Saturday, August 25, 2007

NFL Preview 2007

After lengthy conversations with folks who have been watchign meaningless preseason games, I thought I'd put together my 2007 NFL preview and predictions column. This is the equivalent of throwing darts from a slightly shorter distance to the board since we know some teams are destined to fail (Raiders, Browns, Falcons) and some have cakewalks to the playoffs (Pats in the AFC East/Bears in the NFC North/Colts in the AFC South). I'm going to try to predict award winners as well.

AFC East
1. Patriots 2. Jets 3. Bills 4. Dolphins
The AFC L-East is still bad enough for the Patriots to go 5-1 and have a walk to a 10 win season and the playoffs. The scary part is that the Jets have the same chance of going 5-1 and then only needed to go .500 int heir other games for a 10 win season. I can see the Jets doing it especially now that they have a true no. 1 RB. They lucked out in that the non-programmed games they play are vs. the Chiefs and Titans who are going to fall back to Earth this year. The Dolphins should have drafted Brady Quinn and passed on him. They have not had a QB since Marino's retirement. They shot themselves in the foot. I'd like the Bills more but they got rid fo McGahee and have a horrendous first 9 weeks of the year.

AFC North
1. Ravens 2. Bengals - Wild Card 3. Steelers 4. Browns
The Ravens now have a RB to keep teams honest vs. the Ravens offense. McNair looked toasted sometimes last year, but maybe he can pull something off witht he passing game to prevent 9 man fronts. I see the Bengals as rebounding this year and going 10-6, maybe 11-5. Palmer is back from his surgery, and hopefully, the criminal conduct is behind them. The Steelers could prove me wrong, as their rookie coach take over. I hope he works magic, as I like the Steelers being in the mix for the playoffs. The Browns are a couple years away. Witht he collection of young talent they have, I would not be surprised if they made the leapfrog to the top in '09.

AFC South
1. Colts 2. Jacksonville 3. Texans 4. Titans
The Colts have a tough schedule, but lucked out in the Titans losing Pacman. Everyone gave Vince Young the credit last year for the Titans turnaround, but Pacman & the defense was more responsible for that winning streak. Losing him, exposes their secondary. I see teams figuring out how to contain Vince Young, Vince Young not progressing in his 'reads', and the defense not beign as effective. With a tougher schedule, that is a long way to fall. I like the Schaub pickup by the Texans, and I think they will surprise some people.

AFC West
1. Chargers 2. Broncos - Wild Card 3. Chiefs 4. Raiders
The Chargers will win their division despite their Al Gore look-a-like coach. I almost had the Broncos winning the division, but I think the tragedy of the Williams death will hurt their secondary. He was a great DB paired with Champ Bailey. They did pick up Dre Bly, but I was not impressed with his work in Detroit. The Chiefs will have a rough year after losing Trent Green, losing another great O-lineman, running LJ 430 times (w/playoffs) last year, a tougher schedule, and the possibility of starting Brodie Croyle. If the Raiders win 6 games, it will be because their defense/special teams scored 2 TDs in each game.

NFC East
1. Eagles 2. Cowboys - Wild Card 3. Giants 4. Redskins
The Eagles win the division because of a tiebreaker with the Boys. Both teams have 10 very winnable games on their schedule. It is how the teams play their non-programmed foes that will determine the division. Does anyone think the Iggles can sweep the Cowboys again this year? Not me, and not even my Iggles fan friends think that. The Wild Card in this whole division is how do the Redskins play on offense? If they play well, they could walk to a 8-9 win season. If not, they will have a high draft pick again.

NFC North
1. Bears 2. Vikings 3. Packers 4. Lions
The Bears defense alone will keep them in games. It is just a matter of the QB playing 'ok' to determine their final record. I see them sweeping their division, which gives them a 6-0 start and from their, they will only need 4 more wins to reach 10 and the playoffs. The Vikings should not start Tavaris Jackson, and sadly, Drew Henson has made an appearance to con another professional sports team into paying him. In Madden 05, he was an awesome QB for me. In real life, he doesnt have the heart. The Packers do not have a solid RB, lack a strong defense, and their QB is a mistake prone gunslinger; 8 wins if they catch a myriad of breaks like last year. The Lions should put a pic of a turd on their helmet.

NFC South
1. Saints 2. Panthers - Wild Card 3. Bucs 4. Falcons
Saints will win this division because of great quarterbacking, a slightly improved defense, and Reggie Bush figuring out halfway through last year how to run in the NFL. His lightbulb moment changes this offense, as he is now a great running complement to Deuce and not just a receiving threat who can run. In a year or two, it's Reggie's show anyway. The Panthers will be hamstrung by inconsistent QB play. It really comes down to that with them as their D is solid and they have the offensive weapons. One caveat is that if Deangelo Williams can stay healthy he can alleviate some pressure and carry the offense late in games. I loved the Jarrett pick. The Bucs can scratch 6 or 7 wins, but I did not like the Garcia signging or Plummer trade. I thought Simms was progressing and making strides reading NFL defenses. The Falcons are fucked. With Joey Harrington as the only QB with soem experience to run the show, I'd get rid of him and bring back the single wing formation and run every down. If they do win the division, it will be a testament to the Ewing Theory.

NFC West
1. Rams 2. Seahawks 3. 49ers 4. Cardinals
The Rams will pull this division out on the legs of Steven Jackson. Bulger is solid and the WRs are good, but Jackson will lead this team to a 10 win season. Seattle's time has come and gone. They lucked out witht he slippery ball last year in the playoffs. The offense is old, the secondary shitty, and the O-line has not recovered from the loss of Hutch. I thought of putting the 49ers ahead of them, but pro football reference had them as the worst 7-9 team of all time. Not working this year. Arizona will suck as they always do. I can see them covering all their home games, but the moment they hit the road, derp.

Awards
MVP - Drew Brees - The Saints will have the best record in the NFC and he will get his due. No offense to Brady, Manning and Tomlinson. I will say this though of those 3 names, if Brady and Tomlinson were injured, it might hurt their teams by 2 wins or so. If Manning were injured, the Colts would win maybe 4 games all year.
Defensive Player of the Year - Shawne Merriman - Stats and 'visibility' are the two reasons why I see him getting this media voted award. Adalius Thomas (the NE media bump), Urlacher, Demarcus Ware, and Champ Bailey will be in the mix.
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Adrian Peterson - The Vikings will run him a lot, and this will help his stats look good. Voters are dumb for sports awards. More importantly, he will close out games for the Vikes offense and help them win. As a 21 year old phenom, they can look forward to a decade of him running wild in Minny.
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Brandon Merriweather - Merriweather will be required to play for the Pats as their secondary will suffer non-stop injuries as they have for the last 4 years. He's talented, just a bit psycho.

Playoffs
AFC
WC Round - Colts over Bengals, Broncos over Ravens
Divisional - Pats over Broncos, Chargers over Colts
AFC Champ - Chargers over Pats

NFC
WC Round - Bears over Panthers, Cowboys over St Louis
Divisional - Iggles over Bears, Saints over Cowboys
NFC Champ - Saints over Iggles

Super Bowl - Chargers over Saints

The Chargers are just too talented to flame out in the playoffs like last year (major bad luck hexes in last year's game), and with Rivers handling the QB duties another year, he will be better prepared. I still think the Pats defense is too old to keep up with teams even if their WR corps is not stocked deep. The Saints and Cowboys match up well against the other possible division winners. There is little separating the Cowboys and Iggles on talent level as far I can see, and even if you think Wade Phillips is a bad coach, look at how Andy Reid has done in the playoffs. He always manages to make big mistakes in strategy. The Super Bowl will be a greaty story, "Brees battles the team that shunned him". There would be tons of starpower for TV and the media coverage. Both teams would be 1st time SB champs. I like Sean Payton a lot as a coach, and if there is a coach who could orchestrate an offensive gameplan that would make a defense like the Chargers have put together scratch its head, it is him. This game would be very entertaining. Let's hope it happens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Swimming and Sunsets

Last night, the wife and I went out to the pool for an hour or so. It was perfect weather with temps still in the 80s despite it being 7pm. The water was cold on first contact but felt great after a hot day. We stayed until the sun was setting, and honestly, it was a perfect end to the day. The sunset was reddish-orange, and with the clouds in the sky was one of those moments you want to paint because it looks "right".

When I was a kid, I had never seen a sunset over the ocean because I grew up ont he East Coast. When my folks took my sis and I down to Florida, we stayed on the Gulf Coast at Bonita Springs. Lots of old people, lots of sun, lots of shells in the water. One evening after dinner, my folks walked out on the beach with my sister and I, dragging my grandparents who had already seen enough sunsets during their 2 months down there. We sat down for about 30 mins and watched the sunset. I can probably recall a dozen memories from that trip vividly, and that sunset would be number 1.

My sister puking at Epcot Center at the 360 degree film at the Canada exhibit would be number 2.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Trip to Maine

Highlights from the trip to Maine:
- My sister's wedding was extremely classy, despite my extended family's track record and a budget that was half the average American wedding.
- Open bars are awesome. I don't drink to excess often, but I got tanked at the wedding and drinking at a bar afterwards.
- Keep toasts short and sweet and involve both the bride and groom. The toasts were good at the reception.
- My in-laws live so far into the woods that you can see the stars, the fainter stars you don't normally see, and even the Milky Way. Beautiful.
- Meteor showers rock when the night is clear. The streaks of light were pretty impressive.
- Ate some lobster. 13 lobsters for $70. I don't know how my folks scored that. Lobster is so good. I'm probably going to have some more when I go back out there for a wedding in October.
- The ocean is fantastic. I miss it the most with this move. The ocean was extremely calm on Wednesday and Thursday. It was the calmest I have ever seen it in Maine. Virtually no waves were crashing on the shore.
- On clear nights when the sound carries, you can hear the ocean from my parents back porch. It is a nice, dull roaring sound. It was a nice background to our conversations.
- Kinney Shores is the beach that I spent most of my time on when I grew up and lived as a young adult in Maine. It's where my ashes will be scattered one day.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Smart Article and Time for Me to Fly

This guy's article discusses the Sino-American economic situation, and how the huge US Dollar reserves actually hurt China. He hints at Taiwan being a thing that could throw out his analysis, which I also wrote about two years ago. My idea of how a falling dollar could help the US is discussed in a way more eloquent way than I could ever write for this blog. He nails it when he states that a dollar which is suddenly weak vs. the euro and the yuan would make our exports cheaper/imports more expensive, and wouldn't you know it, allow the trade balances and current account deficit to maybe correct itself as it would in a normal floating currency system. Maybe pricier imports would curb our horribly out of whack consumer culture.

Tomorrow, the wife and I fly to Maine for my sister's wedding. I can't believe she is getting married. Not that it is happening now, but that a guy is agreeing to a lifetime with her. I jest. They will be fine together.

We have to fly tomorrow and that is what worries me. I have grown to completely abhor the airlines for their lack of customer focus, their horrible treatment of their employees, and the complete stupidity in their business models. Once Southwest Airlines came around with the low cost, no frills approach, it threw things for a loop. Rising Oil costs do not help. Southwest saw something few other airlines saw. People do not care how they get there, they just want to get there on schedule and safely. Southwest also set up an oil hedge that expires soon and has kept costs down in the face of rising oil, but gosh they know how to strip everything down to the lowest cost. If I will fly for more than 6 hours, I would like some comfort and class. If I am flying for 2 hours to NYC, just get me there ontime and don't lose my bag. Let's see if this works. Peace.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why am I not on TV?

This article states plainly that the Chinese have our government by the short hairs. What is their weapon? Their US Dollar reserves. Who wrote about this 2 years ago? Me. I hate being smart. I love foreign policy, and I find it amazing that the dipheads in charge did not see anytime since the last energy crisis and true blue recession (late 70s/early 80s), that the USA might want to make some moves to limit our non-military vulnerabilities.

My other WTF is this article. Thank you Bloomberg. It's like the entire free world is just standign around distracted by the cheap toys they can buy that are in shoddy durability and does not notice that an authoritarian oligarchy that executes citizens in massive droves, restricts freedom and other horrors is buying assets up. I do dislike the coverage of China as a monolith of mass production. No country is ever a monolith in anything. Even Nazi Germany had its nuances and inner struggles for power/style. There are China skeptics, here, here here and here. The last link is best for breaking down the first link and showing people China has its issues. The middle two links are from one writer's site who uses some pretty comical phrases. It makes you question when fuddy duddy d-bags like this guy, who has a great blog for investing/trading, describe China as full of green meadows, puppies, happy & free people, and the future to a wonderful world. If you read Bill Cara long enough, you think the USA is the totalitarian dictatorship and China is the democracy. Hmmmm, maybe they both are. No, I can still rip ont he president without fear of death. I keep wanting to email d-bag Bill, and say "Hey Bill, if the US really were so authoritarian, your little website would be gone and you'd be dead. That's what happens in China. Ni Hao, mutherphucker". (Side Note: I am going to learn Mandarin Chinese for fun)

Sorry for that tangent. China has its problems, but it relies on us just like we rely on them. It's a horrible conjoined twin syndrome. We would not be in as bad of a bind if the consumer culture in our nation were toned down and corproations had not sold many basic manufacturing jobs out to the Far East. Don't worry we still manufacture things in the USA, as I typed in an earlier blog entry, our exports keep growing. We just can't stop buying other people's sh*t. On the other hand, if we did not buy so many imports, those developing countries would be in a tight spot. This is why the Chinese would not flood the market with dollars to create a crash of the US Dollar. They would be screwed as well. Still, the idea of the Chinese threatening the USA with this when it tries to claim Taiwan sounds too reasonable to me. Can't you imagine them doing that, smiling the entire time? Globalization: can you dig it?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

History Channel Diversity of Content

When my local cable company first broadcast the History Channel, I was immediately hooked. As a lover of history, I was excited to see so many different historical topics brought to visual medium. Even if it is through television, history lessons, if correct, are good for anyone at any age. I think I lost 300 hours of sleep over the course of high school and college from watching the History Channel late at night during school vacations.

One thing that bothered me was that the History Channel (HC) seemed to focus on WW2 and specifically, Hitler. My friends and I joked that it was the Hitler Channel. What we failed to realize is that film was first put to amazing use by the Nazis for political propaganda reasons. WW2 was the first major conflict to truly use film. The HC had so much film from that era, and little beforehand, so it is a natural bias to showing WW2 era film and topics. Even with this bias, I was glued to the television to file away little bits of information about whatever conflict the HC aired.

As time has progressed, the History Channel has expanded their horizons by airing many more shows and discussing different conflicts. Like any good cable channel, they have even made a foray into 'reality' television. I find this ironic calling it reality tv when the HC specials on WW2 and other conflicts is actually reality tv. Two recently developed shows "Cities of the Underworld" and "Human Weapon" have become favorites of my wife and I. Cities of the Underworld explores the idea of caverns, ruins, and entire cities beneath major cities that we might live in our visit on vacation. Places such as Rome, London, Istanbul, NYC and even Portland, Oregon (it was not good) have been explored. My personal favorite has been the pilot, Istanbul, which due to being the head of the Roman Empire for ages, has a huge underground world. The Romans were excellent engineers as many columns, supports and aqueducts are still standing under the modern day streets. Budapest, London, and Paris were top notch as well. The layers of history are wonderful to see and can help visualize a specific time.

Human Weapon is a show designed for men. My wife makes fun of me for watching it, but even she thinks it has cool moments. Two guys are sent to different areas of the world to learn certain styles of fighting. At the end of an episode, one of the guys takes on a skilled pro in that style in an exhibition match, which look pretty frickin' real to me. For anyone who has contemplated just checking out of American society to go learn a martial art in a traditional setting, it is an eye opener. Even in training, there are moments where one can be close to death. Some traditions are truly passed down man to man, father to son. In each episode, you see how the martial art is just that: an art. It is a way of life, which works on the interior intangible part of the human as well as the physical exterior. It is not just about learning how to kick someone's ass. One of my friends growing up was a black belt in karate by the time we graduated high school. He only used karate once in front of us. We would ask him why he did not use karate more, and he would always say "it's not about fighting". We were young and did not understand.

After watching the first three episodes, Muay Thai seems to be the best fighting style for me. I am joking of course, but my wife kept laughing whenever the narration spoke of how Muay Thai concentrates force to the point of the elbow or knee. As she said "they have obviously spent a night sharing a bed with you". One of my best friends and I are the founding members of "Team Skeletor". This is in reference to our extremely sharp elbows, knees, shoulders and/or hip bones. My shoulders do not do as much damage anymore because of muscle, but my elbows, knees and hips still can inflict damage. They were used liberally when I played football/basketball and was routinely underweight compared to my competition. As the show said, an elbow concentrates all of the force that coems with the momentum of your arm movement into one point that is not covered in muscle or fat. Right on Human Weapon narrator guy.

I will continue to watch these two shows. If something sounds very interesting, I will do further reading ont he topic. Hey, I could even begin to take classes in urban spelunking or a martial art. I am happy that the History Channel has decided to supplement their normal history focused shows with these two reality tv style shows, but I hope they keep them to just that: a supplement.