Archive for September, 2012

Welcome Back, Refs!!

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Football

After blown calls, firing unqualified replacements and much controversy, the TRUE NFL referees are back in action tonight with the Ravens and Browns. Now we get to yell at referees that at least at better trained to understand the rules and can keep up with the speed of the game.

Monday night’s game brought to life two significant problems with the replacement refs…the players are at risk with a lack of control on the field and games are now in danger of being decided by bad calls.

The first issue has already occurred on several occasions throughout the first few weeks. The Steelers in week 3 were leading with their helmets on tackles (like they always do) and landing some vicious hits on the Raiders. Even the sandwich smash of Darrius Heyward-Bey, which included a helmet to his facemask, somehow did not warrant a personal foul penalty. This was not the only vicious hit, but the bigger pattern is the loss of control. The refs are allowing the little things at the beginning of games to go uncalled or call meaningless contact as penalties. This is upsetting the players and coaches, and allowing the players to push their boundaries. By the end of some of the games, the coaches are running around furious and the players are shaking their heads at the outcomes.

Until Monday night, the speculation about affecting game outcomes was still only discussion. There were some controversial endings to a few games (including 2 of my Redskins game), but last night included 3 significant blatant problems. On the final drive of the game for Seattle, there was a pass interference call against Sam Shields for incidental contact. The penalty gave Seattle 30 yards. Then with only seconds left, Russell Wilson tosses up a hail mary to the endzone. Golden Tate first pushed Sam Shields to the ground before jumping up to battle with MD Jennings for the ball. Jennings had his hands on the ball first and brought it to his chest before Tate was able to get his hands on it. Both fell to the ground with hands on the ball. The refs ran up and had a little confusion with one throwing his hands up and the other waving them out. When the play first happened, it appeared to be a clear pass interference and an interception. The refs took the video review and ended up leaving the play called as it stood…touchdown.

Not necessarily dictated by the events of Monday night (though possibly slightly reinforced by the chaos at the end of the game), the real refs and the NFL may have finally come to an agreement to bring them back anytime between tomorrow and the start of next week’s games. Here’s hoping…

Replacement referees. Concussions and medical trauma. Blockbuster trades. Rookie expectations. These are only a few of the headlines that have represented the start of the 2012 season. There are a lot of things to get people excited, but this has been a turbulent start (even without a lockout).

Brusin’ USA

While the issue was not a new one, medical concerns have plagued many sports worldwide, but none more than the football. The game includes significant injury risks and long-term effects that it brought together a number of current and past players to petition the NFL for better medical coverage during last year’s lockout. The conversation did not stop and will probably continue to expand with the most recent rash of monster hits and injuries. The head shots are the most deadly of the collisions, and yesterday was a good example of why current and former players care so much. Attempting to catch a TD pass, Darrius Heyward-Bey was demolished by two Steelers defenders and was knocked unconscious before he hit the ground. Though he eventually raised a thumbs up while getting taken out on the stretcher, this epitomized the need to balance out the need for safety with the desire to maintain the legitimacy of the game.

The Zebras Changed Their Stripes

With compensation issues plaguing the NFL referees, the league locked them out and replaced them with representatives from the college game. This included referees at multiple levels of the college game. After only watching some of the preseason games, it was clear that these referees were qualified to fill in temporarily but not long term. Calls have been missed. Explanations have been lacking. Everyone is getting frustrated. There have been illegal hits that have gone uncalled. Pass interference calls have been thrown for actions that look nothing like interference. The big concerns have been that bad calls, particularly at the end of games, could be costing teams wins. In week 3, the Redskins found themselves in a similar situation to the previous week. They had gotten themselves in a position to tie or win the game but penalties shattered those chances. In week 2, an offsetting personal foul situation was only assessed to the Skins and took them out of range for the game-tying field goal. Yesterday, they collapsed when a false start caused Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to assume the game was over and walk out on the field. Kyle Shanahan yelled for the referee’s attention and got flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty, pushing RGIII out of range of a hail mary pass. Goodell has no real incentive to end the lockout anytime soon because people will still watch the games, but they will just complain about it. The players would need to speak up about the danger factor of the replacement referees’ and make concessions to support the real refs’ demands.

Manning Moves and Tebow Sits

The Denver Broncos made history when they landed the biggest prospect of the summer…Peyton Manning. Though he was coming off a set of surgeries and had not played for a year, he was Peyton and the Broncos were looking for a more stable style of play at quarterback. The conversations then became whether Peyton could take a hit or even win a game. While there have been moments where he has fallen apart in games, he has actually looked mostly okay. He is getting back the awareness and starting to create some consistency with his offense.

Then there was Tebow…With no room left for two big name QBs, Tebow got shipped off to the Jets. This marked the first time that a rookie quarterback who won a playoff game was traded the following year. The move meant two big things: controversy for the quarterback race and how would the Jets want to use him. With the exception of a couple of plays, Tebow has been riding the bench. There are calls to bring him in for the under-productive Sanchez, but it will at least be a couple more weeks.

Shining Young Stars

RGIII versus Andrew Luck…While there was a preseason matchup, their performance in the regular season has started to get them recognition. Both QBs have been producing with limited offensive weapons and against some strong teams. Though the two quarterbacks have only won 1 game apiece, they have brought back the excitement to both cities. RGIII has been particularly incredible to watch. He is the leading rusher on the team, which is now the team with the 2nd highest rushing yards in the league. He has also shown that he has great field vision and accuracy. There is a fear that the Redskins have failed to put the talent around him and he could be easily broken before the end of the season.

The other three rookies that also started in week 1 have been a mix of talent. Russell Wilson was not predicted to start the season but won the starting job with his play in the preseason. Last week, he defeated a talented Dallas team that has a good shot at the NFC East. The NFC West is now a battle with the Seahawks able to go up against the assumed strength of the 49ers. Ryan Tannehill was a guy that the Dolphins were almost forced to take after failing multiple times during the offseason to snag a talented veteran. He has struggled significantly but did pick up a win in week 2. The odd QB out so far has been Brandon Weeden. The Browns are one of the abysmal teams in the league for several years, but there was hope with a new QB and Trent Richardson. He is getting a little production, but there is just a lack of wide receiver talent and blocking at this point.

Cyclone of Standings

When finishing week 3, it is probably surprising to hear that the Saints are winless. After allowing RGIII to have his great debut and dropping the first division game to the Panthers, it was believed that the ailing Chiefs were their ticket to their first win of the season. They instead blew a 24-6 lead and were stunned as Succop kicked the winning field goal.

So who are the 3-0 teams? Atlanta is not a surprise in this position, as they have Matt Ryan and his wide receivers running on all cylinders. Arizona was a surprise winner in week 2 over the Patriots, but their defense has been a big reason for their success. It was believed that their struggles between Kolb and Skelton would be too much to overcome, but the team has rallied to completely decimate Vick and the Eagles. Houston is the only AFC team in this conversation, but they look like the real deal too. They were a contender last year, even when Schaub went down. This year, they return with the run game of Foster and the arm of Schaub.

On the other side, only Cleveland joins the Saints at the bottom of the barrel. No one is predicting the Browns to make the playoffs, but the Saints were still a potential contender. The NFC South is not a strong overall division outside of the Falcons. Similarly, the Patriots, Steelers and Lions are all sitting at 1-2. This is quite surprising unless you look a little closer. The Patriots losses are to a strong defensive Arizona team and a juggernaut in Baltimore. The Steelers dropped one to a resurgent Manning but did struggle against a bottom feeder Oakland. The Lions’s struggle against the 49ers is no surprise, but their loss to the Titans was a mystery. They gave up significant yards and points when they are supposed to be a team set on defensive strength (and this year without significant defensive injuries coming into the season).

The rookie-led teams are currently only a combined record of 4-10.

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I will come back in another couple of weeks with another look at the progression of the season.

In a season that is coming down to the wire for several teams, there were few pundits that were giving the Baltimore Orioles any real shot at making the postseason. Only a couple of weeks away and now they are a frontrunner to either grab a wild card spot or even usurp the New York Yankees from the top of the AL East. I have personally been an O’s fan for many years, but I have not been following that closely. Now, with great teams to both my immediate north and south (Washington Nationals), this could be a very exciting postseason.

The Orioles have traditionally been a 1 half team. They either have a good first half or second half to the season. Peter Angelos has been more about the profit than winning. He has made a number of bad moves, including ruining the team’s relationship with Miguel Tejada, signing an ailing Sammy Sosa and burning out his talent. The team fought for several years with significant accusations of steroid use, with big name players like Raphael Palmero being at the center of it. Even before these issues, the Orioles were cursed in the postseason in 1997 when a wrong call on a homerun destroyed the team’s confidence in the series with the Yankees and sent them on their performance slide for the next decade.

This season, the team has been able to stay in the fight with the Yankees, even though their runs scored still falls short of their runs allowed. They keep finding themselves in games with extra innings, particularly in the recent weeks. Oddly enough, they have won the last 16 extra-inning games. The injuries have been a problem all season, but they keep finding guys that can step up and give them someone who can lead them to a win.

Beware of the bird!

The New Era in DC Has Begun! RGIII!!!

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Football

I had my doubts initially…not that RGIII would succeed eventually but that he would have such a strong start. His preseason was a little lackluster. Shanahan did not want to show his whole hand and he wanted to build the experience for Robert. With five rookie starters going into the first official week of the season, many believed that RGIII had the toughest situation to face with Brees and his offense attack with the physical Saints defense.

What was the result? RGIII finished with 19/26 for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first pass went for 0 yards, but he followed it up with a strong series of passes to get the Redskins up by 3. Even though Brees was able to answer, he took one play to send an 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon. The defense stepped it up, giving him a chance to get back out there and throw his second touchdown pass. Even though the special teams let the Saints get the score closer at the half, the consistency of the Redskins offense followed a pattern to put up 10 points in each quarter. This was just enough to finish off the Saints, with the defense also stepping up to pick off Brees twice.

I am now a believer of this dynamic, intelligent Baylor graduate. The DC region is energized with the potential RGII brings to the table. Definitely excited to see where this team will go this year.

Excellent Work, FOX News!

Posted: September 8, 2012 in News, Politics

I will admit that I am not a fan of FOX News and often find myself befuddled by their brand of entertainment and blubbery that they attempt to pass off as “news.” It is common to find that certain news organizations tend to have certain biases, but FOX News lets people know almost immediately that their conservative position stands far and above their desire to represent themselves as their slogan proclaims, “fair and balanced.” This is not to say that they are 100% on one side. It was actually FOX News that promoted the stance that Paul Ryan was trying to break a world record with the number of lies in his RNC speech, specifically Sally Kohn (link).

Still, the problem is easily observed through their recent coverage on the RNC and DNC. It was no surprise to watch FOX commentators praise one and bash the other, but their memory seemed to be almost nonexistent in the way they contradicted the reasons why they link one but not the other. The Daily Show highlighted this point so well, but let’s take a look at what odd observations they made:

  • Romney did not have to follow the party platform but Obama does. It was identified that Romney did not write the platform, but there was also a strong focus on the God absence from the DNC platform.
  • FOX News praised the speech by Clint Eastwood but criticized the DNC for including Hollywood representatives.
  • The story about Mitt’s father and the rose was so touching, but Michelle Obama talking about their background and the car was unnecessary.
  • Paul Ryan’s details about the issues were praised by Brit Hume, but Clinton’s focus on policy details was confusing and unmemorable.
  • Chris Wallace praise the atmosphere of the RNC after Romney’s speech, but criticized the details of Obama’s speech even with the electric atmosphere at the end of the DNC.

I have no problem with breaking down and criticizing the details of the activities and speeches, but you have to be fair and criticize both equally. “Fair and balanced” means that you have to be both fair and balanced. It is fine to identify that Obama did not get into the specifics of his plan and instead focused on goals, but Romney and Ryan failed to highlight how their policy ideas would actually help the country and decreased the debt differently than when GW Bush followed the same path. Obama and the speakers highlighted some great support for social issues and policies, but the republican response only talked about love from a general sense without responding to their attacks on women and the LGBT community. No matter how much Ann Romney said that she loved her women of the republican party, she (and the rest of her party) failed to explain how they can stand behind social policies that separate and oppress the population.

The republican party could actually be more successful with independent and moderate voters if they could let up on the fights against positive, forward-moving social policies. Even still, it would be hard to convince me that Romney and Ryan know better how to help this country when they fail to recognize their own party’s mistake during the Bush era and the congressional gridlock that occurred after Obama became president. Let’s wait to see how they handle the debates when both parties’ representatives take stage at the same time.

Click on the picture below to watch the segment from The Daily Show.

With the NFL season only  few days away, I just finished up my selection of fantasy drafts for this season. I am fairly happy with my teams, as I feel that I have some good combinations to work with and could develop a solid strategy to match up well against my opponents, but it all started with a random Yahoo league (Football America) to prepare for my first pay league.

Football America is a league that I joined randomly last year and was able to pull off an appearance in the league finale. Though I ended up falling short by a single point, my team fell short at RB due to a host of injuries earlier in the season. I was solid with Tom Brady, Pittsburgh defense, Julio Jones and Mike Wallace, but I was rotating RBs through free agency on a weekly basis. This year, I think I can compete fairly well with a solid balance at all positions. Here is my first fantasy team…Triforce of Power.

  • QBs: Tom Brady; Josh Freeman
  • WRs: Brandon Marshall; Miles Austin; Dwayne Bowe; Pierre Garcon; Lance Moore
  • RBs: Matt Forte; Shonn Green; Trent Richardson; Beanie Wells; Cedric Benson
  • TE: Vernon Davis
  • Ks: Dan Carpenter; Garrett Hartley
  • DEF: Seattle
  • Ds: London Fletcher; Jason Pierre-Paul; James Anderson

My second league is the one that I started with my friends in Student Affairs. I originally created the league while at UNC Chapel Hill with the other staff in the department. The league expanded a bit with some other partners around campus and then eventually there some members that started to get jobs at places around the country. Last year, I was still able to maintain a 1o-team league and it was the first time that I finished the season at any rank higher than 9th (where I earned 4th and at least made the playoff rounds). This year, I struggled to get interest. Most of the teams decided not to return and I had to expand the net and find new players. I have gotten the group back up to 8 teams and decided to have a little fun with the draft since it is a just-for-fun league. Here is my fantasy team…Triforce of Wisdom.

  • QBs: Eli Manning; Matt Ryan
  • WRs: Marques Colston; Torrey Smith; Wes Welker; Pierre Garcon
  • RBs: Ray Rice; Marshawn Lynch; Jamaal Charles; DeMarco Murray; Isaac Redman; Michael Bush
  • TEs: Fred Davis; Brandon Pettigrew
  • K: Jason Hanson
  • DEF: San Francisco

After talking with my sister, I learned that she was trying to expand her league, which is a $50 buy-in league. I have never invested in fantasy football for money, but I thought that I would give it a shot. Using the information from my research and my first draft with Football America, I joined her and her husband with a few of their friends for an in-person draft. We all set up our laptops and trash-talked the entire time, but there was also a lot of support for the choices that each owner made. Hopefully I can pull this group together for a big win in my first pay league. Here is the team that will make it happen…Triforce of Courage.

  • QBs: Matt Ryan; Andy Dalton
  • WRs: Marques Colston; Demaryius Thomas; Dez Bryant; Vincent Jackson; Sidney Rice; James Jones
  • RBs: LeSean McCoy; Maurice Jones-Drew; Shonn Greene; Beanie Wells
  • TEs: Vernon Davis; Martellus Bennett
  • K: Matt Prater
  • DEF: Cincinnati