Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Down To The Wire In Week 17

So we've reached Week 17 of the NFL season and the battle for some playoff spots will be settled.   It's been another season living up to the hype that is the NFL, a season of huge upsets, uninspiring letdowns, bitter disappointment, and outright surprise.    It's one more round before the big round begins (and the inevitable replays of Jim Mora's soundbite about the playoffs begin as well).    So we take a look at Week 17 -


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Steelers over Browns - The bad news for the Browns is they once again don't have anything to play for while the Steelers face a must-win to have any chance however unrealistic of making the playoffs.    The good news is the Browns this year finally have shown signs of getting a legitimate program going, and it's shown in legitimately competitive efforts the last month.    The Steelers for their part look like a mess and look to be getting worse instead of better.



Bengals over Ravens - The Ravens are well ahead of where a lot of people expected them to be this season to even be in playoff contention after basically blowing up the roster and overpaying Joe Flacco.   That decision may begin haunting the Ravens after exposure of his weaknesses as a quarterback last week; one wonders how well the Bengals will exploit the weaknesses the Ravens have on both sides of the ball, especially as they nearly sealed the deal in Baltimore but ultimately didn't, and their offense has been rather inconsistent since the first meeting.



Vikings over Lions - Two of the big letdowns of the season square off one final time before 2014 with probable coaching and even front office changes for Detroit on the horizon and possible changes in Minnesota as well as the Vikings close out the Metrodome.   That the Lions have fallen apart as they have perhaps was forseeable after their inability to handle success in 2012.  



Dolphins over NY Jets - Rex Ryan told his players last week of the story he will be fired; it is odd that some advocate he be kept on given that his win total in five seasons won't surpass 42 and he accomplished nothing in terms of building a program; on the contrary he created a culture of bluster, poor discipline, and ineptitude.    Joe Philbin in Miami meanwhile has implanted a culture that is steadily getting better.  



Titans over Texans - Rumor is one or both of these teams will go after Penn State's Bill O'Brien; both have a legitimate case for his services but Tennessee has a much better record and a better roster for O'Brien to work with beginning with Jake Locker; I'm not buying the story the Titans are giving up on him after just two seasons as a starter, especially given the growth he showed as a quarterback in 2013.    I do see Ryan Fitzpatrick being let go after this game for one of the most bitterly disappointing seasons a quarterback can have.  



Jaguars over Colts - The Jaguars are 4-3 since the bye week and Gus Bradley clearly has them on an upswing, while the Colts got an important win over Kansas City but have overall looked a little scattershot the last two months of the season; the Jaguars also usually play the Colts tough.



Redskins over NY Giants - I'm baffled that the Giants may keep Tom Coughlin after this season given his history of second-half collapses; they've lost three of their last five after a four-game win streak.   The Redskins have Kirk Cousins amid the chaos of whether Mike Shanahan gets fired or not; regardless Cousins shouldn't be considered trade bait; he has more upside than Robert Griffin has.



Panthers over Falcons - The Falcons have a lot of questions to ask, beginning with Matt Ryan, who has put up good numbers but who hasn't shown much in the way of clutch play in 2013.   The Panthers race to the playoffs and look to steal the NFC South title from a faltering New Orleans squad.



Saints over Buccaneers -  The Saints have been bad on the road this year and finish their regular season against the never-in-it Bucs.   The Josh Freeman fiasco killed the season for the Bucs and now they have to pick up the pieces and start anew in 2014.



Seahawks over Rams - With just one win over a division foe, the Rams face the task of a rare win over the Seahawks, a team good enough to get to the Superbowl but who isn't unbeatable at home.    Fisher has gotten much better play out of Kellen Clemens than I suspect anyone bargained for.  



Packers over Bears - The Bears were ripped to shreds last week, and they host a Packers squad that has averaged 30 points a game the last three weeks.    When they had the opportunity to put away the division, the Bears came up very small yet again, and it's impossible to trust Jay Cutler.   The Packers for their part have questions to ask of their quarterbacks after Matt Flynn did in two games what Aaron Rodgers has shown his whole career he's not capable of doing - stage a comeback.  



Broncos over Raiders - The Raiders organization is being rebuilt top to bottom and the process is slow enough that it's the Same Old Raiders finishing up another lost season, the eleventh such since 2002.   Peyton Manning has the touchdown record again and the number one AFC seed.



Cardinals over 49ers - Both have the playoffs to play for and the Cardinals have been the team overlooked by everyone this season; they also are the team that ended Seattle's home win streak, and they get a Niners squad that looked pretty shaky in escaping the Monday Night win over the Falcons.  



Chargers over Chiefs - Alex Smith's limits as a quarterback are showing up again; one of them is a winless career record over the Chargers, and the Chargers have more to play for right now than Kansas City does.



Patriots over Bills - The Bills have played the Patriots hard for the last five seasons but the Patriots have been the most battle-tested team in the league and appear to be getting stronger; after three straight comeback wins (led by the biggest such in club history) and a thorough manhandling of the Ravens, the Patriots are shooting to secure a bye week with an outside chance at the number one seed in the AFC.  



Eagles over Cowboys - The Eagles have a program that's working.    The Cowboys are a mess with their starting quarterback situation unsettled going into the game.    It's the same old scenario for the clueless Cowboys and the result will be the same; the only disappointment is if the Eagles don't hang over 54 on the Cowboys like they did the Bears.  




To paraphrase a cliche of one Bob Lobel - why can't more teams have offenses like that?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Administration Concedes: Obamacare Is Prohibitively Expensive

They of course knew that all along - they just wanted to impose it anyway because they want to meddle, meddle, and meddle some more.

NFL Revelations In Week 16

Week 16 locked up a lot of playoff spots though sorting out seedings remains in order for Week 17.   What transpired in Week 16 -


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OVERESTIMATIONS AND UNDERESTIMATIONS IN THE PATRIOTS-RAVENS GAME
- New England's 41-7 slaughter of the Ravens - the most points the Patriots have ever scored in a road game against either Baltimore NFL team - showcased several aspects missed by the prognosticators who almost without exception predicted a Ravens win -

The Patriots are more battle-tested than the Ravens - The Ravens were winning with a sputtering offense and were barely winning where the Patriots were generating offense and beating better competition - in worse circumstances - than what the Ravens had been facing.

The Patriots exposed Joe Flacco's fundamental weaknesses as a quarterback - We've long seen Joe Flacco, even with his enormous NFL success, display a constant penchant for throws that show little in the way of thought behind them.  But this game truly exposed how overrated Flacco is - poor ability to read defenses, inability to process second or third reads or outright refusal to go to a checkdown even when checkdowns were open, and a decided lack of courage as a quarterback.   That he's spent as much time as he has whining to media that he ought to be considered an elite quarterback is a red flag that he's not; one now wonders if going forward opposing teams will stop falling for his bluff.

Bill Belichick builds rosters that know how to win - This makes him the best GM in the league and further discredits the critics who attack his record in drafting, etc.   That he makes mistakes is obvious enough; that his mistakes do not cost his team should also be obvious enough. 



SEAHAWKS INVINCIBILITY PIERCED
- It was bound to happen and the Cardinals further aided their playoff chances by upending the Seahawks in the semi-dome they call home.   It showcases that the Cardinals are a playoff power in waiting, though they still need to upgrade the quarterback position.   



CHIEFS FALTERING AT WORST TIME - Kansas City's grip on the #5 seed is secure, but the Chiefs' four losses in their last six games - and a determined San Diego team on the horizon - indicate they've gotten what they can out of Alex Smith.    Upgrading the quarterback is a must for a team that Andy Reid has in one year turned into a legitimate playoff contender.



EAGLES SET TO RULE THE NFC EAST ROOST - With Nick Foles as quarterback the Eagles are showing the muscle needed to reassume control of the NFC East amid the chaos enveloping the rest of the division.


THE LIONS PUT TO SLEEP TONIGHT
- It now seems certain Jim Schwartz will be fired from Detroit after the Lions have lost five of their last six games.   Analysts are now starting to turn on Matthew Stafford as well for poor play, with the term "coach killer" now being used.   I'm not ready to go that far, as Stafford looks substantially better than two true coach killers in Jay Cutler and Tony Romo.  



PEYTON SETS RECORD AGAINST ZERO RESISTANCE - Peyton Manning nailed 51 touchdown throws by tossing four scores against a Houston team that gave up on the season around November.   The question in this game is why Matt Schaub was starting given that his game is worthless now.   

The rumor is the Texans will go after Bill O'Brien, the Penn State coach and ex-Patriots offensive coordinator.   Bill O'Brien can flat-out coach.



ONE LAST (?) CELEBRATION AT THE STICK - Candlestick Park closed out its existence on Monday Night Football by hosting the moribund Atlanta Falcons; the Falcons actually made a game of it until coughing up a laughable pick-six and thus losing 34-24.   It's fitting that a former NFC West foe of the Niners was the visiting team for the old ballpark's NFL swan song.   That the Falcons came in as sacrificial lambs is also fitting, having won only ten times there in their history.  Perhaps the wildest of those ten wins was in October 1991 when Chris Miller threw three touchdowns while Steve Young had two scores but also three interceptions.   Norm Johnson's two field goals in the fourth sealed a 39-34 Falcons win.  

The Niners now have a shot at upending the Seahawks for the division, so bet the over for the Niners here.  



So it goes entering Monday Night Football

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Washington's Put-Off-For-Later Budgeting

The Ryan-Murray compromise is disliked by both Democrats and Republicans.   That it is the only option for the moment - and does have some positives - ultimately doesn't change that it continues the refusal to kill money-draining entitlements that are crashing the economy.

While the piece linked is decidedly pessimistic about the compromise, it makes the mistake of assuming there won't be real reform down the road.   The failure of Obamacare and the reality of entitlement bankrupcy - which helped force Democrats to let themselves be dragged kicking and screaming to 2011's sequester agreement that imposed some modest but nonetheless real spending cuts - indicates otherwise.

The Silence of the Obamacare Liberals

Obamacare is about slapdash decision-making and ad hoc hackery, and liberals seem not to realize it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Scientific Groupthink and Gay Parenting

Political Correctness is a brainwash form of Conformity and it showcases itself when facts - such as a study showing gay marriage does not make children better - become publicized.

NFL: Closing On The Playoffs

The league season is rapidly closing on the playoffs and curiously the AFC has become more muddled with three division leader upsets last week.   A look at this coming week -


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Bills over Dolphins - The last nine meetings between these two have been a 5-4 split favoring Miami, and the Dolphins in 2013 have taken a major step toward becoming a viable division contender.  The Bills have gotten E.J. Manuel back and he showed some good form in a win over the Jaguars last week.   Neither offense is all that hot, and it's worth remembering the Dolphins had their hands full with an ostensibly bad Patriots defense last week.


Browns over NY Jets - The NY Jets have become......well, the NY Jets.   The Cleveland Browns meanwhile have flat-out found some offense the last three weeks and have been showing the league they're not the pushovers they once were even at 4-10 and with a five-game losing skid.


Panthers over Saints - The Panthers are showing a toughness the Saints don't have and this rematch of the ugly loss two weeks ago gives the Panthers a path to the NFC South title. 


Vikings over Bengals - The Vikings took a substantial step in winning without Adrian Peterson last week, and remain eighth in the league in points scored.   They take on a Bengals squad that got embarrassed by the Steelers and has given the impression they're not ready for primetime.  


Redskins over Cowboys - Kirk Cousins is now the Redskins quarterback and he already is an upgrade over Griffin III and more trustworthy than Tony Romo.  It remains baffling that Romo continues getting benefit of the doubt in some circles (notably the CBS Sports webpage) when he doesn't deserve it.  


Broncos over Texans

- Houston appears to have given up on the season and the dome in Houston benefits Peyton Manning even though he's lost his last two starts against the Texans.


Chiefs over Colts - The Chiefs remain a stout playoff-bound team while the Colts have been an erratic division champ.  


Titans over Jaguars - Their seasons wrap up in two weeks so there's no particular pressure here.   The Titans remain a stronger team than the Jaguars, having shown fight some championship teams don't have.

Rams over Buccaneers - The Bucs got beaten the last time they faced Jeff Fisher's Rams and have only one road win on their season.   The Rams may be out of the playoffs but they're not out of finishing 8-8, a record they haven't reached since 2006.


Lions over NY Giants - The Monday Night loss did more than drop the Lions out of the division lead - with the Panthers and 49ers unable to finish lower than 10-6 the only chance the Lions now have for the playoffs is the division title at 9-7.   They get a break here against a Giants squad that was never in contention from Week One and which is now in their patented Tom Coughlin second half collapse phase of the year.  


Cardinals over Seahawks - The myth of Seahawks home invincibility is bound to get punctured at some point as they've been a little shaky at home as the season has gone on.   The Cardinals remain in wildcard contention having won six of their last seven games and have scored at least 27 points in all six wins (and even looked respectable in the loss at Philly with a comeback attempt that fell short). 


Patriots over Ravens - The rivalry of the AFC right now.   The Ravens looked abysmal early in the year and have surged to five wins in their last six games.   A surprising number of people are now looking at the Patriots as damaged goods after the loss in Miami, but the reality is the Patriots have played generally better competition than the Ravens,  and are generating offense where the Ravens aren't.  The win at Detroit was all field goals, the last a quasi-impossible bomb; the Ravens have broken 26 points only four times all season, a point total the Patriots have broken all but once since Week Five.   The history of Joe Flacco over the Patriots is well known, but the Patriots are far more battle-tested than the Ravens plus have the motivation of taking on the Ravens in their corner.   

There has also been the criticism that the Patriots don't run the ball in the second half of games, as though running five more times in the fourth quarter in Miami than they did was going to go anywhere but force more punts - the fact is no one in the league is winning because of the run.  Also worth noting is Stevan Ridley, who is considered in some media circles as the Patriots' best runner, but who has all but played his way out of Foxboro between fumbling, a now-known attitude of defiance of the coaches, and with a lower Yards Per Carry (4.3) than LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen, and a noticeable lack of explosiveness in his last two games as he appears to be thinking instead of running (a result of overcoaching previously seen with the ruination of cornerback Devin McCourty after his 2010 season).  


Packers over Steelers - Though Aaron Rodgers is campaigning to become starter again, the fact is Matt Flynn has made the Packers a different team - a team that now can rally to win instead of be frontrunning frauds as they've always been under "Pass The Buck" Rodgers.   The erratic nature of the Steelers is too prevalent to trust them to pull off an upset here.


Chargers over Raiders - The Chargers have a slim playoff shot and get a beneficial game against a Raiders team going through yet another failure of a season.


Eagles over Bears - Jay Cutler can pull an Abraham Lincoln yet the end phrase of President Lincoln's famous saying - you can't fool all the people all the time - remains the truth.   The Eagles have a division title in their grasp and the Bears are not good enough to stymie them.


49ers over Falcons - It is stunning how far and how fast the Falcons have fallen.   The 49ers can realistically lock up a playoff spot on Monday Night.



We thus await Sunday hoping the snowstorms are over.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NFL's Week 15 Locks

So the NFL has hit Week 15 and the wildness of last week's 100-plus touchdown eruption may not have been matched but there were a number of jaw-dropping finishes heading into crunch time.   What stood out from Week 15 -


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The Packers may have to rethink Aaron Rodgers - Matt Flynn led the biggest comeback since the Patriots wiped out Denver's 24-0 lead; down 26-3 Flynn exploded the Packers to five touchdowns marred by a missed two-point try.   Flynn has thus done what Aaron Rodgers has never been able to do - lead a comeback win for the Packers.   Given the Packers' uneven play this year Flynn is more than justifying usurping Rodgers as Packers starter.


The Dolphins are becoming the AFC East rival the Patriots have generally lacked - A rumor began circulating that the Patriots, banged up all around, may bring back Donte Stallworth for their stretch run, a good idea given how Stallworth fits the offense and has given it a deep threat it hasn't really had since he was lost for the balance of 2012.   They can doubly use Stallworth to help a receiving corps that isn't weak but nonetheless can use such help after seeing the Dolphins pull off the win, a win that puts Miami on a path for a winning season and perhaps the playoffs - though one can wonder if the Dolphins are ready for a playoff run right now.


Where is the run doing much good for the Patriots? - Over and over I hear the criticism that the Patriots abandon the run too early and that criticism was made after this game - this even though the Patriots outrushed the Dolphins 96 yards to 81.   Nowhere in any of these games can I find any area where the Patriots would do better running the ball, especially with Stevan Ridley having proven untrustworthy between fumbles and reported insubordination with the coaches - curiously a common thread in the Belichick era among such players as Ty Law, Asante Samuel, Brandon Meriweather, and Richard Seymour.  


The Saints may be in trouble - New Orleans' road woes of recent were on display in St. Louis again and they have to go to Carolina next week with the Panthers wanting revenge after last week's rout.  


The Seahawks remain the favorites - Not even in 2005 have the Seahawks ever looked this powerful.  


The Favrelous Favreness Of Fitzpatrick - A pick-six by Ryan Fitzpatrick put the Cardinals up 34-17, yet the Tennessee Titans nearly topped everyone else.  Fitzpatrick made a hell of a run to redemption as the Titans scored 17 points in the final five minutes to force overtime - and then Fitzpatrick suddenly became Brett Favre; he threw another interception in overtime, setting up the Cardinals' winning field goal.   Steve McNair was the heart of the Titans because he had the heart of a lion; the 2013 Titans have shown more fight than many championship teams, heart McNair would be proud of.   And why they're 5-9 instead of 10-4 is simple - Fitzpatrick has legitimate talent, has numbers, makes plays, yet never seals the deal.   Would the Titans be 10-4 or close to that if Jake Locker was still playing?  I cannot fathom that they wouldn't.  


Kirk Cousins needs to be the future of the Redskins - With RGIII proving a one-shot wonder, Kirk Cousins showed exactly why Griffin ought have no future with the Skins.   Cousins came into the game basically cold and damn near pulled off the win over the Falcons.    The death of the read-option should dissuade anyone who thinks Griffin III should remain starter.


The Rams will become a contender - Reaching 8-8 may not be achievable; nonetheless the Rams have actually shown signs of getting better in Jeff Fisher's second season there.  


The Vikings showed something - Matt Cassel pulled one of the shockers of the weekend by crushing the Eagles by three scores; coming with Adrian Peterson out, it shows the Vikings aren't the one-trick pony most assume they are.


For the Chiefs, now comes the hard part - The Chiefs are in the playoffs in Andy Reid's first year; now comes the hard part - they need to win a playoff game for the first time since Joe Montana's final playoff win in 1993.   The last time the Chiefs were even competitive in a playoff game was 2003 against Peyton Manning's Colts.  


The Jaguars are a legitimate threat for 2014 - It took a horrific first half of the season for the Jaguars to learn the lessons needed to learn; it's now showing even though they're only 4-10.   Clearly players are buying into the program and it's beginning to work.


Houston may win the Suck For Johnny race - It seems foregone that the Houston Texans - twenty years after the earthquake that turned out to be the end of the Houston Oilers - will have the #1 draft pick, and quarterback is the glaring need for a squad with genuine talent.   One wonders how likely it becomes that Johnny Manziel becomes Houston's next starter.


The not-ready-for-primetime-Bengals - Facing a game that would put them to the next level, the Bengals faltered again.   The Bengals remain a talented team with real promise, but they haven't gone another level.


The Lions are not getting better - We may now see the upper management of the Lions blown up after a hideous loss to a pathetic Ravens team that needed six field goals, one of them a 61-yarder, to outlast a Lions offense that didn't show up at all.   Matthew Stafford's three picks were atrocious and kept the Ravens alive in the AFC North while costing his team in a suddenly-crowded NFC North race.



It was an ugly ending to what was an amazing NFL weekend.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Marino Mythology Redux

The Cold Hard Football Facts site of Kerry Byrne has revolutionized football analysis in the decade-plus it has been active, and among its signature analyses is The Marino Mythology, a piece dissecting the defenses Miami Dolphins fans have used in response to Dan Marino's inability to win a Superbowl. It is especially relevant now because the excuses used for Marino are now being cited for Peyton Manning, who will enter the 2013 playoffs, his thirteenth career playoff run, having lost eleven of twenty career playoff games - indeed, it is worth noting that Tom Brady by himself has seventeen playoff wins (three of them Superbowls) while Marino and Manning have seventeen combined.

One of the Marino myths is that he was saddled with weak defenses - this isn't true, as Marino played with top-12 scoring defenses seven times (twice with #1 scoring defenses, 1983 and 1998).  It is worth noting because Tom Brady has been accused of having good defenses for his Superbowl runs, except the reality of his defenses was they were grossly overrated and consistently failed in big games -

The defense in 2001 could not stop the Raiders from surging to a ten-point fourth-quarter lead, and then Brady rescued it with three scoring drives for the 16-13 overtime win.

Given a 14-point lead against the Rams in the Superbowl, the Patriots defense disintegrated, and Brady rescued it with the first walkoff scoring drive in Superbowl history.

Against the Panthers in 2003 the Patriots defense was ripped to shreds as the Panthers erased deficits of 11 points and then seven points; once again Brady led the rescue.

In 2004 the defense gave up a late touchdown to the Eagles.

The Patriots defense infamously disintegrated twice against the NY Giants when given leads by Brady - the David Tyree miracle remains the ultimate black mark on the Patriots defense.



The defense argument has also been cited with Peyton Manning, as his 2006 Superbowl was credited to a Colts defense getting hot in the playoffs.   The fact here is also opposite to the myth - Manning's first two Superbowl runs (2006 and 2009) came against matchups overwhelmingly in his favor - both times he faced the Baltimore Ravens, a team he utterly owned at that point in the middle of his nine-game winning streak against them; in 2006 he faced the Kansas City Chiefs, a team he's lost just once to in six career games, and after his stunning AFC Title win over the Patriots - in which his vaunted defense was shredded for 34 points - he faced the cupcake of the Rex Grossman Chicago Bears in the Superbowl; in 2009 he faced a semi-cupcake in the always-erratic New York Jets, a squad that has nonetheless beaten him in the playoffs twice.   His 2013 Superbowl run came against two perennially tough matchups in San Diego and New England; he somehow won both then failed completely in the Superbowl against a Seahawks team the Patriots shot down the next year.


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The other signature Marino myth is that he lacked an adequate running game.   Here also the myth is false, and it is worth expanding on for CHFF's original piece missed a key fact about Superbowl history - the number of Superbowl winners with inferior run games to what Marino had.  

Here are the Yards Per Carry run games of Superbowl winners  -


1966 Packers - 3.5 YPC
1967 Packers - 4.0
1968 NY Jets - 3.4
1969 Chiefs - 4.3
1970 Colts - 3.3
1971 Cowboys - 4.4
1972 Dolphins - 4.8
1973 Dolphins - 5.0
1974 Steelers - 4.4
1975 Steelers - 4.5
1976 Raiders - 4.1
1977 Cowboys - 4.2
1978 Steelers - 3.6
1979 Steelers - 4.6
1980 Raiders - 4.0
1981 49ers - 3.5
1982 Redskins - 3.6
1983 Raiders - 4.1
1984 49ers - 4.6
1985 Bears - 4.5
1986 NY Giants - 4.0
1987 Redskins - 4.2
1988 49ers - 4.8
1989 49ers - 4.0
1990 NY Giants - 3.8
1991 Redskins - 3.8
1992 Cowboys - 4.2
1993 Cowboys - 4.4
1994 49ers - 3.9
1995 Cowboys - 4.4
1996 Packers - 4.0
1997 Broncos - 4.6
1998 Broncos - 4.7
1999 Rams - 4.8
2000 Ravens - 4.3
2001 Patriots - 3.8
2002 Buccaneers - 3.8
2003 Patriots - 3.4
2004 Patriots -  4.1
2005 Steelers - 4.0
2006 Colts - 4.0
2007 NY Giants - 4.6
2008 Steelers - 3.7
2009 Saints - 4.5
2010 Packers - 3.8
2011 NY Giants - 3.5
2012 Ravens - 4.3
2013 Seahawks - 4.3
2014 Patriots - 3.9
2015 Broncos - 4.2



Here are the Dolphins run games in YPC in Marino's career -

1983 - 3.8 YPC
1984 - 4.0
1985 - 3.9
1986 - 4.4
1987 - 4.1
1988 - 3.6
1989 - 3.3
1990 - 3.7
1991 - 3.6
1992 - 3.7
1993 - 3.5
1994 - 3.8
1995 - 3.6
1996 - 3.5
1997 - 3.1
1998 - 3.4
1999 - 3.3
  


In all just eleven Superbowl champions had a better run game than what Marino had.

It is also worth noting how teams ostensibly with great ground games such as the Lombardi Packers and No-Name Defense-era Dolphins were superior passing teams rather than winning because they ran the ball well.   The bottom line here is that Marino had run games superior to multiple Superbowl champions for basically the whole of his 17-season career.    The argument that he lacked a run game is not only false, it is dishonest.

The counterargument I've heard from Marino defenders is that he didn't have "a 1,000-yard rusher, a stud running back like Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith."   It doesn't matter.   Sanders never got to a Superbowl because, though he got some genuinely good seasons out of Scott Mitchell, overall it was quarterbacking that was the Sanders-era Lions' downfall.   Smith ostensibly made the Aikman-era Cowboys offense go, except much of his yardage came after Aikman's passing had put the Cowboys up over their opponent (not my words, those of NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell).  Smith needed Aikman more than Aikman needed Smith.

As for 1,000-yard rushers, the greatest rushing attacks in league history are the 1976 and 1978 New England Patriots, who combined for 6,122 yards on the ground - the 1976 team averaged FIVE yards per carry at 2,957 yards (higher than every Superbowl champion except the 1973 Dolphins who only tie the 1976 Pats at Five YPC) while the 1978 team's 3,165 yards (4.7 YPC)  remains the most in league history - and not once did they have a 1,000-yard rusher.


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Another Marino myth is that he had to carry the Dolphins - an assertion better suited to Tom Brady and Drew Brees than to Marino.    Marino inherited a Superbowl power and spent his career doing less with more - Marino ended up as a quarterback whose average season was 10-6 - the same as Steve McNair, who unlike Marino had to help bring the Oilers/Titans franchise to contention after the tumultuous 1995-98 move from Houston to Tennessee; he did that and made the Titans a playoff contender and made himself league co-MVP in 2003.   Further worth noting is that McNair brought the Titans to the doorstep of overtime in his one Superbowl, where Marino was outclassed from the opening gun in his.

This myth is also true of Peyton Manning, though Manning played a bigger role in resurrecting the Colts at the time of his drafting - the Colts between 1977's "Ghost To The Post" playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders and the off-season 1999 trade of Marshall Faulk to the Rams won just 107 games; they reached 141 wins in Manning's thirteen seasons there.  

Yet even here Manning had a better roster than his archenemy Tom Brady - Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Marcus Pollard, plus some quality running backs - and when he joined the Broncos he had Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas (of Tim Tebow vs. the Steelers fame) and then got Julius Thomas for the 2013 season.   Manning has not had to build rosters the way Tom Brady has, and the way Marino never did; it is noteworthy that Manning quit on several receivers, notably Pierre Garcon, who has become an effective weapon for the Washington Redskins.


Then there is the big-game quarterback myth.   Marino won only eight playoff games and just one of them on the road (1999 at Seattle) while Manning won fourteen of twenty-seven playoff games with  nine playoff runs in which he failed to win one game.    The game usually cited in Marino retrospectives is the Fake Spike Game against the NY Jets - a regular-season game against a team that finished 6-10.    

More relevant to Marino's career is the 51-45 overtime loss to the Jets in 1986 - up 45-38 in the fourth quarter - this after his defense kept forcing Jets turnovers - Marino only needed to convert one first down to win - and he didn't do it, a cutting illustration of Marino's career.   His 1995 games where he broke Fran Tarkenton's records for touchdowns, yardage, and completions were all losses - 27-24 and 36-28 to the Colts, 34-17 to the Patriots - and another fitting illustration of the illusions surrounding his career.

Also instructive is the play-by-play sheet of Marino's only Superbowl -


Dolphins drives in Superbowl XIX  -

No score - Marino drive ends in field goal - 3-0
SFO takes 7-3 lead - Marino drive, five straight completions, touchdown - 7-3
SFO takes 14-10 lead - Marino drive three plays and punt
SFO takes 21-10 lead - Marino drive, two incompletions and punt
SFO takes 28-10 lead - Marino drive ends in field goal - 28-13
SFO up 28-13 - SFO fumbles kickoff, Dolphins field goal, end of half - 28-16 halftime

SFO up 28-16 - Marino drive, sacked once, three plays, punt
SFO takes 31-16 lead - Marino drive, sacked twice, three plays, punt
SFO takes 38-16 lead - Marino drives to SFO 27, then intercepted
SFO up 38-16 - Marino drives to SFO 21, then intercepted
SFO up 38-16 - Marino drives to SFO 30, fumbles, recovers fumble, clock expires, end of game



Finally there is what the Dolphins did before they drafted Marino - they won 141 games, two Superbowls, and ten additional playoff games in the seventeen years before they drafted him.   Fifty-seven wins and a Superbowl berth came in the six seasons immediately before they drafted Marino; Marino won 60 games and just three playoff games in his first six seasons - and just 141 games total in his seventeen seasons.   The Dolphins then won 41 games in the four seasons after Marino retired where Marino won 45 games in his last five seasons in the league.


If anything Marino was rescued by the league's 1990 decision to add a third wildcard playoff team - of his eight playoff wins five of them came after the addition of a sixth playoff team, and only once (1992) in that span did he get out of the Divisional Round.


Marino's volume stats are his only real claim to be a Hall Of Famer - his inferior yards per throw, mediocre completion percentage, and subpar touchdown to interception ratio tag him as one of the more overrated quarterbacks in NFL history as well - and it is telling that Don Shula has admitted that Marino often changed playcalls so he could throw the ball more (while Jimmy Johnson was criticized for taking that away from Marino when he became Dolphins head coach) - a sign Shula should have given up on Marino well before he retired.

Twilight of the Sequester

The Sequester showed that Washington has things upside down because the Sequester actually works.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

NASCAR And 2014 Racing Packages

NASCAR ran a much-anticipated aerodynamics test at Charlotte this week, testing varied items to try and open up passing on intermediate tracks.   It is a follow-up to a similar test in October, and in that test a larger spoiler seemed to work best toward allowing more effort at passing and closing up on lead cars

Said Gene Stefanshyn of NASCAR, "We accomplished out goal today."  He also acknowledged the differing opinions between what computer data says, what the eye test says, and so forth - "You're kind of looking for the 70 percent answer."

Perhaps NASCAR accomplished its immediate goal in this Charlotte test, but it remains unknown what package will develop from here, and from reading Dustin Long's analysis of the test, this December test curiously seemed less productive in terms of developing passing than the October test.   The use of carb spacers reduced horsepower to the 750 range, which is still very high - at least somewhat absurdly high, really.   One wonders why power wasn't dropped to 600 or lower for this test.

That NASCAR has been conducting these tests is certainly commendable, and the sport needs a package that opens up passing.   What was witnessed with the Trucks in April and the Busch Series cars in October, both at Kansas Speedway, was what the sport can have and also what it can improve - there was some excellent nose to nose combat for the lead in both races, some of the best of the NASCAR season.

I've long said - the draft has to be more important than handling; that is the lesson of the best racing in the sport's history, from the 1960s and 1970s forward - be in restrictor plate racing, the two Truck/Busch Series Kansas races from 2013 noted above, the "crapwagon" IRL era, the Hanford Wing era of Indycar, the Trucks at Pocono and also in 2013 at Homestead, and the 2013 Indianapolis 500 plus the finish of the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, the racing where the draft means a lot and handling means nothing is the racing that produces the most passing.  

These tests seem to be confirming this again.

The Age Of Disinformation

For all the proliferation of information outlets, the Mainstream Media refuses to tell the blunt truth about Islamo-Arab imperialism and a lot of other items

A Bad Budget Deal, Or Not

The recent budget deal negotiated by Paul Ryan has come under fire because it does not mandate more spending cuts and has several budgetary gimmicks - notably spending more now by promising cuts later - that aren't believable.   But for all that, the deal has some genuine benefits, such as shown here.

Seymour Hersh and Assad’s Nun Spin a Story

Seymour Hersh is back, writing nonsense supporting an international brigand.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ten Thoughts For Week 15

With the approach of NFL Week 15, ten thoughts on the NFL -


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The Patriots are the best organization at overcoming adversity in the league's history - Multiple injuries to core people; massive roster turnover; setbacks that any team would crumble under.    Yet be it 2001, 2003, 2008 or any other year, the Patriots prove the doubters wrong and make at the worst a legitimate playoff run.  The surprise of 2008 was that the Patriots didn't make the playoffs, not that they won 11 games.   Four comebacks from down at least ten points in the last six games, a comeback derailed by bad officiating, a 24-point massacre of the Steelers, and scoring two touchdowns with 61 seconds to go have showcased the unprecedented nature of this organization.


Mike Shanahan is the most overrated coach in the last fifteen years - Since John Elway retired Shanahan never got the Broncos beyond mediocrity stage, posting records above 9-7 only four times in his last ten seasons in Denver.   He never got the quarterback position right, muddling through with Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Jake "The Mistake" Plummer, and finally Jay Cutler, all of whom put up numbers but in the end fell apart as quarterbacks.  


Ron Jaworski may need to change his opinion on who the best quarterback down the road will be - Colin Kaepernick is proving a one-trick pony and Robert Griffin III is flaming out.   Nick Foles is quietly establishing a legitimate NFL career - one that looks more promising than either Kaepernick or RGIII.


The Chicago Bears should seriously consider keeping Luke McCown - Under Marc Trestman, McCown is proving doubters galore wrong, and proving Cutler is what he is - a flop.


The Jacksonville Jaguars may finally be becoming a contender again - They won't make the playoffs in 2013 but the turnaround in the last six weeks has been huge, and is showing Gus Bradley is establishing legitimacy to himself in the NFL.


##########


So are the Miami Dolphins - Remember the Richie Incognito fracas?   Probably not, because the Dolphins like the Jaguars have quietly gotten better, and presently stand 7-6 with two winnable games left on their schedule.   While beating the Patriots seems out of reach, 9-7 is not, and the Dolphins under Joe Philbin are becoming the real deal.


Don't buy the Nick Saban to the NFL rumor - The latest rumor is the Washington Redskins are interested in hiring Nick Saban to replace Shanahan based on word leaking out that Saban is negotiating a contract extension with Alabama.   That the story was leaked suggests more that Saban is not going back to the NFL rather than the other way around.   Moreover, Saban's present deal is far too good to bother with the NFL again.


The Cardinals keep refusing to go away - Could Bruce Arians be the coach that makes the Cardinals a legitimate long-term contender?   Presently just on the outside looking in for the NFC playoff picture, the Cardinals have looked steadily more dangerous the longer the season has run; even the loss to the Eagles didn't change that the Cardinals look like a legitimate playoff team.   10-6 looks like the worst the Cards finish this season and with Seattle's loss at San Francisco some vulnerability may show for the Cardinals to exploit.


Should the Colts be concerned about Andrew Luck? - The Colts are 4-4 in their last eight games and losing to the Bengals may be a warning sign.   Not that Luck's overall play has deteriorated - he's had over 3,100 yards and 19 touchdowns so far this year, and in three of his last four losses he's broken 60% completion; one would expect much lower than that in losing games - but right now the Colts don't look like a team elevating to the next level.  


Andy Dalton may be ready to take that next step - The Bengals more and more look like a 12-4 team and Andy Dalton has been strong, breaking 60% completion in seven of his last nine games.   He's already had playoff experience, albiet the discouraging kind, but his game seems to be getting better.



So that's that as Week 15 approaches.

Elizabeth Warren Sells Out

The Massachusetts thugette who lied about her heritage to hide that she was illegally receiving benefits is another leftist sellout bullying people because she can't handle the real world.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Week 14 After Further Review

Week 14 of the NFL season has wrapped up and the season itself is closing fast on the playoffs, yet this particular week warrants examination.


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The Patriots-Browns game warrants extensive attention not only for the chaotic outcome, but also for the twin issues of player injuries and officiating.    Rob Gronkowski's injury on a low hit has stirred debate about the sagacity of the NFL's rules concerning head hits.   More than a few commentators have noted Brandon Meriweather's complaint earlier this season that the NFL's emphasis on stopping head hits has left defenders no alternative but to attack low, and the result being increased knee/leg injuries.


The issue of player safety has not been adequately examined because the NFL's approach has been backwards.   What the league has done is make the fundamental mistake of defining the issue down instead of defining it up - it has gone the route of restriction and of treating players as weak instead of working to toughen players, toughen safety equipment, and trusting in the toughness of both.   All the bluster about concussions has obscured that it never was the epidemic the League Of Denial demagogues have always pretended it to be, and there never was any need for new rules for player safety.


The league's approach toward player safety needs to change - it needs to define the issue up, not down.   Players in the last 20-plus years have been stronger, more durable, and safer than ever before and they're only getting safer still.   The league needs to encourage making the players stronger and more durable still; it needs to further improve safety equipment (which is already being done anyway) and also trust in the toughness and safety of both.  

Because the stronger the players, the stronger the safety equipment, the safer the game.   Taking away certain hits accomplishes nothing for the game.


Related to this issue is how the league has cracked down on training camp and in-season practices - here it chose the wrong route of defining the issue down instead of up.   Instead of limiting the physicality of training camp and in-season practices, the league should be cracking down on off-season player training regimens - players should train less in the off-season and instead use camps, pre-season games, and in-season practices to get into football shape - train less, hit more - just as baseball pitchers who presently cannot last 200 innings because they train too much in the off-season need to eschew off-season training and instead use preseason practices to pitch more, as was the custom in 1979 when multiple pitchers reached 250 innings -  noteworthy is that NFL players showed more in-season stamina in what was a more physical game back then because of  resting in the off-season and using camp and the preseason to get in shape.


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The issue of officiating centers on the Patriots-Browns game because of glaringly poor performance by Jerome Boger's crew.   A Browns fumble in the first quarter was wiped out without any credible justification by Boger, and several other questionable calls marred the most improbable comeback win the league has seen in years.   Several other games were marred by poor officiating, to the point that Leslie Frazier of the Vikings was contacted by the league to discuss the matter.


The view was expressed that the officiating job is inherently hard and another unfavorable comparison was made to 2012's replacement refs - which misses the point entirely.   The replacement refs really were better than the officials used now, because they let the players play and didn't try to be the show.  Ed Hochuli and company have long tried to be the show and it isn't working.  


##########


In this regard, two rule changes the league needs are presented -


1 - Take away the 5-yard chuck rule.

2 - Allow receivers a running start behind the line of scrimmage at the snap, a rule used in the Arena League and the Canadian League and which works.    It opens up offense, while getting rid of the chuck rule allows defenders to make plays.  


Overall, let the players play, because letting the players play is the best safety approach there is.


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The league set a record for touchdowns scored in one day (95) on Sunday, and it may have been the best Sunday ever.   Four of them were scored by the Titans, but the game at Denver fell away to a 51-28 Broncos win.   The season thus appears a lost one for a Titans team that had showed real improvement at the start of the season and which has still shown commendable fight even with the season slipping away.


Even so rumblings have begun of major changes after the season, with Mike Munchak under fire, running back Chris Johnson ostensibly to be released, and quarterback Jake Locker a possible casualty as well, with Jay Cutler a possible free agent acquisition.


I'm not sold on firing Munchak, who clearly has his players playing hard, or releasing Locker, who even with two years of season-ruining injuries has shown real growth as a quarterback this season, or signing Jay Cutler, who has put up some impressive volume stats but hasn't shown clutch ability as a quarterback.   He'd be a huge upgrade over the bitterly disappointing Ryan Fitzpatrick - whose own inability to seal the deal in games is the real reason for the collapse of the Titans' season - but compared to Locker right now, I'd take Locker.



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Some analysts still pretend that there is need to establish the run.   Monday Night's game is yet another example that the run is not conducive to winning - the Cowboys rushed for 199 yards and scored 28 points - while the Bears' Luke McCown threw for 348 yards and scored 45 points; the Bears did ruhs for 156 yards but it really didn't matter. 

Tony Romo managed three touchdowns, but they were empty numbers yet again, further proving his irrelevance to the game and that he is just one of those guys who shouldn't even be in the league.


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Finally, one should remember Tom Dempsey, who saw his NFL record longest field goal broken by the Broncos on a 64-yarder.   Dempsey set the record in 1970 of 63 yards, and did so despite a malformed foot requiring a special shoe.   Dempsey is one of the good guys in league history, and to see his record last as long as it did was something.  

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

NFL Things Peter King May Think I Think

The stretch run for the NFL season is here and some items I think Peter King thinks I believe (with apologies to Peter King) are presented below -


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On the Sports Illustrated site is a piece about players whining against the Thursday Night Football slate and how they ostensibly are having a hard time adapting to it.    The piece never makes any kind of case against the Thursday Night slate, not in terms of player fatigue or player safety, and it is glaringly obvious watching the games - as an enormous number of people are doing - that there has been nothing onerous about the Thursday Night slate.   The quality of the games did suffer early in the season but that has changed as the season has gone on  - and decline in quality of play rests mostly with the league's absurd reduction in the physicality allowed in training camps and in-season practices.  


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Pete Carroll still gets ripped in some media circles as a coach who does not instill discipline for his players.   The latest example of such is criticism that a few of his players (such as cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond) recently got suspended or face suspension for failing recent drug tests.   The problem with the "lack of discipline" argument is that the Seahawks keep getting better.    A team that lacks discipline is the New York Jets, and it is reflected in their deteriorating play.

Pete Carroll's past NFL failures are blamed on him; with the New England Patriots 1997-99 the real fault lay in the command structure put in place at the time - Carroll coached the team with what amounted to zero say in personnel matters.  He couldn't pick his players and couldn't pay them, and personnel guru Bobby Grier allowed players to go over Carroll's head straight to him.  

That structure was put in place because Bill Parcells showed he was not trustworthy with control - before 1996 his record was 21-27 and the 1994 season's 10-6 record was because Parcells actually let go of a measure of control in handing over the offense to Drew Bledsoe; he took it back in 1995 to push the "establish the run and play defense" model that by then was outdated.  

The blunt truth is Pete Carroll is a superior coach to any assumption ever made about him.


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Antonio Smith of the Houston Texans backpedaled from his post-game accusation of cheating against the Patriots.   I don't know what's worse - making the accusation or the backpedaling.  

It's brought up again how hated the Patriots organization is.   The hate is manifest and it's different from past dynasties like the Johnson-Switzer Cowboys and the 49ers - there was rampant hatred of those dynasties but there was also a popularity about them because they had players with personalities.   The Patriots are different - they are more disciplined and thus inherently more boring, and that has fed the hatred. 

It's a bit of a poor reflection on how good teams are judged.   Personality is so often overrated it isn't funny - the 1990s Cowboys today are beloved because of the larger-than-life personalities involved, yet the player most deserving of respect from that era is the most boring - Troy Aikman.  


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The fall of the Packers is largely explained by Aaron Rodgers' injury.   Actually it's just more proof the Packers are frontrunning frauds.   They lost two of their first three games, both times failing when they had to stage a comeback.   Rodgers certainly makes a major difference but the myth that he's an elite quarterback should be punctured by now.


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The more we watch the 49ers, the more it's becoming clear that Colin Kaepernick is a one-trick pony of a quarterback.   He is not showing progression as a quarterback.


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The slaughter in Seattle exposed some serious weaknesses with the Saints - namely an aging offense.  


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With numerous coaches on the verge of being fired, wait for the Bill Cowher advocacy train to start rolling again.

Here is a reason to derail that train - Cowher went into an ideal situation with the Steelers and did less with more.   His 12-9 playoff record as a head coach doesn't showcase anything inspiring in him, and doesn't justify hiring him, especially now seven seasons removed from any coaching gig. 


##########


Speaking of potential coaching changes, I'm surprised no one has circulated rumors that former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien gets hired by an NFL team.  The job he's done rebuilding the Penn State football program has been eye-opening.


##########


BTW, has there been any Blaine Gabbert sighting anywhere?



So it is as Week 14 approaches.

Education's Victimless Victims

Thomas Sowell showcases the fraudulence at heart of low test scores for students - the fact those students are trained to think of themselves as victims.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

NFL Down To December

So it comes down to December and the playoff races are starting to sort out.    A look at how the league appears to be sorting out entering the final month of the season -


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The Patriots keep on clawing for the showdown to the Superbowl
  - The Houston Texans once again played well in a loss, and the Patriots' career record at Reliant Stadium makes interesting reading - in three games against the Texans plus the Superbowl against the Panthers, the total points differential for the Patriots is plus-two.   For some reason the Patriots win there but can't put anyone away there.

The Texans season is shot but Case Keenum keeps making a legitimate case for himself for 2014; it is baffling Keenum is winless so far.


The rest of the AFC East remains battling for pride
- The Dolphins won their fifth road game against the NY Jets in the last six trips to East Rutherford, NJ, and the Jets added further to the collapse of their season by benching Geno Smith for Matt Simms; benching the ostensible starter never leads to good results.

It is worth examining coach Rex Ryan here because the widespread belief entering the season was he was on the firing line, then as the Jets stayed at .500 it seemed Ryan was coaching his way to an extension, but now the Jets are in freefall.    The blunt truth is Ryan has done little to justify not firing him - he is a players' coach, and thus his players lack the same level of discipline seen with quality teams (showcased by Ryan's absurd restaurant trip with his players before their loss at Buffalo); he has been overrated as a defensive coach, as one struggles to remember when his defenses legitimately stopped a good offense; by my understanding he has had a say in personnel decisions and the poor construction of the Jets roster thus labels him as one not to be trusted on personnel matters.  

Meanwhile the Buffalo Bills continue falling, as they blew a winnable game at Toronto's dome against the Falcons.  Up 31-24 the Bills couldn't stop the Falcons from tying the game, nor could they stop the seemingly-inevitable winning field goal by the Falcons in overtime.  



The Broncos all but clinched the top AFC seed - It was the shootout everyone expected but the Chiefs proved unable to hang with the Broncos and now Peyton Manning has the AFC West all to himself for now.   The Chiefs have to settle for the top wildcard seed while the Chargers have all but fallen out of any playoff possibility and their spectacular win over the Chiefs has proven the exception proving the rule of right now - the Chargers play uninspired football at a time they need more of what they produced against Kansas City.  


The Colts all but wrapped up another AFC South title and the Titans continue to blow it - Reading message boards Titans fans want to fire Mike Munchak now, yet watching the Titans the problems they are having stem from the quarterbacking instability Munchak didn't have to deal with in 2011's 9-7 season.   Ryan Fitzpatrick has authored more heartbreak than production, and didn't shy away from it ("I didn't play well," he said after the game); he has the talent to win games yet it isn't happening.   

And making it doubly frustrating - the Titans have shown fight all season; therein lay the strongest endorsement of Mike Munchak - his players clearly are playing for him.   I highly doubt the Titans wouldn't have won some of these bitter games with Jake Locker.   And those who advocate firing Mike Munchak need a credible argument along the lines of above's case against Rex Ryan - and one is hard-pressed to find one here. 

Houston and Jacksonville meanwhile show anew Sean Salisbury's truism - the difference between 12-4 and 4-12 is a quarterback and two or three players.  The Jaguars' win at Cleveland was a surprisingly good game and showcased the Jaguars are not stiffs.



The Bengals are closing on a division title that looks more impressive than their last two - Andy Dalton appears to be getting better as a quarterback and the Bengals are showing signs of gelling and maturing, qualities needed with Baltimore not out of the playoff race yet.    Even with their win over the Steelers, though, the Ravens do not look strong enough to make the playoffs, and the late run of last year is hard to replicate this year, especially given how the Ravens blew up the roster to pay Joe Flacco big bucks. 


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The Seahawks are - almost - division champs - The Seahawks look like NFC top-seed material easily, though the 49ers got a needed win over the Rams while the Cardinals came up short at Philadelphia.   By crushing the New Orleans Saints, the Seahawks further reinforced they are effectively unbeatable at home.


The Panthers and Saints are on the NFC South collision course - The Panthers held serve against the Bucs and the Saints were thoroughly destroyed at Seattle. The two teams amazingly haven't faced each other yet and first do so next week.   The Panthers now have the given how effective Cam Newton is and also with the Panthers holding a two-game winning streak in the series.  The loss at Seattle may have been a fatal blow to the Saints.


The Eagles can win the NFC East - Dallas rallied to beat the Raiders but it is Philadelphia that has control of the division as they continue to get better and Nick Foles keeps showing people he is for real.  


The rebirth of the Lions is one of the league's best stories - Matthew Stafford finally beat the Packers and did so despite early-game gaffes.   It was the first Lions win on Thanksgiving since 2003 and reinforced how remarkable the rebirth of the Lions after 2008's perfect failure has been.   Stafford's gutsiness has been displayed repeatedly but his comeback win over the Cowboys is the kind of win that makes fans out of people.   It certainly rivals his 2009 comeback over the Browns as an unforgettable game. 

Making it more delicious is that it furthers the fall of the Packers, the league's ultimate frontrunning fraud.   


With that the NFL marches toward Week 14.

The Democratic Party Is The Enemy

Charles Krauthammer continues to sparkle in showing where the real world is - and he showcases the inherent lawlessness that is the Democratic Party.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Myth That "We Know Better"

The CIA has long failed at its intelligence gathering job because it has long had a liberal mentality of "we know better," which led it to repeatedly underestimate real threats.   That mentality of "we know better" also drives Barack Obama and has led to the Obama regime's growing collapse beginning with the complete fiasco of Obamacare.

NFL Week 13 - Lucky Us

So now we're lucky enough to hit Week 13 of the season.   My picks for this lucky occassion -


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LIONS over Packers - Despite maddening inconsistency and the ultimate bizarre interception against the Bucs, the Lions remains NFC North leaders and face a faltering Packers outfit that hasn't won a game since October.   Matthew Stafford is playing some inspired football and should finally ignite a run to the playoffs.


COWBOYS over Raiders - The Cowboys remain the mediocre squad they've been for years, and get a Raiders team that remains in perpetual rebuilding.


RAVENS over Steelers - It's division foe time for Baltimore and the Steelers, even with the win over the Browns, are a shell of what they were two years ago - which despite 12-4 was weaker than it looked.  Even if they win, I'm not sold the Ravens can catch the Bengals, though both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are surprisingly close to a playoff berth after their terrible starts.


Cardinals over EAGLES - The Cardinals are becoming a real playoff threat and have won their last three against the Eagles.   The Eagles, though, have been getting better as the season has gone on and Nick Foles is proving he's for real.   This could be a points bloodbath.


Dolphins over NY JETS - The Dolphins continue to play much better than people are assuming they'd play even in losses, and they get a Jets team that blew the chance at becoming the first 8-8 team without a streak longer than one game on either side; the Jets should begin freefalling, especially given their poor recent home record against the Dolphins.


Titans over COLTS - Yes, this is a rash prediction given recent history and given Andrew Luck is certainly very good, but this rivalry's games have been bitterly close of recent and the Titans want to end their losing streak to the Colts, plus Ryan Fitzpatrick got a burden of poor road games off his back; no long-term answer certainly and he's authored many a heartbreak in recent years, but he's not the bust some think of him.   Expect the winning margin to be no higher than three.  


VIKINGS over Bears - The Vikings won't make the playoffs yet they contend week after week, and the Bears have been mediocre overall.  


BROWNS over Jaguars - The Browns' slim playoff hopes took a huge hit and they looked awful again against the Steelers, but overall there's real talent here, and they should salvage something against a game Jaguars squad.


PANTHERS over Buccaneers - Speaking of game, the Bucs have begun salvaging their season, but the Panthers have become a juggernaut ready to challenge New Orleans for the division.  


Patriots over TEXANS - The watchphrase for the Patriots is to not play down to the opponent.  The liberating win over the Broncos is reminiscent of the liberating win over the Saints, but the Patriots need to guard against another crash like in their subsequent game against the Jets; Houston is out of the playoffs but Case Keenum, despite being winless and only 56% in his completions has shown real grit this year.


BILLS over Falcons - The Bills schedule gives them a break with the enemic Falcons coming to Toronto; the Bills haven't had anything to cheer about in their games at the Rogers Centre, but as bad as the Falcons are, there's reason for optimism here.


Rams over 49ERS - The Niners got the win at Washington; now they face a Rams team that's starting to look up and which is looking for payback after getting smacked around earlier this season.  


CHARGERS over Bengals - The Chargers squandered opportunities to ice a playoff spot earlier this year, they're not going to do that against a good-not-great Bengals team.


CHIEFS over Broncos - Both teams lost last week, but Alex Smith suddenly discovered some firepower while Peyton Manning is starting to look old.   Look for a score fairly close to the 41-38 shootout at Arrowhead Stadium last week.


REDSKINS over NY Giants - NFC East cellar dwellers battle it out.   RGIII has flamed out and so have Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin.    Housecleaning may follow in both clubs.


Saints over SEAHAWKS - This is my upset prediction.   Both teams are playing super; both teams can score, both teams can stop the opponent.   The Seahawks have had some issues of late up the middle, and the Saints offense is among the best the league has ever seen.   The homefield edge for the Seahawks has been famous but even with that they famously needed to score 40 earthquake-measuring points to beat the Saints in the 2010 playoffs.  



So we thus await Thanksgiving.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Patriots Broncos Going Forward

The Patriots-Broncos epic wrapped up Sunday's action with the Niners-Redskins Monday Night tilt the ultimate anticlimax.   What to take away from this game here -


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Tom Brady truly is better than Peyton Manning - The Patriots erased a 24-0 gap, with Tom Brady throwing touchdowns amid significant winds.


Manning is running out of gas - Of Denver's 31 points, 24 came in the first half in which Manning didn't do much of anything, and for the game he managed just 150 passing yards.  Once again a game in which elements played a role, Manning came up small.


The Broncos schedule has taken a turn for the worse - They go to Kansas City, which scored 38 points in a loss to the Chargers, then host the Titans and the Chargers; all three teams have something to play for and all three showed reason for worry for a Broncos team running out of gas.   Denver finishes up at Houston and at Oakland and suddenly the assumption the Broncos will be the AFC's top playoff seed should not hold that much water.


Stevan Ridley is becoming Curvin Richards - Another fumble, this one a fumble-six, and we never heard from Ridley the rest of the game.   Suddenly people have to be concerned he won't even be on the roster after this season, especially with Bill Belichick's subtle denunciation of Ridley on WEEI's Monday afternoon interview with him.


Wes Welker showcased why the Patriots let him walk - Irrelevant to the offense - that is Wes Welker.   People gush about his volume stats but all they do is fool people.   Welker never elevated his game at a time when Denver needed him to do so, and then he made it worse by helping botch the overtime punt; this led to the winning field goal.   All season Welker has put up volume stats yet never does it when it matters; Week One vs. Baltimore where he had one catch in Denver's first three touchdown drives remains his archtypal game with Denver.


Welcome back Kenbrell Thompkins - I've heard numerous comparisons of Thompkins to Deion Branch, and certainly he is starting to fill that role; his reemergence after posting just two catches against the Jets and getting scratched against the Dolphins is welcome.  


More evidence that offense carries defense - The Patriots fell behind 24-0, so the offense after running in cement hit turbos and blasted the Patriots back into the game.   New England is ninth in the league in points allowed (with Denver 26th).  


Turnovers can be delicious - The Patriots are plus-eight (sixth in the league) in turnover differential while Denver is minus-three (20th).


Aqib Talib is even better than we thought - It was glaringly obvious Talib was playing hurt due to his hip situation.   He gutted it out and made plays, showing his toughness is higher than that of a lot of others.


Shane Vereen is the next Kevin Faulk - Largely lost in the hoopla over other players, Shane Vereen put up 91 yards of offense - 31 rushing and he caught eight passes for 60.   Slowly but surely he is becoming the next Kevin Faulk for the Patriots.




Brandon Bolden is also quietly making plays - After Ridley's benching Bolden took over the ground game with 58 yards and a score, plus an eleven-yard catch.   His stock appears to be slowly rising.


The Patriots offensive line had major problems and then corrected them - The O-line seemingly could do nothing right in the first half, then they took over the line of scrimmage after that; they had a tough time with Von Miller but overall the line fought back and that was as big a key as any.



Thus did New England and Denver showcase their strengths and weaknesses as the season approaches December.

Week 12 Gets Funky

The NFL's 12th week of 2013 showcased a jumbled AFC wildcard race and also some crazy scores.   Some takes from Week 12:


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AFC EAST   -  Ugly is the word for the division's Sunday.    The Miami Dolphins continue to play hard despite the investigation of Richie Incognito yet the Panthers upended another interconference foe late.   The NY Jets managed to botch history by losing for a second straight game; they had opportunity to go 8-8 without a streak beyond one game either way.

But the Patriots turned ugly on its head after a hideous first half performance against a Denver Broncos squad that had been running out of gas the previous two weeks and which was coached by the subpar Jack Del Rio.    The Patriots responded down 24-0 by staging the largest comeback win in the club's history (the previous biggest comeback was 1984's 38-23 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks after the Seahawks led 23-0), and making it all the more delicious was the irony that former Patriot Wes Welker showcased his irrelevance to the Broncos offense even before botching the second Patriots punt of the game.   Held to four catches for 31 yards, Welker was almost completely taken out of the offense all game, a common outcome in his games with Denver.

The Patriots nonetheless have some issues.   Stevan Ridley commited the biggest sin in the eyes of the Patriots - he's an error-repeater, unable to hold onto the ball even amid explosive production on his part.   His fumble-six began the avalanche of first-half Broncos points before Brady and company erupted.   Thus Foxboro remains a place the Broncos haven't won at since Jake "The Mistake" Plummer pulled off a win - on Sunday Night Football no less.

Even the Buffalo Bills, on their bye, wound up making news with reports of maneuvering by the Rogers Group in Toronto and wealthy musician and football fan Jon Bon Jovi in seperate efforts to purchase the team down the road.   New ownership can certainly help a team with one of the best fanbases in football.



AFC SOUTH
- More interesting turned out to be the AFC South as the cellar-dwellar Jaguars upended their fellow last-placers the Houston Texans, continuing the collapse of the Texans like Houston had not seen since the infamous 1994 Houston Oilers season.    That Oilers franchise meanwhile gave itself some hope as Ryan Fitzpatrick finally led a winning touchdown drive, and with the 23-19 win at Oakland the Tennessee Titans took over the sixth seed in the conference playoff race; we know Fitzpatrick is not a long-term solution and has already authored heartbreaks for the Titans, but running the table for five weeks isn't out of reach for Tennessee.  

But the biggest shock was the Colts - we knew the Cardinals are a team that just isn't going away and which is pulling off surprises, so that they beat the Colts wasn't quite a surprise; just how badly they crushed the Colts was the shock, 40-11 the final. 


AFC NORTH
- Despite having losing records the Steelers and Ravens are still in the playoff race and the Browns showcased the frustration of not advancing to the next level.   The Bengals for their part need to step it up a notch as the season's crunch time approaches while holding a two-game lead.


AFC WEST
- The Broncos suffered the bitter loss yet are still in good shape for the conference top seed as the Chiefs were upended and the San Diego Chargers stay in the wildcard hunt in one of the best games of the season; the 41-38 Chargers win was the second-highest scoring matchup between the two (1986's 42-41 Chiefs win is the highest). 

Even with that the Broncos have reason to worry as they've been running out of gas overall as November has proceded and Peyton Manning's second-half erosion from last year may be inching into view again.   The Broncos season gets harder with tilts against the Chiefs, the Titans, and the Chargers, and they all have something to play for.

The Oakland Raiders meanwhile continue limping along as Matt McGloin shows real promise as a quarterback.  


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NFC EAST
- The Cowboys and Eagles are now in control of the division as the NY Giants show anew their inability under Tom Coughlin to win in November (12-17 in November from 2006 onward, the one good November being 2008).   One has to feel confident for the Eagles here as the Cowboys remain hamstrung by ownership and by Tony Romo.  



NFC SOUTH - This may be the best division in the league as the Panthers continue pushing the New Orleans Saints with two contests pending between them.   The Falcons have fallen out of it altogether while the Bucs are beginning to salvage something after they went old-school NFC Central against Detroit.



NFC NORTH - The Lions may wind up winning the division by default after a bitter 24-21 loss to former NFC Central division foe Tampa Bay; the Lions are 6-5 with the Bears but hold the division sweep tiebreaker, while the Packers are falling out of it.   Matthew Stafford continues to show even in losses like this that he will become an elite quarterback.

The Vikings meanwhile remain a team that competes all the time yet has just two wins and a tie to show for it.  Christian Ponder gets no respect as a quarterback yet the reality is he's produced quite respectably as a quarterback.   



NFC WEST - With the Seahawks on their bye, the division suddenly has a new wildcard contender in the Cardinals, who have refused to go away and suddenly are looking legitimately dangerous for a playoff run, even with Carson Palmer still not showing enough yet to feel confident in  him.   The Rams meanwhile are also clawing into it at 5-6 and suddenly giving reason for optimism.    The team falling out of it is the 49ers as Colin Kaepernick is now giving reason to doubt his long-term viability as the Niners face what is now a must-win against the faltering Redskins.  



And so it goes entering Thanksgiving 2013.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Jimmie Johnson Is NOT NASCAR's Greatest

Having won a sixth Winston Cup Grand National title, Jimmie Johnson is now being hailed as the sport's greatest driver.   The problem with this argument is it's not true.


The argument for Johnson as NASCAR's greatest stems from the myth that he has competed in NASCAR's most competitive period ever.   It's the argument that more cars finish on the lead lap than ever before, and it also includes what are ostensibly massive rule changes in the racecars with the cars changing from the raked aerocoupes of 2002-7 to the COT of 2007-12 and the Generation Six racecar of 2013.   Then  there are the changes in restart procedures and implementation of NASCAR's ludicrous "Lucky Dog" rule giving back laps to cars rather than having them race to unlap themselves.


It's an easy argument to debunk.


Johnson has competed in NASCAR's Dead Lane Era - the era when passing is rare and the technology arms race has been at its highest.   Johnson's racecars have been the most technologically prepared of any racecars the sport has ever seen - nowhere has Johnson ever competed even slightly behind the eight ball.    While Daytona and Talladega have routinely broken 50 lead changes year after year, Johnson has won but is usually mediocre or worse at those tracks; everywhere else lead changes are mostly nonexistent, and Johnson has invariably gotten the benefit that aeropush does all the work for him stopping others from passing him.   Nowhere has Johnson won because of superior driving technique.


Contrast this with the "bad" old days of the Petty-Earnhardt eras, especially Petty's era, when 40 lead changes a race was not the exception, the cars were physically far harder to drive (this gives Donovan McNabb's dismissal of Johnson as not being an athlete some credibility, because the fact of Danica Patrick's career testifies that the cars are too easy to drive), and Petty had to race against Hall Of Fame-caliber drivers (Pearson, the Allisons, Cale, Isaac, Baker, Lorenzen, Waltrip, Leeroy Yarbrough, Ned Jarrett, Joe Weatherly) year in and year out; even drivers like Bonnett, Parsons, and Dave Marcis showcased real toughness.   


Johnson has done nothing but race against mediocre or worse drivers.   It is impossible to name a driver he'd raced against who warrants any mention to racing Halls Of Fame.    Not Denny Hamlin, not the Busch Brothers, not Earnhardt Jr., not Keselowski, not the Burtons - no one.    The utter lack of lead changes in Johnson's era testifies to how much lower the caliber of competition the drivers he'd raced against offered.


Johnson was also from Day One tagged as the Factory Hack, the one chosen to become Chevrolet's designated champion.   Herb Fishel, who headed GM's racing efforts and was notoriously myopic in hording effort toward a designated champion team/driver - mostly Hendrick Motorsports, though Junior Johnson briefly held that status and the RCR team was for the most part well assisted, and even RCR had to form an engineering alliance with other Chevy teams in the 1990s (a move first pioneered by Pontiac teams all but bankrupted by Fishel at that time) - played a major role in the latter 1990s putting Johnson into stock cars (first in the ASA) and once Fishel made Johnson his protege there was never any chance Johnson would go anywhere but Hendrick Motorsports (it makes nonsense of the oft-repeated story that Jeff Gordon "discovered" Johnson).  


Johnson's run as dynasty has been a nadir for NASCAR and the sport's declining popularity testifies that people see through it and don't want anything to do with a driver who deserves no praise despite his enormous success.

The Kremlin's Propaganda Campaign and Russia's Regression

Russia continues to falter back into the bad old days of Soviet Russia.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ten examples of the Law of Unintended Consquences

Government meddling continues to do exactly the opposite of what they intend.


I'll add #11 - speed limit laws increase car crashes.

Repeal seat belt laws, speed limits, etc.

Patriots-Panthers Ten Bottom Lines

The Patriots-Panthers game will get ample breakdown going forward.   Ten bottom lines to take away from this game looking forward -


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1 - The Panthers were known to be a good team; the bottom line is they're better than people want to give them credit for.   They can beat New Orleans for the NFC South.

2 - Don't be fooled that the Patriots are 1-3 against teams with .500 or better records, because the Panthers out of that group have by far the most upside; the NY Jets are erratic as usual and the Bengals are good but have not shown they can be great.  

3 - Stevonne Smith is much better than people thought he was.   He hasn't slowed at all and the chip he always wears on his shoulder makes him better.  

4 - Aqib Talib of the Patriots was benched in the fourth, ostensibly because of his hip condition (what helped knock him out against New Orleans earlier this year), but it looked more like disciplinary action after his running fight with Smith.

5 - Logan Mankins is always hyped as the best Patriots guard since John Hannah yet he gets bowled over with disturbing frequency and often commits dumb fouls.   At some point he needs to be seen as a liability more than an asset.

6 - Offense is ahead of defense in the league, and after a sluggish first half offense is starting to reestablish its lead.   There is a lot of hand-wringing among Patriots fans and those in the media covering the team about how ostensibly bad the defense is, yet it's the Panthers who should be torked off about needing a botched Clete Blakeman overrule of a pass interference penalty (which was one of two blown calls that weekend) getting them the win, their offense only scoring 24 points and getting fewer yards (300) and fewer first downs (20) than the Patriots (28 first downs and 390 yards of offense), and giving up more sacks (Cam Newton was sacked three times to Tom Brady's two).   Making it more galling - the Panthers broke 30 points scored five times before their offense struggled the last two games

7 - Tom Brady once again has taken disparate parts and made them a real offense.  

8 - Kenbrell Thompkins was benched for a couple of games for New England and his return in this game was welcome, giving more pass-catching weapons for the Patriots.

9 - Tom Curran notes the Patriots offense now needs to carry the defense.   There's nothing new there - the myth that the 2001-4 Patriots had a great defense dies hard even though reviewing the actual games showed the Patriots offense was what carried those title teams (see 2001 vs. San Diego, Indianapolis, the NY Jets, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh - though that was more a special teams triumph - and St. Louis; see also 2003 vs. Tennessee twice - the regular season matchup admittedly more than the playoff game - Miami, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis in the regular season, and - supreme irony - the Carolina Panthers).

10 - Both teams face excellent prospect of 12-4 or better and division titles, and a Superbowl XXXVIII rematch ten years later is suddenly a genuine prospect.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NFL Eleven Ups The Controversy

For Week Eleven of the NFL season there are eleven takes, but it is the twelfth that will be talked about for a long time.

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1 - The AFC South is a one-team show - What makes Tennessee's loss to the Colts more galling is the Titans did what usually would be enough to win.   I'm reading a lot of Titans fans wanting to fire coach Mike Munchak, never mind that instability doesn't create winning, Munchak has his guys fighting down to the bitter end (not that many NFL coaches can honestly claim that), and the issues the Titans face ultimately have to do with Jake Locker's injuries - if he were playing I'm confident the Titans would have won.   It makes Ryan Fitzpatrick doubly maddening because he doesn't deliver enough to win yet delivers numbers worthy of a winner.  

The Jaguars and Texans have fallen off the map, and someone needs to explain why Case Keenum was benched for the inept Matt Schaub in Houston's loss to the Oakland Raiders (it's pretty interesting Andre Johnson was yelling at him after his botched last-gasp throw).  

It's obvious the Colts are for real and they are on their way to yet another AFC South title.



2 - San Diego again cannot deliver against a beatable opponent - Amid all the absurdity surrounding the Miami Dolphins they get the win thanks to inability to deliver the knockout blow by San Diego.   The Chargers have now fallen out of any realistic hope of a playoff spot and the prospect of salvaing an 8-8 record looks iffy.



3 - The Packers are toast - When they fall behind, they fail.   And the Packers can't get good quarterbacking out of their guys with Aaron Rodgers out.



4 - The Lions still haven't cleared to the next level - Blowing a winnable game against the faltering Steelers showed the Detroit Lions have not closed in on elite status yet.  The good news is they still lead the NFC North (tied at 6-4 with the Bears but holding the season-sweep tiebreaker).


5 - The Eagles are - slowly but steadily - becoming a force - They'd lost their first four home games but won five of their six road games.   Now they've won at home and their schedule the rest of the way bodes well for a 10-6 finish or better.



6 - The 49ers are falling out of the race - The roughing penalty on the Niners may be disputable, but it also illustrated that Jim Harbaough's squad can no longer hang with Seattle and may not be able to hang for a wildcard spot.  



7 - The Saints keep on keeping on in the NFC - New Orleans faces three games left on its schedule to be worried about - the two Carolina games and going to Seattle, but if anyone can shoot down the Seahawks at Son Of The Kingdome it's New Orleans.  



8 - The Falcons have to consider replacing Matt Ryan - It sounds blasphemous given Matt Ryan's superb overall career, but his play this season has been terrible even if statistically it still looks good.   Getting wasted by the Bucs was embarrassing for the Falcons.



9 - The New York Jets......well, are the New York Jets - The Jets can become the first team to ever finish 8-8 without a streak passing one game on either side of the ledger (win loss win loss win loss win loss win loss is their record after ten games).   How fitting to beat Baltimore, lose to the Dolphins, beat Oakland 45 years after The Heidi Game, lose to Carolina, beat Cleveland and then lose to Miami again.  



10 - Kansas City cannot hang with Denver's explosive offense - The Chiefs played the Broncos tough but they showed Alex Smith does not have the ability to hang with Peyton Manning or a bad Broncos defense.



11 - The Cardinals just won't go away - With Carson Palmer playing mediocre football the Cards are 6-4 and an outright winning record seems inevitable.  


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But it is the Monday Night Game that will be controversial for a while.    By all accounts the final pass by Tom Brady drew a pass interference flag that was mind-bogglingly overturned by Clete Blakeman.   To that point the game had been exactly what the Patriots-Panther rivalry has been - a bitterly close contest where Superbowl XXXVIII was its apex.   It is impossible to agree with assertions that the ball was uncatchable.

This is not about the Panthers, for they keep proving they are a team that can win the Superbowl.   The Patriots certainly made multiple errors in this game (notably foolish acts by the likes of Logan Mankins and Aqib Talib, locked in a vicious showdown all night with Stevonne Smith, and yet another Stevan Ridley fumble) but they erased a 10-3 gap, outscored the Panthers 17-7 for a lengthy stretch, and even after the Panthers scored the Patriots pulled off clutch plays to get to the Panthers 18.   If the game had ended in a tie that probably would be the appropriate outcome.  

The two words that come to mind here are Ben Dreith and the bogus penalty that gave the 1976 Oakland Raiders a playoff win over the Patriots.   Some compare it to the replacement refs call against Green Bay in 2012 but the analogy is laughable; people (especially the media) wanted to hate the replacement refs from the beginning and would have agreed with Seattle in another context.   The analogy that fits here is Ben Dreith.

But it says a lot about the Patriots that this organization won't fall apart because of incompetent ownership fighting against coach Chuck Fairbanks like that latter-1970s squad ultimately did after the Ben Dreith game; instead the Patriots will refocus - especially with Peyton Manning's Broncos coming to Foxboro next Sunday Night - and fight to win.   

Who knows, the Patriots and the Panthers may get a Superbowl rematch ten years after their epic battle in 2003's AFC-NFC World Championship Game.