NFL Season Recap
Okay, so I was wrong. But so were all the rest of em. Only a few self-aggrandizing jerks on NFL Network and CBS took the Giants on a whim before the Super Bowl. They took them not because they thought the G-Men could win, but because they wanted to be able to say "I told you so" if the Giants pulled off the unthinkable.
So the Pats choked. I believe their experience worked against them. Unless we're talking about physical inability caused by old age, when was the last time Super Bowl experience actually worked against a team? I can't remember any other time. It's like they had been there too many times before and knew how it was going to go: They'd be loose during media week, get their game plan down, play a hard fought game, and ride off into the Arizona sunset as undefeated champions. They'd won before the same way, so I guess they thought this year would be no different.
But... sometimes it helps to be an underdog with a chip on your shoulder. In my preview, I discussed the Patriots' "collective shoulder chip" and all of their season long "eff you" touchdowns because of Spygate and all the nonsense. But the truth is, they hadn't scored an "eff you" touchdown in weeks... since probably their last game against the Jets or Miami. There certainly weren't any against the Giants in week 17, nor in the nailbiter against Baltimore.
In addition to the original Spygate issue, the Pats had to deal with more B.S. Now that we look back, I believe that it was bothering these guys. We found out that no team, no matter how favored or experienced is above being affected by a media circus. How about this perfect storm within 3 weeks of the game: Spygate being revived by grandstanding jerkoff Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) (I rarely call Republicans jerkoffs, unless they molest Congressional pages or get involved in my sports), the infamous "Bootgate" where Tom Brady was snapped by celebrity shuttersleazes in a soft walking boot on his way to Gisele's (in New York mind you, where the enemy lives), and the restraining order against Randy Moss by a gold digger in Florida.
Oh yeah, then there was that 18-0 thing too...
Looking back it seems so clear. They weren't playing their best ball, and they were getting mentally broken down. Why couldn't I see it?
They beat two unspectacular flawed and injured teams respectively to get to the Super Bowl, and did so in a moderate fashion. If Jacksonville had any semblance of a receiving corps and any speed rushers on the outside, they'd be the New York Giants of the AFC. But alas, such is not the case.
If San Diego was totally healthy with LT, Gates, and Phil Rivers, they may have been able to beat the Pats. Unlikely, but still. If LaDanian Tomlinson was on the field jukin' and jivin' instead of sulking on the sidelines injured (how severely, we don't know), and in disguise, they'd have had a fighting chance (and still did for most of the game.)
And by the way, I wrote Bill Simmons several emails during that game about LT's costume on the sidelines. I was really hoping he'd use mine in the mailbag/preview column, but he didn't unfortunately. My material was very similar to what he wrote, but I respect the guy to damn much to accuse him of stealing my bit without credit.
It was the "Blue Darth Vader" on the sidelines, as I coined him. With his black visor, tri-pronged Darth Vader facemask, and full blue parka/cape/coat, he was definitely not LT at that point. He was like the leader of the Norv Turner cult, where everyone underperforms in a dysfunctional manner when their backs are against the wall.
Anyway, back to the Super Bowl.
Although I was all over the Pats in one huge lovefest column, I did mention how the Giants could win at least. I gave them no chance, but I'm trying to save a little face after I emailed the damn link to dozens of respected national sportswriters. Here's what I said, and at least I was right about something:
"The only way-- and I mean the only way the Giants keep this game close is by getting consistent pressure on Tom Brady and knocking him down a few times. The guy's a gamer, but he's still not used to getting hit. When timing is disrupted, stuff happens."
Man, I love that. I wish my whole column had been one big variation of that quote. Then I would've been like Steve Mariucci and Mike Wilbon: a Giant picker.
Well anyway, I was totally pissed off about the game, and I just hate the fact the Eli Manning now has something in common with Peyton Manning (other than being blood relatives), Brett Favre, and Steve Young. He won a Super Bowl. Fortunately he also has something in common with Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, and Trent Dilfer. They won a Super Bowl too.
For everyone's sake, let's just hope that he's turns out to be the latter, rather than the former. He's just sooo bitch. I still want to see a mixed martial arts cage match between Eli the baby and Phil Rivers the gamer. Yeah that's right, he's still a baby and I hate him even more now.
It was a pretty interesting season overall, and I enjoyed it mostly. It sure would help if my team was any good, but at least we've got Patrick WIllis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Nate Clements to look forward to.
So I'm going to do a recap of my preseason predictions. I can't do them all (thankfully), but I will point out some of the highs and lows. If people could perfectly predict a football season in August, there'd be no reason for life on earth. This is why we watch.
Things I got wrong
1.) Baltimore winning the Super Bowl
Wow, this was a really, really bad call. I really thought they had put together a sick roster. It turned out to be more like a sickly roster. Defections, injuries, and dysfunction surrounded this team all year, and it led to Brian Billick's dismissal. Yeah, this one was wrong.
2.) The Giants missing the playoffs, coming in last place in the NFC East and calling their defense "pathetic"
Well this looked pretty good after two games. Remember when Kiwanuka was playing outside linebacker, Eli separated his shoulder, they got blown out by the Packers and gave up like 200 points in 3 games? It's a real shame they righted their ship.
3.) The 49ers
Uh. Yeah... no this didn't work out very well.
4.) Tennessee won 10 games
I had this to say about the 10-6 Tennessee Titans:
"The Titans will be awful. Their defense is atrocious, their only decent wide receiver is Eric Moulds (in his 30s) and they have a mediocre, unsettled RB picture. Vince Young will be yet another victim of the Madden curse, and will regress as defenses adjust and hit him hard after he scampers around. The Titans will wish they had Pacman Jones after week 3. The new Kenny Chesney CD will sell a million copies for every win the Titans get this year. Let it also be known that it is a disgrace that Coach Jeff Fisher hasn't been given a contract extension."
Sooooo, I got some of it right. The receiving corps sucked, Moulds was the only decent receiver, Vince Young totally regressed, and they probably missed Pacman a little.
However, the Kenny Chesney CD was disappointing, the defense turned out to be pretty darn good, and Jeff Fisher got his extension. I still don't know how they won 10 games though... does anyone remember?
I'll give myself partial credit. Hey! At least I showed my work!
5.) Tampa Bay won 9 games
4.) The Dog Pound and Cleveland rock!
This really warms my heart. I was really happy to have the Browns exceed expectations by going 10-6. They really need that in that city. Good for them. I did give them a lot of credit for their personnel moves, but I just didn't think they would be able to put it together. Good scene.
5.) The Jets making the playoffs and matching their 2006 win total
Basically replace what I said about the Titans and Bucs in September with the Jets. Yeah, they were not good.
6.) The 49ers
7.) The Bears winnning the NFC North
Ooooh... last place. This is a bad, bad, bad football team with no future.
8.) Giving the Falcons a chance to overcome adversity and succeed to some degree
I was pulling for them, I really was. But this was a really ugly scene from the beginning to the grisly end.
9.) The 49ers
10.) The health of Moss and Stallworth
"...However, Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth had better get healthy. I just don't see the two of them combining for more than 25 games. It's a hamstring here, an ankle there, and a brilliant play every now and then."
For the record, neither missed a game.
What I got right!
1.) Wes Welker will lead the Pats in receptions
YEEEEEEEEEE HAWWWW! Not only did I nail this one, but he led the entire NFL in receptions with room to spare. Not bad for being undrafted and cut twice. Welker is one of my favorite players in the NFL. The guy is just so good. Total man crush over here. And, in case I haven't said enough about him, here's what I wrote back in September:
"Wes Welker will lead the Pats in receptions. He's quick, he's shifty, he catches the ball, and he's durable. Moss and Stallworth will draw a ton of attention, leaving little Wes to run quick slants out of the slot position. He'll soon become Brady's new best friend."
Imagine Ron Jaworski reading my sentence. I'm a genius. Pure genius.
2.) The AFC West
Yeah, I got it right beginning to end: Chargers, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders.
3.) Patrick Willis
"Patrick Willis will be the next Ray Lewis..." That's what I wrote, and it's looking pretty damn good. Hows about a Pro Bowl berth, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and leading the NFL in tackles by a wide margin? That sounds like Ray Lewis, Jr. to me. Or even better: Patrick Willis, Sr. Nice. Very nice.
4.) Predicting the Dolphins disasterous season
The only way that this season could've been worse would have involved several arrests of players, and lewd conduct with a minor by miscast weirdo head coach Cam Cameron. I just love reading stuff that's so amazingly right on (other than Ronnie Brown):
"This year's Oakland Raiders will have a long, long season. I just don't like this team one bit. Their defense is more than solid, but it will have to bring their 'A' game every week in order for this team to eek out a 6-10 record (if that). Trent Green, as much as I love the guy, is on his last legs in this league. There's nothing wrong with his arm, but his legs will be a factor behind a suspect offensive line. I expect him to take a pounding. Couple that with career underachiever Chris Chambers, and the overrated Ted Ginn Jr. and the disappointing Ronnie Brown, and you've got a bad offense, and a bad football team-- a perfect fit for the worst sports town in America."
5.) Predicting the Rams' disasterous season
I love it when the Niners' rivals suffer. It just makes a man feel good:
"...Not even Steven Jackson's beastly production can save this team from last place. This team is going nowhere this year. Their defense is terrible, and they will get shredded playing in the NFC West."
6.) Both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor will amass 1,000 rushing yards
Well, Chester Taylor only had 844 yards (yeah only... that's more than the leading rushers of the Texans, Falcons, Bengals, Dolphins, etc.). Adrian Peterson chipped in 1,300+ yards as well. I'm giving myself a big pat on the back about this one.
6.5) The Lions won't have a 1,000 yard rusher
I'm not even going to celebrate this. My grandmother could've picked this one. Terrible.
7.) The Carolina Panthers
Man I am so right on.
"This team is full of dysfunction. They have disappointed everyone two years in a row, and if we're expecting anything different, we are mistaken or insane. I'm not a fan of Jake Delhomme. Sure I'm down with the whole Bayou Cajun thing, but as a quarterback, he's mediocre. Hopefully having David Carr behind him has given him a sense of urgency. On the other hand, that urgency could lead him to throw a few more picks. I don't like this running game either. I've never liked DeShaun Foster, and I'm not sold on DeAngelo Williams either. They do have Steve Smith and Keyshawn-in-training Dwayne Jarrett though. As long as Steve Smith gets the ball, they can scrounge up 100 yards rushing per game as a team, and the defense keeps things close, they will do okay-- but we're talking just okay."
8.) Predicting the rise of Buffalo's Trent Edwards and the Jets' Kellen Clemens
"I've never been a believer in JP Losman, and unless he beasts around this year, I never will be. Apparently Stanford's Trent Edwards has been very impressive thus far, and retread head coach Dick Jauron has no loyalty to Losman, a pick of the previous regime."
"Kellen Clemens will take the QB job from Pennington for good if he gets hurt."
9.) The Philadelphia Eagles
"The A-gles will be pretty bitch this year. Even if you take away the Donovan McNabb factor I think this team has a lot of holes. They have an underachieving defensive line, and even big name veterans like Takeo Spikes won't help change the average-ness of the D. McNabb admitted that he's not 100%. No shit. It takes longer than 8 or 9 months to recover from a torn ACL. I should know. Anyway, they still don't have a real pounding running back (Westbrook seems to catch more passes than he receives handoffs), and the receiving corps is Reggie Brown and a bunch of scrubs. When (not if) McNabb gets hurt, Philly fans have Kevin Kolb and AJ Feely to look forward to. Nice."
10.) The Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Kansas City Chiefs
Just read. They're all right on.
"The Raiders will be among the worst teams in football again this year. We'll find out for sure when they take on the Matt Millen's Detroit Lions in week 1. Even though Daunte Culpepper will vastly improve their offense (impossible for it to get any worse) and couple it to a playoff-ready defense, I'd say that 5-11 is the ceiling for this team. The JaMarcus Russell situation is a complete embarrassment, and it really exposes the Raiders for the truly mediocre, classless organization that it is. Al Davis has been completely senile for 5 years and somebody should put him in a home."
"I don't know that the Bengals will disappoint, but I just don't see them doing that well in this division. Their defense is not very formidable, and I wouldn't be surprised if battering ram Rudi Johnson starts breaking down a bit. Of course, it's hard to bet against Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, and TJ Howzmazouli/House-Man-Douche/Whosyourmama, but I just think that they will suffer a lot of stupid losses. And by losses, I don't mean arrests and suspensions, but what's the over/under on Bengals arrests this season? I'd say 2.5."
"Kansas City was praying to the football gods that Brodie Croyle was ready to play in this league. A disastrous preseason proved otherwise. I'm not sure if calling Damon Huard your starting QB is a team's worst nightmare, but it's definitely not a dream scenario. This along with a porous defense, a declining offensive line, and an overworked Larry Johnson will make this a long, long season for the Chiefs."
There you have it folks. I'm a genius. Plus I'm a helluva lot more likeable than Sean Salsbury or Merril Hoge. I should totally be on ESPN.
MLB column coming up soon...