Home Is Where The Upset Is

"Can you hear me now? Good. Thanks for making Eli suck today."

"Can you hear me now? Good. Thanks for making Eli suck today."

Eagles 23, Giants 11 – It seems rather odd to me that Eli Manning has been playing in the Meadowlands for his career and yet has trouble throwing in the winds. I thought the addition of Brandon Jacobs for the Giants would turn the tide in their favor this week, but Donovan McNabb’s velocity on his passes cut thtrough when Eli’s fell weak, making the big difference after both defenses generally took the right approach to stopping the running games.  Philly’s defense fared better, stopping New York from ever reaching the end zone. Five trips to the red zone resulted in no touchdowns.  If you’re a Giants fan and the play-calling on 3rd and 4th downs made you want to pull a Buddy Ryan on Kevin Gilbride, I understand. It’s like Andy Reid transferred his crappy play-calling essence across the stadium today.

With no rooting interest left, I’m going to go with Donny Mac: despite all the times Philly has tried to run him out, I want him to win a title — because it will shut them up for the rest of his career.

Steelers 35, Chargers 24 – Final score not completely indicative of the beatdown handed out by the Pittsburgh D upon Philip Rivers. The Bolts offens never really go right after that first quick touchdown drive, and while Ben Roethlisberger completed some great throws and had the opportunity for others, Wilie Parker was the star of the game offesnively, darting in and out of the SD front seven during the entire game.  There was nothing as satisfying as watching Rivers get pounded by Lamar Woodley and Brett Kiesel.

Ravens 13, Titans 10 – Bad delay of game call late obviously, but I have a dirty suspicion that Blatimore would have converted a 3rd and 7 just as well as a 3rd and 2 at that point, because the Titans’ offense shot itself in the foot too many times with turnovers to give the D any encouragement. While Joe Flacco got some deep balls going, we’d advise holding off on the fellating. Those deep throws obscured some rather pedestrian stats and he’s not very good with the short to intermediate passing game. At this point, he’s a younger Dilfer, and Baltimore lost Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington in the War of Attrition. I saw seven guys fall thanks to injury in the second half alone.

Cardinals 33, Panthers 13 – Not quite sure what compelled John Fox to empower Jake Delhomme to throw into double and triple coverage rather than just completing handoffs — the Arizona defense helped, but that can’t be all of it — and it resulted in six turnovers for Delhomme, who telegraphed passes, threw to Steve Smith in triple coverage, and looked like he did for much of the 2007 season prior to going down for the season. That’s probably the last game he’ll play in a Carolina uniform.  Delhomme wasn’t the sole problem: not doulbe covering Larry Fitzgerald the entire game seems like the error of a first-time head coach, no someone like Fox, who ought to be on thin ice next season.

If You Need A Fix…

(Highlight found at Sports on My Mind.)

….the NFL might be the one you call on, your candyman, the one who gives you more and more, if you’re Vegas. A 3.5 point spread in the Steelers’ favor, a last second touchdown on desperation laterals. 17-10 or 18-10, until the replay booth upstairs decided that the first lateral by LaDainian Tomlinson was a forward pass — which I have looked about a dozen times now and still don’t know where the hell that call came from.  The official admitted the overturning of the call was botched, but it still doesn’t hold water.

You know this is whipping up a storm at NFL offices, because they’re sending emails about the rules to people like me, who don’t mean squat in the grand scheme. Here is part of the explanation:

There were three passes on the play. The first was a completed forward pass from San Diego’s Philip Rivers to LaDainian Tomlinson. The second, from Tomlinson to Chris Chambers, was initially ruled a legal backward pass but then reversed in replay to an illegal forward pass. The third, from Chambers, was a legal backward pass that hit the ground and was returned for the touchdown by Pittsburgh’s Polamalu.

The incorrect reversal of the on-field ruling of touchdown was acknowledged immediately following the game by referee Scott Green in the pool report interview with a representative of the media.

If any forward pass, legal or illegal, hits the ground, the play is dead immediately. The officiating crew mistakenly determined that the backward pass that Polamalu legally recovered and returned for the touchdown was the pass that was reversed in replay to being forward and illegal. Therefore, the crew ruled that the ball was dead when it hit the ground and the play was over. (The actual illegal forward pass Tomlinson to Chambers did not hit the ground and therefore the play is allowed to continue.)

If the situation had been handled properly, the defense (Pittsburgh) would have declined the penalty for an illegal forward pass from Tomlinson to Chambers and taken the touchdown.

So, a call is handled correctly by Jeff Triplette and his usually unconscionably bad officiating crew (13 penalties on the Steelers to one for the Chargers, including a complete BS pass interference call on Ike Taylor that should have been called on Vincent Jackson), yet it’s overruled by the replay booth incorrectly; as they don’t even have rule books on hand, apparently.

That was a $64 million dollar swing to Vegas right there on a bizarre play. You’ll have to excuse me if I think that there wasn’t some minor consideration of that. With that in mind, when do the big sports orgs loosen up and, y’know, actually acknowledge that people gamble on sports?  It’s kind of childish and pie-in-the-sky not to, plus, in the case of sports leagues, they can sweep accusations under the rug becuase the people that cover them won’t bother with discussing it. It’s the same “speak no evil” policy that gave the NBA Tim Donaghy.

Again, we don’t have conclusive proof of a fix being in, but this is very, very suspect.

The Red Zone: Getting The Point Across

(Video tip to Black Sports Online.)

Seahawks 34, 49ers 13 – Normally I would not lead with this because there were a litany of better games on, and I was saved from having to watch this travesty by the grace of my local Fox affiliate who rationally decided that no one in our little part of California wanted to watch the Niners get beat. However, it produced the most coherent yet quotable of coach rants from Mike Singletary, who is visibly and understandably frustrated with a quarterback who is responsible for 11 fumbles and 17 interceptions, a tight end that dogged it a bit and cost them 15 yards on a dumb penalty, and a defense that allowed a fullback, a fullback, to gather up 116 yards and two TDs on only four receptions.

Saints 37, Chargers 32 – Essentially, the Chargers stalled themselves early in London, which allowed Drew Brees and whatever mishmash of talent he has catching footballs to get up early and get a lead. 14 penalties for more than 100 penalty yards don’t help, especially when the defense has completely quit or doesn’t have enough to stop any sort of potent offense. The AFC West is slowly morphing into the NFC West, if you can believe it.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 23 – Kurt Warner got the Cards out to a 17-3 lead, but then Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith powered a Carolina comeback in Charlotte, prodded on by an amazing play where Smith looked like he had gone out of bounds on his way to the end zone, but his heel had not touched the sideline while his foot came down near it.

Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9 – An ugly game in which Tampa Bay essentially got stopped in the red zone when they were able to mount drives, including the last failed drive with less than a minute to go. Brad Johnson threw one TD pass to Roy L. Williams, and if you have any Dallas players on your fantasy teams, I’d advise benching them until Tony Romo comes back.

Jets 28, Chiefs 24 – New York won in spite of Brett Favre as much as they did because of him. The Gunslinger threw three picks, making Tyler Thigpen look like a competent quarterback until Herm Edwards’ late conservative playcalling got int the way. Thigpen finished with two TD passes.

Giants 21, Steelers 14 – Something I’ll never understand about defensive coordinators: you go to all this trouble, if you’re Dick LeBeau, to develop good coverage and blitz schemes to use on Sunday, yet, after your team’s offense gives up and awful safety on a botched punt snap, you play prevent. Of course, when you play prevent, you give up a score, and Eli Manning hitting Kevin Boss to go ahead for good seemed utterly predictable. It would help if Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t spending half the game on his back.

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The Red Zone: Week 1 Highlights

Patriots 17, Chiefs 10 – It’s all about Tom Brady probably being out for the season, and the Patriots’ chances riding on that — so much so that it overrode the game itself, where the Chiefs failed at a last second comeback. Now, it’s a question of whether Bill Belichick will stick with Matt Cassel or who he will bring in to take Brady’s place.

Eagles 38, Rams 3 – More notable for Donovan McNabb being good as we’re used to from him, with three TD passes. Here’s how lousy St. Louis is: Philly had three — count ’em — three receivers reach the 100-yard mark for the game.

Cowboys 28, Browns 10 – The Cleveland hangover from the pre-season is still there, and Tony Romo and Marion Barber basically tore it up, so much so that Felix Jones could get into the act late too.

Jets 20, Dolphins 14 – Brett Favre throws two classic Gunslinger TDs (one on fourth down when kicker Mike Nugent twinged his leg) and the New York secondary picks Chad Pennington in the end zone to seal the win.

Bills 34, Seahawks 10 – Two massive special teams plays, a punt return by Roscoe Parrish and a fake punt to a TD pass, help bolster a rout of the NFC West favorite.

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Ill-Advised NFL Previews: AFC North

1) Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s Big Ben’s team and the offensive line is a bit thin right now, although getting ridd of the supposedly malcontent Alan Faneca may be addition by subtraction. Concerns have to do with the secondary outside of Troy Polamalu, but in a hard-fought division, the Steelers should still be the class of it. Adding Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall in the draft to contribute to the offense are solid moves and I need a reason not to say they’ll win this division. Last year’s loss to Jacksonville in the playoffs is concerning, but that’s a first season under Mike Tomlin. They’ll learn from this.

2) Cleveland Browns* – There’s a major gamble here: trading for defensive line help for run stuffing by giving away a pretty good corner in Leigh Bodden to the Lions. Plus, they didn’t look all that impressive in the last pre-season game, and return stud Joshua Cribbs is hurt. However, that is pre-season, and I’m thinking getting Donte’ Stallworth for the receiving corps was a good move to go with Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.  Like them as a Wild Card pick if Derek Anderson’s concussion doesn’t lead to a prolonged QB controversy with Brady Quinn.

3) Cincinnati Bengals – Too many cooks in the kitchen in the front office that all have or have had the last name Brown (or are married into the family) on personnel matters; Marvin Lewis is in a no-win situation. The team drafted a great college linebacker in Keith Rivers from USC, but one player can’t fix what has been lousy defense — plus, they’ve had to dig into the depths and re-sign Chris Henry because of the nicks given to both Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh.  In fantasy purposes, Carson Palmer is still probably a good pick, but this team’s defense will kep it at .500 again unless Lewis has found the old motivational magic that he had as Baltimore’s D-coordinator.

4) Baltimore Ravens – I really want Troy Smith to succeed and be a starting quarterback, but I don’t see the team having a very long leash for him because they’re paying Joe Flacco first-rounder money and will probably tolerate going through growing pains by inserting him into the line-up as soon as possible. (A rant about how I-AA players are getting more love and run than guys who win games and come one short of a national chip is probably later.)  Rookie head coach, probably a rookie QB midway through, and an aging defense that is a far cry from the franchise’s Super Bowl winning season. Ray Rice will be worth looking at if Willis McGahee keeps having injury issues, but this is going to get worse before it gets better.

The Prisons Of Our Design

In no way do I mean to pick on Chicago per se, necessarily. I love the city; I made plenty of 6-8 hour drives from my dinky little college in Iowa between 2000 and 2004 to enjoy the city and it remains on my list of preferred cities to live in should my day job take me out of California any time soon. But ballers are not having the best of times with the city. Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker both got jacked at home last year while in the Windy City, and Illinois native son Rashard Mendenhall, fresh from being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, got held up last night while out walking.

Fortunately, Mendenhall and the woman who was with him are OK, and he told his mom it wasn’t anything worth trying to lose his life over.

The “athlete getting robbed or assaulted” story always twinges a nerve in me (and I suspect a few others), because you can largely sense how this will play out when (not if) it makes the screamer shows on ESPN and past the desk of various columnists over the next day or so. Many will gloss over, but others, desperate for time to fill, always trend towards something more than the usual lament about how the streets aren’t safe. What Mendenhall went through is pretty much garden variety ish for anyone these days — it doesn’t read like he was targeted because of who he is yet, and I want to leave that emphasis on yet. But I can sense a train of thought forming in the response of mainstream blowhards to this for one simple reason: Mendenhall was out at 2 A.M. when he was robbed.

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Fun With NFL Free Agency!

I’m not really as bullish on the whole Michael Turner deal as a lot of other people. There’s a lot to be said for the guy’s running style, but he spent a lot of his time running against beaten down defenses that had been facing LaDainian Tomlinson during his days in San Diego, and also running behind Lorenzo Neal at fullback and a very good offensive line (the Chargers released Neal, and I don’t think they’ve tried to sign him for less yet, which is a mistake.) That said, the Falcons had a need for Turner, trying to get the whole power and speed dichotomy with two backs. Of course, Warrick Dunn was the odd man out here — and has been cut this morning. Dunn’s best days are gone — but he is one of the more remarkable men in the NFL with his charity initiatives. If he still wants to play, here’s hoping he can.  Secondary thought: the Falcons obviously want no part of Darren McFadden for character reasons (although baby mama drama is low on the list of character issues to be concerned about) and they don’t have enough confidence in Norwood despite a nice yards-per-carry average. That #3 pick is going for either Matt Ryan or Jake Long now. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

The Falcons are clearly OK with the concept of clearing out most of the players associated with Michael Vick — not necessarily because of the Vick association, but because they probably view that team’s window as closed and time to start over. It will be to the Titans’ benefit now, to create a team around another superstar QB in waiting — Vince Young — by adding one of the more solid names at receiving in the TE category in Alge Crumpler. The Titans will still need to address the WR issue, but to have Crumpler there will give VY another target in crucial spots over the middle. [Nashville Tennessean]

Ben Roethlisberger’s $102 million contract extension is kind of a no-brainer — and really, it’s about the guaranteed money right now. With about half of that appearing to be guarantees or bonuses, that $50-something million is what he’ll get, and the rest will be renegotiated several years down the line. But that’s the move you have to make to solidify in the starting quarterback game — and in terms of scale, he’s got a contract reflecting a Super Bowl winner. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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The Red Zone, Week 3 Early Games.

Reminder: Please join me over at Awful Announcing later this afternoon for the Dallas-Chicago live-blog. Pre-game thread will go up at 4 PM Pacific.

Pats 38, Bills 7 – If anyone would like to try and stop the Patriot offense at this point, any attempt would be welcomed. Four TD passes by Tom Brady, two of them to Randy Moss, another to Jabar Gaffney, and the other to Benjamin Watson. Buffalo got damaged, losing LB Paul Posluzny to injury and QB J.P. Losman on that note as well.

Colts 30, Texans 24 – At least Houston made it close, even without Andre Johnson available. Peyton threw one TD pass to Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai rushed for the other two.

Packers 31, Chargers 24 – The NORV! Effect continues. Do not doubt it. While Phil Rivers and Brett Favre matched for 3 TDs each passing, a Packer INT late helped, and while Fantasy Jesus got in the end zone on a pass, he was under 100 yards rushing yet again. I predict serious heat for the NORV! this week in the Whale’s Vagina.

Eagles 56, Lions 21 – Donny Mac took out his frustration and rage on the non-existent Lions secondary, throwing three TDs to Kevin Curtis, and one to Brian Westbrook (who got another two sixes running). God forgot to smile on Jon Kitna today.

Jets 31, Dolphins 28 – Chad Pennington gets two TDs with his arm and one on his feet. Leon Washington provides the other good one on a 98-yard kick off return. Ronnie Brown had 3 TDs to keep it close, but not enough, and Miami’s 0-3.

Steelers 37, 49ers 16 – Allen Rossum got the scoring started for the Steelers with a kickoff return to the house. Big Ben adds a TD pass, Najeh Davenport rushes to the end zone, and Pitt added an INT return for a pick six.

Ravens 26, Cardinals 23 – Kitna was forsaken because He smiled on Kurt Warner, whom Ken Whisenhunt inserted for Matt Leinart midway through. Warner brought the Cardinals back to tie the Ravens, but Baltimore kicked a last-second field goal for the win.

Buccaneers 31, Rams 24 – Please raise your hand if you had a) Tampa Bay starting 2-1 and b) you had St. Louis starting 0 -3. Now put it down, you liar.

Chiefs 13, Vikings 10 – This game turned into a slog until Damon Huard threw a 4th-quarter touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe for the winning score. Not pretty for any viewers, but Chiefs fans will take a win any way possible.