Friday, September 26, 2008

Week 3

Miami 38, New England 13. Miami 38, New England 13. Miami 38, New England 13. Swirl that around for a while. It doesn't sink in. If the scoreboard had read "game postponed due to alien ship landing on the 50 yard line" I would consider that less surprising than Miami 38, New England 13. This result thumbs its nose at my sense of the identities "Miami Dolphins" and "New England Pastriots". This is one I need to have seen for myself, and I didn't, because why would CBS show an expected lame blowout nationally? They were right, hehe. Here's an FO article on the game.

Within 20 years, the majority of punters will be international. A major aspect of return defense will be location and movement on the kick. Punting will be more like pitching, basically. I watched Sav Rocca(AU) of the Eagles this week. He is good. His Wikipedia page says he is "known to kick accurately from great distances". Indeed he does.

It gets annoying for me to constantly point out the same thing about fourth down decisions. So I'll just say that Green Bay's head coach is horrible...okay you have to see this one-it was 4th and 2 around midfield with 11 minutes left, score was 9-24, and Dallas's offense looked really good. TMQ said "this HAS to be a fake" and then saw that it wasn't and wrote "game over" in his notebook. If I am Dallas, I prepare for that play as if GB is going for it(so a fake) because a punt makes no sense.

Can anybody think of an example of an aging superstar QB who changes teams being great for the new team? I will address each of Favre's interceptions now. The first one was not his fault-Laveranues Coles(of Dillard's discount scandal fame) made an exceedingly poor play on the ball. Some analyst thought it was interference, but I thought that Cromartie reached over him cleanly(if you let this happen to you, you got Pwned with a capital P) to make the play. Second one-Cromartie dropped it. He was already thinking about his easy walk to the end zone and got butterfingers. Third one-the announcers were speculating that it was Coles' fault for running the wrong route, but even if he had run the right route(mouthful), the safety was there, meaning he would not have been open. I put it on Favre. Fourth-Favre throws into end zone double coverage. It looks like the safety is about to catch it, but the corner, Cromartie, knocks it away. That's an instinctive play by Cromartie, and I don't blame him for playing it safe, especially in the end zone. Still, interception on Favre. By the way, the next play Favre threw for a first down and one of the analysts said "Favre is really getting in a rhythm out there!". Media have an unhealthy obsession with Brett Favre(and Farv loves attention, so it's a good marriage). Fifth-garbage time, receiver is running outside, Favre throws it inside, right to Cromartie. If I want to be consistent, I should not count actual interceptions that I blame on another player. So Farve threw 4 interceptions. I am mostly unimpressed so far. However, he is obviously a massive upgrade over Chad.

Antonio Cromartie is an unbelievable player. He is a very good kick returner and starting cornerback for San Diego. He has sick speed and great instincts. His instincts were on display on Favre's second interception(see above). The receiver is running up the field, Cromartie following him, and suddenly, the receiver keeps running, but Cromartie stops running with him and runs the opposite way towards a spot, which turns out to be exactly where Favre is throwing the ball. (This has me thinking that the play might have been the receiver's fault.) His instincts were likely based on film study and reading the play-I suspect that Mr. Cromartie might be very smart. He read the quarterback better than the receiver did! The receiver knows the play! I bet there was a condition in the play that would cause the receiver(Coles, I'm pretty sure, but not enough) to change his route, Favre saw it and receiver didn't. Cromartie's job on that play was probably to defend the short route and let the safety handle the deep is so complicated!

People are wrong to criticize Mike Tomlin's endgame decision against Phila. They're just annoyed that his decision, which gave Pit a chance to win, resulted in them losing by more. Down 9 with less than a minute left, 4th and 10 on the 22, offense getting pwned all day, you have to go for it. You don't have time for a touchdown drive from your own 40(assuming successful onside-kick), which you'd need if you were down by 6. You are on the 22-your realistic hope is to score a touchdown right now, recover the onside kick, gain 30+ yards, make a field goal. Realistic is a stretch, but it's your best shot. You need both a touchdown and a field goal, and you have time for maybe 5 plays-4 after this 4th down. You have 6 points the whole game-you're not marching down the field with sideline routes(have to stop the clock to get these plays) and scoring a touchdown. However, if you take a shot and score a touchdown here, it definitely is possible to recover the kick, complete one long pass play, spike the ball, kick the winning field goal. Tomlin recognized this and made the correct decision, despite knowing that in the highly likely event of failure, he would be heavily criticized. I applaud you, Mike Tomlin, for having the balls to try to win. That sounds weird...such is the state of football conventional wisdom.

BET Buffalo(-8.5)@St. Louis. Buffalo is a decent and mostly healthy team. The Rams are a total disaster and I suspect that the home advantage is much smaller for hopelessly awful teams. Desperation is a smelly cologne, and the benching of Marc Bulger reeks. The team's star, RB Stephen Jackson, publicly criticized the move. The wheels are coming off! Bet Buffalo!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

State of the Knicks, American democracy

At the basketball section of a Modell's in North Jersey, you have to sift through a lot of Nets and Lakers gear before anything Knicks is even visible.

Prediction-The success of the Palin pick will spawn a new breed of bimbo politician(PILFs). In the future, campaigns will increasingly resemble the Miss America pageant.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week 2

Games I watched-Indianapolis@Min, Pastriots@Jets, the end of SD@Den, but I dozed off and apparently missed something really exciting and controversial, some of the second half of Pit@Cle

Some notes on Indy@Min

-I am always skeptical of skill position players, particularly running backs. This game was my first real look at Adrian Peterson, and WOW. The guy is absolutely sick. Aaron Schatz( calls him Purple Jesus. He makes everyone else on the field look slow and bad at tackling. If I had this guy on my offense, I would kick even less. Nice segue, huh?
-This game is the perfect example, the "one game every twenty" that your team would win instead of lose by being aggressive on fourth down. Min dominated the first half. They got consistent pressure on Peyton Manning, completely disrupting the Colts' offense. On offense, Min was moving the ball very well, mostly by running, with some pass plays mostly as a change of pace. In the middle of the second quarter, I asked myself-how could Min be so thoroughly dominant and only up 6-0?! The answer is that head coach Brad Childress kept kicking on 4th and short, throwing away drives in which his offense was playing very well. As someone who likes Indy, I was relieved every time I saw the Min offense trot off the field. And that is how you waste a dominant performance and leave points on the field that it turns out you really needed. I refer to them only as Min, because their in-game strategy minimizes their chance to win. A little math humor for ya.
-Tony Ugoh, the starting left tackle for the Colts, looked pretty bad, then went down with an injury in the first half. His replacement, #53 Steve Justice, is a small for an offensive lineman white guy who does not even wear an offensive lineman's number(50s is linebackers, 60s and 70s are OL). He was put in at left guard, and the left guard, 74(Henderson?), moved to tackle. The Colts' line struggled the whole game, though much less in the second half, probably due to some adjustment I didn't see, like adding blocking help to the left side.
-The Vikings' defensive front is really strong. Brad Childress clearly knew this when he challenged the ruling of touchdown, knowing the best case was that the Colts would have first and goal inside the 1. Usually, I say don't bother. But it took the Colts 3 plays to gain 2 feet, and it was so close that the Vikings challenged whether Addai had scored on third down, and it seems like his forward progress got the ball to the front of the goal line for a split second, touchdown, but statement made. So after the second touchdown, making it 15-13, the Colts are going for 2, and I thought, no way in hell are they going to run the ball. Peyton lines up in shotgun and I repeat this thought. He takes a half step fake dropback, hand to Addai, dive past the right side of the line, good. Sweet play.


-The line had moved to NE -1 by game time, in case you doubted that I was right.
-The Jets' big first quarter play, a 54 yard pass to Coles, should have been blown dead for delay of game. The play clock was clearly at 0, and it wasn't close. The defense might have been justifiably unprepared for the play.
-The Jets looked pretty decent. They're not that bad.
-Cassel is pretty good. He looked confident, and he throws a nice ball. The deep ball to Moss was noticeably absent from the game plan, but Jets CB Darrelle Revis could have had something to do with that. They traded up to 14th in last year's draft to pick him, and he seems to be very good.
-4th and 23 inside the 10, 4 minutes left, down 19-10, Jets have 2 time outs. Guess what Mangina does. This situation sucks, duh duh duh. Let's look at the options-
Punt-to win, you need to get the ball back and score...twice! You need to do this without your time-outs, which you will have to burn on defense now to preserve the clock. This just isn't happening. Punt=surrender.
Go for it-you miss, you lose. Same as a punt. If you convert, you have a chance to score. Then you onside-kick, recover, score again, win. So going for it offers you a chance to win, however slim. And you go down fighting, pride intact. But most likely, you miss and the other team scores again, running up your margin of defeat. You have to be okay with that. It's supposed to be about winning.
So Mangina punts, NE gets a couple of first downs, runs out the clock.
-Belichick did a few of those punts that I hate in the first half. I guess he's not perfect. Then he went for it on 4th and 3 with 2 minutes left just so he could get a first down and run out the clock. Weird thing to do with the outcome decided. It's as if he wanted to remind the world that even without a dominant team, he's still a douche.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland

-Down 10-3 with 208 seconds left, 4th and 7 at Pit 20, Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel kicks the field goal, then goes for an onside kick. Pit recovers the onside kick, Cleveland is flagged on the play for an illegal formation-you have to have at least 4 guys lined up on each side for the kickoff. It's a newish rule that is mostly relevant to the onside kick, and it's inexcusable that Crennel didn't know it(I knew it!). So if Cleveland had recovered, they would have had to rekick from the 25 and recover again. Pit had a freeroll. So Romeo's plan to win involved kicking a field goal, then recovering two expected onside kicks in a row(P~14% squared), then driving down the field again and scoring a touchdown, something his team had failed to do all game. An intelligent person's plan to win would be to convert fourth down, score, tie the game. -Romeo kicked a field goal on 4th and 3 with <10 href="mailto:SD@Den">SD@Den

I didn't see this, so I don't have anything specific to say except that Mike Shanahan scored what would generally be considered the tying touchdown, 37-38 before PAT, and decided to go for 2 and decide the game right there! I love it! For once, somebody is thinking(or has a tee time to get to)! Overtime is a coin flip, especially in a game as dominated by the offenses as this one. Scoring on a play from the 2 on a day when your team has scored 37 points is not. I'm glad it worked, and I hope there's a lot of positive press so that other coaches will be encouraged to make ballsy decisions. I'm sure they'll just talk about how reckless it was. No need to complicate everything, right?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 1

I can't do much better than TMQ, so you should read him on ESPN Page 2. Here's a link to one of his columns in which he leads with a discussion of punts.

I think the Pastriots are only going to be somewhat worse off without Tom Brady. There's a reason Matt Cassel's held the backup job for 2+ seasons. Their system is good for a quarterback, and Belichick is good at developing quarterbacks. Belichick wouldn't leave himself exposed-he must think that Cassel is good enough(he has said so explicitly), and who are we to disagree?

Beating Miami has increased the Jets over 7.5 to 74/79. I'm not exactly sure what a non-dominant win over Miami proves, by which I mean I'm exactly sure that it proves nothing.

Merriman aborts his career suicide play-through-serious-knee-injury plan. I was hoping for a cautionary tale. He deserves it for being so stupid.

For some reason, Obama is down to 51.7/51.8. McCain appears to be leading in the polls for some reason. Maybe it's because I get all of my news from Jon Stewart, but I don't see how McCain looks like anything but an old, boring, bumbling idiot who is waaaaaaay too connected to Bush and Iraq. That connection is why he is not the slightest bit qualified to be president. Update-Obama at 48.5. I'm really good at this, huh? Update again-46. What the hell is going on? (I wrote this over the course of a few days.)

I just want to say that I supported Governor Corzine's proposal to increase tolls as a solution to New Jersey's budget crisis. Nobody likes tolls, especially not Jews like me. However, it should have been obvious to everyone that Corzine's main alternative was to turn the whole state into a speed trap.

According to distinguished political theorist Dave Barry, the key to success as a professional politician is great hair. John McCain is bald. Pundits say it's important to pick a VP that complements you philosophically and geographically. McCain's main concern was that his VP complement him follicly. Credit to Eric for coming up with the term VPILF.

THE JETS ARE FAVORED AGAINST THE PASTRIOTS. I went to expecting the headline to be that Randy Moss is hurt. He's not. Any money you plan to bet on sports this year should be placed on PASTRIOTS +1. There will not be a better line.

Rutgers sucks.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fixing Football

The following rules absolutely need to be changed right away:

Holding(offense)-Past the line of scrimmage, it is 10 yards from the spot of the foul; behind it, 10 yards. In both cases, it remains the down it was before the play. WHY? The play happened and the rule clearly accepts the result of the play-it merely alters the outcome to reflect the infraction. So why isn't it the next down?

Undermining the deterrent effect is particularly problematic with holding because it is one of the more difficult rules to enforce. Linemen hold on every play-it's just a question of degree and concealment. A stronger deterrent will incentivize following the rules and make the refs' job easier. The result is better officiating.

Pass Interference(offense)-This is another rule with high stakes that is difficult to enforce. The worst is when the receiver interferes and the call goes against the defensive back. Again, the problem is incentives. Offensive pass interference is an infraction that really gives you great value for your committing penalties money(Bush would call it 'footballitical capital', the result of an imaginary mandate from the fans). Ten yards, replay the down! You don't even lose the down! Look at intentional grounding-10 yards, loss of down. The quarterback is about to get sacked, losing yardage and the down. So he throws the ball away to make it an incomplete pass-lost down, saved yardage. The rule book responds correctly by taking away the cheaply salvaged yards. Offensive interference mostly occurs when the pass is in the air and the likely outcome is an incompletion or interception. As before, the down is lost. The receiver pushes the defender trying to either prevent an interception or make a catch possible. Why does the offense get the down back? It makes no sense! This infraction is worth committing if there is ANY chance it will affect the outcome of the play or that the referee will miss the call(or possibly even call interference on the defender!). Defensive interference is a spot foul, meaning that substantial field position hinges on the referee's judgment call. The stakes are incredibly high. Why not make it reviewable? More on that in a bit.

Here is my proposal for a new Offensive Pass Interference rule. There shall be two classes of OPI-

1)Attempting to gain an advantage in an effort to catch the ball

2)Interfering with a defender who is attempting to catch the ball, regardless of whether the offender is himself attempting to catch it

Class 1 is 10 yards and loss of down. Class 2 awards possession to the defense at the spot of the foul.

A penalty that changes possession?!?! Am I insane? Maybe. The defensive PI rule establishes "make the result as if he caught it" so why shouldn't the offensive rule be the same? This fair rule would eliminate the current inefficiency, inevitably resulting in much less offensive interference. Just like with holding, the plays will be easier to call and the refs will make fewer mistakes.

Finally, current rules or my perfect ones, PI absolutely must be reviewable. If we can review a play to see whether a pass was caught or not, why can't we review a call whose consequences are exactly the same thing??

In general, for all sports, replay needs to be expanded. The "human element" argument is bullshit. Baseball could be officiated by robots who never make mistakes(put sensors on everything, so you can precisely know what touched what when), and that would be a wonderful thing. The argument that it slows down the game is wrong too. The NFL has shown that with the success of its current replay system, which everybody likes. The system should make reviewable all things that can reasonably be reviewed. And it should have a HQ in Toronto to call, so it can quickly receive final word on the review. It's possible that this would occasionally slow down games, but so what? For a close call of great importance, what matters is getting it right. Fans get so upset over bad calls that it's ridiculous to argue that we wouldn't appreciate a system that greatly minimized or eliminated those calls.

Some Predictions

Some of the over/under lines for season wins stuck out to me. These are from These are the bid/ask prices for the over and some bets I'd make confidently if I were a betting man.

Arizona 7.5 54.7/59


Pastriots 12.5 42.8/46.8


Aging, but they have the easiest schedule in the NFL and are they really going to go from best team ever to less than 13-3 having lost only an overrated, selfish defensive back?

J E T S JETS JETS JETS 7.5 58/60

SELL(go Jets!)

Don't believe the hype.

San Diego 10.5 59.5/62


Last year's success was a carryover from Marty Schottenheimer. Now it's Norv's team. Merriman's an idiot. What the hell is he thinking? The team is taking advantage of his stupidity but hey, it's a business. That said, his effectiveness is key to SD's chances, and it isn't likely.

Obama to win presidency-59.9/60

Democrat to win presidency-61.1/61.2

Democrats to win 270+ electoral college points-57.1/64.9

Okay, Obama could get shot or caught in a hotel room smoking crack with a sheep who is not his wife(baaaaaah!) and be forced to resign from the ticket. Aren't the last two the same thing? Don't get excited like me thinking there's an arbitrage opportunity. The commission to buy or sell is 5. All this means is that you can pick between two unequal terms for the same bet. Weird. Anyways, even with the rake, I still like the above bets and Obama/Democrats. McCain doesn't have a chance in hell, unless I've miscalculated how much America hates black people.

I like Denver -3 @ Oakland.

SEC (Mental) Slowness

A while back, I wrote that NFL coaches(I'm talking to you, Herm) should have assistants whose sole job is logical game management. This is even more true in college, because the coach's primary skill must be recruiting, then motivating and preparing his team, then game management-one extra thing. Even so, it is both extremely important and reasonably simple to manage a game competently. It is inexcusable that some coaches do it so poorly, Herm. The two football games I have watched so far involved three SEC teams and three levels of bad strategery.

Tennessee @ UCLA-74 seconds left in the first half, Tenn facing 4th and long at the UCLA 36, clock running. Without weakening my point, I'll note that this can be a difficult decision. Philip Fulmer CALLS TIME-OUT to consider his options. No matter what you decide, you're about to give up the ball, quite possibly with bad field position. Let the clock run! The other team will call time-out! You idiot.

PS Michael Lewis, whose opinion I respect, thinks Phil Fulmer is a hick.

Football is a manly sport. You have to be a tough guy to play it at a high level. The nature of fanhood is that you get to stretch out on the couch drinking beer, eating fried food and farting(also manly activities, I suppose) and simultaneously feel like a participant in intense athletic competition. What has happened is that everybody associated with football has become too secure in his manliness. He is part of a football game, so no matter how egregiously wussy the strategery he recommends or employs, he is still a manly, manly, man. A key principle that applies to almost all competition is that an aggressive, opportunistic approach is essential to success. One must take calculated risks and not be afraid to fail. This concept has been dismissed by the coaching community in favor of CYA. And fans don't realize how bad it is because it's nearly universally(pretty much everyone but Belichick) practiced.

Result: Missed long field goal, UCLA takes over at its 44, ESPN announcer Jesse Palmer says "Kevin Craft(QB) is having a tough first half(3 INT). They should be very conservative and try to end the half tied(or whatever the score was)." I thought-that's the stupidest thing I ever heard. If you don't trust your QB and offense with 70 seconds and excellent field position(and a leftover time-out, thanks to PF), why show up? Craft throws an interception, returned for a touchdown. Fulmer celebrates. Palmer goes on a self-satisfied rant about how right he was. Millions nod in agreement, further convinced that wussy strategery wins football games. *Obligatory Bachelor reference*, Jesse Palmer.

South Carolina @ Vanderbilt- 2:16 left, Vanderbilt up 24-17, SC has 4th and 18 in Vanderbilt territory. SC has 2 time-outs, no 2-minute warning in college football. They punt! The idea is to gain field position, get a defensive stop while using the time-outs, get the ball back with some time left, score. This is HORRIBLE! When the leading team gets the ball in this situation, it is one first-down away from being able to run out the clock. First down-ten yards. WHAT THE FUCK DOES FIELD POSITION MATTER? Okay, it matters if you get the ball back. The leading team punts it back to you, so field position is a wash. But you're losing time and burning your time-outs, making you less likely to score even if you do get a chance. Some estimates I think are close enough-In a typical game, a team has 25 first-downs+touchdowns, 8 turnovers+FGattempts+punts, meaning a single successful sequence of downs is relatively likely. 3 and out is far less likely than commentators make it seem("all they have to do is get a stop!"). And you still have to score! The alternative is to go for it. Let's say you have a 10% chance of converting, another number I made up. If you succeed, you have first down on the 20(or closer) and momentum, whatever that means. You're in business! If you fail, at least you generate some excitement and go down fighting. Besides, the game isn't over. You can still get a stop and get the ball back. What you've lost is the field position you would have gained by punting, let's call it 35 yards. The back door draw is just gravy anyway. Your realistic chance to win is to convert 4th and 18 and score on that possession.

My issue with Vanderbilt is nitpicking by comparison, and the course of action I think is right is something I've never seen before, obviously because I'm the smartest person who's ever watched football and nobody else has thought of it. And this is already really long, so forget it.

Final(for now) notes about punts and commentators:

-Wussy punts state very clearly to all involved that you do not have confidence in your offense.

-Just because it's 4th and 3 and the TV guy says you are "forced to punt" does not make it so. You are the coach. It is your decision.

-When you are behind by 14 with 7 minutes left, a punt is almost never correct, but it is almost always chosen. And TMQ(

read TMQ!

almost always writes "Game Over" in his notebook.

-The coach who frustrates me most is our very own Mangina.

-Actually Norvgina W. Turner(actual name) is worse, the tiebreaker being that he has a great offense and the best running back ever and still does this.

What I love about sports is the high level competition. Football, being the most complex and systemized sport, is to an intelligent fan a competition between coaches and GMs more so than players, who are for the most part the "pieces". Watching the coaches be so stupid makes the game much less enjoyable for me. This is why I am relieved that Belichick wasn't suspended/banned even though he deserves it. The future of intelligent football coaching depends on him. Fearless prediction-by 2025, 2/3 of NFL head coaches will be Belichick disciples or grand-disciples. So that's why he's worth protecting...