Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scoreboard Nightmares

@Steelers 37

Bucs 24

My scoreboard dreams usually don't end well.  In my freshman year of high school, a few days before the homecoming football game, I had a dream that a saw a scoreboard reading Boyne City 43, Harbor Springs 0, Halftime. That Saturday, I watched our varsity team fall behind 42-0 at halftime. During mid-August 2007, shortly before my sophomore year of college, I had another scoreboard dream, this one reading Appalachian State 30, Michigan 29, Final. When I woke up from that one and realized that the game was still more than two weeks ago, I thought that I'd dodged a bullet. With those examples in mind, you can imagine my apprehension when I woke up yesterday morning from a dream where I'd been watching the Lions-Bucs game on TV, and Tampa Bay 60, Detroit 6, Qtr. 4 popped up on the screen. The all-knowing subconscious may have badly overshot the score on this one, but knowing how the real thing turned out, frankly I would have preferred the one from the dream.

Over the past two weeks, our Bromothymols have wasted more opportunities to vanquish their rivals than Lord Voldemort. Without curious coaching decisions, untimely screw-ups, inexplicable offensive dry spells, and TURNOVERS, the NFC North race would be pretty much over. Green Bay and Chicago were (and still are) hovering somewhere between life and death, the DTLs are as healthy as they've been in years, and with two consecutive squibs sitting on the pre-Thanksgiving schedule, this thing could have been done. Golden opportunity to be 8-3 and squeeze the remaining life out of Green Bay on Thursday. Yet, we get this last week and this today, and suddenly it's a race to the bottom, as nobody seems to want to win this division. Certainly, nobody seems to want it less than the Lions at this point.

I wish today's game was just a case of the DTLs overlooking an inferior foe and getting stymied by a scrappy bunch of fighters who were just giving more effort out there. That would be pretty disheartening on its own, but I honestly wish that were the case. The even sadder truth here is that Tampa Bay tried just as hard to lose this one, if not harder! You have Rian Lindell blowing two fourth quarter field goals, Mike Glennon taking sacks at the wrong times, Mark Barron with at least three bad penalties, Darrelle Revis limping off with an injury, Greggy Boy Schiano twice throwing the challenge flag on unreviewable plays, even recovering a blocked punt at the 10 and getting no points out of it. No one was more surprised than Leonard Johnson when Wormtail Pettigrew ducked out of the way on a risky but certainly catchable Stafford pass, taking the gift interception for an easy TD to steal the lead at halftime. It's not like anyone asked Kris Durham to throw the ball back onto the field before going out of bounds. The Bucs seemed to do an admirable job of leaving Calvin Johnson wide open despite double teaming him on the deciding play of the game...but no. Would they have just been better off if Staffford had thrown it out of bounds and let Akers shank away the field goal on the next play? Probably.

Two weeks ago, I was salivating at the thought of playing the Packers on Thanksgiving with no Aaron Rodgers. Two horrible, let me rephrase that, horrible losses and one Matt Flynn resurrection from the dead later, I'm not so sure that's even a good thing anymore, because (a) at least a loss to Aaron Rodgers would be respectable, and (b) my memories are still fresh from the last time the DTLs faced Matt Flynn. On paper, Detroit would still seemingly appear to have the upper hand, but as the old saying goes, if you can't beat a short-handed Greggy Boy Schiano team at home, who can you beat?

Deja Vu (I thought)

Going into today's game, I was struck by the amount of similarities that it had with the Carolina game from the 2011 season:

- A crucial Thanksgiving clash against Green Bay is four days away
- Lions playing at home, trying to get their 7th win of the season
- Facing a 2 win team from the NFC South
- Opponent is starting a rookie quarterback who has played surprisingly well, but without it translating into victories for the team
- Lions coming off of a bad loss on the road, where they played in rough weather conditions and gave up 37 points

In that 2011 game, the Lions fell behind 24-7 in the first half, with Stafford throwing some bad interceptions. They came back with a furious second half rally, eventually winning 49-35, but I couldn't help feeling like they wasted a little too much energy and emotion that they would need in the Green Bay game. I wanted the opposite today. My wishful thinking to Nitch this morning was that they just build up an early 4 touchdown lead, let the reserves salt it away, and get ready to wrestle back pole position in the NFC North on Thursday. By halftime, I would have gladly settled for a 2011 repeat, even if it would prevent saving some energy and emotion up for Green Bay. By the 4th quarter, I was begging Rian Lindell to miss his field goals. He gladly obliged, and it still wasn't enough. I should be sitting here talking about how Dom Suh and Ziggy Ansah got the boys out of a tough spot with their dominating play up front. Or how DeAndre Levy is playing like he wants to fake an injury in a few months to get out of playing in the Pro Bowl. Or even how Matthew Stafford wasn't very sharp all day, but doggone it he got the job done when they really needed it. Alas, we've got a little situation on our hands now.

Debunking a Few Myths

1. The Myth of the Off-setting Penalties-- Today was the second time this year when a Lions player and a player on the opposition each got called for penalties, that supposedly off-set each other, but that in reality hurt the Lions much more. Against the Bengals, a pair of off-setting penalties wiped away a crucial 18 yard yard catch midway through the fourth quarter that would have put them in range for a go-ahead field goal. Today, a similar situation wiped away a 16 yard scramble by Stafford on the final drive of the first half. When I hear that penalties off-set each other, it evokes a certain "no harm, no foul" feeling. Since each team committed penalty, they should wipe each other away and the result of the play stands. As it is, since the entire play itself gets erased, whichever team did better on the play is actually the one that takes the brunt of the penalty. The second thing that is wrong with this rule is that penalties for different amounts of yardage will still offset each other. For example, if the defense commits a facemask (15 yards) and the offense is called for holding (10 yards), shouldn't the result be that the offense gets 5 yards out of the deal? In fact since pass interference is a spot foul, a five yard penalty from the offense could potentially wipe away a 40 or 50 yard pass interference penalty from the defense. That doesn't sound very off-setting to me, and it figures that the DTLs have came up on the short end of the rule twice on key possessions in close losses this year.

2. The Myth of the "Must Win Game"-- Saying that a team's next game is a "Must Win" is the NFL equivalent to a "two possession game" in the NCAA tournament. It's a chronically overused phrase that really doesn't mean a whole lot and is often applied incorrectly anyway. Now just to clarify, there is such thing as a "Must Win Game". That's a game where a team needs to win or else they are officially eliminated from contention for whatever championship they're trying to win. In the NFL, this phrase has been watered down to include just about any team that gets off to a disappointing 3-4 start. If you lose a "Must Win" game, but can still win your other games and be fine, than it must not have needed to win it all that bad to begin with. I imagine a lot of beat writers are going to categorize the Thanksgiving game as Must Win for the DTLs. Kornheiser and Wilbon will probably debate on PTI whether it is or isn't. I'll end the debate right now. It isn't. If the Lions lose to Green Bay, they can still finish 10-6 and win the division, as unlikely as it would seem. Instead of "Must Win" game, for the sake of correctness they need to rename this type of scenario the "game that would really, really, really suck to lose" game.

Which is fitting, because that's exactly the type of game I watched today.

What I wouldn't give for a Lions 34, Packers 3, Final scoreboard dream right about now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Score 109 (or even 138!!!) Points in a Basketball Game

I've been happily rooting against Michigan State basketball for the past 20 years, but I think I may have unintentionally found my new least favorite basketball team: Grinnell College, straight out of Division 3.

Grinnell guard Jack Taylor scored 109 points in a game the other night, and 138 in a game last year, and the media is absolutely eating this crap up, crapping it back out, and then eating the re-processed crap right back up again. The whole spectacle is embarrassing in so many ways, and most of the columnists I've seen who are criticizing this complete sham are missing the whole point because they (a) only looked at the 'total points' section of the box score (b) didn't watch the video of either game (c) don't know anything about basketball, and (d) all of the above. When my brother texted me on Sunday, "Looks like Grinnell is at it again", I sardonically responded "Grinnell is the type of team that Rick Reilly would like". Sure enough, this shows up on the front page of espn.com today. While it's not Jack Taylor's fault that this illegitimate freak show which only vaguely represents sport took place, as a willing accomplice in letting himself become something of a Quasimodo-esque king of fools, he can share some of blame (or credit, depending on how you look at it) that I've mostly reserved for Grinnell's coaches, the David Arsenaults Jr. and Sr.

I want to make it clear that there was nothing spontaneous, impressive, historic, cool, fun, or even exciting about Taylor's 138 and 109 point performances. This was a carefully planned publicity stunt drummed up by the Arsenaults to get some attention (and sell a few books, as Gregg Doyle notes at cbssports.com, in one of the few Jack Taylor articles that comes close to hitting the nail on the head) and continue their lifelong mission of bastardizing the game of basketball as much as it is in their power to do. The casual observer looks at the absurd point tally and thinks that an incredible basketball player got into 'the Zone', things started getting a little out of hand, and suddenly this magical feat was brought to life. Incorrect. I'm not going to say that anyone could have done what Jack Taylor did, given the right conditions, but it's honestly not as hard as you might think. Here's how to do it, in six easy steps.

Step 1: Predetermine that one player is going to score almost all of the points and take all of the shots. He's allowed to chuck up a shot at any time he wants, and all of his teammates need to set picks, pass up wide open shots for themselves, and get the ball to him.
Here's what I mean when I say that this wasn't at all spontaneous. I watched some of the video and student broadcast of the 138 point game, and very early in the game (maybe even when it was still pregame, I don't remember), the nerdy student announcers brought up that the gameplan for Grinnell was to try to set this new scoring record. It was well known even around campus that Jack Taylor was going to do all the scoring, and that Faith Baptist College was just the team to do it against.

Step 2: Scour the entire country for the absolute worst team you can find, and schedule a home game against them.
This is probably the most important step. Grinnell is a tiny NCAA Division 3 team, but might as well be the Miami Heat as far as these pigeon opponents are concerned. Crossroads isn't even in the NCAA. In fact, they're not even in the NCAA's red-headed stepchild, the NAIA (which has two divisions). Crossroads plays in the National Christian College Athletic Association, the NCCAA. In fact, they don't even play in Division 1 of the National Christian College Athletic Association, they're D2. This essentially equates to Division 7 college basketball, and that's before you even figure in all of the junior college and community college teams out there. There's less of a gap between Kansas and Grinnell than there is between Grinnell and Crossroads. By the way, Crossroads is 0-10 on the season. In Division 7. Kuyper College put up 116 on Crossroads, RCTC (I have no guesses as to what that could even stand for) lit them up for 105, The College of Faith hung an even 100 on them. This game somehow counts in the official standings for Grinnell. Out of thousands of teams, Crossroads just might be the worst team in the United States who can consider themselves a "college basketball" team.

Step 3: Tell your scorer not to play defense. In fact, tell him not to even cross halfcourt.
I haven't seen the full game footage of Jack Taylor's 109 point outing (along with everybody else) , but Doyle's critique points out there was an 11-minute stretch where Taylor crossed the midcourt line exactly one time. There was a possession where Crossroads had a 2-on-1 break against Taylor up until halfcourt, where Taylor just stopped and gave up the 2-on-none for a wide open layup which they probably missed anyway. This isn't some punk getting lazy on defense. This is part of the Arsenaults master plan to save his energy and get him a few extra uncontested looks so they can set some hollow and meaningless records and expect to be applauded for it.

Step 4: Your designated shooter needs to get really hot from behind the arc.
Scratch that actually, no he doesn't. He doesn't even need to shoot it that well, he just needs to shoot it a lot. Jack Taylor missed 44 threes against Faith Baptist, going 27 for 71 from three-point range on the game. The basic law of averages is on the Arsenaults side here, I'll admit. If the opponent sucks enough that your entire game plan is one big joke, you can let the same guy shoot it almost every time, and he doesn't even need to make a very high percentage, and he'll still get the points. A lot of the criticisms by people who don't know better are trying to call Jack Taylor a ballhog. That's not the case here. The Arsenaults have him designated as the ballhog for the games where they want to whore themselves out for some attention.

Step 5: Give up dozens of freebie layups to the other team, just so no time runs off the clock and you can get more possessions.
A guy for Faith Baptist scored 70 against Grinnell. A guy for Crossroads put up 50 on Sunday. Is it because these guys are really awesome basketball players, almost as awesome as the great Jack Taylor? No, it's because they were given free layups anytime the Grinnell press didn't force a turnover in the first few seconds of the possession. For the Faith Baptist player, his 34 for 44 shooting night looks pretty good on paper, but by my estimations, that means he must have botched 10 wide open layups.

Step 6: Let the media outlets run with it, and hope that no one realizes how idiotic and unimpressive the whole thing is.
The Arsenaults insist that people like me are taking this thing too seriously, and that they're just out there to try and have a little fun (and sell their stupid "the System" book of course).

Who is this supposed to be fun for? I pulled this stunt when I was like ten and playing some garbage Sega game called NBA Action '95. I put the difficulty on Rookie mode and let Clyde Drexler run wild (Clyde Drexler of all people). It was mildly amusing for awhile, Clyde scored about 120 points in the game, and I got bored midway through the third quarter and never did it again. I mean, the Arsenaults are obviously pretty pleased with themselves, as is Jack Taylor. Is it fun for Crossroads? For Faith Baptist Bible College? For the other Grinnell players? The video of the 138 point game is actually so boring that I skipped around and only watched for about 15 minutes or so. Based on the fact that the Grinnell gymnasium  isn't anywhere close to being filled in either of the videos I saw, this brand of basketball must not be quite as compelling for the fans as it's made out to be.

Since the Arsenaults are so concerned with just having some fun, regardless of the hollowness of their accomplishments and the humiliation it created for their patsies, here's a proposition that I think could be "fun": Kansas schedules a game with Grinnell, runs their own version of "the System", Andrew Wiggins goes off for about 250 or so, and then him and Bill Self can strut around like we should all be proud of them or something. If you think I'm exaggerating with that number, consider that a guy for a Crossroads team that can barely run without tripping over their shoelaces already burned them for 50 this year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Official Unauthorized AFC Midseason Report

New England (7-2) Part of the reason I love living in Boston is because it's such a great sports city. However, it's pretty annoying to hear people grumbling because this year's 7-2 Pats aren't quite as good as all the other 9-0, 8-1, and 7-2 Pats teams that they've enjoyed for the past decade.
New York Jets (5-4) When the Jets won their second game back in Week 3, I stashed a joke away that congratulated them for already surpassing their expected win total for the season. Even more shocking than the team's relative competency is that Mark Sanchez has yet to throw an interception this year. The overachieving Jets are likely going to be right in the thick of the playoff race until the very end, and for the franchise that prematurely ended both Matthew Stafford and Jason Hanson's seasons in the same game in 2010 (remember Dom Suh kicking that extra point?), they already have five more wins than they deserve.
Miami (4-5) For the 2013 Dolphins, first they got Incognitoed, and then they went out and lost to Greggy Boy Schiano and the Buccaneers. The words 'downward spiral' and 'potentially winless second half of the season' come to mind. The silver lining here as that for the 1972 Dolphins, they have a major opportunity to "get all Miami Dolphins" this weekend when the Chiefs and Broncos square off (see Kansas City section if you're confused).
Buffalo (3-7) The Bills can do some good for the world by knocking off the Jets this weekend, but other than this one chance to play spoiler, they're looking at a second half of irrelevancy. Their remaining games are against teams who will be either long removed from the playoff picture by the time they play (Falcons, Bucs, Jags, Dolphins) or long removed from wrapping up another division title (Pats in Week 17). Of course, pulling off a string of wins against the dregs of the league could possibly sneak Buffalo into the playoffs at 8-8, but I'm not about to make that leap of faith.

If I had to make a prediction: I would bet the farm that the Patriots win the division and a few cows that the Dolphins finish 5-11. Unfortunately, I own neither.

Kansas City (9-0) And here we have it, the final team standing in the way of the '72 Dolphins getting all Miami Dolphins--in short, celebrating the misfortune of an otherwise perfect season from a player or team, in order to protect one's own legacy. Some members of the undefeated '72 Dolphins team famously get together every season to pop champagne and celebrate whenever the final undefeated team loses, leaving themselves as the only NFL team to ever accomplish the feat. The origin of the phrase dates back to when me and my brother had this challenge on the Sega Genesis, where we took turns trying to get through all of Sonic 2 without losing a single life. After months of trying, neither of us gotten anywhere close to pulling it off, until one day I got on a roll and was perfect all the way to the Wing Fortress Zone, 1 1/2 levels away from Sonic immortality. Hands shaking as I gripped the controller, I just barely overshot the hanging chin-up bar underneath the ship, and tumbled out of the sky to Sonic's first death of the game. My brother, being the sportsman that he is, then ran around the living room wildly celebrating my defeat. "Getting all Miami Dolphins?", I asked. It was a rhetorical question, I knew full well what the answer was.
Denver (8-1) The Miami Dolphining ought to commence this weekend, when the Chiefs travel to Mile High. I don't think there's anyone who really thinks KC is the better team here, despite their current spot atop the West. Denver has played a tougher schedule and has obliterated nearly everything in its path. I would also venture to guess that Tom Brady is rooting pretty hard against Peyton Manning's quest to break the single season passing touchdowns record.
San Diego (4-5) When me and my brother are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for funny-text material, Phillip Rivers can usually be made into a decent enough punchline for us. Not necessarily this year though; Rivers is right near the top of the league in almost every QB statistical category, and while his strong play isn't exactly correlating with Chargers victories, I don't think we can in good conscience place the blame on him this time. I'd say that San Diego still holds some outside hope for the final Wild Card spot, but they still have three games remaining against teams who are a combined 26-1.
Oakland (3-6) When your leading rusher is Terrelle Pryor and your leading passer is his best friend, Terrelle Pryor, 3-6 is about as good as you can logically hope for.

If I had to make a prediction: I'd say Bob Griese and Larry Csonka will be pretty pleased with themselves come Sunday evening, and Denver fans will pre-order another 10,000 "Super Bowl Champions" t-shirts.

Indianapolis (6-3) On the whole, things are getting pretty bizarre over in the AFC South, and it starts with the Colts. They have arguably all three of the most impressive wins out of any team in the league this year, giving both Seattle and Denver their only losses so far, and winning by three touchdowns at San Francisco. What in the world happened last Sunday then? How do you lose to the Rams, at home, by 30? Not that it matters, the rest of this division is an absolute mess.
Tennessee (4-5) Don't you hate it when you go into the office on Monday, and everyone asks how your weekend was? You know what, maybe that's just me, but the point remains: imagine how much worse it would be if the answer you had to give was, "well, my quarterback is out for the season, oh and I lost to one of the worst NFL teams ever, how was yours?"
Houston (2-7) If not for an epic second half collapse by the Phillip Riverses and an overtime squeaker over the Titans, this team would be 0-9 right now. That can't be good Arian Foster's shareholders.
Jacksonville (1-8) Boy, I turn away for one minute, and suddenly Jacksonville isn't winless anymore! Good for them. I'm assuming Denard Robinson must have thrown for 300 and a couple touchdowns and ran for 150 and two more, right?

If I had to make a prediction: Indy obviously wins the division, but in unspectacular fashion, which leaves them stuck with Kansas City in the first round. Jacksonville ends up with three wins, and it's all because of Denard.

Cincinnati (6-4) I think this year's Bengals can be looked at as a near perfect AFC counterpart to the Lions, which is fitting because the two teams both currently have a precarious lead atop the North division, and they played a very even game back in October, won by Cincy on the final play. Andy Dalton is the Stafford, AJ Green is the slightly worse version of Calvin, and Vontaze Burfict is the defensive superstar putting together a very strong season while trying to shed his image as a dirty player and borderline psychotic, a la Dom Suh. The Bengals should be cheering for the DTLs down the stretch as well, since Lions wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh would give them a little more margin for error in the division, and the DTLs can thank them for the epic Packers collapse in Week 2.

Cleveland (4-5) I'm rooting for Cleveland to continue treading water long enough to snatch that final Wild Card spot.  Whoever ends up getting it will be a most unworthy candidate either way, so I suppose it's better the Browns than the Jets, Ravens, or Titans (this could come back to bite me later on, but let's not pretend Miami is even still in the conversation).

Baltimore (4-5) At this moment, the Ravens team lawyers are probably meticulously poring through document after document, searching for some loophole that will get them out of their Joe Flacco contract. With that said, out of the 5-4/4-5 teams, they still look to me like the team in the best position to find their way into the playoffs (since division champ and wild card are both still viable routes for them), where Joe Flacco has won at least one game every year in his career.

Pittsburgh (3-6) And with the final team of this midyear report, we've come to the next opponent for the DTLs. The irony of the moment is that the defensive coordinator tasked with finding a way to slow down Calvin this Sunday happens to be Lions' all-time interceptions leader, Dick LeBeau. As I mentioned in my last post, this week is a textbook trap game for the DTLs. It's not hard to reach the consensus that the Steelers suck this year, but the unknown factor here is how the Lions will respond coming off two straight emotional wins that went down to the final minute. I'm worried that they come out completely flat against Pittsburgh, and have a big special teams mishap that will even out the clear talent disparity between the teams.

If I had to make a prediction: I'd say the Lions disappoint us at Pittsburgh, but make up for it in the Monday night game against Baltimore in December. Baltimore comes back and steals the division, and Cincinnati slides into the up-for-grabs Wild Card spot.

For H-Bromo's NFC report, CLICK HERE

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Different Same Old Lions

@ Bears 19

Officers and Cadets, we've reached that rare point where I can say without the smallest trace of irony, "So what if Michigan football is a total piece of crap this year, at least we still have the Lions to look forward to". It's looking more and more like this year will be the first time since 1995 that the DTLs have won more games than the Wolverines, despite playing 3 to 5 more games every season.

Today's win at Chicago was huge for more reasons than one. First off, it puts the Lions alone in first place at 6-3. This is the first time since the NFC North division was created in 2002 that they have been in first place (alone or tied) at any point in the second half of the season. In a season where exorcising the demons of past ineptitude is becoming more and more of a theme, this is a significant milestone. With the Packers offense looking utterly incompetent without Aaron Rodgers, this incredibly could be a 2 or even 3 game lead atop the division by the time Green Bay comes to town for Thanksgiving (it's anyone's guess whether Rodgers will make it back in time for that game. Cutler probably came back a few weeks too early today). Pittsburgh played well at home today, so a hiccup after today's emotional road win certainly wouldn't shock anyone, but a home date against Greggy Boy Schiano's Buccaneers the next week should have the DTLs at worst at 7-4 and in first place for the Thanksgiving game. Additionally, the win today gives the DTLs the season sweep and therefore the tie-breaker over Chicago in case the Bears get hot when Cutler gets back to full strength and the two teams happen to finish the season tied for the lead. 

Finally, I think the way the Lions managed to hold on today speaks volumes about their determination to set themselves apart from past promising Lions teams who completely folded anytime the moment got a little too big for them. Let's be honest, the boys made one Same Old Lions mistake after another while clinging to that 4th quarter lead today, more than enough to blow this game, but every time they did something stupid, they immediately came back to make a big play and atone for these mistakes. Every time. Let's take a look at the biggest ones:
- Leading 14-10 early in the 4th quarter, the Bears offense is going nowhere, with Cutler uncomfortable against a swarming rush. It's looking more and more like their only chance to score again will be via a key turnover that gives them the ball deep in Lions territory. Sure enough, Stafford badly overthrows Calvin on third down, the Bears pick him off and return it inside the red zone. What happens next? The defense stands tall and forces a field goal. Stafford marches the offense down the field on the very next possession.
- Leading 14-13 midway through the 4th, Stafford leads a very strong drive to get the Bromos down to the Bears 17. Fauria commits the nearly unheard-of offensive face mask penalty to pretty much ruin any hopes of a touchdown. They still manage to stay in range for an easy enough 44 yard field goal which would force Chicago to score a touchdown. Akers hooks it, and Jay Cutler and company take over with good field position. What happens next? The defense stands tall again and forces a three and out.
- Still clinging to a one point lead, Stafford leads them down the field again. Reggie Bush caps off a 100 yard day with some timely inside runs for first downs. On third and ten, Stafford lobs a beautiful toss over Peanut Tillman's burnt business for Calvin's second touchdown catch of the day and an eight point lead.
- Leading 21-13 with just over two minutes left, backup QB Josh McCown comes in cold, needing to go eighty yards just to give the team a chance. Getting a first down right away is usually crucial to get any kind of confidence and rhythm in a late game drive, and Fairley makes it easy with a stupid 15 yard penalty to get the Bears in business. What happens next? The defense buckles down and makes a stop on third down near mid-field.
- 4th and 1, with a chance to salt the game away with a stop, the d-line gets no push because they jumped offsides (I think it was Fairley) and had to retreat to avoid getting flagged. With no pressure, McCown easily completes a pass to keep his team alive. He later finds Brandon Marshall in the end zone with 40 seconds left to make it 21-19.
- Leading 21-19, all the DTLs need to do is stop the 2-point conversion and they can sneak away with the win. And they stop it, rushing McCown and forcing a desperate heave out of the end zone...but Willie Young hits McCown late and gives the Bears one more chance, this time from the 1. What happens next? The defense stands tall yet again. Fairley powers through with the biggest play of his Lions career to date and mauls Matt Forte behind the line of scrimmage, and then Walks Like the Packers all the way up the field to celebrate. I have been a rather vocal critic of Fairley (though he clearly doesn't need my approval), but all the same, I give the guy credit. He made some big plays today.

Moving Forward

Next week should officially cement Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson as the greatest QB/WR combo in franchise history. Calvin's 2 touchdowns today give him 63 in his Lions career, passing Herman Moore as the club's all-time leader. Staff will have to wait one more week to reach his own milestone, but he now is only 72 yards away from taking the large step towards reversing the curse of Bobby Layne and becoming the team's all-time leader in passing yardage. That's at the age of 25, and despite two injury shortened seasons. Staff is the best quarterback in the history of the franchise, and as long as he can stay healthy, he's still another two or three years away from even entering his prime.

It's not saying much, but this year overall is probably the best that I've ever seen the Bromos offensive line play. They've only allowed ten sacks in the first nine games, and they've done a good job of opening up some running lanes for Reggie and Joique Bell at key times throughout the first half of the season. It's difficult for a fan to properly analyze the play of offensive lineman because you don't always know what you're looking for (for instance, I have no idea why Lewan from Michigan is ranked so high on people's draft boards, from where I'm sitting, he looks just as bad if not worse than the rest of that pathetic unit), but  mid-round draft pick Larry Warford especially has seemed to me to be very steady in there as a rookie starter--no penalties, protecting the QB, opening up the run game. Watching him and Reiff develop on the O-line should be...well, exciting clearly isn't the right word, but you get the idea.

Next week the DTLs go on the road again, this time to the land of the Little, Yellow, Flayyygs. For the first month of the season, Pittsburgh matched their Terrible Towels with an equally terrible football team, but following their trip to London, they've gone 3-2 and shut down Buffalo today. The Steelers defense has already allowed 40 and 34 points in losses to Chicago and Minnesota, so hopefully the trend will continue and culminate in a third straight loss to an NFC North foe. It would be understandable if Detroit came out flat at Pittsburgh, following today's emotional road win against their oldest rivals. Then again, this edition of the Same Old Lions does look a little bit different.

By the way, I still owe you guys an AFC Midseason Report.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Official Unauthorized NFC Midseason Report

Disclaimer #1: Outside of Lions games, I'm not necessarily a big NFL fan. If I'm in a good enough mood, I'll sometimes catch a little bit of the 4:15 time slot, usually the Pats. I watch some of the playoffs, and I generally know enough about what's going on around the league to keep up a conversation.
Disclaimer #2: At this delicate point in the season, I'm going to try to keep all Richie Incognito jokes to a minimum. As was revealed this week, not only is Richie not the good person, but it also seems that Pops Incognito maintains a pretty prominent message board presence in regards to his son, so I need to be careful in case he wants to like, fight me or something. 

Now that we have that out in the open, let's waste no more time in delving into the only NFL midseason report that you could probably do without! Every team gets a few sentences or so, unless I feel that there are some interesting but probably only partially true tangents that I need to go off on. If you're like me and are an avid hate-reader of the Dan Brown books, this format should seem familiar.
The Unknown.
Opus Dei.

Dallas (5-4) Dallas is a dwarf among midgets in the NFC East this year; they're not really that good, but I think they'll end up as a prime example of why division winners shouldn't automatically get a home playoff game
Philadelphia (4-5) Around Week 4, the Chip Kelly experiment looked like it had all the makings of another Eagles "Dream Team" fiasco. A few games later, we have guys like Nick Foles throwing 7 touchdowns in a game. Stay tuned with this Philly team.
Washington (3-5) Another slow starting team that is starting to gain a little bit of traction. Robert Griffin III is slowly getting healthier for a team that hasn't yet peaked, but from where I sit, that defense is just too crappy to pull them out of this one.
New York Giants (2-6) My dreams of the Mannings going 0-16 and 16-0 in the same season were dashed, and the idiotic Boston Public Schools calendar is going to keep me from getting into Detroit in time to catch the Lions give a beatdown to the Giants on the weekend before Christmas.

If I had to make a prediction: I'd say that the Dallas vs Philly game in Week 17 is going to be a defacto play-in game, and the Cowboys pull it off this time around.

Detroit (5-3) After Chicago's upset over Green Bay on Monday, the DTLs suddenly find themselves in a 3-way tie for first in the division. They're a mix between a poor man's Broncos and a rich man's Same Old Lions. With an uncharacteristically soft schedule this year, that should be good for double digit wins.
Green Bay (5-3) Aaron Rodgers's injury just made things very interesting. The Packers were holding up well despite injuries to just about everybody else, but I have a hard time believing they can be at all successful until he gets back.
Chicago (5-3) Bears vs Bromos this Sunday is huge. Cutler may or may not be back from his groin injury, and the Bears have had brutal end of season stretches over the last two years to derail promising starts.
Minnesota (1-7) Mel "Tall Hair "Kiper feels that the Vikings are tanking on purpose so they can get Andrew Wiggins in next year's draft.

If I had to make a prediction: I'll say it, all the dominoes really seem to be tipping in favor of the DTLs right now. 2nd place in the division backs into the playoffs at 9-7.

New Orleans (6-2) If I were a Saints fan, I would be pissed that the Pelicans stole their fleur de lis and stuck it on their crappy Atlanta Hawks knockoff logo. I'm not even remotely a stakeholder in whatever New Orleans feels like doing with its basketball franchise, but they missed a huge chance to usher in a major paradigm shift in the world of sports team bird logos. The Baltimore Orioles have the best bird sports team logos out there, because they don't try to take their bird logo too seriously. You know, they've got that cartoonish bird wearing his favorite ball cap and vikesing it (liking it, as most know it). By the way, in real life, orioles are total bastards, but you'd never know it from Baltimore's logo. The Pelicans blew their big chance to pull a similar style makeover at the NBA level, having a cartoon pelican vikesing it, maybe with a basketball inside of his humongous beak/fish holder. Oh well, that's Anthony Davis's problem now, not mine.
Carolina (5-3) People love to hate Cam Newton; I kind of hate to love him, the guy is exciting. 5-1 in their last six games, Cam has lifted the Panthers into one of the hottest teams in the league right now. I worry a little bit because they might be the DTLs main competition for a Wild Card spot if it comes to that, but Carolina also has a brutal schedule coming up, with two games left against New Orleans, one at San Francisco, and one against New England.
Atlanta (2-6) I'm sure I'm not the only one who is surprised at how bad they've been. Rembert Browne can give you the specifics I bet.
Tampa Bay (0-8) It's hard to say what Greggy Boy Schiano hates more: Josh Freeman, or being a coach in the NFL. He managed to get one of those things out of his life, and it shouldn't be too much longer before he takes care of the other. Blowing a 21 point lead against the next team on this list isn't a surprise so much as getting a 21 point lead in the first place is.

If I had to make a prediction: New Orleans makes up for the Pelicans' uninspired logo choice and wins the division,  Cam Newton unfortunately slips back to .500 and misses out on his first playoff appearance after facing a gauntlet of elite teams during the second half. Greggy Boy Schiano does not finish the season.

Seattle (8-1) I don't know much Seahawks, so I went to my friend Scozz for this one. His thoughts are in italics.
On the so-called 12th man (aren't they blatantly stealing this concept from Texas A&M?): "has never been as LOUD. A Guinness World Record 136.6 decibels."
On Pete Carroll: "already a local legend. His energy and intensity is infectious…changed the Hawks' atmosphere."
On Russell Wilson: "In Russ We Trust."
On Richard Sherman and "the Legion of Boom": "All you can ask is, 'U mad bro?'"
"This combination has actually made free agents want to come to Seattle, which has always been hard for all Seattle sports teams."
This is definitely a Super Bowl or Bust type of situation for Seattle, expectations and excitement are as high as they've ever been in the Pacific Northwest.
San Francisco (6-2) Something seems kind of anti-climactic about the 49ers so far this year. Good record, but they've been kind of sluggish. They had back-to-back two touchdown losses early on, but have won every other game. Are they just biding their time until the postseason rolls around, or is the Jim Harbaugh starting to annoy his own team as much as he does everyone else's?
Arizona (4-4) This year's Cardinals team stands out only in its mediocrity. I don't have much more to say except that they're kind of good. They're the Maroon 5 of the NFL right now, and playing the part of Adam Levine, we have perhaps the most somewhat decent quarterback of his generation, Carson Palmer. Barring a major "Wake Up Call", they have 14th pick in the draft written all over them.
Saint Louis (3-6) Doesn't it look weird to see St. Louis spelled out with no abbreviation? Casual NFL fan as I am, it is certainly not a good sign that Sam Bradford is the only player that I can say with absolute certainty plays for the Rams. And isn't he hurt right now anyway? And didn't they call Brett Favre to see if he wanted to come play for them? Or maybe I'm thinking of another elaborate Greg Schiano scheme to try and get himself fired. And at this point, just how bad must Timmy Tebow be if 44 year-old wearer of winter hats on top of baseball caps Brett Favre is getting more offers from NFL teams than he is? And in all seriousness, who else plays for the Rams?…Amendola used to also…and Issac Bruce was good.

If I had to make a prediction: San Francisco is just biding their time. They win the rematch with Seattle at home and win the division by tie-breaker. It's going take another meeting in January to settle this one.

For H-Bromo's AFC report, CLICK HERE