Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's in a Name?

According to this story from ESPN, the wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson has officially changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco.

It's amusing and all, but it leads to a serious question: If he's let go by Cincinnati, and winds up signing with, say San Diego, a team with a star that already wears number 85 (Antonio Gates), what will Ocho Cinco do?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some NFL predictions:

3 teams that are expected to be good in 2008, but won't be:

New York Jets- What are the odds that Brett Favre has another career year? I'd put it at 100 to 1. Yes, he makes the Jets "better," but I still don't think they'll make the playoffs. The AFC is just too good. Favre spent the better part of the last 2 decades lighting up the NFC north, which has never produced a great pass defense. Favre's gunslinger mentality is going to be a field day for teams like the Patriots, and the Jets will still have a shitty defense that will keep Favre off the field. Furthermore, Kellen Clemens isn't going to be good even after 2 or 3 years studying under Favre, which also just happens to be too short of a time to draft and develop a replacement franchise quarterback. The only good thing I can take out of the Favre controversy is that it resolves 3 quarterback controversies. Aaron Rodgers is the starter in Green Bay. Brett Favre is the starter in New York. Chad Pennington is the starter in Miami. Season record: 8-8.
*Note: Madden Curse

Denver Broncos- You can't find a mention about the Broncos without the phrase "zone blocking scheme" or the name "Champ Bailey." I really don't understand why, because neither of them seem to have helped the broncos in 2007. On paper the Broncos should have one of the best secondaries in the league with Bailey and Dre' Bly. With the unfortunate death of Darrent Williams, Bly was traded for and expected to replace him. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the Bly/Bailey combo not only failed to meet expectations with their pass defense, the Broncos also couldn't stop the run... Oakland Raiders-style. The Broncos run defense hasn't gotten any better in the offseason, and Brandon Marshall's 2-game suspension leaves a gaping hole in the receiving corps with the departure of Mr. Vegas Javon Walker and the retirement of Rod Smith. Marshall will probably stick his neck through a home entertainment center and miss the entire season anyways. I will say that Jay Cutler, after looking like a rookie in 2006, actually has a legitimate shot at taking the Broncos to the playoffs. Give it 2 years while the Chargers try to win the Super Bowl and fail miserably before A.J. Smith has 12 monster contract issues to deal with. Season record: 8-8.

Cleveland Browns- I'm not really sure why people thought the Browns were good in 2007. Yes they had a great offense, and yes they had a ridiculous turnaround from 2006. But in 2007 they beat exactly one playoff team, the Seahawks, who are perennial playoff underperformers anyways. They also lost to the Raiders (???) and the Bengals (who in week two they beat 51-45). So basically, when the Browns play a team with any defensive ability at all, they lose. When they play teams with competent offenses they lose. This does not bode well for the Browns considering they play the two best divisions in the league- the AFC South (Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Texans) and the NFC East (Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Eagles). Neither of those two divisions had a losing record last season. The Browns play essentially 9 playoff teams (those mentioned above and the Steelers) for a total of 10 games, in addition to a Bengals team that apparently can beat them on any given day as well as the Bills and the Chiefs. You need 10 wins to compete for a playoff berth, good luck Browns fans. I wouldn't hold my breath. Season record: 7-9.

3 teams expected to be bad in 2008, and will be:

Miami Dolphins- Chad Pennington's noodle arm will not save them. The AFC East soap opera continues, as Big Tuna returns in round 3 of his quest to be in charge of every AFC East team at some point in his career. Season record: 5-11.

Atlanta Falcons- Matt Ryan is the next Tim Couch, without the first-overall pick allure. Props for releasing DeAngelo "mouth-as-big-as-a-personal-foul" Hall though. Season record: 6-10 (with 2 wins due to unstoppable Michael "the burner" Turner who *will* have a 200 yard game in 2008).

Kansas City Chiefs- Their starting quarterback's name is Brodie Croyle, which sounds Mormon. Glenn Dorsey can't play defensive tackle and defensive end at the same time (this is a myth continually perpetuated by the media) and Larry Johnson isn't as good a runner if he's not chasing a huge contract extension. Season record: 5-11.

3 teams expected to be bad in 2008, but won't be:

Carolina Panthers- With Jake Delhomme & DeAngelo Williams returning to health as well as the release/retirement of injury plagued/crappy Mike Rucker and Dan Morgan, the Panthers are poised to rebound from a disappointing 2007 season. Julius Peppers still has the physical tools to be a terror at defensive end, while sophomore linebacker Jon Beason has no reason to drop off in performance. They also have a fairly easy schedule in a division that has no clear winner. Season record: 10-6.

Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens weren't as bad as their record would imply, and the sacking of Brian Billick (finally!) counts for a lot. Mr. "I know quarterbacks" left the situation a mess. Kyle Boller (in theory) should be able to at least manage the game- throwing a pass or two to keep the 8th man out of the box and take some heat off of Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. The defense, while aging, still has coordinator Rex Ryan and is still capable of taking over a game. Ray Lewis occasionally just murders opposing players with solid tackles and continues to play among the best middle linebackers in the league. Season record: 7-9.

Oakland Raiders- Al Davis' massive spending spree had better pay off. The Raiders have a young team and an easy schedule. 4th-overall 2008 pick Darren McFadden compliments an already-strong running game, and also takes pressure off last year's first overall pick JaMarcus Russell, who is poised to start at quarterback. While questions remain about the run defense, the Raiders schedule is favorable. Shockingly, they are in the conversation for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Season record: 8-8.

3 teams expected to be good in 2008, and will be:

New England Patriots- As much as I can't stand the Patriots, they know how to win (and it's not their defense doing the winning these days). With Randy Moss making his case for the most dominant receiver in the league, 4...I mean 3-time super bowl champion Tom Brady, a division that didn't have a team with a winning record other than the Patriots, and a cake walk schedule, the Patriots should go far into the playoffs. In fact, I predict a Super Bowl victory. Season record: 14-2.

San Diego Chargers- The Chargers are loaded, and Norv Turner showed that he actually does have some competence as a head coach (although the best running back in the league and 10/22 starters in the Pro Bowl helps too). I still don't think Philip Rivers is a great quarterback, but apparently he has ingratiated himself as the team's leader, which actually does go a long way. If Vincent Jackson's playoff performance is an indicator of things to come, the Chargers will have another dangerous element to play with. Injuries are a significant concern, however. If they make the playoffs, LT won't play anyways. Season record: 13-3.

Indianapolis Colts- Like the Rams, the Colts can't possibly have as many injury problems in 2008 as they did in 2007. And, oh yeah, they still won 13 games. Still trying to figure out how they lost to the Chargers in the RCA Dome in the divisional round last year...oh wait, I remember. Thanks Marvin Harrison. When Harrison gets hurt Anthony Gonzalez can step back in his place and the Colts will still have the best overall receiving corps in the league. Having Peyton Manning throwing to you doesn't hurt either. Season record: 13-3.

3 players I love to make fun of:

Ellis Hobbs, New England Patriots CB- Honestly, why is this guy a starter? When he's not losing Super Bowls for the Patriots, he's continually getting burned by mediocre receivers and drawing pass interference penalties that cost the Patriots AFC championships. I guess I should be thankful because I can't stand the Patriots, but I honestly feel bad for his teammates sometimes because he continually screws up at such vital moments. Oh, and did I mention he's not tall enough to match up with the likes of say...Plaxico Burress? Yeah, he's 5'9". I'm going to go out on a limb and say that even if Hobbs hadn't committed to the inside on the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, it wouldn't have mattered against the 6'5" Burress. I guess it's not totally his fault, as the Patriots seem to refuse to let their corners switch sides to get a better matchup, but least try not to look like a total fool. It's not like Burress is the most maneuverable guy on the field.
Signature play: "Burress alone...touchdown New York!"

Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints RB- a prime example of a system player, in 2006 Bush as a rookie was content to be the "change of pace" running back that would spell Deuce McAllister. Coming out of USC, Bush was touted as the second coming of Barry Sanders. High hopes for the Saints in 2007 led many to believe Bush was a first round fantasy draft pick and the Saints a lock to win the NFC South and go deep into the playoffs. Instead, Deuce went down with a knee injury and Bush suddenly found himself with the full time starting job, which he proved unable to handle. Why? Because Reggie Bush apparently cannot bring himself to run between the tackles, instead trying to turn every play into some form of reverse, cutback, or kick return. It gets old fast, Reggie. Bush is a borderline bust. If he can't produce this year with a Pro Bowl quarterback, a legitimate threat at wideout, a "healthy" McAllister, and a tight end that *could* be a downfield threat as well as a good blocker, he seriously needs to find out what the problem is.
Signature play: He was on his way to his first 100 yard rushing game against the Seahawks in week 6 of 2007. He even went over 100 (I think he had 102) yards, but then he tried to run up the middle and lost 5 yards to finish the game with 97.

Rodney Harrison- New England Patriots S- While Rodney Harrison isn't shooting up / getting suspended for using steroids, he can usually be found on the Super Bowl highlight reel in one of two situations. 1) flapping his arms after a Super Bowl-winning interception of Donovan McNabb or 2) getting outjumped by a 4th string wide receiver for arguably a Super Bowl-winning 3rd down conversion. Recently voted as "the dirtiest player in the game" by an anonymous poll of NFL head coaches, Harrison continues to talk bigger than his physical abilities at the position.
Signature play: His 2002 helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice. Or any of the other personal fouls that helped Harrison to the all-time leader in that category.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Packers Trade Headache for Draft Pick

I kind of hate to do this because what can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times over? But PSB is overdue for a post anyway. So, here goes:

Brett Favre was traded to the Jets yesterday, ending his career in Green Bay, but not in the way many expected. After announcing his retirement in a teary press conference, Favre has since decided to return to the NFL. The Packers, to their credit, said enough is enough and refused to let him run their franchise any longer, trading him to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick.

It's a good deal for the Packers, who no longer have the Favre saga to deal with and can concentrate on developing Aaron Rodgers (finally). The value of the draft pick is based on how much Favre plays and how well the Jets perform. The Packers, at worst, receive a fourth-round pick. If Favre takes 50% of the Jets' snaps this season (which is virtually guaranteed), it becomes a third round pick. A playoff berth and 70% nets Green Bay and second round pick, while a Super Bowl appearance (keep dreaming Jets fans) and 80% makes it a first rounder.

This makes perfect sense for the Packers, who get pretty good value for Favre and did so without trading him to a division rival, but what is the motivation for the Jets to make this deal? Favre is an obvious upgrade over Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens, but how good does this really make the Jets? Are they a Super Bowl contender now? Hardly. Their offense should be formidable with Favre and Thomas Jones, but the receiving corps isn't exactly stellar.

Maybe Favre can turn a young Jets receiver into the next Greg Jennings, but will it even matter? The Jets were 4-12 last year. Let's say Favre is worth 6 wins, which is optimistic, especially considering he doesn't know Eric Mangini's system and the Jets don't know the West Coast offense. That puts the Jets at 10-6. With that record, the division is out of the question since the Patriots will almost certainly win 12+ games.

Last year Pittsburgh and Cleveland posted 10-6 records in the AFC and that put just the Steelers in the playoffs with the six seed. Pittsburgh was ousted in the first game, falling to Jacksonville. So this trade, at best, puts the Jets in the playoffs and sends them home after one game. Is that really worth it?

Maybe it is, as the Jets will draw some attention away from the Giants now and ought to make a killing on Favre jerseys. If the goal is for this to be a publicity stunt and generated a little excitement, then mission accomplished. But if the goal is to build a championship team, the Jets have accomplished very little.