Monday, January 31, 2011

It seems as all I do lately is complain about the NFL... Pro Bowl Edition

Well whoever schedules All Star Games really blew it. One weekend full of two ASG’s was enough to make the avid sports fan I am cringe. Does anyone actually watch these games anymore? It was cool as a kid because I had stacked my video game teams to match about 80% of the players that were playing and 20% of the guys I liked from my home teams I followed. Not a huge ESPN fan when I was 8-12, but still a video game and sports fan, I didn’t really know how a lot of these guys looked outside of my Sega Genesis. To be honest, I heard of some of these guys mostly because I knew a 99 overall rating was better than a 60, and I wanted to 99 on my team. All-Star time was the only time I got to see some of them play for real, unless they played against a NY team in the playoffs or made their sport’s finals. Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky became real during the NHL ASG seeing them skate next to home town guys Messier and Graves. I saw guys like Ozzie Smith, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza play for the first time. I think Ozzie the first and last in 1996. Jason Kidd, Shawn Kemp, Shaq, Glen Rice, and “Penny” Hardaway were guys I remember seeing for the first time during an NBA all star game (1996 as well?). They were pretty much all on my Sega team for whichever horrible b-ball game I owned at the time.

However, I can’t really remember the pro bowl too well. Anyone not in the super bowl those years of my youth, or on the rosters of the Giants and Jets were missed. The pro bowl? I remember offense, like watching myself play the game on the Super Nintendo or something. It was like the defense was the computer on Rookie setting and the offense was throwing to Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin the whole time. Granted the NHL AS games get pretty offensive, but there’s only 10 guys and 2 goalies to watch at a time, almost half that of the NFL. It is a lot easier to spot your favorite players. Anyway, to be honest, the actual games aren’t what I remembered most about growing up. This would explain why the football version of an All Star Game (with a cutesy name like Pro Bowl) never stuck out. You know what did? The Quarterback Challenge when they used to have them. I remember looking for guys like Young and Aikman. Moon and Cunningham. Esiason and Favre. Elway and Testaverde. Marino and O'Donnell. Before I knew the names of all of the teams, I remember watching these QBs going through their skills competitions. What happened to that?! What was the NFL thinking shutting this down? Was it because Josh McCown won the last one? (This I researched a little bit - seems to be due to legal reasons but come on, the NFL has money and lawyers). I'm sure they just said "Nah, this game with no blitzing, no motioning on offense, no press coverage, and disallowed certain formations is good enough." LOOK AT THE OTHER ONES?! The NBA: 3 point contest, slam dunk contest. NHL: Fastest shot, breakaway challenge, accuracy challenges, fastest skaters. Even MLB has the Home Run Derby that everyone seems to love (I won’t rant about how the ASG deciding home field advantage is absolutely a fucking travesty to the game in this article, it will be 30 pages long).

Why can’t the NFL take a hint? No one will care about their Pro Bowl other than the offensive players (and the defensive and lineman for getting recognized at least). Actually, the game last night had me so enthralled, I was Googling what kind of humidifier to use if I want to put vodka in it and get drunk in a room of the size of my living room (still inconclusive if it is even possible ((or safe)) for those of you playing the home game). I think it is the only sport that should not have an actual game to play. The risk of getting seriously hurt in the sport does seem to be much higher than the other 3. I get these guys are grossly overpaid, and obviously the best on their teams. I do not want to see someone’s career end because of a game played for fun. I also don’t want to see a bunch of people standing around playing catch with wide receivers and running through holes that I may be able to hit for a few yards. Announce the rosters and honor the players somehow (press release to ESPN is fine). Even better - can’t we see a skills challenge or two or three come back? They just had goalies for the first time compete in the fastest skate competition in the NHL. Don’t you want to see if Devin Hester is really the fastest in the league? How about a foot race between Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork for the slowest Patriot? They can have a lot of fun with this. Think outside the QB box.

COME ON NFL! Did you really think moving the game before the Super Bowl will get people to care? All you did was get it out of the way earlier for us. However, you gave analysts another platform to cover some more Super Bowl stories as well. Great, just when you thought they wouldn’t have enough time a week before the game to get it all rammed down our throat, they get another few hours to mix it in. Thankfully no one else was dumb enough to watch it like I did. They showed before halftime that they were prepping both Super Bowl QBs for an interview during halftime of the pro bowl. Guess what? I didn’t watch it. I turned it back on in the middle of the third quarter during the AFC’s attempt at a comeback from a 40+ point deficit at half. Great game. After the best weekend of the conference championships, we have to put up with this? Way to get me ready for the big one!

All in all, I am rambling myself out of a conclusion here, so I will wrap it up. NFL – take some tips from your other competition. Are you that much better than the other 3 to not need a gimmick for your All Stars? Take it from me: Give the people what they want – entertainment, not a crappy football game.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Best Storylines of the Super Bowl

Yeah. Fucking. Right. Yes, I dropped an F-bomb in the first paragraph. Seriously, do you really want to read now, what the NFL and its supporting cast of idiot writers/TV personalities are going to cram down your throat for the next two weeks? No way man. I am going to briefly outline what I think you can expect of these storylines and tell you how/why it will waste your time, along with give you my own brief take on this super bowl. This will be my ONLY pregame coverage of the game. My posts from now until the game will contain at most another blurb about the absurdity of the coverage of the game. I give you my word.

First off, if this seriously is Ben Roethlisberger’s “Road to Redemption,” sign me up! If all I have to do to put an alleged rape/sexual assault accusation (and another one that to my knowledge he never faced suspension time/court time for) behind me, is do well at my job, well I am going to be the best blogger ever. Bring on the women and the rohypnol! Seriously, the guy is a dick. I don’t care if he is innocent or not – he’s a dick for even putting himself in that kind of situation. You’re rich and a celebrity. I’m sure there are plenty of consenting women who want to bang you. Big Ben also hasn’t been spectacular this post season. The win against the Jets can be chalked up to good defense and a bruising running game. Also, the Jets poor excuse for an offensive coordinator called a horrible game. Ben is a decent game manager who happens to always be surrounded by solid physical runners and a well above average defense. I’m not saying the guy can’t throw when he needs, but without those other pieces of the Steelers, Roethlisberger is simply a top 15 QB who may have squeaked out a Super Bowl in his career. I got off track. The fact is that his football play, even if it was amazing in these playoffs, cannot redeem his personality and character flaws that make him what he is: someone who doesn’t think the rules apply to him. I have no use for someone like him on this planet. Remember when it was cool to be humble and a decent human?

The other quarterback however will have his own story. Aaron Rodgers needs to PROVE himself. Really? The guy has a career 98.4 QB rating and was +100 in his last 2 seasons (granted in the era of illegal contact and secondary limiting calls). His TDs to INTs reads 87-32. He has 12,723 passing yards in just three full seasons as starter. He’s 27 years old and didn’t start for 3 years after being drafted. If he didn’t miss a game with a concussion this season, he’d likely be the first and only to go for 4,000 in his first 3 years as a full time starter (he was the only one to do it in his first 2). Can you name someone else better than him the past 3 years not named Brady, Brees, or Manning? And you can make an argument he was better over that span than any one of them depending on what you look at. What does he have to prove? Postseason record? He has a 129 QB rating in all of his starts combined. He already has his name up there with Montana, Favre, and P. Manning, trailing only them in terms of starts with 20 attempts and a rating over 120. He’s the only one of those names to do it more than once on the road (thanks Wall St. Journal for the research). Just because he doesn’t have the rings, or seems to lack what people will say “an ability to win close games” – doesn’t make him a bad QB. Leave him alone. He’ll get his, if not this year, soon enough with that defense. Not so bad for playing on a team with the numbers of almost an entire country’s army on IR either. Yes, to some extent some QBs will be judged based on their rings, but no one questions if Dan Marino was a good quarterback either.

Other minor sickening stories:

Mike Tomlin – Youngest coach to potentially win 2 super bowls. He was already the youngest to win one beating out Coach John “I need a job again because this analyst stuff isn’t for me either” Gruden. Cowher left him a stud core on defense, and seemingly a same offensive mentality. It really is as if at least half of these wins should be given to Bill. If he was white and had a brown instead of black nicely groomed beard, I may not be able to tell the two apart, including their football teams. I could take one of these teams over and win at least 8-10 games next season too. Don’t give him TOO much credit, even though I do like the guy. The youngest to do anything involves some skill, but a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time as well.

Brett Favre – You know his name will make an appearance. The only sound other than his name that makes me as disgusted with a human being is Joe Buck’s game calling. Anything Rodgers does will be compared to how Brett beat the Pats the last time Green Bay won a Super Bowl in 1996. I swear if I hear his name too much, or the fact that he finally retired (hopefully) for good and how awesome he was, I will scream. He annexed the Jets season for himself in coming out of retirement (Rodgers and Packers fans couldn’t be happier about that trade), and stole this last one in Minnesota by sticking around too long. Goodell needs to put a ban on anyone saying his name until he is put in the hall of fame in a few years. I’m sick of it.

Where are the Cowboys? - Hah, this one is funny. Remember the beginning of the season? Dallas had a chance to be the first team to play at home in Dallas for the Super Bowl? Why was that so prominent this season? Doesn’t everyone have that chance normally? I mean they always play at a pro site, right? Look what all that hype did to them. You know you’ll see a picture of Jerry Jones somewhere sitting watching two teams play not from Dallas. Does anyone care? The fact is, we haven’t heard a mention of the Cowboys since week 8ish, so why are we going to possibly have to listen to this garbage now?

Where are the Patriots? - I picked them to be here at the start of the playoffs along with the majority of the football watching world. Pats vs. Packers would have been a show. You know you’ll at least hear a few mentions of Tom Brady and his 3 rings that Ben can tie with a victory. Oh, and how Brady was so sure about winning number 4 this season. This may not get too much coverage, but I have a feeling you can’t be at the Super Bowl in this day and age and not hear the Pats or Brady’s name thrown around. This year they’re getting a better draft pick than they thought. There’s some bright side you crybabies.

The rich history of each team - The new Steel Curtain vs. Old (get a new nickname – I hate when people pull old titles out of the past – the “Giambino” for instance). Bart Starr and pre super bowl era Packers teams. Unfortunately Mean Joe will not be making a tackle and Starr not throwing touchdowns in two weeks. Granted I’d love to see a Senior Bowl one day where Ditka comes out and plays for the Bears. I think he can still do it. Regardless, spend a little less time on history of the clubs we hear EVERY time they play in the regular season (MNF is guilty of this and it drives me nuts… it’s just football on a Monday guys, relax), and you may shorten the pregame show from 14 days to 7. That will be a victory for us all. As the “Faux John Madden” said on twitter: “Just a reminder that following today's NFC Championship game (3 PM ET) FOX's Super Bowl XLV pregame show will be under way.”

Hopefully this article will spare you hours of listening about these lame stories that have nothing to do with the actual game. Big Boner will still be trash, Rodgers still a good QB, Tomlin still a young coach on an awesome team, and Farve, the Cowboys, Patriots, and past All Stars will not see one snap. It will be a defensive game with a conservative approach. I know in talking about them myself (and perhaps inventing some they won’t spend more time on than I did) I am just feeding the fire, but I need to make it known that it is too predictable. I should not be able to do this. Be original. They still need to play this damn football game regardless of all the shit going on around it. Stories are nice, but they don’t win football games. Expect Green Bay to come out throwing again and Pitt to come out running. The teams will adjust from there as any good football team seems to be able to do. It will be hard fought, but I think Rodgers arm will prevail along with their mistake causing defense.

Honorable mentions: The proposed closed roof in Dallas, Rodgers new “sore shoulder,” and a number 2 seed being the underdog to a number 6 seed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best Football Sunday of the Year is Nearly Upon Us

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to be too cliché, but it is well speculated that the conference championship games are the best two games you will watch of football all season, including the Super Bowl. This year, at least on paper, it looks as if the games will back up that notion. The story lines of these teams this season, and the match ups that lie before us, are in the words of Marty McFly - pretty heavy. Let’s look at some of the storylines surrounding these games, and I’ll then give you my prediction to who we’ll see in Super Bowl XLV (45 for anyone who doesn’t speak roman).

Packers vs. Bears

The Bears seem to be the team that flew under everyone’s radar this season. With little preseason coverage as a good football team, they are definitely the sleeper still remaining. Their defense is no joke, and it looks like their linebacker core of Urlacher & Briggs are still as good, if not better, than they were when they beat the Saints in the NFC championship game a couple years ago. The addition of the amazingly talented Julius Peppers really solidified them in passing downs as a sack threat as well as a run stopping machine. Being at home at rugged Soldier Field will give their defense plenty of noise to back them up. Stopping the Packers passing and newly found ground games will prove to be a challenge, but the defense definitely has the talent to do it. They are probably the fastest unit out there of these 4 outstanding defenses. Just hope Jay Cutler doesn’t have one of those Rex Grossman impersonating games and they can be on the road to Dallas.

The Packers are a good football team all around. Okay, they’re pretty great. Aaron Rodgers is clearly the best quarterback left in the playoffs. He has the mobility to avoid the rush, the accuracy to pick apart a secondary, and the swagger to think he can win a ball game by any means necessary. They have the defensive player of the year from last season in Charles Woodson, and he may not even be the best cornerback on the team any more. Tramon Williams has made some huge picks this postseason. The defensive player of the year favorite for this season A.J. Hawk… um I mean Clay Matthews III, is a sack machine (don’t they look alike in their matching uniforms and long blonde hair?). With a QB who was knocked out against the Giants pass rush in the regular season (granted before offensive mad scientist Mike Martz revamped the protection schemes for Cutler) and is infamous for holding the ball too long at times, the Green Bay sack friendly defense may be ready to feast. Throwing under pressure for Cutler against that secondary may prove to be what decides this game.

This will also be a great game because of the pure hatred between the teams (more the fans) going back to Ditka’s playing days. No other story line necessary – two NFC North rivals, playing for a chance to go to Super Bowl XLV. The teams are familiar with each other of course, splitting the season series 1-1, winning at home. Both being cold weather teams (perhaps the coldest two in the league), this game has my expectations high for the best game I’ve seen all season. I love the Packers to win it, and as I said preseason to a select few who will back me up on this, win the Super Bowl.

Jets vs. Steelers

The Jets, easily the most hyped team in the NFL this season (due a lot to self promotion from players and T-Rex), have their shot to make the game Rex Ryan has predicted they’d win this year. I didn’t watch a second of Hard Knocks this season (different reasons than Tom Brady), but it definitely contributed to the national audience. Everyone now knows how much cockiness this team has. Now, after dynamite wins over the Colts and Pats on the road, and having beat the Steelers once already this season, you have to feel as if the Jets believe more than anyone that they are the best team left in the running. This goes a long, long way in football when talent can be so even here in the playoffs. Being that this is the team I’ve seen play the most of the four, I simply can’t get 100% behind them. Their offensive play calling is sometimes outright garbage (Wildcat run on third and 6 - kidding me?). They lack a consistent vertical arm like the other 3 QBs possess, even though they may have the most weapons. Does anyone think that Sanchez can make a throw on third and long like Ben NoMeansYesBerger did against the Ravens last weekend? If so, do you think Shotty lets him try? Sanchez definitely wins the great guy award, but it isn’t helping his long game. Then again, if the Jets can somehow run again on this Steelers defense, it can be a different breed of ball game than I expect. Their defense is one of the best in the league all around as well, and may have equal or better corners than Green Bay.

The Steelers were not without their own press, granted it is minimal in comparison. As I mentioned “Big Ben-doverthebathroomsink” had some offseason controversy to say the least. The Steelers were a favorite to win it all among seemingly the majority of sportscasters coming into the season. It is the same type of team under Mike Tomlin than it was under Bill Cowher: defensively minded and gritty. Troy Polamalu may be the best player left on the field. It really does seem that he is everywhere the ball goes. Whether he’s stopping the run, blitzing the QB, or making plays against the pass - the fact he wasn’t around to face the Jets the first time around is a bigger deal than you would think. Ben doesn’t make mistakes that hurt his team in key situations (unless the Jets sign a non-consenting drunk girl to play linebacker). He can throw all kinds of passes and even when hit is tough to put on the ground. The defense will not let the Jets run again. These teams seem built to play each other to a stand off.

Unfortunately, I do have to pick against the hometown Jets here, and say the Steelers will win this game. I am about half as sure of this prediction as my Packers one. I said the Jets would beat the Colts (but doubted myself severely and needed to pick an upset), said they’d lose to the Pats, and now still say they’re playing better than they are supposed to on offense. If you're superstitious, you want me to doubt them. If anyone watched as much of them as I did the last few weeks of the regular season, you have to be a little shocked they’re this far as well.

Well thats it today. I hope everyone enjoys their football this Sunday. I will be watching and expecting the best football played all year. I just hope each team brings it like I know they can and we see some great games.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Early Yankees Preview & Mailing List

I know the last thing on any avid sports fan around this time of year is probably baseball. However, to avoid repeating every conversation you’ve had with every Jets fan this week so far (ah man I think we’ll give the Pats a helluva game! Wouldn’t that be something to be Manning AND Brady to go win the Super Bowl?), I have written a small article to be different from the mass herds and talk about the upcoming baseball season so far. Wait! Die hard football fans, before you leave me to go find a football article, please scroll down to the bottom of the page and sign up for the new Sterling Shakers mailing list. This way when we update, you don’t need to participate in my blast facebooking campaigns to know we have done so.

Okay, so like I said, baseball. A complete aside, I got in the mood reading a book by Michael Lewis called Moneyball. I have said I was going to read it for years, and it was recently mentioned to me again by my cousin at his wedding in Mexico, and I just got a cool new smart phone with a kindle app (yes I hate book apps but it’s easier than carrying a book on the crowded subway sometimes) – so I made it my first read. I am not here to talk about the book, other than an average fan or better will enjoy it - so go read it (or wait for the movie with Brad Pitt – not joking). Actually waiting 7 years after its release to read it has almost put more of it into a cooler perspective. Anyways, I just keep thinking on what the hell the Yankees are doing this offseason? Russell Martin, an ex all star to fall from the top 5 catcher discussion the past two seasons or so, and 34 y/o lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano signing away from the Mets seem to be all I have to talk about.
Ok so really quick, you will see an opening day lineup of (and minus the bench which will be taken care of much later - we're solid):

1) Jeter, SS, 2) Swisher, RF, 3) Teixeira, 1B, 4) Rodriguez, 3B, 5) Cano, 2B, 6) Posada, DH, 7) Granderson, CF, 8) Martin, C, 9) Gardner, LF

Bench: Your pick of Pena, Nunez, Curtis, Golson, Russo, and any other kid called up last year I missed or someone who makes it out of camp.

AND you will have a rotation of something like:

1) Sabathia, 2) Hughes, 3) Burnett, 4) Nova, 5) Grau Geist – er, I mean Mitre.
With a bullpen like:

Robertson, Logan, Chamberlain, Feliciano, Rivera & another reliever to be named later – perhaps named Prior or Brackman.

Okay so two things here: Why are we talking about trading prospects for relievers in NY papers? And secondly, why are we all of a sudden “in danger of making the playoffs” among baseball circles? I would like to point out the Yankees bullpen is interchangeable with the exception of Rivera. This is a strength. No one blows your mind, but there is no real gaping hole in it. Adding someone for the price of a closer like Soriano would simply be retarded before the season starts. For once, I am satisfied with the pen going into the season.

Now for the next sentence which will lead into answering number two: WE NEED A STARTING PITCHER – this isn’t a secret. But, we don’t need it just yet. I applaud Cashman for taking his sweet time in figuring this out. Lets compare to the 2008 Yankees that missed the playoffs. Those Yankees had a staff ace that went 20-9 in Mike Mussina, and a second best in Andy Pettite that went 14-14. They started 34 and 33 games respectively. Darrell Rasner, finished 5-10, started the third most on the team with 20 games. Ian Kennedy started 9 and went 0 and 4. Joba was a mess trying to make the transition and would be great one start and awful another. Wang was 8 and 2 in 15 starts and then hurt himself running home. And Finally, our savior Sidney Ponson was 4 and 4 in 15 starts. There were a few other guys who started and made no positive impact, but do you see the quality we were dealing with? And we still won 89 games playing a great number of games against the stacked AL East.

The East isn’t what it was in 2008 anymore. The Rays are a shadow of their team from ‘08, the Sox you can make an argument are back on track, but the O’s and J’s lack any kind of talent to compete still. This Yankee team making the postseason will be very possible with 1 ace, a solid 2/3 guy in the 2 spot, and a wildcard in Burnett. It isn’t like Nova and Mitre are Rasner either. If Burnett turns out to be a 5+ ERA guy again or someone gets hurt, we can be in trouble. However, until the season plays out, don’t give up the future of an aging team to plug holes that will be much cheaper to plug in a few months.

Now go sign up for my mailing list, or at least tell me how much you disagree with this entire premise of not needed a starter yet… I’d love to hear your regurgitated responses.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wild Card Weekend & Upcoming Matchups

Okay so “foot in mouth disease” still exists in my life. So, this is why they play the games. This is why watching 4 hours of pregame analysis before any game is time that would be better spent punching yourself in the face. Yet, I still tune in, actually most of us tune in, to get the scoop on the game coming up. It is the reason most of you are still tuned in to this blog other than “Mike made me read it and take a test on its content after.” While I try to limit how much I do this now, I did still find myself with nothing to do about an hour before the Eagles/Packers game, listening to Kurt, Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy making their picks with Frank Caliendo’s recorded antics.

Anyway, that was not much of an opening paragraph. I am trying to beat around the bush that I did not see the Seahawks coming anywhere near beating the Saints on Saturday. Not that the Saints have anything of a defense to write home about, but the Seahawks don’t have either side of the ball to speak highly of either. Matt “I’ve looked 45 since birth” Hasselbeck actually outplayed the Super Bowl MVP from last season at QB. He did this with far inferior receivers, banged up body, and lack of a winning record in the worst division in football. His team did this not any way the so called experts predicted they’d have to. I may not be an expert on television, but it doesn’t take one to make that prediction. Without knowing the Seahawks scored 47 combined in their last 3 regular season games, you knew their offense was pretty… well… not good. To go out and beat the Saints at their own game – the shootout – the long passes for scores (plus one bruising run from Lynch that will be on Chris Berman’s top 10 of the season for sure) sent a statement. This Seahawks team has nothing to lose. Written off by everyone in the sports world except the Seahawks themselves, they may at least feel like the most dangerous team that is playing this coming weekend. Lose and everyone expects it. It is what they are supposed to do. Win, and shock the sports watching nation.

So let’s review. The Chiefs lost as home to the Ravens, the Colts lost at home to the Jets, and the Eagles lost at home to the Packers. These are all clearly better teams than the people they played according to my article from last week. Their records were better and won on the road anyway. Kudos guys thanks for the help. As for the Saints? Playing in Seattle is notoriously a disadvantage to visiting teams. If they got the home game they deserved, would I have been 4 for 4? Who knows, it is moot anyway. I just want to say I am awesome and move on to this week’s games. I also figured I might as well post my picks here for the postseason so you don’t think I’m lying about who I had (yes, I picked the Jets to upset the Colts at home – they were due to figure out a banged up Colts team).
So, let’s talk about it then. Baltimore is at Pittsburgh first on Saturday. To me, this looks to be the most physical matchup of the four games, and again this is a no brainer. If you want to watch Berman tell you this, I’m sure he’s on repeat right now on some ESPN network. I really think when teams are in a dead lock like this, splitting their season series 1-1 with each team winning on the road, you usually give the nod to the home team. However, I think Ray “the murderer” Lewis and co. on defense may be a better overall unit, and the Ravens have more weapons to utilize on offense. The Ravens will just squeak out a win using their defense to beat an overrated Big Ben. The later game Saturday, Green Bay and Atlanta, features a team I picked pre-season to win the Super Bowl. I jumped on the Packers’ bandwagon then, and still think they can beat Atlanta at home. If the Saints can do it when it matters, look for the newfound rushing attack of Green Bay to make a huge difference in taking some pressure off Rodgers’ arm. Green Bay wins decisively. At 1:00PM Sunday, the Bears host the Seahawks. Can anyone really pick the hawks in this game? Chicago is a no joke defense that is a bit thin in the secondary. However, their overwhelming speed and ability to put guys in Hasselbeck’s face will be the difference maker that the Saints weren’t able to do. I can’t pick a team that after a postseason win is still just 8 and 9. I just hope Jay Cutler doesn’t forget which team to throw to as he can do from time to time.

Lastly, the main event for us on the east coast, the Jets will play the Pats at home. How do you pick against the Pats? Their quarterback forgot what an interception was. Their skill players are all smaller than the Starving Waiter but just seem to always find the holes or get open. Their defense is overachieving for a lot of mediocre players. Anyone on this team can beat you as long as Brady has the ball. Rex Ryan and his precious defense have their hands full. This will not be like playing the beat up Colts. With a week off, Brady and the Patriots will be foaming at the mouth, and you know coach Bill always gets some sick kind of jollies off beating the Jets. Jets will win this game if Tom Brady decides not to show up or gets hurt early. I hope I am wrong.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Despite Sanchez throwing the ball like he has a rotator cuff injury, the Jets pulled it out yesterday. They beat Peyton Manning, the man who spurned them many years ago to stay an extra year in Tennessee. Yes, folks, I WILL NEVER forgive him for that. And so I celebrate that dumb look on his face from last night a little bit more than the rest of you.

Cris Collinsworth said it perfectly last night: the Jet offense can look terrible or great. In the first half, it mostly looked terrible (mostly because of Sanchez's accuracy). In the second half, it looked dominant. Where was that all year long? Ground and pound is REAL football. I love to see an offense impose its will on a defense. I think the Jets can do the same thing to the Patriots next week. Prediction: it ain't gonna be a tea party for the Pats in Foxboro this time around.

And how about that defensive game plan? The wonder boy was held to ONE touchdown pass and three field goals. Although, it is interesting to ponder, suppose he does not have Vinatieri to kick? Does he take more chances? Having a great kicker is good, unless you rely on him to be your primary scorer. Still, where were the blitzes? Has Rex finally figured out that his blitzes generally do not work, as the Jets consistently fail to get pressure on a quarterback? I look forward to his game plan to slow the Pats.

At halftime, I was discussing with a compatriot the possibility of pulling Sanchez, who could not hit the broadside of a barn in the first half. My reasoning was this: in baseball, if your ace is off, you pull him. He's still your ace, just not today. But in football, for whatever reason, pulling your starting quarterback is an insult. But we weren't asking Sanchez to move mountains, just make accurate passes to open receivers. Brunell could do that. Hell, I bet Clemens could do that. In short, if the first half Sanchez shows up against the Pats next weekend, Rex should not hesitate to pull him. The game is more important than Sanchez's ego. And, you can always use the injured shoulder as an excuse. Then again, Sanchez IS 3-1 playoff games.

All in all, a big win for the Jets. Oh, and as far as the Seahawks upsetting the Saints goes, I say: Matt Hasselback is a Super Bowl quarterback. I like the Seahawks chances against anyone with him at the helm. If they have to play the Bears and Jay Cutler, watch out for an upset. How ironic would it be if Seattle hosted the championship game against Green Bay?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The 2011 NFL Playoffs

Happy New Year to everyone! I made two resolutions in reference to Sterling Shakers: 1) To post more frequently and keep our many readers engaged. I made this public last week and will do my best. 2) To attempt to limit my run-on sentences that add to my long windedness and frustrate some people that later on call me out on it to one or at most two per post (that’s one!). In all seriousness, I will better edit my writing to make it more readable, and to make myself seem like less of a ranting lunatic.

I cannot remember a time in my recent memory (meanwhile the NFL is not my specialty in terms of pre-1996 so I’m sure someone else can come close) where the playoff picture was this… strange. Yes, that is a good word for it... strange. I can't call it an abortion, say teams got raped, etc., because this is the nature of divisional play. I know Grau Geist and his wisdom to fix the MLB and NFL to perfection (i.e. making penalties reviewable and changing the MLB playoffs) is definitely more suited to write this. However, I hope my comments will simply get him going on this site again and he'll write a rebuttal or something.

The first order of business the NFL needs to deal with this offseason (other than a lockout?): A team with a losing record simply should not make the playoffs. The 7-9 Seattle Seahawks got an ever-so-painful to watch win last night against the St. Louis Rams. Charlie "Who's that? No really, who is that?" Whitehurst, making his second NFL start ever, was described as “almost perfect” by Michaels and Collinsworth in the booth. Now, while the Rams showed promise all season as a much better team than last season, they simply aren't the most equipped team either. For Whitehurst to complete 61% of his passes for under 200 yards and a touchdown does not deserve that kind of a compliment. He simply wasn’t bad enough to lose the game,and his defense held a one dimensional offense to no touchdowns so they won. More simply, the Seahawks second string quarterback beat a second rate team to get into the playoffs.

To put this in perspective, the 7 and 9 Seahawks are one of the 12 teams to make the playoffs. This is saying they are in the top 35.7% of teams in the NFL (12 of 32). However the following teams all missed the playoffs: Rams and Dolphins (both 7-9) had equal records to Seattle, Raiders and Jaguars finished 8 and 8, Chargers finished 9-7, and the Giants and Buccaneers finished 10-6. These are 7 other teams equal or better than the Seahawks when omitting division play. Take SOMETHING else into account here. Football doesn’t really allow for 1 game playoffs like Baseball could, but there are so many stats followed that could decide this rather than if you beat your horrible division. Strength of schedule? Net points? Hell I’d even settle for number of pro-bowlers on the roster! The real kicker is how this team will now play AT HOME against the Saints that went 11-5 in the first round of the playoffs. Just too much to be said about this. Let’s look at the good side - going off at 150 to 1 to win the Superbowl as of this morning, the Seahawks may be worth your $5 investment as noted by a friend of mine via facebook.

The Colts will host the Jets, the Chiefs host the Ravens, and the Seahawks the Saints. Why is this strange? The Jets had a better record than the Colts, the Ravens better than the Chiefs, and the Saints better than the Seahawks. The Eagles who host the Packers, are even with them at 10-6, however the Cheese head Packers beat the Dog loving Eagles in week 1 this season IN Philly. Simply switch the location for all of these wildcard playoff games and you’d get it right.

Those are my two main gripes. This is my favorite stat at season's end. Quiz time: Who had the best divisional record this year? If you guessed the 14-2 Patriots, you’d be wrong. While the Pats finished 5-1 in the AFC East (losing only to the Jets once), the 8 and 8 Oakland Raiders would be the correct answer. Going 6-0 in the AFC West, the Raiders become just the second team ever to go undefeated in their division and miss the playoffs. According to the NFL what you do in your division is absolutely insignificant unless you beat the same amount of other teams (but it doesn’t matter who) outside the division as someone else in your division. Congrats boys!

Screw it… I’m done. This is actually making me sorry I used the word "strange" before and not the acronym "FUBAR." This divisional way of seeding the playoff matchups is disgusting. Why play the other teams at all? All I know is that it is wrong for a 7 and 9 team who gave up 97 more points this year than they scored, to have a shot at the Super Bowl. You can argue the Saints were bestowed upon them a BYE week of sorts (anything can happen I know but come on!). Some of you may think I am just a bitter Giants fan, that at 10-6 we didn’t get in. This is not true. Giants lost to the Packers and lost to the Eagles twice. Under my psudo-rules that I didn’t even bother to outline of come up with, I’d leave them out of the picture too over those guys (Note: Just remembered the Giants pooped on the Seahawks in week 9, 41-7, so maybe they do deserve it). However the Buccaneers maybe deserve the nod more? I don’t even know because I think I read that they only beat one team with a winning record this year. I will not go check because it is moot. I know what team doesn't deserve it. Truth be told, I'd have been happier with any of the other 5 teams with better records taking their spot for any reason. I’m also not saying to get rid of divisions completely – the rivalries are awesome for the game – but someone much smarter than I am needs to fix this when there are at least 5 and perhaps 7 better teams sitting than one is in the playoffs.

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