“That’s All She Wrote” is our new weekend sendoff for readers. Every Friday around this time we’ll post a funny and/or sports-related video to put a cap on the week.
This week, enjoy one of our favorite throwbacks featuring all-pro Office Linebacker, Terry Tate. Have a great weekend.
The year is 2020. Tom Brady (who is still in Pro Bowl form at the age of 43) drops back to pass. He hits Rob Gronkowski at the 10 yard line right at the sideline, and Gronk falls immediately out of bounds. A horn sounds. A voiceover announces: “The pass is incomplete.” No referees are on the field.
The recent referee disaster started to get me thinking (again) about just how different sports might be without human officiating. With the advances in technology in recent years, especially regarding the implementation of instant replay that seems to be expanding each season, will we ever see the day when referees and umpires are replaced completely by an instant video review and automated call like was described above? Seeing how ineffective the replacement referees were (even considering this was a short-term circumstance), it’s not entirely hard to argue that the human element causes problems, sometimes so much so that the outcome of the game is affected.
I’m a traditionalist—in most instances I prefer the game be played the way it always has. However, the benefits of instant replay, especially on scoring plays as the NFL and NCAA now have, is a compromise even I am OK with. Similarly, the NBA and NCAA use replays to determine if a shooter’s basket was a two or three-point shot. Even the MLB has instant replay to review certain close calls on debatable home runs. I think these are all good things.
While there are potential problems in the short-term with adding new layers of officiating managed by technology (i.e. slowing the game down by reviewing too many plays), what would happen if we ever got to the point of automating some or all of this? If the MLB wanted to implement an automated call for a batter’s strike zone, they could do it tomorrow. But is it worth it to off-put fans for such a long-standing tradition of an umpire making those calls?
I’m in favor of finding a balance, which I think will come over time. But I also think it’s inevitable that we see technology continue to play a bigger role in the future when it comes to making the right call to avoid the type of controversies we saw these last few weeks in the NFL. Even when playing Spogo, you’ll often be able to wager on the outcome of a close challenge as it is being reviewed.
After Andrew reviewed what I had written above before I published it, he wondered why I didn’t take more of a stance on one side or the other. My response—there are not just two sides to this issue. My stance is the balance between tradition—human officials performing at their highest level, and technology–ensuring that, when appropriate, the correct call was made. A computer will have a hard time deciding when to throw a flag (or blow a horn) for unsportsmanlike conduct if two players from opposing teams start shoving each other. A live referee conferring with his team of officials is often in a better position to make a judgment on whether a bobbled pass was a completion or not. I could try to list off, for each sport, the types of plays and calls I’d like to see made a certain way–but I’ve already bored you quite enough for one day.
Comments and responses are welcome.
Team Spogo calls Boston and New York home. Your hometown is always going to hold a special place for you. Whether it’s paaking tha caa at havaad yaad, or eating a dirty-water dog on the street, you can’t help but think your city is better than anyone else’s. For us, that comes out in fanhood. Andrew and David have their Patriots, while I have my Giants. Being the gentleman I am, I don’t want to stir the hornets’ nest that is Andrew and David’s Pats-love (even though the Giants have beaten the Pats in the Super Bowl twice in the past 5 years…), however, I do think it’s worth having an in depth look at these two teams upcoming games. Grab a pizza slice to go, or whatever it is you pilgrims in Boston eat (chowdaa?), and let’s get ready for this weeks match ups.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills – 1:00 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Wes Welker (New England Patriots, WR)
All the news on Welker blows my mind. People are talking about him like his on-field product has diminished or didn’t lead the league in receptions last year by a wide margin. Well, last week the old Welker came back to us, snagging 8 balls for 143 yards. Even after this, I read one blurb that said something like: ‘Welker’s output may be due to the loss of Hernandez (O.K. somewhat acceptable) and a banged up Julian Edelman (umm, what?)’. Seriously? Since when did Julian Edelman become a better option than Wes Welker? Did I miss something? Well since the Pro Bowler Edelman didn’t practice Wednesday, maybe the lowly Welker will have another day to shine until he’s healthy again…
Tashard Choice (Buffalo Bills, RB)
The running back injuries in Buffalo are starting to add up, and it’s only been 3 weeks. Fred Jackson goes down Week 1, and then C.J. Spiller bites the dust early Week 3 with a shoulder injury. While Fred Jackson is eyeing an early return for this game, reports from Buffalo have been skeptical of his ankle. Which leaves Mr. Choice to pick up the scraps. The ex-Cowboy looks to keep up his solid play, as he rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries last week. Buffalo will look to run the ball often against a shaky Patriots defense, and the looming threat of Tom Brady. I see Choice getting twenty-plus touches this week.
The Patriots do not lose three games in a row very often. In fact, it’s been nearly a decade since they did (2002 season). However, they’ll march into Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday with memories of blowing a 21 point lead last year in that very spot. This could be fuel for the Pats to play hard until the final whistle, or it could be the spark of confidence the Bills need. These teams have had opposite first three weeks. Week 1, the Bills got destroyed by a Jets team that couldn’t find the endzone in the preseason. They went on to right the ship in Weeks 2 and 3 against the Chiefs and Browns. The Pats started off by crushing the Titans, then losing to the Cardinals at home and Ravens on the road. All wins by these teams have come against weak opponents, so this should be a better test for both sides. The Pats looked solid against a good Baltimore squad on Sunday night, in one of the wackier refereed games of the week (overshadowed by Monday’s farce). They were one play away from wrapping the game up (McCourty’s should’ve-been-pick) late in the 4th quarter. I can’t see the Patriots starting the season 1-3. While the Bills won this match up at home last year, they have an inconsistent quarterback and an untested defense. The Pats are coming off a hard road game, and should find the Bills a more manageable opponent. Key word: Should…
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles – 8:20 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles, QB)
Hate him, love him, or wanna-drown-him in a puppy tub, the Eagles offense runs around Michael Vick. So far, Vick is drowning himself. He is completing 55% of his passes (8th worst), with 3 TDs (3rd worst among starters) and 6 INTs (tied for worst). Vick also leads the league in fumbles (4). Andy Reid went so far as to make statements about Vick’s not-so-certain job future this week. Reid has since come out to take a less aggressive stance. Long story short, Vick is not going anywhere. The guy has a $100 million contract and is an electric, polarizing football player. While the Giants injured secondary did pick off Cam Newton 3 times last week, this teams receivers are more talented and dynamic. Vick will have to take care of the football this week, and not turn the ball over to the MVP caliber QB, Eli Manning, to have a shot this week.
Andre Brown (New York Giants, RB)
While Amhad Bradshaw (neck) is slated to start this week, Andre Brown has stepped up and earned his share of looks. Tom Coughlin has come out and said that he expects Brown to stay involved in the offense. The popular fantasy football pick up has had an outstanding two weeks, piling up for 220 yards and 3 TDs in Bradshaw’s absence. There is also the belief that the RB with the “hot hand” could be the one that gets the bulk of the carries. Brown is running as well as any back in the league when he’s gotten the looks, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he edges out Bradshaw on Sunday night in workload. Bradshaw also has a history of being hurt, and as a Giants fan, it’s good to know that there are two explosive backs on the roster.
These two teams could not hate each other more. Philly might have the most abrasive and brutal fans in the league. On a cold winter day, one of their fans threw a snowball at a Giants coach, and hit him in the head. Now this would be considered playful and cheeky if there wasn’t a D-volt battery packed inside. They knocked the coach out. But the Giants are a tough road team, and are willing to sacrifice an assistant coach for a win. They have a better record on the road than at home over the last five seasons. It will be interesting to see if the Giants, who sacked Cam Newton only twice, can apply pressure to Vick, a similar style QB. If they can get to Vick, who has made many bad decisions this season, it could be a long day for Philly. With all rivalry games, I expect this one to come down to the wire. Of course, I like the Giants, and their clutch QB Eli Manning to pull it out.
San Francisco 49ers @ New York Jets – 1:00 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Mark Sanchez (New York Jets, QB)
Personally, I think the normally cruel New York media has given Mark too much credit in years past. When the Jets made the AFC Championship game a few years ago, it wasn’t Mark that got them there; it was the defense and running game. This year, the focus is more on the passing game, as the Jets are tied for 16th in the league in rushing yards, and average just 3.3 yards per carry. So far we’ve seen both sides of Mark Sanchez, he’s made some errant throws, and some quality strikes this year. He started off with a great game against Buffalo, followed by lack luster performances against Pittsburgh (138 yards passing) and Miami (2 interceptions, 46.7 completion percentage). The inconsistency does not seem to be leveling out as he matures in the league, which has got to worry Jets fans. Against arguably the best defense in the league, we’ll see which Sanchez shows up.
NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco 49ers, LB)
Last time I made a defensive pick in “Players to Watch”, it was disastrous, but I feel better about this pick. Bowman has turned into an absolute machine in the last two seasons, and is leading the league in tackles heading into Week 4. That’s saying something when playing next to Patrick Willis. Bowman also leads the 49ers in interceptions. Personally, I think this guy is No. 1 on the charts for Defensive Player of the Year. Look for him to be covering a ton of ground on Sunday, and making Mark’s day a living hell. Over 10 tackles for Bowman is as good as guaranteed.
The 49ers are coming off a shocking loss to the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t think anyone saw that coming, but maybe this will give the Jets confidence. While Percy Harvin found a lot of space last Sunday to help the Vikings, the Jets don’t have anyone with his speed and ability. I don’t think they can exploit the heady 49ers starting cornerbacks on the outsides; they’ll have to look in the slot. Jeremy Kerley has shown that he can be an effective slot receiver, and maybe open up looks for others. On the flip
side, the Jets have lost Darrelle Revis, the best cover corner in the game; to a season ending ACL tear. While this loss is surely devastating, the Jets have to fight on. Kyle Wilson, the 3rd year corner from Boise State, will have his hands full. He’ll be starting alongside Cromartie on Sunday. In an interesting move, the Jets are also giving running back Joe McKnight a crash course in cornerback. McKnight, who has publicly said he is not a fan of the move, will probably not be ready for this week in a defensive capacity. This match up seems one sided, but we’ve seen weaknesses in the armor of the 49ers, maybe the Jets can take advantage of it.
News and Notes
- I only have one bit of news today. The referee strike is over! Rejoice!
- Twenty bucks says the novelty of these refs wears off by the end of Week 5, and we go back to hating and blaming them again. At least they won’t blow games though.
At long last, my third and final piece breaking down the best places to watch sports. Today, I take you to the stadium. Grab some popcorn, sit back, relax and enjoy.
Viewpoint (5): Clearly, this hinges on the sport you are watching, what stadium you are watching from, and where in that stadium you are sitting. If it’s baseball and you’re at Fenway Park, there’s a good chance you might be in a wooden seat, directly behind a pole, sitting between two 450lb men (or women). Then again, no one goes to Red Sox games anymore.
Climate (7): While you can check the weather before the game, the in-stadium climate (domes aside) is completely out of your control. However, that’s part of the fun. At the Patriots-Broncos playoff game last January I couldn’t feel my feet, hands or face it was so cold. But tailgating with spiked hot chocolate and throwing snow in the air after a Brady touchdown pass (which there were 5 of…in the first half!) made it well worth it.
Sound (8): You’re able to hear players grunt as they hit one another at the line, the crack of the bat, the crowd cheering and the hot dog guy screaming “FRANKS HEAAA”. You also are able to watch and listen to B-List celebrities sing the National Anthem. The one downside, of course, is the lack of color commentary. Although if you need it that badly, you can always be that idiot with the radio.
Food and Drink (2): $11.00 bud lights and $6.00 hot dogs are too steep for a struggling entrepreneur like me. Pass.
Social Environment (9): Whether you are at your home stadium or in a violent away arena, being at the game is always a blast. People care more when they’re at the stadium. Drunk guys fighting in the stands, people singing “Love that Dirty Water” and tailgating make the social experience at the game a special one.
Access to Bathroom (2): Waiting in lines makes me angry. There are always lines at games. Enough said.
Access to Spogo (8): Go with a full battery, and be prepared for sketchy service. Kudos to Gillette for being the first stadium to implement wifi this season! I have a feeling we’ll see many follow their lead, making in-stadium Spogo a seamless experience.
Nostalgia Value (10): While the stadium may not be the most comfortable or most affordable venue to watch your favorite team, there’s no way to replicate this game-day experience. To this day, when I walk up the ramp at Fenway and see the field, I get chills. There’s something magical about being there. You feel the energy and emotions of the ballpark, the players and the crowd. The competitive spirit courses through your veins, and if there’s a good finish (or controversial one), you’ll never forget it.
As the past three posts have made clear, there are positives and negatives to watching the game on the couch, at the bar and in the stadium (don’t forget, you can play Spogo at all three!). For me though, I will never turn down a ticket to a game. Sure I’d love to sit at home with a blanket, my HDTV and my bucket of wings, but what if something historic happens? Turning down tickets to a game is against my moral fiber.
So with that, I present to you the winner of “The Best Place to Watch a Game” — The Stadium.
After some interesting weekend results, including shocking losses by San Francisco and Pittsburgh, it’s time to break the mold. Here are my 30 thoughts on this weekend’s action (or inaction)… and some stats to back them up.
The Referee Catastrophes (to put it lightly)
- The Green Bay Packers got absolutely ROBBED last night of a win. This league has lost ALL integrity after the game ending play. Dan Schulman put the play best: “Other than Tate pushing Shields to the ground and Jennings making the interception, the refs really nailed it.”
- Thank you, replacement refs, for affirming my suspicion that this is the new WWE.
- The Pats at Ravens game had 24 penalties. 14 of them on Baltimore. While it didn’t decide the game, it sure made a lot of people mad. On the other hand, there were 24 penalties last night too, and it sure did change the game.
- Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb, Brandon Spikes and Bill Belichick were all potentially facing fines for comments (and actions) towards the refereeing that took place on Sunday. Belichick was almost a guarantee after grabbing a line official by the arm as he tried to exit the field after the game had ended (Probably for fear of being tarred and feathered). After last night, so many people have made comments about the refs, where will the fines stop if they start?
- It’s not just that the refs have made bad calls, but they’ve lost credibility on calls they make (even a routine holding call is being scrutinized by fans, media, and the like).
- The main issue between the league and the regular officials is a $3m/year pension divide. The longer this goes on, the less of a choice it seems the league will have to meet this demand.
- The Tennessee Titans got a free 12 yards in their overtime drive after a catch was ruled complete, and a 15-yard penalty was also called (the play started on the Titans 44 yard line). They ended up reviewing and overturning the catch. Instead of measuring the 15-yard penalty from the Titans 44, they measured it from the Lions 44, adding 12 yards to the penalty. Seriously? This is absolutely dumbfounding and inexcusable.
- I hate that this has become the focal point of the game we love, but this sort of tragic officiating is just impossible not to focus on.
- Ed Hochuli is doing pushups right now and has been since Monday Night’s call…
Teams in Trouble
10. The Detroit Lions have allowed 14 touchdown passes in their last five contests… with only one interception. They are also the only team this year without an interception.
11. New Orleans is giving up a league leading 1,432 total yards through three games (including 645 rushing yards) and a
whopping 34.0 PPG.
12. Tennessee, despite scoring 22.3 PPG, only has 117 rushing yards. Chris Johnson has been the bane of fantasy owners everywhere, an absolute no show.
13. Philadelphia has an unbelievable 12 turnovers through 3 games, four more than the next worst team. Michael Vick personally accounts for 7 of those turnovers.
14. The Patriots gave up 503 yards last night. Doesn’t look like they’ve improved much from last year…
15. The Jets lost the best cornerback in the league to a torn ACL in an overtime win against the Dolphins. While they got the W, they’ll never fill that void.
16. Pittsburgh, known for having a marvelous defense, is giving up 25 points per game. They gave up 34 to an Oakland team that had scored a combined 27 points against the Dolphins and Chargers in their first two weeks.
Teams on the Rise
17. Even with a seriously weakened secondary, the New York Giants are tied for second in interceptions (6). Only one behind Atlanta.
18. Arizona is tied for first in forced fumbles (5).
19. Atlanta has the most takeaways (11) with a league leading seven interceptions. To compliment this defensive prowess, the offense has taken care of the ball with only one interception and no fumbles.
20. Arizona has the 29th ranked passing attack, and 27th ranked rushing game. How are they 3-0?! I’m not sold… yet.
21. Seattle had two sacks coming in to Sunday’s game with the Packers. They sacked Rodgers 8 times in the first half last night.
22. 27 Teams have one or two wins. Only two teams are without a win (New Orleans and Cleveland), and only three teams are undefeated (Houston, Arizona, and Atlanta).
23. Out of the top 10 players in receiving touchdowns, 7 are tight ends.
24. Percy Harvin (WR, Minnesota Vikings) now leads the league in receptions, racking up 9 for 89 yards on Sunday’s win against the 49ers.
25. Despite popular belief, Eli Manning does not drive a Toyota.
26. Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons) leads the league in QB Rating (114.0), TDs (8), and completion percentage (72.0). He has to be the leading MVP candidate at this point.
27. Christian Ponder (QB, Minnesota Vikings) has thrown a league leading 0 interceptions, while also completing 70.1% of his passes. He may not be winning the Vikings games, but he sure isn’t losing them.
28. Torrey Smith (WR, Baltimore Ravens), who lost his brother, Tevin Jones, early Sunday morning in a motorcycle accident, decided to play on Sunday night. He delivered with 6 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. The performance reminded me of Brett Favre’s MNF gem after the passing of his father. Inspiring stuff.
29. State Farm is really pushing these discount double-check commercials. Seriously, there is one every commercial break… at least make a new one.
30. Chris Clemons (DE, Seattle Seahawks), an undrafted 9th year player, sacked Rodgers 4 times last night in the first half.
It’s unfortunate that the officiating has marred everything about this weekend’s games, because there were exciting finishes. The fact is that things are not likely to change for Week 4, as the refs and the league broke off talks on reaching a deal in New York City. This was before last night’s meltdown, so hopefully Goodell gets down on his knees and kisses the ground Hochuli and Co. walk on. I’m not holding my breath though…
After last night’s pathetic and depressing loss to the Baltimore Ravens, I thought blogging about my feelings about the game might be therapeutic. I already want to smash my computer over Andrew’s head, so it is probably just causing more pain than it is relieving, but I digress. When the New England Patriots lose football games, I cast myself into a dark, dark place. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And most importantly, who is to blame? Let me take you through a sample thought process:
1) I blame the Ravens
The Ravens scored more points than we did last night, so they must be the ones to blame. Flacco picked us apart in the fourth quarter and, when we handed them the ball with a few minutes left in the game, was there ever really any doubt what was going to happen? With my negativity, no, not really. But, I never like giving the opposing team the satisfaction of being the main reason why my beloved Patriots lost. So, whose fault is it?
Percentage of blame: 5%
2) I blame the Patriots
We led the entire game, so how exactly did we end up losing? A dropped interception by McCourty, a would-be interception by Arrington (before tripping over himself)—my brain is too fried to even remember clearly what else the Patriots did wrong, especially in the final quarter. My own voice is still ringing in my head: “Why wouldn’t you go for two here?”—as the Patriots kicked a PAT to make the game 20-14. But no, I’m too loyal to the Patriots to place the ultimate blame on them for the loss, there must be someone else.
Percentage of blame: 10%
3) I blame the referees
Well this one is pretty obvious. With 24 penalties totaling 218 yards in the game, even Al Michaels was calling for the replacement referees’ heads. Have we ever seen more illegal contact calls in one game? If Karen Klein can raise $700k, why hasn’t a fund been started to get the real refs back yet? (Side note–did anyone else think the head ref last night looked like Clint Eastwood?)
Percentage of blame: 25%
4) I blame myself
I decided to leave my family and friends out of this one, although I’m usually pretty quick to take my bottled up frustration out on those near and dear to me. In this, and most other cases, the loss could very well be my own fault. I was eating wings and watching the game in my living room with three of my friends—acting almost as if this was a normal, social Sunday night game. Patriots games are far too important to have fun watching. Because I didn’t prepare enough, focus enough and root hard enough—I feel like I should take much of the blame for my team’s loss. Week after week I subject myself to this torture. If they win, I am not happy but relieved—if they lose I am a broken and angry man. I’m a lot like Batman–I sacrifice myself to shoulder the blame for Patriots nation. As you can tell, I am sick—very, very sick.
Percentage of blame: 60%
Until next week…
I’m sitting in the bar watching the Giants game on Thursday night (wishing Spogo had been launched so I could be schooling my friends in live trivia), when my buddy Eric says “I hate 3rd and 1, I’d much rather have a 3rd and 4 or 5.” At first, I thought this sounded quite idiotic. Who would want to have to go 3 extra yards, there is nothing easier than gaining one? Then, my mind shifted viewpoints and began to understand his illogical logic. Cramped quarters, 8 men on the line, blasting into each other with the offense hoping they get the necessary push. While the offensive line will always have the size advantage, it doesn’t always work out. Moreover, it is hard to watch. I followed this train of thought and arrived at a truth about this era of football. Smash-mouth, hard-nose football is dead. Teams are finding, and have been for a few years now, that the spread offense is supremely effective; replacing fullbacks with an extra wide receiver, and getting faster, lighter, and better receiving tight ends.
The Bill Belichick New England Patriots come to mind (regrettably) as the first team to implore this style of offense at it’s highest potential. Once Brady had the reigns of the offense, we saw a lot more 3 and 4 wide receiver sets, forcing the defense to change defenses from 4-3’s to 3-4’s and nickel coverage schemes. They exposed the difficulty of the cornerback position, assuming their third WR (Welker at the beginning) was going to be able to get open against the third corner. It worked; possibly better than anyone could have anticipated.
This offense creates one requirement: an efficient quarterback. If this condition is met, you have a leader who can make
changes on the fly, push tempo, and connect with his receivers on any type of route. Think Rodgers, Brady, Manning (both of them), Brees, or Stafford. These guys are respected and trusted for being able to game manage, reading defenses on the fly, and making all the throws. We talk about the second tier of QBs, the Schaub, Flacco, Roethlisberger, Rivers, and Ryan group. These guys show flashes, some with more regularity than others, of being able to do these things well. However, they also show the signs of poor decision making or being off-page with receivers.
With increasing regularity it is the top-tier of QB’s teams that are consistent winning teams. The second tier quarterbacks are the challengers, the “on a given day I could out-duel a top-tier QB” group. Then you have your strugglers, the guys just trying to make a play or two to keep their job (Cassel, Kolb, or Ponder’s of the world). These guys are just clinging to their starting roles, trying to get by week-to-week, and not really challenging for titles.
This creates a time of unprecedented passing yards: three people breaking the record for most passing yards in a season last year. A decreased importance on defense: the Patriots and Packers had, statistically, the worst defenses in NFL history last year and still had to amazing records and a Pats Superbowl appearance. New positions: the aforementioned dynamic tight end (Gronkowski, Graham, and Gates) or more capably receiving running backs (Bush, McFadden or Rice). Even new routes: the “back-shoulder” fade has burst onto the scene and is the hardest to defend.
These advancements in the game constantly put a premium on quarterback play. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions… think Trent Dilfer’s Ravens team. He was strictly a game managing, make a few plays type quarterback who had one of the most talented defenses in history. Also, any team can win on any given Sunday and that’s what makes this league great (and gut wrenching). But following trends, and predicting the future, it’s clear that the more elite the QB, the better the team.
While these trends sound simple, it’s hard to realize our father’s football is dead, and the game is ever-evolving. Who knows what’s next?
In response to Andrew’s extensive and controversial ranking system of the best place to watch the game, I thought I’d share my own routine for sports-viewing:
I typically stand three feet or less away from the screen, and remain alone so no one is disturbed by (or disturbs) me as I clap, yell, jump, swear and pace my way through the game from the first to last whistle.
Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.
My second installment of the best places to watch the game. I present to you–The Bar:
Viewpoint (6): Watching the game at a bar is high risk, but high reward. If you get to a Buffallo Wild Wings at 12:30, you’ll get a seat right in front of your teams TV — and its likely a 70″ plus screen. If you’re a half hour late though, you might be stuck in the back corner, peering over a sea of Jets fans with Fireman Ed hats on just to see your TV.
Climate (5): The bar is my least favorite climate. It’s either uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold. I’m strange though–for some reason after I eat a basket of hot wings, I get extremely cold. Visibly shaking sometimes. Bars need beds and blankets.
Sound (6): Again, audio at the bar is hit or miss. If you’re watching the game in your own team’s market, you should be fine. However, if you’re in a different city, you likely will have to struggle through the audio of another game. One advantage is that it can be fun to listen to the reactions of the different fans during the games.
Food and Drink (7): The bar falls somewhere between the couch and the game. For some reason the food usually tastes better at the bar…kind of like going camping. However, there are a few problems with bar food: 1) it can be expensive, and 2) the chef might be a Giants fan (high likelihood they’ll spit in your food)
Social Environment (9): Depending upon the bar you’re at, this is usually a fun social environment. Have a few beers with friends and hit on your waitress all while watching the your favorite teams.
Access to Bathroom (6): With everyone rushing to the stalls during commercial breaks, you can get in trouble here. Locate the nearest Starbucks just in case.
Access to Spogo (10): Should always have access to Spogo. Just watch the flying elbows of rowdy fans. Also, the bar is where you need to be to redeem your rewards, so it really is the best Spogo-playing environment.
Nostalgia Value (7): At the bar you’re going to end up either extremely happy or in the depths of depression. Must be the mob mentality. Either way, it’scertainly a memorable experience, but a bit risky.
That’s my take on watching the game at the bar. Some positives (see below) and certainly some negatives. Where will you be watching this Sunday?
To me, it finally feels like fall is here. The weather in New York is getting cooler, Spogo is closer to launch, Eli is throwing for tons of yards, and Michigan is playing Notre Dame. A week after having lost my survivor league, I find myself looking for reason in a league turned upside down. Twenty teams start the season 1-1, the most in over 20 years. In this disarray, what makes sense? Do we pick the logical and expect the illogical? Does that make the illogical, logical? Where are DiCaprio and the rest of the “Inception” crew when you need them? Maybe this is what happens when you take the normal referees out of the equation? Maybe the NFL is more like the WWE and Roger Goodell plays Vince McMahon, but letting these school-teaching part-time refs in on it would unveil their secret? It’s a conspiracy I tell you!
Players to Watch
Cam Newton (QB, Carolina Panthers)
If you’ve been reading these with any frequency, you know how I feel about the Giants secondary. Sophomore Cam exposed the Saints defense last week with a signature Newtonian performance (253 Yds passing, 1TD, 71 Yds rushing, 1 TD). He even went all Superman celebration for the first time this year. While the Saints coaching staff is depleted, the Giants secondary is worse. Hospital wings have less messed up patients. Brandon LaFell is coming into the limelight as a solid target, and Steve Smith is back and seemingly healthy (listed as probable). I expect Cam to have a great game, both through the air and scrambling for yards. Whether that will be enough to out-sling the all powerful Eli Manning, is another question.
Jay Cutler (QB, Chicago Bears)
The enigma of which Cutler is going to show up this week continues. He was absolutely putrid last week. I don’t know if this bothers Bears fans, but when he’s having one of those days, after an early pick or two, he seems to shut down. He has a pouty look on his face the rest of the game and throws the ball more like Rex Grossman did (basically, throwing it deep and hoping for the best) than the guy they hoped they traded for. The Bears square up with the Rams this week back in Chicago. The Rams are not as good a football team as the Packers, but their defense may be comparable. Personally, I expect Jay to show up and perform at a high level. I’d put him in my top 5 QB’s for this week. But I admit, with Cutler, you just never know.
Andrew Luck (QB, Indianapolis Colts)
O.K., so I went a little QB heavy with the players to watch, but Andrew Luck just got so much better in Week 2. He more than doubled his QB Rating (39.2 in Week 1 to 95.7 in Week 2), looked much sharper hitting his windows, and completed just shy of 15% more passes in Week 2. He’s getting more comfortable, and the Colts seem to have some bright spots. Their running game is just miserably bad. I don’t blame Donald Brown, it’s the offensive line, but they have to throw the ball to be successful. While this puts more pressure on Luck, he seems to be taking it well. He’s a hardworking kid, and this week’s game at home against Jacksonville should be an even more reasonable opponent than Minnesota. Could the Colts start 2-1?
Games to Watch
Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos – 4:25 PM EST Sunday
The Steelers, Falcons, and now Texans? Peyton Manning is sledding through some serious competition in the early part of
this season. The Texans are one of the teams that are somehow staying out of the biggest spotlight, but are contenders. Schaub is still trying to find his form a bit (mostly on the deep balls). The QB is still 46-66 passing the ball, but it’s the rushing attack that has Houston 2-0. Arian Foster has been the most consistent football player the last 3 years, outside of the QB field. Him getting 80+ yards and a touchdown is as consistent as gravity. No… as consistent as Tom Brady appearing on the cover of GQ. The Texans defense is also a solid unit of players that have been together for a few years. Peyton will have to burn the midnight oil in order to get ready for this one on short rest. He is also trying to shake a 3-interception first quarter (which he did the rest of the game). If anyone can move on, it’s this guy. Hopefully the thinner air and home cooked whatever-they-eat-in-Denver (venison?) provides a better performance from this team. It’s hard to work out of a 4-turnover hole.
New England (read: Boston) Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens – 8:20 PM EST Sunday
Two teams that stormed through their Week 1 opponents with gusto turned and floundered in Week 2. The Ravens did play Philly, a quality opponent whose win was not shocking. The Patriots on the other hand, words can’t express how angry I am that they knocked me out of my survivor league. I’m going to be bitter for weeks. It’s bad enough to get knocked out, but having a team I hate be the one to do it on a 13.5 point favorite lock?! I guess this is payback for beating them in two Superbowls. How will these teams bounce back? If I we’re Josh McDaniels, I would watch film from the last years, see that Wes Welker is an amazing receiver, and start actually using him. The loss of Hernandez might give Welker more looks, but the Pats need to spread the field and do what they do best. The Ravens will be trying to grind through an improving Pats defense. Like Cutler, it’s unclear what Flacco you’re going to get in any given week. The Ravens offense goes as Ray Rice does. The human bowling ball needs to get going, and open up seams for Flacco to find his receivers. I like the Ravens at home with a better defense.
Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks – 8:30 EST Monday
This matchup is the opposite of the aforementioned. Both of these teams took Week 1 losses, and turned around in Week 2 to smack seemingly quality opponents. The Cowboys took one to the chin from Seattle, and the Packers ran through the childish Cutler Bears. Week 3 is the week when the good teams start to separate themselves from the pack. Rodgers hasn’t looked his normal self yet, but the much-improved defense has kept them in games. While Jermichael Finley’s agent has stirred up some questions about Rodger’s leadership (he should be fired by Finely for this, it’s comparably idiotic as posting “I hate my boss” lines on Facebook when you’re boss is a friend. It’s on that level.) I have no doubt in it. Packers have come to back him up about this, but it may be a small distraction. Playing in Seattle is also one of the tougher places in this league to compete. Home field advantage with a crowd like this plays big. This game may fall on the shoulders of an unsuspecting Russell Wilson. Is he ready to shine on the Monday Night Football stage and prove Bill Simmons (predicted a Seattle Superbowl win this year) competent?
Injuries, News and Notes
- John Skelton (QB, Cardinals) did not practice again. One more solid start from Kolb and Skelton’s job security (if at all existent) is erased.
- Running back Jonathan Stewart (RB, Carolina Panthers) is questionable and I don’t suspect his status will be known until this afternoon or evening. Is it just me or is he always a game time decision? For years now…
- Matt Forte (RB, Chicago Bears) did not practice. While it’s been reported by Lovie Smith on Chicago local radio that he did not suffer a high ankle sprain as previously reported, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be back this week.
- Packer’s WR Greg Jennings returned to full practice Tuesday. This is great news for a receiving core that’s had trouble without him.
- Hakeem Nicks (WR, New York Giants), the Week 2 standout receiver in a dramatic Giants win will not play tonight against the Panthers. This will definitely hurt their passing game; look for Hixon and Randle to get increased looks with Cruz getting smothered.
- Antonio Gates (TE, San Diego Chargers), who was scratched from a Week 2 start late, was limited in practice this week. He normally plays in these half-injured scenarios. But if last week is any barometer, make sure to check his status on Sunday.
- Brian Orakpo (LB, Washington Redskins) is out for the year with a re-aggravated pectoral injury. He had surgery on this in the offseason. Re-injuring surgically repaired issues is never a good sign for the future.