Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 30, no change

ha. Every 15 weeks I've had no change from the previous week.

So it was nice to see this morning that Tuesday's weight was due to other circumstances and that presumably this is closer to my actual weight trend. (Of course it's still high considering previous progress, but at least it wasn't higher.)

My goal is to focus on better eating and exercise habits in October. I'm not too far from my goal, but it's not that close either (by which I mean there's more than a week's worth of work left).

focusing ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 29, +1.6 pounds

Not such a good week last week. Okay, maybe a little of it was having people over to play The Beatles: Rock Band and eating some of the food they brought, but it was also not having the right foods around the house.

With Week 30's weigh-in right around the corner, I suspect I'll likely gain rather than lose this week too. Potentially I could still break even for September, but it's really just been one (or two) bad weeks. So I'll have to focus more on eating better and exercising more. (Bonus: my current contract is with a company downtown, so as long as the weather isn't terrible, I can walk to lunch.)

I need to restock my food here so that I'm eating better foods. I know that is part of it. I can feel myself hungry for the wrong things because I don't have enough good choices here.

Still, I've made a lot of good progress, and I need to keep focused on that. I just put a bunch of slacks in the Goodwill pile: basically everything that I bought when I was getting bigger is now big enough that I can't even keep them up well with a belt. And I saved the old ones, so really I just swapped the two piles. If I can put in a little bit more work each week, it won't be long until I can switch into maintenance mode ... and maybe go shopping!

What's the dumbest law you've ever seen?

I don't mean stuff that doesn't get enforced. I mean stuff like this.

I know, it's been around for a while, but like the security theater at airports, sometimes you forget why it's there in the first place. And sometimes it takes a case like that one to make you realize how stupid the law was in the first place.

Think about it this way. I own a bank and you're using my ATM. If you get your PIN wrong twice in a row, then it's obviously not your card and you're trying to hack into someone else's account, and you're going to jail, and not only that, but basically you've got pretty much no chance of escaping the charges because I got the law to say that intent doesn't matter. You got it wrong twice, therefore you're a criminal.

Most people would see that as stupid. The panicky Indiana legislature obviously didn't. Hearing the prosecutor talk about it made me think I was listening to a Cook County prosecutor. I'm just doing my job, that's the law, nothing I can do, and anyway it would be too much work to actually have to do my job.

This is one of those things about which Reagan was so clueless. You can't fight a "war" on drugs. If you want to cut down on drug use, you have to find out why people use, and you have to present or provide alternatives that are or become more appealing than using.

You'd think that by the huge number of drug users in jail, prosecutors would have figured out that the prospect of jail time doesn't work as a deterrent. You'd be wrong. Hell, there's probably no shortage of addicts who aren't entirely sure why they're using anyway ... expecting them to break the habit because they might get arrested is just plain stupid.

But who knows? Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Maybe it'll get a small-county prosecutor to use some common sense for a change ...

Monday, September 28, 2009

NFL recap, week 3

Dear announcers, it's better to keep the ball than to punt it. Pretty much any team can get one yard. Some coaches realize this. Too bad you don't.

  • Yeah, those are the Cardinals that we remember from the regular season last year. While conventional wisdom is wrong (you don't win by running the ball and stopping the run, you win by building a lead, typically with the pass, and protecting the lead, typically by running), there is something to the theory that you can't throw every down, but that's only true if you have a mediocre passing game, and right now that's what Arizona has.
  • Atlanta won't go 16-0, but I don't know that it says a lot that they were unable to win in New England. As long as they can keep pace with New Orleans, they should be in position for another playoff appearance.
  • The Ravens' offense is back again, and the defense looked pretty good against Cleveland. But then, what defense doesn't?
  • So T.O. may not make it to snow season in Buffalo, then. Because you know if he's having issues now, the first time he looks outside and realizes that there are six feet of snow in his driveway and no one else seems that bothered by it, he's going to really throw a fit when he doesn't catch any passes and Edwards doesn't keep throwing to him.
  • I didn't see much of the Bears, but it sounds like Jay Cutler doesn't really suck all that much after all. Patience, Chicago fans.
  • I'm not convinced Cincinnati is all that. On the other hand, they are winning games, and the defense is contributing. Of course, with Marvin Lewis in charge, any one of the main players could end up in jail by the end of October.
  • How can Eric Mangini be on the hot seat? Not that I like the guy, but hello? He just took over a bad team, a team which apparently has a lot of issues both on the field (can we maybe take a closer look at the idea that Brady Quinn is an NFL quarterback?) and off the field (not paying for hotel rooms? what?). Miami and Atlanta made progress in part because they added the right pieces and in part because they had talent there that maybe wasn't being used that well. Cleveland doesn't have either of those benefits. Give the man a chance.
  • Denver is not a 3-0 team. sorry.
  • One thing I liked from Detroit's game: late in the first half, Detroit was driving, Stafford completed a pass to rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew for a first down. Pettigrew was either winded or banged up, so as soon as the play was over, he ran back through the line and toward the Lions' sideline ... but Kevin Smith saw that Stafford was going to call a spike play, and fearing that there would be illegal motion, Smith caught Pettigrew and had him stand in the backfield (as he might in a fullback position) so Stafford could kill the clock. Great move by the second-year player ... hope he's not hurt too badly. How odd is it that Detroit hadn't beaten Washington in decades at one point, and now they top the Redskins to end the second-longest losing streak in NFL history?
  • Nothing can really be learned from beating the Rams, I'm afraid, but at least Green Bay fans have to feel relieved that they didn't play down to St. Louis' level like Washington did. Look what happened the next week ...
  • The Texans let one get away and it is going to cost them. Losing divisional games at home is never a good thing, and with Tennessee and Jacksonville struggling, this should have been Houston's chance to challenge Indianapolis for the division. Doesn't look like it'll happen this year.
  • The Colts are back to normal. Why do people blitz Manning and leave single coverage on receivers? I mean, you can do it if you overload one side and get there quickly, but otherwise you might as well just drop eight because if you show your defense, Peyton will pick you apart.
  • The demise of the Jaguars may not have been prematurely reported, but road wins are nice things to collect. The passing game still looks a bit ragged, though, and Jack Del Rio is going to have to get that straightened out if Jacksonville is to avoid double digits in losses.
  • Speaking of double digits in losses ... the Chiefs should be happy that Al Davis is crazy, because otherwise they'd be working on a fifteen-game losing streak. I'm not sure there are four winnable games on their schedule, and honestly I wouldn't be surprised if they lost 15 or even 16 games. This is a bad team. (Of course they can't lose 16 if the Browns do, and I'll bet that game in December is not a sellout, not even in KC.)
  • Time to test a former Michigan QB. Mr. Henne, that Brady guy got a permanent job thanks to injury ... Dolphins fans aren't expecting that much from you, but ... actually, yes they are. This Cinderella is probably going home in a pumpkin this season. I think Henne's had enough of a chance to show something in the NFL and hasn't done so, and the Dolphins need something. The Wildcat-style plays work a lot better when there's some threat of a pass.
  • BrettFavreBrettFavreBrettFavre. gah. Big win, though, especially with the Bears and Packers off to good starts. (Of course it doesn't hurt that the Williamses aren't ever going to get suspended. Discipline in sports is such a joke, it kills me that the players' association agrees to a system of discipline and then runs off and takes it to court any time there is a case they don't like. It's no wonder so many players cheat, why wouldn't you? You know the union will have your back no matter how big of a cheater you are. And never mind players like these two who might actually have taken stuff by mistake. Of course no one really wants to ask why it is that NFL players with access to better dietitians than pretty much anyone else in the world need to take weight-loss supplements.)
  • Tom Brady isn't 100%, and word seems to be going around that he won't be 100% for quite some time, maybe not this season. Karma for Spygate? No, probably just the inevitable decline of a franchise that's had a very successful run. QBs like Manning is and Brady was are the exceptions, not the rule; it's a very difficult position to play for years and avoid serious injury.
  • New Orleans may have had a fairly easy schedule so far (other than the Eagles), but they're dominating those teams, and that's a good sign. Great teams tend to blow out bad teams; good teams squeak past bad ones. Brees may not set any records this season, but if the defense continues to play well, he won't have to. Pierre Thomas had a nice game, and if he and Mike Bell can continue to be productive, maybe Payton will finally put Reggie Bush where he belongs, as a wideout and occasional third-down back. It should be clear by now that Bush isn't an NFL RB.
  • Same thing for the Giants: run over a bad team and that's a good sign. Plaxico who?
  • Mark Sanchez hasn't necessarily carried the Jets this far, but he's certainly helped them more than the average rookie QB would. It's still early, and he may not turn out to have a Ryan-type season, but right now I don't think Jets fans really care about much of anything other than 3-0. The defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but they should save some for the rookie from USC.
  • Oakland is bad. Baaaaaad. JaMarcus Russell is not an NFL QB. Al Davis is not an NFL owner. I'm not sure Tom Cable is an NFL head coach. But hey, they have a win.
  • Kevin Kolb wasn't terrible against the Chiefs, which really doesn't say much. Michael Vick wasn't effective in his brief appearances, which doesn't say anything at all. (The man was in prison, for goodness sake.) With Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Washington next, this team should be 5-1, and if they are, we still won't really know how good they are.
  • Pittsburgh's off to something of a rough start, and the NFC North doesn't look quite as bad right now as some people thought, so there are some tougher games ahead. Then again, the Steelers play the AFC West, so there are also some easier games ahead. And did someone say Cleveland?
  • The Rams are really bad. Steve Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him. I mean, the expansion Buccaneers lost 26 in a row in the '70s, the AFL nearly-expansion Raiders lost 19 in a row in the '60s, the Millened Lions lost 19 in a row just now ... and it's not out of the question for the Rams to match Tampa Bay this season. In their next six games, the only really winnable ones are games at Jacksonville ... and at Detroit.
  • News to Chargers fans: running backs are fungible. Of course, you might have realized this by now, as Darren Sproles fills in just fine for the injured LDT. Now, lose one or two linemen, and you've got yourselves a problem. P.S. Not worth the money. Well, unless it's an uncapped year.
  • San Francisco has to be kicking themselves after letting one get away in the Metrodome. (Can't wait for that stupid thing to be torn down. At least the Twins don't play there any more.) With Seattle and Arizona crashing and burning, there's no reason why the 49ers couldn't wrap up this division in November ... but to do that, they've got to finish off teams, even teams that don't have FavreFavreFavreFavreFavreFavre. Hey, that Hill guy isn't such a bad quarterback, is he?
  • Let's not talk about the uniforms. Let's talk about Jim Mora Jr. throwing his kicker under the bus. A) replacement-level kickers are pretty bad, so after you piss this one off, you're still screwed, and B), maybe you should be asking why it is that your kicker had to try to bail out the offense six times, Jimmy boy. You may not be aware of this, but kicking outside isn't that easy.
  • Raheem Morris, oh man. There's a reason why no one else was really looking for this job.
  • I think Jeff Fisher can probably write his own exit when he feels like it (or at least ought to be able to after what he's done in Tennessee), but do you wonder if maybe he's lost just a few too many assistants? Or maybe he just doesn't have the same fire that he used to, and his teams are losing those close games they used to win. 0-3 is not a good place to be, and at this point you can probably write off the division, which means you better start looking at the AFC East as your challengers for a wild-card spot. Get going, Titans.
  • Jim Zorn. Problems in Washington. A six-point loss to the Giants was very respectable, but then a two-point win over the Rams (ouch), a loss to the Lions (oh no) ... Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Kansas City up next. If the Redskins aren't at least 3-3 going into the Philadelphia game, the next head coach will have to deal with the same mess every other Dan Snyder coach has had to face: how to piece together a bunch of parts that don't fit. Someone on ESPN said it right, it's like Snyder is putting together a fantasy team. It's not just "talent", Dan.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

College football, Saturday viewing

12:00, Indiana-Michigan
It's hard to evaluate these two teams properly. Michigan's probably not one of the top 25 teams in the country, and Indiana's probably somewhere between sixth- and ninth-best in the Big Ten, but on Saturday they looked pretty even. Michigan's defense looked pretty bad for most of the game, and once again Tate Forcier had to finish off a late touchdown drive for the win.

Naturally, with Big Ten refs involved, there were egregiously wrong calls. I find it hard to believe that there are officials employed with the league who don't know basic rules like simultaneous possession, but apparently there are, and Jim Delany will crack down on that as soon as he figures out it's not 1970. Indiana fans should be justifiably upset about that blown call: the strides that the Michigan offense has made were noticeable, and this was likely IU's last shot at a win in Ann Arbor for a long time.

I think it should be clear that the version of the spread that Rodriguez has brought to Michigan is already paying dividends, and when you think about the type of recruits he should be able to get the next year or so, you may well see an offense like what Urban Meyer has at Florida. (Then compare that to what Jim Tressel is running at Ohio State. And smile.)

3:30, Western Kentucky-Navy
Blackout stupidity: Illinois-Ohio State wasn't available on ESPN because it was the local game on ABC. Two questions: why was it on ESPN then, especially considering that ABC and ESPN are owned by the same company, and why wasn't I shown an alternate game? I mean seriously, I have about eight games from which to choose and you think I'm going to watch ABC because you can "make" me? That's so '60s.

So I watched some old-style option football. Not much to say about this, other than they had an interesting thing on the sidelines where I think the Navy mascot was trying to toss cheerleaders' pompoms into the Western mascot's mouth. I love college football.

Also, it's hard to explain how difficult it is to defend the option when a) the team you're playing runs it well and b) you don't run it at all. Unless you have superior athletes (who can thus overcommit and still catch up on the play), you spend the entire game chasing the wrong guy with the ball. As Paul Johnson is showing at Georgia Tech, it can be successful to a certain extent against top competition (and perhaps not much more than that), but for lower teams, it's definitely a good, well, option, especially when you remember that Navy can't recruit just whoever they want.

8:00, Purdue-Notre Dame
To my great surprise, Purdue's defense didn't look nearly as bad against Notre Dame as they did early this season. (Then again, maybe they faced some tough offenses ... Idaho's win at Northern Illinois made that loss look a lot worse, but look at home Oregon shredded Cal in Eugene and it makes that loss look a lot better.) Special teams weren't bad (meaning Valentin didn't fumble), but then there was the offense. Let's be honest, Elliott is still the same guy who couldn't beat out Curtis Painter for the starting job last season; in some respects, he's the equivalent of Nick Sheridan, a caretaker who's the best option available. Next season, with Marve available and perhaps some recruits, Hope might have a guy better suited to the offense or perhaps to being a QB in general. Elliott just doesn't seem to make enough good decisions.

Notre Dame is starting to collect injuries at their skill positions and I think that might be a problem moving forward. They don't have too many easy games left on their schedule (only Washington, Washington State, and Navy really fit that category), and if they are struggling to put their starting offense on the field, it could be another tough year in South Bend. Of course, Weis always brings a tactical advantage to the field, isn't that what he said? I wonder what level of football he was referring to.

Late game, Texas Tech-Houston
I don't remember the last time I saw fans rush the field when their top-25 team beat a team they were expected to beat. I guess that tells you what it's like in Houston. It's been a while since they've been consistently good, and really the last stretch was probably the late '80s or so when Jack Pardee and John Jenkins ran up the score so people would think better of their teams ... as soon as teams adjusted to their run-and-shoot offense, that came back to bite them hard. The Cougars seem to be running a Big-12-like offense, and I'm still not convinced that the Big 12 actually has defenses to match, so this was an interesting game to watch.

Thoughts on other scores and games
Maybe JoePa needs to start scheduling better opponents early in the season. That stuff makes sense if you're rebuilding a weak program and trying to slip into a bowl, but it doesn't make sense if you're trying to win a "title", and even though the Hawkeyes have been struggling in most of their other games, Ferentz still seems to have the Lions' number.

California didn't even make it a week before tripping over their first-place position in the conference. But who knows? Maybe Oregon is really the team that's going to challenge USC's checkbook for the conference title, and their rough start against Boise State and Purdue isn't indicative of that team's quality.

The bloom is off the Spartan in East Lansing; maybe Mark Dantonio is focusing a little too much on big brother and not quite enough on the rest of the schedule. Two weeks ago, Michigan State could have been entertaining thoughts of a New Year's Day game, but now they could be in a position where another untimely loss or two might cost them a bowl bid. With Michigan and Penn State at either end of their remaining schedule and some potentially tough games in between, the Spartans are looking more like a middle-of-the-pack team and less like a contender.

I don't know why Kentucky fans were booing as Florida took them apart. Hello? You're hosting the #1 team in the country, and frankly, your team isn't that good. Settle down and be thankful you're not getting blown out by a bad team.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ever wonder what I was like as a kid?

Now you know.

At one point in time or another, every single one of those questions, if asked about me, could have been answered "Yes".

I link to this not to say that I'm gifted blah blah whatever, but to show that while sometimes you might feel that articles like this aren't much more than horoscopes, other times they're pretty darn accurate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NFL recap, week 2, night games edition

NY Giants at Jerry Jones
Can't blame the man for building a huge stadium (why is it that most teams with multi-decade waiting lists build stadiums the same size as their old stadiums?), but really, you'd think NBC just discovered Atlantis or something, and I don't mean this. Also, someone, I think Al Michaels, was going on and on and on about how every city should have an NFL team. Did you know that Los Angeles can support a team because it drew 100,000 people to a game 50 years ago? Yessir, it's true.

The best part was when he was using Jacksonville as an example of a city that can support a team. You know, the city that shrank its stadium and still can't sell all the seats. Also, last I recall, Los Angeles didn't seem too torn up about letting two franchises go not that long ago, or maybe Al was too busy broadcasting those games to remember.

Anyway, on the field, Tony Romo completely failed to shut down the Giants' offense, didn't cover punts and kickoffs at all, and didn't manage a single point from placekicking. Yes, he's the entire problem in Dallas, or didn't you know that? (ESPN actually ran a poll today asking whether or not Dallas would win a Super Bowl with Romo. Of course all 50 states said no. Never mind that it would be a fairly safe bet to say that about any of the 28 teams that haven't won a Super Bowl with their current quarterback. Because, you know, only one team wins each year, and some teams win more than others.)

Eli looked pretty comfortable on his final drive, and I don't think the Giants will miss Burress nearly as much as Dallas will miss Owens. Sure, T.O. is a big distraction, but he's also most definitely a #1 receiver, and I still don't believe Roy Williams is. Of course, that's probably Romo's fault too.

Indianapolis at Miami
Here's my theory about the "Wildcat". The way Miami runs it, it's simply a variation on a flexbone-style offense, with the distinction being that for the most part, the Dolphins tip their hand on the type of play they're running. If White or Pennington are on the field, it may be a pass; if not, it's a run. As many NCAA defenses have shown, knowing that a flexbone team is running the ball is not at all the same as being able to stop the run, and against teams like New England and Indianapolis, misdirection on the ground can be a big advantage (especially when you have 10 blockers and not 9, which is what happens when an RB takes a shotgun snap and there's no QB on the field).

This is also why Miami struggles in games where they don't have the lead. Various 'bone offenses fell out of favor in college for several reasons, mostly that they suck at moving the ball quickly. Miami ran a ton of time off the clock in part due to being able to run the ball so well, but that doesn't help when you need to pass, and their normal offense isn't unlike their pro-bone offense: ball control, with lots of running and short, controlled passing.

So yeah, the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes ... but you don't get points for time of possession. Miami missed one field goal (right after Gruden said one thing he didn't like about kicking from that spot was giving Peyton the ball at about the 40) and settled for two others, and that's not enough points to beat Indy most games. Miami left too much time on the clock in the second quarter and didn't use their final minutes well enough in the fourth, and now the Colts are 2-0 against Florida teams. (The AFC South plays the NFC West this season, so no Florida Sweep for Jim Caldwell.)

I'm not really surprised that Mike Tirico spent so much time talking about time of possession and so little time talking about points per possession. I don't think he's that good of a play-by-play guy. I think Jaws does great analysis; Gruden isn't bad at color and analysis, but gets a little too carried away. I think the producer needs to shut up and let the guys talk. Scripting the third guy's comments didn't work for Dennis Miller, didn't work for Kornheiser, and won't work for Gruden either.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NFL recap, week 2

(I didn't say much about last week's Oakland/San Diego game because the announcers were so bad I couldn't listen any more.)

  • Okay, so this is more like the defending NFC champions. Arizona looked pretty darn good at Jacksonville and Beanie Wells showed signs of being the runner that Tim Hightower and Edgerrin James (among others) have not been.
  • The Falcons continue to execute on offense, but the defense looked a bit sketchy at times. Of course, when you're trying to cover the Steve Smith (as opposed to a Steve Smith, like the Giants guy), that may be understandable.
  • Nice win for the Ravens, even though the offense seemed a little more like the Baltimore offense we're used to seeing. Baltimore slowed San Diego just enough to hang on for the win; fortunately they won't face teams like that in their division ... oh wait.
  • Trent Edwards looks pretty comfortable in Buffalo. Marshawn Lynch might be in for a surprise when he comes back; Fred Jackson had another good game. The only thing saving Lynch might be the utter lack of depth at the position. Even if Lynch doesn't start again, he'll get reps if for no other reason than to keep Jackson fresh.
  • The Panthers looked a little better this week, but still trailed most of the game against Atlanta. I can't imagine that things will get better: Carolina doesn't really have an answer behind Delhomme, and there aren't free agent QBs waiting to win you a Super Bowl.
  • Nice win for Chicago over Pittsburgh OMG Roethlisberger Super Bowl OMG. (Sorry, Phil Simms was calling the game.) Jay Cutler sucks now, doesn't he?
  • Cincinnati picked up a nice win on the road at Green Bay; the offense looked a bit more like what people were expecting this season, and Cedric Benson appears to be fitting in well.
  • Kyle Orton is doing a decent job in Denver, even without much help from his receivers or the coaching staff (there were some questionable play calls in today's game). Brandon Marshall probably needs to mend fences pretty quick if he's going to play in Denver. Either that or he should start looking for housing in Oakland. Who else picks up head cases?
  • Jim Schwartz is definitely getting better results in Detroit, but unfortunately for him, the "results" are coming a quarter at a time. Detroit started off very well against the Vikings and did not give up huge plays in the passing game. They did have trouble bringing down A.P. at times, and they didn't score very much, but they did score. Eventually, Stafford will figure out that Number 81 can jump. (Did he not ever throw jump balls at Georgia?)
  • The Packers have to be disappointed that they lost a home game; it may turn out that the Bengals are a pretty good team, but right now there may not be much that separates Chicago, Minnesota, and Green Bay, so games like this may end up being the difference between a spot in the playoffs and a spot in front of the TV. (I doubt either wild card will come from the North.)
  • The Texans didn't get anything on the ground again this week (oh my poor fantasy team), but it didn't matter as Tennessee apparently decided that Andre Johnson isn't that good. oops. Huge road win for Houston, and with the Jets' result it seems more like this is a team who can challenge Indianapolis for the AFC South title.
  • When I first tried Superstar Mode in Madden 10 (that mode sucks, by the way, for a number of reasons), I was drafted by Jacksonville, and I couldn't understand why they continued to run a small RB into the line over and over again when the line couldn't block. I thought the Jaguars were better than that. After today's game, well, maybe they're not.
  • Matt Cassel Bandwagon, last stop ... oh wait, no one's on board. The Chiefs have some issues, like not being very good. 10 points at home against Oakland is a good way to put themselves into position to draft Jimmy Clausen.
  • Brett Favre has apparently been asked to be conservative: don't cost us any games, just move the ball downfield until we get the lead and then feed A.P. He's done that very well so far. I still think he'll implode at some point, but I have to give him credit for not doing it yet.
  • Something's wrong with the Patriots' offense. Maybe it's that Belicheat can't keep replacing coordinators with similarly-talented people. Maybe it's that Tom Brady isn't 100% yet. Maybe it's just karma. (Of course, if it were, then teams with Belicheat disciples like Notre Dame, Cleveland, and Denver would all be struggling ...) Or maybe the AFC East is suddenly really tough and New England will have four more divisional games like these this season.
  • New Orleans is on fire. No, not like that, fool. Drew Brees is putting the ball wherever it needs to go, the running game is solid even without Pierre Thomas (and with Mike Bell's injury, Thomas will have to be ready to go next week, I think), and the defense does what it needs to do. While it may not be ready to stop an elite offense, who knows when they'll face one? Up next: Buffalo.
  • Mark Sanchez is not 2-0. He is on a 2-0 team. Don't make it sound like he is singlehandedly carrying them: he was tolerable on Sunday, but the defense did an outstanding job against the Patriots.
  • Someone needs to take control of the Raiders from Al Davis. JaMarcus Russell is 19 of 54 on this young season, and while in Davis' foggy brain, this is coming from a 1961-style offense, we're not talking about 40-yard dropped passes. The Raiders won, but they still don't have a quarterback.
  • Sure, McNabb was out, but he doesn't play defense, you know. (In fact, Eagles fans might think to remember that regularly. Defensive problems cannot be blamed on Number 5.) Yes, Brees is at the top of his game now, but Philadelphia didn't slow him that much, and if Westbrook is out for any length of time, this is pretty much the worst-case scenario for Andy Reid.
  • I wonder if something is also missing from the Pittsburgh offense. I don't think the Steelers can afford to keep playing low-scoring games if they struggle to close out their opponents, and an argument can be made that Chicago is not the kind of team that Pittsburgh should be losing to. The Bears didn't make a lot of mistakes and Pittsburgh didn't really earn too many points on their own.
  • The Chargers' offense put up a lot of pretty numbers, but once again the defense looked shaky. It's all well and good to suggest that the Chiefs and Raiders will not be a threat in the division, but the Broncos might be, and right now it doesn't look like San Diego can count on certain wins anywhere else in their schedule.
  • St. Louis is bad. Steven Jackson is trapped on a bad team. Steve Spagnuolo may make a difference eventually, but right now you could probably offer even money on the Rams and Lions combining for fewer than four wins this season and not get many takers.
  • Hey, did you hear the one about the young guy surrounded by stupid advisors who threw away $15 million in guaranteed money? No? You will. The 49ers didn't miss Crabtree at all against Seattle, and we're probably past the point where he'd make any difference if he did sign. P.S. Jerry Rice says you made a mistake, so maybe you should listen. He was kind of good once.
  • Matt Hasselbeck ran, didn't slide, was hit in the back semi-questionably (the NFL really doesn't call piling on at all, but when you slide forward technically you're not down, so you can't blame Willis for diving like he did), and on a play that didn't make a lot of difference, the Seahawks suddenly have a problem. Good thing for them that St. Louis still sucks, because third place is looking like a probably destination unless Wallace is actually a solid QB.
  • Tampa Bay is apparently rebuilding. Unluckily for them, New Orleans and Atlanta are not. It's going to be a long season for another new head coach ...
  • Fourth and one, what kind of play do you not run? A sweep. You know this. I know this. Jim Zorn does not know this. Fortunately they were playing the Rams, so they won anyway, but really, you either run straight up the middle, go with play action, or kick. I'm sure the next coach will figure that out. I don't know that Jason Campbell is going to work with this offense, but I think that may be more on the coordinator and head coach and less on the QB himself. (Of course in the NFL, your reputation sometimes has more to do with your future employment than your ability. If Campbell is labeled a bust, it won't matter what he could actually do.)

College football, Saturday viewing

Friday note on Boise State vs. Fresno State: Boise continues to pick up victories. Can't say for sure if this was poor defense or simply a good job on the road, but either way it's a big WAC win for the Broncos as they stay alive in the chase for a BCS spot that will absolutely not be in the title game (Boise State is ineligible because the pollsters have decided it).

First wave: Northern Illinois at Purdue
Oh my goodness. Just like last season. The offense did nothing, the defense still cannot figure out how the QB is managing that "run" thing, tackling is occasionally suspect, and now special teams have gone to pot (which is saying something considering that they actually scored on a punt return early in the game).

Given the other action of the weekend (see below for some), Toledo looks less impressive and Oregon looks more impressive, so it's possible that this was just a tough matchup, but nevertheless you have to give NIU credit for controlling the game. They ran the ball very well, passed well when they needed to, and shut down Bolden almost completely.

Considering that the Huskies prefer not to throw the ball (they are basically running a throwback offense, think '70s Big Ten), the Notre Dame game is really, really worrisome. If Clausen is healthy he will throw for 400 yards, Floyd or no Floyd. I believe that game is now unwinnable, and I am concerned about the prospects for the Big Ten season. Northwestern is certainly beatable, but I wouldn't be sure about the rest of the games.

Second wave: Utah at Oregon, bits of Michigan State at Notre Dame
My, the Ducks certainly turned things around pretty well. The offense looked decent and the defense was very solid. Given BYU's terrible defense against Florida State, you have to wonder if this season is going to put an end to the non-BCS uprising (which would be a shame; ironically this would be the perfect season to be including non-BCS champions, just so they could point out how unworthy they were). With USC's loss to Washington, the Pac-10 may be interesting after all. Minnesota played well against Cal for a while, but they did let Best score a few times. (Funny how ESPN reported in their little snippet that Best scored all of the Bears' points. Really? I didn't know he kicked too.)

Sparty failed to get the job done in South Bend. Clausen may chuck and cower at the first sign of pressure, but when he has time to throw he does a lot of damage. MSU had a winnable game and did not get the job done either this week or last, they may well regret that at season's end. Dantonio stated that his primary focus was beating Michigan, and he's done that once, but if he can't start picking up these other wins the heat in East Lansing will intensify.

Third wave: bits of Georgia at Arkansas, Kansas State at UCLA, Hawaii at UNLV
Didn't focus too much on the Georgia-Arkansas game thanks to Rock Band, but we did notice scoring. A lot of scoring. Kind of like Eugene Robinson at a Super Bowl scoring. Probably something for Bobby Petrino to work on.

Not sure why Bill Snyder came back to K-State, and it may be that Rick Neuheisel actually has someone to challenge Cal and USC in the Pac-10. I missed the first half, I think, so I really just watched the UCLA defense doing its job. I also missed the end of the UNLV-Hawaii game, which is a shame because it looked pretty exciting. Got to like late-night football.

Other notes:
I know Maryland's AD has been very comfortable with Ralph Friedgen, but after their home loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Terrapins have to be one of the bigger disappointments in I-A football. I can't picture him coaching another season there; on the other hand, he'll last the season and Dan Hawkins may not. Colorado blanked Wyoming, but frankly that isn't going to matter if the Buffaloes don't play tolerably in Big 12 games.

Pete Carroll chokes away another Pac-10 game. Somewhere in the idolatry that is the coverage of the USC program, someone ought to be pointing out how USC is consistently out of the national title picture largely because Carroll can't get his team ready for every single game in the conference. If the Pac-10 had another solid team, USC would probably have been out of the BCS picture half of the seasons Carroll's been there. Granted, this may sound like nitpicking, but I think it's more like the praise John Wooden got for his run at UCLA. Looks great on paper, but perhaps not so much when you consider the quality of opposition (at the time, the tournament was split geographically, so UCLA really only had to knock off one solid team at most to play in the title game while the ACC, SEC, and Big 10 champs all found themselves in the same half of the draw).

Add Al Groh to the list of coaches not likely to return. Losing on the road at Southern Miss shouldn't really hurt that much, but it's the 0-3 start that will likely have Cavaliers fans calling for Groh's firing. It's clear very few college coaches can succeed in the pros: has anyone noticed that not all pro coaches can succeed in college?

Indiana is probably the least impressive 3-0 team in I-A football right now, but Hoosier fans don't care ... sometimes it's better to build confidence by scheduling weaker teams and beating them. Put a light non-conference schedule together with a couple of conference wins and you get yourself a December road trip ... play a tough non-conference schedule and a lot of times you end up 4-8 or 3-9 with people wondering why you're not winning games. Lynch may not be the best coach for the job, but he's getting the job done, and another bowl appearance may get him a contract extension.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How to be completely wrong

Watching Boise State vs. Fresno State. Fresno State returns the opening kick of the second half for a TD, but there are offsetting fouls on the play and Boise State has to kick again.

The Bulldogs put the same returners on the field. One of them has just run 100-plus* yards. What would you do? Kick it back to him, right? Because he just ran 100-plus yards and the other returner did not.

Not so fast, my friends. The announcers "cleverly" suggested that the Broncos were better off kicking to the other guy (who, it should be noted, did not just run 100-plus yards).

So naturally Boise State kicks to the other guy (away from the guy who just ran the kick back) and he returns the ball 80 yards. Message to booth: when one of the two returners is breathing heavily because he just ran the length of the field, that is the guy to whom you want to kick.

*Remember that the NCAA counts touchdown plays from end zone to end zone as 100 yards. I guess it's because they don't want to have to estimate how far Red Grange ran and stuff like that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 28, -1.4 pounds

This was an interesting week because over the weekend, it looked like I might be gaining this week. It wouldn't have been a surprise, considering that this was the opening weekend of the NFL season, I was going out on Saturday to watch college football, and I do like my football, except that with all this in mind I was still eating carefully. (Remember, daily weighing means that you'll see temporary fluctuations in either direction.)

But then the weekdays arrived and normalcy returned. Either that or ... never mind. Anyway, yesterday was kind of funny. I noticed two things: in the evening, I was really, really hungry, and around 10 or so, I felt a migraine approaching. I thought about the combination of hunger and migraine and wondered if perhaps something was amiss.

I counted through the day's food (I don't log any more): protein bar, toast, hamburgers, corn and peas ... um ... um ... fiber bar ... and I came up with 1400 calories, rounding up. When your daily allotment is 2000, that's a pretty significant difference, especially considering I had about 400 at "dinner". So I figure my body was panicking, knocking stuff off shelves and jumping up and down on the bed trying to get me to feed it. I ate another protein bar, took some Advil, and that seemed to fix the situation. It did serve as a reminder that I do need to plan my eating better ... it's great that I have all these 200-calorie pieces that I can assemble for meals, but I still need 10 of them a day.

So anyway, it looks like I need to go to Kohl's and hit their sale. (Hopefully my card is for an additional 30% off. I always seem to get the low discounts.) As much as I like the loose-clothing look, the vast majority of jeans that I have just aren't going to cut it any more. My goal is in sight, less than 4 pounds away.

Weigh-in: Week 27, -0.4 pounds

Yeah, this is a week late. oops. I'll keep it short and sweet and catch up today. The weight loss itself is a little troubling, as that makes two weeks with a total of less than a pound, but I also lost half an inch on my waist in that time, so it may be a little bit of muscle rather than fat (but only a little, I'm not doing that much regularly) or maybe it's just how things are working out right now.

I'm going through another light work period, so again I don't have any external cues for eating. We'll see how next week turns out. (Well, it's actually this week, so I'm not exactly using foreshadowing, am I?)

Monday, September 14, 2009

NFL recap, week 1, Monday edition

Game 1, Buffalo at New England (got to love week 1 doubleheaders)
Tough loss for the Bills. Trent Edwards did a great job, the offensive line was much better than expected, and they put points on the board almost every time they needed to. Unfortunately, they gave up points to the Patriots on the last two drives when they couldn't afford to, and they made a couple of crucial errors near the end of the game.
The playcalling on the part of both teams near the end was very questionable. Far too many underneath routes that kept the clock running.
Gruden's debut was very disappointing. He did provide some nice insight, but displayed a remarkable lack of knowledge about rules ... you'd expect a head coach to be aware that a) leading with your head is a penalty, although I suppose you can cut him some slack because I've seen that called about once in the last 10 years despite the fact that everyone and his brother likes to lead with his head, and b) throwing the quarterback to the ground after the whistle blows is also a penalty. (Gruden specifically mentioned that he'd have to look at the rule book about this one. Maybe he should ask Warren Sapp about it.) Of course he wasn't going to mention that the Patriots caught a break on the final drive when the refs missed the shot to T.O's head by Meriweather. Add 15 yards and the Bills wouldn't have been nearly as worried about field position.
Aaron Schobel played like a man possessed. Outstanding interception of a screen pass and a great return afterward. (Kids, don't pull the man down on top of you. Pull him to the side if you can. If he's on you, he's not down yet.) Great job by Fred Jackson, making the most of the touches available in Marshawn Lynch's absence.

Game 2, San Diego at Oakland
Mike Greenberg? Oh no. There wasn't anyone else with PBP experience?

thoughts on the game to come.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NFL recap, week 1

  • Arizona fans should be concerned. Kurt Warner was less than 100% and did not look that good today, the defense struggled when it was needed the most (although it did play well overall), and the offense clearly wasn't in sync. Good luck against a solid team.
  • Atlanta fans have to be happy. Ryan didn't look too bad, the defense was solid, and Tony Gonzalez looked younger, which is a big problem for linebackers in the NFC South now.
  • What a long way for Baltimore fans to have come, expecting the offense to carry them when the defense can't get the job done. (Isn't it nice not to hear about Ray Lewis every play, though?)
  • Carolina better hope Delhomme's issues can be fixed somehow. Josh McCown was a questionable #2 anyway, and with his injury, there may not be a backup the next game if the turnovers continue.
  • Cincinnati looked decent on defense and got a few plays on offense, but this isn't the show we were promised this year.
  • Brady Quinn didn't play very well today, and the Browns struggled to stop the run once it was obvious that Minnesota would be running. Apparently Eric Mangini's presence isn't enough to fix what ails Cleveland.
  • Maybe ex-Cowboy players should just shut up and let the team play. Romo looked fine, Roy Williams actually caught some passes, and the defense did a nice job. Also, no punts hit the scoreboard.
  • Josh McDaniels has some problems to fix. It's early, but right now it looks like the newest offshoot of the Belicheat Coaching Tree is as weak as the others. Take away a freak play and the Broncos get no touchdowns against one of the weaker teams in the AFC. Enjoy the 12-7 win, but remember you didn't exactly earn it.
  • Matthew Stafford didn't look terrible, and he looked angry at the mistakes he made. That's a good sign. The Lions also had solid kickoff and punt returns in the same game for the first time since I don't know when, maybe when Mel Gray suited up for them. Of course they still lost. Maybe next week, when what's-his-name comes to town?
  • The Texans sure didn't look like everyone's surprise pick in the AFC. I didn't see much of the game, so I can't make too many suggestions.
  • How about that Colts defense? 12 points, not bad at all. Maurice Jones-Drew did get some yards, but you don't win games on yards. The injury to Gonzalez is something of a concern, as are the turnovers, but the Colts won at home against the Jaguars, and in the last few years, that's not been a sure thing.
  • On the other side, Jack Del Rio has to be happy with what he saw from David Garrard. Garrard slipped through several tackles and either made plays or got rid of the ball to avoid negative plays. The Jags didn't win, but they played pretty well.
  • Brodie Croyle did a nice job keeping the Chiefs in the game against Baltimore, considering that he might not even have been the #2 QB at this point if things had turned out differently.
  • Miami continues to use unorthodox plays well, but they really didn't have much else against Atlanta. At some point Sparano may have to figure out how to be successful with more conventional formations.
  • Minnesota ran the ball very well once they had the lead in Cleveland, to no one's great surprise. However, it did take a while for them to get that lead. Favre wasn't particularly impressive or unimpressive, but he'll need to do something next week. If he can't put up good numbers against Detroit on the road, it'll be hard to imagine him succeeding at Chicago, Green Bay, or the other quality teams Minnesota will play.
  • Drew Brees is still pretty good, isn't he? And the Chargers are doing just fine without him. Sometimes trades work out for both teams. Of course, it helps to play the worst team in the NFL for your home opener, and Brees made sure that the Lions didn't spend too much time thinking about an upset. Mike Bell's contributions on the ground make you wonder if a) Pierre Thomas will get touches again and b) if this whole Bush-as-running-back experiment can finally end.
  • You have to give Mark Sanchez credit. He didn't necessarily overwhelm the Texans, but he sure didn't suck, and for a rookie playing on the road, he did just fine. Wonder if the Bears still miss Thomas Jones? They should.
  • The Giants seem like they have a million receivers for Eli Manning, but they may need them with another guy hurt today. Manning did play fairly well, the running game was decent, and the defense chased Jason Campbell up, down, and sideways. A great start for New York.
  • What would happen if McNabb were actually injured for some period of time? Well, we'd hope that Kevin Kolb would be the starter. Unfortunately, in a couple of weeks this Vick guy will become available, and the Eagles didn't sign him to be a receiver. Philadelphia played well enough against Carolina to survive pretty much anyone at QB, but it won't always be that easy.
  • Tough start for the Rams, but you have to wonder if it will get much better. Steven Jackson can't do it by himself on offense, and the defense looked pretty bad against a good Seattle team on the road.
  • Mike Singletary might just know what he's doing. During a time out, he charged up the defense himself, watching them force a punt, and then Shaun Hill managed the offense just well enough to get the game-winning TD at Arizona. Michael Crabtree should fire his agent: the 49ers could probably use someone like him, but they sure didn't miss him much today, and the longer the holdout goes, the less use they'll have for him when (if) he does show up.
  • Maybe Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks should be the focus. Second-year TE John Carlson and newly-acquired WR T.J. Championship found all kinds of holes in the St. Louis secondary, and the Seattle defense did a fine job keeping the Rams at bay the entire game. You can't lose if they don't score.
  • Washington sucked. Okay, maybe that's harsh, but Jason Campbell spent too much time holding onto the ball, and the Redskins couldn't seem to keep the Giants' front seven out of the backfield when it was important. Isn't Randle-El experienced enough by now to realize when he needs to throw the ball away on the of-course-we-saw-it-coming end-around pass?

Sunday night thoughts:
Wow. Wow. I think it was the NFL Network guys who were suggesting that possibly McDaniels wasn't sure about Cutler's decision-making. If that's the case, gentlemen, here's your proof. (By the way, I like Stacey Dales – she's hot, she was a good athlete, and she knows basketball really well – but what is she doing on an NFL set? Either let her share actual NFL knowledge or put some model on there to spout pop-culture references.) Green Bay really didn't look too good for most of the game, but hey, they didn't turn the ball over, right? The fourth-quarter fake punt call (presumably by the center) wasn't so good, but really it was more about Cutler's inability to hit Bears instead of Packers that put the game in Green Bay's hands.
Of course, this might mean the second-best QB in the division is Brett Favre. That can't be true, can it?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

College football viewing day

Let's get to it.

12:00 set: Western Michigan at Indiana, Central Michigan at Michigan State, bits of Syracuse at Penn State
If the Big Ten were trying to argue that there's nothing wrong with the conference, this really wasn't the way to do it. Indiana arguably had a decent performance at home against WMU, but then again perhaps the Broncos are not who we thought they were. Penn State hasn't really proven anything, which is the way JoePa probably wants it, although I'd guess not scoring on the one drive probably didn't make him too happy, and putting up 28 on a Syracuse team that gave up 20 to Minnesota at home was really not impressive. Michigan State was pretty much asleep at the wheel in East Lansing: the way they gave up the lead was amazing.

3:30 set: Notre Dame at Michigan, bits of Houston at Oklahoma State, bits of TCU at Virginia
So, two things become clear: one is that Charlie Weis may be one of the most inept playcallers in all of college football, and the other is that Rich Rodriguez has a serious problem in the secondary. Fortunately for Michigan, not too many teams run a pass-oriented or spread offense (or both). Oh wait. Anyway, Charlie, Rich would like to thank you for that nice gift you gave him, and that 10-year contract extension is looking really good right about now, isn't it?

Speaking of not being able to handle the spread, Oklahoma State gave up a billion yards to Houston, but that's okay, we know Big 12 teams have solid defenses, right? At least that's the argument we heard last year. I'm sure this year it will be something else.

Hey, is Al Groh still employed?

Late-night football: Purdue at Oregon
What a frustrating game to watch. Purdue absolutely shut down Oregon's backs and receivers for about three quarters; they didn't really stop the quarterback runs, but that didn't hurt much. What hurt much was handing Oregon 17 points directly. An interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble returned for a touchdown, and an interception returned into field-goal range so that even a three-and-out resulted in three points.

Purdue is not good enough to survive one mistake every 20 plays or so, and Joey Elliott is making that mistake regularly. They absolutely should have won that game. Oregon was struggling on offense just like they did against Boise State, and they were having all kinds of trouble stopping the running game. The crowd was quiet and Purdue had momentum, and then Purdue would get them right back in the game.

Hope has some work to do. This isn't a .500 team yet. There are no other options at QB right now, and Elliott is good enough those other 19 plays that it's hard to justify trying someone else there, but it'll be interesting to see what the offense looks like next year if Purdue can get someone who makes fewer mistakes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The recession is "over"

see? We had nothing to worry about. The Consumerist links to a Wall Street Journal article that explains that it's celebration time, the recession is over.

Of course, this is the same group that didn't believe the recession was possible, and to them, the recession is "over" when we reach the point where the economy starts to grow, or something silly like that. To you, me, and the rest of the real world, the recession is over when things stop sucking.

Right. I mean when banks are willing to extend credit to people and businesses, allowing businesses to expand (hiring people, buying goods and services) and individuals to return money to the economy (buying items). It's all very well to say that things are getting better, but it's hard to believe when the institutions at the center of the collapse refuse to help along the recovery. (You know, they're trying to hedge their bets now that they've "learned their lesson", meaning now that they've got government money to erase their mistakes, they don't have to lend it.)

Then again, my banks keep wanting me to take out equity lines of credit, consolidation loans, and stuff like that. Of course I haven't actually taken them up on any of it, so I don't know that they know that much about my actual financial state. (Most of what they send is about being "pre-approved", which of course isn't what they actually mean.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random thoughts

  • The NFL realizes that maybe people can't exactly afford tickets in the middle of a recession. Well, okay, not really. They're actually going to let you watch a game online when it doesn't sell out, but not until after midnight the day of the game, only for 72 hours after the game, and not during Monday Night Football. Welcome to the 1970s, Commissioner Goodell. Just a couple more courageous jumps forward and you'll be caught up with the rest of us. (Not like the other sports are any smarter with respect to blackout rules.) What's better than spending three figures to watch your team get beat? Waiting 24 hours to watch online after you already know the score.

  • Completely non-shocking news: Brett Favre was injured late last season and a Belichick disciple lied on the injury report. Of course blah blah blah and whatever. Anyway, Favre wouldn't do the same thing this season, and he'll be certain to play all 16 games, because he wouldn't have come back if he couldn't, except he might not play all 16 games. I hope the Vikings get exactly what everyone else thinks they're getting, and I expect McDaniels will turn out to be the same kind of coach that Weis and Mangini have already proven to be. (To quote Bill Simmons – ironically – we'll call them "Bassbowls.")

  • Paul Krugman has a great article in the New York Times magazine about how very few economists actually believed the bubble would burst. If you read it closely, you'll find that there are professionals who refuse to take into account the possibility that people do not make financial decisions wisely. Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone explain how of course health care doesn't need reform because the insurance companies will sort it out themselves.

  • Beatles: Rock Band is out and is cool. I haven't played with other singers, so I don't know how the harmonies are going to work, but they should be interesting. Some of the songs are definitely challenging on one instrument or another, but it's the good kind (involving actual music) rather than the Guitar Hero kind (speed metal).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Close call

Amazon sent me a message this morning.

"Hey, um, we were going to send you Beatles: Rock Band, but ... um ... yeah, we kind of need you to pay for it."

See, I pre-ordered it basically as soon as I saw they were accepting pre-orders, especially now that they ship to arrive on launch day, rather than shipping on launch day. (Tangent: this is possible because the publishers ship the product in advance of launch day, usually well in advance. This means that little delays generally are worked out prior to launch day, so you still get your copy on time. It also means that with time and effort, you can occasionally get a game prior to launch. After all, when they're shipped to stores, the cases are generally marked "Do not open/sell/whatever until Month Day." It's kind of like the old days when we used to hit grocery stores late at night or on Sunday to see if the cashier knew they weren't supposed to sell beer.)

Anyway, since then, there was a security breach at a payment processor that may or may not have worked with a place where I used my card, so my bank canceled that card and sent me a new one. (Very nice of them, proactive and all that. USAA +1.) It took me about a month to go through and update places where I use it occasionally or regularly, and it looked like I got all of them.

Except one.

So I hopped into my account on Amazon, changed the credit card to use, and now the order is processing and will hopefully arrive tomorrow. (There are going to be a lot of busy delivery drivers Wednesday.) I also removed it from my account, just in case I try this again ... anyway, the moral of the story is to pay attention to where I use my credit cards, just in case. (Of course, if I were better at that in the first place ...)

Monday, September 07, 2009

College football, Saturday viewing

And then September came, and there was football, and it was good. (Back in the old days, the NFL would have started this weekend, but then they realized if they dragged out the season longer, there would be time for more commercials. Wait until they try to squeeze in that 18th game.)

12:00, Minnesota at Syracuse: I watched about three plays, enough to see Greg Paulus not understand that when there are five seconds left on the play clock and you're not calling signals yet, you need a timeout. Then I remembered that I had the Big Ten Network and I switched ...

12:00, Toledo at Purdue: The good news is that the offense isn't bad. Well, the running game isn't bad. Actually, the running game was good against a second-division MAC team. Okay, actually the good news is that we have a kicker who can hit from distance. A school-record 59-yard kick to end the first half, breaking the record he set last year from 53. (Prior to that, the record was 51, first set by a guy in the '50s. That probably doesn't mean much to you, but if you saw how people kicked back then and how it works now, you'd be a lot more impressed.) The bad news is that the defense might still be bad. And the quarterback might still not be that good. (Being more accurate than Curtis Painter means setting the bar low.)

3:30, Western Michigan at Michigan: From one win to another. Suddenly Michigan looks like they did before Lloyd Carr fell asleep in his office and Western looks like they did before the MAC realized they had bowl tie-ins and could actually play for them. Of course there's no guarantee they'll play so well against Notre Dame (oh please please please please), but it's a better start than last season and a much better start than expected.

5:30ish, Stanford at Washington State: The Cougars look as bad this season as they did last season. I didn't catch much of this game, just enough to see Stanford kicking them around. The Apple Cup looks like a consolation prize once again, unless somehow Washington managed to improve from terrible to somewhat bad.

7:00, BYU vs. Oklahoma in Dallas: Didn't see a lot of this game, but enough that I got the impression BYU was hanging with the Sooners. Can't blame Bob Stoops, though. He learned a long time ago that the best one to fold is the first one; play well enough in conference and you can still play for a "title" or in one of those other silly little bowls.

7:30, El Salvador at USA: Missed the start of this match just like last time, but did get to see the Americans score both goals and then hold on for dear life. A big win, and Mexico's win over Costa Rica means that the US has an outside shot at winning the group. Not that they need to, they just need to avoid finishing out of the top three, and a win Wednesday at Trinidad and Tobago would put them a lot closer to a trip to South Africa.

8:00ish, Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta: Switched to this after the World Cup qualifier and saw the Tide keeping VT at bay. Alabama did not hold the Hokies to minus 10 points or whatever some people were thinking, but they did play very well and looked to be off to a good start this season.

9:00ish, Maryland at California: Remember when Ralph Friedgen was a media darling? Me either. I'll give Maryland credit, they've understood that they can't necessarily improve on him. Friedgen won 31 games in his first three seasons in College Park (data courtesy of the College Football Data Warehouse), but has won only 33 in the last five, and based on what I saw Saturday, this is likely to be more like the 5-win seasons he posted a few years ago. And yes, Maryland is no USC, but if you'll notice, the Trojans spend a lot of time playing teams like San Jose State and Washington. California certainly looked like the type of team that could challenge Southern Cal this season in the Pac 10.

Didn't watch much on Sunday (a tiny bit of the tape-delayed Buffalo-UTEP game on CBS College), and then caught Eastern Washington at Minnesota-Duluth tape-delayed on Monday, followed by Rutgers being absolutely smoked at home by Cincinnati (hey Greg Schiano, how does that Michigan job offer look now?) and perhaps Miami-Florida State at night.

Auction draft

Last night, my auction keeper league ran its draft. (This is, by the way, the only league I'm in this year. Funny how things work out sometimes.)

It's an interesting setup: 10 teams, max of 20 players, $115 cap, $2 raise per player during the offseason. Undrafted players become $2 free agents, dropped players retain their salary through the end of the season. We start 2 RB, 2 WR, and 2 flex; other than that, it's pretty much standard lineups.

I came into the draft with $56 to spend and several spots to fill. Here's how it went for me ...


Keepers: Matt Hasselbeck ($14), Matt Cassel ($4)
Draft: Tom Brady ($26)
Most expensive keepers: Hasselbeck ($14), Tony Romo ($12)
Most expensive picks: Brady, Peyton Manning ($25)
Grade: A

For the third straight season, I'll have New England's starting quarterback. (I had Brady two years ago, when we first went to a keeper system. He was $17 in 2007; last season, I couldn't afford $19 in an injured QB, so I released him and picked up Cassel.) Hasselbeck has potential, but also has injury issues, and with Cassel's health also a question mark (never mind the Chiefs as a whole), it helps to have a real #1. Of course if Brady gets hurt again ... on the other hand, Hasselbeck moves from a decent #1 to an expensive #2. Which is worth more, one veteran QB or seven $2 players? Right. (I have 14 now, so dropping Hasselbeck and picking up 7 $2 players would work perfectly.)

There are several starting QBs still available, and $14 is too much in this league for a guy who might only start one game for me.

Running back

Keepers: Steve Slaton ($4), Pierre Thomas ($4)
Draft: Ronnie Brown ($10)
Most expensive keepers: LaDainian Tomlinson ($39), Frank Gore ($23)
Most expensive picks: Maurice Jones-Drew ($25), Steven Jackson ($23)
Grade: C

Last year I picked up two rookies, McFadden and Slaton. I spent $18 on McFadden. Not worth it. With Thomas as another cheap holdover, I had a tolerable starting lineup, but with two flex positions, I really need at least 5 RBs. Brown is a good pickup, but I need more depth, and I couldn't justify spending more cash at a position that is so fungible. (This was, by the way, the theme for the season.) I definitely need FA help here. At least all three RBs have different bye weeks.

Tomlinson's owner is trapped; $39 is way too much, particularly for a player who is likely on the downside of his career. (At 30, a RB is running on borrowed time, so to speak. He may be one of the rare guys who can keep playing, but you should find that out at a lower cap cost.) Expect to see LDT on waivers to stay this season.

Wide receiver

Keepers: Dwayne Bowe ($8), Larry Fitzgerald ($14), Derrick Mason ($6)
Draft: Donald Driver ($6), Domenik Hixon ($4)
Most expensive keepers: Steve Smith, Carolina ($25), Reggie Wayne ($19)
Grade: B

Obviously I had a pretty good set coming in. Fitzgerald is arguably worth $14, Bowe is going to be catching a lot of passes in KC from someone, and Mason is surprisingly productive and a nice hold at $6. Driver and Hixon are probably Mason-type numbers this year, but it may not have been the best place to acquire depth. On the other hand, I have five good receivers with different bye weeks, so once I shore up my RB crew, the flex spots should be covered.

There are clearly some overpaid WRs in this league; the guys who have Randy Moss ($13) and Anquan Boldin ($10) have to be happy with those prices.

Tight end

Keepers: none
Draft: Antonio Gates ($9)
Most expensive keepers: Tony Gonzalez ($6), Jason Witten ($5)
Most expensive picks: Gates, Dallas Clark ($6)
Grade: C

Partial credit for dropping Gates at $16 and regaining him for slightly more than half that. Of course, while he may be a productive tight end, he may not be worth $9 when there are decent TEs now available for $2. Backup help will be coming in the great Waiver Wire Raid after week 1. (Our league doesn't allow waiver wire pickups until then.)

The top TEs are split: about half are $5 or above and about half are free agents. This is typically a boom-or-bust position, and unfortunately a number of us will have busts.


Keepers: Stephen Gostkowski ($5)
Draft: none
Most expensive keepers: Gostkowski, Nate Kaeding ($4)
Most expensive picks: three at $2 each
Grade: B

I drafted Gostkowski for $1 in 2007 and he's definitely been worth it the last two seasons. Is he a $5 kicker in 2009? Probably not, but I didn't mind locking down the kicker position for 16 weeks again this season. Once again, backup coming off waivers.

With money to spend, you can sort of justify a kicker for more than $2, but wit ha reasonable amount of talent still available, even Gostkowski may prove to be more expensive than he's worth.


Keepers: none
Draft: Chicago ($1)
Most expensive keepers: Pittsburgh ($6), Minnesota ($6)
Most expensive picks: three at $2 each
Grade: I

The one thing I did right was spend little money. Actually, three defenses went for more than $1, and considering there were two Bears fans in my league, I did okay with this. (Of course, the problem is that Chicago has significant injury questions on defense.) If I keep $2 aside for a defense spot, then I can cycle these teams through as matchups permit. Worst-case scenario is that I don't get much from my defense, but it's not a high-scoring position in our league anyway. Hard to rate this pick one way or the other.

In this league, where you get only 5 for a shutout, 2 for a safety, and nothing for return yards (only return TDs), defenses are not going to produce much for you on a regular basis, although at least you can't do worse than 0. Spending more than $2 is probably not a good investment.


The one thing I did was spend the last of my money quickly. Unfortunately, this season a lot of owners chose to be more conservative with their money, which meant I probably could have managed my money better, particularly at TE. (Yes, Gates is good, but as good as a $1 or $2 TE and a few other cheap players?) We're starting to see the implications of a keeper league ... of course at some point you have to play for the present rather than the future, but when you don't know the true current value of a player, how much should you really spend on him?

I made some good pickups last year and ended up losing in the finals. I think if I can add two more decent RBs, and if Brady can stay healthy, I should be in a good position again. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 26, -0.4 pounds

Not a bad week, considering that for the first time in months, I was actually working on-site rather than remotely. True, it was only for two days, but that meant two days of planning my eating before I left the house. It didn't go too poorly (I did lose a bit), but I was actually lighter than that earlier in the week.

Candace and ems and a few other are doing a health challenge among themselves this month: points for tracking what you eat, staying within your calorie limit, drinking water, losing pounds, etc. Working as part of a group is a good idea, but I wonder about competition sometimes (before you accuse me of hypocrisy, I'd like to point out that I chose a sustainable weight-loss pattern rather than one that would be more likely to keep me in contention). It works for some people, but I think there is a chance that with others, struggling in the contest may cause them to think about giving up entirely. With a mentor, though, you could probably overcome those obstacles, and then the competition might provide you with the kick you need to really start making progress on your own.

Hopefully they all see good results. It's a month-long contest, which means I'll be older when they are finished. ha ha. Hopefully I will be lighter too.
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