September 3, 2009

Redskins, Ravens Conclude Vastly Different Preseasons

Two teams separated by less than 40 miles and only three wins last season completed vastly different preseasons tonight. The Washington Redskins went 1-3, being outscored in the first half of their games by a combined score of 61-20 (0-13 @ Ravens, 3-10 v. Steelers, 17-17 v. Patriots, 0-21 @ Jaguars). The Ravens first and second team offense and defense posted impressive halftime scores, earning a combined edge of 55-13 (13-0 v. Redskins, 21-7 v. Jets, 14-3 @ Panthers, 7-3 @ Falcons).

Those scores are backed up by the stats. The Ravens surprised the league by going 11-5 last year and making it to the AFC Championship Game before being ousted by the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Many wonder whether Joe Flacco will suffer a sophomore slump after a rookie campaign in which he improved greatly as the season progressed. The preseason offensive stats for the Ravens starters (about four quarters total), Flacco included, are quite impressive:

Flacco QB - 40/61 for 470 yards, a TD and no INTs. Sacked twice without any fumbles.
Rice RB - 21 carries for 83 yards, 1 TD, 12 receptions for 108 yards
McGahee RB - 18 carries for 65 yards, 1 TD
Mason WR - 10 receptions for 146 yards
Washington WR - 6 receptions for 119 yards
Heap TE - 5 receptions for 46 yards, 1 TD

The Redskins counterparts show an offense with no discernable identity:

Campbell QB - 21/41 for 290 yards, no TDs, INTs, sacks or fumbles
Portis RB - 11 carries for 34 yards
Betts RB - 11 carries for 21 yards, 2 receptions for 24 yards
Cartwright RB - 17 carries for 67 yards, 2 receptions for 7 yards
Moss WR - 5 receptions for 56 yards
Cooley TE - 4 receptions for 108 yards (including a 73-yarder)

The Redskins are entering their second season with head coach and offensive coordinator Jim Zorn. After a 5-3 start last season, the Redskins offense stalled over the last half of the season, sputtering to an 8-8 record. This preseason, the Redskins showed many of the same conservative tendencies that crippled their offense last season. Defensively, the team is solid, especially on the line.

The Ravens are entering their second season with head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. In the preseason they ran a reverse and a statue of liberty play (for a touchdown). The offense moved the ball crisply and easily. The defense is still the defense.

Will the preseason carry over the regular season? Will the Ravens be overconfident going into their season opener hosting Kansas City? Will the Redskins show up at the Meadowlands against the Giants?

September 2, 2009

College Football Picks - Week 1

Football season is finally back! With every college football season, there are exciting teams, great players, bragging rights and, not to be forgotten, money to be won through gambling!

In the first week of the season, the schedule gods have given us a few real games, enough to help us zone out the upcoming slate of FCS opponents.

South Carolina (+5) over NC STATE - It's my opinion that the Wolfpack will be much better this year, building on a strong finish to last year and learning the O'Brien system. However, I'm not ready to say they're the favorite against a middle-of-the-road SEC squad, and the odds of a close low-scoring game are high.

This really should be illegal, and not grandfathered in.

BOISE ST (-3.5) over Oregon - This is a really tough call. Oregon has an explosive offense and slightly better talent. But the Broncos have shown that they're no one trick pony, and the blue field gives them the edge in this one. I'll be rooting for Oregon to squelch Boise's chances at the BCS in week 1. If you want my support to bust the BCS, your non-conference schedule has to be better than Oregon, Bowling Green, Miami OH, and UC Davis.

OK ST (-5) over Georgia - No Knowshon, no Stafford, not so many wins, especially not over a very talented Cowboys team in Stillwater.

ILLINOIS (-6.5) over Missouri - Does Missouri have any skill players left? Not enough to out-score Juice and the Illini.

Virginia Tech (+6.5) over ALABAMA - The Hokies won't look like Clemson did last year against the Tide in the opener. First, the Tide is not as good as last year, and second, VT is a much tougher team than Clemson. Look for Tyrod's experience to be the difference in this one (at least enough to cover).

Maryland (+21.5) over CALIFORNIA - The relevant statistic here is the Terps' record against top 25 teams over the last few years. Even though Cal will be motivated by revenge, I don't see a blowout here.

And don't forget the Monday games:
Cincinnati (+6) over RUTGERS - Rutgers will soon be remembered as a one hit wonder. The Bearcats will be out to establish that they are now kings of the Big East.

FLORIDA ST (-6.5) over Miami - The defensive speed from the Noles will shut down Miami's offense.

Enjoy another exciting season!

Last season: 50-36-2 (not bad if I say so myself)

ESPN: Hire Editors

What am I missing here (other than credit for trumpeting in all three of my fantasy drafts that Marshall would be a Jet by Week 1):

Why Jets Could Use Marshall

The Jets had difficulty getting the ball down the field last season. Brandon Marshall would be a big help. Only 31.5 percent of their receiving yards were from yards after the catch. The teams in 2008 with the highest percentage of receiving yards after the catch:

TeamPct of Yds after catch
Patriots55.1 percent
Redskins54.9 percent
Browns47.5 percent
Jets47.1 percent
49ers46.4 percent

-- ESPN Stats and Information

September 1, 2009

Weekly TMQ Rejoinder - NFC Preview

I prefer to refer to this an homage to Drew Magary, rather than acknowledge the fact that it is a blatant rip-off.

I’m not sure I’ll have the stomach to keep this up all season. All the vitriol TMQ causes me will probably give me an early ulcer.

Gregg Easterbrook

My clever nicknames will keep you in stitches!

College Schedules

Yet another item that’s repeated year after year with only the details changing. Easterbrook hates the fact that big time college football schools pad their schedules with easy wins. That’s fair enough, everyone would like to see more high-power out of conference matchups.

The problem arises when Easterbrook tries to blast the athletic departments for poor sportsmanship. As will be a running theme through these rejoinders, TMQ yet again fails to consider motives behind behaviors.

College football is motivated by two things, money and prestige. Schools want to win a lot of games to increase their prestige and make a bowl game with a big payday. There’s nothing wrong with that, professional teams have similar motivations. But in college, the schools set their schedules, rather than the league. Schools make calculated decisions about their schedules in an attempt to maximize money and prestige.

If Oklahoma State thinks it can go undefeated in conference, why should it schedule tough games outside the Big XII? If they run the table, they make the BCS Title game. If they schedule Florida or Ohio State and lose, they risk being left out of the title picture even after a perfect conference schedule. The BCS creates perverse incentives, but vilifying the ADs for reacting to those incentives doesn’t help anything.

Stupid Nicknames

The Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes are decided by fate" in Chinese)…

This annoys me to no end. I’ll admit that a few of TMQ’s team nicknames are amusing when used in moderation, but his quest to have a crazy nickname for every team is beyond stupid (see above).

Plaxico Burress

Had Burress remained a Giant, he would have had the most popular organization between Washington and Boston in his corner, and it's simply human nature that prosecutors and judges might have looked sympathetically upon his case. Instead, Burress angrily refused the team's offer…

It’s time to play thought experiment! Let’s say Plax was still on the Giants. Let’s also say that he got relatively easy treatment by the NY judicial system. Who do you think would be first in line to blast the powerful influences that spoiled athletes take advantage of?

“Weasel Coaches”

Easterbrook spends 6 paragraphs bashing coaches who skip town when they have commitments in place. He singles out Bobby Petrino, Rich Rodriguez, and Nick Saban. Again, that’s fine, no one likes lying college football coaches who promise to stay and then leave.

The problem as always is TMQ’s overreaching and misleading use of statistics. He claims that the “football gods” punish schools who employ “weasel coaches” and cites some records that appear to back him up (the three schools mentioned, Arkansas, Alabama, and Michigan were a combined 20-18 last year). In piling on Saban, he also points out that with the 2007 victories that were vacated by the NCAA, Saban is 14-13 as Alabama head coach, and Alabama is 25-53 since 2003.

I’m no fan of Nick Saban, but isn’t TMQ leaving out some crucial information here? I’ll refresh your memory: Alabama went 12-2 last year with its only losses coming in the SEC Championship Game (to Florida) and the Sugar Bowl. Even in Tuscaloosa, that’s considered a pretty decent season. Easterbrook does this all the time, throwing out misleading and incomplete statistics to back up his points in a way that would make a lobbyist blush. He just assumes that you won’t bother looking up the details and then every once in a while he says something so obviously wrong (Alabama has suffered since hiring Saban) that it makes you question everything he writes.

August 30, 2009

We're Talkin' About Practice?

Well. That didn't take long.