Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 2 - The Top 30

In Part 1 of the FGR's 2013 Fantasy Golf Preview, we covered a better way to play the game based on six player rosters and a money list approach. (Warning: it's about to get really golfy). Now it's time for some draft prep because, in that format, your first and second round picks will probably make (Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner) or break (Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel) your team. Remember that our first objective here is prize money. Unlike other fantasy sports, there are no positional concerns in a fantasy golf draft so with each pick it simply comes down to whether you like Player "A" more than Player "B" and/or Player "C."

It's going to be hard to ignore the
memory of this image in Round 2. 
There are a few simple rules to follow when making those choices. The first one is "when in doubt, pick the guy who plays more tournaments." That would seem obvious but would you rather have Ian Poulter for 15 tournaments or Carl Pettersson for 26? Are you willing to give up that many extra shots at adding prize money on the chance that Poulter is going to win and justify a second round pick? (at this point I am not but we'll see what happens when we get to Round 2 after a few beers because I'm not sure I could pull the trigger on the big Swede that early).

The other thing to consider is that golfers have a tendency to revert back to their means both positively and negatively. For example, Zach Johnson is probably about the 12th-15th best player on tour but last year he finished 6th on the money list, in 2009 he finished 4th and in 2007 he finished 8th. In 2011, 2010 and 2008, however, he finished 44th, 19th and 53rd. So do you bet on ZJ having back to back top 10's even though he's never done it before or do you play the odds and bump him back into the teens or even the low 20's? Chances are someone is going to jump on him too early. Just make sure you're not that guy.

Enough rules. This isn't rocket science because if there was this much guess work involved in rocket science, it would be called something else . . . like rocketology. The problem this year is that the talent pool has gotten so deep that, after the top two picks, I could make a case for any of my next sixteen to go in the third spot. That will explain why what I say about a player ranked in the mid teens makes him sound like he should be 4th. I mean what can I say to justify the fact that I have the player who won the 2012 U.S. Open and finished second on the 2011 money list ranked 14th other than I think there are 13 guys who are good enough to finish ahead of him this year. I've reshuffled this list a dozen times but now it's time to launch this sucker (see how I brought it back to the rocket theme there? . . . That's what you do when you can't figure out how to transition to the next topic).

1. Rory McIlroy because he is the best player in the world and after winning his second major in two years and then backing that up with a strong Ryder Cup performance, he KNOWS he's the best player in the world.

2. Tiger Woods because he is not ready to admit that Rory is the best player in the world even if deep-down he knows it to be true. In addition to three wins last season, Tiger played really solidly down the stretch with five top 10's out of seven events with loaded fields. He's in the process of making one more run at being the best player in the world and I'm not betting against him. I'm reluctant to go with the same one-two combination from the 2102 money list but it's not unprecedented as Tiger and Phil Mickelson did it three years in a row from 2000-2002. I can see Rory and Tiger having a similar run.

3. Jason Dufner because he always shows-up as evidenced by his fourteen top 25's in twenty-two tournaments last year. You could also look at it like this. Which player is most likely to win his first major in 2013? The answer is Dufner or Lee Westwood right? And Dufner gets the nod in the rankings because he plays more events and he only has the scars of blowing one major in his career as opposed to Westwood who has more scars than a rookie lion tamer.

4. Keegan Bradley because he is ready to add consistency to his big game ability. It looked like he was going to do it last year when he was rock solid right up to the Masters and then things inexplicably went sideways until he won the Bridgestone and finished tied for 3rd at the PGA Championship. He also would have brought home the Ryder Cup for the U.S. if coach Love hadn't left him on the bench for the most critical match as explained in The FGR Rankings Update.

5. Justin Rose because he's too good to win just one tournament in a season and he may have been the only guy to get a bigger confidence bump from the Ryder Cup than Bradley. He finished 7th on last year's money list despite some very suspect putting (121st in putts per round). He's a better putter than that and a modest improvement in that area this year is going to land him a major.

Pretty much your standard
follow through for hitting
a fade . . . right?
6. Bubba Watson because every time Bubba makes the cut, he finishes in the top 25 (literally every time . . . 16 out of 16 last year). On my first pass through this list I had Bubba 18th because I kept comparing him to the next guy and thinking, "that other guy is better." Then I came to my senses and realized that the reason I underrate Bubba is that I cannot begin to understand how he can be as consistent as he is while hitting 300+ yard curveballs off the tee. It's hard to wager with confidence on something you don't understand but in this case I'm just going to trust the results and the fact that Bubba's swing is never going to get out of whack because his body wouldn't know how to swing a golf club any other way (not sure if that makes sense which makes it the perfect analysis of Bubba's game).

7. Matt Kuchar because he had the best 2012 scoring average other than the guys who are 1st, 2nd and 3rd on this list (and Jim Furyk - more on him below). Maybe I'm partial to Kuch because he worked-out well for me last year but I look at him the same way I look at Brady, Rodgers and Brees in fantasy football. You know you're going to get about 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns so why roll the dice on a riskier proposition?

8. Dustin Johnson because he's not going to miss almost three months in 2013 with an injury that allegedly occurred while moving a jet ski. (There were many unsubstantiated rumors last year that "moving a jet ski" was a little known euphemism for "puffing the magic dragon" which of course is another way of saying "burning some rope." Even if they aren't true, I'd like to introduce "moving the jet ski" into the Mary Jane lexicon).

9. Lee Westwood because after six top five finishes last year plus a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open when he suffered one of the worst breaks in golf history (his ball disappeared into the top of a tree and never came down), he is beyond overdue for something good to happen. He also moved to Florida which means that (a) he'll be playing in more events, especially early in the year and (b) he can keep driving on the wrong side of the road and no one down there will know the difference.

10. Phil Mickelson because he's only finished lower than 8th on the money list once since 2003 and he's been one of the five best players in the world since the beginning of September (two top 10's in the FedEx Cup, 3-1 in the Ryder Cup and 2nd at the HSBC in China). I originally had Phil 15th because his game appears to be slipping a bit but never underestimate his desire to cash checks. He always seems to raise his game when cash flow starts to get a little light.

11. Luke Donald because, though the talent pool is getting a little deep for him, he still has the consistency to rack-up a $4M+ season as evidenced by his strong showings at the British Open, the Players, the Tour Championship and two WGC events last year. Remember, he's still #2 in the FGR Rankings and the World Golf Rankings and he may be one of those guys who sneaks back in and wins a major after slipping off the radar like Mark O'Meara and Curtis Strange did. (Hmmm . . . need to factor that into Part 3 of the preview).

12. Adam Scott because he's ranked 4th in the FGR Rankings and 5th in the World Golf Rankings and he bounced back from his disastrous British Open to have two top 10's in the FedEx Cup. His limited schedule is an issue but he makes-up for that by always being in contention in at least one major and playing the WGC events well.

Adam Scott would appear to be
the man who has everything
. . . except a major.
13. Brandt Snedeker because he dominated the FedEx Cup last year and I see him riding that momentum into a solid 2013. He has also finished 2nd, 6th and 1st over the last three years in putts per hole and nothing translates into dollars like making a lot of putts. (Feel free to add your own "duh" to that last point).

14. Webb Simpson because I have no idea what to say about ranking a guy this good this low. I had him 16th but then I imagined myself at the draft choosing between him and the next two guys on this list and decided he would be my pick.

15. Louis Oostuizen because when he's on, he is one of the five best players in the world. I was surprised to see that he played 19 times last year because with that many starts, he should have finished higher on the money list but he didn't have a win. That won't be the case this year.

16. Bo Van Pelt because he's too good not to win at least once next year. He's finished 4th, 10th and 7th in the All Around Ranking the past three years which is an indication that he's got the complete package. (The only players to finish ahead of him in that category last year were Bradley, McIlroy and Dufner which is pretty good company as long as Bradley doesn't start droning on about how good the Sawx are going to be next year).

17. Ernie Els because one thing that got lost in his dramatic British Open victory was that he was in position to win three other times including the U.S. Open and his putter failed him. Ernie just turned 43, probably has one more good run in him and he knows it.

18. Nick Watney because last year was a hiccup. Remember that in 2011 he had ten top 10's including five straight to start the season and he won two legit events (the WGC at Doral and the AT&T National). Not to mention, the FGR owes almost half of its readership to Amber Watney.***

"Are the Watney's expecting? Come
on. I need the information now!
On January 4th I'm a dinosaur!"
19. Jason Day because I'm assuming he enjoyed his year off and he's ready to come back and get to work. When a player makes as big a move backwards as Day did in 2012, it's worth trying to figure-out why. In this case, the down year can be attributed at least partly to a bum ankle and the birth of his son. I've played through both and can attest to the fact that they are legitimate excuses for spotty play . . . especially the new baby thing because you don't feel guilty about playing on a bad ankle.

The lesson here is that if you are eyeing up a certain player for the 2013 season, it would probably be worth your time to Google his name+wife+pregnant+expecting and if there is a pending birth, especially between April and September, run the other way as golfers' wives apparently don't buy into the idea of Adrian Balboa postpartum motivational speeches.***

20. Scott Piercy because his win last year finally convinced him that he's one of the best players on tour as evidenced by his second place finish at the HSBC in November.

21. Hunter Mahan because I have no idea where to put him after he won two tournaments in the space of four weeks at the start of last season and then went into golf's version of the fetal position until a tie for 8th at the Tour Championship. After his second win, I thought he might been headed for top five in the world but in his last six tournaments before the TC, he missed the cut twice and his best finish was 39th.

22. Rickie Fowler because until he shows that he can closeout more wins after putting himself in position, he is going to be a high to mid 20's regular on the money list. Case in point: he was in position to win the Memorial after three rounds last year and then closed with an 84 meaning half the ten handicaps in the world shot a better score than he did that Sunday.

Not to hit you while you're
down Jim but reeeally sorry
about your Steelers this year.
23. Zach Johnson because, as discussed above, I don't see him winning twice again this year but he'll probably win at least once. He's currently tied for 12th for most wins by an active player on tour with nine which puts him ahead of K.J. Choi, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia. If picking Kuchar in the first round is like taking one of the top three quarterbacks, then picking ZJ in the second is like taking Roddy White or Reggie Wayne.

24. Jim Furyk because he is one of the few guys on tour with the mental make-up to bounce back from two of the most devastating meltdowns in recent memory but one thing is for sure, no one who picked him last year is going back for more in 2013.*** Too many flashbacks and nightmares.

25. Bud Cauley because at some point I had to pick a young gun who is going to jump about 20 spots and Cauley looks like that guy.

26. Carl Pettersson because after being an unbelievable non-factor in the majors for the first ten years of his career he got his first taste of contending at the PGA Championship and he finally seems to have figured-out how to be more consistent from week to week.

27. Ian Poulter because, after his Ryder Cup performance and his win in China at the HSBC, he has solidified his reputation as a badass putt making machine. If he played more PGA Tour events, he'd be ten spots higher.

"My teacher's name is Alan Parsons,
therefore my rebuilt swing shall be
called the 'Alan Parsons Project.'"
28. Graeme McDowell because he is going to have better finishes in the WGC events and make a stronger run during the FedEx Cup. G-Mac could be a really strong second round sleeper pick this year. His finishes in the majors last year were T2, T5, T11 and T12. When a gritty player keeps knocking on the door like that, he's going to break through sooner than later.

29. Jonas Blixt because when you putt as well as he does and you have the perfect name for a Bond villain, I need to find a place for you in my top 30.

30. Seung-Yul Noh because he made 24 out of 28 cuts in 2012 and ended the season with 17 in a row. And his name sounds like "soon you'll know" as in "soon you'll know how freakin' good I am."

The Near Misses

Four more players that I had in the top 30 at some point during this process are Bill Haas, Charl Schwartzel, Peter Hanson and Chris Kirk. Haas and Schwartzel are due for bounce back seasons. Hanson is a stud who raises his game for the majors and the WGC events and Kirk was showing signs at the end of 2012 that he's ready to make the leap (and his wife had a baby last year so he should be clear on that front unless Irish birth control is involved).

The Almost Forgotten

Every year there are a half a dozen guys who inexplicably plummet down the money list like they just said "screw practicing this year." Some never make it back up but more often than not, the drop is just one bad season and they finish 20-30 spots higher the following year. Prime candidates for that kind of move in 2013 are Fredrik Jacobson, Aaron Baddeley, Gary Woodland and K.J. Choi.

So that should get you through the first couple rounds and maybe into the third. Remember that the mid to later round picks can be just as valuable as the top two so be on the lookout for 2013's version of John Huh and Marc Leishman. I have a few of those in mind but I'm going to hang onto them until after my draft this week. As James Coburn said in The Baltimore Bullet (a poor man's version of The Color of Money), "I taught you everything you know . . . but I didn't teach you everything I know." Good luck.

Email the FGR


"Who's Amber?"
* In the 2012 Zurich Classic Preview I posted this picture and mistakenly identified the subject as Amber Watney. Now every time Amber Watney makes any news, a thousand people Google her name, stumble onto this picture and are directed to the Fantasy Golf Report. I don't really have a point here other than to say Amber Watney, fantasy golf, Amber Watney, fantasy golf, Amber Watney, fantasy golf . . .

** For the second time in as many days I feel compelled to explain a 30+ year old movie reference. If you have not seen Rocky I and Rocky II, then your sports movie resume has a gaping hole in it (I would also recommend Rocky III but don't go any further than that). Without giving anything away, there is an extended stretch in Rocky II where his wife Adrian is dealing with a life threatening situation during her pregnancy (at some point I think she actually slips into a classic 70's movie coma) and the audience is dealing with the threat that the writers may be screwing-up the easiest sequel in the history of film. That all changes the moment Adrian is out of harm's way and asks Rocky to lean in so she can whisper something to him from her hospital bed:

Adrian: There's one thing I want you to do for me.
Rocky: What?
Adrian: Come 'ere.
Rocky: What?
Adrian: Win . . . . Win.

Cue the orchestra (you may want to put on a sweater before watching this clip because it's about to get a little chilly) - Win . . . Win.

*** Though I'm sure he'd trade the eight top 10 finishes for a second swing at that tee shot on the 16th hole at Olympic (Fore Left!) and a complete do over on the 72nd hole at the Bridgestone.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The 2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 1

"I put it to you Yahoo." 
Isn't it time we came up with a better way to play fantasy golf than some version of trying to pick the winner every week? Isn't the entire basis for the exploding popularity of fantasy sports the fact that we got tired of just betting on who was going to win the games? I put it to you reader. Isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well you can do whatever you want to me, but I'm not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America (sorry, got a little carried away).*

Where was I? Right . . . a better way to play fantasy golf. Well I don't know what the rest of you have been doing for the past fifteen years but, since 1997,** I've been tweaking, tinkering and generally massaging the greatest fantasy golf format known to man (or at least known to me). Here are three reasons why you're going to love it: (1) There is a draft and anytime you can add a fantasy draft night to your calendar, it's a good thing, (2) you actually get a team of players for the season with whom you can bond or, in the case of Paul Goydos at the practice round for the 1997 U.S. Open, walk with and attempt to inspire with some good natured pep talk until it starts to border on stalking,*** (3) once you draft your team, you can put as much or as little effort as you want into managing it during the season because there is no obligation to make picks every week.

Here's how it works:

1. Each team drafts six players and no two players can be on the same team. A draft for a 12 team league takes about an hour.

"Hey, where did all of my
imaginary friends go?"
2. The draft order is selected randomly on draft night but instead of doing a simple six round serpentine draft, the order goes as follows based on a 12 team league:**** 1-12, 12-1, 12-1, 1-12, 12-1, 1-12. So the team that picks last in the first round picks first in rounds two, three and five. This is necessary based on the decided advantage of being able to pick from players like Tiger and Rory in the first round versus guys like Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson.

With the exception of 2010 which was a year of parity, history has shown that the top players regularly earn 75% to 100% more than the players in the 10-12 range. Re-working the draft order balances this out a little bit by giving the teams at the bottom more depth. Using last year's money list as an example, this means that, instead of the team with the top pick getting Rory, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott, they would get Rory, Lee Westwood and Martin Laird which meant about a $900,000 difference in earnings but it also meant that the team with the #1 pick wouldn't get three of the top nine favorites to win the Masters.

3. During the season, teams are free to drop and add players at anytime except while that week's tournament(s) are being played. Free agent activity peaks before the majors when non-eligible players are dropped for guys like Nicholas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson and, in more desperate cases, Robert Rock and Branden Grace. Then after the tournament, everyone races to re-add the tour grinders like Ken Duke and John Rollins looking to pick-up a couple of top 10's. This year we added a waiver system that runs for two days after the end of the tournament so as to avoid an email race to pick-up last week's winner. The team that picked last in the draft starts at the top of the order and then every time a team makes a claim, they drop to the bottom. Players can be dropped and added on Wednesdays with no impact on the waiver wire because if you haven't made your move by then, too bad.

4. The team with the most combined money earned in each event wins it along with a little something for the effort. The entry fee for the leagues I run is about the same as the price of a Callaway RAZR Fit Driver ($299.99) which is also the same amount you win if your team takes a major. Each transaction costs as much as a sleeve of Pro V's which is also what you win for a run of the mill tournament like the John Deere Classic. Winnings for the other tournaments are based on their relative importance with the WGC events and the Players coming in at about half of what a major is worth. The remainder of the pot goes to the overall combined money winners at the end of the season depending on how many spots you want to reward.

So that's the basic format. To give you an idea of what a winning squad looks like, here are the final rosters from the two winning teams in my leagues from last year with the position where each player was drafted (15 teams in each league):

Moore is still on my undraftable list because I can't take
his body language for a full season but I rolled the dice
on him for the FedEx Cup and he actually came through.
League 1

1. Rory McIlroy (4th)
2. Bo Van Pelt (27th)
3. Charlie Wi (FA)
4. Cameron Tringale (FA)
5. Sang Moon Bae (72nd)
6. Bud Cauley (79th)

League 2

1. Matt Kuchar (8th)
2. Zach Johnson (23rd)
3. Bo Van Pelt (38th)
4. Kevin Na (53rd)
5. Brian Davis (FA)
6. Ryan Moore (FA)

The League 1 winner drafted Anthony Kim 3rd and Camillo Villegas 4th proving that you can make-up for even the most egregious mistakes if you pull the plug early enough (and if you have the tour's leading money winner). The League 2 team was mine and I had originally drafted Vijay Singh in the 5th round and Scott Piercy in the 6th but dropped Piercy in late February which was obviously a mistake.***** The lesson there is that I could have sat on my originally drafted team of Kuchar, ZJ, Van Pelt, Na, Singh and Piercy and won the league from the 8th spot proving that it doesn't necessarily matter where you pick or how much you churn your roster throughout the season.

In addition to winning a big chunk of the overall pot for finishing first, I got paid handsomely for Kuchar's win at the Players plus a couple other small paydays for ZJ's two wins. I also had two players in the mix at Augusta (Kuchar and Peter Hanson) which enhanced the experience of watching what was already one of the best majors in recent memory. Under this format, you are almost guaranteed to get that at least once or twice a season but if you're picking one or two players per week, you may never have a guy get Sunday airtime at a major.

Now for the downside. I have yet to discover a website that offers this format so we still do it all manually using old fashioned spreadsheets and weekly emailed updates. At this point, I'm not sure I'd switch to a website because the weekly updates (which were the inspiration for the FGR) provide a great opportunity for Jim Furyk owners to vent after he ruins another Sunday for them. Besides, it's not much work once you set it up because all you're doing is rolling down the tournament results and entering the dollars on the spreadsheet. You also avoid the inevitable hassle of website glitches or people failing to understand the transaction process. You will, however, need an Excel guy to set-up the sheet the right way and I am not that guy as I keep recycling the same one our league's co-founder devised about ten years ago. (If you want to see what it looks like, email me here - Email the FGR).

"Always hit through the ball."
So there you have it. Don't feel like you need to rush out and put together a league between now and the Tournament of Champions. A better place to start may actually be the Northern Trust on February 14th because that's one of the first loaded fields and it's a week before the Accenture Match Play when the season really gets rolling. It takes a little work to get started but, revisiting my ancient movie reference, "don't think of it as work . . . the whole point is just to enjoy yourself."

(Coming tomorrow - Part 2: The PGA Tour Preseason Top 30).


* This of course is a reference to the classic disciplinary council scene in Animal House, one of the five funniest movies ever made. I never thought I would feel compelled to explain an Animal House reference until it dawned on me that the movie came out 34 years ago which means that it is ten years older than some of my readers. Explained another way, an Animal House reference to a 24 year old is the equivalent of a Some Like it Hot reference for me. I'm going to stop there before I ponder the question of whether a 24 year old would find Animal House as unfunny as I found the first 45 minutes of Some Like it Hot (because that's all I could take).

** I know it was 1997 because I drafted Tiger as a rookie with the 6th overall pick and every year I email the five guys who passed on him a friendly reminder of their mistake (not really . . . but only because I can't remember who those five guys were other than the one who took Steve Jones #1 overall and I do make sure that comes-up in conversation whenever possible . . .  and yes, I too marvel at the fact that the FGW voluntarily married me).

*** That wasn't me but I was there when it happened. For the record, Goydos doesn't really like being repeatedly called "Pauly Kid."

Not that kind of talent pool.
**** You can have as many teams as you want but 15 is probably the max before the talent pool gets overly diluted.

***** I actually had the foresight to take Piercy 6th in both leagues and the ineptitude to drop him in both leagues but, in one of them, I dropped him for Ernie Els which almost made-up for my drafting Jason Day one spot ahead of Rory McIlroy. And by "almost" I mean "not remotely close." The memory of that still stings.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Week 17 NFL Picks

I am an entertainment snob and the age of podcasts, TiVo and On Demand have allowed me to take that snobbery to a whole new level. At this point, if you're coming at me through the television or the radio, you better be (a) smart and (b) funny (and being unintentionally funny like the Fox and Friends morning show doesn't count).* And no commercials. Especially not radio commercials which I have had an utter disdain for since my days of listening to Howard Stern and the Greaseman on DC101 and trying to comprehend what a "treatment center" was.** As a result of these basic yet strict criteria, you will rarely hear anything in my car other than commercial free podcasts of the Tony Kornheiser Show (with a little Scott Van Pelt and Colin Cowherd mixed in for variety) or Sirius' Lithium channel because, like many 40 something white guys, my musical taste stopped evolving in the early 90's with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"Well I can't go back to terrestrial
radio now! I can't! I won't!"
This preamble brings me to yesterday when I was tasked with taking the FGW's retro-mobile*** to get its emissions checked which has become one of those things that is simply not within her realm of accomplishable tasks (like taking the kids to the dentist would be for me . . . or buying more than five things at the grocery store . . . or wrapping Christmas presents . . . or . . . you get the picture). Here is what I learned from listening to about two hours of Baltimore midday sports talk radio:

(a) With a better offensive line, Joe Flacco would be a top five quarterback (I'm assuming the caller meant top five in the NFL but he didn't mention if Flacco would take the spot of Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Brees or Ryan so I'm not sure . . . for the record, he is currently 24th in ESPN's QBR between Jake Locker and Christian Ponder), (b) we would have more NBA fans in the area if Baltimore had an NBA team (I can't argue with that unless that NBA team was the Wizards) and (c) the Chicago Bulls just aren't the same team without the injured Derrick Rose. That last nugget deserves a little extra attention because it came from the host of the show who felt the need to tell his listeners that the Bulls would be better this year with their starting point guard who also happened to be the 2010-11 league MVP than without him. At that point I decided to drive in silence, just total fuckin' silence.

"Two can play at that
game smart guy."
Let's crank-out the last 16 games of the 256 freakin' game schedule (note to self: don't agree to pick every game next year). Last week's 8-8 record means I need to close with a 12-4 to hit .500 for the season. There are two motivating factors at work this week: (a) the playoffs and (b) the desire of a team to send its lame duck head coach off into the sunset with a win. We seem to have an unprecedented amount of the latter this season. Some of these games are going to get limited attention because frankly, that is all they deserve.

Buffalo by 3.5 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Bills

The Bills made a commitment to defense in the off-season figuring that they were set with Ryan Fitzpatrick running the show on offense. (You never want to start with a faulty premise). The result was an offense that ranked 20th in scoring and a defense that ranked 31st to go along with a turnover differential of -14. And if you hold the Bills up to a mirror, you get the Jets who are ranked 30th in scoring on offense and 20th on defense with a turnover differential of -13. It's close but at this point I think I'd rather be a Bills fan because at least I'd know I'm rooting for a team led by Fitzpatrick next year so my disappointment floor is basically set whereas that floor for Jets fans is on a mine shaft elevator.

New England by 10 over Miami: The Pick - Patriots

The Patriots have a shot at the #1 or #2 seed depending on what the Texans and Broncos do on Sunday but of greater importance to them should be trying to work-off the late season stink after losing at home to the Niners and mailing-in last week's win at Jacksonville. But hey, Gronk is coming back and Tom Brady is soooooo good that their timing should get right back in sync. I mean he hasn't won four Super Bowls since 2003 for nothing (what? how many? zero? really? hmm).

Cincinnati by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Bengals

The Ravens are talking a big game about going all out for the win but they're really banged-up and if John Harbaugh could pull a Gregg Popovich (NBA reference alert) and have the same eleven practice squad players go the whole sixty minutes, he'd do it (and I know that NFL teams don't have eleven practice squad players but work with me here). The Bengals are the young team that needs to convince themselves that they belong in the playoffs and they'd be doing the Ravens a favor if they took out the Patriots in the first round so don't be surprised if you see Ed Reed giving A.J. Green a few pointers on the way back to the huddle.

Houston by 6.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Texans

In case you're looking for the annual high seed headed for a premature playoff exit, check-out the Texans who have been outscored 160-150 over their past six games which have included the Jags, Titans and Lions. Due to the aforementioned seeding scenarios, however, the Texans need this game more than the Colts who are already locked into the #5 seed.

Tennessee by 4 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Titans

We're all a bit skeptical about a
future that involves Mike
Munchak and Jake Locker.
A battle between two teams paying for their decisions to reach for a quarterback in the 2011 draft. In hindsight, Jake Locker at no. 8 and Blaine Gabbert at no. 10 seem absurd and that's before you consider that 2012 defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt, went to the Texans at no. 11 (ouch) and then Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick went at nos. 35 and 36 (ouch, ouch . . . would you please stop doing that?!?!). Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight because, despite their top ten positions in the 2013 draft, there are no quarterbacks rated that high. Then again, that didn't stop them before.

N.Y. Giants by 7.5 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles

The Giants are the NFL's version of an overfed lion. Wake them up next year when they're hungry again. Projected 2013 landing spot for Michael Vick in order of likelihood: (1) Arizona, (2) Buffalo, (3) Jacksonville.

Washington by 3 over Dallas: The Pick - Cowboys

The only game of the weekend that could be truly do or die for both teams (the Redskins still have an outside chance to make the playoffs if they lose). There are so many factors going in the Redskin's favor that this just feels like a trap. For example, they've only turned the ball over five times during their six game winning streak despite the fact that their quarterback is a fumble waiting to happen. On the other side, you have the Cowboys who have played one of the toughest schedules in the league this year including five non-division road games against teams that will or probably will make the playoffs (Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati). Maybe I've been watching too many kids movies over the holidays but I just get the feeling that Tony Romo (who has been playing out of his mind lately) finally comes up big when it counts and overcomes all of the other things the Cowboys tend to do to blow big games which will be a shame because it could cost us RG, III v. Russell Wilson in round 1 of the playoffs.

New Orleans by 5.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Panthers

I've been saying for a few weeks that Cam Newton is going to pose and preen his way to 6-10 for the second straight season and one more loss makes that happen. Nice touch bumping the ref last week. Didn't see that in any of his Play 60 commercials. Stay classy Auburn.

Pittsburgh by 3.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

This is one of two games that is currently off the board so I'm making-up my own line. I'd like to say I have mixed emotions about the Steelers not making the playoffs but there is nothing mixed about them. It just makes me happy. Not euphoric happy like making a hole in one but more like that feeling you get on the first day of vacation when you sit down at the airport bar after clearing security.

Chicago by 3 over Detroit: The Pick - Bears
"Don't sweat it kid. You'll get there."

It's the master of the art of back-foot passing your way to being a borderline playoff team against the protégé. Matthew Stafford made great strides this year but he's not quite there yet. Jay Cutler will show him how it's done this Sunday with a vintage two pick-two TD performance in an ugly 17-13 win.

Green Bay by 3 over Minnesota: The Pick - Packers

Just the fact that Adrian Peterson has almost single handedly carried the Vikings to within a win of making the playoffs should be enough to win him the MVP. Look at it this way. Christian Ponder has thrown the ball 455 times for 2,701 yards (5.94 yards per attempt) and Peterson has carried the ball 314 times for 1,898 yards (6.0 yards per attempt). I don't care whether they make the playoffs or not. If you take A.P. off that team, they might win two games.

Atlanta by 8.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Falcons

How do we not see it coming every time? Young team led by former drill sergeant college coach races out to a fast start and everyone talks about how all they needed was a little discipline. Then they lose a couple close games and we get the inevitable "can we send these coaches back to college?" quote from the locker room proving it's a fine line between Jimmy Johnson and Nick Saban.

Denver by 16 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

Last week the Chiefs somehow managed to rush for 352 yards and only scored one touchdown. It seems almost mathematically impossible that you could cover three and a half football fields in sixty minutes and only run into the endzone once until you introduce the words "Brady Quinn" into the equation. Despite that, I actually like a Chiefs' cover here in honor of Romeo's departure.

San Diego by 8 over Oakland: The Pick - Chargers

"A 7-9 record for me? You
guys shouldn't have."
I'm sure the Chargers wanted a more fitting tribute to Norv Turner like blowing a home playoff game but it was not meant to be this year. They'll just have to settle for containing Sebastian Janikowski and sending Norv off in style to his new gig as offensive coordinator for the Jets.

San Francisco by 16.5 over Arizona: The Pick - 49ers

Let's put it this way. The Seahawks trashed Patrick Willis' car last week which means that the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer are in for this - Die Ridgemont.

Seattle by 10.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Seahawks

I can't wait to see what kind of sneaky Doug Niedermeyer crap Pete Carroll pulls this week. Maybe a fake extra point when he's up by 24 in the fourth quarter. Hate him or dislike him, that guy is great for the league.

Last Week's Record: 8-8 . . . Season Record: 113-121-6

Email the FGR


* Please do not misconstrue this to be some kind of political statement as I am sure that all morning talk shows are equally as inane. Fox and Friends just happens to be the one that's on in the kitchen at my office in the morning. As it plays in the background, I often find myself staring at the coffee machine and wondering which is dripping-out faster, the coffee or my IQ.

"No seriously I'm lost . . .
where's the nav screen?"
** My favorite line was "I used to get high because the Orioles won . . . and then I'd get high because the Orioles lost." Even as a kid, I remember thinking that this guy's first step to recovery should be to stop rooting for a team with a 162 game season.

*** No satellite radio, no iPod jack and no SD card slot. I felt like I was driving a freakin' Studebaker.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The NFL Playoff Preview

Yes Phillip, that's the season-long
pose of everyone who drafted
you as their fantasy starter.
The Week 16 picks are below without comment because at this point, I'm just playing out the string of a forgettable regular season (kind of like the Chargers). When you pick the Super Bowl champs as a 2 point underdog in a critical game coming off a 52-27 win the week before and they miss the cover by 32 points, you know it's not your year. So I've decided bag the end of the regular season and look ahead to the playoffs (kind of like the Ravens) by analyzing the potential match-ups per the current version of the FGR's NFL Power Rankings.* It's the internet writer's version of firing your offensive coordinator with three games to play.

Let me start with a reminder on how the FGR Power Rankings work. The team at the top is the team that I would bet on to win the Super Bowl right now. The second team is the Super Bowl loser and the remaining ten are the playoff teams in the order that they will be eliminated (so the Patriots beat the Texans in the AFC Championship Game and the Packers beat the 49ers in the NFC and so on). To demonstrate how unpredictable this season has been (for me), I had the Giants at #1 last week and this week they are the first team out based on the fact that they can't even make the playoffs if the Redskins and the Bears each win their last two games which is what I am predicting (sorry Redskins and Bears fans).

With 88% of precincts reporting, here's how I'm calling it:


#4 - Ravens over #5 - Colts

I know. First the Ravens have to get this spot but to not get it, they would have to end on a five game losing streak which would make John Harbaugh's head explode and really, what are the odds? . . . (of a guy's head spontaneously exploding). Andrew Luck is going to be great but let's not get tooooo carried away about the league's 31st rated passer and co-leader in interceptions playing in his first postseason game at one of the harshest road venues in the league against a team that's won at least one playoff game each of the last four years (can you feel me talking myself into the Ravens pulling out of this nosedive?).

#3 - Patriots over #6 - Steelers

Just too many injuries for the Steelers to contend this year and this loss will cause the voices of moronic Steeler fans calling for Mike Tomlin's job to grow a bit louder. On behalf of the other three AFC North teams, please listen to them Mr. Rooney. I'm pretty sure Tomlin will land on his feet. In fact, he'd be out of work for less than five minutes and won't even have to leave the state for his new job.


#1 - Texans over #4 - Ravens

When you Google "Stoney Case,"
this picture appears. Just thought
that might interest you.
This won't be as bad as the 43-13 shellacking the Texans gave the Ravens back in October but it won't be close either which will lead to the most tumultuous off-season in Ravens' history (unless you count the time Ray Lewis was implicated in a homicide . . . or the time Jamal Lewis was sentenced to four months in federal prison for dealing drugs. Ah that was a simpler time when we knew with 100% confidence that our quarterback sucked).**

#3 - Patriots over #2 - Broncos

My only concern is that the media will fail to recognize the magnitude of the quarterback match-up and not give this game its due. With Manning missing an entire season and then changing teams and Brady cutting back on his pretty boy ads, they could easily get lost in the shuffle and that's before we factor in the overshadowing of a potential Flacco-Schaub duel. (But surely I jest. They'd broadcast this game in the sky like something out of the Hunger Games if they could figure-out how to do it).


#3 - Patriots over #1 - Texans

Someone didn't get the memo.
Here is the stat that scares the living crap out of Texans fans. They have played against four Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks this year (and I am generously including Matthew Stafford in that mix). In those four games, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Stafford averaged over 350 yards and 3.5 touchdowns. Apparently those are the only four who figured-out that, against the Texans, you will complete 90% of all passes that you don't bounce off of J.J.Watt's forearm.  


#3 - 49ers over #6 - Bears

With Jay Cutler playing against the league's best defense, this could be one of those ridiculously lopsided playoff games that we stopped seeing about ten years ago like when the Jaguars beat the Dolphins 62-7 back in 2000. (And yes, the Jags were once really, really good at football. This year they have not scored 62 points total in their last four games and it turns out that Chad Henne was not the answer . . . again).

#5 - Seahawks over #4 - Redskins

Just a classic match-up between two coaches who really don't like each other. (Actually, I don't know if there is any history between Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan . . . I just assume that all coaches hate Pete Carroll).


#2 - Packers over #3 - 49ers

"It's in my left armpit."
With the Niners blowing the #2 seed by losing at Seattle this week, this game will be at Lambeau and the Packers have the bye week for their defense to get healthy and to continue their search for Mike McCarthey's ticklish spot.

#5 - Seahawks over #1 - Falcons

No one will have more pressure on him this postseason than Matt Ryan who currently has as many playoff wins as RG, III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson combined. That makes the "playing like they don't give a crap about anything" Seahawks a terrible match-up for the Falcons. This Seahawk team kind of reminds me of the 2000 Ravens who hit their stride in week 12 and just starting mauling people and didn't stop until Brian Billick of all people was holding the Lombardi Trophy. Wouldn't the modern equivalent of that line be, "until Pete Carroll of all people was holding the Lombardi Trophy?"***


#2 - Packers over #5 - Seahawks

This is where the 2000 Ravens/2012 Seahawks analogy ends because the Ravens lucked into running the quarterback gauntlet of Gus Ferrotte, Steve McNair, Rich Gannon**** and Kerry Collins. Not exactly a murderer's row. The Seahawks absolutely have the defense that could shutdown Aaron Rodgers like the Giants did last year but two trips all the way across the country will take their toll. Not to mention, we're due for a mega quarterback match-up in the Super Bowl like we haven't seen since Elway beat Favre almost fifteen years ago or Plunkett over Jaworski seventeen years before that.
And one more ring means
Giselle can finally quit her
job at the dealership.


Patriots over Packers

Tom Brady ties Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl victories (4) and passes John Elway for most Super Bowl appearances (6) and, with his statistical advantage over all three (Elway is the only one remotely close), probably establishes himself as the greatest quarterback of all-time. And really, what more fitting way to put this season out of my misery?


* After fielding three failed fantasy football teams and posting a sub .500 record on my weekly picks, I am reaching for anything to get some momentum going before I have to make my predictions for the 2013 PGA Tour season which is really what a website called the freakin' Fantasy Golf Report is supposed to be about anyway.

** The Ravens' offensive coordinator during that bleak era was Matt Cavanaugh who then went on to be a marginal offensive coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh before coming back to the NFL as an offensive assistant with . . . wait for it . . . the New York Jets (because anytime you get a chance to hire the offensive coordinator of an NFL team that once went five straight games without scoring a touchdown and then failed to distinguish himself as a college coach, you have to take it).
"Hey I wasn't running up the score,
we were just having fun out there."

*** Tony Kornheiser used to call Billick "the preening schmo." Isn't Carroll the modern "preening schmo"?

**** And Gannon was knocked-out of the game when Tony Siragusa went full pile-driver on him (Goose Crushes Gannon) opening the door for Bobby Hoying to get meaningful playoff minutes against the 2000 Ravens' defense which was the biggest mismatch since the United States invaded Grenada.

The Week 16 Picks

If I was actually going to light a couple hundred dollar bills on fire this weekend, I'd be looking very hard at the Patriots, Panthers, Bears and, I am sad to say, the Giants.

Atlanta by 4 over Detroit: The Pick - Falcons

Green Bay by 13 over Tennessee: The Pick - Packers

Carolina by 8.5 over Oakland: The Pick - Panthers

Miami by 4.5 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bills

Pittsburgh by 4 over Cincinnati: The pick - Steelers

New England by 14.5 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Patriots

Indianapolis by 6.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Colts

Dallas by 3 over New Orleans: The Pick - Saints

N.Y. Jets by 1 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

Washington by 4.5 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles

Tampa Bay by 3 over St. Louis: The Pick - Bucs

N.Y. Giants by 1.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Giants

Houston by 7.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Texans

Denver by 13.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

Chicago by 5.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Bears

San Francisco by 1 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks

Last Week's Record: 7-9 . . . Season Record: 105-113-6

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Week 15 NFL Picks

Those commentators who expressed shock over the Ravens' decision to fire Cam Cameron based on the fact that they are 9th in the league in scoring with three games to play are missing the point. To explain why this was the right move, and why it should have been done in the off season, I could point out that, in their nine games decided by 7 points or less this season, the Ravens are averaging 4.8 points in the 4th quarter and overtime (this includes being shutout in four of those 4th quarters). I could also make a broader generalization about how Joe Flacco has only improved from being "raw" to "above average" in his five years under Cameron (which could be just as much on Joe but we won't know that until next year when he may be playing in Arizona or Kansas City).*

Taking a knee may actually have
been the right call because . . .
cue the theme from Jaws.
All of that matters but here is how we know it had hit rock bottom. Last Sunday the Ravens had the ball in a tie game on their 20 yard line with a timeout and a kicker with 65 yard range. That means they had at least three plays to advance the ball about 35 yards for a shot at winning the game but instead THEY TOOK A KNEE which was like announcing over the P.A. system, "the Ravens have so little faith in their offense's ability that they are going to concede this opportunity to win the game in regulation" (and then as the announcer was putting down the microphone you would hear him say, "what a bunch of pus . . .").

If there was any questions before last Sunday as to whether Joe Flacco is "elite," that decision answered it because here is a list of quarterbacks who would not have taken a knee in that situation: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, RG, III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Andy Dalton and Johnny "Football" Manziel (and believe me, not all of those guys are "elite"). Having some idea of how Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti is wired, I'm surprised he didn't walk down from his box and fire Cameron on the spot (but only after ripping John Harbaugh for wasting two second half timeouts on (1) a fake punt that he didn't even run and (2) the Redskins' two-point conversion when, more than anything, Kirk Cousins needed a minute to make his heart stop beating like a deer that just wandered into a Chuck 'E' Cheese). This should have happened in the off-season so they could have seen if Joe Flacco improved under a different coordinator. Now it may be too late.

Replacing Cameron is former Colts' head coach and quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell. So the Ravens have turned away from the guy who built his reputation while coaching Drew Brees and put their offense in the hands of the guy who built his reputation while coaching Petyon Manning. Let's be honest, the job of quarterbacks coach with the Colts during the Manning era was kind of like being the ambassador to Canada.** You go to some meetings, make a few harmless suggestions and generally try not to screw-up a situation that is un-screwupable. He's going to have to work a little harder for his paycheck in Baltimore.

Green Bay by 2.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Packers

We need to start a list of NFL related topics that, when raised, are immediately quashed with a resounding "STOP IT!" At or near the top of that list would be the theory that the Bears are a Super Bowl team with a healthy Jay Cutler at quarterback. It has become quite clear at this point that something will always go wrong.

Atlanta by 2 over the Giants: The Pick - Giants

Exhibit "A" for every W.K.
student accused of violating
the school's honor code.
Despite this being one of the marquee games of the weekend, there is a much more entertaining Falcons angle to be played. Former Falcons' coach Bobby Petrino was recently hired as the new head football coach at Western Kentucky University. Some may remember Petrino as the coach who walked-out on the Falcons amidst the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal announcing his decision to his players with thoughtful notes left in their lockers as opposed to actually telling them in person which would have been very awkward (for him). Others may remember Petrino as the coach who was fired from his next job at the University of Arkansas because he neglected to mention that, when he crashed his motorcycle, he happened to be giving a ride to a former Razorback volleyball player (and it should be pointed out that his wife is not a former Arkansas volleyball player so you do the math). In announcing the decision, Western Kentucky athletic director, Todd Stewart, said, "this is the United States of America and we're a country of 'second chances'" Apparently we're also the country that never gives-up on the hooker with the heart of gold.

New Orleans by 3 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Saints

I'm sorry but I'm still stuck on this idea that the NBA's New Orleans Hornets are changing their names to the Pelicans. I mean a wonderful bird is the Pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can. He can hold in his beak enough food for a week . . . but I'll be darned if I know how the hell he can. But does that make him a good choice for a mascot?

Miami by 7 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Dolphins

Ahh the classic battle to determine the second best football team in the state of Florida which is kind of like the battle to determine the second most talented Baldwin brother.

Stephen? . . . Whahappened?!?
St. Louis by 3 over Minnesota: The Pick - Rams

Another cautionary tale for the Ravens during the Joe Flacco contract negotiations. Over the last two games, Adrian Peterson has out-rushed Christian Ponders' passing total by 154 yards (Peterson's great, but he ain't that great).

Washington by 1.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

On Monday when RG, III was doubtful, this spread was Browns by 6.5 so congratulations if you rolled the dice and took the Skins early because now you could take the Browns and have a nice little 8 point double down window if the Browns win by 6 points or less or the Skins win by a point (or if they tie). Even for someone who bailed on being a math major after one semester because you can't bullshit a math test, that took me way too long to figure-out.

Denver by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

One thing you can't hang completely on Cam Cameron is Joe Flacco's complete obliviousness to what is going on around him in the pocket. It's as if he thinks that once a defensive player goes past him, he falls off the face of the Earth. Jim Caldwell might want to start by giving the offensive linemen a safe word that they can yell so Joe knows when to get out of the strip sack pose that he apparently practices in the mirror.

Houston by 8.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

The "R" on the Texans' jackets
apparently stood for "Roadkill."
Just when you thought that the Texans were ready to take their place among the NFL's elite teams, they show-up in New England wearing a bunch of stupid letterman jackets and get their doors blown-off by Brady and Co. In their defense, the last time we saw someone desperately resorting to a letterman jacket, it worked.***

San Diego by 3 over Carolina: The Pick - Panthers

Cam Newton continues to pose and preen his way to the second 6-10 record of his NFL career while three rookie quarterbacks on teams no more talented than the Panthers are on the verge of making the playoffs. Keep smiling Cam.

Seattle by 4 over Buffalo: the Pick - Seahawks

Even if we give the Bills 3 points for the home field, they would still need to be 51 points better than the Cardinals to cover this spread and I've got them 35 points better than the Cardinals at best.

Detroit by 6 over Arizona: The Pick - Lions

At this point, hasn't Cardinals' coach Ken Whisenhunt become Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly? The product of an experiment gone horribly wrong begging someone to put him out of his misery with a shotgun. Whisenhunt is now stuck in the modern day NFL coaching Catch-22. He's a good coach who may be looking for a job this off season but, after what he's been through, he's not going to take one with a lousy quarterback. The problem is that teams with good quarterbacks are rarely looking to hire. The one exception would be if Sean Payton takes the Cowboys' job leaving a vacancy in New Orleans . . . hmmm....remember you heard it here first.  

Dallas by 1 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Steelers

Never a good sign for your QB
when the Super Bowl MVP is
the other team's cornerback.
Your answer to the trivia question, "which two teams have played each other most often in the Super Bowl?" They've played three times with the Steelers winning two classics and the Cowboys winning one of the most forgettable games in Super Bowl history (if Neil O'Donnell starts in a Super Bowl, did it really happen?).

Oakland by 2.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Raiders

I really don't have anything worthwhile to say about this game so I'm just going with the following quote: "I went to school with a lot of people who listened to jazz. You know what all of those people had in common? . . . . None of them could shoot a jump shot." - Tony Kornheiser memorializing Dave Brubeck (sort of ).

New England by 3 over San Francisco: The Pick - 49ers

Let's face it. This one is all about the post-game handshake as we have Jim "The Bumper" Harbaugh v. Bill "The Cold Shoulder" Belichik and how great would it be if Belichick told Vince Wilfork that, "we're going to run it up big against these jokers so get ready to pancake Harbaugh if he gives me any guff?"

Tennessee by 1 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Who gives a crap?

You can't really blame whomever picked this game for a late season Monday nighter because you know they were banking on Tim Tebow being the starter by now (as was Tim Tebow and, as far as I can tell, every football fan between the ages of 8 and 12). Who would have thought that the Redskins at the Browns would be an infinitely better option at this point? I guess I'll take the Jets. Someone let me know who wins.

Last Week's Record: 6-10 . . . Season Record: 98-104-6

Email the FGR


* As Bill Simmons wrote this week, "He's [Flacco] submitting the most mundane contract year of all time." - The NFL QB Power Poll.

And we did not see the
leather pants coming.
** As compared to the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks coach which would be like being the ambassador to North Korea . . . if we had an ambassador to North Korea, which we don't (thank you internet).

*** I will admit that I am not proud of how many times I have seen Grease but you have to remember that it came out at a time when HBO only had about three or four movies running on a constant loop (most of which starred Jan Michael Vincent - I particularly enjoyed Defiance) and we were so enthralled by the profanity, potential nudity and lack of commercials that we would watch anything (so things have not changed that much). Grease, however, was good clean fun that had that rare gift of re-watchibility due in no small part to the fact that John Travolta was in the midst of his first prime (also known as B.S.A. or "Before Staying Alive").

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Week 15 Thursday Night Pick

As I've watched my kids walking around the house for the past week living in mortal fear of the all-powerful Elf on the Shelf*, I've been wracking my brain trying to remember where I've witnessed this scene play out before. And then it dawned on me. That little bastard is the Soup Nazi. It finally came into focus when I saw my five year old daughter pause in front of his perch on the window sill and reverently say, "if it's not too late, could I add colored pencils to my list . . . thank you" before shuffling away as if she was exiting a confessional.**

I'm not necessarily sure subjecting your kids to this modern day version of Big Brother is healthy. On the other hand, it's been very peaceful lately and that little narc could be the only thing that keeps my house from devolving into a Lord of the Flies situation once the kids are out of school so we'll go with it for now and deal with the lingering effects of the paranoia later.

Cincinnati by 3 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles

As far as I can tell, there are only four reasons to watch this game: (a) you are a Bengals fan and you have my sympathies, (b) you are a Ravens, Steelers or Jets*** fan and you are rooting for an Eagles win which will enhance the playoff chances of your team, (c) you are an Eagles fan hoping that Nick Foles is finally "the one," or (d) you have A.J. Green on your fantasy team. I think the Eagles have finally woken-up and realized that everyone is laughing at them. Combine that with the realization that if Andy Reid gets fired, the owner might bring in a coach with a greater regard for fitness, and that should be enough motivation at home against a marginal Bengals team that blazed a trail of false hope for their fans with a four game winning streak that included three over the dregs of the AFC West before crashing back to reality with that gag against the Cowboys last week.


I think I figured-out
how this could appeal
to a broader audience.
* For those who are not in the Elf on the Shelf demographic, it is a brilliant marketing concept where someone took a creepy little stuffed elf and made-up a back story that has something to do with him being Santa's spy. To make the story more convincing, the elf moves around your house during the weeks leading-up to Christmas giving your children the impression that he is real and that he changes location during the night. Of course, being a stuffed toy, he is not ambulatory and therefore requires some assistance which means that about three or four times during the most exhausting month of the year, you will find yourself waking-up in the middle of the night to the realization that, "I forgot to move the fucking elf" which explains why the people who came up with this idea are now in the witness protection program.  

** I will admit that I am making an educated guess on this because I have never actually been in a confessional . . . unless you count the ones with stools on one side and beer taps on the other.

*** In yet another indication of how awful the bottom half of the AFC is this year, the Jets are currently in 8th place and only one game behind the Steelers and the Bengals for the final playoff spot. Add in the fact that they close the season by playing the Titans, Chargers and Bills and we are perilously close to seeing Tim Tebow return to Denver in the first round of the playoffs meaning the Mayans may have only been off by two weeks which is a pretty respectable margin of error on a prediction made over 5,000 years ago.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Week 14 NFL Picks

Train wreck. Dumpster fire. Sh!t show. Mongolian crap stand.* These are just a few ways to describe last week's picks. And what bizarre week it was. The Chiefs played under the cloud of staggeringly tragic circumstances, the Jets scored 7 points and the Steelers started Charlie Batch at quarterback. So of course they all won.

Last year's AFC Championship game will probably never be supplanted as my most depressing day as a football fan, but last Sunday may have set a new record for total number of undesired outcomes ranging from the disappointing to the demoralizing. The Ravens gagged against the Steelers, every single other AFC playoff contender won, I went 5-10-1 on my picks and, maybe worst of all, the most disastrous fantasy football team with which I have ever been associated completed its season with a 4-9 record and that is actually deceiving considering we finished 421 points behind the league leader.** Suffice it to say that my Phillip Rivers comeback season theory didn't pan out.

Washington by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

"Let's go with '42 Strip Sack Left'
wait, wait, wait let's mix it up and
go with '42 Strip Sack Right.'"
With the scored tied at 20, I sat in my seat at M&T Bank Stadium and watched Joe Flacco get strip-sacked by the Steelers in almost the exact same place on the field where Troy Polamalu got him one year, three hundred and sixty-two days earlier. I immediately turned to the FGW and said, "fuck this, I'm outta here" because I'd seen that movie before and I knew how it ended. I can tell you that the outcome was much more bearable sitting in a Mexican restaurant drinking a Pacifico with no knowledge that Cam Cameron had elected to remove Ray Rice from the game plan in the last quarter (no touches for Rice in the 4th, none, zip, zilch, blech). I think I speak for a lot of Ravens fans when I say that this situation has reached the point where either Cameron goes or we go. The Joe Flacco contract renewal debate is not so clear because the Cardinals continue to be a cautionary tale of what can happen if you decide to strike out in the NFL wilderness without at least a semi-proven quarterback.** Larry Fitzgerald would pay for 20% of Flacco's contract out of his own pocket. (Much more on this later). 

Cleveland by 6.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Browns

Random stat of the week: the AFC North has the highest overall point differential of any division in football with a net 91. The overall success of the division can be attributed to the following: (a) the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals are all pretty good, (b) despite their 4-8 record, the Browns have been in every game, and most importantly, (c) the AFC North had the pleasure of playing the AFC West this year which has the worst point differential at -169 with the Chiefs and Raiders leading the way at -134 and -154 respectively. (The Raiders point differential is 324 points lower than that of the Patriots which translates to 27 points per game just in case you find yourself in a "worst team in the NFL" debate and need some ammo). 

Pittsburgh by 8 over San Diego: The Pick - Steelers

"I'm sorry . . . sphincter says what?"
It has been reported that Chargers coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith will be fired at the end of the season. It is also being reported that bears shit in the woods and the pope wears a funny hat. I didn't think Mike Tomlin could go up another notch in my mind but then he did it by stiffing John Harbaugh on the post game handshake last week because he was pissed-off about Harbaugh's post-game comments two weeks earlier in Pittsburgh. Let's hope we stay on this collision course for Ravens-Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. 

Indianapolis by 5 over Tennessee: The Pick - Colts

This game feels like a Tuesday . . . meaning that it has no feel. I'm pretty confident the Colts are going to win but they are the classic just scraping by team as indicated by their 8-4 record and -41 point differential (clearly my new favorite stat). With that being said, the Titans have become a non-factor evidenced by the fact that no one really knows who their starting quarterback is from week to week and no one really cares.

Tampa Bay by 7 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Bucs

The Phillies have won a game more recently than the Eagles. We have not seen anything lately that indicates that trend is going to change.

Cincinnati by 3 over Dallas: The Pick - Bengals

The Bengals just finished a three game sweep of the bottom of the AFC West so it's hard to tell how good they are. We do, however, know that the Cowboys were already a dysfunctional operation before the events of early Saturday morning.

N.Y. Jets by 2.5 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Jaguars
The Jaguars are a home underdog to a team that (a) won the ugliest game of the year last week 7-6 over the Cardinals and (b) doesn't know who their starting quarterback is. Considering that this game really has no playoff implications, couldn't the league let Tim Tebow switch teams to make it somewhat worth watching?

Chicago by 3 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings

Where's George Kennedy to rub
your back when you need him?
I highly recommend D.J. Gallo's recent article in which he acknowledges that all starting quarterbacks are "elite" but then delineates their varying degrees of "eliteness" - How Elite is Your QB? I bring this up here because (a) the article is awesome, (b) it's Saturday night and I am grinding-out these picks like I'm Paul Newman trying to down 50 eggs in an hour,*** and (c) because of this great statistical observation: "It happened this week: Adrian Peterson passed Christian Ponder in yards per attempt on the season. Unfortunately, as you may recall, Peterson is a running back and Ponder is a quarterback. Yet Peterson’s 6.2 yards per carry is better than Ponder’s 6.0 yards per passing attempt." Based on that stat, I'm counting on the Vikings sticking to the running game and keeping this one tight. 

Atlanta by 3.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Falcons

Going with the Georgia theme here and seven days later still wondering what the Bulldog coaching staff was thinking by not spiking the ball at the Alabama 8 yard line down by 4 with 15 seconds to play. That would have given them three shots at the end zone and a trip to the national championship game. Instead, they wasted about 7 seconds lining-up then attempted a fade pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and caught in bounds by a Georgia receiver as he went to the ground as time expired. Now I read that Georgia offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, is being considered for the head coaching job at Southern Miss which will be a nice stepping-stone on his way to the NFL and the Andy Reid - Jason Garrett clock management hall of fame. I seem to remember someone advocating that coach's have a clock management nerd on the sideline to avoid situations like the Bulldog debacle - FGR's Week 16 Picks. It actually makes more sense in college where all you have to do is walk over to the math department, hold-up a football and hire the first person who can identify it. 

Buffalo by 3 over St. Louis: The Pick - Bills

It turns out that there is historical precedent for the Rams trading away the rights to RG, III and if you're a Rams fan, you're not going to like it. Sixteen years ago, the Charlotte Hornets traded the rights to Kobe Bryant to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. The Hornets would later move to New Orleans and are now planning to change their name to the Pelicans. Not sure I even need a joke here.

San Francisco by 10 over Miami: The Pick - 49ers

One of the great things about being both the writer and editor of the FGR is that when you clearly half-ass the last five picks of the week, there is no one there to bust your balls. The Niners are due for on of those home 27-6 games against a bad team. 

N.Y. Giants by 6 over New Orleans: The Pick - Saints

I am standing by my theory that this is one of the seasons where the Giants do NOT pull-out of their flat spin in December.

Seattle by 10.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Seahawks

The Cardinals had 137 total yards and 5 first downs last week against the Jets. I am now going to attempt to distract you from the fact that I don't have a point to make about those numbers with this giant picture.

At least the Cardinals have one scouting
department that knows what it's doing. 
Green Bay by 6.5 over Detroit: The Pick - Packers

Where do you go from here if you're the Lions? You built a team around a passing only offense, very suspect character guys on defense and a coach that annoys the crap out of everyone. Never a good thing when you're one bad draft from becoming the Raiders.

New England by 4 over Houston: The Pick - Patriots

I'm no conspiracy theorist*** but the Patriots had to play four division winners from last year and they got three of them at home including the Texans and the 49ers over the next two weeks. (But the Ravens got the same schedule set-up AND they played the Patriots at home . . . oh shut up). It pains me to say this but the road to the Super Bowl is going to run through Foxborough again. (No, not the Lee Evans flashback again. Excuse me, I'll be over here in the fetal position. Please shake me when Scott Hanson comes on at 1:00).

Last Week's Record: 5-10-1 . . . Season Record: 92-94-6

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* I made that one up. Has kind of a nice ring to it though.

** I could only find this video in Spanish which actually makes it more entertaining - Cool Hand Luke.

*** That's not really true. Someone conspired to make me say that.