Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three ways we can improve the economy in 2014

Allow more free trade, genuinely reform immigration (stop pretending illegals are not illegal), and stop refusing to hold Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae accountable.

Alas, the president didn't go there: The state of our unions

Family structure needs to be addressed because not fighting for it hasn't made anything better.

The Difference Between Iran and the USSR

Obama remains oblivious to the fact negotiations with Iran are not working.

History, Democracy, and Egypt’s Revolution

Egypt’s Revolution has shown that real stability doesn't necessarily require democracy - though democracy is certainly preferable to military coups.

The Dud at DOD: Hagel Proves Critics Right

The Dud at DOD: Hagel Proves Critics Right

Former Senator Chuck Hagel was brought into the DOD by Obama and has done nothing but prove he's incompetent at his job.

Obama Has Already Proved He Can’t Govern

As Obama vows to use executive fiat to try and get what he wants, he's not getting what he wants - and isn't getting that he has has shown he can't govern.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NFL Top 10 Games Of 2013

As we count down to the Superbowl, we look back on the ten best games of 2013 -


#10 - Chargers at Titans: Locker's Hail Mary
- Entering Week 3 San Diego had pulled off a dramatic back-and-forth win at Philadelphia while Tennessee was reeling from a bitter overtime loss at Houston.   Titans quarterback Jake Locker, in his second season as a starter, had struggled in 2012 but was showing some improvement as 2013 was progressing.   He also faced the daunting reality that the Titans franchise hadn't beaten San Diego since their infamous 1992 season as the Houston Oilers.  It started slowly as the Chargers clawed to a 10-3 lead but in the second quarter Locker ran in a touchdown and a late Chargers field goal attempt was blocked.   San Diego clawed to a 17-13 lead by the fourth quarter, but with 21 seconds to go Locker unloaded a 34-yard touchdown bomb caught by rookie Justin Hunter.   A pathetic avalanche of Chargers laterals recalling the infamous Stanford Band play ended in failure (natch) and the Titans were 20-17 winners, showcasing that Locker could play, and pull off clutch efforts.

#9 - Packers at Bengals: The Packers Comeback That Wasn't
- We stay with Week 3 here.  In the Aaron Rodgers era the Green Bay Packers had established a reputation as frontrunners, a team that would fail if a comeback attempt was needed.   Taking on the competitive-but-erratic Bengals at Cincinnati the Packers wound up proving this in uproarious fashion.    The Bengals raced to a 14-0 lead, then saw the Packers explode to 30 straight points.   The Bengals looked like the Bungles down 30-14 in the third, but Andy Dalton and company went to work; first Dalton unloaded a touchdown strike to rising receiver superstar A.J. Green; a Rodgers INT was wasted as the Bengals missed a FGA, then Rodgers got picked off again, leading to a Dalton score to Marvin Jones, marred by a missed PAT.  In the final four minutes on 4th and 1 a run by Jonathan Franklin was fumbled and the Bengals, despite fumbling the ball themselves, scored anyway.  Rodgers' final gasp effort flamed out and the Bengals were 34-30 winners; combined with the Titans win and wins by the Browns and Ravens, it was a good day for the former AFC Central.

#8 - Vikings at Ravens: 4th Quarter Scoring Blizzard
- The first three quarters saw a building snowstorm and a measely 7-6 Ravens lead, but in the fourth quarter the snow got worse and the offenses started heating up, first as Matt Cassel and Joe Flacco exchanged touchdown throws around a 4th down Vikings stop and an exchange of punts; it was in the final 130 seconds that all hell broke loose - Toby Gerhart scored for the Vikings, then on the ensuing kickoff Jacoby Jones ran back a 77-yard score; Cassel then unloaded a 79-yard touchdown to Cordarelle Patterson, then Flacco saw an interception wiped out on a Chad Greenway penalty; he got to the final nine seconds and whipped the winning touchdown to Marlon Brown and a wild 29-26 Ravens win in a game that set an NFL record for six lead changes in the fourth quarter and five touchdowns in the final two-plus minutes.

#7 - Cowboys at Lions: Stafford's Last-Minute Comeback #2
- In his career to date Matthew Stafford's signature game has been his 38-37 comeback win over the Cleveland Browns in 2009 despite incurring a season-ending shoulder injury on a last-second touchdown attempt; the game was extended by one down thanks to a pass interference penalty by the Browns and despite his injury Stafford threw the game-winning touchdown.   Four years later Stafford authored another amazing victory.   He opened the scoring on a short touchdown to Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, but the Cowboys clawed into the lead.   The Lions, despite two Stafford INTs, would not go away, in the final seven minutes down 27-17 Stafford led a touchdown drive ending in Reggie Bush's score; a Cowboys field goal before the final minute put them up 30-24, but Stafford, out of timeouts, raced the Lions downfield, completing four passes for 79 yards to the Cowboys 1-yard line with fourteen seconds remaining - he then faked the ball spike and shot the ball over the goalline for the winning touchdown.    The 31-30 Lions win was almost a 500-yard passing game for Stafford - he came up short with 488 passing yards, and lost in all of it was the Lions still rushed for 143 yards. 

#6 - Packers at Cowboys: Matt Flynn In Like Flint
- With injury sidelining Aaron Rodgers the Packers had re-signed former backup Matt Flynn.   At Dallas the Packers didn't look like much as the Cowboys stormed to a 26-3 halftime lead.   But Flynn had authored an amazing 45-41 win over the Lions in 2011 and now was letting the Packers know he could play; Flynn exploded to four touchdowns and the Packers trailed 36-31 in the final four minutes.   Tony Romo then did his thing - picked off with three minutes to go; after Flynn's drive ended in Eddie Lacy's rushing score and failed two-point try, Romo did his thing - and was intercepted again.   The 37-36 Packers win proved vital to making the playoffs.

Best Of The Rest
- There were other memorable games in 2013 that didn't quite make the cut.

When the Saints came to Foxboro in Week 6 they clawed to a 27-23 lead before Tom Brady found Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds to go; the 30-27 win set off the now-famous "Unicorns and Show Ponies" exclamation from Patriots radiocaster Scott Zolak.

The week before on Monday Night Football the slumping Falcons erased a 27-14 gap to the New York Jets, but in the final two minutes the Jets stormed downfield and booted the winning field goal, for the 30-28 Jets win.

In Week 17 the Packers twice blew touchdown leads and trailed 28-20 in the fourth quarter before Aaron Rodgers, returning from injury, unloaded a late 48-yard score to Randall Cobb; the 33-28 win put the Packers in the playoffs as NFC North champions.

In October the Patriots rallied from down 17-3 to the Dolphins to the 27-17 win, then in December the Patriots erased a 17-7 halftime gap to beat the Houston Texans 34-31, then a week later the Browns stormed to a 26-14 lead with 2:43 to go, but the Patriots scored two touchdowns in a span of two minutes, then the Browns missed a last-second field goal for the shocking 27-26 Patriots win.

In Week 2 the Cardinals hosted the Lions and erased a 21-13 Lions lead to win 25-21, a win that put them in playoff contention, while the next game on our list was even more clutch...........

#5 - Cardinals at Titans: Fitzpatrick's Fit Of Frustration
- With Jake Locker lost for the season with injury, the Titans had to rely on former Bill Ryan Fitzpatrick, but a playoff bid steadily slid out of reach.   Entering Week 15 the surging Cardinals came to Nashville and a close first half was a 20-17 Cardinals lead that swelled into a 34-17 lead after Antoine Cason picked off Fitzpatrick and scored with just over six minutes to go.   Fitzpatrick then erupted; with a defensive stop and a successful onside kick recovery, the Titans stormed to 17 unanswered points led by two Michael Preston touchdown catches.   But Fitzpatrick, having gone from goat to hero, was picked off three plays into overtime by Cason and the Cardinals' field goal ended a 37-34 affair.  

#4 - Chargers at Chiefs: Introducing Seyi Ajirotutu
- The West became the deepest division in both conferences and in Week 12 the AFC West proved the focal point; the Titans rallied to a last-second win at Oakland while the Broncos would play the Sunday Night game at New England.   At Arrowhead Stadium the Chiefs, having seen their unbeaten streak ended the week before, hosted the 4-6 Chargers and the ensuing game became the highest-scoring match between the two clubs since 1986.   Philip Rivers and Alex Smith erupted as the game lead changed eight times; the Chargers came back from down 14-3 early but trailed 31-27 with less than ten minutes remaining.   Rivers and Smith traded touchdowns and in the final 88 seconds Rivers raced the Chargers downfield and with 31 seconds to go found perhaps the ultimate dark horse - Oluseyi Adekunleolum "Seyi" Ajirotutu, an undrafted receiver who'd caught two touchdowns for the Chargers in 2010, was let go for the Panthers in 2011, re-signed to San Diego in 2012, and caught his first touchdown since that 2010 season.   The 41-38 Chargers win was vital to San Diego's playoff run.

#3 - Broncos at Patriots: Brady's Historic Comeback
- Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning had been the rivalry of the 2001 period onward, and its fourteenth renewal came on a brutally cold late November in Foxboro.  It began in hideous fashion for the Patriots - Stevan Ridley's first quarter fumble became a Broncos touchdown and the embattled running back fell into Bill Belichick's doghouse on the sidelines (exacerbated by Belichick's subtle slam at Ridley's coachability on WEEI radio the next day).  It got worse; Brady was strip-sacked near his own red zone and the Broncos scored two plays later; a LeGarrette Blount fumble led to a 35-yard drive and another Broncos touchdown; the Patriots drove to the Broncos 30 but were stopped on fourth down. 

The Broncos led 24-0 at halftime but then the Patriots erupted; Brady erupted to four touchdown drives as the Broncos were bullied into two fumbles and a Manning INT; the Patriots led 31-24 before Manning tied it in the final three minutes.   Final drives by both clubs went nowhere and the game went into overtime (a first in the Brady-Manning rivalry), where the Patriots chose to defend the open-air north endzone, where the winds were strongest.  Both teams punted twice; on the Patriots second punt Wes Welker hesitated on calling whether to catch it or not; Tony Carter thus botched the catch and the Patriots fell on the ball at Denver's 13-yard line; two Broncos timeouts and the two-minute warning of overtime kept delaying the inevitable - the winning 31-yard field goal and New England's 34-31 win, the biggest comeback win in team history, surpassing the comeback from down 23 points to the Seahawks in 1984.

#2 - Broncos at Cowboys: All Guns Blazing
- Peyton Manning had long struggled against the Cowboys, having lost his previous two matchups against Dallas; his 2010 loss was a wild 38-35 overtime choke job.   Against the always-erratic Tony Romo, the scoring was expected to be plentiful.   No one had any idea; after the Cowboys jumped to a 14-0 lead Manning threw three touchdowns and ran in another, then after connecting with Wes Welker in the third, the Broncos led 35-20; Romo then exploded, outscoring the Broncos 21-6 with a Manning INT thrown in for extra measure; the two clubs traded touchdowns and by 2:44 the game was tied 48-48.   Presented with the golden opportunity to knock Manning down a peg, Tony Romo then did his thing - he threw a pick at his own 24 and the Broncos ran out clock and kicked the winning field goal.   The 51-48 Broncos win was a bloodbath of offense - 1,039 combined yards, nine touchdowns, two INTs; Romo broke 500 passing yards but the INT when his team needed him the most cemented his reputation for clutch failure.

The #1 Game Of 2013 - Chiefs at Colts: Andrew Luck's Ultimate Comeback
- The opening game of Wildcard weekend was the fourth playoff match between the Chiefs and Colts; the Chiefs had lost all three previous playoff games and had beaten the Colts only twice since 1990.   Yet the first two-thirds of this game belonged to the Chiefs as Alex Smith erupted to four touchdowns and a 38-10 Chiefs lead.   But Andrew Luck, despite three interceptions, started clawing the Colts back and the runaway became an instant classic.   By the final five minutes of the game the Colts only trailed 44-38, and Luck's 64-yard floater to T.Y. Hilton was the go-ahead touchdown, followed by an ugly flameout of a final drive by Alex Smith.   The 45-44 Colts win was the first playoff win for Indianapolis since 2009, and the collapse meant the Chiefs had now lost eight straight playoff games since beating the Oilers in 1993.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some NFL Questions For 2014 And Beyond

With the Superbowl coming up, some questions about the NFL (with possible answers) for 2014 and beyond -


What is with the sudden talk of potential Friday night and Monday night playoff games in the future?

The idea of holding Wildcard playoff games on Friday night and Monday night has come up and it says to me that the NFL will expand to eight, as opposed to just seven, playoff teams per conference in 2015. Adding a third Wildcard team per conference would be easy to piggyback onto Wildcard Saturday and Sunday; they would become tripleheaders akin to regular-season Sundays and there would be no particular ratings need for TV.   Two extra days for playoff games would be necessary if there were eight Wildcard games as opposed to six.

Is it a "good" idea?   We've already heard the gripe about "diluting the regular season" and there's really no reason to buy it because it really can't; the best teams are going to the Superbowl and adding extra competition isn't a bad thing.

What's with Roger Goodell's desire to change the Point After Try?

It's his utter ignorance of the game at work again.   PATs ostensibly aren't "exciting" enough yet they work fine as-is; there's no need for more "excitement" in the game and no need to take an eminently understandable game and make it harder to understand.   Goodell's ignorance of the game first showed up with so-called "Spygate" and was exacerbated by his "Bountygate" witchhunt against the New Orleans Saints (where despite dishing out vicious punishments Goodell wound up the loser anyway) and then continued with his cowardly refusal to stand up to the concussion demagogues.  A real commissioner would not have demagogued about the rulebook or about the physicality of a team's play (remember this is the same league that in the AFC Championship Game flagged the Patriots for clean pick-plays and refused to flag the Broncos for questionable at best hitting on pick-plays) and would see the accurate issue with concussions - it's the recovery time allowed for players after showing possible signs, not the hitting.  

PATs are not a legitimate issue to change.


Are the Patriots finished as a Superbowl contender?

Not at all.   The loss to Denver was an execution loss, not a loss based on any fundamental failures in the team's roster-construction philosophy or Tom Brady's quarterbacking competence.    The Patriots do need to shore up the line of scrimmage on both sides, need reinforcement at the tight end spot, and still need bookend deep-threat receivers akin to the Randy Moss-Donte Stallworth-Jabar Gaffney periods - but these problems are not unfixable and the answers may already be on the roster.  The Patriots have sustained success the way they have not only from having the best quarterback of this generation but also because the system does not trap itself with Names, as most other teams have so often done over the years (see the Ravens today) and thus is able to be reconstituted and still win - as happened in 2013.

Who if anyone will challenge the Patriots in the AFC East?

The strongest looking candidate is the Dolphins, though the flameout in the final two games of 2013 was a discouraging sign, especially as there remain major issues on offense in general and the line in particular; there is also the issue of how meddlesome team owner Stephen Ross either has become or is becoming, for he's become a disturbingly frequent presence in the discussion and so far he's shown zero competence as a team owner.

The NY Jets may release troublesome receiver Santonio Holmes but overall they look like the same old Jets - stumbling along trying to win the back page as opposed to actually building a program.

The Bills started over again in 2013 and it will be a few years before we see if it's truly working.

Some are already proclaiming Andrew Luck will make the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.   Is he that good?

Yes and no.   There is definitely a superior quality to him as a quarterback, but as his game is advancing we're seeing his strengths and also his weaknesses - he's won big, he's won in spectacular comeback fashion - but he's also lost bigger.   His playoff comeback against the Chiefs was history-making; his two playoff losses were pretty ugly, especially to a  Ravens squad in 2012 on the verge of faltering.    I expect him to put up huge numbers and win plenty; I also think he will have losses that leave people scratching their heads.   Overall there is good reason to expect him to make Canton.

Can anyone in the AFC South challenge the Colts?

Yes.  Tennessee and Houston have changed their coaching staffs and I think both will have rebound seasons in 2014.   Both have ample talent; Tennessee showed superior fight in 2013.   The one coaching change I'm not confident in is hiring Romeo Crennel for Houston, for Crennel proved after leaving the Patriots that he is not a competent coach, with Cleveland or Kansas City.  

Jacksonville started over with a new coach and had modest success; the Jaguars need a quarterback and would be a decent landing spot for one of the highly-touted rookies.

Will anyone coach the Browns?

Mike Pettine will, but the fact candidates avoided Cleveland very publically indicates there is something fundamentally wrong with that entire organization - and the issue of owner Jimmy Haslam's finances is a continuing issue that's curiously been overshadowed by other league news.   

Is the AFC North a three-way fight?

Never say never for Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but entering 2014 they look stuck behind Cincinnati rather than poised to return to true division contention.  The Steelers in particular have been a mediocre team since losing to the Broncos in 2011 while the Ravens have bigger issues after being crushed in their final two games last season.


Is the East the Least?

Yes.   Only the Eagles show legitimate form and will only get better now that they have a workable program in place.

Will the Lions finally live up to their talent?

They have to.   The Lions made major coaching changes and the talent on this team is too much to not break out.

Why did the Bears re-sign Jay Cutler the way they did?

Because they made the two dumbest analytical mistakes in pro sports - they fell in love with a Name, and fell in love with Volume Stats.   Jay Cutler is nothing but a stiff; he's done nothing but prove it since debuting with the Broncos.

Some have said that the Cutler re-signing is because viable alternatives are not there.   Is that the case?

Of course not.   The Bears can draft a quarterback and have reason to feel he'll be better than Cutler.   Developing quarterbacks is seen as harder than it necessarily is; what seems to be happening is some teams are foolishly more afraid of failing than of succeeding.

Will Atlanta and Tampa Bay be able to contend with Carolina and New Orleans?

I doubt it.  Tampa Bay has fallen into a mess and the Falcons' collapse was huge despite still having ample talent.   Hiring Scott Pioli won't help the Falcons because Pioli proved he can't handle personnel outside of the Belichick basestar's force field.  

Will the NFC West become a real four-way slugfest?

I think so.   All four teams look strong, though I'm a little surprised the Rams didn't take a step forward in 2013.   Be afraid of the Cardinals as Bruce Arians is proving he is the real deal and then some, though Carson Palmer is not the answer there.   One need also keep an eye on the Seahawks if Pete Carroll's players-coach history becomes an issue again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Old School AFC West Superbowl

And suddenly we have what was a widely-predicted Superbowl matchup - the Broncos and Seahawks.   And the trash talk already started with Richard Sherman's mouth and also Bill Belichick's oblique attack on his former player a cut-block hit that knocked out Aqib Talib.    This coming Superbowl pits two teams that were former AFC West rivals in what historically has been a one-sided rivalry.   The Seahawks have won only nineteen of 53 career meetings to date and very few meetings have produced memorable scores - 1979's 37-34 Denver win, 1995's 31-27 Seahawks upset at Denver, and 2000's 38-31 Denver win in which Terrell Davis' understudy Mike Anderson put up 195 of Denver's 301 rushing yards are the games that stand out in this rivalry.

Some random thoughts on the playoffs as we go through two weeks of hype -


Here are the keys to why the Broncos defeated the Patriots after the crushing meltdown at Foxboro back in November -

The Broncos never lost control of the line of scrimmage.

As a result, Peyton Manning was never really challenged to make decisions at times when he didn't want to make them.

Tom Brady could never get the Patriots offense going until it was too late.

There may be talk about Wes Welker's cut-block that knocked out Aqib Talib and whether it was dirty - John Fox's teams have never struck me as dirty; the Mike Shanahan-era Broncos were the ones who specialized in dirty play.  Even so, the gross imbalance in penalties by Tony Corrente's crew in favor of the Broncos gave Welker the opportunity - he saw he could get away with it.   And Bill Belichick does not bring up this kind of subject without ample justification.


There has been a lot of  legacy talk with Manning and Brady, but it overlooks the differences between the two clubs - Manning once again inherited a roster poised to explode; Tom Brady had to rebuild the roster, and did so with the same aplomb Manning has never had to show as far as making his rosters better.   There are depth issues the Patriots have to face down the road, notably in the defensive backfield, at the line of scrimmage, and in the continuing need for bookend deep threat receivers to go with the tight end-oriented attack.   None of these issues are unfixable, and with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins the Patriots have two promising youngsters for next season and beyond.


The real legacy for Manning is that for all his volume stats etc. he's never been as good as hyped.   That it's taken this long to reach .500 as a playoff quarterback - with the prospect of facing a Seahawks team that's more powerful than any Seattle squad before - is anything but an endorsement of Manning's legacy.  


The legacy talk extends to Pete Carroll as he continues to prove critics wrong.   Disciplinary issues have been discussed in media but overall the Seahawks are showing how good a coach Carroll is, this after he was written off as a coach only capable of handling the college game because of ostensible failures in New York and New England.    The reality is the front office structure in New England wasn't suitable for Carroll, because he was basically shut out of decision making on personnel.   At the time of Carroll's tenure in New England it was a structure in place because Robert Kraft wanted his football people to work as a committee like his other businesses and the structure under Bill Parcells wasn't working (shown by his 21-27 record 1993-5 before personnel authority was given to Bobby Grier at the 1996 NFL Draft).  

As VP of football operations Carroll has overhauled the Seahawks top to bottom and the result is three playoff appearences and two straight winning seasons.   The best development for the league is if Carroll defeats Peyton Manning and also shows up Roger Goodell.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Obama Repeats The Iraq Mistake In Syria

Obama again undercuts an ally that can help bring democracy to the Middle East and thus end the constant wars of aggression there.

NASCAR Needs More Emphasis On Winning

Surprisingly, NASCAR has entertained the notion of changing the points structure to put some more emphasis on winning, and that many drivers claim they're trying as hard as they can to win races. Brian France appeared on MRN's "NASCAR Live" show and stated the sanctioning body isn't satisfied with the balance of winning and consistency in the championship.  And several drivers such as Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Carl Edwards insist that they're doing all they can to win races.

Sorry, but they're not telling the truth.   And as usual, it's the lead changes - the lack of them - that discredits their argument.  

Last October the Diehard 500 at Talladega saw 52 lead changes - for all of NASCAR's self-congradulatory emphasis that the seasons are breaking new records for lead changes, Talladega is almost always the only race all season to even reach 35 lead changes, never mind break 50 - but the big story of that race was that in the final 15 or so laps the field stopped racing and instead went into points-preservation mode.   Points racing has been a curse in the sport for over twenty years, and recognition of it dates to the early 1980s with criticism of the Latford Point System and its surprising lack of emphasis on winning. 

That the issue of lack of lead changes is not exclusively points related is true enough, as the technical issues of the racecars has been a chronic source of discussion forever.    Yet driver indifference to winning is real, because the fight for the lead almost never happens - between the excesses of the technology arms race and the indifference in the points structure toward winning or leading, the much-maligned intermediate tracks would be breaking 40 lead changes as a rule instead of an exception otherwise. 

A points system where winning the race pays far more in points and where leading the most laps allows the driver to make major points gains even with a mediocre finish is a points system that the sport can believe in because it is a points system where going for the win is the focus.   Correcting the racecar issues stifling passing remains a priority as well, but it should not be overlooked how more points for winning and more for most laps led are a necessity as well.

What Gates Gets Wrong

Robert Gates' biography has caused a huge stir, but there is more within it that warrants criticism.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

NASCAR Learns Nothing and Does Something

NASCAR proved anew it learns nothing while doing something when it announced it will outright ban tandem drafting for Speedweeks.   "If your bumpers lock up, you are going to get black flagged," said Busch Series Director Wayne Auton.   "That's going to be the rule, and we're going to stick with it."

Of course that's never been how NASCAR does things, as officiating that ignores what the rules ostensibly say has never been a rarity (see Dale Junior's "illegal" pass on the apron at Talladega in 2003 among many examples over the years) and it is one of the major issues people have with the sanctioning body - the favoritism periodically shown.   Of course there has always been the "It" List by the France family toward certain participants, such as Harry Hyde, the Woods, Hoss Ellington, Gary Nelson, the Elliotts, and the Pettys.   Given the difficulties in sports officiating it overall has worked out well but still has needed addressing.

Apart from all that, the whole opposition to tandem drafting stopped making sense once one became used to the practice.   Moreover, the big negative that existed with tandem drafting - the push-car obstinately refusing to pass the leader once a tandem got in the clear - has been disappearing as the practice has evolved.  The Truck 250 at Talladega last October was one of the most amazing races in years and it showcased how tandem drafting has been evolving - a tandem would take the lead, then the push-vehicle would bail out and pass the leader, plus conventional drafts were able to regroup and catch up to tandems.  

Tandem drafting is the strongest power to pass racing has ever seen; not only have lead changes skyrocketed with the tandems, they have allowed gigantic comeback runs for drivers - no longer is losing the lead draft a race-ender; with tandems two cars would be half a lap back and in a few laps had taken the lead. 

Banning the tandems has no reason other than NASCAR's fundamental problem that it can't bring itself to understand when to leave things alone.   Meddling simply doesn't work, in life or sports, yet NASCAR has a ridiculous disease of feeling the need to meddle instead of letting the competitors compete.   This meddlesome disease explains the absurd rules the sanctioning body has - closing pit road when the yellow comes out, "speed limits" that are justified in the name of safety that ignore the lack of excessive risk of pre-1989 pit rules, "out of bounds" lanes on restrictor plate tracks (and tellingly nowhere else), and deciding running orders by arbitrary scoring loops instead of the start-finish line, thus giving the officiating tower more control that is warranted over the racing.  

NASCAR continues to learn nothing while it does something.   It needs to be the other way around for a change.

Blount Forces Trauma On Saturday Playoffs

So Saturday's NFL playoffs rained in two finalists for the conference championships and the home teams as expected won both.    Some observations -


- With proliferation of nickel defenses, the run game has become markedly more frequent; the Patriots and Seahawks showcased this as Marshawn Lynch exploded to 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns while LeGarrette Blount did him better with over 160 yards and four scores.   In all the Patriots scored six touchdowns on the ground - a supreme irony for the Colts is that the last team that had that many rushing scores was Kansas City(eight rushing scores against Atlanta in 2004).

- The Seahawks controlled the game for much of the day - but not necesarily all of it.   Drew Brees erupted to 309 yards and led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

THE SEAHAWKS WERE BY FAR THE LESS DECISIVE OF THE SATURDAY WINNERS - The Seahawks were as good as advertised, yet the fact of two missed Saints FGAs and the fourth-quarter touchdowns by New Orleans put a scare into Seattle until Marquis Colston's preposterous forward throw with two seconds to go; one recalls Pittsburgh's indecisive win over the NY Jets in the 2004 divisional playoffs that wound up haunting the Steelers the next week.    New England in contrast put the game against Indianapolis away, even with several special teams penalties and the injury that necessiated Stephen Gostkowski to punt and Tom Brady to be the PAT holder.  

HISTORY AND MATCHUPS MATTER - New Orleans and Indianapolis lost for numerous reasons; among the most under-appreciated is that the history of their matchups was overwhelmingly against them.   Pete Carroll overall owns the Saints and Bill Belichick owns the Colts.

  - Andrew Luck's NFL career is going to be enormous, but he has showcased that he is a radically mixed bag as a playoff quarterback - it comes back to history and matchups as he faced a Kansas City team whose matchup overwhelmingly favored him and then faced a New England team where the matchup is overwhelmingly in favor of the Patriots.   He was that good against Kansas City and that bad against the Patriots.  

THE NEW TENNESSEE TITANS - Several scraps ensued in the fourth quarter in Foxboro and Jerrell Freeman of the Colts threw several punches yet got away with it.    This is what the Tennessee Titans used to do and apparently the Colts want that in their game.   

COACHING DIFFERENCES - Down big in the fourth quarter the Colts faced a scenario where they threw two incompletions needing to gain one down and then punted - an indication the Colts were quitting on the game where it appeared they could have tried a run.

Thus was Divisional Saturday completed as the Patriots and Seahawks were singing in Gene Kelly's rain.     

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Our Contemptible Commander in Chief

What Robert Gates' memoir appears to show is that what we knew about Barack Obama already - that he was never committed to US victory in the Middle East or anywhere else - isn't even the whole story. What we're now learning is he didn't even care about anything but campaigning and partisanship at the expense of lives - in short, that he's not just a despicable leader, he's despicable and driven by hate as a person.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Divisional Playoffs Align For Patriots and Panthers

The Divisional Round of the 2013 playoffs is here and the stars are aligning for one possible Superbowl matchup, though the reality of playoff football is that the strange stuff of the season usually happens at that point.    We look at the four pending games -


SEAHAWKS over Saints - The Saints have won only once over Pete Carroll's Seahawks and that was November 2010.   The last two meetings the Seahawks outscored the Saints 75-43.  Russell Wilson is the real deal and Richard Sherman talks a big game yet makes plays all the same.   The Saints won a road playoff game for the first ever - but this is a Seahawks team that they haven't been able to figure out.

PATRIOTS over Colts - The Colts pulled off a history-making comeback win over Kansas City, but all they did in such was restore order - the Colts have owned the Chiefs since 1990 (13 wins in their last 15 meetings) and the Patriots are not the Chiefs.   The Patriots have owned the Colts pretty much since they moved to Indianapolis and in Andrew Luck's first meeting with the Patriots he threw three interceptions in a 59-24 massacre in 2012.   After not throwing a pick in his previous two games this year Luck tossed up three last week and has four in two career playoff games.   The Patriots also know a few things about comeback wins, especially this season.   Indy's late signing of former Patriot Deion Branch indicates some desperation there.

PANTHERS over 49ers - The Panthers are 11-7 lifetime against the 49ers and have won four straight.   Cam Newton's gang edged the Niners at The Stick 10-9 earlier this season and have been on fire since starting 1-3.   The Niners certainly aren't slouches at 12-4 and winners of their last seven games.   Colin Kaepernick was let loose against Green Bay and that made him more dangerous in that game; he's also second in rushing behind Frank Gore.   The Panthers can use Stevonne Smith and that massive chip on his shoulder for this game.

CHARGERS over Broncos - In nine career games against Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning is 4-5 with two playoff losses; he's also thrown some sixteen interceptions in those games.   The Chargers already beat the Broncos in their own building a few weeks back and have been riding momentum on through their Freezer Bowl rematch at Cincinnati last week, and Peyton's playoff history bodes ill for the Broncos - between cold weather and the fact of being in a playoff game, Manning is at his worst.   Rivers is now a .500 quarterback in playoff games and Manning remains with a losing playoff record.   Among the subplots is Broncos coordinator Jack Del Rio, whose defenses have been pierced virtually every game.

Expect the unexpected, but also plan for San Diego @ New England and Carolina @ Seattle - with the Patriots-Panthers rematch still on the potential horizon.

Snowden and the NSA: Reality vs. Fantasy

Edward Snowden didn't do anyone a service in his war against the NSA.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Wildcard Sunday: Time For Change In Cincinnati

The Chargers pulled off the win three decades after the famous 1981 AFC Championship "Freezer Bowl" between Dan Fouts and Ken Anderson.   Meanwhile the 49ers won in another Ice Bowl in Green Bay.

What to make of all this?  Some takeaways starting with San Diego at Cincy -

- Though I'm not yet ready to declare Andy Dalton another playoff bust, it is obvious that not only is there something wrong with him as a quarterback to gag in another playoff game as he did, there is a serious character flaw in him as a quarterback.   There is also the reality about coach Marvin Lewis - 0-5 in the playoffs with nothing he's done in them showing he has any clue or courage to win such games (we kept hearing the Bengals would target A.J Green more, and they didn't).   It illustrates what is holding back the Bengals, a manifestly talented team that can go far - by all accounts I can find, team owner Mike Brown is little more than a crook who has refused to invest in scouting and overall football operations.   He has held onto Marvin Lewis and there had been valid reason to do so, but the continuing playoff failures indicate Lewis' run is ending.   With coordinator Jay Gruden a candidate for at least one NFL head coaching job, it may be time to pull the trigger on Lewis and promote Gruden, a fresh NFL face whose Arena League experience has proven valuable.  

PHILIP RIVERS DIDN'T PUT UP NUMBERS, BUT HE PUT UP EFFECTIVE PLAY - Too many people still look too much at volume stats to determine a quarterback's effectiveness.   Certainly they matter, but the plays made that move the ball also matter.   Philip Rivers had only 128 passing yards but his game management was superior to Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis' - in the battle of wits those two came unarmed.  

- Though Ronnie Brown put up over 70 rushing yards, 58 of them came on one play; it was Danny Woodhead who made the offense for San Diego move.  

- The Bengals had won a lot of battles at the line of scrimmage all season; this time the Chargers won at the line.


It was the first game of the Sunday doubleheader and in the NFC nightcap the 49ers did what they've done the last few years.   Takeways from this game -

THE PACKERS AGAIN CANNOT SEAL THE DEAL WHERE THEY DON'T PUT A TEAM AWAY  - The Packers have long been accused of being front-running frauds and against the 49ers they merely proved it yet again. Aaron Rodgers struggled in the passing game (held to just 177 yards) and has now lost four straight to a 49ers team that in the halcyon days of the 1990s Packers was utterly owned by them.    His comeback against the Bears last week was a game where the Packers didn't trail in the second half beyond eight points - and was only the third game where he erased a gap higher than four points to win.   While he played respectably overall, the fact of not being able to front-run has again cost the Packers.

  - He didn't put up monster numbers (just 3,200 passing yards) but twelve of his 21 touchdowns entering the playoffs came after the loss to the Panthers, and in this game he racked up 325 all-purpose yards, including outrushing the Niners offensive backfield.  

OFFENSE PLAYED CONSERVATIVELY OVERALL - In both Sunday games there seemed far greater emphasis on running the ball instead of attacking through the air (in both games the two opponents combined for some 300 rushing yards; the two games combined flirted with 600 all told).   Though the defenses played well, there could have been more scoring with more aggressive offense.

THE SOUTH AND WEST ARE THE STRONGEST DIVISIONS IN THE NFC - Seattle and Carolina await each other's division foes while the Rams and Cardinals showcased real growth in 2013 for possible playoff spots in 2014.   Atlanta's collapse may not be replicated given how much talent is there, while the Bucs are starting anew, this time with a coach in Lovie Smith from Tampa Bay's former NFC Central home.  

And so it goes, as they might say, with Divisional Saturday around the corner.

Wildcard Saturday: Hank Stram's Heartache

The New Orleans Saints can be forgiven if they feel forgotten following the first road playoff win in the history of the Saints - this coming thirteen years after the first playoff win of any kind in Saints history.   The game that the world is buzzing about tonight is Andrew Luck's history-making comeback win - erasing a 38-10 gap despite multiple interceptions - over the Chiefs, and it offered plenty to take away.    My own takeaways from the 45-44 Indianapolis wildcard win over Kansas City -

- Bill Belichick is constantly telling his players on the sidelines, "Sixty Minutes!"   This game shows why.

- Down 38-10 and with multiple interceptions, one had to ask questions about Luck's viability as a playoff quarterback, but he answered them before they could be asked.   He did in his second season what Peyton Manning needed six seasons to accomplish - win a playoff game.   Even if the Colts get bounced next week Andrew Luck won't have that stigma that quarterbacks like Manning and Matt Ryan have - being volume stats heroes who can't get it done in the playoffs.

EVEN IN THE PLAYOFFS IT'S ULTIMATELY ABOUT OFFENSE - Long is the complaint about how the rules are slanted in favor of offense, but in the playoffs the flags are usually put away and the referees let the players play.   Kansas City and Indianapolis both posted top-nine scoring defenses.   It begs the question of why anyone is shocked when the flags are put away - and scoring actually increases.  It was on display last season in the Ravens shootout win over the Broncos and the 49ers mini-rout of the Packers; it was on display in 2011 in San Francisco's shootout win over New Orleans and Tom Brady's history-tying touchdown slaughter of the Broncos; and of course in 2009 the Cardinals needed overtime and 51 points to beat Aaron Rodgers' Packers.

Even the subsequent Saints win over the Eagles was about offense despite neither team breaking 26 points; it appeared both teams were spooked by the Colts-Chiefs game and played intimidated to some extent.   Indeed, in the second half the two offenses began to rev it up and might have scored more.

THE LOSS SETTLED THE FUTURE OF ALEX SMITH - That the Colts won is not the surprise; the sheer enormity of scoring is what leaves people taken aback somewhat.   The other non-surprise is that Alex Smith showed anew why he is not the future for the Chiefs - he showed anew that when he has to step up his game there's a limit to where he can do so, and ultimately he just cannot hang with the likes of Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers.    The Chiefs need to face that fact going into the Draft.

CHIEFS INJURIES SHOW THEY DIDN'T DO ENOUGH FOR THE ROSTER  -  The Chiefs lost several players, notably Jamaal Charles in the first quarter, and the impact of those injuries was a running issue in the game.   I don't buy that not losing Jamaal Charles would have changed the outcome, but the injuries showed this - the Chiefs did not build their roster 1-54.    The Patriots build their rosters 1-54 and thus are generally immune to losing key players, as evidenced again this season.   The Chiefs need to address that going into the Draft as well.

HISTORY DOES MATTER FOR CLUBS - The Chiefs had the chance to change their history where they hadn't won a playoff game since 1993.   Instead, all they did was add to that ignoble history, and if they make the playoffs next year they'll still have to carry the weight that they've failed in the postseason eight straight times. 

Indeed, history works against the Colts going forward - the other historic comeback playoff games didn't translate to a championship for any of the winners - the 1992 Bills famously wiped out a 35-3 Oilers lead to win, and then got destroyed in the Superbowl; the 2002 49ers erased a 38-14 gap to the NY Giants and got bounced in embarassing fashion the next week by the Bucs; the 2002 Steelers erased a 24-7 gap to beat the Browns, then fell in overtime to the Titans the next week.  

- His emergence in 2012 was dramatic, but his 224-yard explosion here may make this a career breakout game.

And the end result puts the Wild in Wildcard Saturday with the rest of the weekend to go before the divisional rounds begin.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

NFL: Ten Takeaways From 2013

With the playoffs beckoning, the NFL season saw a lot to dissect and debate. Ten takeaways from the season past -


- In interconference games, AFC playoff teams went 19-5 over the NFC while their NFC counterparts were 14-10.    The Eagles had the worst interconference record at 1-3 while the Broncos and Chiefs were both 4-0.

- Long has been the complaint that the NFL's rules bias is toward offense, yet the season was notable for defensive resurgence, notably with such teams as Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina, and also New England, whose defense was often criticized yet again yet by the end of the season was taking over its side of the line of scrimmage.  

TEAMS STILL MAKE THE MISTAKE OF FALLING IN LOVE WITH NAMES - Jay Cutler was 5-6 as a starter in 2013 with twelve interceptions; Josh McCown was 3-2 with thirteen touchdowns and one interception.   Yet Cutler, because he's a Name, got the contract despite having never earned any benefit of the doubt as a quarterback under any coach that's worked with him.   A similar situation came in Green Bay, as Matt Flynn led back-to-back coemback wins - yet it was the notorious frontrunning fraud Aaron Rodgers who was given back the starting job.  

THE AFC NORTH IS NO LONGER THE AFC BLACK AND BLUE DIVISION - Not that AFC North teams aren't physical, but the collapse of the Ravens and the two-year period of playoff-less mediocrity and offensive line instability with the Steelers show this division is no longer the strong arm of the AFC.  

THE LEAGUE'S BEST GM IS STILL BILL BELICHICK - Remember criticism of Belichick's personnel moves, how the Patriots ostensibly lacked enough depth, that Belichick had failed in the draft (one stat was that 12 of his last 19 defensive draft picks are gone from the team), and so on?   The Patriots are 12-4 with a very young roster turned almost completely over - again.   At some point people need to see that Belichick builds rosters to win, not rosters with a group of Names.  


THE LEAGUE'S WORST OWNER IS STILL DANIEL SNYDER - The feud with Mike Shanahan and the public support of Robert Griffin despite his regression as a quarterback showcased everything that is wrong with Daniel Snyder - inability to either hire qualified football people (Shanahan proved anew his inferiority as a coach) or to let them do their job.   And this was a Redskins team appearing ready for a competitive renaissance as the halcyon days of Joe Gibbs (the first time, not the misbegotten attempt to recapture lost glory in the 2004-8 era) fade away.

THE READ OPTION IS - NATURALLY - DEAD - Any offense that relies on running by the quarterback is going to fail.   And the read option is no longer a relevant offense in the NFL.   You could see it coming with the failure of the Wildcat and of quarterbacks who run instead of stay in the pocket.  

PASS INTERFERENCE IS NOT THE PROBLEM - Pass interference penalties became a bigger issue during the season and were tied into the complaint about the rules stifling defense.   The problem, though, is not the rules.   One, it's the referees continuing to try to be the show.   Two, it's defenses that continue to make the mistake of playing the player, not the ball.   The old school mentality needs to change into a mentality of playing the ball instead of playing the opposing player.

THE LEAGUE WILL KEEP PUSHING FOR TEAMS IN LONDON AND LOS ANGELES - Roger Goodell's comments and the steady mission creep of NFL games at Wembley Stadium showcase the league's determination to have a team in London and one in LA, even without much evidence of an audience for either.  

THE BEST QUARTERBACK OF THIS GENERATION IS NOT PEYTON MANNING - It's Tom Brady.  Brady has repeatedly helped build contending rosters; Manning keeps inheriting quality rosters a la Dan Marino.   Brady led the biggest comeback win in Patriots history and did so against Manning's Broncos - and he did it with touchdowns into brutally cold winds.  

So it was as we await the playoffs.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Not a ‘Bogus’ Benghazi Connection

The NY Times is sticking with its claim the Benghazi attack was entirely a local upsurge, not an outright international terrorist operation. The facts, though, prove the Times wrong.

NFL: Yes Mister Mora It's The Playoffs

It's Wildcard Weekend in the NFL, and picks are in order -



  over Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs lost five of their last seven games in the regular season, including a 23-7 embarassment to the Colts; the Colts have won twelve of their last fourteen meetings with the Chiefs, and in 2013 they won six of their last nine games.   Andrew Luck is clearly a better quarterback than Alex Smith, and Andy Reid hasn't done well against the Colts (winning in 2010's shocker at Philly).    Smith may put up more of a fight in this one, but the Colts win.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES over New Orleans Saints - 

Curiously some are pointing to New Orleans' defense as the edge for this game. I'm not quite sure, because all five of their losses (three of them against playoff teams) came on the road, including three of their last five games, plus the Saints have been notoriously mediocre in outdoor games.    The Eagles meanwhile won seven of their last eight games, notably against playoff or playoff contending teams such as Green Bay, Chicago, Arizona, and of course the big win at Dallas.   Nick Foles' numbers (8-2 in his ten starts, just under 3,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions) suggest he may be a special player.   There is also the nagging reality that Drew Brees hasn't won an outdoor playoff game since the Superbowl win.  



The Bengals under Marvin Lewis have won their last three meetings with the Chargers, including December's 17-10 meeting at Qualcomm.   But this is the playoffs; Lewis is winless and the fact is he has not shown he isn't in over his head in a playoff game.   Philip Rivers is not quite elite anymore but is still an upper-echelon quarterback while Andy Dalton has shown he is good but hasn't shown he can be elite; Rivers also has playoff winning experience where Dalton does not.   Since that December 1 meeting the Chargers have scored no fewer than 26 points while the Bengals defense got shredded for 28 against Indianapolis and 30 against Pittsburgh.    The Chargers face a grind of a game but are fundamentally the better team.


The Packers got Aaron Rodgers back.   Big deal.   Not only is Green Bay unable to stop anyone (they gave up at least 28 points in four of their last five games) but Aaron Rodgers has been a subpar quarterback against the Niners, winning only two of his five career meetings and losing his last three such meetings.   The Niners have gotten into a groove after a shaky start and though Colin Kaepernick has been inconsistent he's looked noticeably better lately.    Bet on the Niners here.

And so New England, Seattle, Carolina, and Denver rest and await the outcome of Wildcard Weekend.