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Morning Cuts: September 29, 2011

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Pirates

Steelers
Penguins
  • Katie Baker has a long look at the timeline of Sidney Crosby’s concussion and recovery. It’s incredible to see how much has been said and written about this with nobody really ever knowing any concrete details.
  • This …. might be a stretch.
ELSEWHERE

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

I tried extremely hard to write about what happened last night and I failed miserably. So instead, read this.

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Categories: Morning Cuts

NFL Week Three Power Rankings: The Computer Made Me Do It

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

If you make it past the part where the Lions are #1 to get to the part where the Bills are #2 and your head hasn’t already exploded, by the time you get to the part where the 49ers are #8 this will surely detonate some blood vessels.

 

Let me explain.

 

I am aware the 49ers have the lowers offensive yards per game average in the NFL. With no context, this statistic would automatically preclude them from being anywhere near the top 15, much less #8. But consider the following. They have scored two special teams touchdowns and forced eight turnovers in three games. They average 39.7 yards per kickoff return (best in the league) and 13 yards per punt return (8th). What I’m saying here is, they generally don’t have a lot of ground to cover to get into the end zone. Don’t hate the Niners because they have a great special teams and force turnovers. The formula doesn’t.

 

Indeed, the formula really likes that the Niners are +6 in turnover differential. It loves that they are holding opposing teams to 306.3 yards per game and outscores its opposition by an average of six points per game.

 

When you think about it this way it isn’t that hard to understand, right?

 

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I should stress that a team’s overall record has the greatest impact on where it falls in the standings. While I believe that ranking teams based on record alone is stupid, I don’t deny the fact that winning games is the ultimate goal of football and teams that win, no matter how or why, should be rewarded for doing so.

 

That said, I think you would agree that the 0-3 Vikings, having led all three of their games at halftime, against three teams that are a combined 7-2 no less, and having taken the 3-0 Lions to overtime, are properly ranked higher than a 1-2 Seahawks team that has yet to play a decent game. This is ultimately the goal of these rankings.

 

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Biggest movers

  • UP: Nine spots — RAVENS (12 to 3) and 49ERS (17 to 9)
  • DOWN: Eight spots –EAGLES (14 to 22)

 TEAM

LAST_WEEK

RECORD

RANKINGS_INDEX

 1.

Lions

 1

(.8193)

 3-0

.7807

2.

Bills

 3

(.7683)

 3-0

.7351

3.

Ravens

 12

(.5740)

2-1

.6976

4.

Packers

8

 (.6203)

3-0

.6788

5.

Titans

10

(.6127)

 2-1

 .6482

6.

Jets

2

(.7683)

 2-1

 .6341

7.

Cowboys

 9

(.6169)

 2-1

 .6330

8.

49ers

17

 (.5155)

 2-1

 .6121

9.

Saints

7

(.6209)

 2-1

 .6095

10.

Texans

 5

(.7095)

 2-1

 .6078

11.

Redskins

 4

(.7159)

 2-1

 .6071

12.

Patriots

6

  (.6824)

 2-1

 .6068

13.

Raiders

13

 (.5594)

 2-1

 .5921

14.

Giants

15

(.5240)

 2-1

 .5683

15.

Steelers

22

 (.4806)

 2-1

 .5413

16.

Bengals

11

(.5943)

 1-2

 .5311

17.

Buccaneers

24

(.4752)

 2-1

 .5250

18.

Chargers

20

 (.5069)

 2-1

 .5130

19.

Browns

19

 (.5088)

 2-1

  .5076

20.

Panthers

26

 (.3953)

 1-2

  .4720

21.

Bears

16

(.5183)

 1-2

 .4668

22.

Eagles

14

 (.5473)

 1-2

 .4544

23.

Broncos

21

 (.4462)

 1-2

 .4484

24.

Cardinals

23

 (.4787)

 1-2

 .4432

25.

Jaguars

18

 (.5142)

 1-2

 .4288

26.

Falcons

25

 (.4613)

 1-2

 .4093

27.

Vikings

28

 (.3608)

 0-3

 .3958

28.

Seahawks

 31

(.2825)

 1-2

 .3919

29.

Dolphins

27

 (.3833)

 0-3

 .3295

30.

Colts

29

 (.3549)

 0-3

 .3272

31.

Rams

30

 (.3359)

 0-3

 .2253

32.

Chiefs

32

(.2245)

 0-3  .2179
Categories: NFL Tags:

Morning Cuts: September 28 2011

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Pirates

  • Prince Fielder discovered the key to ensuring his team wins every single game it plays. All he has to do is hit three home runs. Which he did. And the Brewers beat the Pirates 6-4. Tonight at 8:10 the Bucs take the field for the last time this season and finally escape the nightmare that was the last three months. (box)
Penguins
  • The Pens lived out the ultimate unreality last night, allegedly playing a hockey game in Kansas City. I say allegedly because there was no television broadcast and Matt Niskanen scored in the eighth round of the shootout to lift the Pens to victory, and that sentence is so hard to believe that I am not convinced it actually happened.
Steelers
  • I like that, since everybody else is blowing up the offensive line and running game, Dejan Kovacevic decides to destroy Timmons and Woodley. All I gather from this article is that they don’t have the sack and tackle-for-loss numbers pursuant to the big money contracts they signed this offseason, which is ridiculous because they’ve played 12 freaking quarters.
  • In which the Trib pumps Ike Taylor’s tires five days before he goes up against Andre Johnson.
  • Welcome Trai Essex back to the offensive line. fffffFFFFUUUUUU
  • Finally, in the way that only Mike Tomlin could do, coach refers to the Houston Texans as “a quality outfit.” Don’t ever change, coach T.
TONIGHT
  • The Bucs will absolutely, positively, definitely defeat the Brewers to take the series in Milwaukee
  • I always find it amazing when a 162 game baseball season comes down to the last day to determine who makes the playoffs. Today, though, four teams’ playoff hopes hang in the balance. In the AL, the Rays and Red Sox are locked in a dead heat for the wild card, while in the NL the Cardinals and Braves are all tied up heading into tonight’s games. Depending on the outcomes of these games, we could have two one-game playoffs tomorrow for post-season berths. Unreal.
Categories: Morning Cuts

Morning Cuts: September 27 2011

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Pirates

  • The Bucs waited until nobody was watching to defeat the Brewers in Milwaukee for the first time since Hines Ward threw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl. The Pirates, who won 57 games last season, notched their 72nd victory last night in a season that featured little more than replacement players and a pitching staff that was predicted to be “serviceable” at best.  I don’t really know how to process anything that happened this season. (box)
Steelers
  • I heard somewhere yesterday that going into Sunday night’s game against Pittsburgh, the Colts were 30th in the league against the run. Offensive line.
  • Mike Wallace is on pace for 2016 receiving yards this season.
Penguins
  • Joe Morrow is the best player in the NHL.
  • Brooks Orpik might not be available to start the season.
  • The Pens defense wants to allow fewer than 200 goals this season.
  • Scott Burnside has a pretty strong preview of the Pens upcoming season.
Categories: Morning Cuts

Morning Cuts: Steelers Reax Edition

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

On Saturday, I said:

 Peyton Manning might be gone, but Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are still there, and they’re going to absolutely terrorize the Steelers’ woeful offensive line. If Mendenhall can’t get established early and the Steelers have to pass all day, it could get very ugly. I’m also worried that because the Colts have nothing to lose they’ll play fast and loose and catch the Steelers off-guard.

Unfortunately that’s exactly how the game went. Jonathan Scott was completely outmanned by Dwight Freeney all night long as the all-pro defensive end racked up two sacks, three quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. Robert Mathis burned rookie Marcus Gilbert a few times forcing Roethlisberger, who in case you haven’t heard likes to hold on to the ball, into another fumble.

But it wouldn’t be fair to pin the blame solely on Scott and Gilbert, as the entire offensive line (with the exception of Maurkice Pouncey, who was decent, but far from great) was pushed around at will by the Colts front four. While Freeney and Mathis were tasked with rushing Roethlisberger from the perimeter, everyone else in blue jammed the lanes between the tackles making the running game obsolete. As a team the Steelers rushed 28 times for 67 yards. 2.4 yards per carry.

These were the glaring issues. The issues Steeler fans know all too well. Coming into this season it was clear that the offensive line was going to be lousy and Mendenhall would have his work cut out for him. But the things that irk me most aren’t these chronic flaws we’ll be dealing with all season, but the sloppy mistakes that, if the Colts were a decent team, would have cost the Steelers the game.

In no particular order:

  1. Ike Taylor, who is having a terrific season, blowing his coverage and leaving Pierre Garcon wide-open and streaking downfield for a walk-in touchdown in the fourth. If Curtis Painter isn’t Curtis Painter, that’s an easy seven.
  2. Jonathan Scott getting flagged for an illegal formation penalty in the fourth quarter on a third down where Weslye Saunders made a reception at the Colts 27. Saunders was short of the first down but the reception moved the Steelers four yards closer for a field-goal attempt. However the illegal formation penalty nullified the play and moved the Steelers back to the Colts 36. Roethlisberger was sacked on the ensuing play for a loss of nine and the Steelers were forced to punt.
  3. Emmanuel Sanders dropping a perfectly thrown pass for a first down in the second quarter deep in Indy territory.
  4. Shaun Suisham missing the game-tying 36-yard field goal in the third quarter.
  5. Roethlisberger’s unacceptably bad interception inside of two minutes in the second quarter, horribly overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders, followed by Sanders failing to touch the interceper, Lefeged, by explicitly jumping over him instead of touching him, which was then followed by a return to the Steeler 25 that featured a bizarre personal-foul penalty call on Antonio Brown giving the Colts the ball at the Steeler 10. The Colts would cash in with a field goal to end the second half and take a 13-10 lead.
  6. Jonathon Scott failing to recognize that Jamaal Anderson was not down following his recovery of Ben’s fumble in the second quarter. Scott was busy standing around feeling sorry for himself as Anderson fell on top of the ball, rolled to his feet, then dodged his way through defenders for a 47-yard score. Had Scott been paying attention he could have easily prevented Anderson from streaking downfield.
  7. Polamalu dropped two sure interceptions, and Willie Gay had a chance at another.
km
This is just off the top of my head
km
To be fair there were some good things that happened, too. Roethlisberger’s 81-yard throw to Mike Wallace in the first quarter was possibly the best deep throw I’ve ever seen out of Ben. The defense was stingy against the run, got heat on Collins and Painter, and scored a touchdown with a crucial fumble return late in the fourth quarter. Antonio Brown was spectacular. And of course, the Steelers came away with the victory.
km
But if the Steelers have machinations of a return trip to Indianapolis to play in Super Bowl XVI they are absolutely going to have to get their heads out of their asses. The Colts aren’t bad, they’re miserable. They do nothing well. This is the kind of team the Steelers should have dispatched without a sweat, but the  nearly did themselves in with a cavalcade of costly mistakes that handed the Colts the easiest 13 points they’ll score all season. The Colts scored 20 points with only 241 yards of total offense, 80 of which came on their only touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. In a game in which the Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter shared quarterbacking duties, the Steelers squeaked by with a three-point victory.
km
I’ll leave you with some stats that I think encapsulate the most pressing issues this team is having (offensive line notwithstanding, because that’s the line we’re stuck with and we knew it was going to be like this).
  • The Steelers have allowed 55 points all season. 33 of those points have come off turnovers.
  • The Steelers have turned the ball over ten times in three games. It’s easy math, but that’s almost once per quarter. On average, the Steelers get 3.33 possessions per quarter. They turn the ball over one in every four possessions.
  • The Steelers and the Broncos are the only two teams in all of football who have yet to record an interception.
  • The Steelers turnover differential last year was +17. Through three games this year it is -9.
km
It isn’t rocket surgery.
km
Now I will say this. Even if the turnover differential through three games was +/-0, the Steelers still would be 2-1. They never stood a chance against Baltimore, they steamrolled the Seahawks without forcing any turnovers, and in spite of being -2 in turnover differential last night they won. The important thing here is that, for as bad as they have played, they are 2-1. They have the same record as the Ravens, Patriots, Jets, Chargers, and Texans. They can tighten up this ship going forward and they can make the playoffs and they can do damage. Nothing is lost and there is no reason to panic. Their issues are clear and fixable. I just hope they have the right tools.
Categories: Morning Cuts, Steelers

Week 3 NFL Picks: Sucking Less!

September 24, 2011 1 comment

4-11-1. That’s how it went down last week. I know (think?) I’m better than that. I hope I’m better than that.

Me, last week.

The good news is I actually am better than 4-11-1. The bad news is that I’m not better enough for it to matter. Last week’s 6-9-1 performance makes me feel at least slightly better about myself. At least for a little while. Then I realize that I chose Jay Cutler over Drew Brees, Rex Grossman over Kevin Kolb, and a McCown brother over Mark Sanchez and it makes me want to reach for the whiskey.

I suppose the benefit of being 10-20-2 through two weeks is I don’t have the temptation to bet actual money. In years past I’ve had a couple of good weeks and convinced myself that it was a good idea to fire up the old Bodog account only to find that as soon as it matters all my picks suck. Now my picks are still sucking with no financial implications! Outstanding

Odds this week from Pinnacle Sports, because Bodog doesn’t have its shit together.

BENGALS (-1.5) over 49ers: Did I mention I picked Alex Smith over Tony Romo last week? Because I did!

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Patriots (-7) over BILLS: The Patriots defense can’t stop a nosebleed, but the Bills let Jason Campbell put up over 300 yards last week. Jason Campbell.

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SAINTS (-4) over Texans: Is there a chance Ben Tate is better than Arian Foster? Either way the Saints defense will be the stiffest test the Texans have faced yet. And I’m really interested in seeing if this Texans defense is really as good as their numbers suggest, or if they’re nothing more than the beneficiaries of a soft schedule

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Giants (+9) over EAGLES: If Mike Vick isn’t playing the line on this game drops by like five points. It’ll be interesting to see if he can finish the game — I have a feeling he probably shouldn’t be starting. Over/under on Giants players who fake injuries this week: 3.5

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BROWNS (-1.5) over Dolphins: Kill me with this game.

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TITANS (-6.5) over Broncos: Denver Broncos fans are quickly ascending my list of most hated fanbases. Kyle Orton — 1-1, 3 TDs, 1 INT — gets shat on by these people because he isn’t John Elway. Let me tell you dimwits something: You could be doing a lot worse than Kyle Orton, okay? Just ask Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Oakland, Kansas City, and Indianapolis how it’s going for them. I hope you get your wish and Tim Tebow becomes the starter. Tebow guaranteed to be one million percent suckier than Orton.

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Lions (-3) over VIKINGS: If I was actually, you know, gambling money on this game, I would try to buy this line up to like 7. The  Vikings are ATROCIOUS.

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PANTHERS (-3.5) over Jaguars: I am starting to think I owe Cam Newton an apology. Do you think he reads this blog? Yeah you’re right, he definitely does.

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CHARGERS (-14.5) over Chiefs: Can you imagine if Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu, and Heath Miller were all out for the year after two weeks? Welcome to the Chiefs. What a nightmare.

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RAIDERS (+3) over Jets: Once again, I am betting against Mark Sanchez. I dont’ know why I have zero trust in the Jets but for some reason I always find ways to talk myself into picking against them. My reasoning this week is I think they’ll fail to take the Raiders seriously, spend too much time dicking around in San Francisco, my friend Carmina will bang Mark Sanchez’s brains out the night before the game, and they’ll get blown out by two touchdowns. See? That easy.

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Ravens (-4) over RAMS: The Rams win the award for most poorly coached team of the week for their fumbletastic performance in New York on Monday night in front of the entire world. The Rams are the kind of team you really want to root for, what with their Ben Folds look-alike at quarterback and cadre of slow, white wide receivers. Buuuuuut the Ravens will probably crush them and there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

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Falcons (+1) over BUCCANEERS: Last week Matt Ryan played a particularly sloppy two and a half quarters, kind of picked it up in the second half, ended up winning the game and had a pretty good stat line to go with it, and Cris Collinsworth (who I like) made it sound like he went out there on one leg and led his team back from three touchdowns behind. SIGNATURE WIN FOR THIS YOUNG MAN RIGHT HERE, MATT RYAN. THIS IS MATT RYAN HE HAS GUTS HE GOT SACKED. WHAT A PERFORMANCE SHUT UP I DON’T CARE THAT HE THREW SOME INTERCEPTIONS HE IS GREAT. Dude hasn’t won anything analysts talk about him like he’s Joe Montana. Kills me.

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Cardinals (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS: If I could possibly care less about two teams.

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Packers (-3.5) over BEARS: As I was typing BEARS (+3.5) over Packers, NFL network started rolling video of Jay Cutler getting sacked unlimited times by the Saints last week.

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Redskins (+6.5) over COWBOYS: Boomer Esiason, of all people, raised a remarkably prescient point about Tony Romo’s brave comeback following a punctured lung last week in San Francisco:

“I hear all this lip service about how we have to take care of the players,” Esiason told the paper. “We have to move the kickoff up, we have to limit the amount of high-speed collisions, we can’t hit the QB any more. And yet we have a guy who has two cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and we’re going to shoot him up with a numbing agent and put him back in the game? There’s something inherently wrong with that…You can make that your headline: ‘Why the hell isn’t the NFL investigating how Tony Romo got back on the field? [sic] And why are we glorifying it? Why are we now saying Tony Romo’s the greatest QB of all time because he showed toughness? That mindset is supposedly what the NFLPA and the NFL are trying to get away from it. Yet here we are glorifying it after the fact. You can’t have it both ways.”

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COLTS (+10.5) over Steelers: Peyton Manning might be gone, but Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are still there, and they’re going to absolutely terrorize the Steelers’ woeful offensive line. If Mendenhall can’t get established early and the Steelers have to pass all day, it could get very ugly. I’m also worried that because the Colts have nothing to lose they’ll play fast and loose and catch the Steelers off-guard.

Categories: NFL Tags:

How Bad can Curtis Painter Be?

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Is Peyton Manning the best quarterback in the league? Debatable. Is he the most important quarterback to his team in the league? Absolutely. Manning might be the first player in the history of the NFL to win the MVP without playing a single down. With him, the Colts are an offensive juggernaut. With him, Reggie Wayne is a top-ten wideout. With him, Jacob Tamme is a scary tight-end. Peyton’s passing is so outstanding that defenses will let Joe Addai run at will, focusing all their attention on trying to somehow stop Manning.

 

Without Manning? The Colts are the kind of team that loses to the Browns in their home opener.

 

The System the Colts run — not an offense, a System — relies on the now-indisputable fact that Manning is the smartest dude in football. For a long time I thought the wild gesticulations and nonsensical code words he barked at the line of scrimmage was a bunch of jabberwocky. Turns out all that stuff did mean something, that he actually did run the offense that way, and it’s a job that no other person in the world can do.

 

But there is one person who has at least seen how the job is done up-close and personal for the last two years. And it isn’t Kerry Collins

 

Curtis Painter was drafted by the Colts in the 6th round in 2009 after cutting loose six-year veteran backup Jim Sorgi. At Purdue, Painter was, at best, a fairly decent quarterback and at worst a pretty lousy one. His junior season (62.6% completion, 29 TD, 11INT) was quite strong, but the other three years left much to be desired. As a pro, Painter has attempted just 28 passes in two regular season games (both in 2009, weeks 16 and 17, after the Colts had locked up the #1 seed in the AFC). To say the least the kid hasn’t had a chance to prove himself yet. So what’s the hold up?

 

The Colts’ current #1 guy, Kerry Collins, ranks 29th in quarterback rating (71.4), 29th in yards per attempt (5.62), and is completing only 50.7% of his passes. The Colts offense as a whole has managed only two touchdowns this year, one of which came in garbage time of their humiliating opening-day loss to the Texans. These numbers aren’t bad, they’re Alex Smith-level abominable.

 

Collins obviously wasn’t brought to Indianapolis to be Peyton Manning. Nobody expected the guy who was summoned out of retirement to play pro-bowl caliber quarterback in an extremely complex System. Collins’ job was merely to keep the team competitive until Manning was well enough to take over again and try to make a late playoff push. Well, The Colts are already 0-2 with a loss to current division favorite Houston under their belts, and Football Outsiders puts their chances of making the playoffs at 2.5%. The two-week old season is already likely a complete loss and it is beginning to look like Manning won’t play at all this year.

 

Given all of this, why not give Painter a chance? The Collins experiment has failed. The Colts are miserable without Manning and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it. So if you’re going to be miserable, why not be miserable while giving your backup a chance to earn his paycheck? Collins has complained for the few weeks he’s been in Indy that The System is so complex and completely different from what he is used to. Painter has been immersed in this system for over two years. Certainly he isn’t as adept at running it as Manning but he’s got to be better at it than Collins.

 

The only conclusion I can come to is that Painter must be inconceivably bad. There is no earthly reason for Collins to be under center. There is a reason he retired after last season — because he doesn’t want to play anymore. Painter would relish the chance to get some starts under his belt. Maybe he turns out to be decent, the Colts win a few games, and next year when Peyton is healthy they know they have a capable backup. Or maybe he turns out to be completely incompetent and he gets cut. Either way, the Colts would know, and they would be able to better plan for their future.