Bryan Joiner

Why then I

NFL Week 1.5 Report

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED BY WATCHING

Games consumed: Steelers/Titans, Jets/Texans, Pats/Bills, Giants/Redskins (partial), Bears/Packers (partial)

1. HOUSTON STINKS There was more talk this year that the Texans would be a suprise team, but they looked listless in week one against the Jets. They couldn’t do a thing against the Jets, which has been attributed largely to the Jets’ defense. I wouldn’t be so quick to put all the credit there. It takes hard work for a team to look as bad as Houston did against the Jets — it wasn’t like they were missing opportunities, they just weren’t making any. And this was in week one, where they had months to prepare. If the coaching staff can’t find a way to get a single good drive going with what is supposed to be a talented offense at the outset of the season, here’s betting they can’t scheme up much for the rest of the year. You can forget about them. Texans: written off

2. MARK SANCHEZ IS GOING TO BE GOOD My lack of love for the Texans doesn’t cast any shadow on Mark Sanchez’ performance as Jets’ QB. As has been noted elsewhere, Sanchez’ footwork already puts him far ahead of most NFL quarterbacks in that department and at near-peak Brady levels (the best I’ve ever seen, and the one skill category in which Brady is, I think, unquestionably dominant). He didn’t get a chance to read defenses yet, or deal with pocket pressure, but it appears he’s got all the tools to succeed. Sanchez’ development marks something of a barometer for the NFL-readiness of USC QBs after the Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart experiments. It’s my contention that he’s NFL-ready, but others don’t think so, as baby-buddy-of-blog “Cleveland Frowns” disagrees, and we duked it out in the comments. Will the experiment look as good in week two against a banged-up—but still Belichick-schemed—unit? Highly, highly doubtful. But we’re looking long-term and buying.

3. EITHER THE PATRIOTS LINE STINKS, BUFFALO’S D-LINE IS GREAT, OR BOTH Tom Brady got the least amount of time to throw the ball against Buffalo since, well, the last full game he played (the one were Osi Umenyiora lined up in his ass). The Bills got an amazing amount of push and shut down the Pats’ running game completely. Does this mean we’re going to see a full-fledged Brady-slinging game against the Jets? Maybe not. But maybe. We’re working toward that point, and when the offense went ballistic at the end of the game, the Bills had no answer. Ben Watson’s winning catch was bananas, by the way.

4. THE QBS? FINE Trent Edwards looked pretty damn good in the fast offense; we’ll see how much of it was Pats-D related when the Bills (blech) take on the Bucs (BLECH) this week (kill me). Brady’s a little tentative, and might never hit 2007 form again, but if he’s at 80 percent of that it’s plenty good enough. Actual exchange after the fumble with fashion-language-understanding and unhelmeted-Brady-loving girlfriend.

Her: Is that good?

Me: Yes, they’re going to get a touchdown now and win.

Her: How do you know that?

Me: It’s why Tom Brady is married to Gisele.

Verdict: Brady is a good man

5. THE GIANTS AND THE REDSKINS BLAH One of the dedicated readers of this blog is a Giants season ticket holder. I applaud his enthusiasm. Maybe I’ll share it some day. It’s unlikely. The Giants sure seem to rough teams up, but without Plaxico, it seems like they have that oh so little weakness of Eli’s habit of not quite throwing it to the right place. Osi is scary, good, though: I said after Super Bowl XLII that it might look like less of an upset once Osi and Strahan were both in the HOF, the same way the Rams/Pats Super Bowl result looks completely in retrospect. Not enough attention is paid, btw, to the similarities to those two seasons, down to the earlier, fingernail-close meeting in the season, the 14-point spread, and the miracle last drive. Verdict: I don’t want to talk about this any more, but before I go, the Redskins could compete if they had an offense. Still better than the Texans.

6. I THOUGHT THESE TEAMS WERE GOOD Watching Bears/Packers was like getting hit in the face by errant footballs. I thought these teams were supposed to be good, and maybe they are, just well-matched. But that game was shit. And I could give a crap about the “rivalry,” just like everyone in Chicago. Trust me, they don’t give a lick about beating the Packers more than any other team. They just want to win the Super Bowl. That’s no crime. But to force some East Coast-style rivalry on it just isn’t going to work. Verdict: we’ll know more after this week

7. OOPS I ALMOST FORGOT Steelers/Titans and Chargers/Raiders. That happened. I had four Simpler Times lagers. There was a lot of hitting. I was bored, but I know these teams are good. They’re annoying too.

Teams as-yet unconsumed: Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Lions, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams.

Teams written off: Texans (Week 1)

Picks for this week: Each week, I submit to you my picks in the Cheddar Bay Invitational Picking tournament on Cleveland Frowns. Must pick six games vs. the spread, at least one of which is an NCAA game, and have a 100 word essay accompanying a pick. Here’s this week’s entry.

I had a tough time last week. I went 0-6. But look at it this way: the only way to go is up!

Toledo +20.5
Pats -3.5
Seahawks +1.5
Broncos -3
Giants +3
Colts -3

Essay: I’m not confident the Patriots are going to cover against the Jets. But this one seems a bit easy, no? The Pats are 1-9 in their last 10 games ATS, came off a miracle win (and not even near cover) against the Bills at home, and the Jets convincingly thumped the Texans, a popular pick to improve this year. As a result, the Pats/Jets line is dropping downward, but should it? I think it’s more likely that the pundits were wrong about the Texans, and the Jets exploited a bad team, than the opposite, given the results. And I think talk about the Pats’ defense’s demise, while certainly noteworthy, may not be as relevant in this game. Mark Sanchez is going to see things on Sunday he’s never seen in his life, and I think it’s more likely than not that the Pats will pull out a typical AFC East slog victory over Gang Green, but by at least six points.

That’s it for now. See you in the 2.5.

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State of the Patriots

patpatriottattooI have a renewed interest in the NFL this year. I’m not playing fantasy football, and we’re two years removed from the Patriots/Giants debacle — the debacle not just of the game itself, or the whole season.

That’s right, I’m calling an 18-1 season a debacle. From the moment Spygate hit until Tom Brady’s final heave to Randy Moss hit the turf in Glendale, it was a miserable season. That’s what happens when you lose sight of what sports are supposed to mean. Pats fans were already excited at the prospect of an undefeated season before Spygate hit, and in its aftermath, saw a perfect record as a road to validation. The push was on, and Bill Belichick appeared to take the bait as well. Through the first nine weeks of the year, the Patriots trounced everyone they played, and the talk of an undefeated season was on.

It’s not bad that Patriots fans were excited, but it’s important to remember that winning is just as much a part of the game as losing. The Patriots have had too many great wins to count over the last decade, and in 2007 Pats fans were acting like wins were a birthright, and alienating the entire country in the process. I wanted none of it. I wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but not at the expense of their fans dignity. If the Pats had won the Super Bowl, we would have never — ever — heard the end of it. So when they lost, I wasn’t even devastated; I was just worried I would be implicated in the mourning process. It was, however, just a game.

That’s why last season’s knee injury to Tom Brady was, in some way, a refreshing way to reset expectations. After the white-hot 2007 campaign, where every game was too important, the 2008 season was the opposite: it wasn’t really taken seriously. Wins were great, and losses were okay too. That’s the healthy way to watch sports, and I was happy for it.

The Patriots aren’t the only team that needed a re-adjusting of attitudes; in fact, their conquerors needed one as well. After the Super Bowl win over the Pats, some Giants fans were devastated at last year’s boucning from the playoffs by the Eagles, including this fine fellow:

Giants fan and friend of the blog Big Dood has responded on Shea Hey! with the rare well-reasoned, mature take on sports on the Internet:

To a good many Giants fans, the ending to last season was doubtlessly a bitter disappointment. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’m here to send a wakeup call to everyone who cried themselves to sleep after a one and done ouster at the hands of the Eagles: It’s all disappointment from here on out. This truth should have risen from the ashes as the dust settled in the aftermath of Super Bowl XXZXXZXZSEQR (did I get those Roman Numerals Right?). To quote Christopher Walken’s character in True Romance “that’s as good as it’s gonna get. And won’t ever get that good again.”

By all rights, the New York Giants should never win anything else again. In the interest of balance, they ought to have tumbled into the bowels of the earth and been left to stumble over and upon one another (for at least a few seasons) in abject misery.

Or better yet, they should’ve simply ceased to be, disappearing in streaks of light and vapor behind falling sheets of confetti in the canyon of heroes.

By this standard, the Patriots should have shut down shop a few years ago, but there they are, on my TV every weekend. Two seasons removed from the nightmare, I’m determined not to relive it. Football’s too great for that, and I’ve seen too much great football recently for it to hurt too much. Maybe I’m not a “real fan,” or maybe I never was until now. I love the sport more than ever, and that’s why one loss isn’t going to get me down. It gives me something to do every Sunday for 5 months; the rest is just details. Details that I’ll scream and piss and moan about for those 5 months, but less than I would have before. Nothing is guaranteed, and I’m not going to pretend like it is or that I deserve it.

All that said, GO FREAKING PATS. Jets game is big this weekend.

I’m done.

Back on the Grind

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here with any regularity, but that’s going to change.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about giving blogging a chance again — I mean real blogging, not the here-and-there type. To that end I tried it for a couple weeks over at The Great Baseball Blog, but it was a little constricting to try to fit everythign in with baseball. (Especially when it’s no longer the most interesting sport to write about) I kicked around other blog idea names, and as many of you know I love starting blogs. (And there are more)

I used my inability to find a blog name as a crutch to put it off, so I’m going to go with the one name that’ll never change — my own, and I’ll just bring you posts from here. I’ve got a lot to say, and you people need to know these things. It’s a moral imperitive.