Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for February, 2010

Random Stuff

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 12, 2010

What we’ve got here is a series of quick hit thoughts without any order or organization.  Topics include the Super Bowl, the NFL season as a whole, the Broncos and other random stuff.

– Congratulations to the Saints on winning the Super Bowl.  I cannot think of a more deserving city or fan base to celebrate a championship.  the fact alone that the Saints had never made the Super Bowl before makes this a good story.  Throw in Katrina and the devastation of the Superdome five years ago, and you’ve got a terrific story.  Plus, there are a lot of good guys on that team.

– As for the game, I thought the Saints were going to need to be able to pressure Peyton Manning to win.  As it turned out, the Saints only deployed one blitz the entire night, and that came on the clinching pick six.  The Saints were able to confuse Manning by continually changing up the looks of their secondary and defensive alignment.  This  combined with the ability of the Saints’ offense to control the clock and keep Manning watching on the sideline for long stretches proved to be the difference. 

– It wasn’t as if Manning had a bad game (he threw for over 300 yards), but it was shocking to see him throw a fourth quarter interception with the game on the line.  Frankly, if any Colt is at fault for that play it would be more Reggie Wayne than Manning.  Wayne failed to get inside position on the defender, and as a result was in no position to prevent the pick.

– I thought the other difference was that the Saints played to win, whereas the Colts were playing not to lose.  New Orleans went for it on 4th and goal late in the second quarter, and although they didn’t get it, they were still able to force a three and out thanks to a very tentative Colts offense calling three runs up the middle.  The Saints ended up getting a field goal before the half anyway.  Think about it: If the Saints took the chip shot three points at the end of the half, the Colts could well have had time to get a drive going to go up 13-6 or even 17-6 at the half.  As it was, the Saints gave Indy the ball at their own 1 yard line, and the Colts were playing not to make a mistake.  This played right into the Saints’ hands even though they didn’t get the touchdown.  Brilliant coaching by the Saints, and very tentative, poor coaching by the Colts in the final two minutes of the first half.

– Then there was the onside kick to open the second half.  Another very gutsy call by Sean Payton, one that would have backfired miserably if the Saints didn’t recover the kick.  However, it worked, and the Saints capitalized for a quick touchdown.  The Colts were very clearly not expecting the kick, and in fact several Colts players were retreating to try and set up a return, rather than be in position to recover the surprise onside.  Contrast this decision by Payton with the coaching of Jim Caldwell, who called for a 51-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter even though the odds of Stover making the kick were slim to none based on his lack of leg strength.  Granted the Colts were facing a 4th & 11, and at least Caldwell didn’t order a punt, but had the Colts gone for it and missed, the Saints’ field position wouldn’t have been near as good as they got with the missed field goal.  Sean Payton played to win, Jim Caldwell played not to lose, and that was the difference.

– Interesting stat: discounting games in which the Colts waved the white flag and made no attempt to win, Indianapolis has won 23 regular season games in a row while going 2-2 in postseason games.  Such is the legacy of Peyton Manning, who himself is 8-8 in playoff games.

– It is interesting to look back at the Colts’ decision to rest their starters during the final two weeks of the season instead of going for 16-0.  It is hard to say in retrospect whether that had any impact on their Super Bowl loss.  Did the decision put more pressure on the Colts to win the Super Bowl, or would they have had more pressure with an undefeated record?  It is hard to say, but if I was the coach I would have gone for the undefeated record.  That’s probably one reason of many why I’m not a coach.

– We certainly have a lot of interesting offseason storylines to keep track of, but I think the biggest one is the collective bargaining agreement, or lack thereof.  The current deal is set to expire at the end of the 2010 season, and calls for an uncapped year next season.  The only way the uncapped year will be avoided if agreement can be reached on a new deal before March 5, the day free agency opens.  Let’s just say that I have better odds of winning Olympic gold next week in Vancouver for tv watching than we have of seeing an agreement reached by March 5.  The sides are so far apart right now that there is no communication.  If we have an uncapped year, the owners are going to find it nearly impossible to get the players to agree to go back to a salary cap, and we will very likely see a work stoppage in 2011.

– Obviously a work stoppage would be bad on so many levels, not the least of which is you’ve got owners and players bickering over how to split millions of dollars while the rest of us are dealing with a terrible economy and many are unemployed.  Many fans are not renewing season tickets because they can’t afford them.   I think the NFL is rapidly heading down a slippery slope where they’re about to make so many fans irate that they may well be killing the golden goose.  The NFL is without question the most popular sport in America, and frankly it’s not even close, but if owners and players can’t see common sense it may not stay that way if there is no 2011 season due to greedy owners and players.  If there is a work stoppage for any reason, it’s because both sides are selfish and greedy.  If they can’t agree on how to split an $8 billion pie, than there is no way they are anything but selfish and greedy.  That’s not exactly the right message to send to fans in this economy. 

– As for the uncapped year, it may not be as beneficial to players as they think.  Yes, some owners (esp. Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones) could well start throwing all kinds of money around, but I think a larger number or owners would go the other way and try to save money, and not offer big time contracts to free agents.  See, without a cap, there also isn’t a salary floor, and thus teams like the Bengals and Lions and other teams that are struggling financially won’t have to spend money if they don’t want to.  I think an uncapped year would benefit roughly 8-10 players who will cash in with mega contracts, but for most of the players, I think this could actually be a detriment.  In any case, this will be the big story of the 2010 season: will the owners and players be able to avoid a work stoppage in 2011?

– There are of course other storylines to follow: Will Donovan McNabb remain an Eagle?  Will Brett Favre come back for another year?  If he doesn’t will McNabb end up in Minnesota?  Will the Cardinals actually start Matt Leinart in the wake of Kurt Warner’s retirement?  Do the Saints have a shot to repeat?  In light of the Saints winning this year, are any of the four franchises that have never made the Super Bowl (Texans, Jaguars, Lions and Browns) even close?  Will Jay Cutler ever get it figured out in Chicago?   Will the Steelers bounce back to playoff form?  Of course there are many other questions besides these, and others that will come up once we see what the offseason movement will be.

– Of course I have to mention the Broncos.  As we get closer to free agency I’ll offer a detailed review of the season and what I think they need to do.  For now, let’s just say that the sting of falling from 6-0 to 8-8 is still significant, and I think there is a lot of work the Broncos need to do.  I think the top priority is the offensive line, followed closely by the defensive front seven.  They do have a top 10 pick courtesy of Chicago, so it will be interesting to see what direction they go.  I don’t see them being very active in free agency because they don’t really have a lot of cash to throw around, so they’ll probably try to find some bargains and fill some holes that way. 

– I do think the departure of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator is very significant and could well be very devastating for the Broncos.  The Broncos showed great improvement on that side of the ball from the previous three seasons and it is a little disconcerting that he just couldn’t get on the same page as Josh McDaniels going forward.  Hopefully the Broncos don’t drop off in that area next season.

– I’m not sure the Broncos should get rid of Brandon Marshall.  He is a great talent, but he does need to get his head on straight.  Still, I don’t think he should be given away without getting equal value in return.

– The Broncos drew the short straw and will play in the London game next season against the 49ers.  I’m just glad the Broncos aren’t the one giving up the home game.  I’m on record as saying the London game is a bad idea all the way around, because I think the NFL needs to do a better job of taking care of its fans at home and I think it’s really unfair to the team surrendering the home game.  I also hope it doesn’t prove to be a midseason distraction that causes problems for the team in the second half of the season.

– Last week I got another reminder of why college basketball is roughly 20 times better than the NBA.  I went to the Nuggets-Suns game and observed one sequence two Suns players got tangled up going for a rebound and fell to the floor, which should have allowed a Denver 5 on 3 opportunity.  Thing is, two Nuggets players stood there doing nothing and watched the 3 on 3 action on the other end of the floor.  The Nuggets missed two shots, and eventually Phoenix got the rebound when their two players rejoined the action.  There was no visible show of emotion from George Karl, who presumably didn’t want to rock the boat with his high priced lineup.  This was one example of a game where I saw lots of bad shots, several instances of lazy passing, and very little effort on the defensive end by either team.

– By contrast, the Missouri-Colorado game I attended in Boulder was a display of much better effort and intensity by the two teams on the floor.  Missouri’s J.T. Tiller took an elbow to the face two minutes into the game, had a broken nose to show for it, needed to change his jersey because it was all bloody, and he was back on the court less than five minutes later.  The broken nose didn’t deter him from hustling, defending, diving for loose balls, and being physical when necessary.  The difference between college and the NBA is absolutely staggering when you watch both in person.  I much prefer college for the team play, actual effort on defense, crowd intensity (rowdy student sections versus corporate folks that probably can’t name half the players on the floor and are more concerned with what kind of premium malt they’re drinking) and most of all you can tell the players are very passionate and want to win at any cost.  You just don’t see those things in the NBA. 

– I am somewhat puzzled this is being referred to as a “big sports weekend”.  Granted, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics are tonight, and that is a big deal, but the only event I care to watch in the winter Olympics is hockey, and that doesn’t start until Tuesday.  Even then, I’ll watch college hoops over the Olympics any day.  The other events this weekend are NASCAR, which I refuse to watch and can’t understand the facination of, and the NBA all-star game, which is a big display of every reason why the NBA isn’t as good as the college version.

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Super Bowl Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 5, 2010

Last week: 1-1  Playoffs: 5-5

This year’s Super Bowl is going to have to be one heck of a game to live up to the excitement of the previous two seasons.  Two years ago, we saw what might be the best catch in NFL history by David Tyree, leading the Giants to an upset win over the previously undefeated Patriots.  Last year, we saw a spectacular 100-yard interception return TD by James Harrison to end the first half, and then we saw Ben Roethlisberger lead an amazing winning drive, outdueling Kurt Warner.  This year does shape on paper to be a very entertaining contest, with Peyton Manning matching up against Drew Brees in a QB showdown, not to mention the story of the Saints lifting the city of New Orleans from the never forgotten wreckage of Katrina.  It is for this reason that I would imagine most people without a rooting interest would like to see the Saints win.  If you have no hand at the blackjack table, it is hard to root against that story.  In any case there is no reason this shouldn’t be a competitive and highly entertaining game.   As a side note, I mention every year that at my house the game is the focus.  Not the commercials, not the halftime show, none of that.  I refuse to attend a party where the game is not the sole focus of the evening.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ll have plenty of food, beverage, etc and some of the commercials are usually funny, but this is about football, period. 

I always say the Super Bowl is the toughest game to predict during the whole season because what happened prior to this point is completely irrelevant.  With two weeks to prepare, there are no secrets.  Each team knows exactly what the other has up its sleeve.  This is a one game scenario for both teams, there is no tomorrow, and therefore there is a certain amount of unpredictability that doesn’t exist during the regular season or even in earlier rounds of the playoffs.  This is why we have seen a number of stunning upsets over the years (Giants-Bills 1990, Patriots-Rams 2001 and Giants-Patriots two years ago the chief ones that come to mind).  Granted, a lot of times the favorite ends up coasting, but we have long been trending toward closer and more exciting games in the Super Bowl as opposed to the blowouts we saw in the 80s and early 90s.  This is the ultimate one game situation where it can be decided by a timely turnover, a single big play, one costly penalty, or any number of random things. 

The Colts have rebounded very nicely during the playoffs after they pulled their starters and waved the white flag in the final two games of the regular season.  I have to admit that I thought this was a big mistake that I thought would cost them in the end.  So far it hasn’t, and you can’t really deny that the players have looked fresh in the past two games.  I still think in the end, perhaps years from now, the Colts may regret that they missed a shot at 19-0, but if they win the Super Bowl I guess it’s hard to argue with their way of thinking.  Indianapolis particularly looked like the fresher, crisper, more energized team two weeks ago when they pulled away from the Jets in the second half.  Peyton Manning is playing perhaps the best football of his career, and continues to be able to find open receivers no matter what the situation.  Against the Jets, Reggie Wayne was blanketed by Darrelle Revis and Dallas Clark was having a hard time getting open, so Manning simply looked for Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, who combined to haul in 18 passes for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The amazing thing about Manning, not only in that game, but throughout his entire career, is how infrequently he gets sacked and how quickly he can get rid of the ball with stunning accuracy.  Sure the Jets got hits on him early in the game, but that didn’t last very long.  For his entire career, Manning has eaten defenses alive that have attempted to blitz him.  The Saints have thrived in the playoffs on hitting Kurt Warner and Brett Favre as often as possible (in Favre’s case there should have a couple of roughing the passer/late hit penalties that weren’t assessed, including a big one on Favre’s first interception, the play where he hurt his ankle), but I think hitting Manning will prove to be much harder.  The Colts’ offensive line has been outstanding all year, and against the Jets they did a tremendous job controlling the play, especially in the second half.  I think the Colts have a big edge here between their offensive line and Manning’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly in the event he does experience some pressure.  The Colts have no shortage of weapons that can get open, and while the Saints have a good secondary, I think their inability to get to Manning with any kind of frequency could well be their downfall in this game.  As it was two weeks ago, the Vikings rolled up a staggering number of yards against the Saints.  New Orleans may get to Manning a little bit early in the game, but they won’t be able to do it for 60 minutes.  The Colts running game does rank near the bottom of the league, but so does the Saints’ run defense.  I think this game will be won through the air anyway, but in terms of the Colts offense vs. the Saints defense, I give the Colts a huge edge.

The Saints’ offense has also been playing extremely well during the postseason, and like the Colts, they have bounced back from a regular season finish that saw them stumble to three straight losses, including one to Tampa Bay at home in which they lost despite the starters playing the entire game.  Against Minnesota, the Saints were fortunate to receive a huge gift in the form of six Vikings turnovers.  I think the odds of the Colts turning it over that many times is zero, so for the Saints to have a chance to win this game they are going to need to take advantage of every offensive opportunity they get.  I think the Saints do have a chance to be able to run the ball with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, as well as utilize Bush to try to get big plays out of the backfield.  The Colts’ defense doesn’t do anything fancy, but they’ve proven to be more than solid enough to get the job done.  The key for the Saints will be to be able to control things offensively and keep Manning on the sideline as much as possible.  Drew Brees is certainly a top 5 quarterback in the league without question, and the Saints will need him to utilize his ability to extend plays in the pocket and find his receivers.  Dwight Freeney is not 100 percent for the Colts’ defense, but he’ll play.  Between him and Robert Mathis, the Saints’ offensive line could have their hands full.  It will be important for New Orleans to stay away from third and long situations where they’re going to have to pass and the Colts’ pass rushers can tee off on Brees.  If the Saints can get success on the ground, it will open up Brees to be able to go down the field and get some big plays.  The biggest thing is the Saints can’t afford to have any three and outs where they hand the ball right back to Manning.  I also think the Saints have a better ability to make things happen on special teams, especially in the return game.  If the Saints can get a return TD at some point during the game, it could be enough to be a difference maker. 

This should be a highly entertaining game with lots of passing and big plays.  I think this has a chance to rank with the memorable Super Bowls of the past two seasons.  In the end though, I think Peyton Manning really wants to win this game at any cost, and I think as well as he’s playing right now he’s not going to be slowed down.  I think Brees and company will be able to stay in it for a majority of the contest, but I can see the Colts pulling away in the fourth quarter. 

The Pick: Indianapolis 34 New Orleans 24

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