August 31, 2012

Dream Scenario: 2012 NFL Season

     The following is my best attempt at creating my ideal 2012 NFL season.  Four notes about it:

-None of the following events involve injuries.  I know injuries are a part of the game and allow for amazing stories to happen.  However, I never want to see anybody get hurt, and there are always ways to make a great story without someone being injured.

-You may notice that the following scenario is not ridiculously far off from how this season should turn out.  That's because teams that have been good in the past few years got more coverage, which has made them more interesting, which means their presence is important in creating a truly awesome series of events.

-If I did everything correctly, this scenario is completely plausible.  I actually got the NFL schedule and picked each of the 256 games, though I did have to change a few of my picks to get what I wanted.  Also, I made sure to check that the tiebreakers were how I wanted them to be.

-If your team does not do well in this fantasy, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't like your team (though it probably does).  It may just be a case of your team being in a division with 3 other teams I want to see win (Buccaneers and Bengals), or even your team coincidentally being in games in which the other team's victory in crucial to the storyline.

     I will add more detailed descriptions of my thought process in italics throughout the post.  The fantasy directly follows the first ever jump break in W17L history.  Enjoy.

August 29, 2012

Is It Just Me...

     ...or does the NFL use the same 32 kickers every year and just rotate them around every once in a while?  Because I swear I've seen Billy Cundiff on about 10 different teams.

Cundiff, in a generic-looking jersey, so every year he can just use this photo and not have to take a picture with his new team's jersey.

"Sweet Caroline" Has Been Taken Off The Playlist At Beaver Stadium...

     ...because the lyrics, "touching me, touching you" may remind people of Jerry Sandusky.

     The worst part of all of this?  Nobody will get to hear The Darkness at a Penn State football game!

August 18, 2012

ESPN Ticker Shocker Of The Day

     While I was watching ESPN today, I looked at the bottom of the screen and saw a news update that went something like this:  "Jeff Demps, who won a silver medal with the U.S. 4x100m relay team, has signed with the New England Patriots.  Demps also played running back for the University of Florida."

     Going into that update, I knew this much:  Jeff Demps was a running back at Florida.  I remember him very well, as he and Chris Rainey were two of the highest rated sophomore running backs in NCAA Football 2010.  I also knew that Jeff Demps was one of the fastest guys in college football.  I was shocked, however, to see that this guy who I only knew as a football player was also a silver-medal-winning Olympic sprinter.  Granted, he only ran in the preliminary heat, but that group was the fastest in the preliminaries and did I mention he won a freaking silver medal in the Olympics!!!  My mind has been blown.

August 10, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: Recap

     To end the 3-Way NFL Preview, I offer you a recap of the best and worst teams in the projections, and links to all 8 divisional prediction posts.

Top 5 Teams (champion in bold)

W17L:  Steelers, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Falcons
Forecaster:  Patriots, Packers, Jets, Raiders, 49ers
Random:  Raiders, Eagles, Cardinals, Jaguars, Seahawks (Packers win title as 18th best team)
Overall:  Eagles, Raiders, Ravens, Packers, Patriots
W17L plus Forecaster:  Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Eagles, 49ers

Bottom 5 Teams

W17L:  Dolphins, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Rams
Forecaster:  Rams, Colts, Buccaneers, Redskins, Bears
Random:  Rams, Lions, Dolphins, Colts, Broncos
Overall:  Rams, Colts, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Redskins
W17L plus Forecaster:  Rams, Colts, Buccaneers, Redskins, Browns

Sleeper Teams

W17L:  Vikings, Eagles, Chargers
Forecaster:  Vikings, Seahawks, Panthers, Jets, Raiders
Random:  Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, Vikings, Seahawks
Overall:  Vikings, Eagles, Jaguars, Raiders
W17L plus Forecaster:  Vikings, Panthers, Eagles, Raiders

Most Likely To Drop Off

W17L:  Bengals, Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Saints
Forecaster:  Steelers, Saints, Titans
Random:  Packers, Lions, Patriots, Saints, Steelers
Overall:  Saints, Packers, Lions, Steelers, 49ers
W17L plus Forecaster:  Saints, Packers, Titans, 49ers, Steelers

     For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Below are links to all 8 divisional projections:

AFC East
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
NFC East
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West

     Keep your eyes peeled for my next project, my Dream Scenario for the entire 2012 NFL season!

Why I Don't Care About The Olympics

     Last night I stumbled across Cory Tell All Sports' excellent piece on why people love the Olympics, and it got me to thinking why I don't really care about them.  After pondering a few different reasons, I came up with the one explanation for why my passion for the Games is so low.

     One of my favorite aspects of watching sports is seeing all of the storylines unfold.  Sure, double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius was a great story, and countless other athletes overcame a lot of adversity to get where they are now.  But I can't get emotionally invested in these people because I've never seen most of them before.  Americans fell in love with Gabby Douglas once she started winning medals, but outside of national pride, I had no reason to care.

     Contrast that with my favorite sports moment, Super Bowl 42.  The Giants' upset of the 18-0 Patriots was an incredible story all on its own.  But I watched the Patriots win quite a few of those first 18 games.  I saw the Giants almost beat the Patriots in the meaningless regular season finale just to prove a point.  I had seen Tom Brady gradually change from a scrappy backup quarterback to a smug and talented superstar.  I remembered when Eli Manning was a struggling rookie and heard the criticism he received from the media in his first four seasons.  To me, the teams weren't just names or the representatives of a certain region.  They had their own personalities and stories that I knew a lot about.  That connection to what's happening on the TV is what makes sports a captivating event instead of a mildly interesting athletic contest.  With most Olympic sports getting little to no coverage outside of the Games themselves, the Olympics can't provide that kind of interest for me.

(The same argument goes for Little League, which is on all the time now!!!!!!)

August 9, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: NFC West

San Francisco 49ers
W17L:  10-6  (4th seed, loses to New Orleans in Wild Card Round)
Forecaster:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to Green Bay in NFC Championship)
Random:  8-8

W17L's Take:  Nobody thought the 49ers were supposed to go 13-3 last year.  But they put up some really impressive defensive numbers, and Alex Smith re-invented himself as a top-notch game manager who can make big plays when necessary.  In the NFC West, even a down year for this team should get them 10 wins and a playoff spot.

Forecaster's Take:  The 49ers are the second best team in the NFC thanks to an incredible rushing defense and top-10 finishes in 4 of the 9 predictor stats last year.

Seattle Seahawks
W17L:  4-12
Forecaster:  11-5  (5th seed, loses to Green Bay in Divisional Round)
Random:  11-5  (5th seed, loses to Green Bay in Wild Card Round)

W17L's Take:  I have no reason to think Matt Flynn is a bad quarterback.  In his first start, he almost got the Green Bay Packers a win over New England in a super exciting game.  In his second start, he set the Packers record for passing yards and touchdowns in one of the more bizarre games you'll ever see (Matthew Stafford threw for over 500 yards).  However, two starts don't give me the confidence to say that Flynn can lead a team to the playoffs this year, especially one coming off a 7-win season.  It's going to be a rough learning experience for Flynn.  (And yes, I realize Tarvaris Jackson might start.  Still going with 4-12.)

Forecaster's Take:  The Seahawks are one of the major sleepers team this year.  They don't run the ball very well (which allows them to use their passing game), their defense forces opponents to run a lot of plays, and the defense is also very aggressive, which leads to penalties but also makes them more effective.

Arizona Cardinals
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  9-7
Random:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to Green Bay in Divisional Round)

W17L's Take:  Larry Fitzgerald is the only great player on this team.  I don't think Kevin Kolb or John Skelton are good enough to take Arizona to the playoffs, or anywhere close.

Forecaster's Take:  The Cardinals will be pretty good this year, thanks to a defense that commits a lot of penalties and keeps drives going as long as possible.

St. Louis Rams
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  2-14
Random:  3-13

W17L's Take:  The Rams are slowly getting the pieces needed to become a contender.  Sam Bradford is a quality passer, Steven Jackson is a great running back, and Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold provide some talent on the offensive line.  However, that contendership is still a long way away.

Forecaster's Take:  The Rams are the worst team in the NFL because of their awful rushing defense and lowest-scoring offense.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

3-Way NFL Preview: NFC South

Atlanta Falcons
W17L:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to New Orleans in Divisional Round)
Forecaster:  8-8
Random:  9-7  (3rd seed, loses to Dallas in Wild Card Round)

W17L's Take:  The Falcons have had a very good team for the last few years, and I don't expect anything about that to change.  I especially love the quartet of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Julio Jones.

Forecaster's Take:  I'm not as high on the Falcons, mostly because their offense has to run too many plays to score, and the defense doesn't keep opponents on the field long enough.

Carolina Panthers
W17L:  8-8
Forecaster:  10-6  (4th seed, loses to Seattle in Wild Card Round)
Random:  9-7

W17L's Take:  I am all-in on Cam Newton.  He is, in my opinion, the most exciting player to watch in the league, and I think he has the work ethic to learn from his poor performance in the second half of 2011 and figure out a way to beat the defenses designed to stop him.  Even if he doesn't, Newton is still a threat as a scrambler and short-yardage runner.  The Panthers should add a couple more wins that last year.

Forecaster's Take:  After leading the league in rushing first downs and coming in 5th in points scored, the Panthers have a great chance to take the next step and become a playoff team.

New Orleans Saints
W17L:  10-6  (5th seed, loses to Green Bay in NFC Championship)
Forecaster:  8-8
Random:  7-9

W17L's Take:  Dropping the Saints by 3 wins from last year isn't a sign that I think the bounty scandal will hurt them.  I actually think it will be a rallying point for the team, especially in the playoffs.  The reason I expect the Saints to win only 10 games is because Drew Brees can't possibly match his numbers from last year, and therefore the offense won't be able to cover up a below average defense.

Forecaster's Take:  The Saints will not be hurt by the bounty scandal, but rather their inability to make opponents run the ball, and the fact that they led the league in offensive plays in 2011.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  3-13
Random:  7-9

W17L's Take:  The Buccaneers weren't very good last year, and they didn't make any big moves in the offseason.  It's hard to score points when Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount are your primary weapons.

Forecaster's Take:  The Bucs will be awful in 2012 because they can't run for first downs and their run defense is pathetic.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

August 7, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: NFC North

Green Bay Packers
W17L:  12-4  (1st seed, defeats Pittsburgh in Super Bowl)
Forecaster:  12-4  (1st seed, loses to New England in Super Bowl)
Random:  7-9  (4th seed, defeats Oakland in Super Bowl)

W17L's Take:  As a Packers "fan", I generally shy away from picking them because I don't trust them.  But I know the offense is good enough to get them to 12-4 despite their poor defense.  And after that, I just didn't see any team that I thought would beat them.  Obviously I don't think Green Bay as a Super Bowl lock, but they're the closest thing the NFL has.

Forecaster's Take:  Not only does the Random projection think the Packers will go 7-9.  Not only does it expect the Packers to win the division at 7-9.  Not only does it think the Packers will win a playoff game.  It has the Packers winning the Super Bowl after going 7-9!!  What you should really know about the Packers is that they are the best team in the NFC, and a close second in the league to New England, thanks to a high-scoring offense and lots of first downs via penalty.

Chicago Bears
W17L:  10-6  (6th seed, loses to Green Bay in Divisional Round)
Forecaster:  5-11
Random:  6-10

W17L's Take:  The Bears were great in 2010.  They were on their way to the playoffs in 2011 before the Jay Cutler injury.  There's no reason to expect a change in performance in 2012, especially with Brandon Marshall teaming up with Cutler again.

Forecaster's Take:  The Bears will be the 5th-worst team in the league, as they don't force teams to run enough and are very passive on defense as far as penalties are concerned.

Minnesota Vikings
W17L:  7-9
Forecaster:  7-9
Random:  7-9

W17L's Take:  I've had a lot of respect for the Vikings roster over the last few years, and giving them 4 more wins than they had last year seems to be a sign that I still show that respect.  Adrian Peterson will be back and should be a least a very good running back, Christian Ponder should show improvement, and the defense is good enough to take this team a step in the right direction.

Forecaster's Take:  The Vikings should improve over last year, thanks mostly to its ability to run for first downs.

Detroit Lions
W17L:  8-8
Forecaster:  7-9
Random:  3-13

W17L's Take:  Like the Texans, the Lions had their breakthrough last season but should fall back a little this time around.  Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson are awesome, but I don't think the pieces around them are good enough to guarantee them a playoff spot.

Forecaster's Take:  The Lions can't run for first downs and take too many plays to get things done, which is why they will lose a few more games than in 2011.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

August 5, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles
W17L:  11-5  (3rd seed, loses to Chicago in Wild Card Round)
Forecaster:  10-6  (6th seed, loses to New York Giants in Wild Card Round)
Random:  12-4  (1st seed, loses to Green Bay in NFC Championship)

W17L's Take:  I know the Eagles went 8-8 last year.  I know they aren't the Dream Team "everyone else" thought they would be last year.  But the Eagles were better than their record last year, and seem to be good every season.  I think all of their star pieces will come together to a point this year, and lead the Eagles back to the playoffs.

Forecaster's Take:  The Eagles will be better this season than they were in 2011, thanks to a high-powered offense and a tendency to run for first downs (I can't believe I just typed that last part but the numbers back it up).

New York Giants
W17L:  8-8
Forecaster:  11-5  (3rd seed, loses to San Francisco in Divisional Round)
Random:  7-9

W17L's Take:  I could see this season turning out two different ways.  The Giants might take a page from its '08 counterpart or last year's Packers, and ride its championship momentum to a number one seed.  Or they might perform at the level they should have been at last year and finish around .500.  I'm going with the second one, just because I thought the team was that bad in 2011.

Forecaster's Take:  The Giants should improve their regular season performance, thanks to its poor running game that will force Eli to throw, and a defense that tires opponents out.

Dallas Cowboys
W17L:  8-8
Forecaster:  6-10
Random:  9-7  (6th seed, loses to Philadelphia in Divisional Round)

W17L's Take:  It's the same as every season.  Dallas has a lot of talent but will find a way to underachieve.

Forecaster's Take:  Defenses don't make mistakes against the Cowboys, and the Dallas defense doesn't force teams to run enough plays against.  The Cowboys will not only underachieve but will be flat out bad.

Washington Redskins
W17L:  6-10
Forecaster:  4-12
Random:  7-9

W17L's Take:  A 5-11 team replaces a rotating cast of quarterbacks with an athletic number 2 pick with one great college season under his belt.  That just sounds like trouble to me.  And for anyone who thinks I'm being unfair to Robert Griffin III, note that I improved the Redskins' record by one win.  You're welcome.

Forecaster's Take:  Even with a boost of luck from the Random predictor, the Redskins aren't even close to being a playoff team.  The culprit:  a terrible offense that has a tough time running for first downs.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

August 4, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: AFC West

Oakland Raiders
W17L:  9-7
Forecaster:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to New England in AFC Championship)
Random:  13-3  (1st seed, loses to Green Bay in Super Bowl)

W17L's Take:  I do like the Raiders.  They have a ton of talent, and now they have Carson Palmer to tie it all together.  But nothing they've done in the last few years suggests they'll make a deep playoff run, though they have a good chance to make the playoffs.

Forecaster's Take:  The Raiders do a lot of things well, but the main factor in their projected success is a defense that commits a lot of penalties, meaning they are very aggressive, which should lead to a great performance this season.

San Diego Chargers
W17L:  11-5  (3rd seed, loses to New England in Divisional Round)
Forecaster:  8-8
Random:  10-6

W17L's Take:  I'll admit that I'm probably living in the past with the Chargers, but I just think of them as a great team.  I don't know if Philip Rivers can get them to 11 wins, but he should at least get them close.

Forecaster's Take:  San Diego is an average team, due mostly to a defense that doesn't stay on the field long enough.

Denver Broncos
W17L:  9-7  (6th seed, loses to San Diego in Wild Card Round)
Forecaster:  10-6  (6th seed, loses to Baltimore in Wild Card Round)
Random:  6-10

W17L's Take:  I know what you're thinking.  "With Tebow, they went 8-8 with a playoff win.  So you're saying Peyton Manning is only worth one more win?"  I want you to know I fully expect Peyton to be close to his old self.  But this Denver team didn't play like an 8-8 team last year.  They were a 5 or 6-win team that got a couple of breaks and won 8.  Peyton should be worth 3 to 4 extra wins over Orton/Tebow, and while that will be enough to get them in the playoffs, it won't be enough for them to contend for a title.

Forecaster's Take:  The Denver Broncos are legit, thanks to their ability to run for first downs and a defense that forces opponents to run a lot of plays.

Kansas City Chiefs
W17L:  6-10
Forecaster:  6-10
Random:  10-6  (5th seed, loses to New York Jets in Wild Card Round)

W17L's Take:  I don't have much to say about the Chiefs.  They have some really good players, but overall I don't think they have enough to do a lot of damage.

Forecaster's Take:  Don't let the Random prediction fool you.  The Chiefs are not a playoff team, or even a decent team.  The main culprit is their offense, which is downright horrible.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.

August 2, 2012

3-Way NFL Preview: AFC South

Houston Texans
W17L:  10-6  (4th seed, loses to Baltimore in Wild Card Round)
Forecaster:  10-6  (4th seed, loses to New York Jets in Wild Card Round)
Random:  7-9
W17L's Take:  The Texans finally made the playoffs last year, but I'm expecting a small letdown this season.  In an awful AFC South division, Houston can still win 10 games and make the playoffs, but I don't see them getting past the Ravens.
Forecaster's Take:  The Texans are a good but not great team.  They get a lot of first downs on runs, and don't give up many rushing yards.

Jacksonville Jaguars
W17L:  6-10
Forecaster:  7-9
Random:  11-5  (2nd seed, loses to Cincinnati in Divisional Round)

W17L's Take:  The Jaguars seem to be very content with mediocrity.  I'm not saying the players don't want to be great, but the organization never seems to make a big move to make the team better.  They just send out a decent team, fill half of their seats, and bring in the money.  Maurice Jones-Drew is an awesome running back, but with Jacksonville's passing game, they won't make the playoffs.
Forecaster's Take:  Don't listen to the Random projection.  I'm not buying the Jags as a playoff team, let alone the second seed.  They will be better than last year, but don't score enough to be a contender.

Tennessee Titans
W17L:  7-9 
Forecaster:  6-10
Random:  8-8
W17L's Take:  Just like the Jaguars, the Titans have great players in all the wrong places.  Namely, at running back.  We were surprised when Tennessee went 9-7 last year, so 7-9 won't be that surprising.

Forecaster's Take:  The Titans should drop off a lot from last year, mostly because of their inability to run for first downs and to keep opponents from throwing the ball.

Indianapolis Colts
W17L:  5-11
Forecaster:  2-14
Random:  6-10

W17L's Take:  Before 2011, the Colts had a ridiculous habit of winning 10 games every year.  Did Peyton Manning have a lot to do with that?  Of course.  But I don't think the Colts suddenly got worse over one random offseason.  With Peyton, I said they would have had a good shot at the playoffs this year.  With Andrew Luck, this team will stay right where it thinks it is, near the bottom of the league.

Forecaster's Take:  Surprisingly, the Colts aren't the worst team in this projection.  But with such a poor offense and an unwillingness to run for first downs, they are a close second.

For an explanation of the Forecaster and Random projections, go here.  Teams are ranked by total wins over the three projections.