Thursday, January 31, 2013

The AFC Championship Game Timeline: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of The AFC Championship Game Timeline (click here for Part 1). When last we left our heroes, they were on the Patriots' 3 yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter leading 14-13. Let's see what happens next:

14:56 - Joe Flacco steps away from the center, changes the play at the line of scrimmage and then exploits the physical advantage that Anquan Boldin has over every defensive back in the league (and most armored vehicles) for a touchdown and an 8 point lead.*

14:56 (cont.) - They have posts by the benches (that I assume are heated) where the players put their helmets while on the sidelines. Brady just put his pom-pom hat on one. Not sure there is anything I can add to improve that visual.

This is probably a time when you
would like to have at least one foot
on the ground to change direction.
12:51 - The Patriots have some momentum after a pass to Brandon Lloyd and then on first down Stevan Ridley has a nice six yard run goin . . . BOOM!!!! Oh my God someone just hit Ridley in a Ford F150 and the Ravens recover the fumble.** CBS cuts to commercial after just one replay so they can convene an impromptu support group to discuss the emotional letdown of not having Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Jim Nantz bursts into tears, buries his head in Phil Simms' chest and says, "I already miss him so much."

12:11 - Flacco goes right to work completing an 18 yard pass to Torrey Smith and then running for 16 more. That run is incredibly significant because there are some (me) who believe that Cam Cameron discouraged Flacco from leaving the pocket which not only led to numerous missed scrambling opportunities, but also some of the hideous strip sacks caused by him holding the ball too long.

11:15 - On 2nd and 4 from the 11, Flacco delivers another perfect pass to Boldin for the touchdown. That drive went 47 yards in 4 plays. Flacco was 3 for 3 for 31 yards passing and added a 16 yard run as his agent just inserted a telethon scoreboard into his next contract demand so he doesn't have to keep updating the dollar amount.

11:04 - They just showed the Bernard Pollard - Patriot Killer montage. The hit on Brady was suspect but legal at the time*** while the others were all clean plays. He didn't even touch Welker and I think we're getting to the point in this game where Welker might fake an injury to avoid one more shot.

9:46 - Too late. Welker gains 6 yards on a screen play before Cary Williams absolutely lowers the boom on him. This is going to be an uncomfortable film study for the 49er receivers.

9:20 - Fact #1: Shane Vereen graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA. Fact #2: Vereen just ran out of bounds with Pollard still three yards away. I'm pretty sure those two facts are related.

8:39 - The Patriots defense looks utterly despondent on the bench despite the fact that they have Brady in the red zone and they're only down by two scores. Maybe they know something we don't.

8:35 - Pollard drills Welker on an incompletion and Welker gets up bitching. I swear there has to be more than one #31 out there.

Um, who's foot is that sticking
out of Haloti's shoulder pad?
8:27 - Yet another pivotal play as Brady throws it to nobody on 4th and 4 when it sure looks like he could have outrun Haloti Ngata for the first down. Then again, maybe this image flashed in his head.

7:34 - The Ravens go three and out including two incompletions so they use less than a minute of clock. Security is called and Cam Cameron is quickly removed from the coach's booth.

6:50 - Welker jukes Corey Graham on a play that goes for 36 yards. Suddenly the stadium is alive as the Patriots rush to the line keeping the Ravens' defense on their heels. Brady's next pass is promptly tipped by Pernell McPhee and intercepted by Dannell Ellerbe. Ed Reed immediately dives on top of Ellerbe and every Raven coach and fan thinks the same thing, "DON'T GIVE IT TO HIM DANNELL!!!"

5:17 - Ray Rice powers for 2 yards and converts a 3rd and 1. We're getting close and we just got a great shot of Rob Ninkovich's plumber's butt on the sideline. (Not sure that's relevant but it really cracked-up FGK2 who is nine years old so I thought I'd throw it in there. I was going to say that I miss having the sense of humor of a nine year old but the fact is, it cracked me up too).

3:08 - Vontae Leach slams his way for another first down as the crowd yells "LEEEEAAAACCHHH." Proud of the traveling effort. I can't wait to harass Red Sox fans at Camden Yards this summer.

2:20 - Ray Lewis starts to take his pads off way too early and you can literally read the lips of team media director Chad Steele explaining how many timeouts the Patriots have left and the likelihood that Ray is going to have go back in the game. He finally convinces him by saying, "God just told me he needs you in your shoulder pads right now." Ray buys it.

2:11 - The early celebration is making me very nervous. John Harbaugh needs to chill that until the ball is out of Brady's hands for good. Somewhere Jack Harbaugh is cursing his son's lack of focus. Looks like someone's getting a 50 minute timeout at the 4th of July barbecue.****

2:02 - The Patriots just ran the first ten yard play in history that only took 3 seconds giving them an extra snap before the two minute warning. Apparently Brady's mom was distracted and forgot to start the clock.
Mrs. Welker maintains a high
standard of class and expects
the same from the rest of us.

1:36 - After a couple of short passes and spikes get the Patriots to the Ravens' 33 yard line, Terrell Suggs blows-up the left tackle and gets a good shot on Brady leading to an incompletion. The fact that this playoff run is happening at the same time that the Ravens have a healthy Terrell Suggs rushing from one side and the soon to be wealthy Paul Kruger rushing from the other is not a coincidence.

1:31 - Pernell McPhee tips his second pass of the quarter leading to another incompletion. This is about when Mrs. Welker started digging for dirt on Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page to support her ill-conceived Facebook post.

1:06 - After another completion to the 22 yard line, Cary Williams intercepts Brady in the endzone and Ed Reed tells him to get down which means we've finally found the set of circumstances where Reed believes in playing it safe. What is now a Ravens crowd belts-out Seven Nation Army. Way to hang in there Pats fans. I can guarantee you that if the roles had been reversed, it still would have been wall to wall purple in Baltimore.

0:00 - Forget all of the Ray Lewis shenanigans and the coaches handshake. My favorite part of the post-game scene on the field was Harbaugh telling Pollard "you won that game" and Pollard shaking him off saying "no . . . no . . . no" even though he was probably the most valuable player.

Anyone who doesn't think this
was $15,250 well spent has their
head buried in the sand.
The only jersey I've ever worn with a player's name on the back was Rod Woodson's #26 because (a) he is one of the coolest mo fo's ever to play the game and (b) I always admired the way he switched from Hall of Fame caliber cornerback to Hall of Fame caliber safety without any friction because he knew it would give the Ravens the best chance to win which it did. Bernard Pollard is asked to make a different kind of sacrifice for this team as his job is to be the enforcer and take the punishment, the penalties and the fines that go along with that. Like him or not, he does his job and he does it well. I think it's time to invest in a #31.


* Any conversation about Anquan Boldin needs to begin and end with the fact that he took this hit which broke his nose and required his jaw to be wired back together and then came back to play one month later. He is the offense's answer to Bernard Pollard.

** I'm genuinely surprised they didn't throw a penalty flag on that hit even though hitting a running back helmet-to-helmet is legal. Then I was surprised that they didn't reverse the fumble call based on a lack of forward progress because I'm not sure I've ever seen forward progress stopped so abruptly before . . . except maybe here - Atwater - Okoye.

*** The play where Pollard hit Brady injuring his knee would be illegal today because it knocked the Golden Boy out for the season meaning that Pollard hits people so hard . . . he changes rules. Not hard to picture Roger Goodell giving him the Hal Holbrook to Clint Eastwood speech from Magnum Force.

"If I have my way Pollard, you'll never
make another hit as long as you live."
**** For those who have not had the good fortune to become parents yet, a timeout is what you give your kid when he or she is acting like a jerk. Basically you make them sit in the other room alone for a period of time equal to their age under the theory that they will ponder the error of their ways. Ironically, once you become a parent, you dream of sitting in a room by yourself for a period of time equal to your age to ponder anything.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fantasy Golf: Waste Management Phoenix Open


Do not continue reading if you have not seen the most recent episode of Downton Abbey unless (a) you don't give a crap about Downton Abbey or (b) you don't know what Downton Abbey is. If that's the case, allow me to provide some background so you understand what in the hell I'm going to be talking about for the next six paragraphs. Downton Abbey is a British primetime soap opera (think Dallas or Dynasty) set in the period of 1912-1921. It follows the life of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as they basically follow the same routine every day of (1) eating breakfast, (2) reading a freshly ironed newspaper, (3) walking around the grounds wearing wool, (4) having tea while taking highbrow potshots at each other, (5) pooping,** (6) putting on tuxedos, (7) hosting dinner parties and (8) smoking cigars and sipping brandy. (Nice work if you can get it).

"What is a weekend?"*
Periodically they will spice things up by throwing-in the death of a relative who just happened to go down with the Titanic, a cousin being paralyzed during World War I or a foreign diplomat dying while having sex with one of the daughters. But even seemingly major events such as those manage to come across as mere speed bumps in the daily routine and they are generally forgotten by the time Mr. Carson rings the bell for the next dinner party.

At least that was the case until last Sunday when Lady Sybil, the youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham, was preparing to give birth to the child conceived by her and the family's former Irish chauffeur (that's a whole other wacky story). With the arrival of the newest Lord or Lady drawing nye, Lord Grantham summoned Sir Phillip Tapsell to Downton to handle the birth as he was apparently the Dr. James Andrews of early 20th century obstetricians. In doing this, however, he pretty much kicked local medicine man Dr. Richard Clarkson to the curb (yet not out of the house) creating a highly combustible Kobe-Shaq situation.

Careful Lady Sybil. Sleeping
with Irish chauffeurs has been
known to cause eclampsia.
Once the contractions started, Dr. Clarkson immediately spotted the symptoms of something called eclampsia which required the evacuation of Lady Sybil to the hospital. Sir Phillip on the other hand saw nothing more than the standard signs of labor (picture any scene from The Exorcist). This dispute led to a classic exchange where Dr. Clarkson asked Sir Phillip if he noticed the swelling of the ankles to which Sir Phillip responded, "maybe she just has thick ankles . . . lots of women do" not realizing that he just inadvertently discovered "cankles."

The grandfather to be, Lord Grantham, of course sides with Sir Phillip (don't worry, we're getting to the golf any minute now) because he can't risk being ostracized at Fancy Camp the following summer. Lady Grantham sides with the local doctor because she is an American (which is another whole other wacky story) and does not recognize the most obvious thing about this whole situation which is that, when one doctor is wearing a tuxedo and the other is not, you go with the guy in the tuxedo. Duh. We as the audience have no idea what to think at this point but, based on Lord Grantham's decision making track record, we do know that if we were standing with the Cliffs of Mohr on our right and a clear path on our left and we asked him which way we should go . . . he would tell us with absolute certainty to turn right. So we're understandably a bit nervous.

"Help . . . police . . . murder."
Anyway, the baby was born without incident and everyone let out a sigh of relief and went to bed. But not so fast. This ain't your daddy's Masterpiece Theatre. Here comes the panicked midwife and, sure enough, Sybil looks like she's trying to quit heroin cold turkey again. As she twists in agony, the two doctors stand away from the bed and do their impressions of Willy Wonka as Augustus gets sucked-up the chocolate river tube because this is apparently a "what's done is done" situation.

One minute later and Lady Sybil is as blue as the blood running through her father's veins. Lord Grantham turns to Sir Phillip and basically asks him in 1920's English, "what the fuck?" and Sir Phillip basically responds in 1920's English, "shit happens." Meanwhile, the jilted and vindicated Dr. Clarkson is wearing an expression that says "don't bother calling me the next time you come down with a case of the gout." Everyone mourns for a few minutes and then it's time for tea.

What if anything does this have to do with golf? Well as you may recall, I am in a one pick per week league that I take rather seriously because: (a) I hate losing and (b) when you write something called the Fantasy Golf Report, you would prefer to achieve success in your own fantasy golf endeavors to maintain some level of credibility.*** So last week I picked Nick Watney in my one and done league, put him at the top of the one and done list on the FGR and felt very comfortable with it.

You couldn't have tweeted that
you had the freakin' flu? You
tweet about everything else!
Now if there is one rule I learned in fantasy golf school, it's that you do not change your pick once it is made. But the next thing you know, here comes Bubba Watson with his tie for 4th at Kapalua and his win at the Farmers in 2011 and, like he was freakin' Sir Phillip in a tuxedo, I went all Lord Grantham and said "ooooh let's pick him." Well we know how that turned-out. Bubba bailed with the flu after the deadline to change my pick had passed while Watney went on to finish 4th and now my one pick team is starting to look like this . . .

So I'm out $268,400 in prize money and I can't use Bubba down the road. Worse than that, I'm rattled. I couldn't bring myself to watch more than a few shots from the weekend and I'm not going anywhere near my league standings because I'm just going to stare at them and calculate where I would be with an extra $268,400. And to top it all off, I can't even devote the season to rooting against Bubba because he was the top pick on one of my two season-long teams. Oh what a tangled sordid web we weave. Anyway, here are this week's picks. I need to get them up on the site before I have time to go back and screw them up.

The Overall Top Five

Sticking with the British theme. Word
to the wise. Google "Rosie Jones."
1. Rickie Fowler
2. Nick Watney
3. Brandt Snedeker****
4. Jason Dufner
5. Bubba Watson

The One and Done Top Five

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Nick Watney
3. Bubba Watson
4. Bo Van Pelt
5. Ben Crane

Last Week's Report Card: B+

1. Nick Watney - T4th
2. Bubba Watson - W/D
3. Brandt Snedeker - T2nd
4. Rickie Fowler - T6th
5. Ben Crane - M/C

I'm taking a pass on the Bubba withdrawal because I've beaten myself up enough over it. I didn't quite earn the "A" as I foolishly put Phil ahead of Tiger on the overall list and I didn't put Snedeker at the top of the One and Done Top Five. Why? Because I suck that's why. But I just keep telling myself that no weapon formed against me shall prosper as I move on to the next week.


* The scene in which the Dowager Countess genuinely asks "what is a weekend" may have been the show's "you had me at hello" moment.

** If Downton Abbey ever finds itself in need of a ratings bump, ten seconds of Lady Mary dropping the kids off at the pool would be its answer to "who shot J.R.?"

*** I'm pretty sure that's the first and hopefully the last time the phrase "you would prefer to achieve success in your own fantasy golf endeavors to maintain some level of credibility" will ever be written.

**** With his solid play so far, Snedeker has been promoted to a spot in a major and is therefore no longer "one and done" eligible. He apparently wept upon hearing the news.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The AFC Championship Game Timeline: Part 1

"Throw the ball . . . throw the ball! Why
doesn't he throw the damn ball?!?"
I've been having a really hard time getting my mind around the notion that THIS Ravens team is going to the Super Bowl. Let's face it, after week 15 even the staunchest supporter of the purple and black was having a hard time thinking this wasn't a lost season. A major coaching change, a slew of injuries to key players and the apparent regression of Joe Flacco didn't provide much reason for optimism.

I personally thought rock bottom had been reached when they followed-up a pathetic home loss to a Steeler team quarterbacked by Charlie Batch by blowing a late lead in the Redskins game and ultimately losing to a second string quarterback. There was, however, still digging to be done as they came back to Baltimore the following week and were dominated by the Broncos in a game where Joe Flacco threw a backbreaking pick six on the Denver 2 yard line and the new look offense under Jim Caldwell yielded 56 total rushing yards and a combined stat line for Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin of one catch for 14 yards. If this was Raising Arizona, then the doctor had just told us that "the 2012 season was a rocky place where the Ravens' seed could find no purchase."  

But fortunately they had an NFC counterpart that was imploding faster than they were and with the Giants next-up on the schedule, there was still slight hope for a turnaround. When the Ravens blew them out to clinch a playoff berth, I distinctly remember thinking how ironic it would be if the 2012 team went to the Super Bowl where much more highly regarded teams (2006 and 2011) had failed. Then they handled the Colts in the first round, winning by 15 in a game that wasn't that close. We all know what happened the following week in Denver but lost in the focus on the game tying bomb and the two Bronco special teams touchdowns was the fact that the Ravens held Peyton Manning to one touchdown from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the game. Combine that defensive effort with Flacco's three touchdown passes and Ray Rice's 130 yards and it was becoming clear that they had found a winning identity.

Meet the new boss mutherfucker!
Then they rolled into Foxborough and manhandled the Patriots. It's been a week and I'm still having a hard time coming-up with a writing angle on that second half because I watched it in a state of stunned euphoria. Kind of like that first time you see your favorite band in concert and you catch yourself being mesmerized for long stretches by things like the drummers crazy fast hands or the sheer force of the sound being emitted by the lead guitar.* So I'm going with the writing equivalent of slamming a couple of beers at the turn and making use of the crutch that led to my first published article back in 2001 - the always popular timeline.**

Thanks to one of the five greatest inventions of our lifetime (TiVo) and a fogged-out third round in La Jolla, I found myself with a couple hours to kill and the pleasure of re-watching the AFC Championship Game with the benefit of hindsight and without the anxiety that I was going to be left with that cold empty feeling after last year's debacle.*** Let's go to the tape.

The First Half 

The first half was pretty uneventful with Flacco getting off to a shaky start, the Patriots dinking and dunking their way to 13 points and one cheesy fourth down play where they put their back-up quarterback under center out of the punt formation forcing the Ravens to burn a timeout before eventually punting the ball anyway. I didn't write down what high praise Jim Nantz and Phil Simms had for that little gimmick but I'm sure it was annoying. Little did we know at the time that this would foreshadow the fact that the Patriots were going to be all sizzle and no steak for most of the day.

Probably not the way you want
to establish your "leg"acy. 
One thing worth noting is that they completely botched the clock management at the end of the first half by not using their last timeout on second down which would have stopped the clock with 17 seconds left and given them two shots at the endzone before kicking the field goal. My theory is that even Tom Brady himself couldn't believe that he had just pulled the most bush league championship game move since A-Rod slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove while running to first base. The kick to Ed Reed's knee during his slide and the thought of how that would forever tarnish his image rattled him.

3rd Quarter

(We're switching to the present tense here so we can really go back and relive the moment. It might be a good idea for Patriot fans to leave early . . . just like they did with over two minutes left in the game).

14:35 - Steve Tasker reports that Bill Belichik told him that they need to do a better job of converting their redzone opportunities (plural) in the second half which of course assumed that they would get more than one . . . which they didn't. There is an old saying about people who "assume." I think it goes something like, "Bill Belichik is an asshole."

14:15 - Jim Nantz comments that it's been a silent game for Anquan Boldin and Flacco promptly hits him for 26 yards. Keep talking Nantzy.

12:55 - After what looked like the start of a solid drive, Flacco throws one of his classic half-hearted "this play is hopeless" passes on 3rd and 12 that lands in the middle of nowhere causing every Raven fan to grumble, murmur or sigh. At least they finally shifted the field position.

11:14 - Bernard Pollard just rocked Wes Welker's world and drew the inevitable flag that starts coming-out anytime he gets within 10 yards of the ball. Pollard gets more personal foul penalties than guys driving red Lamborghinis get speeding tickets.

10:11 - Welker drops an easy first down catch. I wrote it last week and I'll write it again. The degree of difficulty goes way up on those catches when you know Pollard is lurking somewhere behind you.

Mrs. Welker's husband
took quite a pounding.
10:03 - Ed Reed calls for a fair catch on a punt, goes to his knees and then takes a helmet-to-helmet shot from the Patriots cover man. Reed is clearly shaken-up. Nantz describes it as "a little contact" and notes that there is no flag on the play. I can't decide whether the refs in this game remind me more of the ones from The Longest Yard or the ones from Remember the Titans but, when you add the Nantz/Simms announcing team, it becomes pretty clear that the whole package is a tribute to the German ref/announcer combo from Victory.

9:48 - Flacco hits Dennis Pitta with a perfect pass in stride that goes for 22 yards to the 50. Somewhere on the sidelines, Terrell Suggs just stuck his face in a camera and compared Pitta to a Volvo, frozen yogurt, Dockers pants or some other product associated with white people.

9:11 - Flacco finds Rice on the same inside screen play that turned the Colts game around. Pretty sure if you designed the prototypical receiver for the inside screen, he would look an awful lot like Ray Rice. But maybe we could also give him a mustache like those cool old-school running backs like Chuck Foreman and Rocky Bleier.

8:15 - Bernard Pierce jukes his way for 9 yards dispelling the notion that your second running back needs to be a change of pace back or have a different running style than your starter which I never quite understood because what if your starter is great? Wouldn't you want two of him? And imagine how cool it would be if they both had mustaches.

"Yeah . . . get 'em a body b. . . .
wait, what just happened?"
6:50 - Pitta gets rocked the moment he catches the ball and there's no flag? Simms calls it "a good clean hit" which it would have been if not for the rule that you can't crush "a receiver who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner." I have watched a lot of football this season and that is the first time I have not seen a flag on a play where the receiver gets blown-up immediately after catching the ball.**** You can picture Belichik and Brady snickering on the sidelines until . . .  

6:14 - Pitta scores on the next play. There are going to be more big plays in this game but that may have been the turning point because if there is one team that has been built to play f-ck you football, it's the Ravens and that was a f-ck you play by Pitta. Suggs just stuck his face in a camera and compared Pitta to an albino tiger.

5:24 - Brady bounces one to Brandon Loyd and then follows that up with a flinchy pass that lands on the ground a yard behind Aaron Hernandez. And here comes Brady's pouty face as Nantz somberly tells us he's one out of his last five as if he's describing a Tom Watson 4-putt at Augusta.

4:05 - Flacco throws a 23 yard strike to Torrey Smith on 2nd and 12 (his fourth 20+ yard completion of the 3rd quarter). Phil Simms points out on the replay that "they got the perfect play on for that defense." Somewhere Cam Cameron is saying, "yeah, that's what I would have called too."

More impressive play this year,
"Kick Slide" or "Butt Fumble?" It's
got to be "Butt Fumble" right?
3:00 - The commercial for the Pro Bowl features highlights of Peyton Manning (arguably the greatest Pro Bowl quarterback of all-time) and Cameron Wake stripping the ball from Mark Sanchez. It's probably the funniest ad I've seen since was using monkeys in suits.

2:20 - Pierce makes a sweet move at the line of scrimmage and bounces around right end for 11 yards on 3rd and 2. Great play but let's face it, he's no Danny Woodhead. If only the Ravens had as many offensive weapons at their disposal as the Patriots, they might actually have a shot in this game.

0:00 - Four plays later and the Ravens have the ball 2nd and goal at the Patriot 3 yard line with an 8 point lead. No Ravens fan wants to say it out loud but, with the way the defense is playing . . . shhhhhhhh.....

(To Be Continued)


* I was going to go with a different comparison there having to do with a certain genre of video that one might choose to watch on the internet while sitting alone at home with the family possibly on vacation but I'm already walking a fine line every week with the FGW considering the pictures that I need to include in an effort to build my Eastern European readership.

** OK, I probably need to qualify just about every part of that sentence. First, the writing equivalent of slamming two beers at the turn would really be slamming two beers at your desk but I'm currently in no position to do that as it's 8:50 a.m., all I have in my office is a bottle of red wine and I don't have a corkscrew. Second, the 2001 article to which I am referring was not just the first thing I've ever had published, it was the only thing I've ever had published (unless you count the FGR) but I never waste a self-promotional opportunity so here is a link to the remastered version of How Not to Have a Baby complete with a photo of me and FGK1 holding the Ravens' Lombardi Trophy.

Do you mean pictures
like this one?
*** I love the word "debacle." It's fun to say and also has one of the greatest definitions of any word in the English language - "a total, often ludicrous failure." I'm surprised writers don't use it more often. Then again, I don't spend a lot of time reading about Cleveland sports. BOOM!

**** I wanted to get Mike Pereira's take on that play so I checked his Twitter feed and, in the middle of the conference championship games he wrote, "in my hotel room with no TiVo or DVR." What in the hell is the leading pseudo-objective authority on determining the quality of NFL officiating doing in a hotel room during the conference championship games? And please don't tell me we have another Marv Albert situation on our hands because if we can't rely on the credibility of Mike Pereira, then who can we trust?

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fantasy Golf Preview: The Farmers Insurance Open

We can officially declare this a rough start. Not quite time to panic yet but certainly time to show some concern like Captain Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn* as the U.S.S. Reliant approached suspiciously without making contact leading to an all-time William Shatner moment as he leans forward and says, "this is damned peculiar . . ." right before Kahn (Ricardo Montalban)** blasts a gaping hole in the side of the Enterprise . . . (wait, maybe that wasn't such a great example because that was clearly time to panic).

"Now why is the guy from
the Chrysler Cordoba
ads flying that ship?"
You could certainly make the case that I should have had Charles Howell, III in the mix last week based on his tie for 3rd at the Sony and my rationale that "I'm going with the hot hands coming off of last week." You would have thought that would have led me to include Howell in my top 5 (I would have thought that too) but my thinking was that (a) Howell always plays well at the Sony so that's not a strong indicator and (b) he'd only had one top 20 finish at the Humana - a tie for 13th in 2011. As for Brian Gay, I actually picked him for the Humana in 2012 and he finished tied for 42nd which classified him as "dead to me" for this year's tournament.  

More on last week's debacle below but enough of this borderline preseason action. We're off to Torrey Pines where the past ten winners are Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Ben Crane, Nick Watney, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods (call me Stephen Hawking but I'm starting to detect a trend here), John Daly?!? and of course, Tiger Woods. Oh and Tiger also won this event in 1999 and, when they played a little something we like to call the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, he won that too.

"Hey mister, don't call that putter
'Lifesaver' . . . call it 'Shithead.'"
If you want to make the case against picking him this week, you could argue that he hasn't won this event in the last four years but, to be fair, you would probably need to qualify that position with the fact that he's only played it once during that stretch, finishing tied for 44th in 2011. However, that was also when he was about to enter a stretch of his career when everyone would spend the next six months shunning him like he was Steve Martin in The Jerk right after he evacuated an entire apartment complex because a dog told him it was on fire.

So with Tiger's unbelievable track record in mind, the pick this week is of course Phil Mickelson for three reasons: (1) He's won at Torrey Pines three times (albeit a long time ago), (2) Tiger is just flying in from Abu Dhabi (which sounds like the set-up for a joke) and (3) Phil is feeling a little left-out from all of the buzz surrounding the new Tiger-Rory commercial and he's going to want to stick it to Tiger the first chance he gets. Apparently Phil is feeling so removed from the conversation these days that he tried to curry some favor with average hard-working Americans by complaining about his taxes because what better way to rally fan support than by making a public statement that you're going to have to make some "drastic changes" to your lifestyle in light of the taxes due on the $50M you made last year doing something for a living that many of us pay to do for fun. Or maybe he confused the reporters he was venting to with people in a similar predicament . . . like the six athletes who made more money than he did in 2012. With Phil, you never know.***  
"I mean I've got mouths to feed."

The Overall Top Five

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Tiger Woods
3. Nick Watney
4. Bubba Watson
5. Brandt Snedeker

For the one and done this week it's almost a toss-up between Nick Watney and Bubba Watson. As mentioned above, they've both won this event and almost always play well at Torrey Pines. Unless you have them pegged for a spot in a major or WGC event later in the season, they're both solid as is Brandt Snedeker who provided the highlight of the FGR's 2012 season when he was my pick and he stole this tournament from Kyle Stanley. (Still not too proud of myself for yelling "GO GO GO" as Stanley's ball rolled towards the water on 18).

Hey look, it's "Amber Watney."****
The One and Done Top Five

1. Nick Watney
2. Bubba Watson
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Rickie Fowler
5. Ben Crane

Last Week's Report Card: F

1. Tim Clark - M/C
2. Brandt Snedeker - T23rd
3. Matt Kuchar - T16th
4. Phil Mickelson - T37th
5. Chris Kirk - M/C

Normally I base Last Week's Report Card on the One and Done Picks but those were so awful that I couldn't even bear to look at them. Let's face it, that leaderboard looked like the PGA Tour intentionally scheduled alternative programming up against the NFL games. Other than Howell, III, you've got to go all the way down to 16th before you hit Matt Kuchar, Robert Garrigus and anyone else who would get your attention. I finally watched the end of it last night and it played-out just like you would imagine a tournament going down to the wire with a bunch of guys not used to winning highlighted by CH, III and Brian Gay both blowing chances to win with sloppy putting on 18 followed by Scott Stallings hitting a 6-iron into the drink to give the tournament away and then David Lingmerth completely outdoing him on the first playoff hole by hitting his 4-iron so far left that it looked like it landed in a scene from Open Water.***** Gay would redeem himself with a birdie on the second playoff hole but only after going through his entire annoying pre-putt routine when all he needed to do was 2-putt from six feet for the win. If I had been CH, III in that situation, I wouldn't have been able to conceal the "are you freakin' kidding me?" expression on my face . . . nor would I have tried.


* If we ranked movie sequels based on how much better they are than the original, then Star Trek II, may be the best. And before you disagree, try to describe the plot from the original Star Trek movie. I just read the description on and I still can't remember what it was about. How could you possibly make a forgettable Star Trek movie? The recipe is as simple as macaroni and cheese. Kirk, Spock, Klingons, photon torpedoes and a smokin' hot alien. Don't over think it.  

** I could have just gone with the stock clip of KAHN! KAHN! but that would be failing to acknowledge the true brilliance of Ricardo Mantalban and seats available even in soft Corinthian leather.

*** And please do not misconstrue this as some kind of "pro tax" rant. This is a "guys who make $50M a year playing golf should limit their bitching about taxes to private conversations with each other and their accountants because the rest of us don't want to hear it" rant.

"I'm Amber Watney? Am I tripping
again? If so, I need to get to a safe
place. Can I use your bathtub?" 
**** Regular readers of the FGR should know by now that that is not actually Amber Watney. However, due to my misidentification of that picture last year, it is now one of the first that appears after a Google search for Mrs. Watney. What's even better is that the same search produces a veritable who's who of characters previously featured by the FGR ranging from Victoria Secret models to Bronco cheerleaders to Roger Sterling.

***** I never actually saw Open Water but I am going to assume there was a scene in it where all you could see was water. Otherwise, that's a really stupid name for the movie.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Conference Championship Game Picks

There is an episode in Season 1 of The Newsroom where Jeff Daniels' character and his producers are faced with the dilemma of whether they should sell part of their souls as a news program and start covering the Casey Anthony trial because they are losing thousands of viewers a night to Nancy Grace. They labor over this decision and then ultimately close their eyes, hold their nose and swallow the trial coverage like a dose of castor oil. I hope the people at ESPN are having the same struggle in choosing to devote more coverage to Manti Te'o than they are to previewing the best day of football season. But I doubt it considering their past willingness to latch on to stories like steroids in baseball and the Terrell Owens saga and run them into the ground.*

So many good reasons to
watch The Newsroom.
The Fantasy Golf Report doesn't devote much time to topics like Te'o and Lance Armstrong for two reasons: (1) They're already over-reported and, more importantly, (2) I DON'T CARE. I don't care if Te'o ran a pyramid scheme, cheated on his SAT's and killed a drifter to get an erection. And I don't care if Armstrong has bionic legs. One is a freakin' college football player and the other a cyclist. They're not Supreme Court Justices.** Just tell me how both cases turn out and, in the meantime, give me the basics so I can tweet snarky things like "Did Lance finally admit that 'Sheryl Crow' was really just the name of his fictional internet girlfriend?"

OK. That's already too many words devoted to those two clowns. I feel dirty. Let's get to the games.

New England by 8.5 over Baltimore

You could easily make the case that Full Metal Jacket's* Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is the most quotable movie character of all-time.** One of my favorites comes when he makes Private Joker the squad leader because "he's silly and he's ignorant, but he's got guts and guts is enough." Well after what happened last Saturday, it's time for the Ravens to make Joe Flacco their quarterback for the rest of the decade because "he's inconsistent and he's maddening, but he's got guts and guts is enough."

"Let me see your Super Bowl face!!!"
It's time to stop generalizing about Flacco's playoff record and start looking at the facts. In his first two seasons in the league, he threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions in five playoff games. Since then, he has played in six playoff games and has twelve touchdown passes with two interceptions and he has spread those touchdown passes around to seven different receivers (Torrey Smith (3), Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta (2), Anquan Boldin (3), Kris Wilson, Todd Heap and Ray Rice . . . and there should be a 13th to a player that shall not be named). In this year's playoffs, he is the highest rated passer with 613 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. So it begs the question, "what does this guy have to do to get a little respect?"

And the answer to that question is obvious. Win this game. Just one problem. The guy on the other side is making a bid to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history (and one more Super Bowl title would do it for Brady). So in the end, it may not be up to Joe but I think he's going to hold-up his end of the deal and remember, the last two times Brady has faced the Ravens at home in the playoffs, he's totaled two garbage time touchdowns and five interceptions. The Ravens' defense is a total enigma that can make Charlie Batch look like a Hall of Famer and then come back three weeks later and make Eli Manning look like Mark Sanchez. For some reason, they have the latter effect on Brady.

Brady has been on fire lately so I don't see him getting completely stymied on Sunday, however, he's not going to torch the Ravens for 30+ points either. The Ravens' special teams will be better (because they couldn't be any worse than last week) and will deliver a big play. And in the end, Joe Flacco is going to pull a Rod Tidwell and make Ozzie Newsome wish that new contract had been signed last August.

Ravens - 28 . . . Patriots - 27

San Francisco by 4 over Atlanta

The 49ers appear to be the best team playing at this point and I think we're all a little surprised that the Falcons are still hanging around after gagging away the Seattle game only to have the Seahawks gag it right back to them. Last week I compared the 49ers' faith in Colin Kaepernick to going all-in on with a pair of pocket tens. Depending on which way you want to take that analogy, he either turned-out to be pocket aces or the flop was 10-10-2.****

Kaepernick has already turned in two performances that show he's ready for a game of this magnitude. The first was the Sunday night game at New England where he threw four touchdown passes including the game winner in the 4th quarter. The second was last week when he opened by throwing a pick 6 and then unleashed one of the greatest playoff performances in league history. It's pretty clear that the stage is not too big for him and you can't say the same thing about Matt Ryan yet after his uneven performance last week. Add in the huge advantage that the Niners have on the defensive side of the ball and I can't come-up with a winning formula for the Falcons.

49ers - 31 . . . Falcons - 20

Email the FGR


Hopefully this is the last
time we'll say "woo-hoo"
to Mrs. Welker until fall.
* Mike and Mike actually inspired me to buy a new car three years ago because I needed one with an iPod jack so I could choose what I listened to during my morning commute as opposed to being subjected to their endless redundant discussions about Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis, Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Spygate, etc... I don't doubt that in the weeks leading up to the 2009 NFL season there were millions of listeners hanging on every detail about whether Favre was or was not going to come back. I just wasn't one of them.

** I get that the Armstrong case is different because he was an inspiration to so many people and if making him do the walk of shame gives those who feel betrayed by him some satisfaction, then good. But again, I'm not one of them. There always seemed to be something about Lance that made him hard to like and it turns out that that something was that he was a devious and destructive pathological liar who would sacrifice anyone who threatened to bring him down. And to think that all along I just thought he was kind of a dick.

*** I have Full Metal Jacket as one of the three best war movies of all time along with Platoon and Black Hawk Down. To its credit, AMC has them ranked 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively with Saving Private Ryan at #1, Patton at #2 and The Bridge on the River Kwai at #5. I can't argue with those being the top six overall but I'd go (1) Full Metal Jacket, (2) Black Hawk Down, (3) Platoon, (4) Saving Private Ryan, (5) The Bridge on the River Kwai and (6) Patton. I felt the same way watching Full Metal Jacket for the first time as I did watching Pulp Fiction . . . like Stanley Kubrick had come-up with a previously undiscovered way to make a movie that just kept making you say "holy shit . . . did that just happen?" Black Hawk Down is right there as it doesn't stop coming at you for 144 minutes alternately overwhelming you with admiration for the courage and camaraderie of our troops and frustration over the hopeless circumstances that they endured in Somalia. By the time it's over, your back hurts as you realize you just spent two hours leaning forward on the edge of your seat rooting for Josh Hartnet and Eric Bana to get out alive.

**** The latter would probably be the way to go with it. For non-poker players, that flop would have given the 49ers an almost unbeatable hand of four 10's. It was over when the Packers' defense decided to push all of their chips into the middle with pocket 3's which was the equivalent of game planning for Colin Kaepernick by having Jamarcus Russell come out of retirement to run you scout team all week. Wow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fantasy Golf Preview: Humana Challenge

Allow me to begin by apologizing for last week's picks as they did not represent my best effort (clearly). Let's just say that they were like that first paper of the semester where you're testing the waters for a class that you don't really care about and a teacher you don't really know where you're thinking, "let's see if I can get away with a B- on this half-ass piece of crap so I can sleep-in on the mornings after Monday Night Football for the rest of the fall." Unfortunately, with last week's picks, I ran into the professor right out of grad school wanting to send a message in the first month that he's not going to get pushed around. (Picture Jeremy Piven from Old School).* More on that in Last Week's Report Card. Let's see if we can get things back on track.

"Ryan Moore?!? Did you not
understand the assignment?"
It's tough to get a read on the Humana Challenge. Clearly you have to make a lot of birdies as evidenced by defending champ Mark Wilson's 24 under total, David Duval's final round 59 in 1999 and nearly every other result from the last twenty years where the winner averaged between -6 and -7 per round. The multiple courses they play do not, however, appear to favor a particular type of game. Wilson is the modern Corey Pavin but right on his heels last year was Robert Garrigus who bombs it. The year before that it was dominated by long ballers like Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland but Tim Clark and Justin Leonard have also recently been in the mix.

Screw it. I'm going with the hot hands coming off of last week in Tim Clark, Matt Kuchar, Harris English and Chris Kirk. And don't forget Scott Langley who made 22 birdies and an eagle at the Sony. Young players who knock on the door like that early in the year are usually heard from again pretty soon. On the other hand, you probably want to avoid Russell Henley for a while because young players who win early tend to check-out for a while. Considering that on Sunday he was a 23 year old in Hawaii who was just handed a check for over a million dollars and a ticket to the Masters, can you blame him? If that happened to me when I was 23, the excitement of having my own hotel room would have been enough on its own to keep me hanging-out on the island for a couple of weeks.

The Top Five Overall

And I totally dropped the ball on Miss Alabama.**
Good thing this is the time of year when we can blame
all of our screw-ups on having the flu. Hey, do you want
me to describe how I was feeling. Are you sure? Because
I really want to give you some graphic details about my
foul symptoms. Fine, I'll just put that on Facebook.
1. Tim Clark
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Matt Kuchar
4. Phil Mickelson
5. Chris Kirk

The Top Five One and Done

1. Tim Clark
2. Chris Kirk
3. Harris English
4. John Senden
5. Scott Langley

Last Week's Report Card: D

1. Carl Pettersson - T59th
2. Ryan Moore - MC
3. Tim Clark - 2nd
4. Brendon DeJonge - T54th
5. Bud Cauley - MC

I'm going to spare myself the "F" because at least I had the best player in the mix who anyone outside of Russell Henley's family was going to consider picking (Tim Clark). After initially putting him in the top spot, I choked and went with two guys who I thought were safer bets. There was also a part of me that wanted to get Carl Pettersson out of the way for the season because I'm not a big fan and I was going to have to use him somewhere. I figured he had played well the week before and he finished second at the Sony last year so what could go wrong? I mean who would have thought that a big Swedish guy wouldn't play well on a tropical island? (In hindsight, it should have dawned on me that I was basically picking the Skipper from Gilligan's Island and that probably wasn't a good idea considering his track record of success under similar conditions).

I will conclude by telling you that there is a significant difference between my weekly football picks and my weekly golf picks. The former serve as an entertaining vehicle to get the FGR through golf's off-season.*** The latter, however, have a direct impact on whether the FGKs will be eating snack bar cheeseburgers all summer or soggy sandwiches from an Igloo cooler. I just wanted you to know that these picks matter to me and we're in this thing together. So if I let you down, it will not be for a lack of effort.****  


"Learning about Roe v.Wade
and having some food."
* I made it through college on a steady diet of teachers who (a) stopped caring years ago and (b) would give you a "B" if you visited their office a couple times to show how invested you were in the class. And then in the second semester of my first year of law school BAM . . . Jeremy Piven. He was only about four years older than I was at the time and he already had a law degree, a medical degree, three kids and a wife (who I think was an astronaut and a part time lion tamer). Meanwhile, I was coming off a three year stint in which I managed two separate sporting goods stores that would ultimately go out of business (I had to spin the shit out of those work experiences on the law school applications) while trying to keep the future FGW convinced that I was worth waiting for (and worth supporting). I don't really have a point here which, ironically, is the same way I ended most of my answers in Jeremy Piven's class.

** After Brent Musburger caused Martha Burke to do a spit-take while watching the National Championship game by reverting to some classic late 70's style broadcasting straight out of Anchorman, Miss Alabama picked-up about 200,000 Twitter followers. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to crack 60 and half of those are family members or fictitious identities I created so I can have conversations with myself on Twitter. (Just kidding Twitter . . . sort of).

*** I know golf doesn't really have an off-season but it does for the FGR because by October when the Tour Championship finally rolls around, I'm starting every update with "all golf and no golf makes the golf a golf golf" over and over and over and over and over again.

**** Not sure that came out quite right.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The NFL Divisional Round Picks

One of these days I'm going to learn to listen to myself when I say things like "Andy Dalton has established himself just above the Ryan Fitzpatrick/Sam Bradford tier." If someone you trusted told you that and convinced you that Dalton wasn't going to be any better against Houston, you'd go the other way with your money right? Or how about this one . . . "Then there are the multiple random factors in Seattle's favor. RG, III has a bum wheel." Stop right there. That's all we needed to know right? Because if RG, III can't run, he's not RG, III anymore . . . he's just Robert Griffin's grandson. So why in the hell did I pick the Redskins to win the game? It's like I'm reading my own analysis and thinking, "this guy's an idiot" (which may or may not be true but I shouldn't be the one thinking that).

"What is the deal with this golf guy
and his terrible football picks?"
My approach to these games reminds me of the Seinfeld scene (that's a shocker) when Jerry Takes the Car Rental Counter Lady to Task on the difference between "taking" a reservation and "holding" a reservation. Anybody can can point-out the fact that Andy Dalton is a middling quarterback or that RG, III has a bad knee. It's what you do with that information that matters. Last week I ignored it and it cost me.*

Let's see if this week I can go beyond just "stating" the deciding factors in each game and actually "use" the deciding factors to make my picks because really, "using" the deciding factors is the important part.

Denver by 10 over Baltimore

I love the fact that everyone is using the game against the Broncos from week 15 as a measuring stick for this one because the team in purple that day looked nothing like what the Broncos are going to see this Saturday. Let's ignore the fact that it was the first game after Cam Cameron was fired and just focus on the players the Ravens were missing that day: Ray Lewis (runs the defense), Bernard Pollard (makes receivers' arms shorter), Dannell Ellerbe (best all-purpose linebacker), Ed Dickson (best blocking tight end) and Marshall Yanda (frightens grizzly bears). Of that group, I would argue that Pollard's absence was the most critical against the Broncos because, as the Colts receivers proved last week, it's a lot harder to catch a football when you're standing in the middle of a rodeo with your back to the bull.

Probably better to look
away with Bernard Pollard
roaming the secondary.
I really want to pick the Ravens to win this game straight-up and I believe they have about a 30% shot but 30% ain't 51%. I do, however, see them keeping it tight by pressuring Manning and getting a few big plays from Ray Rice who is chomping at the bit to redeem himself after his two fumbles last week made that game a lot closer than it needed to be. But in the end, you just can't bet on the Ravens against Peyton Manning because he has their number (sigh).

Key Factors: The Broncos have Peyton Manning and the Ravens don't but the Ravens' defense is healthy. So the Broncos win, but not by much.

Broncos - 20 . . . Ravens - 16

San Francisco by 2.5 over Green Bay

There have been several stretches this season when the 49ers looked like the best team in football, but then they would go and lose a 16-13 game to the Rams or get blown-out by the Seahawks. That may be even more true about the Packers who had three explainable losses (49ers, at Giants and at Colts during the peak of the Chuckstrong movement) and one loss they didn't deserve to a team that was better than we thought (at Seattle). They deservedly had the #2 seed wrapped-up and then they up and lost to the Vikings on the last day of the season by allowing Christian Ponder to have the game of his life. So in a match-up of two teams that both have the upside potential to win the Super Bowl and the downside potential to lose this game by two touchdowns, who do you take?

I'm going with the Packers for two reasons: (1) Aaron Rodgers has proven that he can win a playoff game anywhere anytime and we don't know that to be true of Colin Kaepernick yet. But maybe more importantly than that, (2) Frank Gore has only averaged about 68 yards per game over the last nine which would indicate that the 49ers are going all in with Kaepernick who, at this point, appears to be a pair of pocket 10's which makes that a risky proposition.

Key Factors: The Packers have the best quarterback in the NFC plus their wide receivers and defense are finally somewhat healthy while the 49ers are still a year away from having pocket kings.

Green Bay - 27 . . . San Francisco - 24

Atlanta by 2 over Seattle

RG, III: "It's just a flesh wound coach."
Mike Shanahan: "OK, you're the boss."
I've been trying to manufacture a reason to pick the Falcons. Not because I have any real faith in them or anything against Seattle but more because way too many people are on the Seahawk bandwagon. At some point the extra week off, home field advantage and the grueling travel schedule of the Seahawks have to come into play right? And what about the fact that the Redskins were still leading with fifteen minutes to go last week despite having Monty Python's Black Knight at quarterback for the 2nd and 3rd quarter?

I'm going with the road weariness catching-up with Seattle and Matt Ryan finally coming-up big when it counts. The Falcons have the weapons in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez to challenge the nastiest secondary the NFL has seen since Ronnie Lott was losing fingers and terrorizing receivers back in the 80's.

Key Factors: The Seahawks are a different team on the road and . . . I'm sorry, I just can't shake this vision I have of a befuddled Matt Ryan after he throws his second of two first half interception as Richard Sherman trash talks his way off the field. We're headed for a rematch of the Seattle-Green Bay Monday night debacle which is as it should be.

Seattle - 24 . . . Atlanta - 20

New England by 9.5 over Houston

The Texans continue to prove that they are a fraud of a playoff team with whatever that performance was against the Bengals last week. Meanwhile, the Patriots just smacked them around a few weeks ago and they've had an extra week off to get ready for this game. That's all of the time I am willing to devote to an inevitable New England win so instead, let's have some fun and see if you can figure out what the following three things have in common (answer in the Endnotes):

1. The time a lacrosse defenseman who outweighed me by about a hundred pounds slammed into me while running full speed and snapped my left collarbone in half with the shaft of his stick;

2. The time when I was ten years old and we had to get rid of my dog because he kept mistaking the mailman's leg for a T-Bone steak (either that or he was trying to prevent the delivery of all my crappy report cards a la the pizza oven scene in Goodfellas);** and

"Don't be alarmed. That blood
is from like two days ago."
3. The time I watched Phil Simms attempt witty banter on Inside the NFL last night.***

Key Factors: The Patriots are a far better football team and, after the letterman jacket gimmick failed in the regular season, the Texans have no more tricks up their sleeve.

New England - 31 . . . Houston - 17


* Actually, it didn't really cost me anything as I don't bet using my picks and if you're using something called the Fantasy Golf Report as a gambling resource for football then, before it's too late, I would strongly recommend that you watch the finale of the second season of The Sopranos where the cyborg from Terminator 2 gambles away his sporting goods store and his son's college fund.

** His name was "Jay" and it probably wouldn't have been a problem if he wasn't the canine version of an NFL linebacker. In addition to terrorizing the mailman and pretty much any other unfamiliar life form that dared to enter his field of vision, he also deflated the two front tires of a Volkswagen Beetle . . . while it was moving. The driver would later tell my dad in disbelief that the steering wheel jerked out of his hand when Jay locked his jaw around the first tire. After he disabled the car by popping the first one, he casually walked around and bit the other one. It was the proudest day of my life.

"It doesn't feel pity or remorse or
fear and it absolutely will not stop,
ever . . . until your car is dead."
*** The answer is "three of the most painful experiences in my life." Inside the NFL has the unique distinction of being one of the best sports shows on television (when they are showing NFL Films miked-up highlights) and, at the same time, one of the worst (anytime they cut back to the studio which creates a "lunging for the remote" situation). For example, here was an exchange from last night between Simms and Michelle Beadle who's natural gifts in front of the camera only served to magnify the painful awkwardness of the regular hosts:

Beadle: (In explaining her crush on Adam Levin) "Everyone is allowed one crush . . . who's yours."

Simms: (After a phony dismissive old-man chuckle) . . . "I'm not going there."

Hilarity ensues (for everyone but the audience).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fantasy Golf Preview: The Sony Open

I would normally start the preview of the upcoming tournament with a recap (or at least a comment, snippet or snide remark) about last week's event but considering it's Tuesday at 5:30 EST, I've been driving a desk all day (cop movie expression) and the tournament finally just freakin' ended, I got nuthin'.* I'll try to make it up to you in a couple days after I've had a chance to watch it when I release the Mega Fantasy Golf Draft Post Mortem also known as What in the Hell was I thinking When I Took that Guy in the Second Round? For now, let's look ahead to the Sony Open, a tournament that counts as one of its most memorable moments the time when Michelle Wie almost made the cut on her way to becoming the greatest female golfer in the world.**

Since Vijay Singh and Ernie Els were winning this tournament back in 2003-2005, the list of champions is a bunch of guys about whom you'd say, "yeah, he's solid." In making your pick this week, you need to find the guy who fits the following blank: Johnson Wagner, Mark Wilson, Ryan Palmer, Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Paul Goydos, David Toms and [Insert 2013 Winner Here]. The five guys I have listed below would make a fine addition to that list. And because I'm ruling out any player ranked higher than 25th in the world (seems like a sound strategy), the Overall Top Five this week is the same as the One & Done Top Five as that blank spot is probably going to be filled by a B+ player and not the likes of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson.***

Here are this week's picks along with last week's report card:

You bet your ass we're going old
school Sweden in honor of the Carl
Pettersson pick. . . yeah baby, yeah.

Top Five Overall and One & Done

1. Carl Pettersson
2. Ryan Moore
3. Tim Clark
4. Brendon DeJonge
5. Bud Cauley


Top Five Overall

1. Keegan Bradley - T4th
2. Dustin Johnson - 1st
3. Matt Kuchar - T9th
4. Scott Piercy - T13th
5. Steve Stricker - 2nd

Top Five One and Done

1. Scott Piercy - T13th
2. Steve Stricker - 2nd
3. Webb Simpson - T11th
4. Rickie Fowler - T6th
5. Nick Watney - T13th

The FGR would have started the season on a roll if Scott Piercy hadn't taken on water during the final nine holes with two bogeys and a double that knocked him out of the top ten. Of course the real gaff was whiffing on Steve Stricker for the second year in a row. Assuming he wins one of the ten tournaments he plays in 2013, I need to engrave the words "Take Stricker at the Hyundai You Jackass" on my desk. It's probably karma for my repeatedly using the nicest guy on the planet as the example for why the World Golf Rankings are screwed-up. The irony is that, with his second place finish, he probably just moved back into the top 15. Oh sweet irony . . . why must you always be the diarrhetic seagull circling above the car wash of my life?****


* This is why you have to love the Fantasy Golf Report. A real golf reporter would never tell you he missed a deadline because he was working his day job. I'm like a football player in the 50's who had to work at a car dealership during the offseason and after practice just to make a living (at least that's what I keep telling myself though I'd be a worse car salesman than Larry David - Big Charging Crazy Pistons, Nutty Pistons).

** Assuming your criteria does not include winning a major or, for that matter, a tournament held in the United States but hey, she did shoot a 68 at the 2004 Sony Open so she's got that going for her . . . which is nice.

*** It's not surprising that a big named player hasn't won the Sony in a while when you consider that the four guys I listed just made about $2M at Kapalua and may hit five balls each before they tee off on Thursday and Friday. If they go low early and have a shot at winning, that's great, but missing the cut and spending the weekend chilling on the beach doesn't sound so bad either. Kyle Stanley's been bodysurfing all day after pocketing $61,000 just for showing-up (barely) and finishing DFL.

**** I have no idea where that came from.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Wild Card Picks - Part 2

The middling prognostication effort continued on Saturday with a 1-1 start. Apparently I overrated Andy Dalton when I placed him in the tier above Sam Bradford and Ryan Fitzpatrick because it looked like you could have replaced him with either one of those guys and gotten the same result if not a little better. I'm in the car heading to M&T Bank Stadium in exactly one hour so if this post ends somewhat abruptly, that's why.

Baltimore by 6.5 over Indianapolis

There will not be an empty
seat at kickoff today.
You know you have a boatload of emotional angles in effect when the Colts come to Baltimore for a playoff game and the fact that Indianapolis hijacked the team back in 1983 isn't even being discussed. We've got Chuckstrong versus the final home game for God's linebacker. Closer to home, we have the FGR versus FGK1 who jumped on the Colts' bandwagon at the age of six and, to his credit, never jumped off.* The current wager is Colts win, we listen to Gangnum Style on the ride home . . . Ravens win, it's disc two of Quadrophenia.

Enough of the peripheral story lines. Here are the relevant facts: (a) The Ravens have won at least one playoff game in all four seasons of the Flacco-Harbaugh era, (b) the Ravens were +9 in turnover margin this season and the Colts were -12, (c) the Colts have the league's 29th ranked run defense and (d) the Ravens have Ray Rice with fresh legs.** I actually wouldn't be surprised if this turns into a blowout because Ravens' stadium is the closest thing to the East coast version of CenturyLink Field in Seattle where it starts to get very hairy when the home team gets a lead. The poise of Andrew Luck will keep it from getting out of control but it will still be convincing.

Ravens - 27 . . . Colts - 17

I thought about doubling down this afternoon and making the trip down 95 for the second game but frankly I'm still feeling the effects of Thursday night's post-fantasy golf draft activities*** and a ten hour playoff football experience today would just be daring the flu to come kick my ass.

Seattle by 3 over Washington

The Redskins have had a great run but they only played two of the league's top ten scoring defenses all season (the Falcons and the Steelers) and they only averaged 14.5 points against them. This week they have to face #1. Then there are the multiple random factors in the Seahawks' favor. RG, III has a bum wheel. Russell Wilson has only thrown two picks in the last eight games. They get cornerback Brandon Browner back from his PED suspension. But with all of that being said, I'm taking the Redskins because as I sit here imagining this game unfolding, I just see them keeping it close with their running game and then RG, III finding a way to bring it home in the end. And with that, it's time to don the Jerkstore jersey and get this epic day started.

Redskins - 24 . . . Seahawks - 20


 . . . and one who would
wear this in public.
* When you're a dad who cares about sports a little too much, your first priority is to get the kids on board as fans and then you figure they'll come around to your favorite teams in due time. That just hasn't happened with FGK1 and frankly I have't pushed it for a couple of reasons: (a) I respect his sense of loyalty at such a young age (as opposed to FGK2 who is the consummate bandwagon jumper) and (b) a little rivalry in the house keeps things interesting. (By the way, the definition of a dad who "cares about sports a little too much" would be one who spends numerous unpaid hours every week writing a sports blog).

** Rice only carried the ball 16 times per game this season. Thank you Cam Cameron?

*** Fantasy golf draft night is currently the fuckin' Catalina Wine Mixer of the FGR's existence.

Last Week's Record: 5-11 . . . Season Record: 118-132-6

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Wild Card Picks - Part 1

After finishing the regular season a dismal 14 games under .500, I've got eleven playoff games to at least partially redeem myself. It's going to take nothing short of an 8-3 record including a correct pick of the Super Bowl for me to be able to show my face around the club for people who make NFL picks that should not, under any circumstances, be used for wagering real money (Ron Jaworski just joined the club last week*). Here we go.

Houston by 4.5 over Cincinnati

Not sure I want a quarterback
with his hands that close to
his neck all of the time.
I don't remember a potential Super Bowl team careening into the playoffs quite like the Texans are. On December 10th, they went to New England with a chance to basically secure the #1 seed in the AFC, got their doors blown-off and now they're riding a two game losing streak where they've been outscored 51-22. Matt Schaub is starting to look like the cross-state version of Tony Romo and their previously vaunted defense suddenly don't look so good when you consider that they built a significant part of their 2012 reputation by stifling teams like the Jags (twice), Titans (twice), Dolphins and Bills.

On the other side, you have the Bengals who would have had one of the most underwhelming eight game winning streaks in NFL history** if they hadn't given one away to the Cowboys in Week 14. Andy Dalton has established himself just above the Ryan Fitzpatrick/Sam Bradford tier meaning that he's probably not going to make a clutch play late in the game but he is also unlikely to give it away with a 4th quarter turnover.*** For the Bengals, this is going to be similar to their Week 16 game in Pittsburgh where they ugly balled their way to a 13-10 win. I'm not convinced they're going to pull that off this week, but the score is going to look pretty similar.

Texans - 17 . . . Bengals - 14

Green Bay by 7.5 over Minnesota

It's a long way to tank
tops and Tallahassee.
I'm sticking with the Packers as my Super Bowl pick but the way they blew the bye last week has me a bit nervous. Aaron Rodgers did his part by throwing for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns but I'm not sure a defense that gives-up 199 yards to Adrian Peterson AND allows Christian Ponder to throw for 3 TD's and no picks (while only getting sacked once) is going to beat three playoff caliber teams in a row. But we'll worry about that later. For now, the question is whether Ponder can repeat last week's performance but at Lambeau Field where his combined stats for two career games are 28-59 for 309 yards with one touchdown and three picks. And don't ignore the facts that (a) this will only be the 4th game that Ponder has played outdoors this season, (b) the Vikings have lost the other three, (c) it's going to be about 25 degrees and (d) he played at Florida St. Too many factors going for the Pack.

Packers - 31 . . . Vikings - 17


* Last time I checked, Jaws was about ten games below .500 picking seven games per week on the Tony Kornheiser Show while Reginald the monkey was ten games over. Either film study is an overrated way of picking games or that monkey is watching a lot more of it than Jaws.

** How is this for a gauntlet? After beating a Giants team that was about to come unglued, the Bengals beat the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Eagles, the corpse of the Steelers and the Ravens' scout team. No one has knocked-out that many tomato cans in a row since Sylvester Stallone during the fight scene montage in Rocky III.

*** Having not watched many Bengals game, I am making something of an assumption on this but I don't remember seeing any highlights of Dalton pulling-off the "Flacco Strip Sack" or the "Romo Lob Pass into the Flat Interception" (which really isn't getting the attention it deserves as one of the most reckless and devastating throws in recent memory).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 3 - The Winners

If you're doing a one pick per week league or a one and done league, it would behoove you to go through the tournaments and pick the winner of each one before the season starts for two reasons: (a) it will give you a working list of the roughly forty players who you believe have the potential to win a tournament before the ups and downs of the season start to mess with your rational thinking and (b) it will prevent a situation where you get to the end of the season, have only two picks to use on the PGA Championship and realize, "crap, I still have Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney available."

I'm not going to go through every tournament here because that could take years and cost millions of lives (and I can't seem to get through one of these things lately without an Animal House reference). For now, let's just cover the majors, the Players, the WGC events and get the ball rolling with the opening event of the season.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Every week the FGR presents two top five lists: (a) the top five overall and (b) the top five one and done players which assumes that you can't pick Rory and/or Tiger every week. The players on my one and done list will be ones that I am not reserving for the majors and the other four near majors listed below.*

The FGR looks for Bradley to have a
fackin' retahded season this year.
Why not start with the opener?
Top Five Overall

1. Keegan Bradley
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Matt Kuchar
4. Scott Piercy
5. Steve Stricker

Top Five One and Done

1. Scott Piercy
2. Steve Stricker
3. Webb Simpson
4. Rickie Fowler
5. Nick Watney

Bradley is going to be a threat to win every time he tees it up this year and especially on courses where he can bomb it and make a lot of birdies like Kapalua. Scott Piercy is coming-off a strong finish to 2012 and can also make birdies in bunches. So can Steve Stricker who is the defending champ and has never finished worse than 10th in this event. Can't go wrong with either of those guys if you want to save Bradley for later.

And now for the eight tournaments where you probably want to allocate your most potent resources in 2013. One thing you will notice about the game plan outlined below is that it leaves plenty of solid options on the bench including Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson and Webb Simpson. You could sub Watson, McDowell and Hanson just about anywhere except you might want to avoid Bubba at the British Open where he's never finished higher than 23rd (towering cuts/draws + wind = trouble). Keep in mind that D.J. has won the AT&T Pebble Beach twice and has two other top tens there in the last five years. Also consider that Webb Simpson is a member at Quail Hollow Club which hosts the Wells Fargo Championship where he finished 4th last year.

A lot can happen over the course of a nearly ten month long golf season and I am prone to at least one or two impulsive/calamitous last minute substitutions so these picks are subject to revision but if I was calling these tournaments now, here is what it would look like.

Accenture World Match Play: Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter

This pose is just a recurring match
play nightmare for opponents.
This is a tricky one because you want to bring-out the big guns but that often backfires. For example, if you used your two picks last year on the 2010 and 2011 champions (Ian Poulter and Luke Donald), you were done in the first round. In hindsight, Rory McIlroy would have been a great pick but do you want to use him in a non-major? Bradley won a couple matches last year in his Accenture debut and was at the top of his game at the Ryder Cup. If you have to ask why I'm picking Poulter in this format, you may be gambling on the wrong sport.

WGC Cadillac: Charl Schwartzel and Matt Kuchar

This event traditionally features one of the strongest final leaderboards on tour so you better bring two of your best. It's almost impossible to go wrong here. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Justin Rose would all be great picks. Just depends on who you want to save for later. All I ask is that, at some point during the final round, you think fondly of the fact that the most over-served the FGR has ever been on a golf course (that he wasn't playing at the time) was at the Blue Monster during the final round of the 1997 Doral Ryder Open.**

Masters: Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott

I made the mistake of subbing Tiger in for Phil last year after Tiger's win at the Arnold Palmer duped me into the thinking he was all the way back and Phil's sloppy early season putting made me think he was going to struggle at Augusta. Last year was Phil's thirteenth top seven finish at the Masters since 1995 including three wins. His tie for 24th in 2007 was the first time he's missed the top ten since 1998 and his only missed cut was fifteen years ago. At this point I'm struggling with the second pick. Bubba would obviously be a decent choice but no one has gone back to back since Tiger in 2001 and 2002. Louis Oostuizen warrants consideration but his record at Augusta before last year's second place finish includes three missed cuts in three tries and his blowout British Open win in 2010 is his only other standout performance in a major. I'm going with Adam Scott for now. He finished tied for 8th in 2012 and tied for 2nd in 2011. He also finished 15th or better in every major last year. Not to mention, he needs to win one before they take his putter away.

The Players: Luke Donald and Bo Van Pelt

Craig . . . is that a look of
exultation or disbelief?
My well-documented disdain for the TPC at Sawgrass is based on the fact that five of the last eleven winners have been underwhelming (Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson, Stephen Ames and Craig Perks have combined to win 3 PGA Tour events other than the Players and Fred Funk was 49 when he won it). It's also the only tournament of any significance that Tiger has won just once. I'm picking Donald and Van Pelt because they are two of the most solid all-around players that I don't trust in a major. Sounds like a couple Players Championship winners to me.

U.S. Open: Jason Dufner and Lee Westwood

It's tough to get a read on Merion as a U.S. Open course because it hasn't been played there since 1981 when David Graham won it by three strokes over George Burns (not the comedian) and Bill Rogers (not the 1980 Boston Marathon winner). You've got to drop back four more strokes to get to legends like Jack Nicklaus and Chi-Chi Rodriguez so that's no real help.*** I'm banking on the first-time major winners trend continuing and going with two guys who have classic U.S. Open style games. It just feels like Dufner is going to win a major this year doesn't it? And if you were going to pick one that suits his game, it would be a U.S. Open.

British Open: Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia

I know it's of a cop-out to go with the defending champion here but, if I have to make a pick in January, I'm taking with the guy who won it the last time it was played at Muirfield in 2002. Sergio missed the playoff that year by two strokes after shooting 71-69-71-69. He also showed continuing signs at the end of last year that his game is still on the way back with a win at the Wyndham, a tie for 3rd at the Barclays and a tie for 15th at the Tour Championship. I still believe that he falls into that category of player who is going to come back and win a major after we've written him off and if that's going to happen anywhere, it will be at the British Open.

Bridgestone: Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen

I think enough time has passed
for us to start liking Sergio again.
Every time Tiger has been in top form, he's dominated this event (winning it seven times) which is played on the same course every year. There are certain tracks that Tiger just owns and this is one of them. If you want to use him at Arnie or Jack's tournament, that is also acceptable but the league I'm in pays a dividend for the Bridgestone so I'm using him here. Louis finished 4th at Firestone last year, tied for 9th in 2010 and it's a great fit for his game.

PGA Championship: Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy

The leaderboard from the last time they played at Oak Hill would indicate that it is a ball-strikers paradise**** so I'm going with two of the best in the world. Putting has not been one of Rose's strengths lately so if he's going to break-through and win a major, this is his best chance in 2013. You could pick McIlroy pretty much anywhere. I'd be reluctant to use him at the match-play because one bad round or opponent with a hot putter could knock him out early. He makes more sense at a stroke play event where he always has the potential to shoot 11 or 12 under on the weekend and either make-up a ton of ground (WGC-Cadillac) or blow-away the field (PGA Championship).

Email your questions and comments to the Fantasy Golf Report at Email the FGR.


* In the format I play, the majors, the Players and the three WGC events come with a little extra incentive so you are encouraged to bring out your "A" players for them.

** The recount of this event also spawned one of my personal favorite FGR entries - The Blue Monster.

How are we going to reach the 18-
24 male demographic with a show
about a Cincinnati radio station?
*** Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a Youtube clip of WKRP in Cincinnati's Les Nessman butchering the name "Chi-Chi Rodriguez" (as in Chai Chai Rodweeguezzzz) so we'll have to settle for "Monster Lizard Ravages East Coast." (Developing something of a monster theme this week).

**** Shaun Micheel became one of the most unlikely major winners in golf history beating Chad Campbell by two strokes and any course where Campbell, Kenny Perry and Charles Howell, III can finish in the top 10 clearly does not put a premium on putting.