Monday, October 31, 2005

NFL Road Rage

The horrendous performances by NFL road teams have been pestering me for a long time and I think it’s time I address this ridiculous phenomenon. Week after week, otherwise good NFL teams go on the road and proceed to get stomped on. I don’t understand it. I never have and I never will. The excuses that you hear from NFL teams range from the effects of the crowd noise and travel schedule to a time change or jet lag or even the field conditions (i.e. domes or cold weather). Those excuses are tired. I’m not buying any of it. I am convinced that NFL teams “mail it in” against good teams on the road because it’s convenient. Sure, every once in a while, a road team will show up ready to play against a good team but that is so rare that it may happen once a week, if that. If the road team is considerably better than the home team, then the road team usually shows up and takes care of business (unless you’re the Jags playing at St. Louis). It seems like NFL teams go into road games with the impression that the game will be no different than home games. Then, when their opponents come out particularly motivated to start the game, the road team makes the decision right away (first drive, first qtr etc.) that they will not match the other team’s enthusiasm and intensity essentially deciding the result of the game. I’m not saying that NFL road teams lose on purpose, or intentionally sabotage their team. I’m saying that they fail to raise their intensity to the level of their opponents when it’s convenient to do so. Unfortunately, it’s generally convenient to do so on the road against an above average team. Players can blame a blasé attitude and poor execution on the fact that the game was played on the road. Generally, the media doesn’t press the issue and teams move on to the next week. There is no accountability for a poor road performance. The built in excuses all but vindicate a road loss.

There are 26 (out of 32) teams in the NFL who are .500 or better at home. Twenty-six! On the other hand, there are only five teams in the NFL that are above .500 on the road. NFL teams are 76-39 (66%) at home. Consequently, road teams are 39-76 (34%). Home teams are outscoring road teams by nearly six points per game, 23.5 to 17.9. These are grown men whose physical attributes do not change based on where they play. If your team has an overwhelming defense then it’s probably overwhelming because the players on the defense are stronger, faster and smarter than most teams. If your team has a high-powered offense, then it’s probably high-powered because your offensive playmakers are more athletic and gifted than most defenses. These things do not change whether a game is played at home or on the road.

Nothing is more infuriating to me than seeing NFL players getting paid millions of dollars to give up on a game before it even starts. I just can’t believe that grown adults, who are being paid so well, would allow their performance to differ so much based on the location of their workplace. Every sportscaster in America ripped in to Ravens running back Jamal Lewis this week for saying that he worries about getting hurt without a long term contract in place and that those “worries” might affect his play on the field. While I agree that Lewis probably should’ve kept that to himself, Lewis is doing no different than what NFL teams do every week. The home team has been favored in 80% of NFL games this season—and rightfully so. Week after week, good NFL teams go on the road and get lambasted by an otherwise equal opponent. Every week, there are hundreds of NFL players who give inept performances because they are playing a road game. I would love it if NFL players were only guaranteed money for home games and the rest of their money could be earned for winning on the road. The lack of professionalism of NFL players in respect to their performance on the road compromises the integrity of the NFL. I might be in the minority, but I have a very difficult time taking the NFL seriously when there’s such a discrepancy in performance based, not on who the opponent is but, on where the game is being played.

Take this week for example (week 8). The Giants and Redskins had the same record and were pretty even across the board entering the game. The Giants annihilated the Redskins 38-0. Unfortunately, I watched this whole game. As an NFL fan, it was a nightmare to watch and an embarrassment for the league. The Redskins had 125 total yards. Domination doesn’t even begin to describe how brutally the Giants obliterated the Redskins. If I didn’t know better, I would think that the ‘Skins were “throwing the game”. Since I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen, the only explanation I can give is that the Redskins gave up before the game started. There is no question that the Redskins would’ve performed significantly better (if not won the game) if this game were played at RFK Stadium. Are we really to believe that playing on the road is so difficult that the Redskins went from a decent team to a laughing stock? It’s important to understand how ridiculous the Redskins looked on Sunday. They couldn’t do anything right. They were terrible in every facet of the game. The odds that every unit and every player on a team could just have the absolute worst possible day on the same day are remote at best. The whole Redskins team decided after the first drive of the game that they were going to lose. I won’t deny that the Giants might have been motivated because they were fresh off the loss of their longtime owner Wellington Mara and playing in front of their home fans. But, that doesn’t excuse the Redskins from scoring zero points and giving up 38. Zero points! They scored 52 points last week.

The Lions and Bears were the first two teams to play a game against a team they already played this season. The first game was in Chicago. The Lions were blown out 38-6. Judging from this week’s performance, you either have to admit that the Lions improved considerably (they only lost 19-13 in OT this time) since their first meeting (which we all know is not true) or you have to admit that the Lions “mailed in” the game in Chicago. How else could one justify such a discrepancy in the score in two different games between the same teams? How could home-field make such a big difference? A players ability doesn’t change based on where the game is played. The playbook doesn’t change. The roster doesn’t change. The coaches don’t change. Everything is the same except for the location of the game and the player’s psyche. So, why do teams get blown out on the road? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s an unconscious decision that teams make at the start of a game to not match the other teams intensity. In otherwise, I attribute this phenomenon to an embarrassing lack of professionalism. The Eagles/Broncos, Panthers/Vikings, Rams/Jaguars, and Chargers/Chiefs all featured embarrassing performances by the road team. San Diego and Kansas City are two very similar teams. San Diego destroyed Kansas City this week (the score was not indicative of San Diego’s domination). Denver and Philadelphia are also similar teams. The Broncos dominated the Eagles. As every knows, if this game was played on the road, the ghost of Scott Mitchell would’ve taken over Jake Plummer’s body and the Broncos would’ve gotten smoked. The Jaguars embarrassed themselves by losing to the Rams who were missing their starting quarterback and two All-Pro Wide Receivers. This happens every week.

In the NFL, there are three types of games for the average franchise. These games are; a). Home games, b)Road games against a poor team, and c). Road games against an average to great team. The results of “A” and “C” are pretty much a given considering the 66% winning percentage of NFL home teams. Teams generally win “A” games and lose “C” games. Basically, the entire NFL season comes down to how teams perform in “B” games, or road games against poor teams. If you beat poor teams on the road, you will make the playoffs. If you lose to poor teams on the road, you won’t make the playoffs. It’s as simple as that. It’s sad that there are only a handful of games in the NFL that really matter when you really break down the games. If NFL teams didn’t “roll over” on the road, most NFL games would matter and would take on significance. Instead, there are few surprises throughout the season as home teams hold serve. It almost seems like the season would be better of being played on a computer simulator. That would save everyone the frustration of having to watch NFL teams conveniently “choke” in road games.

No other sport comes close to the discrepancy in the NFL in terms of home/road splits. The closest example would be the NBA. NBA home teams were 744-486 (60%) last season (2004-05). NBA road teams were 486-744 (40%). I think there’s also something to be said about the professionalism of NBA players especially when it comes to their performances on the road in the playoffs. However, the NFL makes the NBA look great because of its absurd home/road split. In 2002-03, NHL home teams were 598-414-218 (57%). NHL road teams were 414-598-218 (43%). In 2004-05, MLB home teams were 1306-1124 (54%). Road teams were 1124-1306 (46%). The NFL is far and away the worst of the four major spots. But, nobody calls them on it. NFL players are clearly underperforming compared to their contracts when it comes to their performances on the road. While I doubt anything will ever be done about this by the league, it would be nice to know that players aren’t getting rewarded for consistently underperforming in certain situations. Players get paid the same regardless of how they play on the road or at home. What’s the incentive for a player to show up, on the road in a game that there’s already a built-in excuse to lose, and give it their all when they’re getting paid the same regardless? If the NFL hurt players in their pockets, you would see an enormous difference in their efforts in road games and subsequently a better product on the field.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Coin Flip Challenge week 7 picks

I am going to enjoy last week’s miracle 9-4-1 performance right up until the 1pm kickoffs on Sunday. I’ll probably never see a week that good again. Judging from the spreads for this week’s games, I could be in trouble. This has been, by far, the toughest group of games to pick. Out of the fourteen games, I really have no idea what to expect in ten of them—not that I know what’s going to happen in the other four but at least I have some sort of reference point in those games. This week could get ugly. It would be a miracle if I could finish at .500.  What scares me even worse is that my picks differ from the Coin Flip’s on ten of fourteen games. That makes this the most important week to date. Even more frightening is that I like the Coin Flip’s picks better than mine! That’s not good. What follows is an unorganized/grasping at straws/totally in the dark analysis of the games this week.

NYG -2.5 was

The Giants impressed me last week by beating the Broncos. Granted, they needed a last second Eli Manning to Amani Toomer touchdown to pull it out but the Giants are a good team. Their annual collapse may not be so annual anymore. There’s really no reason to think these guys can’t make a run for the Wild Card or even the division title. On the other side, Washington scored more points than they’ve scored since Mark Rypien was in the league. Joe Gibbs has the ‘Skins playing at a very high level. Mark Brunell has been rejuvenated. The running game is working. The defense is strong. Basically what I’m saying is that I have no idea who’s going to win this game.  I would normally go with the home team in this scenario, but, I came across a statistic that troubles me. Washington averages 65 MORE yards per game on offense than the Giants and gives up 146 LESS yards per game on defense. That’s a big discrepancy. I’ll take Washington.

CIN -9 gb

The Packers started the season with potentially the best QB/RB/WR threesome in the NFC. Now, it’s just Favre. Javon Walker and Ahman Green are both out for the season which is bad news for a team that only had three better than average players entering the season to begin with. Throw in the fact that Najeh Davenport and Robert Ferguson are also out and you have to wonder who’s actually going to play for the Pack.  I don’t think the loss of Green will be that big of a deal for the Packers. Green was averaging a couple feet per carry anyway so their running game really can’t get any worse. I think Tony Fisher is good for a couple feet. I don’t think I would ever pick against Favre in a line as big as nine points. Just this season alone, the Packers have lost by 2, 1, 3, and 3. I might learn to regret that stance but I’m taking Green Bay to score two meaningless fourth quarter touchdowns to cover.

DET -3 chi

If the Lions had Dre Bly, Charles Rogers, and Roy Williams for this game, I would take Detroit. Instead, the Lions have R.W. McQuarterpounder, Mike “not Roy” Williams, and Scotty “Too Hotty” Vines. The Lions were dreadful on offense against the Browns. This is going to be a low scoring snoozer. In that case, I’ll take Chicago to keep it close.

CAR -7.5 min

Out of the five Minnesota games I’ve picked this year, I’ve been right exactly zero times. That’s right. I’m 0-5. But, I found a pattern from my failures. The Vikings always cover at home and never cover on the road. This game is on the road. I don’t need to know anything else. I’ll take Carolina.

oak -1 TEN

I don’t know what to do for this game. Oakland on the road scares me. Randy Moss has not been the deep threat that we’re used to seeing. On the other hand, Tennessee got blown out by Arizona last week. McNair will be playing instead of Volek but I don’t think that means too much. I just have a feeling that Oakland is going to win this game. Thus, I’ll take the Raiders.

DAL -8.5 ari

There’s no question in my mind that Dallas is going to win this game. The question becomes, will it be a close game, or a blowout? Arizona isn’t a good team anywhere but I can only imagine that they are even a worse team on the road. On the other hand, Drew Bledsoe is terrible on the road but plays OK at home. Dallas needs a win bad. I’ll take Dallas to dominate this game.

HOU -2 cle

Let me get this straight; Houston hasn’t won a game yet and probably will be without their starting QB and their starting RB, and they’re favored? I understand that Cleveland is terrible but this game should be a PK at the very least. I’ll take Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer to cover.

NO -2 mia

These games are brutal. I suspect that New Orleans will be psyched to play a game in the state of Louisiana. That makes me think that the Saints might actually play inspired football. Although, New Orleans could not beat the Rams last week who were missing Marc Bulger, Tory Holt, Issac Bruce and their head coach. Miami has issues scoring which combined with the inspired Saints might mean a rare good performance by Jim Haslett and Co. So, I guess I’ll go with New Orleans.

jax -3 STL

If I picked St. Louis to win this game, I would have nightmares every night until Sunday. As tempting as that sounds, I’d prefer to sleep soundly so I’ll take Jacksonville to overwhelm the undermanned Rams.

SD -6 kc

I am a bit surprised by this line. Kansas City is a legitimate contender to make the playoffs and they have a prolific offense. San Diego is very much like Kansas City. If this game were being played in KC, I suspect that the Chiefs would be favored by two. So, that means Vegas thinks playing on the road is an eight point disadvantage for KC.  That’s quite a bit. I’ll take KC.

tb -11 SF

I don’t think anybody really knows what kind of team Tampa Bay will field with Chris Simms at quarterback. Part of the reason that they have been so good this season was the play of Brian Griese. Simms is no Griese. The only problem I have picking TB is that they aren’t a prolific scoring team no matter who is at QB. Still, after last week’s disaster, I don’t think I could take SF against a defense as good as Tampa’s. I’m reluctantly taking the Bucs to cover.

DEN -3.5 philly

Two weeks ago Denver was favored by three over New England and I followed my rule of never picking against New England in a spread of three or more. I lost, but I remained undeterred.  I have a similar rule for the Eagles. Philly has already beaten Kansas City and San Diego. I think those teams are every bit as good as Denver. I’ll take Philly to cover on the road.

NE -9 buff

This is a pretty big line for the Pats. They’ve struggled lately in getting pounded by Denver and San Diego. Buffalo wasn’t any better against Oakland last week. I would probably take New England with a line of -5 but -9 is just too high. I’ll take the Bills.

PITT -10 balt

Pittsburgh is a complete team and Baltimore is a disaster. Pittsburgh is at home and Baltimore is on the road. Pittsburgh is completely healthy and Baltimore is without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. I think this line is too small to be honest. I’m taking the Steelers.

My picks:


Coin Flip’s picks:


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mass Chaos can ruin BCS

Here is a look at how the remainder of the season for the BCS top 12 shapes up followed by the best scenarios for foiling the BCS's party:

1). Texas

Remaining games:

at Oklahoma St., at Baylor, Kansas, at Texas A & M, Big 12 Championship


Texas is all but a sure thing to finish the regular season undefeated. Texas A & M is the only team that could even make it close with the Longhorns. Texas will be going to the Rose Bowl.

2). USC

Remaining games:

Washington St., Stanford, at California, Fresno St., UCLA


USC will clobber Wazzou and Stanford. Playing at Cal is no easy task but the Bears aren’t anywhere near as good as they have been in the last few years. Fresno St. will be outmatched athletically. UCLA is a good team but they’ve been playing an awful lot of close games in the Pac-10. USC will also be in the Rose Bowl.

3). Virginia Tech

Remaining games:

Boston College, Miami, @ Virginia, North Carolina, ACC Championship


From what I can tell, most people think Va. Tech will go undefeated. I don’t see it. The Hokies should have no problems beating BC, Virginia, and NC. However, Miami is a 50/50 proposition and a potential match up with Florida St. in the ACC Championship game is also a 50/50 proposition. I don’t see Va. Tech winning both games.

4). Georgia

Remaining games:

@ Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, at Georgia Tech, SEC Championship


Georgia could have some issues this week without D.J. Shockley. The good news for the Bulldogs is that their defense combined with Florida’s struggling offense should give them a good chance at beating Florida. However, I would be surprised if Georgia beat Florida and Auburn. Auburn is very good. Even if Georgia can survive the regular season undefeated, they get Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship.

5). Alabama

Remaining games:

Utah St., at Mississippi St., LSU, at Auburn, SEC Championship


I don’t think there’s any way that Alabama beats LSU and wins at Auburn. If they somehow pull that off, they would then have to match up against Georgia in the SEC Championship game. There is no way Alabama finishes undefeated.

6). UCLA

Remaining games:

@ Stanford, @ Arizona, Arizona St., @ USC


UCLA should be 9-0 heading into the Arizona St. game. I would not be surprised if ASU knocks off UCLA. If UCLA can get by the Sun Devils, then that would set up the most important USC/UCLA game ever. I don’t see how UCLA can beat the Trojans on the road with such a talent discrepancy. I would be shocked if UCLA finishes the regular season undefeated.

7). Miami

Remaining games:

North Carolina, @ Virginia Tech, @ Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, ACC Championship


Miami has been on a roll lately. They’ve won five straight games by 20+ points and haven’t allowed a team to score over seven points in four straight games. Miami should be 6-1 heading to Blacksburg. If Miami can beat Virginia Tech, they will likely get a rematch with Florida St. in the ACC Championship game. Miami could finish # 3 in the BCS if they can win out. Also, if Texas or USC should lose, Miami would probably be in line for the Rose Bowl.

8). LSU

Remaining games:

N. Texas, Appalachian St., @ Alabama, @ Mississippi, Arkansas, SEC Championship


LSU only has one test left in the regular season and that is the big one at Alabama. With Tyrone Prothro out for the season, I think LSU is a better team than Alabama. If LSU can win in Tuscaloosa, they will have to play Georgia in the SEC Championship game. LSU could easily finish the regular season # 4 in the BCS if not higher.

9). Penn St.

Remaining games:

Purdue, Wisconsin, @ Michigan St


I want to think that Purdue could give PSU a game but Purdue is terrible. Penn St. should crush Purdue to set up two huge match-ups with Wisconsin and MSU. Penn St. would have to be the favorite over Wiscy at home but I’d put that game at 50/50. The Nittany Lions might not have enough firepower (with Derrick Williams out for the season) to beat Michigan St. Although, it’s possible that MSU has mailed in the rest of the season. We’ll know more this week.

10). Florida St.

Remaining games:

Maryland, NC State, @ Clemson, @ Florida


For a team that’s beaten Miami and BC, Florida St. doesn’t get much respect. Granted, that Miami win was a long time ago and wins against The Citadel, Syracuse, Duke, and Wake Forest don’t go a long way. But, Florida St. will get a chance to prove itself against quality competition down the stretch. If they beat Maryland, Clemson, and Florida, they will start opening some eyes. That would set up a battle with Va. Tech/Miami in the ACC Championship game. Florida St. probably has the best chance at impressing voters of any team in the top ten.

11). Oregon

Remaining games:

California, @Washington St., Oregon St


Oregon was looking like a sure bet to finish the regular season 10-1. But, with Kellen Clemens out for the season, Oregon could easily lose to California, if not WSU and OSU. If the Ducks can get average play from their QB, they may be able to run the table and finish 10-1 anyway.

12). Wisconsin

Remaining games:

@ Illinois, @ Penn St., Iowa, @ Hawaii


Wisconsin essentially has two games left. If they can beat both Penn St. and Iowa, they will likely win the Big Ten title outright and finish in the top five of the BCS. However, I would put Wiscy’s chances of winning both of those games at 25%

Mass Chaos Theory

If you are like me and want a playoff so bad that you sit up at night thinking of ways to convince the world that the NCAA is committing an atrocity by using the BCS, then you’re probably hoping for mass chaos for the rest of the season. Once Michigan blows their season (usually by September), I turn my focus to the BCS. I constantly try to figure out the biggest possible mess and then root for that. Usually the “biggest possible mess” can be attained in two ways. 1). As many undefeated teams as possible, or 2). No undefeated teams or one undefeated team with as many one-loss teams as possible.

As many undefeated teams as possible:

Right now, there are six undefeated teams in D-1 college football. Since UCLA plays USC and Alabama and Georgia would have to play, the highest number of possible undefeated teams at the end of the regular season is four. The easiest way for this to happen would be:

Texas wins out
USC/UCLA wins out
Va. Tech wins out
Georgia/Alabama wins out

The best possible scenario would be for there to be four undefeated teams with UCLA as one of the undefeated teams and not USC. UCLA would have every right to be in the BCS Championship game having beaten the two-time defending champs and finishing undefeated. But, UCLA would likely be behind Texas, Va. Tech, and Georgia in the BCS standings. Georgia would also be left out of the Championship game in this scenario leaving the SEC the odd-conference out two years in a row. That would make the SEC livid.

Even still, if there are four undefeated teams left and USC is one of them, that would leave Va. Tech and Georgia out of the picture which would make the ACC and SEC very unhappy. Regardless, if there are four undefeated teams, then the damage has been done.

Problems: The major problem that I see with this scenario is that there probably will only be two undefeated teams left at the end of the season (USC and Texas). Va. Tech will likely lose to either Miami or Florida St. Georgia has a rough schedule with Florida/Auburn, Ga. Tech and Alabama or LSU (SEC title game). That schedule becomes even more daunting if D.J. Shockley misses significant time. Alabama has an even rougher schedule with LSU/Auburn/Georgia (SEC title game). Chances are there will be two undefeated teams left in D-1 football at the end of the season, if any.

No undefeated teams with as many one-loss teams as possible:

Texas loses to Texas A & M or Nebraska (Big 12 title game)
USC loses to UCLA
Va. Tech loses to Miami or Florida St. (ACC title game)
Georgia loses to LSU (SEC title game)
Alabama loses to LSU (SEC title game)
UCLA loses to Arizona St.
Miami or Florida St. wins out
LSU wins out
Penn St. or Wisconsin wins out
Oregon wins out
Texas Tech wins out
West Virginia wins out
TCU wins out

This would give us 13 teams with one-loss. That would create mass hysteria in BCS-land. Hopefully, that would force the school Presidents to admit that the BCS is a ridiculous system that only exists because nobody wants to take the initiative to do what every other sport, college or pro, has done, which is have a playoff.

Problems: Hoping for Texas and USC to lose is asking for a lot. But, there is a good chance for a lot of teams to finish with one loss. The only teams on this list that will probably lose more than one game are Miami, LSU, Penn St., and Wisconsin. If Texas or USC loses, then there should be, at the very least, nine one-loss teams.

One undefeated team with as many one-loss teams as possible:

The above scenario still works even if there is one undefeated team. There would still be 12 one-loss teams. That would create chaos as to which one-loss team deserved to make the Rose Bowl. The worst case scenario is for Texas and USC to finish the season undefeated.

Problems: Again, I think Texas and USC will probably finish undefeated.

Two undefeated teams:

Believe it or not, there still could be mass chaos with two undefeated teams. They just have to be the right undefeated teams. If Texas finishes the season undefeated, then every BCS-hating, pro-playoff fan has to hope for UCLA to upset USC. If Texas and UCLA are the only two undefeated teams at the end of the season, then it is possible that Miami or LSU could have a higher BSC rating than UCLA. Even better would be if USC stayed ahead of UCLA in the BCS standings even though USC would have one loss and UCLA would be undefeated. That might be the best scenario of them all. Can you imagine a one-loss USC team getting in over an undefeated UCLA team when UCLA beat USC? That would be sweet. Regardless, if there are only two undefeated teams at the end of the season, and one of those teams doesn’t make the BCS game, all hell would break loose.

Problems: UCLA would have to beat USC on the road. And, a one-loss team would have to have a higher BCS rating than UCLA. Miami and LSU both have very tough schedules that could easily have their BCS rating higher than UCLA's assuming they win out. For the best scenario, USC would have to stay ahead of UCLA even after losing to the Bruins. I don't know if this is possible. USC has a pretty sizeable edge over UCLA right now so it could happen.

What will likely happen?

If you haven’t caught on yet, I think there’s a good chance that Texas and USC finish as the only two undefeated teams. Nobody else will be good enough to finish undefeated leaving the BCS looking as good as it’s ever looked. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Coin Flip Challenge Week 6 results

Week six turned out to be a big turning point in the Coin Flip Challenge. In the same week, one contestant had the best record of any week so far and the other contestant had the worst record of any week so far. Luckily for me, I was not the latter. I managed to pull off (don’t ask how because I don’t know) a 9-4-1 week. I feel confident and unsure about every pick I make so it never surprises me one way or another. But, to finally be rewarded with a good week feels pretty swell.

As good as my showing was, I was disappointed because I really should’ve done better. Green Bay was up 17-0 over Minnesota before losing on a 56 yard field goal. And, if you remember, I chose Buffalo to cover over Oakland simply because Randy Moss was not playing. However, Moss did play. Instead of basking in the 9-4-1 performance, I’m thinking of what could’ve been an unfathomable 11-2-1 performance. But, I won’t complain anymore. I’m content. I’ll tell you someone who’s not content and that’s the Coin Flip. He/she got mauled this week. My first two weeks (very bad) were put to shame by the Coin Flip’s 3-10-1 laugher. Here is how the standings look after the eventful week six:

Coin Flip-----34-49-3

After falling as far as nine games below .500, I’m only one game away from glory. Remember, my goal for the season was, not only to stomp on the coin but, to finish above .500. I realize that’s asking a lot but after the first two weeks, I never thought I’d be this close to the .500 marker again. Over the last four weeks, I’m 31-23-2. Hopefully, I can keep it going this week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Feature: Question of the Week

I like the freedom of choosing the topics that I write about. Generally, it means that I’m interested in, and motivated about, what I’m writing. However, I don’t have the time to explore all of the interesting topics in sports with a lengthy post. I would like to have more reader-interaction since I know that there are many things that people would like to discuss that I don’t address on this site. Since I can, and will, talk about anything in sports, I would gladly welcome a chance to peruse other topics that I haven’t addressed. I do read every comment that readers leave on my posts. I appreciate all the feedback that I receive.

This brings me to my next endeavor. I’ve been thinking about an idea that could work well with the site. I don’t necessarily like the Rush Limbaugh-type format where I talk for four hours straight and nobody else gets to say anything edgewise. I don’t know everything and my opinion isn’t the end all. I think it would be great to get a cornucopia of opinions from the various visitors that come to the site. In an attempt to bring more variance to the topics I discuss on this site, and reach my goal of having more reader-interaction, I’ll be having a “reverse” mail bag of sorts where I’ll ask a question each week and you can write in a response if you wish to opine on that particular subject. I don’t necessarily get to talk to too many people about sports so this will give me a chance to see what other people think on different subjects. The great thing about sports is that there is room for many opinions.

The questions will cover a wide range of subjects from all sports and all parts of the globe. My goal is to ask questions that people will want to respond to. I’ll ask the question on Tuesdays and then make a post with your answers on the following Tuesday. I’ll answer the question as well so you can get my take on the subject. I think it would be a good idea to keep the responses relatively short in an attempt to make the post more reader-friendly especially if there are 5-10 responses or more. I’ll put the question at the top of the site so you’ll always know what the question of the week is. I’ll post every response I get unless I start getting millions and millions of responses. If that happens, I’ll probably be on TV somewhere. If it turns out there’s a demand for this kind of format, then I’ll keep this going for as long as the site exists. If it becomes apparent that either a). I have zero readers (which would make the “reverse” mailbag really boring), or b). people are content with just reading what I have to say (which isn’t so bad), then I’ll scratch the concept.

To submit an answer for the “Question of the Week”, simply send your response to and please include your first name and where you’re from.

The first Question of the Week is: “If you were a top 100 high school football recruit (from wherever your hometown is), which five college schools would you narrow your list down to, and, which school would you inevitably choose, and why?”

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making sense of the NFC North

As you all know, the NFC North is a disaster. The Lions have moved into first place in the division two different times after a loss. The four teams in the division are separated by a mere two games. Even Green Bay, at 1-5, has a chance of winning the division. With a Wild Card birth virtually an impossibility for these teams, the only way to the playoffs is winning the division. With ten games left for each team, the winner of this division will be a result of who has the most favorable schedule, rather than who has the best team. I’ll take a look at the remaining schedule for each team and predict how things may unfold. One thing I’m quite sure about is that if any of these teams can get to 8-8, they will win the division.

Detroit Lions:

W Chicago
L @ Minnesota
W Arizona
L @ Dallas
L Atlanta
W Minnesota
L @ Green Bay
L Cincinnati
W @ New Orleans
W @ Pittsburgh

Predicted record: 8-8

Summary: The biggest game of the season for the Lions is this week at home against Chicago. I can see the Lions finishing the season at 8-8, but, that is only IF they can beat the Bears this weekend. If they lose to Chicago for a second time, then all bets are off and the Lions will be in serious trouble. I went ahead and gave the Lions a loss for their remaining road games in the division which includes @ Minnesota and @ Green Bay. If the Lions can somehow win one of those two, then that’s great but I’m not counting on it. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see the Lions win at home against Chicago, at home against Arizona, at home against Minnesota, and on the road against New Orleans. That would put the Lions at 7-8 going into the last game of the season at Pittsburgh. You might think I’m crazy for picking the Lions over the Steelers on the road but I have my reasons. In all likelihood, the Steelers will have the AFC North wrapped up by then and will give the obligatory day off to their starters. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows about this. Everyone else in the division still has to play Pittsburgh but, unlike the Lions, nobody else gets to play the Steelers on the last day of the season. This will allow the Lions a shot at a win and potentially an 8-8 record.

Chicago Bears:

L @ Detroit
L @ New Orleans
W San Francisco
L Carolina
L @ Tampa Bay
W Green Bay
L @ Pittsburgh
L Atlanta
L @ Green Bay
W @ Minnesota

Predicted record: 6-10

Summary: I have Chicago at 6-10 and Detroit at 8-8. That’s if Detroit wins this week. If Chicago wins, then that moves my prediction for both teams to 7-9. Since Chicago has already beaten Detroit once this year, a Chicago win this week would give them the tiebreak over the Lions. The game between the Lions and Bears this week is one of the most important games in the NFL this year. It’s just that nobody knows it and nobody cares. I don’t see Kyle Orton winning any games on the road this year with the exception of at Minnesota to end the regular season. Chicago always beats Minnesota. As for the predicted wins, I don’t think it’s a stretch for Chicago to beat San Francisco at home and Green Bay at home. The Bears have a rough schedule. But, they can take a strangle hold on the division with a win at Detroit this week.

Minnesota Vikings:

L @ Carolina
W Detroit
L @ NY Giants
L @ Green Bay
W Cleveland
L @Detroit
L St. Louis
L Pittsburgh
W @ Baltimore
L Chicago

Predicted record: 5-11

Summary: The Vikings have been terrible. They had a sex party on a boat. Their coach scalped his Super Bowl tickets. Their starting running back tried to use the Whizzinator to pass a drug test. They’ve had a disastrous season on the field. Yet, they’re only one game out of the playoffs. I can’t see Minnesota winning any of their road games with the exception of Baltimore and that’s a stretch. Minnesota should beat Detroit and Cleveland at home. If the Vikings played St. Louis this week, I think they’d beat them, but seven weeks from now, St. Louis should have Marc Bulger, Tory Holt and Issac Bruce back from injury. The Lions catch a big break there.

Green Bay Packers:

L @ Cincinnati
L Pittsburgh
L @Atlanta
W Minnesota
L @ Philadelphia
L @ Chicago
W Detroit
L @ Baltimore
W Chicago
W Seattle

Predicted record: 5-11

Summary: I guarantee that the Packers will not make the playoffs this year. Granted, they are only two games out of first place but their remaining schedule is brutal. They get Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle not to mention Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago (2) and Baltimore. I think Seattle will have the NFC West wrapped up by the last week of the season so they will rest their starters which might give Green Bay a victory. I think Green Bay will win at home against Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago giving them a 5-11 record. The good news for Lions fans is that, since Green Bay is pretty much out of the playoff race, they become and ally for Detroit. Green Bay still plays Minnesota and Chicago (2). Lions fans can root for Green Bay to win those games without any repercussions.

Verdict: Obviously, it’s too early to know how things are going to unfold over the last ten games of the season but it’s glaringly evident that some games are more important than others. Division games take on the importance of two games. There is a better than average chance that two teams from this division will be tied at the end of the season. This means that head to head tiebreakers are at a premium. The Lions cannot afford to lose the head to head tiebreaker to the Bears. They have to win this week. It’s a must win. I was fairly conservative in predicting the remainder of the season. I didn’t give these teams many, if any, road victories. Judging from the remaining schedule, the Lions clearly have the advantage over the rest of the division in terms of who they play and when they play them. It remains to be seen whether Detroit can take advantage of the situation. We will know a heck of a lot after this weekend.

Rochester Adams High School football rules!

I’d like to send out a congratulations to the Rochester Adams High School football team (that’s where I went) for finishing the regular season undefeated at 9-0 and ranked 3rd in Division II. Adams is 60-8 since 2000 which includes a State Championship in 2003 and State Champion runner-up in 2004. Only the mighty Terrance Taylor (freshmen behemoth at U of M and strongest high school football player in Michigan history) stopped Adams from repeating in 2004. Here are just some of the streaks that Adams has put together over the last few years:

4-1 vs. Clarkston
4-1 vs. Lake Orion
4-1 vs. Farmington Hills Harrison (Drew Stanton’s school)
8-1 in State Playoffs
6-0 vs. Troy
9-0 vs. Rochester
21-0 vs. Oakland Activities Association

Adams hasn’t lost to Troy since 1999. Troy was the #1 ranked team in the state and perennial state power just a few years ago. They haven’t lost to cross town rival, Rochester, since I was in high school (a long time ago). They’ve lost only four conference games in the last six years. They’ve won 21 conference games in a row. Check out their path of destruction.

The architect behind the Adams football dominance has been third year coach, Tony Patritto who has gone 33-3 over the last three years with two state championship appearances and one state title. His playoff record is 8-1. He was the Detroit News coach of the year in 2004. This might not sound too impressive to graduates of private schools who have had a long history of winning state titles but before Patritto arrived, Adams’ record since 1969 is 143-172.

Adams has exactly two players that weigh more than 210 pounds. They have exactly three players taller than 6’2. They have exactly zero players that are taller than 6’2 and weigh more than 200 lbs. I have no idea how you can win state championships and dominate high school football with a roster that small. If it were Division V or something like that, I could understand. But, Adams is doing their damage against the best schools in the state. Over the last three years, Adams has taken down such state powers as Clarkston (2), Lake Orion (3), Farmington Hills Harrison (2), Davison (2), Midland, Hudsonville, Birmingham Brother Rice, Romeo, and Flushing. Clearly, Patritto knows what he’s doing.

I’ve become increasingly more interested in high school football as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know if that’s because Michigan perennially underachieves and the Lions are the Lions or if it’s because my high school has given me something to look forward to. Either way, high school football is great. I hate to say something cliché but I think the passion and effort in high school football is second to none compared to college and pro. The state playoffs start this week. Adams starts off against Royal Oak Kimball. I’d like to send my early condolences to my good friend Allen T. because Kimball is going to get smoked! Here are the pairings for the state tournament. Go check out a game if you get a chance.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Coin Flip Challenge week 6 picks

This should be an excited week in the ever boring Coin Flip Challenge. There are 8 of 14 picks that differ this week which means there could be a momentum changing swing in the standings. I still hold on to a slim one-game lead. I’m 22-19-1 over the last three weeks which is a marked improvement from the abysmal 10-19-1 start that I had. Sadly, out of the five weeks of this challenge, I’ve only been over .500 one time. The same can be said for the Coin Flip. We have a combined two weeks over .500 out of ten chances. No matter how you look at it, that’s dreadful, and embarrassing.

MIA -1 kc

Miami looked terrible last week against Tampa Bay even after Griese went down. The Dolphins haven’t changed at all from the last ten years. They have a pretty good defense and an undependable offense. Ricky Williams will need at least a year before he becomes effective again. There are no playmakers on offense. Miami doesn’t even have a good running game with Ricky and Ronnie Brown. Nick Saban is a good coach but even he will need more playmakers to make the Dolphins contenders. Kansas City, on the other hand, took down the Redskins who happen to be a little better than Miami. I’m very surprised by this line. I’ll take the Chiefs.

STL -3 no

I’m still miffed about the St. Louis/Indy game. The line was Indianapolis by 14. St. Louis led for a large part of this game even deep into the second half. Yet, they still managed to lose by 17 points. I took St. Louis to cover and it was the right decision. Unfortunately, all I have is a “loss” to show for it. New Orleans seemed lifeless after losing 52-3 to Green Bay but somehow they bounced back last week to cover the spread and almost beat Atlanta. Here is my dilemma. Whenever I pick against New Orleans, they cover. Whenever, I pick New Orleans, they don’t cover. It would be surprising to see New Orleans hang with St. Louis on the road. I have no idea how the loss of Marc Bulger will effect the Rams. They moved the ball pretty well against a very good Colts defense. If I pick New Orleans, I’ll second guess myself all weekend. The pick here is St. Louis.

gb -1.5 MINN

These games are just not getting any easier. Which underachieving, train wreck of a team do I think will win this game? This would be much easier if it were at Green Bay. Everyone knows how problematic dome stadiums have been for Favre. But, any stadium has been problematic for the Vikings. Green Bay’s last performance was a 52-3 thumping of New Orleans. One win is a hot streak for these to teams. That means Green Bay is the hot team. I’ll take Favre.

indy -15 HOU

I hate picking against Houston in large spread games because Carr/Davis/Johnson are as good of a threesome as any in the league. They’re going to breakout in one of these games. Add in the fact that this game is at Houston and I’m nauseous thinking about picking against Houston. However, David Carr gets sacked 142 times per game and the Texans just go blown out by Seattle who isn’t anywhere near Indy in terms of being a complete team. I’ll take Indy.

CIN -1 pitts

Did anyone watch the overtime between Jax/Pitts last week? It was quite possibly the worst played overtime in NFL history. Tommy Maddox was the man—in a bad way. The Steelers got the ball first and immediately drove the ball down to the Jags 25 yard line in two plays. The next play Pittsburgh’s running back fumbled but recovered his own fumble for a -5 loss. The next play Maddox fumbled and Jacksonville recovered! Jacksonville went nowhere and had to punt. Maddox immediately threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to end the game. Big Ben is expected to be back and the Steelers are at home so I have to pick Pittsburgh.

PHILLY -3.5 sd

I am not comfortable picking against San Diego in a spread as big as -3.5 They went to New England under the same circumstances just a few weeks ago and they whipped the Patriots. I was wise to San Diego then and I’ll be wise to them this week too. I’ll take San Diego to keep this baby close.

CLE -3 det

I think Vegas has gone haywire over the Lions. Last week they were favored against Carolina? This week they’re underdogs to Cleveland? I don’t want to waste any more time talking about the Lions so I’ll just make my pick and move on to the next game. Detroit.

WASH -13 sf

Who would’ve thought that the Redskins would ever be favored by 13 points over anyone? The surprising thing is that I don’t necessarily disagree. Mark Brunell and Santana Moss have completely rejuvenated the Redskins offense. They surprised me big time by hanging with Kansas City on the road last week. When I initially saw the spread for this game, there’s no way that I was going to take San Francisco. But, I’ve convinced myself over the last five minutes that Washington is good enough to dominate San Fran at home.

SEA -3 dal

These two teams are mirror images of each other. Dallas was very disappointing against the Giants last week. The Cowboys were mired in a 7-6 battle of futility until late in the fourth quarter. Granted, Julius Jones was out but the juggernaut that attacked the Eagles was nowhere to be seen. I’ll take Seattle.

OAK -3 buff

I can understand this line if Randy Moss was playing but since he’s not, I’m flabbergasted by the Raiders being 3 point favorites. Buffalo isn’t great but they’re good enough to beat Oakland without Randy Moss. I’ll take Buffalo.

CHI -1 balt.

I would pay money to NOT have to watch this game. It’s going to be brutal. I’m warning you now, if this game is on wherever you live, make other arrangements. I do believe the Ravens defense is upset which means they will either kill the refs or kill Kyle Orton. I’m predicting that the refs are safe this week so I’m taking Baltimore. Plus, the Ravens get the touted return of the magnificent Kyle Boller.

ARI -3 tenn

I like games like this. Arizona is the home team and they’re favored. However, I think Tennessee is the better team. It’s an easy pick for me. If I get this game wrong, there will be no second guessing. Tennessee covers.

NYG -2 den

As good as Denver has been, this is an obvious indictment as to how awful Vegas thinks Jake Plummer is. The Broncos have won four in a row including a dismantling of the Patriots, yet, they are underdogs on the road against the Giants! Picking Jake Plummer on the road is like passing the car in front of you around a bend where you can’t see oncoming traffic. It’s possible that there’s not another car coming in the other direction for miles. Likewise, it’s possible that there’s a semi-truck immediately around the bend. If I were driving, I would definitely not pass in this situation. But, I’m not driving thus the consequences of being wrong won’t be certain death. So, I’ll take the better team and go with the Broncos.

ATL -7 nyj

This line sucks. The Jets have been playing very well on defense which makes me nervous. But, I like pain so I’m taking Atlanta to cover.

My picks:


Coin Flip picks:


Coin Flip Challenge week 5 results

It wasn’t an all together bad showing since both the Coin Flip and I finished at, or above, .500 for the week. However, I think I was robbed by the St. Louis/Indy game. That game was tight throughout until the very end. I still don’t know how the Rams could play so well for three quarters and still get blown out. That game proved the be the difference in the week since it game the Coin Flip an 8-6 record and game me a 7-7 record. That moved the Coin Flip within one game of the lead in this waste of time challenge. Hopefully, I can bounce back next week and extend my lead.

Here is how the challenge standings look entering week 5:

Coin Flip---31-39-2

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Darko Time

Detroit fans jumped on board the Lions and Tigers bandwagons in droves this season. Many people thought that the Tigers would contend for the Central Division and perhaps sneak into the playoffs with a Wild Card berth. More than a few people thought that the Lions could be playing at home in the Super Bowl this year. But, why? What did the Lions ever do on the field to garner such faith? What did the Tigers ever do to prove they could win consistently over a month, let alone, a year? The fact of the matter is that Detroit fans bought the hype and got ripped off. Neither the Tigers or the Lions had a prayer of winning big this season. All it took was five minutes of looking at the rosters and coaching staffs to realize that. Nonetheless, Detroit fans took the bait.

Meanwhile, Darko has been vilified in the media for being the bust of all busts. Never mind the fact that Darko has only done exactly what he was asked to do when he was brought to Detroit. His directions from Larry Brown and Joe Dumars were short and to the point; sit down, be quiet, and don’t get in the way. Darko has done that job remarkably. It’s not Darko’s fault that Larry Brown loves the idea of a two-man bench. Joe Dumars said it loudly and clearly when Darko was drafted. This is a championship-caliber team. Darko is a pick for the future. Yet, four months later, schools of weapon-wielding people were organizing a lynching while throwing around the word “bust” and ripping on Darko for being soft. The Lions and Tigers have let down Detroit time and time again. But, for some reason, Detroit fans jumped into the deep end without thinking twice. On the other hand, Darko hasn’t let anyone down. Yet, he can’t get a break from anyone. This is sad because Darko deserved better from his hometown fans.

This will be a moot point soon because everyone will be jumping on to the Darko bandwagon soon enough but my point is that he deserved the benefit of the doubt before he started getting meaningful minutes, not after. I will say that Darko has taken much more abuse from the national media than from the Detroit media. However, I've seen my fair share of Darko bashing from Detroit fans. I don't see how anyone could have an opinion on Darko since he hasn't been given a chance yet. I've personally reserved judgment until he gets his time to shine. I admit that I've had my doubts as I'm sure even the most spirited Darko fans have as well. But the fact remains that he's only 20 years old and was glued to the bench by Larry Brown in each of his first two seasons. The same thing happened to Jermaine O'neal in Portland.

For those of you that want a closer look at the drafting of Darko and how that has played out so far, take a look at an article that I wrote comparing Darko and Joey Harrington last summer. For those of you who haven’t noticed, Darko’s got game. He’s leading the NBA in blocks per game so far in the pre-season. He’s been noticeably productive in all four games in the pre-season thus far. Flip Saunders is allowing him to face the basket which is Darko’s strength rather than trying to shove a square block into a round hole like Larry Brown did when trying to make Darko a post player. In game 2 of the pre-season, Darko had 10 points and 9 rebounds in only 18 minutes. In game 3 of the pre-season, Darko had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in only 21 minutes. And, in game 4, Darko had 9 points in just 22 minutes. Darko is only 20 years old. He’s the same age as a college sophomore or junior. I doubt many 20 year olds could come in and contribute the way he’s contributing so far. Joe D’s plan for Darko is unfolding perfectly. Things are going just the way he laid them out when he drafted him. Darko will be a valuable member of the bench this year and will still not be expected to make extraordinary contributions. In about two months, nobody will remember how much heat Darko took for no reason at all. But, the fact will remain that Darko was “hung out to dry” by not only the national fans and media, but by some of the local fans and media as well.

When the Pistons were eliminated in the NBA Championship against the Spurs, I was not looking forward to this season by any means. The Pistons were not going to improve with Larry Brown as the coach. The Pistons offense was miserable and there was no hope in sight with the top six players being permanent fixtures in the rotation. Slowly, but surely, Joe Dumars made changes in the off-season. I believe that those changes have added up to a whole new outlook for the 2005/6 Pistons. Flip Saunders will be a huge addition for the Pistons as he actually knows how to coach offensively. He will allow his players to take advantage of their talents and the oppositions weaknesses rather than do the same thing over and over again without ever changing. The bench will be reminiscent of the Alternatorz that featured Jon Barry and Corliss Williamson. But, I think this year’s bench will be even better. Antonio McDeyess, Darko Milicic and Dale Davis give the Pistons three quality big men off the bench. Carlos Delfino made an amazing twisting drive to the basket last night in one of my dreams (seriously) so maybe he’ll have a good season, too. Maurice Evans is a dynamic defender with athletic ability. The bench is deep with players that are athletic and, more importantly, not offensively challenged.

Think of the weaknesses for the Pistons last season. If you came up with the same ones that I did (mind-numbing scoring droughts, weak bench, and poor game plans) then every weakness from last year has turned into a strength this year. The offense should be much improved and noticeably more efficient. The bench should be one of the deepest in the league. And, Flip Saunders has been lauded for his ability to draw up a good game plan. I went from not looking forward to the season at all four months ago, to looking forward to this season more than any. There’s really only one person I have to thank for that and it’s Joe D. This season could be like a dream; Darko making significant contributions, the offense playing efficiently, and Carlos Delfino making twisting drives to the basket.

Tip: The over/under in Vegas for Pistons wins is 50.5. Is there really any doubt that the Pistons will win 51 games this year? This is the lock of locks. If you can find this over/under anywhere, and you like to gamble, this line is way too easy. The Pistons have won 54 games in each of the last two seasons and that’s without any semblance of an efficient offense.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Some Random Stuff

--The Tigers were dreadful in one-run games in 2004. They finished an amazingly bad 12-27. It was noted by many experts that the only thing keeping the Tigers from breaking through was their record in such games. The Tigers actually improved considerably in 2005 in which they finished 22-26 in one-run games. Conversely, the 2005 Cleveland Indians lost 36 one-run games. Yes, that’s 3-6. The Indians only lost 69 games total. It’s been close to forty years since a team has had a bigger percentage of overall losses come from one-run games. Yet, that did little to prevent the Indians from winning 93 games. On the other hand, the 2003 Tigers (one of the worst teams in MLB history) won over 50% of their one-run games. Needing to improve the bullpen was a good company line entering the season but the Tigers stunk in 2004 and 2005 because the team stunk. On the other hand, the Indians were good in 2005 because their team was good. Hopefully, any notion that the Tigers haven’t been good because of their inability to win one-run games or some other quick fix explanation can be put to rest. Just like people said last season, “imagine how good the Tigers would be if they had just fared .500 in one-run games” the same people could say “imagine how bad the Tigers would be if they hadn’t improved their record in one-run games”. Here are some links on predicting or not predicting one-run games for anyone who is interested.

--Last week, I wrote a post about the AL MVP race. I concluded that the race really shouldn’t be close and that no writer in America could reasonably make an argument for David Ortiz over Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez outperformed Ortiz with the bat and he plays exceptional defense. Remember, Ortiz plays no defense—literally. Anyhow, the statistic came out that David Ortiz had hit 19 home runs that either tied or gave Boston the lead this season. As you would expect, this sent Red Sox nation into hysteria. Never mind that nobody knows what that actually means. Personally, I have no idea what the significance of 19 home runs tying or giving a team the lead means. Is that good or bad? How can someone know just by rattling off a number like that? I was curious as to how Arod stacked up in this category. Thankfully, an article in Sports Illustrated answered my question. It turns out that Arod also hit 19 home runs that either tied or gave the Yankees the lead. In this same article, Boston pitcher Mike Stanton, says that Ortiz should clearly win the MVP race because he’s hitting “.380” after the seventh inning. First, even if Ortiz was hitting .380 after the seventh inning, there are nine innings at a minimum in a MLB game. Each inning is as important as any other inning. Second, it would help Stanton’s argument if Ortiz actually did hit .380 after the seventh inning and NOT .290 (which is what he actually hit after the seventh inning) which is lower than Ortiz’s batting average for the entire season. The David Ortiz-clutch hitter campaign was in full force during Boston’s first round playoff series against Chicago. Now that Boston has been eliminated, maybe that campaign is over. But, to Ortiz’s credit, he hit something like .600 when facing left handed pitchers named Jason after the 13th inning in games decided by 10 or more runs. So, maybe he should win the MVP.

--The Detroit News had an interesting article this morning about Amare Stoudemire’s surgery that will keep him out of action for four months. This surgery was the same one performed on Penny Hardaway, Terrell Brandon, Jamal Mashburn, and Allan Houston. None of those players ever came close to being the player that they were before the surgery. The article mentions that players undergoing micro-facture surgery often experience a noticeable reduction in explosiveness around the basket. As we all know, that’s Amare’s “bread and butter.” For those who haven’t seen Stoudemire play, he’s an unbelievable talent. Think Antonio McDyess ten years ago but ten times better. At 22, he had a real shot at becoming the most dominant power forward the game has seen. He dominated the Spurs (and Tim Duncan) in the playoffs this past season and he’s only 22 years old. I hope that Stoudemire can come back from this injury. It would be too cruel for a player with that much talent to go the way of Penny Hardaway.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tigers can now lose with dignity

I have been on a hiatus from writing, or even thinking, about the Tigers but I’ll make an exception by commenting a little bit on the hiring of Jim Leyland. First, let me say that I didn’t buy all the Tigers hype entering this season. There were many people that picked the Tigers to make the playoffs. My prediction was that the Tigers would be lucky to finish at .500 but that it was plausible. In a way, I actually did by into the hype. Even saying the Tigers had a 50/50 shot at finishing at .500 turned out to be going overboard. We were all fooled—even the people that had tempered their expectations. Imagine the disappointment when you go into the season with a “you have to prove it to me first” attitude so you don’t get burned, only to find that you were let down anyway. That’s what the Tigers do to their fans. Everything is a let down. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. So, please excuse me if I’m not jumping through hoops at the hiring of Jim Leyland. The Tigers could literally hire Casey Stengel and I wouldn’t care (although, it would be pretty cool if they could somehow pull that off).

However, I promise that I will put my disappointment aside and give the Leyland hiring an unbiased look. All things aside, I love the hire. I think it’s a great move. Judging from how quickly this move took place, I suspect that Dave Dombrowski had his mind made up a long time ago. Leyland and Dombrowski won a World Series together with the Florida Marlins. These guys know how to get it done which is a far cry from the leadership of the Tiger organization over the last 15 years. I’m intrigued by so many angles of this hire that it actually gives me hope (that is until I realize that it is the Tigers that we’re talking about). I think everyone was excited about the prospects of Alan Trammel returning the Tigers to glory because he is, and always will be, a Tiger. What better person to turn around an organization than a former player who made Detroit a winner in his playing days? Everyone wanted it to work. The thing with Leyland is that he provides fans with the same hope. Leyland played in the Tigers organization. He grew up as an avid Tigers fan with Jerry Glanville (yes, that Jerry Glanville). Leyland was a candidate for this same job back in the late 70’s before Sparky Anderson took over. The dream of a former Tiger leading the club to glory is still alive with Leyland. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool.

Leyland has proven that he’s a winner. But, the thing that caught my eye was the coaching staff that he assembled. He has brought in a who’s who of quality baseball men to help him. Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon are former managers. Andy Van Slyke and Don Slaught were hard-nose players who had MLB success under Leyland. Everyone hoped that Tram and Gibby could get the job done. The difference with Leyland and his staff is that we know they're capable of getting the job done. The Tigers now have proven winners leading the team. The General Manager is first class. The Manager is first class. The coaches are first class. The farm system has made a remarkable turnaround to become one of the best in baseball. If the Tigers can’t win under these circumstances, then that indicts one man—Mike Illitch. He only started “caring” about his “beloved Tigers” when the NHL went on strike. Nobody is buying his sudden fondness for making the Tigers a winner. Turning the Tigers from one of the worst teams in Major League history to a viable playoff franchise in just two years is a lot to ask of anyone. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Illitch has put his front office and players in that position. The good news is that there are few combinations better than Dombrowski and Leyland. If anyone can get it done, I would say it’s probably those two. Also, the Tigers get to shed the salaries of Bobby Higginson, Jason Johnson and Fernando Vina at a minimum. The Tigers will try to spend at least $20 million in free agency. That doesn’t mean free agents will want to come but the Tigers will try.

Jim Leyland will make sure that the Tigers don’t lose next season because of managerial missteps and poor preparation. For instance, the Tigers finished fourth in the AL in batting average at .272. However, the Tigers were also last in the AL in walks. Leyland will make sure that doesn’t happen again. What he can’t do is guarantee that certain players won’t underachieve. Here is how things may look next season with the lineup and the starting rotation:

Placido Polanco
Carlos Guillen
Chris Shelton
Magglio Ordonez
Pudge Rodriguez
Dmitri Young
Rondell White
Brandon Inge
Curtis Granderson

Pitching rotation:

Jeremy Bonderman
A.J. Burnett
Nate Robertson
Mike Maroth
Justin Verlander

The offense looks formidable on paper but that really doesn’t mean anything. The lineup was too inconsistent to mount any sort of win streak. Too many players were out with injuries. Too many players underperformed. If this lineup plays to its potential, then it could be dynamite. The good news is that Carlos Guillen should be close to 100% for the first time in two years, Mags should be more comfortable, Pudge will have his personal-life mess out of the way, and Curtis Granderson should provide a much needed boost. Nonetheless, expect the offense to be average until proven otherwise.

The starting rotation looks much better on paper than it actually is. Bonderman should finally jump into the elite status of pitchers. He had various arm issues this past year that should be remedied by next season. If the Tigers can sign A.J. Burnett, like they want to, then he will give them a solid #2 starter. Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth are as good as they will ever be. They won’t be spectacular. In fact, they will downright stink at times. Justin Verlander will likely have to take the bumps that a rookie pitcher generally takes. Basically, the Tigers could have two dependable starters and three undependable starters. That’s not a good ratio.

Finally, the Tigers are in the same division as the White Sox, Twins, and Indians. The White Sox will be just as good next season. The Indians were the hottest team in baseball over the last two months and they will continue to get better. The Twins had an off year but still managed to finish over .500. I don’t see how the Tigers can compete with such a strong division and a suspect pitching staff. The lineup will continue to be up and down. I see more of the same next season. I like Leyland, but there’s only so much a manager can do.

It’s possible for an organization to turn around in a few years, but, it’s virtually impossible for an organization as bad as the Tigers were to accomplish that feat. The Tigers had the worst minor league system in baseball and the worst major league team in baseball. Illitch let things get so bad that it’ll be nearly impossible to win now. When an organization is as bad as the Tigers were in 2002, no free agents will want to come. That forces the Tigers to overpay on a player that’s still weighing his options late in the free agency season. That’s the only recourse the Tigers had to rebuild. The only reason why a player wouldn’t have signed by then is because the market was still unsure on that player’s worth for one reason or another. First, it was Pudge who was an aging catcher. Second, it was Mags who was coming off a career-threatening knee injury. The best case scenario in overpaying for veteran free agents with questions marks is that they give you three or four good years. The worst case scenario is that they are on the downside of their career.

Since the minor league system was neglected for so many years, the Tiger had no hope for a “shot in the arm” by anyone other than the players on the opening day roster. Most organizations have a boat load of prospects that are progressing towards the major leagues. However, the Tigers had one or two prospects that were even remotely capable of making an impact in the majors. Thus, when one of those guys goes down (like Kyle Sleeth) it pretty much wipes out the minor league system. Illitch let things get so bad that he couldn’t just buy his way out of it like he wanted to. The good news is that while we’re suffering as a result of Illitch’s incompetence, Dombrowski has been building a superb minor league system since 2002.

Coin Flip Challenge week 5 picks

It took four weeks, but I’m finally in first place. In all honesty, a coin flip with any talent whatsoever would be able to predict games with close to 50% accuracy. I am lucky that this particular coin flip has underachieved at 41%. As any math major or statistician will tell you, the coin flip will certainly undergo a progression to the mean the longer this preposterous challenge continues. The coin will undoubtedly climb towards the 50% correct level which means I need to be better than what I’ve been to win this thing. For better or worse, there are 9 of 14 games that differ this week. This is by far the biggest week in terms of pick differences. I’ve always said that the more picks that differ, the merrier. We’ll see. In fact, there has only been 22 differences in the first four weeks. Now, there are nine in week five alone. This is essentially two weeks wrapped in one. Can you feel the excitement?

DAL -3.5 ngy

I am not sold on Eli Manning or the New York Giants. The Giants have been abysmal over the last few years after making better than expected starts. I don’t see why this season would be any different. However, the odds of Drew Bledsoe having two magnificent games in a row seem worse than the odds of the NYG keeping this game close. So, I’m reluctantly taking Eli Manning on the road.

DET -1 car

Last week, in this same spot, I expressed disbelief that the Lions were favored over the Ravens. Apparently I didn’t realize that the Ravens were homicidal maniacs and terrible to boot. As far as I know, the Panthers are not homicidal maniacs and they are definitely not terrible. Remember how awful the Lions offense was when C-Rogers went down in his rookie year leaving Bill Schroeder and Az Akeem as the loan playmakers?
Joey Harrington + no receiving corps = disaster.

atl -5.5 NO

To my surprise, I nailed the GB/NO game right on last week. The Packers finally broke out against the hapless Saints. To make things worse for New Orleans, Deuce McCallister is out for the season. I really can’t imagine a worse season for an NFL franchise. 1). Their home stadium got destroyed by a hurricane. 2). Instead of playing all of their home games at LSU where they would be in front of Saints fans, they have to play home games in such places as New York and San Antonio. 3). They got lambasted by the Packers 52-3. 4). Their franchise running back tore his ACL and is out for the season. The odds-makers say that this line moves down to -3 if Vick doesn’t play. The way Matt Schaub looked last week against New England, I would still take Atlanta at -5.5 even if Vick doesn’t play. After last week’s performance, I can’t pick New Orleans.

CHI -3 minn

Chicago got smoked by Cleveland. The Vikings got smoked by.......(use your imagination). I don’t care how bad the Vikings have played; there is no way I’m picking a team that got blown out by Cleveland. Also, if the Vikings find themselves trailing in the second half, Fred Smoot could just pay some strippers to distract the Browns. I’ll take Minnesota.

KC -6 was

I took Denver at -7 over Washington last week and I would’ve won if it weren’t for some last second shenanigans by the Redskins. The fact of the matter is that Washington has a good defense which keeps them close. I don’t want to make the same mistake again but playing in KC can be a hostile environment. I don’t see the ‘Skins keeping up with KC’s potent offense. I’ll take KC but if Washington covers, I’m never picking against them in a big line again.

cin -3 TENN

Believe it or not, I think Tennessee might actually be turning into a decent team. The offense is moving along very well under first year offensive coordinator Norm Chow. These teams are almost mirror images of each other. The Bengals are just a year or two ahead of the Titans in terms of player development on the defensive side of the ball. I cringe at picking against the Titans because I know they can put points on the board but the Bengals defense will resist much more than the Titans defense thus I’m taking the Bengals to cover.

PITTS -3 jax

The Steelers will likely have to start Charlie Batch at quarterback against Jacksonville. Here’s a question, would you rather have Joey Harrington or Charlie Batch? The fact that I even need to ask that question shows just how terrible things are with the Lions offense. I might regret this pick because the Steelers are a good team from top to bottom, but I’m going with the Jags to keep this close. If Big Ben wasn’t hurt, I’d go with the Steelers.

BALT -5.5 cle

The NFL should put metal detectors on the sidelines and force the Ravens to go through them each time they enter the field. If the Ravens were that upset over getting blown out by the Lions, just imagine how livid they’d be if Cleveland beat them! Luckily for us, we should get to see it happen because Cleveland has a good chance of keeping this game close. I’ll take the Browns to score more points and the Ravens to beat up more refs.

TB -4.5 miami

I really don’t know what to say about this game. Tampa Bay inexplicably lost to the Vinny-led New York Jets last week. Cadillac Williams was on the sidelines which helps explain the loss at least somewhat. The Dolphins get Ricky Williams back which may or may not have a big impact. I don’t see Tampa Bay putting up big numbers on Miami so I’m taking the Dolphins.

DEN -3 ne

I said last week that I would never pick against New England as three point underdogs or more. That rule paid off against the Falcons last week and I hope it pays off against the Broncos this week.

BUFF -3 nyj

This should be a terrible game. Both of these teams stink. I have no idea who’s going to win. It’s Kelly Holcombe vs. Vinny. It’s Curtis Martin vs. Willis McGahee. It’s Ty Law vs. Lawyer Milloy. It’s a toss up wherever I look. In that case, I have to take the home team. I’m unenthusiastically taking the Bills at home.

sd -2 OAK

Oakland is a dangerous team. They’ve played close games against good teams. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they play in the strongest division in the NFL. This should be a great game to watch. I’ll take the Chargers to beat the Raiders by three points. One of these weeks, the Raiders will put it all together. I just hope it’s not this week.

SEA -9.5 hou

Seattle surprised me last week by taking down St. Louis on the road. However, the odds were that Seattle would beat the Rams sooner or later. I should’ve been wise to that. Houston has issues protecting the quarterback but they aren’t helpless. They covered the spread against Cincy earlier this year when I thought that they would get blown out. Picking Seattle to win by ten points is a lot to ask for so I’ll take Carr to get sacked ten times but lose by less than ten points.

INDY -13.5 stl.

I can’t believe the spread on this game is two touchdowns. That’s just ridiculous. St. Louis can score. Mike Martz will miss the next 4-6 weeks which could help the Rams if their interim coach has any affection for the running game. The Rams should run S. Jackson and M. Faulk 15-20 times each. I might be crazy but I have to take St. Louis. Fourteen points is a lot.

My picks:


Coin Flip Picks:


Coin Flip Challenge week 4 results

The Coin Flip Challenge is quickly going the way of the NL West. I just hope I can be the Padres and the coin can be the Giants. The winner of this thing might very well finish considerably below .500. Right now, I hold a two game lead with a scorching 43% accuracy level. I climbed into first place this week despite only picking 6 of 14 games correctly. Luckily for me, the Coin Flip only picked 4 of 14 games correctly. The good news is that I’m 15-12-1 over the last two weeks. Here is how things stand entering the fifth week of the challenge:

Coin Flip--23-33-2

I’m a bit confused by the results of this challenge so far. If I’m not mistaken, the odds of picking an NFL game correctly should be about 50% with the exception of a push. There have only been two pushes in the four weeks of this challenge. So, based on the odds of picking games that are 50/50, half of the weeks should be above 50% and half should be below 50% (not counting pushes). However, out of the eight weeks of picks (four for me and four for the coin) there has been exactly one week over 50%. One out of eight! I’m confused. We have picked 50 games correctly out of 116. It just seems that my picks (and the coin) have been unreasonably bad. It seems that both of us should be experiencing a progression to the mean in the future. If that doesn’t happen, then I will denounce math as a viable discipline.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blueprint for surviving Michigan Football

A good portion of the Michigan fan-base is probably in a state of shock at the miserable start to the 2005 season. Michigan hasn’t been 3-3 since 1990. Lloyd Carr would be elated if his team could experience the same fate as the 1990 squad that won six in a row to finish the season at 9-3. With Iowa, Penn St., Northwestern, and Ohio. St still on the schedule as well as a possible bowl opponent, Michigan is looking at the possibility of a historically bad season. Never fear because I will guide you through these troubled times by giving you the blueprint for how to handle this situation. Michigan has put many of you in an unpleasant spot but you don’t have to lose your sanity. Just stay the course and everything will work itself out.

Fire Lloyd Carr?

I understand that watching the 2005 version of the Michigan Wolverines (or any version for that matter) can cause serious brain power shortages. However, that doesn’t give everyone a license to ignore reality. Lloyd Carr will not be fired. There is a zero percent chance of that happening. Zero. Michigan could finish the season 3-8 and Carr’s job security would be as safe as any job in the country. Bo Schembechler has said as much. Bill Martin has exactly what he wants in Carr. He’s a coach that has integrity and respect for the institution. I know there are some people that want to debate this but this isn’t up for debate. Carr will not be fired.

It was only a matter of time before a fire Lloyd Carr website popped up on the internet. I’m sure the owner of that site had grand plans for forcing a Carr ousting but he’s searching for the “pie in the sky”. The reason why I think it’s important for Michigan fans to know that Lloyd will not be fired is because it will prevent a lot of disappointment in the future. I’ve heard quite a few people say that Lloyd needs to be fired. Don’t waste your breathe. Fire and Lloyd Carr should not be uttered in the same sentence unless it involves an actual fire. An example could be, “Lloyd Carr once witnessed a fire.”

All is not lost though. Michigan fans that have wasted their valuable time clamoring for Michigan to fire Lloyd Carr should instead turn their attention to who will replace Carr. I think it’s safe to say that Michigan faithful from Santa Fe to Munich would collapse if a “Michigan Man” was hired to replace Carr. Instead of sitting back and hoping that this doesn’t happen, Michigan fans need to be proactive in letting their feelings be known. The keys here are getting the media involved and letting the Athletic Department know your concerns. If the media jumps on board of the anti- “Michigan Man” movement, then things might change. Despite what many think (including myself from time to time), the opinion of the “average” Michigan fan counts as long as it is shared by many other “average” Michigan fans. Speak your mind. If you need some ideas, take a look at a list that I put together. Don’t just sit back and put all your eggs in the “Fire Lloyd Carr” basket because that’s a waste of time.

Additionally, I don’t even think I’d be in favor of firing Lloyd Carr. He’s been a great spokesman and role model for the University. I’d have a hard time justifying firing a man who’s put so much of his life into Michigan football. This is not to say that I think he’s done a great job or that I haven’t been hoping that he’d retire for the last seven years. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. However, tact still stands for a lot in this world and Michigan would be jeopardizing its integrity by firing a man like Lloyd Carr. Carr will retire soon. It might not be the end of this season or even next season. I wish it were as soon as possible but as long as he doesn’t pull a Joe Paterno and stick around for a decade past his relevance, Carr has earned the right to retire under his own terms, not because of his football accomplishments but, because of his contributions to the University. I may be in the minority on this and I understand if you disagree with me. However, I just think it would bring negative publicity to the University.

Who to root for?

This is a touchy subject for many since rooting against Michigan will bring up the inevitable treason comparisons. Treason is bad. You don’t want to commit treason. But, rooting for Michigan to win, but being OK with a loss is not committing treason. You get to “have your cake and eat it too” so to speak. For instance, I would love for Michigan to win every game from now until the end of time. However, with the philosophy and player development of the current coaching staff, that doesn’t seem likely. The reality of the situation is that if Michigan keeps finishing strong to salvage a terrible start, people (important people) will keep proclaiming that everything is A-OK. The worst thing that could happen for the future of the Michigan football program is for Michigan to win out, finish in the top 10, and beat Ohio St. If this happens, the spin doctors (not the band) will come out with their pro-Lloyd propaganda. This will effect decisions like who will be hired in the future. A primary example of this is when Lloyd Carr decided to bring Jim Herrmann back last season. 99% of D-1 football programs would’ve fired Herrmann after fielding the worst Michigan defense in school history. Since Lloyd has done such a “remarkable” job in the past at salvaging Michigan seasons, he was able to retain Herrmann without “facing the music”. If Michigan turned this season around, Lloyd’s coaching style would be validated and there will be no lesson learned. The bottom line here is don’t be ashamed at being OK with a Michigan loss. You don’t have to root against Michigan. You don’t have to badmouth the team. I was indifferent with the loss to Minnesota this past weekend. I was actually a little relieved with the loss to Wisconsin. If Michigan beat Wisconsin, the Notre Dame loss would be swept under the rug forever as have all of Lloyd Carr’s mediocre seasons.

Some of you may be a bit apprehensive from being OK with a Michigan loss. I can understand this. You certainly don’t want to tarnish your standing as a “true” Michigan fan. Michigan needs a change in leadership. There will be no change if it isn’t evident that change is needed. If Lloyd keeps salvaging otherwise underachieving seasons, then change becomes less evident. A good friend of mine had an interesting opinion on this situation. He said that there is no way that Lloyd Carr will get fired no matter how bad the team performs. So, it does no good to hope for a Michigan loss since no change will come of it even if change is needed. Unfortunately, that’s the situation that Michigan fans are in now. Even an awful Michigan football season won’t necessarily prompt change. In fact, it definitely won’t prompt change. The good news is that the “hope” isn’t to root for Lloyd Carr to be fired. We already know this won’t happen. The “hope” is that Michigan’s Athletic Director, Bill Martin, realizes that Michigan could be so much better under a coaching staff that can maximize talent. Therefore, if it becomes evident to Martin that the current Michigan coaching philosophy is outdated, it will encourage him to go after a coach that can maximize talent when Carr decides to retire. This is the best possible scenario for Michigan fans to hope for. The program needs new leadership. The new leadership cannot be just a recycled member from the old leadership. The best bet for new leadership is for the current leadership to be exposed for what it is.

To recap, Michigan fans are actually in a win/win situation. Yes, I said win/win. Embrace this because it doesn’t happen often. If Michigan wins, then Michigan wins and everyone is happy. If Michigan loses, then there is a good chance that the problems with the current Michigan coaching staff will encourage Bill Martin to hire a dynamic head coach that can maximize talent and expose opponent’s weaknesses.

Dealing with the Kool-Aid people

As of this past summer, I was under the impression that the pro-Lloyd movement was much bigger than it actually was. Of the people that were still on the Lloyd ticket last summer, most have since converted due to the miserable 3-3 start to the 2005 season. However, there are still some stragglers out there. This bunch may be small but they are definitely not short on being vocal. This group can be hostile and often uses insults and expletives when trying to defend their view point. The best way to deal with these people is to laugh at them and then avoid them. However, some of their arguments may get under your skin a bit. So, I will detail their arguments so you can know what to expect and chuckle to yourself when they inevitably use one of these whimsical defenses to validate their point.

The Defense

The first line of defense for the pro-Lloyd movement is the “Michigan wins 9/10 games and goes to a bowl game every year” tactic. This is probably used the most but is the least effective since most Michigan fans understand that expectations at Michigan are higher than that especially considering that Michigan recruits as well or better than every team on the schedule. These people can’t criticize Michigan for fear that they actually think they are criticizing themselves. I’m as big of a Michigan fan as there is but I certainly know where I end and Michigan begins. People that use this defense generally feel that they are the last heroic defender of Michigan football. Unbeknownst to them, nobody is attacking Michigan football. The criticisms are in regards to the leadership. These people also try to hypnotize everyone to think that all of the Michigan problems are specific to this year only. Oh how great it must have been to live in their delusional little world over the last eight years. That way, we could all be convinced that Michigan is perfect sans this totally isolated (ahem) 2005 season. Where can I get that kool-aid you’re drinking? It looks refreshing.

The second line of defense for the pro-Lloyd movement is the cleverly designed but fatally flawed double-edged excuse. This argument is based on the premise that Michigan is a young team. The argument goes something like this; If Michigan wins, Lloyd Carr has done a tremendous job in winning with a youthful team and all the credit goes to the coach and not the players. If Michigan loses, then how on Earth can you expect Lloyd to win with such a youthful team? This argument is tried and true for the satisfied few. Lloyd is the best coach in the world either way.

The third line of defense deals with Lloyd Carr as a man of high character who will turn the players into men. This argument assumes that no other coach in the world is capable of being a man of high moral character. A sub-category of this defense deals with Lloyd’s ability to keep the Michigan program running. This argument assumes that no other coach could consistently under utilize talent and lose to teams of inferior ability. Are we really experiencing a shortage of those types of coaches?

The fourth line of defense goes something like this; “If Lloyd Carr is so bad, then who else is out there that could do the same thing he’s done?” This is a trick question because no matter what your answer is, they will attack your choice like a rabid Wolverine (no pun intended). This argument is like the third line of defense where it assumes that no other coach in America is capable of leading Michigan to 9/10 win-seasons or, dare I say, even better than that. Don’t argue the merits of your coaching selection with these people. Your efforts will prove to be futile. Just walk away. Walk away.

The fifth line of defense is a cousin to the fourth line of defense. The main idea here is to point out other struggling “major” programs and simply say, “Every program experiences a down-cycle, just look at Oklahoma.” This defense also includes attacking all first year coaches when they lose. For instance, when Urban Meyer lost to Alabama two weeks ago (God forbid Meyer actually loses a game), this defense was used to show that every coach loses so that must mean that Carr is doing a good job. The last I heard, there has never been a coach that went undefeated over his entire career. Never mind the fact that Meyer is trying to install his coaching philosophy on a team that he didn’t recruit, or the fact that Meyer went 8-5 in his first season at Utah before going undefeated. Somehow, someway, one loss by another coach proves that Lloyd Carr is doing a superb job. This excuse has also been used with Bob Stoops. Oklahoma is experiencing a down year after a five year stretch that went; 13-0, 11-2, 12-2, 12-2, 12-1. If my math serves me correctly, that’s a total of 60-7, or a 90% winning percentage. So yeah, Stoops is terrible because he’s having a down year. Just as an FYI, Lloyd Carr has won eleven games exactly one time in his eleven seasons. Stoops won 11 games in five straight seasons including four seasons of 12+ wins.

The sixth line of defense is to simply attack the person with a verbal barrage. This includes calling people “idiots” and accusing them of “not being a true fan of Michigan football.” I suspect that those of you who haven’t experienced this argument don’t believe that it actually exists. However, I assure you, it does.

Fake Crow Eaters

Some of the recent “converters” will pretend to “eat crow” by saying something like, “It turns out that I was wrong about the direction of the Michigan football program. Things are not good etc.” Don’t be fooled. As soon as Michigan starts turning things around (which will inevitably happen because Michigan is Michigan) these people will be the first ones to jump back on the bandwagon proclaiming how they can’t understand how anyone could think there was ever anything wrong in the first place. They’ll berate everyone who criticized Lloyd Carr and call them “idiots” and “scum”. They’ll sit on their high-horse and pretend nothing happened. This is another desirable position to be in because you can say whatever you want and just jump back and forth ridiculing everyone who’s not on your side on that particular day. Ignore these people.

Another characteristic of the pretend “crow eaters” is that they won’t ever give credit to the people that saw this coming years ago. They’ll preface their “crow eating” by taking a shot at the people that were wise to the reality of the stagnating Michigan football program long ago. They’ll chalk it up to something like “luck” or “accidentally being smart” but totally give themselves credit for finally coming to the realization that they’ve been living in a bubble for eight years. They’re smart for being the last ones to realize something so obvious that you couldn’t miss it if it hit you square in the face, but you’re stupid for realizing this along time ago. Makes sense I guess.

The Fence Riders

Another group that you’ll probably have to deal with is the “fence riders”. These people love to say things like; “I agree that Michigan is having a terrible season and it’s inexcusable and the blame falls on Lloyd Carr, but how much more can you ask for than 9/10 win seasons and consistently finishing in the top 25.” This stance contradicts itself but it’s convenient because they don’t have to admit that they are unhappy with Carr but they still get to put the blame on him. This is another version of the double edged excuse. In general, the fence riders are people that like to criticize anyone who criticizes the Michigan program but have no issues criticizing the Michigan program themselves. This is kind of like, “it’s OK for me to talk about my family, but if anyone else talks about my family there will be hell to pay.” The problem is that the fence riders aren’t any more family to the Michigan football program than anyone else. So basically, the fence riders are either a). confused or b). liking the perks of riding the fence where they can agree with everyone and disagree with everyone at their own discretion. I doubt many of these people are confused. If Michigan had underachieved for one or two seasons, then I could understand people riding the fence. However, with consistent underachievement over ten years, the jury is definitely in and the verdict is guilty on all charges of stagnation and disappointment. This is the least admirable stance because it requires no conviction whatsoever. It’s basically, “yes, but no.” At least the pro-Lloyd movement stands by their man through thick (maybe not Alan Thicke) and thin. The fence-riders are like gnats. I implore you to avoid these people. They will only anger you to know end.

Be prepared for the possibility of a historically bad season

Some of you may be getting through this tumultuous start by reminding yourself that as long as Michigan wins out, everything will be OK. Michigan is 3-3. If Michigan finishes 9-3, than everything will be fine. This is a kin to an alcoholic dealing with a drinking problem by simply avoiding places that have beer. As long as there’s no beer around that’s a sound strategy. As most people know, the best way to deal with this is to remove the threat of alcohol all together by attacking the cause of the addiction. Michigan fans that are relying on a 6-0 finish are setting themselves up for a miserable disaster. This is where I come in. Hopefully, I’ve been able to calm your anxieties a bit so far. However, you have to be prepared to deal with the worst possible scenario as far as wins and losses go. Here is how things could unfold if everything goes wrong:

Penn St.

Penn St. is undefeated and firmly in the top 15. I don’t think Penn St. is nearly as good as their record indicates but, nonetheless, We Are Penn St. beat Ohio St. and stands undefeated. This could easily be a loss.

At Iowa

Iowa is 2-1 in their last three games against Michigan. Iowa has just as good of a chance of winning this game as Michigan does. This could easily be a loss.

At Northwestern

Northwestern put it to Wisconsin. They have a passing game and a running game. There is no reason for Northwestern to beat Michigan but it’s happened before. Michigan has at least a chance of losing this game.


Terry Hoeppner is doing good things in his first season in Bloomington. In fact, Indiana is only two wins from a bowl game. Michigan would have to play very poorly to lose this game.

Ohio St.

It would take a miracle to win this game. It’s not that Ohio St. is that good but rather Ohio St. has a great defense and Michigan can’t seem to beat Ohio St. anymore.

It is not out of the question for Michigan to go 2-3 in their last five games. This would leave Michigan at 5-6. Everyone knows that 5-6 means no bowl game. Even if Michigan manages to go 3-2 and qualify for a bowl game, a loss in the bowl game would leave Michigan at 6-6. A sub .500 season or a .500 season is certainly a possibility. That would be disastrous for a school that recruits as well as any program in D-1 football. However, the worst case scenario is possible, and you need to be prepared for the possibility. Just remember, the worse the current regime looks, the less likely that Bill Martin will hire someone from the current regime to run the program after Carr leaves. Remember the win/win situation. Ohio St. was going through the same thing under John Cooper. Cooper couldn’t beat Michigan and underachieved with many National Championship- caliber Buckeye teams. Ohio St. finally got a clue (despite all of those 9/10 win seasons and bowl games) and gave Cooper the boot. History shows that Ohio St. won a National Championship two short years later. I’m not saying that Jim Tressel is a genius coach but John Cooper was keeping Ohio St. from reaching the pinnacle. It wasn’t so much that it was Tressel as it was that it was NOT John Cooper. Clearly that doesn’t mean that any coach would be better than Lloyd Carr but you get the idea.

You can change

The worst sports experience in my life came during the Michigan/Michigan St. game in 1999. I was more irate than at any other time in my life. I turned the TV off in the second half and sat on my bed seething. I was so angry that I couldn’t do anything but sit there and fume. My mind was filled with vivid imagery of Bill Burke completing pass after to pass to Plaxxico Burress with no Michigan defensive back within ten yards. I literally lost control of my anger. It is not a day that I remember fondly. Over the last 15 years, I have experienced many days similar to that as a result of Michigan football.

I don’t mind when Michigan loses because they were beaten soundly by a better team (like USC, Florida St., Ohio St. ’98, and Tennessee to name a few). However, I do mind when Michigan is clearly out-coached and/or outsmarted. A Michigan loss, or lousy performance, ruined one too many Saturday evenings for me. However, I was able to overcome my anger last season. Going into the 2004 season, I said to myself, “Self, I know what’s going to happen. Michigan will lose to Notre Dame even though Notre Dame doesn’t have half the talent as UM. Michigan will lose to Ohio St. Michigan will play like crap. I know its coming.” If you know something like that’s coming, you can either sit there and take it square on the head, or you can move out of the way. I finally moved out of the way and it paid tremendous dividends. Nothing Michigan did angered me last season because I knew it was coming.

I entered the 2005 season with the same outlook. In fact, I wrote two marathon articles/posts on the subject in July. Contrary to what some people think (actually, 99% of the population probably does not think this) I didn’t get lucky or just happen to be right in the same season that Michigan football collapsed. I knew that if I wrote these articles after the season started, that people would accuse me of being Chicken Little. I didn’t get lucky with the articles. I could’ve written them three years ago or five years ago. I just never thought to put it down on paper before this season. As a result, I am never upset on Saturday no matter how terrible Michigan plays.

Here’s a question for you, would you purposely put your hand on a hot stove after getting burned? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you keeping letting Michigan burn you when you know what’s coming? This doesn’t mean that you hate the stove or want to disown the stove. It just means that you’re smart enough to not touch the stove when it’s hot. Don’t let Michigan football ruin your weekend. Think of it as peeling the skin off of a banana. The skin is the disappointment from Michigan underachievement and the banana is the joy of watching Michigan football. Enjoy the banana. Throw the peel away.

Silver Lining

Things will get better. Bill Martin is as good of an Athletic Director as you'll find in collegiate sports. He's proven that he cares what Michigan alumni and fans think time and time again. He listened to the criticism of the SBC sponsorship of the Michigan/Ohio St. games. He's changed the Athletic Department from a money hog to a money maker. You really couldn't hope for a better person to be in charge of Michigan Football. We will all experience the revitalization that the program will undergo after the next coach is announced much like Ohio St., Notre Dame, Michigan St. and Florida just to name a few. I'm confident that the heartache and underachievement that Michigan fans have come to expect will be a thing of the past in just a few short years. The day when Michigan Football finally utilizes all of those top 10 recruiting classes is on the horizon. Put your trust in Bill Martin.

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