHICHIDETCHI
Houston at IndianapolisINDINDINDINDINDINDHOU
New Orleans at Green BayGBNONONONONONO
NY Giants at PhiladelphiaNYGPHIPHINYGNYGPHIPHI
Oakland at BaltimoreBALBALBALBALBALBALBAL
Tampa Bay at AtlantaATLATLATLATLATLATLTB
Arizona at SeattleSEAARISEASEASEASEASEA
St. Louis at San FranciscoSFSFSTLSTLSTLSTLSTL
Kansas City at DenverDENDENDENDENDENDENDEN
New England at NY JetsNENENENENENENE
Tennessee at San DiegoSDSDSDSDSDSDSD
Washington at DallasWASDALDALDALWASWASWAS
Pittsburgh at JacksonvillePITPITJAXJAXPITJAXPIT

Coin Flip picks are decided by a toss. Heads = home team, Tails = away team.

Last week:
Andrew (11-5), Jay (9-7), Moose (9-7), Coin Flip (8-8), Kevin (8-8), Z (8-8), Ning (7-9)

Season records:
Andrew (11-5), Jay (9-7), Moose (9-7), Coin Flip (8-8), Kevin (8-8), Z (8-8), Ning (7-9)

NFL: The Greatest Numbers (#1)

With the NFL season having started last weekend, and with me needing to assuage my damaged honor at being woefully inadequate at picking the winners (note to self: never bet against LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Oakland), I thought I would start something.

The NFL has strict rules governing the selection of numbers by their players: 1-20 are supposed to be for QB's, 80-89 (and for some reason, 18) are supposed to be for receivers, and so on. This makes it somewhat simpler to compare players with the same number. So, I am beginning a daily tradition of picking the greatest NFL player to wear each number, starting from 1.

Without further ado,

#1

While Warren Moon deserves consideration at the one-spot, this position must go to the incomparable Jim Thorpe. Arguably the man who made the NFL with his multi-dimensional talents, his accomplishments speak for themselves. All-American halfback at Carlisle, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion. First big-name athlete to play pro football, signing with pre-NFL Canton Bulldogs in 1915. Named "The Legend" on the all-time NFL team. Voted top American athlete of first half of 20th century. First president of the NFL (formerly known as the American Professional Football Association), 1920. So, I start Da Sports Authority's Greatest Numbers Challenge by selecting the transcendant pioneer, Jim Thorpe.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Should Friedgen Go?

In general, I have a lot patience with head coaches, but I think Ralph Friedgen has gotten to the point where there are serious concerns about his ability to do the job. Everyone knows he gave the Maryland Terrapins football program its brightest years in recent memories when he won at least 10 games in 3 seasons from 2001-2003.

But in each of the past two years, he's gone 5-6 and the Terps have failed to qualify for a bowl game. This year probably won't be much better. What's worst is that Friedgen is supposed to be a vaunted offensive guru, and that is exactly where the Terps have struggled most. Just the words "Joel Statham" cause shivers to run down the spine of any Maryland fan.

I know I'm overreacting emotionally while witnessing the current shellacking the Terps are receiving at the hands of WVU, but it's just upsetting to see us come out looking so flat in so important a game. I still have faith in Fridge to do the job, but he'd better start proving me right!

Maryland-WVU: All Over But the Cryin'

It's halftime now of the nationally televised game that was supposed to showcase an improved Terps' team taking on a top-5 team. A win might have put us back in the national rankings, but a win seems like a distant dream now. Ever since a WVU fumble in the opening minute was called "down by contact", thing have been going downhill. The score at the half is West Virginia 38, Maryland 10, and that doesn't even seem to fully convey how bad we've played.

WVU jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, with RB Steve Slaton (8 carries, 149 yards, 2 TDs in Q1) leading the romp. Maryland's defense looked basically nonexistent as WVU systematically moved down the field, gaining huge chunks of yards on the ground on each play. On WVU's first few possessions, the Terps' D looked like they were playing touch football in a tackle game. A lack of physical presence and a lack of speed have been our glaring weakness. Meanwhile, turnovers have derailed the offense and special teams; Maryland committed its 4th as the clock expired on the first half.

Telling stats from the first half:


WVUMaryland
Total Yards255142
Rushing Yards21252
Turnovers04

If we're looking for positives, at least the second quarter was better, with Maryland outscoring WVU 7-3. Then again, that could be only because the Mountaineers keep giving us free yardage (6 penalties for 72 yards in the first half) and because Slaton only carried 4 more times. Our QB Sam Hollenbach has played decent for us, looking relatively comfortable in the pocket avoiding the rush. He had a would-be deep TD pass dropped, but is still 10-20 for 90 yards with a TD and an INT.

Other positives? Don't hold your breath, there's not much good to say.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lirano Done Like Bobby & Whitney

Twins' phenom pitcher Francisco Liriano has hit another Prior/Wood-like setback. The brightest rookie hurler, who returned today for his first start since August 7, had to leave today's game against Oakland in the third inning. He reportedly had pain in his left elbow, which comes as a surprise to everyone, considering that Minnesota had been very cautious with his recovery and that Liriano didn't show any problems while rehabbing.

Now Liriano is out for the rest of the year and people are talking about Tommy John surgery, which could sideline The Next Coming through most of next season. My immediate reaction is to hope that it won't come to that, that this injury will turn out to be less serious. But that's unlikely, so we have to hope that the Twins do what's best for Liriano and the team long-term.

The Cubs destroyed would-be aces Wood and Prior--I think that was a clear warning to teams about handling young stud pitchers. This week, the Cleveland Indians shut down rookie lefty Jeremy Sowers, who has made 14 starts this year, to ensure he would be ready for a full season next year. Likewise, the Twins need to err on the side of extreme caution and not rush Liriano back even early next season, so that they can have him healthy and dominant for many more seasons down the line.

* * *
(9/14) Tentative good news: Liriano's MRI shows no structural damage. Twins' GM Jerry Ryan has the right idea though, saying "I'd rather have him for 200-plus innings next year than for one playoff game [this year]."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

NFL Week 1 Wrap Up

First order of business is settling the DSA crew's Week 1 pick 'ems. Andrew finishes on top in our inaugural contest, going 11-5. Week 2 picks are coming in a few days, but first, the results:

Andrew11-5
Jay9-7
Moose9-7
Coin Flip8-8
Kevin8-8
Z8-8
Ning7-9

Just to wrap up a few odds and ends I didn't have a chance to get to:

- I miss Chris Berman hyperventilating through the highlights on "NFL Primetime" before the Sunday night game.

- Deion Branch to the Seahawks; fantasy owners (myself included) relieved. Should be a good fit: Hasselback's a good QB and the 'Hawks can't score just 9 points a game for the rest of the season.

- I know the Redskins lost to a team they had no business losing to, but uh... but uh... crap. I dunno, I just don't think we can be this bad. (Even if our owner thought it was a smart move investing in Tom Cruise, who sat in the box last night.) But it's not the preseason anymore, we have to start playing better. As it is, we're in the toughest division in the league, where all four teams will wind up with at least 8 wins. Make-or-break moment for the season could be this Sunday night vs. the Cowboys.

- Echoing what my roommate said as we were watching the game last night, "Carlos Rogers needs to be slapped." The Redskins CB has it coming to him twice actually. The first time, for dancing and strutting after Troy Williamson blew by him only to drop a sure TD pass. The second time, for receiving his karmic punishment in the form of Marcus Robinson burning him for a score.

- If only all first-time starts were this easy. Philip Rivers needed to throw the ball only 11 times as L.T. hit 100 yards rushing with around 8 mintes left in the second quarter. The Chargers coasted to a 27-0 win over the Worst Team in the NFL (the Raiders). Rivers will have to wait until next week to, you know, actually play. For S.D., more important than the creampuff win was the fact that everyone else in the AFC West lost this week.

- Speaking of the Raiders, I thought before the game that it was not implausible that Aaron Brooks throw more interceptions than completions to his own team. Well, that didn't happen, even if Brooks only managed 6 completions. Yet it should be noted that him and Andrew Walters were sacked nine times (apparently something malignant Oakland WR Jerry Porter found hilarious) and the Raiders had to punt nine times.

- I hope Trent Green gets better soon. That was a pretty nasty accident that happened on a hit this weekend (video). Green's been a pretty underrated quarterback during his tenure in K.C., primarily because the team seems to be better for fantasy (Priest/L.J., Gonzo, and Greenie) than real life, but he's put up some great numbers nonetheless. In his past four seasons, Green has started every game, had a QB rating above 90 each season, averaged over 4,000 yards, and thrown 94 TDs. (I think only Peyton has thrown for more yards during that time span.) The Chiefs were going to be pretty bad this year anyway, but without Green, it looks even worse.

- Three games to lookforward to in Week 2: Redskins-Cowboys (of course), Giants-Eagles, and Steelers-Jaguars (on MNF).