A Full NFL Preview in 16 Parts, AKA Week One is Everything.

Will Stevie Johnson Find Happiness in 2011?

What is the hardest thing about predicting the NFL season?  It’s probably making sure all the records add up to .500.   Most people don’t pay any attention to this.  They just arbitrarily slap 10-6 on a bunch of teams and pay no attention to the details.  It’s like the baseball preview I saw this year at my favorite website, Bleacher Report.  Some guy predicted the record for all five Phillies starters.  He had them winning 95 games.  Not the team, just those five pitchers. You have to wonder sometimes.  You will not find any such inconsistencies in this piece, go ahead and break out the adding machine, I dare you. (Please don’t actually check)

There are several ways to do an NFL preview.  I consider them all to be wildly boring.  This is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to list all 16 games from week one.  I’m going to tell you the signature play from that game and then what kind of season that will translate into for each team.

THE GAMES:

1.  New Orleans @ Green Bay.  Opening Line: Saints (+4)

One thing I respect about the NFL?  They always bring it on opening Thursday.  I don’t like that the game is on Thursday, but it’s always a good game.  “Possible NFC Championship preview,” you’ll hear 1.4 million times in the next week. Signature play:  With time running down, Drew Brees escapes a rabid Clay Matthews and hits Robert Meachem for an 11 yard score. A million fantasy owners ask, Was that Colston?  The shocking upset portends an up and down year for the bored Packers who go 10-6.  The Saints peak early, but still manage 11 wins in the overrated NFC South.

2.  Falcons @ Bears.  Opening Line: Falcons (-2.5)

This is a big year for Matt Ryan, no?  The Falcons have surrounded him with a very nice collection of talent.  Is he going to take a step up into the elite ranks, or is he going to be the white Donovan McNabb?  Signature Play:  In what becomes known as the “Deflected Pick” Bowl, Jay Cutler rifles a laser beam into tight coverage.  It clips Roy Williams in the right hand, the ball deflects off his shoulder pad and into the waiting arms of William “Billy” Moore (had to look that up).  Of a career high six picks, four initially hit Williams in the hands.  The Falcons win and cruise to the regular season hype trophy with a 12-4 record.  The Bears do Chicago proud at 8-8.

3.  Bengals @ Browns.  Opening Line (Bengals +6.5)

Yikes.  Did we ever think we’d see the day when the Browns were laying almost a touchdown?  Did we ever think we’d see an NFL game started by Colt McCoy and Ginger Dalton?  Signature Play:  With just a few ticks remaining and trailing by a TD (16-9), the Bengals charge into Browns territory.  Riding Cedric Benson and a cloud of dust (38 carries/63 yards) the Bengals line up for a critical 4th and 1.  Benson. Goes. Nowhere.  (Except to Jail).  The Browns get a much-needed win to kickstart a 7-9 campaign.  The Bengals start a steady decline to Andrew Luck runner-up status finishing 3-13.

4. Bills @ Chiefs.  Opening Line:  Bills (+6.5)

This game would have been the sh*t in 1993.  The story for the Bills this year?  Same as every year, can Fitzy silence the doubters and actually get his hands on the starting job for good.  Stop scouting college QBs, Bills fans.  Signature play: Driving for the kill shot the Chiefs face a 3rd and 2 around mid-field.  Using Jamaal Charles (11 touches/125 yards) as a decoy, Coach Haley tries a double reverse to McCluster.  He fumbles.  Four plays later it’s Fitzy to Stevie Johnson, who…hangs on!  Bills win and offer a heartening 8-8 campaign for the faithful.  The Chiefs swallow the first dose of reality in what will be a long 6-10 season.

5. Eagles @ Rams.  Opening Line: Eagles (-5)

I don’t have a great feeling about this Eagles season.  Hopefully, I’m wrong.  I’m just not aware of the adage that says, Cornerbacks win championships.  We’ll see how it plays out.  Signature drive:  The Eagles trail by 9 points at the start of the 4th quarter.  With no timeouts left (obviously), they embark on a long, muddled drive that takes 11 minutes, but results in a 1-yd TD run for Ronnie Brown.  They kick away, and then give up 45 yards on the next six plays to Steven Jackson.  Time expires.  The upstart Rams bring respectability back to the NFC West at 9-7.  The Eagles shame a city with the same record.

6. Lions @ Tampa Bay.  Opening Line: Lions (+1.5)

The Lions are building, slowly.  At least, I think they are.  That Ndamakong Suh is a bad mamma jamma.  The Bucs are my least favorite team in the league.  I don’t know why.  (It’s because I don’t like Josh Freeman).  Signature Play:  The Lions, looking like the 2000 Rams, are running all over the Bucs, it’s woodshed time.  After Stafford hits Megatron (11 catches/178 yards/3tds) for another score he sets off a fateful, “triple fist-pump” routine that separates his shoulder…for good.  The Shaun Hill show shakes off the last of Matt Millen’s stank and the Lions go 9-7.  Tampa Bay remains the best team in the NFC (in the eyes of Raheem Morris) but goes 7-9.

7. Titans @ Jacksonville.  Opening Line: Tennessee (+3)

Ah, the majesty of the AFC South.  This game should be all about the running backs, but Chris Johnson doesn’t seem in any rush to join the team and MJD needs to prove he hasn’t lost a step or two.  If not the running backs, this is the placeholder QB Bowl.  Garrard and Hasselbeck are trying to hold off future busts Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker.  Signature Play: With many of the 34,000 die-hards already headed home (some in “throwback” Mike Sims-Walker jerseys), David Garrard caps off one of  his inexplicable dominant quarters with a touchdown pass to Mike Thomas.  Thomas becomes a waiver wire darling, then has 23 catches the rest of the year.  The Jags can only manage five wins, but the Titans (and eventually Chris Johnson) pull off an 8-8 campaign.

8. Steelers @ Ravens.  Opening Line: Pittsburgh (+2.5)

Do the Steelers and Ravens play ten times a year?  It’s actually nice to get this one out of the way early, because usually the build-up for this game is unbearable.  Old-Fashioned Football!  Bleh, more like two wildly annoying fan bases.  As much as I’d like to pick both of these teams to lose, I think this year one is clearly better than the other.  Signature Play: Big Ben, newly married and rocking 10 extra pounds after the Honeymoon, shrugs off the aging Ray Lewis and ambles out of the pocket.  He slings one down the seam where Mike Wallace has everyone beat by 20 yards.  Wallace becomes a much quieter version of DeSean Jackson and the Steelers cruise to a 12-4 record.  Baltimore licks their wounds and can only rebound to 8-8.

9.  Colts @ Texans.  Opening Line:  OFF.  My Guess, Peyton doesn’t play and Houston lays 5.5.

I think the Colts in some way signify what is great about the NFL.  In other leagues, a team in Indianapolis would have little chance of succeeding.  They’d be small market, trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but instead, they’ve been a powerhouse for 10 years and can pay Pey-Pey a mint.  Now, about that neck?  Signature play:  Arian Foster shrugs off his hamstring and the typically porous Colts run defense for an 11-yard score and Indy is done for the day.  It caps Foster’s only 100 yard game of 2011 as the hammy nags him the whole year.  This sets off the most aggravating RB rotation in the history of the sport (Steve Slaton!), but Gary Kubiak saves his job once again by going 10-6.  Peyton rushes back in week 2, is awful, but then regroups to lead the Colts to another division title at 11-5.

10. Carolina @ Arizona.  Opening Line:  Carolina (+7).

What a line.  What a game.  Fox is thrilled to have this coverage.  I am leading the “Hope Kevin Kolb Fails for my own Personal Amusement” bandwagon.  But, he’s probably a clear upgrade for Arizona and he gets to play teams like Carolina, Seattle, SF, etc.  I want Carolina to finish with the worst record, because I want them to take Luck, the year after Newton, the year after Clausen.  Signature Play:  Newton is over his head, Clausen can’t find his helmet, so DA takes the reins.  On his way into the game, Anderson says to Newton, “Take Notes Rook.”  Anderson then hits Patrick Peterson in the chest for his first and only pick-6 of the year.  Cards roll to the win and a 7-9 record.  The Panthers prosper at 2-14.

11.  Vikings @ Chargers.  Opening Line: Minnesota (+9).

Pretty big line for opening week.  I guess something about Donovan McNabb in his third stop doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in Vegas.  Philip Rivers and San Diego is a little like Pey-Pey and Indy.  No one really pays attention to San Diego’s weapons or their defense, they just assume they’ll score points and win games.  It’s not that off-base.  Signature Play:  Thanks to a “special connection,” formed with Bernard Berrian, the Vikings have inexplicably stayed within range. Facing a 3rd and 9 in San Diego territory McNabb rifles a ball to a wide open Percy Harvin.  Harvin has to dive to make the play, and rolls one yard short of the first down.  McNabb hurries the team to the line and spikes the ball, turning the ball over on downs.  On the way to sideline, he laughs hysterically on his way to a 7-9 season.  San Diego goes 11-5.

12. Seahawks @ 49ers.  Opening Line: Seattle (+5.5)

According to Peter King, the 49ers will be the worst team in the league.  Here they open up the season as a pretty nice favorite.  That should shed some light on what’s going on in Seattle.  The defending NFC West champions will be hard pressed to repeat in a division that remains quite awful.  Signature play:  Marshawn Lynch, the man who is picked reluctantly in the 8th round of every fantasy draft busts through the line and embarks on another YouTube worthy run through the San Francisco secondary.  The performance leads to fantasy owners reaping 6.4 points a week for the rest of the season.  The Whitehurst show ends up 4-12, and so do those Forty-Niners.  Enjoy the Kaepernick era.

13.  New York Giants @ Washington.  Opening Line: OFF.  Giants will be favorites, Regardless.

Can Eli Manning throw less than 20 picks this year?  That’s the question, because if the Giants can hold onto the ball, they should score plenty of points and be a factor in the division.  Washington is gaining some steam with good pre-season performances, but there’s still that QB question.  Signature Play:  After Tim Hightower returns to reality (15 carries/53 yards), the Redskins are forced to throw the ball to stay in the game.  With Rex Grossman barking in his ear on the sideline, Shanny sticks with John Beck who on a 3rd and long is running for his life when he gets blindsided by Justin Tuck. Season over.  Cue the Grossman era.  Giants win and overcome injuries to go 9-7.  The ‘Skins play to the level of their QB and finish 6-10.

14.  Dallas @ New York Jets.  Opening Line:  Jets (-4.5).

The NFL is the only sport where I can watch random games.  With Felix Jones on my fantasy team, I’ll be watching the ‘Boys all year, but this is a great game for Sunday night.  Ryan vs. Ryan.  I hope Buddy is on hand to watch it unfold.  This game is like a nightmare Super Bowl Preview for me, but opening week it’s not as bad.  I still don’t trust Sanchez, and I love to trash Romo, but he could be in for a nice comeback season.  Signature Play:  After accidentally throwing at Revis (pick) the Cowboys are slogging it out.  Using the Jets aggressive defense against them, the Cowboys set up a perfect screen for Felix Jones.  He breaks off a 68-yard score and starts a run to save my fantasy season.  After the home loss, Ryan benches Sanchez, only to realize his backup is still Mark Brunell.  Never mind, Sanchize.  Jets rebound to go 12-4, Cowboys win the NFC East at 11-5.

15.  Patriots @ Dolphins.  Opening Line:  Patriots (-7).

I’m worried about the Dolphins this year.  It could be ugly.  When your fans are clamoring for Kyle Orton, you’ve got issues.  I want to root for Chad Henne and that rocket arm, but he can’t seem to put it together.  He’s ruining Brandon Marshall’s career.  The Pats on the other hand are everyone’s darling.  Sporting News has them going 15-1.  Wow. Signature Play: The drive after the Pats used 4 different running backs to carry the ball, Brady hooks up with Aaron Hernandez 3 times for 58 yards (4 catches 67 yards overall) to get all the way down to the two yard line.  From there, Tommy B. hits Gronkowski (2 catches/8 yards/1TD) for the score.  The Pats will win big, and I like their chances, but 15-1? How’s 12-4 sound?  The Dolphins go from bad to worse and finish 5-11.

16.  Oakland @ Denver.  Opening Line: Denver (+3)

I have a feeling in a couple of years everyone is going to have forgotten about Tim Tebow.  I almost feel bad at this point for T-Squared.  How many players in the league would face headlines like, “Tebow’s jersey sales plummet.”  He’s just not that good.  Oakland on the other hand?  Who knows.  If you haven’t been paying attention for a while, you might think the Raiders are worse than they actually are.  Signature Play:  Walking out for the opening coin toss, Darren McFadden and Knowshon Moreno both suffer grade 2 hamstring strains.

I’ll take this brief breath to apologize for the length of this post.  It just spiraled out of control.  I got to about 1,500 words in and I just decided to keep going.  It was too late to turn back.  It’s kind of like when you accidentally wander 2/3 of the way around the stadium looking for helmet sundaes.

Projected NFL Standings: (*Playoff Team)

AFC East:

  1. New England 12-4*
  2. New York 12-4*
  3. Buffalo 8-8
  4. Miami 5-11

AFC North:

  1. Pittsburgh 12-4*
  2. Baltimore 8-8
  3. Cleveland 7-9
  4. Cincinnati 3-13

AFC South:

  1. Indianapolis 11-5*
  2. Houston 10-6*
  3. Tennessee 8-8
  4. Jacksonville 5-11

AFC West:

  1. San Diego 11-5*
  2. Oakland 8-8
  3. Kansas City 6-10
  4. Denver 5-11

NFC East:

  1. Dallas 10-6*
  2. New York 9-7*
  3. Philadelphia 9-7
  4. Washington 6-10

NFC North:

  1. Green Bay 10-6*
  2. Detroit 9-7
  3. Chicago 8-8
  4. Minnesota 7-9

NFC South:

  1. Atlanta 12-4
  2. New Orleans 11-5
  3. Tampa Bay 7-9
  4. Carolina 2-14

NFC West:

  1. St. Louis 9-7
  2. Arizona 7-9
  3. San Francisco 4-12
  4. Seattle 4-12

Super Bowl:  Packers over Jets.

Headed to the Orchard.

Where is the Honeycrisp Aisle?

I’m not actually going to the orchard, but I unfortunately do not have time today to make a real solid post.  The good news is, I’m working on a long, and revolutionary NFL preview that will come out later tonight or tomorrow.  It’s going to be thousands of words.  Ok, maybe not quite that long, but you’re going to be sitting there thinking, is this a blog or epic poem on football?  So yeah, in the near future, I’ll be squashing the dreams of your favorite NFL team.

In the meantime…Honeycrisp apples are back.  I’ve been waiting months and months for these beauties.  I’m pretty in tune with the apple season, and I appreciate all boutique forms of apples and the great country of New Zealand for all their apple efforts, but nothing compares to in-season Honeycrisp apples.  Even the Fujis at my local grocer have been looking weak of late, so you can imagine my glee when I zipped by Pete’s Produce in Westtown, PA and saw a sign that said “Locally Grown Honeycrisp Apples.”  I slammed on the breaks and did an action movie 360 right in the middle of Rt. 926. Not really.  I just went back later and got some apples.  Delicious.  It’s going to be high times.  At least until November.

 

Vick Gets 100 Million* to Play Behind Revolving Door.

Apparently Vick is Putting Down Roots in 'Historic' New Hope.

Is there a more misleading number than the one attached to an NFL contract?  People are finally starting to get the hang of asking about guaranteed money, but it’s still a footnote in most cases.  Michael Vick signs for 100 MILLION!  (~40 million guaranteed).  That’s a pretty big difference, isn’t it?  Only 40% of the contract is guaranteed and given the nature of the NFL and Vick’s game, he’s probably more likely to end up with closer to 40 million than 100 million.  But that 40 million number hasn’t taken away the shock value, the sticker shock of Vick’s new deal.  That seems like an awful lot of money people say, failing to realize it makes them sound like an idiot.  Under the franchise tag, Vick was scheduled to pull in a massive haul this year.  He’ll actually be earning slightly less money under this current deal and then the Eagles committed themselves for one more season.  That’s really all that happened.  The Eagles put the Mike Kafka era on hold until at least 2013.

The Eagles don’t make commitments easily, and so there was a part of me that thought they’d let Vick ride out the year on the franchise tag.  “Let’s see if he breaks,” they’d say while Andy Reid threw Vick into harm’s way like an overgrown kid weaving his new RC car in and out of traffic.  Reid and Vick are still an odd match to me.  Vick doesn’t seem like the kind of QB Reid always coveted, but then once Reid saw what Vick could do on the field he was blinded.  He was an immediate convert.  It’s evident in the Vince Young signing.  There’s no way that Young would have been the backup they brought in during the McNabb years.  They would have been the ones trying to lure Kerry Collins out of retirement.

Other things I see when I look at this deal:

Will they be able to keep Vick healthy enough to get a return on their investment?  That would concern me more than the actual salary figure.  As always, it isn’t the fan’s money, and the Eagles are always under the cap, so who cares if they pay Michael Vick two million dollars or twenty?  But, at almost twenty million per for the first two years if you factor in a likely buyout if they do cut ties, the Eagles are saying they expect Vick to be out there for the next 32 games.  You can’t guarantee anyone’s health, but you can certainly have some control over the number of hits a guy takes.  Vick does a poor job of limiting contact, and so, you’d like him to be standing behind a stout offensive line.  The Eagles have a rookie center, a rookie right guard, and a guy playing out of position.  It took three plays for Vick to get hammered in the last pre-season game.  You listen to analysts and they say there is no way Vick can stay healthy.  Is this true, or is it leftover Vick hate and jealousy manifesting itself in subjective wishful thinking?

Of course the Vick deal also brings to mind DeSean Jackson and his quest to get an extension.  I think most Eagles fans expected these deals to happen in concert.  Vick comes off the franchise tag to free up some cash and DeSean finally gets his money.  After waiting for every single other Eagle to get paid, the big play receiver would finally be happy.  Or not. Like I said before, the Eagles don’t come to commitment easily.  But, you’d expect if they commit to Vick, they’d want to keep his most dangerous weapon around.  It’s going to be hard for the Eagles to swallow that pill though, because DeSean is sitting at that teeny, tiny salary figure for this season.  In my opinion, they better get it done, because I don’t see Jackson having even an average season if he plays it out under his current contract.

Finally, I wonder if the two-year agreement with Vick is also a two-year agreement with Andy Reid.  For so long it was Reid and McNabb tied closely together, and when they didn’t achieve their goal for more than a decade it was McNabb who was shown the door.  Andy, bulletproof as always, gets to stick around and try things with another QB.  That was supposed to be Kevin Kolb, but things change, and now Vick is Reid’s meal ticket.  I think there is a sense that Reid will finally be under pressure this season.  The long tenure is starting to wear on the fan base, they made numerous moves in the off-season that gear toward the present, if Andy Reid isn’t under the gun this year, when will he ever be?  Well, I think the answer is probably next season, assuming the Birds don’t win a Super Bowl in that time.  I’d imagine Reid will get this year and if he fails will get to write it off as a lot of new guys, new coaches, new schemes and will get a last chance to redeem himself in 2012.  If nothing happens there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy finally get shown the door, and of course Michael Vick, and his remaining 60 million non-guaranteed, could follow him out-of-town.

Fantasy Drafts, Magic Numbers, Etc.

The Giants Barely Score Pi Runs A Game.

If you are in the market for such knowledge, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a magic number of 25 in the NL West. I’m just putting that out, letting it get some air, there’s certainly not a conclusion coming.  There are questions, though.  Like, exactly how putrid are the San Francisco Giants right now?  They’ve won 11 of their last 30.  During that torrid stretch, they’ve scored 2.7 runs per game (and were shutout 5 times), which brought their season average to 3.39.  A decent ERA, and not much else.  They’ve scored the fewest runs in baseball, have the sixth worst run differential in the National League and are losing ground rapidly to the Diamondbacks, a team who won 7 in a row, lost six in a row and now has won six straight.  They’ve opened up a four game lead in the West, and the Giants are also 8.5 games out of touch in the wild-card race.

So, still worried about playing the Giants?  San Francisco is not looking real destiny-ish right now.  Things have changed since 2010.  Most notably, there’s no Buster Posey or waiver wire infusions of life this time around.  The starting pitching looks a tad less sharp, and Brian Wilson isn’t 100%.  I wonder if Phillies fans aren’t rooting against a team that would turn out to be very beatable.  I understand the issues of facing the Giants in a five game series, but I don’t think we should overlook the tailspin.  The Giants do little right these days, and I know there is a month left in the season, but I’m starting to wonder if Arizona wouldn’t be a tougher match-up.  Some youthful exuberance?

I have a feeling most people would disagree with the notion that Arizona is the tougher team, and I’m not really saying I believe that, just pointing out a few things about those terrifying Giants.  No matter the end result, they stink right now, so enjoy it.

***

I’ve got a fantasy draft tonight.  My one and only.  I’m exclusive like that.  So, I’ve been ignoring my advice of no mock drafts, because they are kind of entertaining for about 5 rounds (just like the actual draft) and it’s nice to get a sense of what’s out there, what the general consensus is on some players.  Here’s some stuff I’ve gleaned…

People aren’t exactly sure what to do with Chris Johnson, and I don’t blame them.  I don’t want any part of the Johnson window, which I’d say is picks 3 through 6.  If you have 1 or 2, you can take AP, Foster, maybe Charles and feel pretty comfortable. Right around number four, though, things change.  At that point, do you want Ray Rice?  LeSean McCoy? You know these guys are guaranteed, feature backs, but they’re a little underwhelming, especially with 2,000 yard Chris Johnson sitting there.  When’s he coming back?  If you take Rice at #4 and he puts up 1,100 yards and 10 scores you’ll feel like a moron if Johnson breezes in next week, doesn’t miss a beat and scores 18 TDs.  It’s a tough spot, so I’m hoping that I can either safely avoid Johnson, or he’s gone before I pick.

Another thing I’ve noticed is what appears to be a lack of depth at the skill positions.  I can give everyone fair warning that in the mock drafts I’ve done, the WR talent gets gobbled up in a hurry.  And, I don’t know if the league is just thin on wide receivers, but by round 5 or 6 you’re mostly looking at bye-week plug-in caliber talent.  It’s pretty disturbing.  Now, WR is also a position that will always have a hit or two on the waiver wire, but don’t be surprised if your WR corps looks a little thin after your draft.  Product of the times.

And, with running backs, the disappearance of the feature back and the goal line vultures continues to create fantasy football nightmares.  It’s almost as if the head coaches don’t realize the importance of fantasy football.  How many top running backs would you be really comfortable taking?  Two or three?  Here’s the top-20 RBs from a random site.  I’ll put the worry free guys, for their projected round in bold.  Everyone else, I’ll list an issue.

  1. Arian Foster
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Chris Johnson–Not in camp, hasn’t practiced.
  5. Ray Rice
  6. LeSean McCoy–Ronnie Brown, Eagles Red Zone Offense
  7. Darren McFadden–Low TDs, Never Healthy for Full Season
  8. Mo-Jo Drew–Knee Held Together By Wishes
  9. Frank Gore–Banged up last year, Hates his Team
  10. Rashard Mendenhall
  11. Matt Forte–Bears Offense
  12. Steven Jackson–8 million career carries.
  13. Peyton Hillis–He’s white.
  14. Michael Turner–29 years old
  15. Jahvid Best–555 career rushing yards, not a goal line back
  16. Knowshon Moreno–Change his middle name to “Questionable”
  17. Ahmad Bradshaw–These rankings are terrible, but Bradon Jacobs
  18. LeGarrette Blount
  19. DeAngelo Williams–Jonathan Stewart.
  20. Shonn Greene–LaToe Injury.

So, take a look there.  That’s just the “top 20.”  In a 10 team league, you’re probably going to draft about 40-50 running backs, upwards of 60 in a 12-team league.  Think of the issues the guys are going to have once you get to the bottom of that barrel.  Ok, that’s enough fantasy talk for the day.  I’ve got to immerse myself in projections (celebrity gossip websites) for the rest of the afternoon.  I expect everyone to wish me luck with my draft, and good luck in yours, feel free to drop pearls of wisdom.  You know, someone asked me, don’t people get information about your strategy by reading your blog, and I just say, even when they know what’s coming, they can’t stop it.

 

Hurricane Coverage

Manayunk: Still Sweet.

Why do people live in Manayunk anyway?  It floods.  It’s impossible in the snow.  Basically any kind of precipitation and you’re screwed.  It was a good, solid, job by Hurricane Irene on the flooding front.  I did a little driving/storm perusal yesterday and how should I put this…there was a lot of water where there isn’t usually water.  I’ve added don’t move near a giant creek and/or river to my mental checklist.  And, I guess if you do, make sure your house is way up on some aristocratic hill.  Water can be a bitch.

Sitting here with my electricity and dry surrounds, it’s pretty easy for me to dismiss Hurricane Irene as a big overreaction.  We certainly didn’t get the foot of rain that was in the forecast.  I hate to think of what things would look like if we did, but from a wind standpoint, and everything else aside from raging flood waters, I was a little underwhelmed with Irene.  I imagine it was the doomsday style coverage.  Was it weird for anyone else watching Hurricane Schwartz actually forecast a hurricane?  It didn’t feel right.  It was like watching Catfish Hunter in the Bass Pro Classic or something.  I felt his nickname immediately became trite and idiotic.  Maybe I’m the only one that felt that way.

Anyway, Hurricane Schwartz was leading the charge in coverage that was pretty over the top.  At one point, he said, “This is how people die in Category 1 Hurricanes.”  Ok, then.  The problem with the coverage is that it has to cater to human stupidity.  You’d like to think that you don’t have to remind people not to attempt to plow their car through 6 feet of raging storm current.  But, you do have to remind them of that, because while someone in a Prius might get a little intimidated by white water rushing down their local avenue, there’s probably also someone in an F-350 who wants to cross the street just so he can say, “Water ain’t bother me none.”

It’s an ongoing battle between common sense and man’s natural inclination toward idiocy and adventure.  It’s why no matter how bad the storm is there will always be someone surfing in the ocean.  Or there will always be someone who insists on staying with their house out on some barrier island.  It’s the job of the news to batter those people enough that they finally give in, and do the smart thing.  After 24-hours of straight coverage maybe someone finally says, “Ok, I’m going to listen to the fella in the bow-tie.”

What I’m saying is, I think we should all be relieved when it wasn’t quite as bad as we were expecting and not annoyed that we couldn’t cruise around on New York’s subway yesterday.  I’m sure there are some people with about 10 cases of Poland Spring sitting in their garage right now and no immediate use for it, but I guess it’s better than the alternative.  I’ve reached my limit on weather coverage, though, that’s for sure.  So, I hope we can maybe enjoy some less destructive trends at least until the first Blizzard ’11 coverage.

The real tragedyof it is, it took a hurricane to produce what might be the nicest day of the whole summer.  It’s absolutely gorgeous out there.  Not a speck of humidity.  Seventy degrees.  It’s a shame there probably isn’t a golf course within 100 miles that has a grain of sand in any bunker or isn’t 85% casual water, because everyone should really be out on the course today.  Or outside doing something at least, go take a stroll and listen to the sweet melody of song birds and chainsaws.

 

So, About That Eagles Offense…

Has Anyone Seen the Pocket?

Can you believe we are just two Fridays away from the return of NFL Pick ‘Em?  It’s been too long.  But we’ve got to be patient.  We’ve got to get through this hurricane Irene scare and we’ve got to get through Labor Day Weekend and then it is on.  In case you were wondering, I have been keeping a casual eye out for NFL Pick ‘Em muses.  What an honor it will be for the one that gets to kick off the season.

I don’t know if watching pre-season football can give you any kind of edge in picking games week one.  I’m sure there is no correlation, but I know I’d have a tough time picking the Eagles right now.  I didn’t have the pleasure of watching them get destroyed by the Steelers last week, but it sounded like a putrid effort across the board.  I suppose last night was an improvement, but we have to speak in relative terms.  It was the Browns.  Is your defense automatically going to look better against Cleveland than it will against Pittsburgh?  Yes.

I’m not that concerned about the defense, though.  The bigger problem appears to be the Eagles complete lack of pass protection.  I heard someone talking about the line last week and they said, “What are you worried about?  Peters and Todd Herremans are fine.  Jackson is coming back, you’ve got a first round pick playing right guard and the only real question is right tackle.”  Well, right tackle is a pretty big question mark.  And, just because Danny Watkins is a first round pick doesn’t mean he’s going to step in and solidify the position.  Michael Vick was running for his life last year, and he was doing pretty much the same last night.  Hurries, knockdowns, fumbles, sacks…and that was just the first possession.

It was a signature first drive for the Eagles.  They shocked the world by running on the first play and picked up a nice chunk, setting up 2nd and 3.  From there, maybe you keep running the ball, establish some control up front?  Nope, the Eagles throw two straight times, can’t protect Vick and turn the ball over.  I can’t decide if that, or when they used a tight end around later to pick up a 4th and 1 was the most definitive Andy Reid play of the night, but it’s pretty clear that results aside, the Eagles aren’t clicking in the passing game.

Their success on offense last night came on dump-offs, actual running of the football and broken down plays where Vick scrambled.  It was an interesting look into Vick’s fantasy value, because he had no connection with any of his wideouts, but still looks like a guy who is going to be piling up 8 or 10 points rushing every week.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for 10 scores this year.  But, it’s a dangerous way to play.  He took plenty of hits last night and he’ll take more.  The Eagles offense still looks dangerous, but it doesn’t really look high-powered.  Where’s the efficiency?  It’s all broken plays and home run swings.

***

Elsewhere in pre-season action, Andy Dalton did exactly what you’d want him to do.  Sorry, Gradkowski, it’s the Dalton show.  The public deserves to see this week one.  Dalton outplayed Cam Newton, who was pretty horrific, but still looks like the week one starter.  I think a reasonable fantasy strategy this year will be to take the defense that is playing Cincy or Carolina.  The Panthers open with Arizona, though.  Does anyone have that much courage?

Also last night, Rex Grossman and John Beck waged a war for the ages as the Redskins’ starting job remains up for grabs? They put up pretty similar lines in a loss to the Ravens, but I think we all know deep down that Grossman got the better of it.  The real question is, how did the Ravens give up 31 points to the Redskins under any circumstances?  Luckily, the offense was in mid-season form.  There’s a lot of talk about Anquan Boldin being finished.  Personally?  I’m a Boldin guy, and who else is Flacco going to throw to?   Last night, 73 yards and a TD.  Sounds like a solid WR3 to me.

Freddie Whips Tiger Haters into a Frenzy.

Were You Expecting Him to Take Jason Dufner?

When Fred Couples dodges a question, it’s usually by accident.  So, when someone asked him at his press conference today about selecting Tiger Woods for the Presidents Cup team he gave a straight answer.  Yes, the Captain’s picks were supposed to be announced at the end of September, but why delay?  Tiger’s on the team.  No more hemming and hawing about Tiger needing to play more.  No more speculation.  Tiger’s playing.  Fred’s reasoning?  The guy has been the best player in the World for a long time.  He’s insanely competitive.  Do you really expect him to show up in Australia and embarrass himself?  Fred doesn’t.

Of course, it’s known that Tiger and Fred are buddies, and Fred isn’t one to split ties over off-course activities, so most people are classifying this selection as the ultimate favor.  It’s already created quite a backlash.  People can’t believe that Tiger is getting special treatment.  He’s ranked 28th in the point standings.  Seventeen guys looking for a Captain’s Pick are ahead of him.  Tiger’s coming off an injury and a grizzly missed cut at the PGA.  And, if you didn’t know, Tiger isn’t exactly a pillar of morality in the community these days, either.  This is the kind of story that will have Rick Reilly outraged.

Before we go any further, lets look at some of the illuminaries that Fred passed over to get to Tiger at 28.  We’ve got known assassins Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore.  We’ve got PGA folding chair Jason Dufner.  We’ve got Mr. 5-hr round, Kevin Na and Charles Howell III (really, Charles Howell?  Is that right?).  There’s Bo Van Pelt and Zach Johnson and Gary Woodland.  Meh.  It basically comes down to Tiger, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley for 2 spots as it plays out now.  Bradley has only had a chance to accumulate points for 1 year and appears to have a bit of an inside track, but don’t count out Furyk.  Fowler, of course, is everyone’s darling, but if he’d closed out any of a handful of tournaments, he’d be on the team by merit.

If you take away Tiger’s off-course issues, this is exactly the kind of pick that Captains have been making for years.  Adding a veteran (to a team that could probably use one) is the reason that Fred himself made a few Presidents and Ryder Cup teams.  And, I think we drastically overestimate the animosity there is toward Tiger on tour.  We’d love to think that all the good guys rallied together and now look down their noses at Tiger, but that’s total BS.  Tiger is likely still very well liked and respected (for the heights he reached with his game) in the locker room, and if he happens to get back his form? It’ll be just like Michael Vick, the boys will line right back up behind him.