Making predictions of an upcoming NFL season is basically akin to swinging a stick at a pinata blindfolded, yet without knowing if such a target truly exists. The reason of an educated guess can be leaned upon, yet there is no real science because too many unknown factors lurk in shadows set aside annually by the enemies of success.
Even with a 2011 season hurriedly smashed together after a players strike that killed much of the preseason, the league has gone on collecting the offerings of fans as this circus barks town to town. The actual play on the field may have degenerated some, but much of this stems from rules that were set out without much clear thought instilled.
As the NFL hits the midpoint of the 2011 season, there are already reasons to rejoice about the game. Some surprises have been peppered in with the unexpected and relied upon. As the pretend awards are passed out, on their way to the real ones in a few months, we look back at preseason predictions and compare them with the reality of here and now.
MVP : Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
I picked Rodgers to win this award a few months ago, and he has played as expected. His team, which relies on him heavily, is undefeated and showing they could be better than the Packers squad that won it all last year. I still think he walks away with the NFL MVP Award when he season ends, and Rodgers has done nothing to show why he won't yet.
Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Drew Brees, and Eli Manning are worth noting for their efforts so far.
Offensive Player of the Year : Fred Jackson, Halfback, Buffalo Bills
My preseason selection, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, has done nothing but show why I selected him. Yet Jackson is the biggest reason the Bills are in first place in the AFC East. He leads the NFL in rushing yards and is just 47 yards away from leading the league in total yards from scrimmage.
Jackson already had the respect of the league for his versatility, and it appears he is headed to his first Pro Bowl season. If he holds up this year, since the Bills rely on him so heavily, Buffalo could make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Rice, Forte, LeSean McCoy, Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson, and Steve Smith are all certainly capable of winning this award when the season ends.
Defensive Player of the Year : Jared Allen, Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings
The player I picked to win this award, Ndamukong Suh, has been average for most of this season. Allen has been awesome all season. He is tied with the most fumbles forced, fumbles recovered, and passes defended amongst all defensive linemen.
He leads everyone with 12.5 sacks and is fourth in tackles amongst defensive linemen. Allen has also found time to intercept a pass. While the Vikings have struggled this season, it could be a lot worse if Allen wasn't having the season he currently is. Minnesota has been mostly competitive because he keeps caving in offensive lines off the edge.
Nick Barnett, Kameron Chancellor, Darrelle Revis, Charles Woodson, and Jason Pierre-Paul are just a few players who could be considered for this award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year : Cameron Newton, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers
My selection, Daniel Thomas, has struggled with his health all year and is fourth amongst all rookies in rushing yards. Newton is third so far.
But it isn't just his legs that makes him special. Despite being the first draft selection of 2011, pundits expected him to struggle from the spread offense, that he played in college, to the pro style offense. Newton has had a few rookie struggles, but he has mostly stood out for his struggling Panthers.
He has performed so well that Carolina hardly runs the football this year despite giving halfback DeAngelo Williams just 75 carries so far after making him one of the highest paid halfbacks in the game before the season started.
Newton has already set team records, by throwing for 432 yards in one game and 854 yards in two consecutive games. His 422 yards passing in his debut is the most in NFL history, and the 854 yards thrown in his first two games is also a NFL record.
Not only is Newton the first rookie in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in first career start, as well as the first rookie in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in first two career starts, he is just the sixth quarterback ever to throw for over 400 yards in consecutive games.
He is the only player in NFL history with at least five rushing touchdowns and five passing touchdowns in his first five games, and he is one rushing touchdown away from having for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback.
Andy Dalton, who is having an excellent season so far as the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals, is the only rookie in the discussion with Newton. Dalton has done well, but the surprising Bengals sit on top of the AFC North right now because of their defense.
Newton's team is not winning much yet, but the future appears bright for this 6'5" 248 lbs monster who already has the respect of opponents. He has a better quarterback rating than Dalton, as well as over 900 more passing yards. He is already the leader of a rebuilding Panthers franchise, and one day could be the best quarterback in the league.
Defensive Rookie of the Year : Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, Arizona Cardinals
My pick, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, is playing very well and is certainly in the running. So are players like Mason Foster, Ryan Kerrigan, Von Miller, Akeem Ayers, Marcell Dareus, Phil Taylor, and Brooks Reed.
Peterson leads all NFL rookies in solo tackles, interceptions, passes defended, and is third in total tackles. But what separates him is the work he does on special teams. He is already the best punt returner in the league.
He leads in the NFL with three touchdowns off of punt returns, punt return yards, and a whopping 21.8 average off of 19 returns. Peterson is already within reach of several NFL records.
His three touchdowns is tied with Devin Hester as the second most by a rookie in NFL history and one away from the record Hall of Famer Jack Christiansen set in 1951. He is just 242 yards away from the record Louis Lipps set in 1984 for the most punt return yards ever by a rookie. He is also within reach of the 23 yards per return average Herb Rich set on 12 returns in 1950.
His 99-yard punt return is the second longest ever in NFL history. It happened in overtime against the Saint Louis Rams, and was the first overtime by a rookie off a punt return since Tamarick Vanover did it in 1995.
If Peterson keeps up even half of this pace, as many suspect he will, there should be an easy task for the voters on who is the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year : Ben Tate, Houston Texans
I picked Tate and he is already fulfilling expectations. He already has 623 rushing yards despite being basically a reserve with limited touches. He is averaging a very impressive 5.7 yards per carry as well.
This award generally goes to players who, like Tate, are coming back from a previous year ruined by injuries. It also can go to an improved player who had previously struggled. Men like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Green are in the running based on those facts.
Arian Foster is the star of the Texans. Not only is he the 2010 rushing yards leader, he leads the team in rushing yards , attempts, and touchdowns this season. Yet he has a lead of just 33 yards over Tate despite 45 more attempts and having started every game but two for Houston in 2011.
It will be curious to see how much longer the Texans keep this duo in tact beyond 2011. Tate has just one start this year, a number he undoubtedly would like to change down the road. Houston has the most rushing attempts and second most running yards by a team so far this year, which is a big reason the Texans sit on top of the AFC South right now.
Tate seems a cinch to join Foster as a pair off 1,000-yard rushers for the Texans this year. He has shown no residual effects from the broken leg he suffered during a 2010 exhibition game either. He has given no reason why he shouldn't win the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Coach of the Year : Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
There really is no doubt who is leading here. Harbaugh is leading one if the NFC's better teams with a good defense and rushing attack. Yet Harbaugh also has had a tremendous positive influence on quarterback Alex Smith, who has performed well despite having his top two wide receivers struggling to stay healthy this year.
My selection, Steve Spagnuolo, has seen his team play poorly. The Niners are already running away with the NFC West title, and their rookie head coach is a huge reason why. If Harbaugh keeps it going, he may pass his younger brother John in accolades. He and John Harbaugh, a successful head coach with the Baltimore Ravens, are the first pair of brothers to be NFL head coaches.
Yoooooooooo! Dis iz 7thStoneFromTheSun, 3rd's cuzin, once again! Yo? I did crappy las weak, going 8-6. I iz now 80-50 overall, so lets get dis partee started. Capeesh?
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
Game of the Week
Da winner gets two sit alone on top of da NFC South, even if Atlanta has played one less game so far. Both teems have average defenses, but da explosive Saints offense has looked better than the more balanced Falsons offense so far.
Matt Ryan has been inconsistent with Atlanta all yeer, but da defense has looked better in each of da las three weaks. Drew Brees has been mostly awesone for New Orleans all seasun, but da inconsistent Saints defense can get exposed by a good running teem.
If Michael "Burner" Turner gets off, Atlanta wins. If not, look for Brees to make da difference.
Atlanta 30 Saints 28
Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers
I really iz flippin a coin on hear. Cam Newton mite prove me wrong.
Titans 27 Panthers 24
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
OK, da Bungles have had a nice ride against da lesser teems. Now reality sets on.
Steelers 24 Bengals 20
Saint Louis Rams @ Cleveland Browns
YO! I rather have a labotomy den watch dis crap.
Rams 28 Browns 20
Buffalo Bills @ Dallas Cowboys
I tink da Bills fun ride is over. I don't tink much of da Cowboys, but I can sea dem winning hear.
Cowboys 27 Bills 24
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
How many times in da Jags history have dey gone into Indianapolis expecting two win?
Jaguars 23 Colts 21
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
Tim Teblow ran a win las weak, but da Chiefs will not allow dis.
Chiefs 31 Broncos 16
Washington Redskins @ Miami Dolphins
If da Skins lose hear, pack it up until 2012. John Beck gets his first win ever, at the expense of his former team.
Redskins 20 Dolphins 17
Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles
Kevin Kolb prolly won't play hear two get back at da Eagles for trading him. But Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will.
Eagles 31 Cardinals 20
Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Houston kneads dis, and da Bucs are wildly inconsistent. Dat Houston runbning game pulls it out.
Texans 28 Buccaneers 17
Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks
Da Ravens tend two play down too competition and dey are goin to have a let down after a big win las weak. I tink it will be a close one hear.
Ravens 27 Seahawks 24
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
Da Bears are cummin off a big win las Monday, but da Lions know how two play dere division rivals.Det beet Chicago by 11 just over a month ago and sweep dis series to try to stay within reach of da Packers.
Lions 26 Bears 24
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
I see a old school battle hear, where defense rules most of da game. I like da Niners defense much more den da Jints, but I tink Eli Manning is just a bit better den Alex Smith.
Giants 17 49ers 16
New England Patriots @ New York Jets
Dese are too flaewed teems dat we all expected more from. Flip a coin hear, da winner gets to sit on top of da AFC East. I'm going with the better defense.
Jets 23 Patriots 21
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Da Pack just has two loose once. Right? Dis iz a game they very well could, but I tink dey isn't reddy yet.
Packers 34 Vikings 23
1. Green Bay Packers
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Detroit Lions
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. New York Giants
7. Houston Texans
8. New York Jets
9. New Orleans Saints
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Chicago Bears
12. Cinncinatti Bengals
13. New England Patriots
14. Buffalo Bills
15. Philadephia Eagles
16. Dallas Cowboys
17. Tennessee Titans
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. San Diego Chargers
21. Seattle Seahawks
22. Oakland Raiders
23. Carolina Panthers
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
25. Minnesota Vikings
26. Washington Redskins
27. Arizona Cardinals
28. Saint Louis Rams
29. Denver Broncos
30. Cleveland Browns
31. Miami Dolphins
32. Indianapolis Colts
OK, dat iz dat. Now iz da time two go find a few honeys too hang out with, because yous knows dat I iz all about da honey. As dey say in Ol' Messico = A.M.F.
Took me most of the day, but I got it all done finally. I am a little disappointed because I feel like itís a step back from what I was doing with the subjective rankings (Iíll explain), but it was finally at the point where it was too hard to do a fair subjective ranking anyway. I had the teams arranged in a pretty neat way with the winning teams ahead of the losing teams, but now thatís gotten more complicated. It makes a lot less sense to have Temple between Penn St. and Maryland, for instance, and there is of course the triangle of impossibility with South Florida beating Notre Dame, who beat Pitt, who beat South Florida (handily). Those are just a couple of examples where I thought, ďWhat would I do with this information?Ē
I donít see any glaring errors (although I was able to find some), but there usually are some mistakes at this point. Let me know if anything seems ridiculously out of place (like an undefeated team being 80th or a team with one win being 40th or something of that nature). I have one area where I type in the record and another area where wins go in one set of columns and losses go in another, so if that doesnít match up, it causes really strange results. Sometimes the ratings comparison gives me a heads up when I realize I have the highest or lowest ranking for a given team.
I wish teams with respectable losses were higher (and undefeated teams with bad schedules were lower), but it will come around. Right now in most cases if you have on loss, youíre 25% behind in the winning percentage. Two losses, youíre probably 50% behind or at least 40% behind. When it gets to be more like a 10 or 15% difference with each loss, that will allow some of the good record/poor schedule teams to move down.
These rankings are made with the emphasis on having the top 5 to 10 teams in the right order at the end of the season. I give teams some amount of credit based on winning FCS games, and it depends in part on that teamís record. It doesnít amount to much at the end of the season, but with 1/3 to 1/5 of opponents being FCS for a lot of teams, it does count for more now, so there can be some weird results because of that. Also, if a team has a bye week and an FCS opponent at this point, that makes it more likely that team has gotten by without playing anyone. So even if itís a team that will likely finish with 4 or 5 wins, they might look good mathematically right now. So not only do my ratings not predict future events, but future events are needed in order to make my ratings look better.
This also isnít a good barometer yet for teams that have played and lost tough games. Oregon, for instance, would have been better off beating another FCS team than losing to LSU. The Ducks only have intra-subdivision wins over Nevada and Arizona. The only reason Oregon is as high as they are is because Nevada has had a good schedule. I donít think Arizona will finish winless against FBS teams, so when they win a game, that will pick the Ducks up a little more, and Nevadaís record should improve at least to the vicinity of .500.
The systemís limitations on giving Oregon its due have also affected LSU. In the by-the-numbers ratings, LSU is 4th because the only win that comes across as being of very high quality is West Virginia. Along with Oregon, Mississippi St. doesnít count for too much because the Bulldogs have only beaten Memphis and Louisiana Tech (in OT at home, which gives Miss. St. even less credit). But again, if they turn their record around and get some wins of higher quality, this will help out LSU.
I treat #1 as a special case, and as is typical, I leave the team I have at #1 unless there is something at least troubling that happens. An example is the game USC nearly lost at Washington in 2007 (the Trojans won, 27-24, and lost to Stanford the next week). LSU just beat Kentucky 35-7, with the 7 coming as the last score of the game, so nothing troubling there. And as I just explained, I think theyíve beaten quality teams, it just hasnít come across in the numbers yet. But my ratings site is always going to be the exact numbers the formula gives me.
Iíll at least leave LSU there for a few weeks unless I think the team that rates #1 is either equally deserving or more deserving. If LSU loses, that will also cause me to lean toward the by-the-numbers #1. Not only do the Tigers face Florida next week, but Oregon will play Cal and Arizona St. in the next two weeks. Mississippi St. faces UAB (not a good team, but a needed chance for an FBS win) and South Carolina. Getting into the conference schedule already helps out the stronger conferences in general.
Continue to ratings...
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.
- Bruce Lee
Sometimes I wish I was a game show host. That way, when someone finally saw the big picture and learned a valuable lesson, I could raise my microphone up, point to the curtain behind me, and say, ďJohnny, tell him what heís won.Ē
With the judge declaring a mistrial today in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, I think Roger deserves that round of applause. And no, Iím not praising him for his misbegotten attempts to stand against the evidence and the witnesses of his lying and cheating ways while in a baseball uniform. Much to his chagrin, that evidence is irrefutable and regardless of the outcome of any such trial or defense, the damage to his legacy is done.
Rather, Iím praising Clemens and his legal team for finally realizing that defending themselves against their statements is just a waste of time. Instead, Clemens attorney Michael Attanasio intends to put the onus of the defense on the government and have them justify why they were investigating Clemensís steroid usage in the first place.
Can these guys get a standing ovation from the crowd?!
Certainly, it is a last ditch effort by Clemens and his team to combat the charges against him. It would be a losing cause to defend against the lies at this stage, as any findings would only hurt his other civil cases with Brian McNamee. Instead, they are said to be focusing their efforts into whether or not they were within their congressional rights to treat the Clemens hearing as an investigation.
Finally, someone questions the legal validity of holding a full congressional hearing to hear a he said, he said dispute that already has legal proceedings filed on its behalf. Finally someone asks whether it is in the best interest of the taxpayers for Henry Waxman and his cohorts to have a meet and greet with a former ballplayer.
You, I, or any other Joe Schmoe blogger can rant until weíre blue in the face about what business this is of Congressís, but this is the first time in history that a $200 an hour lawyer has seen the crack in the case.
Now as I said before, this trial serves no purpose. Guilty of lying or not, Clemens has already had his grave dug for him and the damage to his ďlegacyĒ has been done. Heís someone who was once one of the most dominant players in the game and when he wasnít anymore, he tried to find a shortcut to get back to it. He walked his path, made his bed, and dug his grave.
No two-bit public servant with an inferiority complex is going to manage to dig it any deeper for him.
Don't forget to come back at noon for the second part of today's Double-header action!
Venus Williams, Two MLB teams do a good deed, is Bud Selig†stupid. All this, and more,†inside this edition of Rants and Raves.
The first rave is for the Texas Rangerís selecting Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor with their 33rd pick in MLB 2011 draft. The problem is Taylor is partially paralyzed after an on-field collision with Zach Cone while playing with the Bulldogs three months ago. The Rangers also select Cone with the 37th pick. Taylor said "Right now my goal is to get better during the rehab and focus on trying to get my legs back under me again and start walking and running and get back on that field again, like I always wanted." Johnathan was paralyzed from the chest down after he broke his neck in a collision with Cone. Zach was knocked unconscious but he did make the catch before colliding with Taylor in a game against Florida State. Cone was playing left and Taylor center. An ambulance drove onto the field to take Taylor to the hospital, while Cone managed to walk off the field. Johnathan Taylor is undergoing outpatient treatment at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Rangers senior director of player personnel A.J. Preller said the team has made a donation to the fund established for Taylor's rehabilitation.
In another gesture, the Houston Astros selected Buddy Lamothe in the 40th round. Buddy was paralyzed in an rafting/water incident last month. He severely injured his spine when he dove in the water to retrieve his sunglasses. Lamothe was a relief pitcher for San Jacinto Junior College. He had pitched 21 innings, striking out 27 with a 0.86 era.
Buddy has been guaranteed a job with the Astroís even if he never pitches again.
Well Bud Selig can sure mess up a wet dream. Just when it looked like the McCourts were settling their divorce, Bud throws a wrench into it by vetoing the Dodgers new television deal which was reported to be worth $3 billion dollars. Frank McCourt was to receive $385 million upfront. This money was the backbone of the financial well-being of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as part of the divorce settlement between Jamie and Frank McCourt. Bud Selig stated, "This decision was reached after a full and careful consideration of the terms of the proposed transaction and the club's current circumstances. It is my conclusion that this proposed transaction with FOX would not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, the game of Baseball and the millions of loyal fans of this historic club."
Terms of the settlement spelled out how the $385 million from Fox would be spent. Each party would receive $5 million for lawyers' fees. Each party would receive $5 million to use as they see fit. Approximately $235 million would be used for the Dodgers (including repayment to Frank McCourt money that was advanced to the team in 2011 but not exceeding $23.5 million). Another $80 million would be used to pay off indebtedness. And the remaining $50 million would be put in an account subject to the court's orders.
Frank McCourt had said all other issues in the divorce were settled, and a hearing set for last Wednesday where Jamie McCourt was expected to ask Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon to order the sale of the team was canceled.
The former couple's lavish lifestyle was exposed in court documents, where it was revealed that they took out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses. Their spending habits were likened to using the money from the team as though it were their personal ATM or credit card.
Wow, I got to buy me a sports team!!
Is it me, or what?? Does Venus Williams seem to be not focused?? She looks like something is up?? Is she thinking about ScottJax??? I should only be so lucky!!†
Glad to see the Pittsburgh Pirates playing well this deep into the season.
Is everyone really interested in realignment??†
They have an old saying that everything is bigger in Texas and itís an attitude that the residents of the Lone Star State are awfully proud of. From steaks to athletes to the general lifestyle of its inhabitants, youíd be hard-pressed to prove them wrong.
Well, apparently it extends to the size of their hearts as well.
The Major League Baseball draft is an important moment during the season. For teams like the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, developing homegrown talent is a necessity in order to stay competitive from year to year. The draft either ensures future sustainability of the team or it hampers them for years.
That said, what these two teams did on Thursday is a HUGE gesture.
With their 33rd round selection, the Rangers selected outfielder Johnathan Taylor from the University of Georgia, while the Astros used their 40th round selection to pick pitcher Buddy LaMothe from San Jacinto College. Normally 33rd and 40th round picks donít make a lot of headlines in any draft class, but these two are different. Both of these players are partially paralyzed.
Taylor was injured during an outfield collision with teammate Zach Cone, who was selected by the Rangers in the first round. Lamothe, a native of my home state of Vermont, was injured during a diving accident in San Marcos, TX.
It is likely that neither will ever actually see the field, a risk that both teams obviously knew before making the selections. Neither team needed to show the class they did in making these selections, yet did so to help fulfill the dreams of two players that seemingly had them shattered before their eyes.
In making the picks, both the Rangers and Astros essentially forfeited those selections to give both young men something to hold onto when life is at its darkest. Now, both men have the motivation to try to overcome their obstacles and strive to once again take the field of play.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ďThe ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.Ē These young men have found their challenge, but have been presented with a rare chance to take their ďstandĒ and push to overcome it.
And even if the hand they were dealt is ultimately a loser, it is their choice whether to hold it or fold it.
-†††††††† As of this writing, the Pittsburgh Pirates were sitting at .500 with a chance to go over that mark this late in the season for the first time since 1999.For a team that has settled for a losing record for 18 consecutive seasons, this hasnít been lost on the fans in Pittsburgh. Sometimes it is baby steps that get you back to where you need to be, but finishing the season at .500 or better would be a huge step forward for this organization.
-†††††††† David Ortiz is enjoying a nice return to his former self, and one canít help but notice that Adrian Gonzalez is rubbing off on his approach at the plate. Ortiz is hitting left-handed pitching at a .349 clip in 2011, quite an improvement on his .222 clip a year ago. A lot of the improvement can be attributed to his decision to go with the pitches and take the ball to the opposite field with more consistency, something Gonzales thrives on.
-†††††††† Two major prospects will be promoted this week in Kansas Cityís Mike Moustakas and San Diegoís Anthony Rizzo. Moustakas was hitting .287 at AAA with 10 home runs and 47 RBI, while Rizzo, who was part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, was killing AAA pitching to the tune of .365 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in just 52 games. Both players are projected as two of the best prospects in baseball and will be counted on immediately to show it.†