Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Week 16 NFL Picks

I hate losing and that makes this process of picking NFL games especially demoralizing because I have now lost 114 times in 15 weeks (it actually may be 115 times but somewhere along the way I screwed-up the mathematical mountain climb that is adding a pair of two digit numbers together and the result is that I missed a game in my total count. The sad part is that it happens every year). That means that, about eight times per week, I watch the scores roll-in and think, "I'm an idiot" which may or may not be true but I don't need it proven to me in the harsh fashion of a 30-0 Bengals win over a Browns team that looked like it was being quarterbacked by the kid from Lincoln High as soon as he realized that his body would be paying for the damage to Charles Jefferson's car.

Well, if we're going to go down in flames, might as well do it with our boots on and crank-out some good old fashioned FGR gibberish for each game. Besides, we only have two more full weeks to botch football picks before we turn our attention to botching golf picks.    

Jacksonville by 3 over Tennessee: The Pick - Jaguars

The Jags cheerleaders should get
a lot of airtime to distract us from
the travesty on the field.
There are three and only three reasons you should find yourself watching this game: (1) You have somehow painted yourself into the fantasy football corner of still playing for something while having to rely on the services of a 231 pound white running back; (2) You are in college playing-out the string of the fall semester and you need something on in the background as you get pre-drunk before leaving the house, dorm, etc.; or (3) You poor bastard . . . you are actually a Jags or Titans fan clinging to the hope that your team will do the right thing by laying down these last two weeks thereby landing the first or second overall pick in the draft. Then again, the carnage that is the recent history of first round picks* by these two teams is pretty frightening so be careful what you wish for.

San Francisco by 2.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

Twenty-three months ago, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick were one play away from winning the Super Bowl. Now they appear to be one play away from jumping in a car and going on a multi-state killing spree like Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. Meanwhile, if the Chargers lose this week, it will be there fourth streak of either winning or losing at least three times in row. Based on that I should probably go the other way but I firmly believe that Harbaugh is trying to stick it to owner Jed York knowing that he can dump the rest of the season and still have his pick among any of the four or five worst coaching jobs in football next year. You know it's bad when the rest of the competition for your services has to convince you why they're a better option than the Jets.    

Philadelphia by 9 at Washington: The Pick - Eagles

This game features two quarterbacks who are likely auditioning for starting jobs elsewhere next year. And by "elsewhere," I mean Canada.  

Miami by 6.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings

Since 2011, the Dolphins have gone 6-10, 7-9 and 8-8. With two more wins this year, they will finish 9-7, their four year climb to above averageness will be complete and Joe Philbin's work here will be done.

Green Bay by 10.5 at Tampa Bay: The Pick - Packers

In the most recent MMQB, Peter King pointed-out that this week Aaron Rodgers "goes to a place that has not been good to him. At all." I immediately pictured a strip club brawl but then King elaborated that "Rodgers has played there twice, in 2008 and 2009. Lost twice. Completed 50 percent of his throws in the two games with four touchdowns and six picks, and a 54.6 rating at the Pirate Ship." I guess he added the part about the pirate ship because Rodgers is afraid of pirates? What King fails to mention as part of his analysis is that (a) 2008 and 2009 were Rodgers' first two seasons as a starter and (b) those games were five and six years ago so the Bucs probably have like a whole bunch of different players on their team now. In a related story, I'm starting to worry about Peter King because reading the MMQB has become a lot like talking to my mother in-law about baseball. Disorienting.  

Detroit by 7 at Chicago: The Pick - Lions

It just never gets old.
(At least not for me).
Just after halftime of the Monday night game against the Saints, the camera settled on Jay Cutler who was sitting on the bench wearing a ski hat and a facial expression that fell somewhere between "I honestly don't give a shit about anything right now" and "I have a mild yet annoying itch near my butthole." The score at the time was 14-0 Saints and it would soon grow to be 24-0 before the Bears finally scored in the fourth quarter. When you factor in his 2014 contract that includes $54M guaranteed and cap hits of $16.5M in 2015 and $17M in 2016, isn't Cutler currently the worst quarterback in the league? (Put your hand down Colin Kaepernick, you still need another season's worth of non-quality starts to be eligible).

New Orleans by 6 over Atlanta: The Pick - Saints

The winner of this game will become the heavy favorite to take the division and earn the potential privilege of hosting Seattle as a two touchdown underdog in the first round of the playoffs. This just isn't Roger Goodell's year.

New England by 10 at N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets

We've got two more games left in the Rex Ryan era and I would not be at all surprised to see the Jets pull-off an upset over the Pats because the one thing that Rex never lost was the ability to motivate his players which is just further proof that he is the bizarro Marc Trestman.

Pittsburgh by 3 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

The AFC North has spent most of the season pounding on the tomato cans from the AFC South and the NFC South and the result is three teams at the top with nine wins each. That changes this week as the Steelers host the Chiefs who need this game to stay in the playoff chase and the Bengals host the Broncos who still have a shot at the top seed but, more importantly, don't want to get caught by the Colts for the second seed. Considering the significance of this game and the coaches and quarterbacks on each side, I'm probably hoping against hope with this pick.

Carolina by 4 over Cleveland: The Pick - Panthers

If I were a Browns fan (and I thank my lucky stars that I am not), I would be especially troubled by Johnny Manziel's inauspicious debut as a starter for a couple of reasons: (1) He appears to have the arm strength of a high school quarterback which would explain why he fell to 22nd in the first round of the draft but (and read this part sarcastically) I'm sure the Browns' scouts thoroughly vetted that; and (2) the Browns history of drafting quarterbacks ain't the best in the business. Let's do a quick review:

1999: They draft Tim Couch first overall. It then takes five years to figure-out he sucks.

2004: Apparently still happy with their QB situation, the Browns pass on Ben Roethlisberger with the 6th overall pick and take Kellen Winslow, Jr. instead.

2005: They decide that quarterback is more of a luxury than a need so they pass on Aaron Rodgers in the first round and take Charlie Frye in the third.

2007: The Browns get the steal of the draft by catching Brady Quinn who fell to the 22nd pick in the first round. Clearly they knew something the rest of the league didn't. Then they learn that bad quarterbacks are bad no matter where you get them in the draft. (Hey, that's the same pick they used to get Manziel . . . shhhhhhhhh).

2008: Coming-off a 2007 season when they went 10-6 led most of the way by Derek Anderson, things were looking-up and, with so much depth at quarterback, there was no need to look at Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco in the first round.

"You mean I forgot to mention that I
turned 28 last month? Wow. Sorry."
2010: Patience pays-off again for the Browns who get another "steal" with Colt McCoy in the third round. McCoy is now a backup for the Redskins, his third team in five years.

2012: Back in the market, the Browns make a lowball offer to the Rams for the #2 pick which is rejected and for once their ineptitude pays-off as that pick turns into the train wreck that is RG, III. Unfortunately for the Browns, they dodged the falling safe by jumping in front of a bus in the form of Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick. Weeden is now a backup for the Cowboys which is clearly foreshadowing considering how much Jerry Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel in the first place.

Baltimore by 5.5 at Houston: The Pick - Ravens

The flip side of the Steelers and the Bengals having relatively tough match-ups this week is the Ravens going to Houston to face either Thad Lewis who was signed by the Texans off the street on November 24th or Case Keenum who was signed off the Rams' practice squad last week. (Note that being a quarterback on the Rams' practice squad is like being an alternate on the Bolivian luge team). Then again, Texans coach Bill O'Brien is refusing to name his starter until kick-off meaning that there is an outside shot it could end-up being J.J. Watt which, as a Ravens fan, I find terrifying.  

St. Louis by 5 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Rams

The Rams proved last week that beating two members of the Downtrodden Six (Jags, Jets, Raiders, Redskins, Titans and Bucs) by a combined score of 76-0 has no momentum value whatsoever when your next game is against one of the other twenty-two or so teams in the league who have a clue. Entering that game against Arizona, they probably figured they only needed 13 points to win and they came up with 6. This week they return to their gene pool against the Giants who are coincidentally coming-off their own three game stretch against the D-Six which included a home loss to the Jaguars. That puts the Giants in the NFL netherworld of teams that are right on the line between watchable and unwatchable along with the Bears, Browns and the entire NFC South. This feels like a game where Eli throws a lot of picks and makes a lot of faces.

Buffalo by 6 at Oakland: The Pick - Bills

The Bills' defense ended my fantasy football season by pulling an absolute stymie job on Aaron Rodgers last week. They are therefore dead to me and will garner no further commentary.

Dallas by 3 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

I have been clinging to my core belief that a team coached by Jason Garrett and quarterbacked by Tony Romo will revert to its true mediocre self over the course of a sixteen game season. However, if they can beat a quality opponent like the Colts in a game with their division winning hopes on the line, that belief will begin to crack which could force me to rethink all kinds of things like whether an Andy Reid coached team could hold a fourth quarter lead in a big game or Matthew Stafford could beat a good team on the road.

Seattle by 8 at Arizona: The Pick - Seahawks

Bruce Arians: "For the love of
God someone tell him to wipe
that f---ing smile off his face!"
The Cardinals are 11-3 and an 8 point underdog at home. I'm pretty sure that's never happened before but then again, I'm also pretty sure that a quarterback with seven career interceptions and no career touchdown passes has ever started for an 11-3 team against the defending Super Bowl champion before. You have to figure that the final spread on this game is going to be the number of points the Seahawks can score minus three so I'm betting the Seahawks can score more than eleven.

Denver by 3.5 at Cincinnati: The Pick - Broncos

Andy Dalton on national television with his team's playoff hopes on the line? Come on.

Endnotes

* God love Gil Brandt because he will always be the Godfather of NFL scouting but the man is 81 years old and recently wrote of the Jags' needs in the upcoming draft, "they took care of quarterback . . . in the last draft." Apparently his definition of "took care of" is "continued to set the position back 20 years" because Blake Bortles is currently ranked 30th in QBR and, when he played in Baltimore last Sunday, he triggered a series of Kyle Boller flashbacks in Ravens fans that had us involuntarily screaming, "THE LINEBACKER IS NOT YOUR FRIEND . . . RUN THE OTHER WAY . . . RUN!!!"

Last Week's Record: 8-8 . . . Season Record: 107-114-2

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Week 15 NFL Picks

The NFL used to be the league of parity where any team in a given year could rise from the ashes and make a playoff run no matter how incompetent it seemed the year before. This was based in part on a salary cap system that was supposed to level the playing field by preventing good teams from keeping all of their talented players by paying them market or above-market value year after year. That worked for a while but, inevitably, the competent teams figured-out how to manage the cap by not overpaying players who were past their primes and by finding value where others could not. In 2014, it would now appear that the well-run teams have fully adjusted by applying one of the following three blueprints: (1) Keep riding the elite quarterback you scored in the draft (Patriots, Packers, Seahawks and Colts); (2) Go find a randomly available experienced quarterback who can make you at least a playoff contender every year (Broncos and Chiefs); or (3) Hire a great coach and build a winning organization that doesn't require a superstar passer (Ravens, Cardinals and Eagles).

Maybe if we quit showering
him with so much attention,
he'll stop pulling crap like this.
But who wants to talk about those successful teams when it's infinitely more entertaining to recognize the failing organizations and to examine how and why they have failed. Not to mention, the Patriots, Broncos and Packers already have Peter King writing them love sonnets every week so who needs more of that? (We all acknowledge that Brady, Manning and Rodgers are great but the slurping is getting a little over the top). Over the past four seasons including this one, six teams have distinguished themselves for their ineptitude - the Jets, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins and Bucs (as every fan of one of those teams just winced at the suggestion that they are in the same class as the other five). Let's take a look at what this sextet of inadequacy has accomplished or failed to accomplish over the last three seasons.
  • There are twelve teams in the AFC with at least 7 wins and there are four teams with only 2 wins. (There are currently no AFC teams with 3, 4, 5, or 6 wins which has to be some kind of statistical anomaly . . . or something). The four teams with 2 wins each (the aforementioned Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders) had a combined winning percentage in 2013 of .359 and a combined winning percentage in 2012 of .281. You have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a winning record for any of those four teams when the Titans went 9-7.
  • The two teams at the bottom of the NFC are the Redskins and the Bucs with 5 wins between them. Their combined winning percentage in 2013 was .219. The Redskins actually made the playoffs in RG, III's 2012 rookie season but they of course tainted that by playing their franchise quarterback until his injured leg literally looked like it was about to fall off thereby sacrificing their 2013 season and quickly returning them to the dark ages of 2011 when they went 5-11. The Bucs aggregate winning percentage since the start of the 2011 season is .266. You get the picture. 
Biggest red flag you can see on
a quarterback's scouting report?
"The Jags are really high on him."
  • The quarterbacks who started the most games for each of those six teams in 2012 were Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Carson Palmer, RG, III and Josh Freeman. Of those six quarterbacks, only Locker and RG, III are still with their 2012 teams and both have been benched this season. The quarterbacks who have started the most games for each of those six teams this season and their passer rating ranks are Geno Smith (34th), Zach Mettenberger (25th), Blake Bortles (33rd), Derek Carr (30th), Kirk Cousins (21st) and Josh McCown (32nd).      
  • The Jets made the AFC Championship Game in 2010 and 2011. To find another playoff win for any of these six teams you have to go back to January of 2008 when the Jags beat the Steelers. (Eat it Pittsburgh . . . eat it).           
So there you have what appear to be the past and immediate future dregs of the NFL. To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, it's six teams walking around blind without a cane when it comes to finding a quarterback and there is no indication that they're any closer than they were three years ago with the possible exception of the Raiders and Derek Carr. (If you're a fan of one of the other five teams, the fact that the Raiders may be better positioned to turn things around than your favorite team has to be a bit disconcerting). To make matters worse, they haven't displayed that they can even rise to a level mediocrity in the absence of a quality starter like the Texans, Rams, Bills and Browns have (another wincing moment for the beleaguered fans as the realization that their team has been lapped by the Bills and the Browns sinks-in).

So what's the cure for these six ailing franchises? Well, it is both simple and virtually unattainable. They all need a change of ownership because they stink from the top down and that business model doesn't work in the NFL (nor in many other places). From Al Davis' son in Oakland to P.T. Barnum in Washington, the guiding hand for each of these six teams can be described as suspect at best. And the one thing they all seem to have in common is an owner with the desire put those guiding hands all over the running of the football operations from hiring and firing the coaches to influencing the decisions about who to draft and start at quarterback. I'm pretty sure the CEO of Jet Blue isn't in the ear of his pilots telling them "a little to the left." At least I hope not.

But we don't even need that outrageous hypothetical when we can get such a better real life example from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who just recently decided to stop using unpaid homeless people (some of whom are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts) to sell beer at their home games after being called-out by the Tampa Bay Times (because they apparently needed to read about it in a newspaper before they realized it was a bad idea). Now consider that at the top of the organization is a person who both hired the people responsible for that decision and also hires the people making the football decisions. Then consider that that same person who keeps your team picking at the top of the draft is probably the final say on which players get picked thereby creating a hamster wheel of failure. Yeah, I'd be wincing too.                          

Well that was fun. Now let's get on to some picks:  
       
Hey, Merry Christmas.
St. Louis by 4.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Cardinals
Kansas City by 10 over Oakland: The Pick - Chiefs
Baltimore by 13.5 over Jags: The Pick - Ravens
Pittsburgh by 2.5 at Atlanta: The Pick - Falcons
Indianapolis by 6.5 over Houston: The Pick - Colts
Cincinnati by 1.5 at Cleveland: The Pick - Browns
New England by 7.5 over Miami: The Pick - Patriots
Carolina by 3 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Panthers
N.Y. by 6.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins
Green Bay by 5 at Buffalo: The Pick - Packers
Detroit by 8 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings
N.Y. Jets by 1.5 at Tennessee: The Pick - Jets
Denver by 4 at San Diego: The Pick - Broncos
Seattle by 9.5 over San Fran: The Pick - Seahawks
Philadelphia by 3.5 over Dallas: The Pick - Eagles
New Orleans by 3 at Chicago: The Pick - Bears

Last Week's Record: 8-7-1
Season Record: 99-106-2.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Goodell Gets One Right

Last Friday it was announced that Ray Rice had won his appeal and would be reinstated meaning that he is now eligible to sign with an NFL team and begin playing again (whether any team will have him is another question). The successful appeal reversed commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to suspend Rice for the rest of the season because he had previously suspended him for only two games and then increased the length of the suspension despite the lack of new evidence that would have entitled him to do so. Goodell got that one wrong from a procedural standpoint because he should have suspended Rice for the whole season in the first place instead of subjecting him to double jeopardy. 

It wouldn't be long before Goodell was handed another chance because, on November 4th, Adrian Peterson plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault arising out of an incident where he beat his four year old son with a stick. You can read about the extent of the beating and view photos elsewhere as my goal here is not to be salacious but I will note that bruises were left. blood was drawn and again, the boy was only four years old. As a result of the plea, Peterson avoided jail time but had to pay a $4,000 fine and must perform 80 hours of community service.

On the heels of the legal disposition, Goodell made the decision to suspend Peterson for the remainder of the season. Peterson had previously been on the NFL's version of paid administrative leave but, from that point forward, he was suspended without pay. He immediately appealed the suspension which is his right and there was a hearing on the matter this past Tuesday. If the announcement of the ruling takes as long as it did in the Rice case, we won't know Peterson's fate until close to New Year's Eve.

But this case is about so much more than whether Adrian Peterson was improperly denied the right to play football and get paid for half a season. It has sparked a debate about the degree to which Peterson did anything wrong as certain members of the media and the public (to the extent we can measure it through message board posts and tweets) have been widely sympathetic to him despite the nature of the crime he admitted committing. The basis for that sympathy was pretty much summed-up by Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, when he said in a September 12th statement that "he [Peterson] used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing-up in East Texas."  

So presented with an early opportunity to influence the debate, Hardin decided to go with the old "well, that's how we've always done it" defense. Applying Hardin's logic, we should hit the rewind button on bike helmets, wall socket covers and car seats and go right back to child labor because that's the way it used to be. (Wait, I forgot that's already happening in our tobacco farms). For that matter, let's take it all the way back to 1870 when you could still beat your wife before an Alabama court went and got all progressive by ruling that "the privilege, ancient though it may be, to beat her with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her, spit in her face or kick her about the floor or to inflict upon her other like indignities, is not now acknowledged by our law." (Fulgham v. The State of Alabama, 1871). 


Fast forward to 2014 and you get universal outrage when Ray Rice hits his fiancee but conflicting opinions on whether Peterson was wrong to beat his son with a stick in exactly the same manner described by the Alabama court. And in a somewhat twisted case of irony, the reason Mrs. Fulgham was beaten in the first place back in 1871 was because she attempted to stop her husband from flogging their children. So how is it that we, as a society, have advanced so far in the way we view violence against women but we're still back in 1870 when it comes to violence against children? Especially when the basic law that is supposed to protect us all from getting beaten makes no exception for age or familial relationship. The definition of the crime of battery is simply "a physical act that results in harmful contact with another's person without that person's consent." I looked it up in a dozen sources and found no exception for harmful contact inflicted upon a child by a parent. 


One reason we're so far behind on this is obvious. A four year old boy cannot advocate for himself even though Peterson's son sure tried by allegedly telling police that "daddy Peterson hit me on my face." His son also indicated that he had been hit with a belt adding "there are a lot of belts in daddy's closet." But every child does not get the opportunity to be heard so abused children therefore must rely on advocacy groups who have found a tough road advancing their cause in a society that generally accepts or looks the other way when it comes to abuse perpetrated by parents on their own children. 


It certainly doesn't help when high profile athletes and former athletes like Reggie Bush and Charles Barkley* openly defend Peterson's actions. Barkley basically echoed the Hardin position when he said on the Jim Rome Show that "I'm from the south. Whipping is . . . we do that all the time." Yes, by all means let's have a dose of wisdom from Barkley who in 1991 attempted to spit on a fan and hit a little girl in the crowd instead. And in 1997 threw a man through the plate glass window of a bar in Orlando, Florida. And in 2008 was arrested for drunk driving and subsequently served three days in jail. And in 2006 admitted to losing approximately $10 million gambling before acknowledging in 2008 that he had failed to repay a $400,000 debt to a Las Vegas casino. Quick, someone get me a belt because I want my kid to turn-out like that. 


Then there's Reggie Bush who told WFAN radio that "I was punished the same way." Bush went on to say that when it comes to disciplining his one year old daughter, "I definitely will try to - will obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her . . . but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on what the situation is." 
Bush stops about an inch short of admitting that his form of harsh discipline involves corporal punishment on his one year old daughter which is good because it is universally accepted that, at that age, babies have no concept of consequences so spanking them has no sustained teaching effect. I'm sure Bush knows that so when he said that he would "not leave bruises or anything like that on her," he meant that he would never hit her in the first place.  

Now let's get back to Hardin because I expect more from my legal brethren (though I have no idea why when they so often let me down). What's really insidious about Hardin's public defense of his client is that, in attempting to justify Peterson's actions, Hardin perpetuates a cycle of violence against children instead of taking this opportunity to help break it. His statement doesn't even serve his client because from a public relations standpoint, it would have made more sense for him to say something to the effect of, "Adrian now recognizes that the disciplinary treatment he was subjected to as a child was overly harsh and he plans to take what he has learned from this experience and use it to advocate against similar treatment of children in the future." That's straight out of the Michael Vick character rehab playbook which has been proven to work and is barely five years old.   

Instead, Hardin implored us "to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury." Of course he intended to harm his son. That's why he hit him repeatedly with a stick. Maybe what Hardin meant was that Peterson never intended to harm his son that much. The problem is that when you start hitting a four year old with a stick, it's hard to know when you've inflicted just enough pain to get your point across without going too far. That's why you shouldn't pick-up the stick in the first place.    


The law saw fit to let Peterson off with a fine and some community service but Roger Goodell decided to go a step further and he was right. In his letter to Peterson, Goodell wrote that "we are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change." Was that overly preachy? Maybe, but the message was right. Based on his initial response and that of his attorney, it was clear that Peterson either didn't want to admit or just didn't know that he went too far. All he had to do was say that he was wrong to beat his son so severely. That simple message from Peterson himself (and not his attorney) would have changed the whole tone of the discussion to one about how we can better define the line between disciplining children and abusing them. Instead Hardin and Peterson decided to use the past as a scapegoat and left Goodell no choice but to send the message that they chose to avoid.

Endnote


* I did not do an exhaustive search for Peterson supporters but Barkley and Bush were two of the first three names to pop-up along with that of Sean Hannity. Hannity went on a bizarre rant about how he didn't want Peterson to lose his job because, when he was a child, his own father had hit him repeatedly with a belt and it did not result in Hannity having to see a psychiatrist. The rant was crazier than I just made it sound and it clearly made the Fox News panel to which he was speaking uncomfortable. Stephen Colbert addresses it better than I ever could in this clip


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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Week 14 NFL Picks

We're clearing-out the picks in short order this week as I said everything I had to say about the Ravens' debacle in Monday's post and now it's all about keeping the momentum (luck) rolling after a strong Week 13 showing. Not to mention, any week where I have to root for the Steelers makes me feel dirty and I just want to get it behind me.

Having to root for the Colts
only makes it worse.
Dallas by 3.5 at Chicago: The Pick - Bears
Miami by 3 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens
Cincinnati by 3.5 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Steelers
Indianapolis by 4 at Cleveland: The Pick - Colts
Houston by 5 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Texans
Tennessee by 1 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants
New Orleans by 9.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Saints
Detroit by 9.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Lions
St. Louis by 2.5 at Washington: The Pick - Redskins
Minnesota by 6 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Vikings
Denver by 10 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bills
Arizona by 1 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs
San Francisco by 8 at Oakland: The Pick - 49ers
Philadelphia by 1.5 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks
New England by 3.5 at San Diego: The Pick - Patriots
Green Bay by 11.5 over Atlanta: The Pick - Packers

Last Week's Record: 11-5
Season Record: 91-99-1

Send your emails to fgr@fantasygolfreport.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

Two Reasons to Jump Off a Roof

I tried to get out and stop caring about football . . . I really did but there I was yesterday taking what was supposed to be a ten minute break from hanging Christmas lights off my roof to watch the Ravens closeout what should have been a solid win over the Chargers with about 273 positive playoff implications. But before I get to that, allow me to go off on a couple of seasonal tangents: 

(1) From a pure customer satisfaction standpoint, is there a commonly used product in existence that would rank lower than the Christmas light strand? Of the six strands I used last year, one burned-out three days after it came out of the box making the front of my house look like a guy with one eyebrow shaved-off. When I pulled them out yesterday, four of the six strands were toast. That's a 0.333 winning percentage making them less successful as a lighting product than Rich Kotite was as a football coach and that's saying something.

"FREE AT LAST!!!"
(2) At one point as I was crawling around on the shingles with the dog barking at me, I debated whether the price of the broken leg I would suffer from a controlled fall off my roof would be would be worth never having to hang Christmas lights again. Soon after that I realized that "enough money" to me would mean having enough money to pay someone else to hang my Christmas lights. My point is that I don't like hanging Christmas lights.

Anyway, back to the Ravens who took a ten point lead with 6:13 left to play in the 4th quarter only to see the Chargers drive 77 yards in about two and half minutes to cut the lead back to three. OK, no problem because Jacoby Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the Chargers 30 yard line where the Ravens took over with 3:40 to play. Two plays later and the Ravens had it first and ten at the Chargers 19 with 2:40 to play and the Chargers used their first timeout to stop the clock. Note they had saved all three timeouts for just such an occasion. You know, like the nice bottle of wine you save for a dinner party instead of busting it out during the tail-end a poker game (I think you see where I'm headed with this).

The Ravens then wisely ran it twice for a total of six yards and forced the Chargers to burn their last two timeouts so it was 3rd and 4 with 2:32 left to play and the Ravens coaches were faced with the classic game ending quandary. Do you (a) call your normal 3rd and 4 play which would be a pass and risk stopping the clock if it's incomplete or (b) run the ball and hope you get the first down while also running the clock down to the two minute warning whether you make it or not? There is no absolute right answer to that question, however, the Ravens chose incorrectly in this case because Flacco threw an incomplete pass on a very awkward looking play that actually had him do a full 360 after taking the snap (because quarterbacks who are six foot six and weigh 245 pounds are known for the grace of their f-cking pirouettes). It was not the coaches finest moment but it wasn't an epic gaff either.

Someone stop that man!
And we know it wasn't an epic gaff because we got to see one of those on the next play when the Ravens lined-up for the field goal and tried to get cute by having tight end Owen Daniels split-out at wide receiver near the sideline. Whatever gimmick they were trying to pull-off didn't work and, instead of just going ahead and kicking the 31 yard field goal, John Harbaugh used his second timeout of the half (he had already used his first one midway through the 4th quarter because it had apparently been burning a hole in his pocket).

The field goal was good putting the Ravens up by six but then San Diego got the ball back on their own 20 yard line and Philip Rivers had 2:22 to solve the complex puzzle that is the Ravens' 31st ranked pass defense. Turns-out he only needed 1:44 which was good news for the Ravens because it left them 38 seconds to drive for the game winning field goal. With a couple of well-used timeouts and Justin Tucker's cannon of a leg, that should have been plenty of time. Oh but wait. "Hey honey, where's that nice bottle of wine I bought last year". . . "You drank half of it with Donnie and Rich Tuesday night and spilled the rest on the carpet, dumbass". . . "Oh yeah."

Fittingly the game ended with Flacco completing a beautiful 24 yard pass to the Chargers' 43 yard line which would have given Tucker a very makeable shot from 60 yards-out but the receiver was tackled in bounds and the Ravens had already used their one remaining timeout. Game over.

Now I happen to think that John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in football and I have the stats to back it up. His .639 regular season winning percentage only trails Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy among active coaches and his .692 playoff winning percentage is the best among active coaches and the 5th best in league history among coaches with ten or more playoff games (he's behind some guys named Lombardi, Flores, Walsh and Gibbs whoever they are). And he's won a Super Bowl which means he's already assembled the first half of a Hall of Fame résumé.   

But man does he struggle with clock management. In case you thought Sunday's example of Harbaugh using second half timeouts like they were expiring gift cards was something new, check-out this article from 2009 showing the best and worst coaches at keeping their timeouts for the end of close games. The chart below shows how many times per close game a coach retained at least two timeouts for the end . . . scroll down to second from the bottom to find Harbaugh who, at that point, was leaving himself with one timeout or less at the end of 1 out of every 3 close games (courtesy of Greg Garber and ESPN.com). 

Pct.
Times Retained Timeouts
Close Games
Coach
.93939
62
66
Wade Phillips
.93103
54
58
Marvin Lewis
.93103
27
29
Mike Tomlin
.92857
91
98
Bill Belichick
.92000
23
25
Jim Mora
.91589
98
107
Tom Coughlin
.89286
25
28
Eric Mangini
.89063
57
64
John Fox
.88172
82
93
Norv Turner
.88000
110
125
Jeff Fisher
.86364
38
44
Lovie Smith
.86154
56
65
Jack Del Rio
.83871
26
31
Mike McCarthy
.83333
15
18
Mike Smith
.82759
24
29
Brad Childress
.82143
23
28
Gary Kubiak
.81250
65
80
Andy Reid
.80000
16
20
Tony Sparano
.77273
17
22
Jim Zorn
.75000
18
24
Ken Whisenhunt
.67857
19
28
Sean Payton
.66667
10
15
John Harbaugh





To put that into perspective, Harbaugh was worse than his mentor, Andy Reid, who last year blew a 38-10 third quarter lead against the Colts in the playoffs and is the worst clock manager of all-time. (He was generally regarded as the worst anyway but that game just solidified it). Unfortunately for Ravens fans, the apple does not fall far from the coaching tree as we seem to get treated to at least one game a year where we're left staring at the field or the TV like we're watching the final episode of The Sopranos all over again ("is that it? what in the hell just happened?). That's what I get for allowing myself to be suckered back in. I should have stayed on the roof. Or jumped off it. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Week 13 NFL Picks

"No I did not know that my brother
had dinner with Mr. Snyder last
night. (Gulp) Who told you that?"
Ah late November . . . a nip in the air, autumn colors, 6,000 calories looming on Thursday and the time of the season when Redskin fans traditionally start running Google searches for "2015 Mock Drafts" and "Best NFL Head Coaching Prospects." I can tell you firsthand that the burgundy and gold faithful have blown right through denial, anger, bargaining and depression at record speed this year and have accepted the fact that (a) the RG, III era is over in Washington and (b) his career will inevitably be resurrected by Chip Kelly in Philadelphia or Jim Harbaugh somewhere else. In a related story, my NFL picks continue to decline faster than the watchability of the NFC South.

On a brighter note, my interest in the NFL is being rejuvenated by this intriguing AFC North race where all four teams are currently separated by a half game. At this point, you have to give the Ravens the inside track (HOMER ALERT!) based on their remaining schedule of Chargers, at Dolphins, Jaguars, at Texans and a home finale against the Browns. Meanwhile, the Bengals go on the road to Tampa Bay and then have the Steelers, at Browns, Broncos before finishing in Pittsburgh. The Browns probably have the toughest road starting in Buffalo this week and then Colts at home, Bengals, at Panthers and at the Ravens. And to closeout this full schedule breakdown, the Steelers finish with the Saints, at Bengals, at Falcons, Chiefs and home against the Bengals. At least Steeler fans can take solace in the fact that they escaped that Bucs - Jets - Titans gauntlet with a 1-2 record. Phew!

Time for me to return to my semi-sabatical. What I really need to do is write something so offensive that I'm forced to suspend myself for a few weeks. We'll make that a priority over the holiday weekend.  
Come on Saints . . .
time to snap out of it!
   
Detroit by 7 over Chicago: The Pick - Lions
Dallas by 3 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles
San Francisco by 1 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks
Indianapolis by 9.5 over Washington: The Pick - Colts
Houston by 6.5 over Tennessee: The Pick - Texans
Buffalo by 2 over Cleveland: The Pick - Bills
Baltimore by 5.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Ravens
N.Y. Giants by 2.5 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Giants
Cincinnati by 4 at Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs
St. Louis by 7 over Oakland: The Pick - Rams
Pittsburgh by 4 over New Orleans: The Pick - Saints
Minnesota by 3 over Carolina: The Pick - Vikings
Arizona by 2.5 at Atlanta: The Pick - Cardinals
Green Bay by 3 over New England: The Pick - Patriots
Denver by 1 at Kansas City: The Pick - Broncos
Miami by 5.5 at N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Dolphins

Last Week's Record: 6-9 . . . Season Record: 80-94-1

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The FGR Week 12 NFL Picks

Keeping with the FGR's new direction, here are the week 12 picks and the obligatory website traffic generating cheerleader shot. Now I can get back to that serious writing I talked about earlier this week (and if anyone has a good topic idea, my email address is below . . . seriously).

"How about gift ideas for that hard
to shop for man on your list?"
Atlanta by 3 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns
Philadelphia by 11 over Tennessee: The Pick - Titans
New England by 7 over Detroit: The Pick - Patriots
Green Bay by 9.5 at Minnesota: The Pick - Packers
Indianapolis by 13.5 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags
Houston by 2 over Cincinnati: The Pick - Texans
Buffalo by 4.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets
Chicago by 5.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs
Seattle by 6.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Seahawks
San Diego by 4.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Rams
Denver by 7.5 over Miami: The Pick - Broncos
San Francisco by 8.5 over Washington: The Pick - 49ers
Dallas by 3.5 at N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants
New Orleans by 3.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

Last Week's Record: 6-8 . . . Season Record: 74-85-1.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.