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Week 11 NFL Power Rankings

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey dudes! Guess what? My Power Rankings are still mad about the Packers winning the Super Bowl last year so they drop to number three this week.

I feel like I am trolling the Power Rankings scene.

BIGGEST MOVERS

  • UP: Dolphins (28 to 23)
  • DOWN: Bengals (7 to 11) and Jaguars (20 to 24)

 TEAM

LAST_WEEK

RECORD

RANKINGS_INDEX

1.

Texans

 1

(.7439)

 7-3

.7277

2.

49ers

 3

(.7132)

 9-1

.7244

3.

Packers

 2

(.7368)

10-0

.7049

4.

Lions

4

 (.6491)

 7-3

.6382

5.

Ravens

5

(.6468)

 7-3

 .6382

6.

Steelers

6

(.6064)

 7-3

 .6014

7.

Patriots

 11

(.5708)

 7-3

 .5897

8.

Cowboys

8

 (.5933)

 6-4

 .5888

9.

Saints

9

(.5912)

 7-3

 .5801

10.

Bears

 10

(.5729)

 7-3

 .5771

11.

Bengals

 7

(.5982)

 6-4

 .5553

12.

Falcons

13

  (.5258)

 6-4

 .5370

13.

Giants

12

 (.5426)

 6-4

 .5039

14.

Jets

14

(.5177)

 5-5

 .4961

15.

Eagles

17

 (.4697)

 4-6

 .4876

16.

Raiders

19

(.4418)

 6-4

 .4617

17.

Titans

15

(.5024)

 5-5

 .4616

18.

Bills

16

 (.4918)

 5-5

 .4370

19.

Browns

21

 (.4143)

 4-6

  .4257

20.

Chargers

18

 (.4582)

 4-6

  .4242

21.

Seahawks

23

(.3834)

 4-6

 .4195

22.

Broncos

22

 (.3916)

 5-5

 .4080

23.

Dolphins

28

 (.3532)

 3-7

 .3968

24.

Jaguars

20

 (.4164)

 3-7

 .3960

25.

Redskins

24

 (.3698)

 3-7

 .3487

26.

Buccaneers

29

 (.3525)

4-6

 .3408

27.

Panthers

25

 (.3680)

2-8

 .3301

28.

Vikings

26

(.3545)

2-8

 .3268

29.

Chiefs

27

 (.3545)

 4-6

 .3137

30.

Cardinals

30

 (.3498)

 3-7

 .3083

31.

Rams

31

 (.2853)

 2-8

 .2642

32.

Colts

32
(.1232)
 0-10  .1165
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Categories: NFL Tags:

CrosbyWatch

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you getting a little bit grumpy about Sidney Crosby not playing yet? I am. Although I notice my frustration only really flares up after a Penguins loss. And last night’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of the beguiling Tampa Bay Lightning – a team that on one night loses to the hapless Winnipeg Jets and two nights later tame the beast that has become the Pittsburgh Penguins – has got me particularly desirous to see Sid back on the ice.

This also has something to do with my decision that Crosby will be back playing this Monday. I convinced myself of this a while ago, similar to the way many other Pens fans convinced themselves that Sid would be back on 11/11/11. I chose this Monday because it seemed like a soft spot in the schedule. Sunday is an off day, Monday is home against the Islanders, Tuesday another off day, Wednesday again at home, this time against the Blues, Thursday yet another off day, and Friday they close out the homestand against the Senators before heading out on the road for a Saturday night tilt against the Canadiens. Having three home games against middle-tier competition bracketed by off days seems like the friendliest circumstance for his return. The off day Tuesday could be used for medical evaluation, light practice, rest, whatever. Repeat this process on Thursday and, after the Friday night game – assuming he’s still feeling fine – he heads to Montreal and that’s it. He’s back.

This sounds sooooo great in my head that it must happen! Because seriously, if not Monday, then when? I don’t want to sound like a jagoff yinzer, but that’s exactly how I’m going to sound when I say: What’s the hold up here? Sid was cleared for contact on October 13th. My understanding is this was the final huge step in his recovery process. Being cleared for contact meant he would join the rest of his healthy teammates as a full participant in practices. Since being cleared, Sid has indeed been practicing with his team and he has been joining them on road trips. My understanding is he has been doing everything everybody else on the team has been doing except actually playing in games. Medically he is well enough to practice, why can’t he play? How different is practice from a game?

Well, it’s probably significantly different, but for Sid to really gauge how healthy he is practice has to replicate a real game as much as possible. Crosby needs to be hit. He needs to bump his head a few times to learn how it feels. He needs to know if he can sustain a blow to the head without feeling all concussion-y. He needs to play a balls-out shift where he skates hard and gets checked and falls down and does all the things he would do in a game scenario. This is vital to understanding whether or not he is fully recovered. It’s the same with any other injury – at some point you just have to go one-hundred percent and see what happens. Knee feels fine. I think it’s okay. Let’s go give it a shot. See what happens.

But as we know this injury is markedly different from a knee injury. It’s different than any injury for that matter. We have heard this time and again, and I won’t spend time here rehashing the ways in which it’s different. But the fact remains that he must be hit at some point. Somebody has got to lay one on him and see what happens. The problem is none of his teammates are going to do that. None of the Penguins players wants to be the guy that re-concusses The Franchise. Even though the likelihood of actually re-injuring Crosby is very, very slim, the chance exists, and nobody wants to have that on his conscience. Unfortunately this isn’t doing Sid any favors.

It seems to me the only way we’re going to get any idea if Sid can handle game contact is to expose him to some game contact. He’s been well enough to practice at 100% for almost six weeks now. At some point he’s got to pull the trigger. The Penguins are 11-5-3 (25 points) and second in the Atlantic Division, but in their last seven games they’re just 3-3-1. It’s not time to go into panic mode, but Crosby’s presence on the ice clearly would help this team. They need him back out there as soon as possible. I hope it’s Monday, lest you see me at the bridge.

Categories: NHL, Penguins Tags:

Week 10 NFL Power Rankings

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Yeah. This is tough to figure out. Even tougher to post this when 24 hours ago I claimed the Texans were the fourth best team in their conference. The good news is this won’t likely last. Matt Schaub is done for the year and Matt Leinart is spending his bye week preparing to derp all over the field for the next six weeks. Things won’t end well for the Texans.

All I can say is this. For better or worse, the formula I devised places an emphasis on defense over offense. Houston’s defense is #1 in yards per game and #2 in points per game. The Packers aren’t anywhere near that. Houston loses ground offensively to the Packers in terms of points scored per game (35.6 to 27.3), but in yards gained per game the two teams are fairly close (GB: 409.7, HOU: 396.2). Their SOS is fairly equal, turnover differential is the same (+11). Ultimately this comes down to the Texans having a dominant defense and an offense that still scores almost 28 points per game while the Packers have a dominant offense and a defense that has yet to prove itself.

As far as the eyeball test goes, yes, I totally agree, the Packers appear to be the superior team. It’s tough to watch them and think anything different. That said, the Texans’ victory was nearly as impressive and against an arguably better team (37-9 over now 4-5 Tampa Bay). And Football Outsiders agrees with me, so there.

BIGGEST MOVERS

  • UP: Cowboys (14 to 8 ) and Bears (16 to 10)
  • DOWN: Bills (9 to 16)

 TEAM

LAST_WEEK

RECORD

RANKINGS_INDEX

1.

Texans

 3

(.7019)

 7-3

.7439

2.

Packers

 1

(.7181)

 9-0

.7368

3.

49ers

 5

(.6520)

 8-1

.7132

4.

Lions

2

 (.7136)

 6-3

.6491

5.

Ravens

4

(.6991)

 6-3

 .6468

6.

Steelers

8

(.5960)

 7-3

 .6064

7.

Bengals

 6

(.6378)

 6-3

 .5982

8.

Cowboys

14

 (.5337)

 5-4

 .5933

9.

Saints

7

(.6082)

 7-3

 .5912

10.

Bears

 16

(.5129)

 6-3

 .5729

11.

Patriots

 13

(.5459)

 6-3

 .5708

12.

Giants

11

 (.5658)

 6-3

 .5426

13.

Falcons

12

 (.5561)

 5-4

 .5258

14.

Jets

10

(.5786)

 5-4

 .5177

15.

Titans

18

 (.4614)

 5-4

 .5024

16.

Bills

9

(.5893)

 5-4

 .4918

17.

Eagles

15

(.5133)

 3-6

 .4697

18.

Chargers

17

 (.5129)

 4-5

 .4582

19.

Raiders

19

 (.4232)

 5-4

  .4418

20.

Jaguars

25

 (.3787)

 3-6

  .4164

21.

Browns

22

(.4183)

 3-6

 .4143

22.

Broncos

27

 (.3691)

 4-5

 .3916

23.

Seahawks

28

 (.3506)

 3-6

 .3834

24.

Redskins

24

 (.3990)

 3-6

 .3698

25.

Panthers

21

 (.4202)

 2-7

 .3680

26.

Vikings

23

 (.4042)

2-7

 .3545

27.

Chiefs

26

 (.3780)

 4-5

 .3545

28.

Dolphins

30

(.3214)

2-7

 .3532

29.

Buccaneers

20

(.4220)

 4-5

 .3525

30.

Cardinals

29

 (.3267)

 3-6

 .3498

31.

Rams

31

(.2677)

 2-7

 .2853

32.

Colts

32(.1440)  0-10  .1232
Categories: NFL Tags:

And the Best Team in the AFC is?

November 14, 2011 1 comment

I tuned in to three different radio shows today and each of them asked this question. As a result I have spent a good part of my idle time today thinking about the answer. My conclusion? It’s complicated.

Every team has played at least nine games, so for purposes of this exercise it is probably safe to assume that if a team is in the running for the title “Best Team in the AFC” they had better be at least 6-3, putting them on pace for something around an 11-5 record. In other seasons being on pace for an 11-5 record wouldn’t have put a team in the realm of “The Best Team in the AFC,” but this exercise is relative by its nature and this year’s AFC is a mishmash of terrible teams, good teams, and disappointing teams that were supposed to be great but can’t seem to get their shit together. Anyway, the 6-3 or better teams are.

1) Houston

2) Pittsburgh

3) New England

4) Baltimore

5) Cincinnati

Let’s work our way up. We’ll use record, strength of schedule (SOS), strength of victory (SOV), good teams defeated (arbitrarily decided by me), and bad teams lost to (also arbitrarily decided by me). Wheeee!

Cincinnati

  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .458
  • SOV: .345
  • Good teams defeated: Buffalo, I guess? Tennessee, maybe?
  • Bad teams lost to: Denver – pre-Tebow
Yeah this team hasn’t played anybody. Their other four victories have come against Cleveland, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Seattle (a combined 9-28), hence their pathetic SOV number. Their loss to the Steelers yesterday was a “good” loss (as far as that goes) in that they overcame an early 14-point deficit and the loss of their most dynamic offensive weapon early in the game (A.J. Green) and had the ball late in the game with a chance to tie. They’re playing an awful lot better than anybody expected (myself included, who said at the beginning ofthe year that they might go 0-16. My bad!). Their schedule gets quite a bit tougher these last seven weeks with games @Baltimore, @Pittsburgh, vs Houston, and vs Baltimore. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Andy Dalton continue the decent back to earth he began yesterday and for the Bengals to finish 8-8 or 9-7 and miss the playoffs by a mile.
a
Baltimore
  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .500
  • SOV: .544
  • Good teams defeated: Pittsburgh (twice), New York Jets (maybe?), Houston
  • Bad teams lost to: Jacksonville, Seattle
The Ravens. What the hell, man. You only get up and play hard against the Steelers, is that it? How do you lose to Jacksonville and Seattle? Nobody loses to these teams. It took a monumental comeback for you to defeat the Cardinals at home. Seriously, the Kevin Kolb Cardinals.
a
This team is totally bewildering. Joe Flacco can look like Joe Montana one week and Akili Smith the next. Jim Harbaugh goes through apparent week-long lapses where he completely forgets that Ray Rice is on his team and is REALLY GOOD. Their strength of victory is better than any of the other five teams which tells us they have the ability to play well. Unfortunately for their old-bay-eating fans they’re susceptible to the trap/let-down game (two of their losses came the week after emotional victories against the Steelers). Is this an indictment on their character?  Does this tell us they are incapable of handling the emotions of the NFL playoffs, where each game is most important game of the year, bigger than the last? Or do they simply play to the level of their opponents and they’ll easily be able to avoid these ugly performances in the postseason? Just last week they were hailed as the clear-cut #1 team in the conference. Does one bad loss undermine that analysis? More questions with answers with these guys.
a
New England
  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .537
  • SOV: .481
  • Good teams defeated: San Diego (I guess?), Oakland (?), New York Jets (twice, possibly no good), Dallas (totally schizophrenic)
  • Bad teams lost to: None
New Englad has played the toughest schedule of the five teams and it isn’t even close. Their victories, with the exception of week one against Miami, have come against fairly quality opponents. I have a hard time categorizing those teams as “good,” but each of them has won more games than they’ve lost and they’re all still potential playoff teams. Their losses – to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the New York Giants – don’t jump out at you as being heinously bad like Baltimore’s or Cincy’s. The greatest indictment on this New England team is their inability to stop the pass. Heading into this week they were the worst team in the entire league at defending the pass. Luckily for them Mark Sanchez pretty much sucks and made them look fairly decent last night, but make no mistake. This team struggles mightily at pass defense.
a
The first four weeks of the season saw the Patriots score 30 or more points in each game. Week five they managed a comeback victory against the Cowboys, but only put up 20 points and appeared fairly disjointed. After that they proceeded to lose their next two games and only managed 17 and 20 points in those games, respectively. Many of us wrote them off. And through one half last night they appeared to be withering on the vine. In the second half, though, Tom Brady came alive, and the offense put up three touchdowns and reminded us all what they are capable of.
a
So are they back? Maybe. I’m still not convinced they can be truly great with no defense, no rushing attack, three legitimate receivers (two tight ends and a midget), and Tom Brady.  One thing that is clear is their schedule the rest of the way is possibly the softest of any team in the entire league: vsKC, @PHI, vsIND, @WAS, @DEN, vsMIA, vsBUF. This team will make the playoffs, and there is a fairly high probability that they’ll be the #1 or #2 seed.
a
Pittsburgh
  • Record: 7-3
  • SOS: .489
  • SOV: .406
  • Good teams defeated: Tennessee (maybe), New England, Cincinnati
  • Bad teams lost to: None
If the Steelers get one more first down against Baltimore last week this post never gets written. They should have beaten the Ravens. They played a better game than Baltimore for the first three and a half quarters and lost anyway. Football.
a
The defense is exceedingly stingy in allowing both yards and points, and if they can figure out a way to force more turnovers they’ll be downright frightening. Offensively they have become a true passing team. Roethlisberger is playing as well as he ever has and his receiving corps is multi-faceted and extremely dangerous. There aren’t a ton of glaring weaknesses with this team.
a
The Steelers’ schedule hasn’t been particularly difficult by any means. And, like New England, they benefit from playing a fairly soft homestretch. (They’re only two quality opponents are the Bengals and 49ers). Unlike in previous seasons, the Steelers seem to be handling their business against the floormats of the NFL. Assuming they can continue that identity they should have 11 wins wrapped up fairly easily.
a
Houston
  • Record: 7-3
  • SOS: .452
  • SOV: .369
  • Good teams defeated: Pittsburgh. Yep, that’s it.
  • Bad teams lost to: Oakland (maybe, but it was the day after Al Davis died and that game was super wacky).
Everybody loves Houston because they aren’t Indianapolis.
a
Look, those SOS and SOV numbers are just too glaring to ignore. Their schedule is an absolute joke. I realize you can only play who is on your schedule, and they’ve done a good job of handling their business, but it’s really tough to get a read on what this team is all about when they’re spending their Sundays beating up on Indianapolis and Miami and Cleveland. And it doesn’t get much more difficult for them. The two toughest games remaining on their schedule are vsATL and @CIN.
a
For their benefit, I will say this. Matt Schaub has been pretty solid [EDIT: Welp, apparently Schaub is out for the season. Didn’t know that until after I wrote all this], especially considering he hasn’t had Andre Johnson to throw to since week four. And Arian Foster might be the best player in football when he’s healthy. There isn’t a place on the field from which he is containable. If they had a healthy Mario Williams this team would be extremely dangerous.
a
But here’s the thing. Aside from Williams, Johnson, Schaub, and Foster, can you name anybody else on that team? For some reason I feel like this means something. I wonder about their depth and their ability to last the season. Williams is gone, Johnson is fighting a hamstring injury, and Foster spent the first few weeks dealing with a hamstring injury of his own. They seem fragile. And what happens when they have to play Baltimore or Pittsburgh or New England in the playoffs? Their schedule provides them little opportunity to play top-level talent. Will they be able to raise their compete level to meet these battle-tested teams? Did I steal that last sentence straight out of Merril Hoge’s ESPN cliche book? Maybe. But I’m not convinced the Texans are much more than the beneficiaries of a supremely easy schedule.
a
So there’s that. And then there’s this:
a
Houston hasn’t really played anybody good, but they did beat Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has beaten New England and Cincinnati, but lost twice to the Ravens and once to the Texans
New England has lost to Pittsburgh but beaten some other good teams
Baltimore has beaten Houston and Pittsburgh twice, but lost to a couple really miserable teams
Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh, and haven’t really played anyone good other than that, and they also lost to the Broncos
a
Okay so that’s like 1500 words and I still have no idea what the answer is. I think what we have right now is a clear top-tier of five in the AFC with no real way to determine who is better than who. Houston won’t really be challenged enough by good teams for us to know what they’re made of until the playoffs. The Patriots could easily catch fire against their soft schedule and convince everyone they’re great again. The Bengals very well may fade into anonymity as their schedule gets tougher. The Ravens may continue to drop winnable games to lousy opponents. The Steelers might continue to play well through the rest of this season, but after having lost both games to the Ravens can they really be viewed as the best in the conference?
a
Gun to my head, my order is:
a
5) Cincinnati
4) Houston
3) New England
2) Baltimore
1) Pittsburgh
a
The Steelers seem to be the most complete team in all three phases. They’ve only played one bad game all year (week one) and have gone 2-1 against three teams on this list in the past three weeks. In my mind the Steelers benefit from having played the other four teams on this list and, while they’re 2-3, they easily could be 3-2. Push comes to shove, I have a hard time seeing any of these teams beating the Steelers in the playoffs. (Although I don’t like how Pittsburgh matches up against the Texans just because of Arian Foster.)
a
No matter the order, I love that the AFC is this tight. I can’t recall the last time a conference race didn’t have at least one or two clear-cut favorites. It seems this season that all 16 games might count for something. What a concept.
Categories: NFL, Steelers Tags: , , ,

Week 9 NFL Power Rankings

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Got so caught up in reading/watching as much as I could about the Penn State mess that I forgot I did these. Seems pretty inconsequential seeing as week ten already started, but I did em so I’m gonna post em.

BIGGEST MOVERS

  • UP: Falcons (17 to 12) – Seems like whoever plays the Colts always ends up jumping up the most spots.
  • DOWN: Chargers (13 to 17) and Chiefs (22 to 26)

 TEAM

LAST_WEEK

RECORD

RANKINGS_INDEX

1.

Packers

 1

(.7340)

 8-0

.7181

2.

Lions

 2

(.7198)

 6-2

.7136

3.

Texans

 5

(.6715)

6-3

.7019

4.

Ravens

4

 (.7012)

 6-2

.6991

5.

49ers

3

(.7193)

 7-1

 .6520

6.

Bengals

7

(.6282)

 6-2

 .6378

7.

Saints

 9

(.6237)

 6-3

 .6082

8.

Steelers

8

 (.6237)

 6-3

 .5960

9.

Bills

6

(.6563)

 5-3

 .5893

10.

Jets

 14

(.5422)

 5-3

 .5786

11.

Giants

 11

(.5557)

 6-2

 .5658

12.

Falcons

17

  (.5077)

 5-3

 .5561

13.

Patriots

10

 (.5878)

 5-3

 .5459

14.

Cowboys

16

(.5105)

 4-4

 .5337

15.

Eagles

12

 (.5485)

 3-5

 .5133

16.

Bears

15

(.5378)

 5-3

 .5129

17.

Chargers

13

(.5422)

 4-4

 .5129

18.

Titans

18

 (.4815)

 4-4

 .4614

19.

Raiders

19

 (.4776)

 4-4

  .4232

20.

Buccaneers

21

 (.4464)

 4-4

  .4220

21.

Panthers

23

(.4197)

 2-6

 .4202

22.

Browns

20

 (.4106)

 3-5

 .4183

23.

Vikings

25

 (.4109)

 2-6

 .4042

24.

Redskins

24

 (.4129)

 3-5

 .3990

25.

Jaguars

26

 (.3735)

 2-6

 .3787

26.

Chiefs

22

 (.4285)

4-4

 .3780

27.

Broncos

28

 (.3184)

 3-5

 .3691

28.

Seahawks

27

(.3673)

2-6

 .3506

29.

Cardinals

29

 (.3005)

 2-6

 .3267

30.

Dolphins

31

 (.2521)

 1-7

 .3214

31.

Rams

30

 (.2571)

  1-7

 .2677

32.

Colts

32
(.1678)
 0-9  .1440
Categories: NFL Tags: ,

Joe

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been trying hard to write something that encapsulates my feeling on what is happening with Penn State. I have some 12,000 words in a Google document that I have been writing into since I read the grand jury presentment Sunday afternoon. The document has been open nonstop and any time I have spent in front of my laptop has more or less been devoted to jotting down thoughts and trying to expand upon them in the hopes of creating a substantial and comprehensive narrative or analysis or whatever.

I’ll probably go back into that document some other time, but for right now it is closed and I will say this.

I grew up going to Penn State football games with my dad. My dad loved Penn State football and in large part this was because he absolutely adored Joe. He always thought Paterno was such an admirable man. Humble, kind, simple, generous, industrious, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. A real man’s man. Joe lived in a tiny ranch house just off campus and walked to work every day. It was always about “the kids” with Paterno. He always deflected praise toward his players, and when things went poorly he was the first to jump on the grenade. His seeming obliviousness to how great he was made him even greater in the eyes of his admirers. Dad was always quick to point these things out to me. One of the things I loved the most about my dad was how he would grow attached to people who, in his eyes, seemed to do things the right way. To him, Joe was just about the perfect example.

Paterno never shied away from disciplining his athletes. If one of his players missed a class or got in trouble with the law he would be dealt with swiftly and sternly. Joe was unafraid to bench insubordinate players, even if they were among the best on the team. This was a trait of Paterno’s that dad loved greatly. It always seemed to be about life more than football for Paterno. He took great pride in graduating an exceedingly high number of his players. He understood that the sport was merely a vessel through which he could help mold and shape the lives of the players he coached with the intention of making them better people. This is the Joe Paterno I grew up with.

I celebrated in these hosannas with my Dad for a long time. My dad was my hero growing up. If he really believed in this man then so did I. And as I got to that age where I was too cool for my dad and I wanted to rebel against EVERYTHING familial authority stood for, I started to cast aside the romantic notion that a football coach could be as great a man as I had been raised to believe he was and tried to evaluate him for myself. Though as I backed off of my devotion to the religion of JoePa I found that maybe there was something to my dad’s belief in him. I was old enough now to realize that he wasn’t a deity, but in comparison to the greedheads and charlatans that permeated collegiate football he was a relative saint.

This is why I have such a hard time believing that Paterno would willingly and complicitly be a part of something so incredibly vile. He lived his entire life trying to make people’s lives better, yet when faced with something like this he simply chose to ignore it? It’s hard to reconcile. You might not like Penn State and you might not like Joe Paterno, but it’s incredibly hard to believe that someone who has lived this kind of life – with several kids and grandkids of his own – would choose to let child rape happen right under his nose and do nothing to stop it.

A caller to a radio show last night asked how Mike McQueary could witness an act of child rape and do nothing but run home and call his daddy. The radio host said that while we all like to think we would have done something to intervene, we can’t say for sure until we are put in that situation. I suppose that’s true, but if we’re going to give the man who witnessed this horrific act a mea culpa then surely we have to understand how Paterno might have failed to notify the police after the accusations were brought to his attention. What, exactly, did McQueary tell Paterno? What if McQueary was wrong? Lying? What if Paterno had called the police only to come to find that McQueary screwed up and now Sandusky’s life was ruined? Now that we know all the facts it’s easy to say that Paterno really, really screwed up. In the moment, without any more evidence than an accusation from a single eyewitness, don’t Paterno’s actions seem at least a little bit understandable? Does it not seem plausible that after sending these accusations up the ladder Paterno was contacted by his superiors who told him that everything was handled? We already know Spanier and Curly and Schultz are scumbags, isn’t it a possibility that they told Paterno something to the effect of, “We interviewed McQueary, he said it was a misunderstanding. He was wrong about what he witnessed. Just to be safe we’re going to take Jerry’s keys to the building, but we want you to know that everything is okay. Everything is handled.”

I know, I know. I am a rambling Penn State apologist. I might as well head to State College and start overturning news trucks. I’m not saying this is definitely what happened, but as someone who has always believed that Paterno is a fair and competent person I think it’s important to allow some wiggle room here. Did he put his beloved football program over all else? I can’t definitively eliminate that possibility. But it would take a true monster to allow something like this to continue uninvestigated. I just don’t think Joe Paterno is a monster.

I agree with the decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees to fire Paterno. This was a systemic breakdown and Paterno is part of that system. It seems that the only proper course of action is for any administrators who had knowledge of this in 2002 to be fired, as well as anyone involved with the football program from 2002 that is still with the team. The university needs to divorce itself from these people and do whatever is necessary to bring Jerry Sandusky to justice for the lives he has ruined.

I just hope people remember that Jerry Sandusky is the man who ruined all those lives.

Categories: Penn State Tags: ,

14 for 21

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

For me this number says as much as the 23-20 final score. The Ravens converted 14 of 21 third down opportunities. Of those 14 third down conversions, all 14 came via Joe Flacco completions (Flacco completed his lone attempt on fourth down – a ten yard completion on fourth and one on the final drive of the game).

That the Steelers forced the Ravens into 21 third down plays is a testament to how good they were against the Ravens’ rushing attack. Baltimore attempted 27 rushes but averaged just 2.5 yards per. As a result Pittsburgh forced Baltimore into many difficult third and long situations but more often than not were unable to get the stop they needed. Flacco converted eight third downs of six yards or more which easily explains the four drives of ten plays or more the Ravens hung on the Steelers. Baltimore worked underneath to its less experienced receivers with quick timing plays to neutralize the Steeler blitz – a blitz that desparately missed Lamarr Woodley, even though James Harrison was brilliant. It was a great gameplan and even better execution by a much-maligned and inconsistent quarterback and his troupe of no-name receivers.

I’ve heard a bunch of complaints about the officiating on local radio today. The pass interference on Ike Taylor in the third quarter was pretty chintzy, but then again so was the holding call against Torrey Smith on Ray Rice’s opening-play touchdown run. The helmet-to-helmet call against Ryan Clark was probably the right call (how I wish that guy would learn how to tackle with something other than his skull) even if the refs failed to call the helmet-to-helmet hit by Ray Lewis on Hines Ward earlier in the game. Questionable calls impact every game. Sometimes they help your team, sometimes they hurt. But in this instance it makes no difference. It isn’t the officials’ fault that Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception directly to Terrell Suggs, who Ben didn’t recognize was lined up on the left side of the defense (the only play the entire game Suggs lined up on that side) in anticipation of that throw. It isn’t the officials’ fault the Steelers couldn’t convert a third and six with 2:30 remaining and the Ravens down to their last time out. And it most certainly isn’t the officials’ fault that the defense couldn’t keep Joe Flacco from marching 92 yards for (what could be) the division-winning touchdown in their backyard.

(I think it’s worth mentioning just how fantastic the Torrey Smith touchdown play was. Consider: it was third down and ten from the 26, there was around 14 seconds left, and the Ravens had one timeout. Baltimore put Boldin in the slot – because they knew Ike Taylor was going to line up on him – and put Torrey Smith on the outside where he was matched up with William Gay. Boldin ran a crossing route, and  since all the Ravens really needed was a first down, Ryan Clark – who was supposed to be William Gay’s safety help deep – figured the pass was going to Boldin over the middle in an attempt to get the first.  As a result, Clark’s first move on the play was to take two steps up to give Ike Taylor support which ultimately left Gay on an island with Smith (who the Steelers likely figured was not going to get the ball thrown his way after dropping a sure touchdown just a couple plays before). Flacco read this, and dropped in a perfect pass. It was a very bold call as an incompletion there would have left the Ravens with a fourth and ten from the 26 with only eight seconds and one time out. This would have required another do-or-die try into the end zone (which the Steelers would have been better able to defend as it would have been Baltimore’s only option), whereas a more conservative play for a first down would have allowed the Ravens to burn their time out, get prepared, and have time for two plays into the end zone from closer range.)

And that’s why this loss hurts so badly. Going in to last night’s contest the Steelers controlled their own destiny. Had they been able to take care of the Ravens the Steelers would have buried them deep enough to afford another loss or even two and still win the division and possibly clinch a first-round bye. The upcoming schedule for the Steelers – @CIN, BYE, @KC, vsCIN, vsCLE, @SF, vsSTL, @CLE – certainly doesn’t appear to have more than two losses on it. Now with the Steelers in third place in the AFC North and on the wrong side of the division tiebreaker combined with the Ravens’ schedule – @SEA, vsCIN, vsSF, @CLE, vsIND, @SD, vsCLE, @CIN – looking awfully cushy, it’s going to take another chokejob like the one against the Jaguars for the Ravens to let the Steelers back into this race. All this and I haven’t even mentioned the Bengals, who the Steelers play next week in what is now a must-win game.

The good news for Pittsburgh is they still control their own playoff destiny. If the season ended today they would be the second AFC wild-card team. They have the opportunity next week to take down the Bengals and reestablish themselves before the bye. As fans, all we can do is hope the Steelers learned enough from these Baltimore losses to keep from making the same mistakes again if – hopefully, when – these two teams meet in January.

 

 

Categories: NFL, Steelers Tags: