Back by popular demand, and in the face of kudzu like anti-sports grumps, it is Emptywheel’s Famous Football Trash Talk! The field is now down to four Green Bay at Seattle, and Indianapolis at New England.
The early game is the one that Phred and I will be glued to the TV for. The Packers return to the hostile confines of Seattle’s Century Link field to face the Seahawks. This is exactly where the first NFL regular season game was played this year. In that meeting, the Squawks owned the Packers. Green Bay’s defense looked unable to cope with Russell Wilson, and Rodgers refused to throw a single pass to Richard Sherman’s side of the field and Seattle waltzed away with an easy 36-16 win.
But a lot has changed in the interim. Seattle has developed their young receivers, but has lost the game changing explosiveness of Percy Harvin. And Green Bay has changed their defense around a bit with Clay Matthews being moved inside much more frequently, especially on obvious passing defense downs. But late in the season, Matthews was playing inside even on run defense because AJ Hawk just wasn’t physical enough to get it done. It seems like a small change, but the difference has been palpable. The Pack’s defense is far better than it was early in the season. Green Bay’s offense seems to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. Except one, and that is a big one, of the Discount Doublecheck variety.
I expect Rodgers will be slightly more mobile, and confident of his ability to move laterally, this week than last week against the Cowboys. He will need to be, because Seattle’s defense is a lot more lethal than Dallas’ was. The key will be whether Eddy Lacy can get untracked early and establish the run to a reasonable extent. Lacy has been healthy and very solid of late, so there is hope. If Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett are allowed to constantly pressure Rodgers, it will be the end of the line for the Cheese. However, if the Green Bay O-line and Lacy can take some pressure off, Rodgers has the downfield accuracy to beat Seattle. That’s a big if. The Squawks are 7.5 point favorites, and I think that is maybe low. Seattle is headed here to the Super Bowl.
In the second game, the Colts go east to tilt with the Patriots. Frankly, I didn’t think Indy could beat the Broncos at Mile High. But they did, and it was not as close as the 24-13 score indicated. Andrew Luck was everywhere, extending plays and throwing darts. And the Colts’ defense was spectacular in their ability to wrap up and tackle relentlessly. There are not a lot of known names on the Indy defense, but they have been pretty impressive in this postseason.
The Pats. What is left to be said about the Patriots at this point? Tom Brady, Darrell Revis and the best coach in football, they have all of that and a Gronk. But if the Patriots want an eighth Super Bowl appearance, which would tie them for the most in NFL history (Pittsburgh and Dallas), they will likely have to do it without center Bryan Stork, who injured a knee last week. The Pats will likely go back to emphasizing their rushing attack against Indy, after gaining a historical low of 14 net yards rushing against Terrell Suggs and the Ravens. And the Pats have lit up the Colts on the ground in the past, so expect Belichick to go back to LeGarrette Blount and Bolden far more heavily Sunday. The Colts are game I am sure, but the Pats are a 6.5 point favorite and I think they will cover that and win easily.
There you have it. This is our last Sunday of football before Super Bowl XLIX, which happens to be right here in Phoenix. Time will tell who gets to Phoenix. Drink and chat it up people. Music by Phoenix’s own Glen Campbell.
UPDATE: Allright Emptywheel lugnuts, here is yer update to the post I said would serve all huge games this expanded weekend. Not much has changed on my original discussion below, however, Oregon had a number 3 receiver, Darren Carrington, suspended because of a terminally stupid positive pot test.
Both teams are not at perfect strength, so disregard the injury/suspension factor. Ohio State stands a better shot than most may think. I still think the Sweatervests will not be able to put down the Duckies. Cause you just cannot put down the Duck. And I am, despite my betting losses on Oregon in previous years, going to stick with that.
I went 3 for 4 in predictions on the NFL, but suffered a painful loss when the Colts stomped the Broncos and now confirmed peg legged Capt. Manning. Oh well, my bad.
Enjoy our first playoff NCAA Championship game! In honor of that, I have sacked the two offending Packers love songs and inserted some Quack shit. Cause the Duckies will NOT be put down (please see the new video attached.)]
The first game up is Baltimore at New England. The Ravens seem to be the trendy pick these days, and they certainly are capable of wandering into the Big Razor and knocking off the Pats. Flacco, Suggs and yadda, yadda, yadda. I don’t think so. The Pats are a touchdown favorite, and there is good reason for that. Brady and Gronk are rocking and have a hard nosed running game with Blount. Add in that the Ravens are not all that strong in the secondary and it spells success for the Pats. Throw in the shutdown ability of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner for the Pats in the secondary and there you go.
Second game is the late game Saturday, Carolina at Seattle. Love to see the Panthers pull off the massive upset so there might could be Conference title game at Lambeau, but that just is not happening. The Panthers are better than their record reflects, especially at this point in the season, but the Squawks are not the quarterback less Cardinals and this game is in Seattle.
Sunday early game is the game of the week. Naturally, the Cowboys at Packers, Ice Bowl II. ‘Boys won all their road games this year, Pack won all their home games. Lately Romo has been performing in a Rodgers like manner. Cowboys have the running game edge with Murray and Aaron Rodgers is got a gimpy calf. If this game was straight offense against offense, I’d have to take the ‘Boys. But defense wins playoff games, and on the Frozen Tundra, I trust the Packers’ defense more than that of Dallas. This is probably a net toss-up in my mind. Oddsmakers have Green Bay as a 5.5 point favorite. I don’t know about that, but I think they find a way to eek out the win.
Last game is Colts at Broncos. I was stunned that the Colts looked so good last weekend. They really did. But this game is not indoors in Indy, it is late afternoon/evening at Mile High. That is a whole nuther thing, Peyton has great numbers at home, and finally has Julius Thomas back and healthy. The two Thomases, Welker and Emmanuel Sanders are too much firepower for Indy to handle, and Von Miller will be bothering Andrew Luck. Toss in the vastly improved Denver running game with C.J. Anderson, and you can see why the Broncs are a touchdown favorite, and I think they will cover that.
The Cowboys are not there, but there is a big game at Jerryworld in Dallas. The first ever College Football Playoff Championship. Oregon, and I am still shocked by this, Ohio State. The Ducks just flat rolled Florida State, can OSU keep up with their high octane offense? I am tempted to say no, but Michigan State played Oregon awfully tough early in the year, so maybe. Cardale Jones is a load, and he can throw too. No way I am picking against the Quackers here, but if Ohio State plays like they did last week again, they can win. But Urban Meyer would be absolutely insufferable with a third national title, so he must be stopped, and I think the Ducks finally get their crystal trophy. If the Ducks lose, it may be because their receiving corps is depleted, both from injuries and from stupidity.
Okay, sorry about the music selections, but PHRED MADE ME DO IT! Actually, Phred wanted Let’s Go Lambeau by the Bodeans as the music. I did too, but it is not on You Tube. You can hear it at this link though, and it really rocks. If the Cheese get by the ‘Boys, maybe I will try to make a music video of it for next week.
It is wildcard weekend and there are four awesome games on tap. Let’s get to them.
First up is the snake bit 11-5 Cardinals visiting the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers. In a sane seeding system, this game would be in Phoenix as the Cards have 4 more wins than Carolina. This may actually occur with some playoff reforms the NFL is considering for next year. But this is Roger Goodell’s NFL and things are not necessarily sane. That said, the edge has to go to the Panthers. They have been on a late season roll and playing very good ball. Both Cam Newton on offense and Luke Kuechly on defense are just killing it. Newton is not running up big numbers at all, but he is managing the game and not hurting the team any longer. The Panthers allowed the second fewest points in the league over the last four games, and the Cardinals struggled to score points at all over that stretch. Ryan Lindley is back at QB for Arizona. He is not good, but certainly played a lot better in the regular season finale against the Niners. Hey, if Ohio State can wax Bama with a third string QB, maybe there is hope for Lindley and the Cardinals. But I don’t think so; Panthers are a six point favorite, and that sounds about right.
Next up is the late game today, Ravens at Steelers. Pittsburgh is hit hard by the loss of Le’Veon Bell, who was really balancing out the load for Roethlisberger. Everybody knows about the Ravens’ knack for getting on a playoff roll, so they are a scary team. But Big ben and the Stillers can do that too, and they are at home, where they are 3-0 against the Ravens in playoff games. I’ll take the Steelers again in a close one.
The early game Sunday is Cincinnati at the Colts. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since Ickey Woods and Boomer Esiason were leading them. And the Colts are at home and have Andrew Luck. Still, something has seemed off about the Colts down the stretch and the Bungles seemed to be getting their groove back a little…other than when they played the Steelers. I think the Bengals will get the job done in an upset.
The last game is maybe the best one, Detroit at Dallas. Somehow, the appeal reduced Ndamukong Suh’s penalty for stomping on the Most Valuable Player in the NFL to a fine, so he is not suspended for this game, which is huge for Detroit. The Lions will need Suh to keep DeMarco Murray from running wild. Murray proved last week that he can play with his injured thumb. Romo is on a serious roll, and playing the best QB of his career. Detroit also gets center Dominic Raiola back from a one game suspension too. Everything seems to be in the ‘Boys favor in this game, with the exception they are an average home team at best. Dallas is a 6.5 point favorite, and that sounds right. It will take a hell of a game out of the Kittehs to win this, and I just don’t see it.
Those are my picks, what you have to say??
[ew: WTF with Trash Talk with no music YouTubes? Added Lou Reed cause you gotta have something.]
Wildcard weekend in the NFL is coming up soon! But, it is New Years Eve and we are well into the meat of NCAA Bowl Season. There are both traditional bowls to yammer about and the new fangled college Football Playoffs. A cornucopia if you will! ASU squeaked out a narrow win over Coach K and Duke in the Sun Bowl, thus salvaging at least a 10 win season and bowl win in what was once an incredibly promising season. Still not very satisfying. Our other major university here, University of Arizona, is in action in the Fiesta Bowl here in Cardinals’ stadium against Boise State this afternoon (should be starting soon on ESPN). I love Boise State, but this is almost a home game for the Cats, and they should prevail. TCu is on the teepee right now just freaking obliterating the ‘Ole Miss Rebels. Really ugly. Tonight, another SEC “powerhouse”, Mississippi State takes on the Ramblin Wreck from Georgia Tech in the Orangutang Bowl. I’ll take MSU, but it may be close. From here on out, I will be writing this in conjunction with Gaius Publius, still sailing high on this fine Irish win (he made me say that). For the Outback Bowl, Gaius says:
The head picks Auburn, the heart picks the Badgers. In the world of the heart, Wisconsin will run it down their throats.
Bmaz agrees, because, you know, cheese and Packers are Wisconsin staples. Booyah! For the Cotton Bowl, it is a matchup of Baylor versus the Spartys of Michigan State. Gauis says:
The head picks Baylor. The heart picks Baylor. Up yours, say the Bears, to the corrupt selection committee and its “process.”
The big games are, of course, tomorrow with the Championship semifinals in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Let’s start out with the first game out of the gate, the Grandaddy Of Them All, the Rose Bowl. The Oregon State Quackers versus the Rapists er, Seminoles, of Florida State. Bmaz is gonna take the Ducks, because, well, they are the proper Pac-12 thing to do and I also think they are a better team. Florida State is overrated. Gaius says:
Ducks-with-talons (did you see those helmets and uniforms?) makes no sense. FSU, despite their peccadilloes (yes, in the world of sports, rape is a one of the peccas), will leave it on the field; also the Ducks; also their feathers, pointed and sharp though they be. That’s the head. The heart? Hey, I’m just upriver from them, and Jameis Winston needs a bring-down, a comeuppance. Time for Winston to trip up on the field.
Next up is the Sugar Bowl with Ohio State and Alabama. How many times are the college football powers that be going to put the Buckeyes in these huge games to to get embarrassed for having done so? Just stop. For starters, OSU should not be in the Championship series to start with, both TCU and Baylor, or either one of them, would have been a FAR more deserving choice. And, next year, we can all blarney on about the raging mediocrity of the team in Ann Arbaugh. This year, the fail is from the home of the Horseshoe, not the Big House.
It’s troubling to pick with the corrupt selection committee and its “process” — the one that favors the big-money “Big Five” conferences. But pick we must. The head says Alabama and its own corrupt process — the one where they sign 200 recruits, then toss out the worst 175 of them after they enroll in “school” — will take the game. But the heart says, please god, may the Bamans fall far. I’m not picking against the most corrupt — clearly the selectors are that — but the heart chooses the lesser evil, at least this time. tOSU in a heartbeat.
There you have it kids. It is bowl season, look alive! We will be back with a Wildcard Weekend NFL post (assuming I do not get too sloshed for the New Years. Music this week by the original Chicago Transit Authority with a live version of Make Me Smile. Holy shit was Terry Kath great. Rock and roll em.
Here we are at the cusp of the end of the regular season line for the NFL and official start of the college football bowl season. Man, things are not what they used to be. As I write this, I am watching the Fiesta Bowl Parade on local TV. It looks fucking pathetic. This used to be a parade that hundred’s of thousands of people came out for. Now it looks like a podunk town homecoming parade. Right this second, there is some mope on a bicycle towing a freaking monkey in a little red wagon. I need to start drinking stat! Maybe with the Tequila Gun!
Okay, so the ASU Sun Devils are playing the Blue Devils of Duke in the otherwise long ago relevant, but now piddling, Sun Bowl, and that game is on CBS and just started. I’ll take the Devils! Boston College versus Penn State, the Nittany Lions fresh off of truncated probation, in the Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium on ESPN may be a decent toss up. As may be the Cornfuskers versus Trojans in the Holiday Bowl tonight, also on ESPN. There are other bowls starting up on Monday, and there may or may not be Nuevo Trash between now and next Tuesday or Wednesday, so make this yer Bowl Trash Talk home thread until you see another one!
So being done with the Joes, let’s move to the Pro’s. Really, is there any doubt but that the biggest game of the NFL regular season comes down to bmaz and Phred’s beloved Packers versus teh Evil Kittehs of Ms. Wheel. Matt Stafford currently looks like a scruffy lumberjack that has eaten more hotdogs than Joey Chestnut on July 4th on Coney Island. Which should make pulling away from rookie center Travis Swanson, who will be taking his live first snaps ever in the critical game on the Frozen Tundra™. That would because the 12 year starting center of the Lions, Dominic Raiola, who was suspended for going all Suh on a Chicago Bear last game. Unless Aaron Rodgers gets cheap shotted by the Dirty Felines, expect the Packers to continue the Lions losing streak at Lambeau to 24 years in a row.
There are really only three other true games of interest in the league Sunday. First, Bengals at Steelers, where my bet is Big Ben once again denies Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton the big game win they so covet. Second, the Panthers are at the Falcons for the NFC south Championship and a losing record berth in the playoffs. Not just a losing record berth, but a home field game to boot. The NFL really needs to rethink their seeding priorities. The Cardinals will almost certainly be the wild card opponent for the victor of this game, and Ariaona will have won many more games going in, and against far better competition.
Lastly, the combo of the Cardinals versus Niners in San Francisco and Rams at Squawks still counts. Were the Rams to pull the road upset over Seattle and the Cards to pull a road upset over the Niners (the Cards still have Ryan Lindley at QB, so a win would be a HUGE upset), the Cards would still win the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, neither upset will come even remotely close to happening. Yes, I know Marcy and Rosalind say I am a whiner and bellyacher on these points, but I have not been wrong about them yet. Most unfortunately. I’d love to change this world and have had Carson Palmer for the whole season so that it was a fair fight for the Cardinals in the NFC West, but that was not to be the case. It is what it is.
Music today by Ten Years After who also wanted to change the world. Eat well, drink responsibly and let it rip!
Late start on Trash this week as I was otherwise occupied and, well, with little college football, there was little action on Saturday. Navy beat Army for the 13th time in a row and Oregon’s Marcus Mariotta won the Heisman, as was expected.
But Sunday is another matter, as the NFL is really heating up. The Cardinals won a tough defensive slugfest in St. Louis against the Rams, but suffered yet another crushing injury as QB Drew Stanton suffered a sprained MCL and ACL. No one knows when, or even if, he can return. There is a big push to get Kurt Warner to come out of retirement to save the day. I, of course, am lobbying for the ‘Ole Geezer Gunslinger himself, Brett Favre. Good times.
I think the Steelers at Falcons may be a great game. Atlanta’s record sucks, but they are very much in the playoff hunt in the woeful NFC south. And they seem to be getting their groove back. The Steelers have been hot or cold lately, better stay hot or the Falcons will take them. The Pack is in Buffalo. If there is one team that won’t be freaked by cold and snow in the outdoors of Orchard Park, it is Green Bay. They are used to it. Patriots should take care of the Dolphins at Foxborough.
Broncos at Chargers is a critical game. Of course you have to pick the Donkos, and Las Vegas is. But the Chargers will be tough. The Vikings have been gelling of late and, were this game in Minnesota, I might be tempted to go with an upset over Detroit. In Detroit, however, have to ride with the Kittehs. Can the Niners get back on the winning track against the Squawks in Seattle? Nope. Cowboys at Eagles for SNF is arguably the game of the week. I rate it as a tossup, but think the eagles may wear out the Boys if Sanchez can play decent.
Now, I said Cowboys/Iggles was “arguably” the game of the week, and any other week it might be. But not this week. Oh no, this week THE game of the week is absolutely the Bengals at the Brownies. And the starting debut of one Mr. Football. Cleveland should have gone to Manziel last week. Brian Hoyer was just pitiful, and the Brown still only lost to the Colts by one point. There is no way Manziel would not have been better. But with the loss to the Colts, Cleveland is gasping, but still technically alive in the playoff hunt. America will be watching. And in a weird scheduling deal, a LOT of America will be watching because FOX, which normally runs NFC games, is broadcasting this strictly AFC matchup. Go Johnny Go, Johnny be good!
Christmas music by Dave Edmunds.
Okay, I tried to get folks interested in the criminal docket report yesterday, to sadly little avail. Oh well, so be it. Let us dive headfirst into trash then.
First up is the Pac-12 Championship game between the Oregon Quackers and the Cats from Arizona, played in the Big Blue Jeans in Not Frisco (yes, I am trying to piss off those NoCal locals who HATE the term Frisco). Halfway through the third quarter and the Quack Attack is just rolling Rich Rod and the Sad Cats. Ouch. All I can say is, yo, enjoy it Cats, unlike ASU, this is as close to the Rose Bowl as you are gonna get. I rooted for you for one night, and look what happened! Bygones baybee!
That was last night, today brings us conference championship games like Ohio State and Wisconsin, Kansas State and Baylor, Alabama and Missouri, and Florida State versus Georgia Tech. I’ll take, respectively, Wisconsin, Baylor, Crimson Tide and Tech in a wild upset. In some NCAA criminal docket new, Jameis Winston is one of the most reprehensible pieces of human trash I have seen in years. He refused to testify in his disciplinary hearing, but cravenly filed an unnecessarily graphic and lewd belligerent letter and then released it to the press. Then, not satisfied with what he has already done, Winston is mentally raping his victim once again. Winston and his lawyers now are threatening to intentionally try to separate the victim from her lawyers by suing the lawyers for defamation. This won’t work, but will eat up time and money for the victim trying to fend it off. It is one of the most assholish things I have seen from an attorney in some time; Winston is one nasty piece of work. Unbelievable.
In the pros, There are a morgue full of games that may put the losers in coffins. This is similar to a guillotine day. The Steelers play the Bengals twice in the last four weeks, starting in Cinci this weekend. They probably need to win both if they want to win the division. Unfortunately, I don’t think they get it done. The Browns, like the Steelers, have a 7-5 record and can’t lose many more games and still hope to make the playoffs. Don’t think they get it done at home against the Colts either. Colts are not flashy, but Luck has them on a roll. The Ravens and Fish play in Miami. Both of them are also 7-5, and the winner will be looking good and the loser not so much. That game is really a tossup, but I like the Fish at home.
The Chefs come to the desert to meet the suddenly reeling Cardinals. The Cards are very tough at home, and they desperately need a win after two losses in a row because they finish the schedule out agh the Rams, home for Seattle and away at Niners. There is an air of doom and gloom right now in Phoenix, with the fear that the Cards may no win another game and will not even make the playoffs despite the 9-1 start. There is good reason for that fear.
The best game of the week is Seattle at Philly. The Squawks have their groove back and the Iggles are now sitting, at 9-3, with the best record in the league (shared with Green Bay, AZ, NE and Denver). It is the age old battle of lockdown defense versus high flying offense. Mark Sanchez has been pretty good since replacing Nick Foles, but hasn’t faced anything like Seattle’s defense. I’ll take the Squawks for a key road win. The Pats have spent all week in San diego getting ready for their game with the Bolts. The Chargers close with Denver Niners and Chefs, with the last two on the road, so they could really use a win against Bill Bel, Brady and the boys. No idea why I have this crazy notion, but I think the Bolts will pull this one out.
The Pack are in Atlanta for Monday Night Football, and Denver is home against the Bill. Both should be fine, but that will about end Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes. Music this week from the Killers who are….simply killer.
The popular meme has been that Ray Rice got some kind of miraculous plea deal to diversion (pre-trial intervention, or “PTI”, in New Jersey parlance) and that NOBODY in his situation ever gets the deal he did.
Is that true? No. Not at all. Kevin Drum wrote a few days ago at Mother Jones on this subject:
First, although Ray Rice’s assault of Janay Palmer was horrible, any sense of justice—no matter the crime—has to take into account both context and the relative severity of the offense. And Ray Rice is not, by miles, the worst kind of domestic offender. He did not use a weapon. He is not a serial abuser. He did not terrorize his fiancée (now wife). He did not threaten her if she reported what happened. He has no past record of violence of any kind. He has no past police record. He is, by all accounts, a genuinely caring person who works tirelessly on behalf of his community. He’s a guy who made one momentary mistake in a fit of anger, and he’s demonstrated honest remorse about what he did.
In other words, his case is far from being a failure of the criminal justice system. Press reports to the contrary, when Rice was admitted to a diversionary program instead of being tossed in jail, he wasn’t getting special treatment. He was, in fact, almost a poster child for the kind of person these programs were designed for. The only special treatment he got was having a good lawyer who could press his cause competently, and that’s treatment that every upper-income person in this country gets. The American criminal justice system is plainly light years from perfect (see Brown, Michael, and many other incidents in Ferguson and beyond), but it actually worked tolerably well in this case.
Mr. Drum is absolutely correct, Ray Rice was quite appropriate for the diversion program he was ultimately offered and accepted into by Atlantic County Superior Court.
In fact, that is exactly the deal I would hope, and expect, to get for any similarly situated client in Rice’s position. It is also notable the matter was originally charged as a misdemeanor assault in a municipal court, which is how this would normally be charged as there was no serious physical injury. Rice would have gotten diversion there too and, indeed, that was the deal his lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, had negotiated with the municipal prosecutors before the county attorney snatched jurisdiction away and obtained a felony indictment. Despite the brutality depicted by the video, this is precisely the type of conduct that underlies most every domestic violence physical assault (seriously, what do people think it looks like in real life?) and it is almost always charged as a simple misdemeanor assault.
Janay Palmer Rice clearly did not receive a “serious physical injury” level of injury under the applicable New Jersey definition in NJ Rev Stat § 2C:11-1(b) and a small period of grogginess/unconsciousness is not considered, by itself, as meeting the threshold. Now, to be fair, New Jersey has two levels of injury that can lead to a felony charge, the aforementioned “serious physical injury”, and the lower “significant physical injury”, pursuant to NJ Rev Stat § 2C:11-1(d) that Rice was charged under, and which is a far less serious charge, even though still nominally a felony under New Jersey classification.
The injury to Janay Palmer (Rice) did fall within the lower “significant physical injury” threshold under New Jersey’s criminal statutes because of the momentary apparent lapse of consciousness. So, under the New Jersey statute, while the felony, as opposed to simple misdemeanor, charge may have not been the norm for such a fact set, it was certainly minimally factually supportable. That said, most all similar cases would still be charged as simple assault, as indeed, as stated above, Rice initially was. The New Jersey assault statute, with its different iterations of offenses, and offense levels, is here.
With that description of the nature and structure of assault in New Jersey out of the way, there is something else that must be addressed: I am absolutely convinced that the →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Two weeks ago I was in a big box store, watching an old guy in an MSU cap buy the same computer as a younger guy in a Michigan cap. The old Spartans fan sincerely offered his opinion, as if he couldn’t stand the sight of the Wolverines playing so pathetically. We don’t need another Michigan man, they agreed, we need someone to restore the integrity of the program. I think even the most ardent traditionalists have come around to that (especially with Jim Harbaugh looking like a more likely candidate to coach the Raiders than than Wolverines after he gets fired in a few weeks). Though I think Michigan is still too committed to the failed leadership of business types who’d rather sell some more luxury boxes than fix the underlying product, from football to academics. I worry we’re going to have one more failed coach before we’ll find the man who’ll return the team to glory.
Against that background, there’s as much drama surrounding whether the Wolverines or the Gators can spoil the Bowl series hopes of their rivals. Michigan has the easier job here, which is good given that they’re a far weaker team, they just need to prevent OSU from having a huge win in case something opens up ahead of the OSU. I think the Gators might surprise against the perfect FSU, which has been less than convincing. Plus, it’d be a victory Jim White might finally enjoy, being assured of Mus
gravekrat’s departure. Meanwhile, I expect Alabama to roll through Auburn; I’m less sure about the Georgia rivalry.
Which brings us to the matchup of the week, and possibly the season: Pats – Packers at Lambeau Lawn (it’s forecast to be freezing, but nothing really Tundra-worthy). In spite of all the hype over Numbers 12 facing off for the first time, this game will be decided on D. Will the refs let Brandon Browner manhandle Jordy Nelson? Will Jamie Collins, who adds necessary mobility to the Linebacker corps, play as poorly as he did against the Lions? Will the repurposing of Julius Peppers prove to make the difference? If so, will it be by landing Brady on his ass or by blanketing Gronk? While it might be easy to predict a Packers win just on home field, I think this will come down to a Brady turnover (but of course, I hope I’m wrong).
Meanwhile, don’t sleep on KC against Peyton at Arrowhead. The Broncos have been beatable of late, and KC played close in Denver.
I suspect the surprise game of Sunday will be Bills-Brownies. Both are just outside of contention (if you can call anyone in the AFC North out of anything). The Bills are fresh off a victorious trip to their home-away-from-home Detroit and a shellacking of the Jets. They have an impossible schedule from here on out, so will almost certainly play nothing but spoilers. The Brownies, however, could surge into something. And they just got Josh Gordon back. But I think this game will prove the wisdom of Bills’ grabbing Sammy Watkins away from the Browns.
Whoo boy, there is a bit of snow that shuffled in to Buffalo recently. So, with the Kittehs over in Foxborough taking on the steamrolling Pats, Buffalo will be the “home team” in Detroit for their game against the Jets. And tickets will be free, which is a cool thing for fans in Motown. The Jets just stink and Buffalo ought be a little jacked up, so I’m taking the Wagon Circlers. But what about the Kittehs? The Bill Bel and Brady brigade are just flat out rolling and just signed a new/old battering ram, er running back, LeGarrette Blount to solidify their running game. The Lions might be slipping back into the penalty prone ways. Hard not to take the Pats here.
Other than Pats and Lions, the other truly big game is the Cards up at the Seasquawks. The Squawks are favored pretty heavily. The national press, especially all the chatterers on ESPN, seem fixated on the Cards being in trouble because Carson Palmer is done for the year and backup Drew Stanton is in charge at QB. But I don’t think that is the worry, Stanton is competent, and the Cards were not exactly flashy even with Palmer. I think the problem is the running game, or actually lack thereof. The Cards get a little bit out of Andre Ellington, but really just don’t have much of a ground game. I think against a still tough Seattle defense, in that noisy stadium, that will doom the Cards. The Dolphins at Broncos and Ravens at Saints will also have big implications for all four teams and their playoff chances.
It is really a weak schedule in the college ranks this week. Arguably the two best games are in the Pac-12. First up is Rich Rod and the Arizona Wildcats in Utah to face the Utes.As I said earlier in the year when ASU played Utah, the Utes are good, and especially so at home in Rice Stadium. Lot of people picking Utah, but I think the Cats will pull out a narrow win. The other Pac-12 tilt of note is the yearly grudge match between USC and UCLA. The Bruins are favored at “home” in the Rose Bowl, but home field doesn’t mean much with these two. Both Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler are having great seasons at QB. I think it is a tossup, maybe slight edge to the Trojans. The SEC seems to all be playing Eastern Podunk State this week, so who cares about them? Special shoutout for Scribe on the Lehigh and Lafayette game being played in Yankee Stadium. I rate it a tossup, because who knows what can happen when these two get together! Seriously though, this is the 150th meeting in this ancient rivalry, and the NYT has a great story about the history.
Really, that is about it for excitement. There are only the two top shelf games in the NFL, but they should be good ones. The announcement of a no-bill, the opposite of an indictment for you non-criminal lawyers, is likely to be announced from the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office on Sunday, or so it seems to be shaping up to my eye. Officer Darren Wilson will skate for the homicide of Michael Brown, and all because prosecutor Bob McCulloch designed and ran a ridiculously out of the ordinary and craven grand jury designed to insure there was no indictment. Wilson figuratively chased a boy through the park and put a bullet in his heart. So today’s music is an absolutely kick ass version of Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) by the Stones from 1972. Rock on.
Update from emptywheel. Scribe actually wrote a great piece on the Lehigh/Lafayette game so I’m making an executive decision to share it with you all.
This is the weekend someone in the marketing department decided would be called “Rivalry Weekend”. And, so it is. Even though BMAz says it’s a lame weekend for college football, he’s wrong again. Many of the greatest rivalries in the college game get played today. But there is one rivalry which stands apart from the others. Today, Lafayette College and Lehigh University will play football against each other for the 150th time. That is more than any other pair of teams have played each other, anywhere, ever. This year The Game will take place at a neutral site. Yankee Stadium.
These are two smallish Eastern colleges with campuses about a dozen miles apart in two of the small, now post-industrial, cities of Pennsylvania. The schools are justly proud of their academics and the distinction of their graduates. You can look them up, but they routinely wind up near the top of the “highly competitive” categories.
Lehigh is a full-blown university awarding all sorts of degrees through the doctorate, but it came up as a school of engineering and the hard sciences. It was founded in the 19th century by the man in charge of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and located literally up the hill – Bethlehem’s South Mountain – from the main works and offices of the Bethlehem Steel Company. For generations there were many young men who, upon graduation, would go down the hill and into the offices of The Steel, to retire from there 40 or so years later. For the longest time, Lehigh’s teams were “the Engineers”. But, in recent years either they had an attack of the marketing department or a crisis of confidence and they wound up renaming themselves the “Mountain Hawks”.
Lafayette is an all-undergraduate college sited on College Hill, a bluff overlooking the city of Easton and the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. Its professors actually teach students in classes. It was founded in the first part of the 19th century. Its graduates have been more catholic in their fields of accomplishment, though business and Wall Street are strongly represented. Since time out of mind, its teams have been called the “Leopards”. In the days before the No Fun League, college football was the game and Lafayette was a national powerhouse as well as innovators. They were consensus national champions in 1896, 1921 and 1926. That’s right. Three-time national champions. In those old days, responding to the team from the University of Pennsylvania stealing their signals, Lafayette’s team invented the huddle. And, after tiring of getting banged around, one of Lafayette’s players invented the old leather football helmet. And in the late 40s when Texas’ Jim Crow would have stopped their star running back, a former Tuskegee Airman, from playing, Lafayette told the Sun Bowl to keep their bowl bid.
The rivalry between these two colleges is and always has been intense even as they’ve gone from I-A to I-AA in football, I-A in other sports. If you haven’t experienced it from the inside it’s quite hard to describe. It extends from football through all other sports and into the work and social worlds. That whole “Roll Tide -War Eagle” bit has nothing on this. For many years, the intensity of the rivalry required The Game to be played twice – home and home – every year. Thus, today is the 150th time The Game has been played even though they only started playing in 1884. The energy behind the rivalry played out in stunts – can you build an egg launcher that can be smuggled into the game and will reach to the other side of the stadium? – violence – both were all-male schools until about 1970 and all that energy went into … something – vandalism – once, some Lehigh students put their welding skills to work and removed the balls from a larger-than-life bronze of General Lafayette. (After that and some very professionally done repairs, all outdoor statuary was boxed over for most of November. Students often repainted the boxes to look like outhouses.)
Two schools where football players play more for the love of the game than anything else. Both schools are antipathetic toward athletic scholarships and there are no academic shortcuts. Hardly any of the players ever gets a look from the No Fun League, so today is the end of football for most of the seniors. Each school has long traditions, alumni who deeply love them and many reasons to be proud. Today is one more. For me, Yankee Stadium is too far to travel, but I might be going to a sports bar where The Game will be on CBS Sports Network.
Raise a glass. This is what college football should be.