Monday, August 30, 2010

Podcast Episode #11 - NFC Preview (Part 2)

The 4th and final part of the Bottom of the Barrel/Pardon The Opinion preview podcast. Hopefully our NFC South and West discussions have some merit. As always, predictions are below and explanations are in the podcast. Enjoy.


Dylan Murphy

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Carolina Panthers (8-8)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers (10-6)
Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
Arizona Cardinals (7-9)
St. Louis Rams (5-11)

Bengoodfella

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (12-4)
New Orleans Saints (10-6)
Carolina Panthers (8-8)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
St. Louis Rams (5-11)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Podcast Episode #10 - NFC Preview (Part 1)

Bengoodfella is back to discuss the NFC East and NFC North. If you want to jump aboard the McNabb pity train, then you should definitely take a listen.



Dylan Murphy

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
New York Giants (10-6)
Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
Washington Redskins (7-9)

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
Chicago Bears (7-9)
Detroit Lions (4-12)

Bengoodfella

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
New York Giants (10-6)
Washington Redskins (7-9)
Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Chicago Bears (8-8)
Detroit Lions (7-9)

Monday, August 23, 2010

5 Underrated NFL Stories

I am not John Clayton. I will not regurgitate everything reported over the past month concerning the NFL. There are some stories (more like non-stories) that have continued to fly under the radar. More importantly, there are some things which need to be stories. Well, fear not. I am here to shine light upon those deserving of criticism or advice.

1) Josh McDaniels - We all witnessed how he gutted the Denver roster to stroke his massive ego. I've written about this before. In a righteous world, McDaniels would have been fired for his blasphemy. Matt Cassel over Jay Cutler? Unnecessary and cruel. So here's the question which has yet to be addressed:

Why is he not on the hot seat?

Obviously the Broncos' 6-0 start bought him a grace period. But with the Tebow project at the single A level and no Elvis Dumervil or Brandon Marshall, I don't see how the Broncos win more than 5 games this season. Which begs the question, will McDaniels be jobless at the end of the season?

2) Tavaris Jackson on the trade block - In his last full season 2 years ago, he lead the Vikings to a 10-6 record and a playoff birth. Considering his horrendous quarterbacking skills, it was not too bad a job. If the Brett Favre saga has taught us anything, it's that the Vikings have zero confidence in Tavaris as their quarterback of the future. So why not deal him for a #3 WR, especially with Harvin suffering from migraines? When Brett does eventually retire, the Vikings will look for a new QB. If they were smart, they'd deal Tavaris while he still has some value and the team remains a serious Super Bowl contender.

3) The Matt Millen era continues - There's no need to harp on Matt Millen's obsession with WRs and skill positions players in general. But now that new management is in place, very little has changed. Most GMs realize the importance of the offensive line. Yet somehow this message continues to elude Lions management. They have made no attempt to acquire offensive lineman through free agency, and have continued to upgrade the skill positions (Nate Burelson, Jahvid Best). Defensively, Van Den Bosch and Suh will obviously help. As much as I want to, I cannot criticize Martin Mayhew on that front. But the downfall of every young QB is, without fail, the offensive line. Talent is meaningless when time to throw is at a premium (see David Carr). So everyone please jump off the Mayhew bandwagon for a second. He's better than Millen, but not by much.

4) Mike Martz is still an offensive coordinator - For someone who's a supposed offensive genious, Martz has bounced around quite a bit over the last few years. Since his firing from Saint Louis, he's made 3 stops in 5 NFL seasons, including Detroit, San Francisco, and now Chicago. Neither Detroit nor S.F. improved with Martz on board. Something tells me we'll see the same thing in Chicago.

One more thing that seems to go unnoticed:

Martz's offensive system is based on timing. The quarterback releases the ball and the receiver is expected to be there. If he's not, interceptions become an issue, no matter the quarterback. Maybe the Chicago front office hasn't noticed, but Jay Cutler is, to put it lightly, turnover prone. Does this not seem like a match made in turnover hell?

5) Jack Del Rio on the hot seat - I mentioned this in the AFC South/West podcast, but how is Del Rio still employed? Jacksonville has accopmlished all of nothing the past 5 years. Yes, they have been a wildcard team a few times, but Maurice Jones Drew now suffers from Barry Sanders syndrome: he's wasting the best years of his career on a miserable team. Then again, this is Jacksonville. The same team that has blackouts more often than a Rex Ryan expletive. Just move to L.A. already.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Podcast #9 - AFC Preview (Part 2)

Bengoodfella is back from The Bottom of the Barrel to finish our AFC preview, this time discussing the AFC South and West. As I mention at the beginning of the podcast, let us know what you think about our picks, predictions and takes concerning the AFC teams.

Here's the full list of our picks.

Dylan Murphy

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Tennessee Titans (10-6)
Houston Texans (8-8)
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)

AFC West

San Diego Chargers (11-5)
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Oakland Raiders (6-10)
Denver Broncos (4-12)

Super Bowl Pick: Indianapolis Colts

Bengoodfella

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Tennessee Titans (10-6)
Houston Texans (8-8)
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

AFC West

San Diego Chargers (13-3)
Oakland Raiders (8-8)
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
Denver Broncos (6-10)

Super Bowl Pick: San Diego Chargers

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Podcast Episode #8 - AFC Preview (Part 1)

Bengoodfella, writer of The Bottom of the Barrel, joins me to discuss the upcoming NFL season. Today's podcast, recorded Monday, features an AFC East and North preview in addition to other high quality NFL insight from Ben.


Check out our AFC East and North predictions (with explanations in the podcast) below:

Dylan Murphy

AFC East

1) New York Jets (10-6)
2) Miami Dolphins (10-6)
3 New England Patriots (9-7)
4) Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North AFC North

1) Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
2) Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10)
4) Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Bengoodfella

AFC East

1) Miami Dolphins (11-5)
2) New England Patriots (10-6)
3) New York Jets (9-7)
4) Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North

1) Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
2) Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)
4) Cleveland Browns (6-10)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Solving Baseball's Crisis

Outside The Lines reports that umpires miss 1/5 close calls on average. A scary thought. We all know that replay is needed in baseball, we just cannot agree to what extent. Some say just playoffs. Some say on every close call.

On the flip side, baseball games are way too long. Especially for those Yankee fans who must endure Girardi's constant micro-managing. Too often games are held up by unnecessary meetings on the mound, pitching changes to ensure favorable matchups, and Chuck Knoblauch-like routines between every pitch. Well, fear no more. Here are two solutions to baseball replay which will keep everyone happy and the game moving along. Excluding, of course, those baseball "purists" who want no replay at all.

Before I go into the solutions, first I must address those who say, "it's the way we've always done it." Maybe so, but this technology did not exist in 1950. Just because old people are afraid of computers does not mean they must fear technology in other applications as well.

Anyway here are the solutions.

1) The NFL Challenge System

Managers can challenge two calls (excluding balls and strikes) per game. If they correctly challenge both calls, they receive a 3rd. To keep things uniform throughout all sports, the MLB can even fashion its own red challenge flags for all managers to throw out of the dugout. While this serves the higher purpose of allowing replay, it will also eliminate the manager/umpire argument in which only two possible things happen:

1) No change in call, time is simply wasted.
2) No change in call, the manger is thrown out of the game.

In football, however, an incorrect challenge is punished through loss of a timeout. Although NFL style timeouts do not exist in baseball, they do appear in a different sense: the visit to the mound. If a manager loses a challenge under this new system, all visits to the mound, outside of pitching changes, are banned for the rest of the inning. Therefore, we eliminate random visits from the SS, pitching coach, or whoever else believes they can cure the hurler's pitching maladies.

2) Booth Review

In the last two minutes of each NFL half, plays are subject to booth review by the referee's decision. With that power, refs tend to pocket their whistles and review the play after the fact, as opposed to blowing the whistle too early and eliminating any replay possibility. Instead of handing replay power to managers, the MLB can allow only umpires to call upon replay review (once again, excluding balls and strikes).

The catch, however, is that the umpire who makes the reviewable call has no say as to whether the call is reviewed. Therefore, the biased umpire who believes he has made the correct call is eliminated from the discussion, and the remaining 3 umpires decide via majority vote. In the playoffs, this solution does not lose its functionality. Since exactly two more umpires are used, the number of judging umps remains odd (5, excluding umpire who makes the call).

The counter argument, of course, is why would the right field umpire have any say on a call made at 3rd base (or any other case in which the ump is far from the call)? Well, despite what fans think, umpires are rational. If an umpire is not sure, the MLB would suggest to all umps that they side in favor of replay in those situations. If the point is to ensure correct calls, then umps in favor of replay do not hurt anyone.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Young And In Love

Jim Dolan reminds me of a high school nerd who finally has the attention of the most popular, beautiful girl in his grade. Even though he knows that the girl's sudden flirtatious behavior is only an attempt to ride his coattails to an A in math, he doesn't care. She has no real substance or worth. Even though she's attractive on the outside, her inferior intelligence is embarrassing. But he just wants the attention. So much so that he begins to ignore his real friends, the people who have his best interest at heart.

Isiah Thomas is the pretty girl.

And unfortunately for Knicks' fans, Dolan still refuses to fully welcome his friends (Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh) back into his inner circle. He is enamored by Isiah in every way. I'll even praise Isiah for a second. His voice is captivating, calm and collected. If I ignored his dismantling of the Knicks for a second, I would undoubtedly believe every word he uttered. He has a trusting voice. If he were a doctor, he'd have hands down the best bedside manner around.

But Isiah's motives are not pure. He wants the A in math. People might wonder why he wants to return to a franchise whose fan base hates him, but it's a simple answer. He still wants to prove his general managing worth. But while his determination might be higher than ever, he's playing a dangerous game. Outside of the Amar'e signing, Donnie has avoided flashy moves. If in some bizarro-world Isiah were to resume his post as Knicks' GM, he would want to appease Knicks fans quickly, thus leading to exactly what the Knicks are now trying to avoid: a quick fix. And if we've learned anything over the last 10 years, it's that there is no quick solution to basketball success. Boston and Miami stumbled upon quite the stroke of luck when their pieces fell so perfectly into place. The rest of the league, however, must do it the old-fashioned way. Slowly.

Thankfully the nerd's father (David Stern) stepped in and ended this superficial relationship. But keep in mind that this relationship ended not because Dolan wanted it to. So while way may have escaped catastrophe for now, it's still floating on the horizon.

It's hard to admit, but a part of me actually feels for Isiah in all this. With an owner not named Dolan, Isiah would have been out the door two years earlier (if not before that). Not everyone is cut out to run a basketball team. But if I were in Isiah's place, I wouldn't have resigned at the first sign of trouble. I would hang onto the GM job as long as possible, frantically trying everything to pull the Knicks out of the gutter. That's exactly what Isiah did. He tried. He failed, but he tried. Dolan ruined his reputation by allowing him to dig his own grave. Dolan should have taken away the shovel, but he didn't. So while we may blame Isiah for being a terrible GM, it's Dolan who never realized that inner beauty always trumps outer beauty.

Well, sometimes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Solution To Fantasy Football Scoring

If you missed PTO's brief fantasy football preview, check out the fantasy football podcast with David Gern here.

Much of our fantasy discussion hinges on drafting strategy. However, as most fantasy players know, the specific league scoring system always alters strategy. As Bill Simmons recently pointed out, there needs to be a universal fantasy football scoring system. Here is the oft-adopted ESPN scoring system:

Offense:
Quarterbacks (QB), Running Backs (RB), Wide Receivers (WR), Tight Ends (TE)

6 pts per rushing or receiving TD
6 pts for player returning kick/punt for TD
6 pts for player returning or recovering a fumble for TD
4 pts per passing TD
2 pts per rushing or receiving 2 pt conversion
(note: teams do not receive points
for yardage gained during the conversion)

2 pts per passing 2 pt conversion
1 pt per 10 yards rushing or receiving
1 pt per 25 yards passing

Bonus Points
2 pts per rushing or receiving TD of 40 yards or more
2 pts per passing TD of 40 yards or more
(note: the player must score a touchdown to score the points)
Penalty Points
-2 pts per intercepted pass
-2 pts per fumble lost

Kickers (K)
5 pts per 50+ yard FG made
4 pts per 40-49 yard FG made
3 pts per FG made, 39 yards or less
2 pts per rushing, passing, or receiving 2 pt conversion
1 pt per Extra Point made

The logic behind this agrees with normal fantasy strategy. Running backs have the highest value, followed by QBs and WRs. An excellent fantasy season for a QB, no matter the league, falls somewhere near 30 TDs, 10 INTs and 4000 yards. According to the ESPN fantasy system, this stellar season would accumulate 260 fantasy points (ignoring bonuses). If we assume an excellent fantasy running back to racks up 1500 yards and 15 TDs, he gets 240 fantasy points. And finally, a quality a receiver with 1200 yds and 10 TDs receives 180 points.

The 4 points per passing TD attempts to temper the QB's would be domination of fantasy. If we change passing TDs to 6 points, that excellent QB season mentioned above balloons into a 320 point season. In a one QB league, this makes a huge difference. If you miss out on an elite QB, it's typically a large drop-off. And in the end, no matter the fantasy skill of every player in the league, someone gets screwed.

ESPN attempts to equalize the QBs by reducing TD value. But in reality, this defeats the purpose of fantasy to begin with. If QBs make the most impact in real life, they should do the same in fantasy. Yet as pointed out above, this presents an inherent problem.

So how do we combine realism and pragmatism? Two QBs and 6 points per passing TD. In a one QB league, you cannot finish low in your division with a top QB. Unlike RBs, random QB's do not emerge each year. In general, we know going in who will be good, and who will be terrible. But if fantasy leagues employ two QBs and 6 points per passing TD, it achieves the same value difference as seen with RBs while maintaining the QB's higher scoring proficiency.

With this system, the difference between QB 1 and 20 last season, according to ESPN, was 201 points. Team A that drafts these two QBs would have scored 573 points. Team B that drafts QBs 10 and 11 would have scored 541 fantasy points. Essentially, 6 points per passing TD and 2 QBs evens out the QB dilemma faced by one QB leagues, but does temper QB scoring.

So why is this so important? Because real fantasy football players want skill to determine championships, not luck. By evening the scoring playing field, value becomes the key, and not luck. If you happen to miss out on the top QBs, you are not totally screwed. In the mainstream one QB, 4 points per TD system, value ultimately wins out, which is ideal for fantasy. Maybe I'm alone, but I like realism as well. In real life, a passing TD has the same value as a rushing or receiving TD. Shouldn't it be the same in fantasy?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ignorance Is Bliss

Referees represent the quintessential example of integrity for our beloved sports: they uphold the laws that govern sporting society. Take away the refs' integrity, and the Bruce Bowens of the world would reign supreme. No longer would bush league tactics hide in the shadows, but they would become an unnerving reality. Though we might detest referees for influencing (and sometimes eradicating) any championship aspirations, ultimately, they are our purest form of enablers. And now, in the last year or two, by unburdening their tortured souls in sympathetic confessions, referees have burdened us with a tidal wave of uncertainty.

Baseball needs more plays reviewed by cameras. Conspiracy theorists come to life with every terrible call in basketball thanks to Tim Donaghy. And now, another ref cleansed himself by admitting he made game-altering, incorrect calls in the 4th quarter of the 2006 Super Bowl. Is it noble of him to confess his transgressions? Sure. But frankly, we were all better off before he opened his trap.

Now that the guilt-ridden Bill Leavy has opened up pandora's box in yet another major American sport, we might as well take a look at the consequences of his actions.

1) Jerome Bettis never gets a Super Bowl title - A Bill Leavy questionable holding call brought back a Seattle pass play that advanced the ball to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line, and what ultimately would have been the go-ahead score. On the following play, Matt Hasselbeck threw a pick. So let's pretend Seattle does score a TD and wins the Super Bowl. Does Jerome Bettis retire? Does he ever in fact win a Super Bowl? How does this change our opinion of him among the greatest running backs ever? This one call seriously impacted the career of a future Hall of Famer.

2) Big Ben - This play changed him in more ways than I can count. First off, no Big Ben Super Bowl means the entire city of Pittsburgh blames him for ruining the city's return to glory. Just as the Kobe 6-24 became excusable because the rest of the Lakers picked up the slack, so did Big Ben's dismal 9-21, 123 yards and 2 INTs. For those counting at home, that's a passer rating of 22.6. This new found lack of confidence would have greatly impacted Ben's career. Maybe he doesn't feel invincible, and never crashes a motorcycle. Maybe his insecurity (due to the brutal media onslaught) affects his on-field performance; does Pittsburgh even reach the Super Bowl in '08-'09 season? Most importantly, maybe Roethlisberger realizes he cannot attack girls willy-nilly in the bathroom of a shady Georgia bar. Maybe Pittsburgh actually has a title shot this season. In the end, the rest of the NFL can blame Pittsburgh's success and Roethlisberger's poor off-field decision-making on Bill Leavy.

3) Cardinals win the '08-'09 Super Bowl - For argument's sake, let's assume the Cardinals win that year's Super Bowl because they would have faced a far inferior team than the Steelers. Kurt Warner, resting atop the NFL's highest perch, retires. That leaves Matt Leinart leading the charge for a defending champion, not exactly a comforting feeling for Arizona fans. So to whom does Arizona turn to lead the offense instead? The same man who abandoned his hometown to play for the Jets. That's right, Brett Favre.

This option would have been the most appealing to Brett by far. Considering the Cardinals won the previous year's Super Bowl, they're certain Super Bowl contenders once again. They have the league's most dynamic offense and unbelievable receivers with whom Brett can pad his stats. Most importantly, absolutely no one would sniff his quarterback throne during his tenure in Arizona, since Leinart had already proven his bust status. We have to assume Arizona would have become the favorite in the Favre sweepstakes.

Regardless of what might have happened, there's no way to know how far Leavy's blown calls might have reverberated. And thus begins the media's favorite game: speculation. I played that "what if...?" game just a minute ago with far-reaching hypotheses, but honestly, I would prefer to just ignore these pointless guesses. In fact, I wish Leavy hadn't opened his mouth at all. If he really felt guilty, he could have pulled a Jim Joyce and assuaged his guilt immediately after the game, or at least in the few days after the festivities had died down. While we might point to human error as even more reason to involve cameras and instant replays, we need to have some semblance of consistence. Either employ replay everywhere, or don't at all. I'm tired of thinking about the "what ifs...?". We don't need referees and umpires providing ammunition to those who still wallow in the misery of a loss 5 years ago. The chapter on the '06 Super Bowl had closed. But unfortunately for all football fans, Leavy reopened it.

So if you can't apologize for blowing the game right after, keep your mouths shut, refs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Remembering the Old Brett

It's that time of year again. You know, when mediocre baseball highlights dominate 2/3 of SportsCenter and 3/4 of the Top 10, and Brett Favre not making a decision becomes the biggest headline. Speaking of the ambivalent QB, did anyone notice the ESPN personalities who claimed Favre's supposed retirement announcement was for the benefit of the team? Because now they can't trade for Donovan McNabb or Jason Campbell. The team should thank him for handing the keys to Tavaris Jackson.

But for the last 3 years, I have been trapped amidst a battle between love and hate. From September to January, Favre's child-like enthusiasm is well documented. And I am head over heels in love with it. So much so that I almost pulled for the Saints during last season's NFC Championship game. But off-season Brett changes more dramatically than LeBron post-Cleveland. We all know the tactic: Remain decisionless until the regular season to avoid training camp. Even Ochocinco tweeted his frustration:

"How come Favre isn't a attention whore but we (he and T.O.) get hell for having fun but he makes a spectacle about coming back its cool? WTF."

Agreed, Chad. WTF. Surpassing Ochocinco's media whoring represents quite the feat.

Imagine a world where Favre rehabs with professional football players instead of high schoolers. Imagine a world where the Vikings experience training camp with a QB rated over 75 in Madden. Imagine a world where the stain on Favre's reputation quickly melts away?
If we delude ourselves by believing this reality, maybe then we can truly appreciate the Brett Favre of old.

So let's take a look back at him in the beginning.

(Video via longtime friend of PTO and quality podcast contributor reader Kushal Patel)


Monday, August 2, 2010

Touchdown Celebration Ideas: T.O. + Ochocinco Style

Check out some of my ideas concerning the beauty that could take place in many end zones this upcoming season over at JOCKpost. Hopefully Terrell Owens and Ochocinco are paying attention to this.