Monday, January 09, 2006

The Couch Critic - Wild Card Sunday

First post of the year, so I'm bringing back the only running thing I've done so far: The Couch Critic, This Time it Counts Edition. You know the drill: first post below, click here to waste more time. This post, for those who care, marks my return to semi-regular posting; full-time posting will return later this month.

– Back, by not so popular demand, is another version of The Couch Critic, Playoff Edition. For the first time ever, the Student Lounge is not the hosting the event; I accepted an invitation to watch at the House of Flash. Needless to say, whether I ever watch another Giants game in this apartment depends on the outcome of this game.

12:57 – In attendance: Flash, Lil’ Flash, and myself. Jersey scorecard: Flash and I are both wearing Shockeys #80, Lil’ Flash is wearing a fading Barber #21. I’m the only one with a cap. It’s all about the details, people.

1:00 – Flash quickly (in a flash, if you will – eh, you probably won’t) changes the channel in time to catch the A-Team theme just starting on TVLand. Great start to the day.

1:05 – Buck and Aikman, obviously. No problem there. Flash points out that since FOX is going with an extra sideline reporter for today’s game (Chris Myers), and they put their regular one (Pam Oliver) on the Giants’ sideline, FOX is clearly showing respect to Big Blue. Hard to argue that.

1:10 – Carolina gets it first. One good run, one good pass, one first down, nothing more, thanks to some false starts and the beast that is Umeniyora. No need to block him or anything; he only had 14.5 sacks this year. Giants ball. Crowd into it. Good start, at least on one side of the ball.

1:12 – I didn’t mention my picks yet. I’m staying away from the Giant game, period. It’s one thing to throw out a pick for a regular season game; I’m not bold enough to do it in the playoffs. You see, I want to be rooting for the Giants 100%, with no “well, if they lose, at least I picked the game right” fallback. Unfortunately, I already have one of those today: well, at least if they lose, U-Boat wasted 100 bucks. For those of you who don’t know, U-Boat is the kind of guy who, when he gets tickets to a game like this, makes you hate him and subconsciously want your team to lose. Hard to explain unless you have a similar friend. Oh, Cincinnati +3, and to win outright.

1:18 – Giants pretty much mirror the Panthers’ first series, punting after one first down. Tyree almost pinned it at the 1, though.

1:20 – Flash on Griesen: “He looks dead.” Aikman: “The Giants can’t afford to lose a linebacker right now.” Thank you, Captain Obvious.

1:25 – Two shocking things just took place: 1) The Panthers picked up a 3rd-down blitz, and somehow Delhomme didn’t find a wide-open Steve Smith, and 2) Chad Morton didn’t call for a fair catch inside the 10. Other than Griesen going down, defense has held up well enough.

1:31 – Prevailing thought so far: we’re straddling the line between a good defensive game and a crappy offensive performance. Next series for each team should be a good indicator of which one this is.

1:37 – Scoreless 1st quarter comes to a close. DeShaun Foster seems like he’s gonna break one sooner than later. Giants offense has clearly been sluggish, but they can ignite instantly.

1:45 – Scoreless no more. Linebackers, or what’s left of them, can’t make any tackles, and Delhomme hits Smith for 22 yards and 6 points. And Steve Smith unveils his playoff end-zone celebration, the snow angel. Except there’s no snow. Genius, that guy. No, I’m not bitter. It should also be noted that the Panthers scoring drive began as soon as Flash’s brother-in-law arrived to watch the game. I’m a guest here, so I can’t throw him out. Too bad.

1:57 – Offense still not doing much, and he non-call when Shockey got taken down didn’t help. Trying to be objective, I’ll concede that you could get away with not calling that. Punt down to the 7. Not uncharacteristically, Jeff Feagles is keeping the Giants in this game.

2:05 – 3rd down has become automatic for Carolina – 5 straight conversions, including the last one on 3rd and 12 whose spot could’ve been challenged and overturned. Important to hold on to those first-half timeouts, Tom – with 2 minutes left, you never know when you might need one. This drive started at the 7, it’s now at midfield.

2:14 – Son of a diddly. Giants finally get a stop on defense, getting the ball back, and the freaking punt is so bad it hits a Giant in the leg, Carolina recovers in field goal range. It’s turning into That Kind of Game.

2:18 – Defense wakes up a little, holds Carolina to three. Of all the knees on the team that have been destroyed this year, Gibril Wilson’s stays healthy enough to give three points away. Awesome.

2:20 – Halftime. 10-0. Pizza’s here, so things could only get better. Consensus in the room: it could be a lot worse than 10-0 right now, so we’ll take it.

2:40 – So apparently L.T. was on the field at halftime. Not sure why, but FOX showed a clip of him walking off the field waving. And it got me thinking: if L.T. suited up and played today, would the linebacking corps be better off? Probably not, but you’d seriously consider it, no?

2:42 – I wanted 7 on the opening drive but would’ve settled for 3. We got nothing. And a mediocre punt to boot. Not an inspiring start to the 2nd half. Maybe the defense will show us something here. Not counting on it.

2:49 – At least the D-line came to play today. Strahan gets his second sack, saving 3 points. And now for a quick word about Chad Morton. I don’t think I’d be a better returner than Chad Morton, but I definitely think I’d be a smarter one. For one thing, he’s the only return guy in the league who routinely fair catches inside the 10. On top of that, the 2nd half kickoff was going out of bounds until Morton decided to field it and run it. And he just topped it off with his trademark move: fielding a bouncing punt with a defender ready to pounce on him. Remarkably, he doesn’t fumble. But I maintain I’m a smarter returner.

2:55 – At last, the turn of events that was inevitable: Manning throws a horrible INT, followed by a Steve Smith end-around. 17-0.

3:02 – Giants drive comes to another screeching halt with another interception. Flash: “Who cares, they were gonna punt to around there anyway.” I guess so, but still.

3:06 – 31-yard run for Foster, breaking approximately 67 tackles along the way. Hate to say it, but it couldn’t be clearer: Game. Over.

3:28 – What more is there to write? Eli is being Eli, Steve Smith is being Steve Smith, and this game has been an out-and-out disaster. The thing that annoyed me the most, though, was when the Giants finally converted a 3rd down and the crowd gave an obvious sarcastic cheer, and Aikman, devoid of sarcasm, pointed out the fans are finally seeing something they like. Buck was probably too bored to correct him.

3:35 – 23-0. Alright, I’ll say it: at least U-Boat wasted 100 bucks and I didn’t waste 150. Seriously, is a friend really a friend if he has extra tickets to a playoff game but only will sell them to you for a 50% markup?

3:42 – Two cracks elicit hollow laughter: 1) after I comment what an insult this game was to the late owners, Hearsay (a late addition to the party) remarks, “They needed Mara or Tisch to die this week.” 2) I mention I can’t wait to see the over/under number for next week’s Panthers/Bears game.

3:45 – That sucked. It was one of those games where the defeat was a slow buildup, as opposed to the punch in the gut that was 39-38 in San Fran three seasons ago. Still didn’t even sink in yet. I’ll post final Giants thoughts later on, back in the Student Lounge, when I’m too annoyed to write anything about Steelers/Bengals.

4:45 – Decompressed a little, throwing myself into Cincy/Pittsburgh. Should be entertaining. So far the Steelers had the ball once and punted. One thing I learned on that drive: these teams clearly don’t like each other. Makes for good football TV.

4:46 – Carson Palmer led the NFL in TD passes this year. I did not know that. That’s one of Carson’s old lines. I did know that. I need to stop this immediately.

4:47 – Woah, a lot just happened here. Palmer hit Chris Henry for 66 yards, as Jim Nantz called him “Johnson,” and as Carson Palmer goes down hard after completing his first career playoff pass. Jon Kitna warming up. This game just got more interesting for all the wrong reasons.

4:50 – Can’t pronounce or write the name of the guy who “got blocked into” Carson Palmer. Too lazy to look it up. Phil Simms is quickly looking at the media guide for some words on Jon Kitna, and is having trouble doing so.

4:51 – Simms recovers, points out that he was a starter as recently as 2003, played last week, and gets an unusual amount of reps for a backup every Friday. That’s more like it, Phil. Meantime, it’s first and goal.

4:53 – Forget “don’t like each other.” These teams hate each other.

4:55 – Now Chris Henry is lying on the ground, pounding his fists into the grass. Costly opening drive, though they do go up 3-0.

5:05 – Steelers looking to challenge the Giants’ false start record, set in Seattle a month ago. 3 so far in their first 7 plays. Note to New York Giants: watch this game, watch Cincy, learn how to tackle.

5:11 – Great sequence. Kitna scampers 10 yards for a first down, crowd loving it. Simms: “I said he is tough, but he’s gotta know, too, that Craig Krenzel’s behind you, Jon, so the team wants you to say healthy. [long pause, realizing he just torched the 3rd-stringer…] I’m not saying that Craig Krenzel can’t do it…”

5:13 – Kitna leads a fantastic drive, capped off by a great Rudi Johnson run for the first Bengals’ playoff TD in 15 years. Such a cliché, I know, but Cincy is playing inspired football.

5:23 – Injury update (Bonne Bernstein’s earning her paycheck today): Palmer’s getting an MRI right now, Chris Henry is done, Quincy Morgan is probably done too. Welcome back to the playoffs, Cincy!

5:25 – After getting great field position to start their third drive, Pittsburgh moves down the field with relative ease. 10-7.

5:37 – Great moment for Steeler-haters right there. Troy Polamalu almost picks off Kitna, pushing ensues, then Polamalu goes for one last shove, ball in hand, called for a penalty which takes away a 4th down FG attempt, and instead makes it 1st and goal. Great stuff.

5:41 – Another would-be 4th down taken care of by another Steeler penalty. Illegal contact, 1st down. Greater stuff.

5:43 – Kitna to Houshmandzadeh, 17-7. You just can’t give a team 3 chances like that. Oh, and you can’t leave a guy that open in the end zone, either. Polamalu’s fault, natch.

5:51 – Big Ben answering the Bengals. 54-yard pass, 15-yard pass, 1st and goal. Bettis bobbles what would’ve been a TD pass (from him, not to him), but Roethlisberger to Ward on 3rd down gets it done. 17-14.

6:02 – Bengals finally punt. Just over a minute to go. Wow, close game, points scored on both ends, defenses making plays. Would it have been so hard to have seen this at 1:00?

6:10 – Halftime. Greg Gumbel, pretending he’s a real reporter: “Sources close to injured quarterback Carson Palmer tell The NFL Today that Carson Palmer says that he suffered a couple of torn ligaments in his left knee, and the MRI is being taken to confirm that diagnosis.” Bottom line: Kitna’s team for the foreseeable future.

6:35 – Interesting opening 5:09 of the 2nd half. Bengals try a reverse on the kickoff to no avail. Chad Johnson catches, then fumbles, then challenged and ruled incomplete. Then Carson Palmer news comes in, and the word “July” is mentioned. Finally, a botched long snap on a FG attempt, as Giants fans watching (few and far between, I’m guessing) recoil in flashback horror.

6:44 – It’s weird. The Steelers, since ending their first two drives with punts, seem to be moving the ball down the field at will, yet it doesn’t feel like the Cincy defense is playing poorly. Maybe both can be true. Anyway, the pass interference in the end zone certainly helps, and having Jerome Bettis does too. 21-17, Pittsburgh on top.

6:47 – Seeing the Peyton Manning MasterCard commercial for the 572nd time, it’s hard to think of something new about it. But on Thursday, Tony Kornheiser showed why he’s so utterly brilliant: given 5 minutes with Eli Manning, he took 30 seconds to ask Eli, completely straight-faced, if he ever received that autographed loaf of bread from his brother. Eli had fun with the question, and Tony succeeded once again.

6:53 – Nice commercial I’ve never seen before, for SONY HD televisions – the broadcast of the Cal/Stanford “The Play” (with the band), acted out poorly on an electronic football board. Solid B+.

6:55 – Frikkin awesome play called and executed by Pittsburgh on 3rd and 2 from the Cincy 43. Snap goes directly to Randle El, who runs right, then throws a perfect overhand lateral to Roethlisberger, who hits an extremely open Chuck Wilson for 6 points. Impressive stuff all around, and credit Simms for being on top of it all, from calling the direct snap to Randle El based on his positioning, to calling it a TD while Big Ben still had the ball. And credit the telecast director for getting a well-timed shot of the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. Game-changing-type play. 28-17.

6:56 – Just rewound and watched it again, and I heard a lot of cheers in Paul Brown Stadium. First playoff game in 15 years, and Bengals fans still scalped tickets to Steelers fans? Bad job.

6:58 – By the way, I checked’s GameCenter for this game just now to check the proper spelling of Cedrick, and they’ve labeled the play a flea flicker. I think that’s inaccurate; a flea flicker is a play where the running back tosses back to the quarterback who throws the pass. On this play, Randle El was technically the quarterback (he took the snap) and Roethlisberger was the running back who threw the pass. I can’t imagine anybody actually cares about this, so I’ll stop.

7:06 – It took awhile, but Jon Kitna is reminding the world why he’s a backup QB. Last drive, he seemed to just hold the ball for minutes on end without doing much, this time he just threw a devastating INT. 11-point deficit now, and if it gets any bigger, Pittsburgh is headed for Indianapolis.

7:07 – I think I speak for the entire CBS viewership right now when I say ENOUGH SHOTS OF THE BETTIS PARENTS.

7:25 – Well, after a Steelers FG, a Bengals punt, and a Steelrs punt, the Bengals have the ball, down two TDs, with 6:42 left. Maybe they’d have a shot with Palmer still around, but with Kitna it’s Game. Over.

7:29 – Troy Polamalu clinches it. So over Wild Card Weekend, three road teams won, and the only home team that one had a worse record than their opponent. Interesting. Looking ahead, Indy should demolish Pittsburgh, but New England and Denver should be close. Seattle will be fired up, but they’ll be facing a red-hot Redskins team. Gut feeling right now: advantage Seattle. As for Carolina/Chicago, I need some distance from today’s game before I can really look at this one.

7:39 – Also, next week features four games between teams that faced each other in the regular season. I think this happened last year, too.

7:45 – I just checked; the rematch game applied to all four games in the first round, all four games in the second round, and the AFC championship game. Stupidly, I forgot to check if the team that won the first time won the second time as well. Mabye I’ll do it tomorrow and update.

7:50 – Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’ll write some sort of Giants conclusion tomorrow right here, as well as research the rematch factor. If I don’t, out of laziness, I’ll end by pointing out that the Giants are winless in the playoffs since Flash moved into his apartment. Time to move.

Back next week (maybe) for Divisional Playoff games.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Bushinator

Been gone awhile, I know. 2005 ended somewhat chaotically for me, but hopefully I'll recover quickly in the new year.

For my last post of 2005, I'd like to present a program I created called The Bushinator. Unfortunately I don't know how to post an Excel file on Blogger, so I'm going to have to tell you about it and if it sounds like something you'd like to see, email me and I'll send you the file. or leave a comment.)

With all the talk here in NY about the Jets in the running for Reggie Bush and the myriad of tiebreak scenarios that could occur, I decided to make a program on Excel to play out whatever scenario I want. Basically, it works like this: you put in who you think will (or who you want to) win this weekend's games, and based on the data I put in, it will automatically calculate strength of schedule for the tiebreak teams. It's pretty cool, actually. If nothing's showing up, enter the winner of HOU/SF; that's when the fun starts. This can be used in two ways: 1) for obsessive fans of these teams to play with today and tomorrow trying to figure out what exactly needs to occur for their team to score the #1 pick; 2) to actually fill in on Sunday as the games are being played, to stay 7 steps ahead of CBS and FOX (always fun). There are only 2 discernable flaws that I know of: 1) It doesn't account for ties; 2) if there's a tie in opponent's winning percentage, the NFL is going to a coin flip. My program picks a winner somewhat arbitrarily. So keep your eyes on the Opp. Win Pct. column. Oh, and I called it the Bushinator because essentially it's going to calculate which team gets Reggie Bush (maybe with the exception of the Saints), and because it was 2:30 in the morning and I needed to save the Excel file as something other than Untitled.

I gave this program a test run by sending it to some of my friends, including a Fine Fellow and J.Z. Both of them responded with variations on "you have no life." But judging by the harshness of their tone, I knew I was on to something, for it is my experience that the more angry the "you have no life," the greater my accomplishment.

Back in 2006 (hopefully with November 2005 frequency!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Salvation from Showtime?

From the rarely-cited "Good News About Arrested Development" Department:

"Word around town this week is that Showtime is in talks to pick up the comedy about a chaotic family. Sources stressed that the talks are still exploratory..." (Full story)

If that news doesn't make you want to get up and do something good, like donate money to help fight TBA, well, I can't help you.

(Thanks to Hearsay for the tip.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

ESPN Jumps the Gun

I just experienced a minor annoyance. I ignore most of the talking heads on ESPN, but I enjoy watching Pardon the Interruption. So I turn on the TV at exactly 5:30 today, only to find Kornheiser and Wilbon in the throes of an Artest-related debate. Now hang on just a second. I watch the show almost every day; I know it comes on at exactly 5:30 every day. Thankfully, my TV was already on ESPN, so through the magic of DVR, I was able to rewind and find the beginning of the program. It started at 5:27 and 24 seconds. So one of two things is true: either it was a one-time slip-up by someone who miscalculated how many commercials to air during "Around the Horn," or ESPN is trying to not-so-subty lure viewers into turning on ESPN before 5:30, just as they try to keep viewers on after 6:00 by pushing PTI's "Big Finish" into a Sportscenter segment. Broadcast networks started airing shows two or three minutes past their alotted slots last year as a "TiVo buster," i.e. to teach people recording a 60-minute episode a lesson, namely, to set their DVR's to record 5 minutes into the next show as well. But I've never heard of a show coming on early.

Of course, it's also possible that "Around the Horn" had either not enough content or not enough ads (or both) to fill 30 minutes, and this is a sign that points to the show's imminent demise. If this is the case, all is forgiven.

The Couch Critic - Week 14

I know, I know, it's already Tuesday. Here it is. As always, first entry below, click here for the whole enchilada.
- Here we go for the third straight week. One of the more amazing things about doing this is it makes me realize how lucky I've been to have open Sundays since October. With so many engagement parties, weddings, and other "distractions" taking place, I haven't missed a football Sunday since that three-week wedding streak to start the season. And, more importantly, January looks open, too - last year I missed Pats/Colts as I was at a wedding in Boca Raton (though I caught part of the game at the hotel bar). Anyway, today starts at 4:05. I'll keep an eye on Jets/Raiders on CBS, but more likely I'll be paying attention to goings-on around the league, notably Chicago vs. Pittsburgh and Indy vs. '72 Dolphins. This week has a 8-6 early game/late game breakdown, which is nice, with 2 televised games later this afternoon, Giants and Cowboys. Bless you, picture-in-picture.

12:55 - Picks for the sake of picking games. Last week: 10-6. 22-7-1 since I started this thing. I've barely even paid attention to the lines yet, so this is pretty much off the cuff... Minnesota -7, Oakland -3, Pittsburgh -6.5, Tampa Bay +5.5, Indy -9.5, Patriots -3.5, Cincy -12.5, Titans -6.5, Seattle -15.5(!), Washington -4, Miami +13.5, Dallas -3, Denver -14, Green Bay -6, Atlanta -10. As for the Giants, I'll take Philly -9.5, but I think the Giants will win. If it's typical Giants, they'll beat a team they should blow out in edge-of-your seat, 4th-quarter comeback fashion.

1:00 - Ian Eagle is calling the Jets/Raiders game. I guess CBS really hates Ian Eagle. His second sentence of the day: "Brooks Bollinger still looking for his first start as a starting quarterback in the NFL." As Harry Doyle would say, "Who cares, nobody's listening anyway."

1:07 - Curtis Martin is missing his 5th game in his 11th NFL season. Why doesn't he get Favre-like praise for his durability? By the way, I may be watching the game right now, but I'm searching for a backup/pic-in-pic channel early.

1:10 - A telling sign of how much attention I'm paying to the TV: I just opened up the GameCenters, and as I open the Jets one I actually think, "Wow, the Jets are moving down the field pretty quickly," completely oblivious to the fact that that has developed right before my eyes and ears.

1:13 - Jets have to settle for 3, fans not pleased. I mean, the ones that are there. When Nugent made that field goal, I saw a ton of empty seats. Is it worth it to call Time Warner right now and add the Cinemax package because one of the six channels they have is airing Ferris Bueller right now? Guess not. But seriously, 6 HBO's and here's what I have as backup channel options: Garfield: The Movie, Boxing, The Cooler, D.A.R.Y.L, Waiting for Guffman, and Dracula. Wonderful. Also, the Steelers scored on their first possession, with a 5-play, 66-yard TD drive. Think they're trying to tell the Bears defense something?

1:19 - Colts get 7 after an 11-play, 89-yard drive. Think they're trying to tell the '72 Dolphins something?

1:26 - I'm not sure I "get" this Nike LeBron commercial, where he's playing every member of the group/family, but I think I like it.

1:49 - Following the old "did I really call for a fair catch or did I just pull a fast one" routine, we have this exchange: Ian Eagle: "I have a feeling we're gonna see a little bit of everything here today." Solomon Wilcots: "I get the sense we're gonna see it all, my man." Me: "Yep, everything. Except good football." On the plus side, we might be at halftime by 2:05.

1:52 - Around the league... Bengals are not covering right now. Well, Bengals aren't even winning right now. One step at a time. Jacksonville got to the 10 but only got 3 out of it, that's the ballgame right there. Texans 3, Titans 0. They're just setting up a late-game collapse, don't worry. Heisman-winner Reggie Bush awaits.

1:54 - Tuiawhatever overthrows Moss, right into the hands of Ty Law. Law starts the runback, and as I say to myself, "he looks like he wants to make a stupid lateral," he makes a stupid lateral. Miraculously, the Jets didn't lose it. I would love to know the success rate of improv laterals. I'm guessing 20-30%.

1:59 - From GameCenter: 1-10-IND 35 (9:32) P.Manning pass to M.Harrison for 65 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Home. Field. Advantage.

2:01 - I should know better than to jinx myself. Due to recent developments, I may be missing the Giant game after all. Should this happen, I will DVR the game and come back tonight and watch the game, not knowing the outcome, and log the game here as if I was watching it live. The things I do for my reader(s). I'll miss around the league, but there's nothing really compelling at 4 other than Dallas, which is on TV anyway. Wait, should I DVR that game, too, then put them on together in picture-in-picture tonight as if I was watching both games from 4-7? Am I that sick? Stay tuned.

2:11 - Pats up 14-0. Steelers 14-3. Indy 14-0. Yawner of a 1:00, if I say so myself.

2:18 - Since I don't get to watch most Colts games (playoffs can't come soon enough), I'm quite used to seeing those long blue bars on GameCenter. Well, with two big bars and a couple of small ones, the Colts have it at the 5 yard line. The bad news is it's 4th and goal. I say go for it. Dungy agrees, wow. Didn't get it. Either it was a botched field goal or a fake, because the pass was thrown by Hunter Smith. (What exactly is a "modified swinging gate formation"? PrimeTime can't come soon enough.) Somehow I think Indy will survive this setback.

2:22 - Bengals got to the 4 yard-line, kicked for 3, got to the 10, kicked for 3. They trail by one going into the half. Not good numbers is you lay the 12.5.

2:25 - Oh, the Jets and Raiders are at halftime! Who knew? 6-3 Jets. Ugh. Greg Gumbel even makes fun of it: "we promise there are TD's being scored in the NFL today."

2:27 - The halftime crew just showed the "swinging gate play" from the Indy game. Hard to tell exactly, but after a lot of pausing and rewinding, it seems to go something like this. Line up in FG formation, then 7 players all go to the left side of the field, leaving the center, the "quarterback," (Hunter Smith, the FG holder) a back, and a blocker. Smith takes the shotgun snap, then the center goes out to the right while Smith fakes a screen to the back to his left. It worked brilliantly; all the Jaguar defenders broke left. Smith, though, just missed the hands of open center/receiver, Justin Snow, so no paydirt. But a really creative play call.

2:38 - CBS just lost its feed to the Jet game; my screen simply has the NFL on CBS logo and "Oakland at NY Jets" on the screen. Oh happy day!!!!! Gumbel comes on to make light of the situation, then sends us to another game! Yay! Oh, Bengals/Browns. Meh, still better than Jets/Raiders. Then again, it's the only game in the 2nd half right now. Maybe Colts/Jaguars is on the horizon. Though to be completely fair, this is the only competitive game of the afternoon right now, so maybe we should stick with this one.

2:42 - Or not. Feed back up. Just in time to see Janikowski miss a 29-yard field goal. Phew. Don't know what I would've done if I didn't see that. Here's hoping they lose the feed again.

2:53 - I haven't seen any highlights of the game, but either the Steelrs defense if playing really well or Kyle Orton is playing really crappy. Through 2+ quarters, Orton's 9/21 for 92 yards, sacked twice, 3 points for Chicago. Give the Steelers D credit, but watch for that Orton/Grossman QB controversy to get cooking tomorrow.

2:56 - Tom Brady just got intercepted at the 10 by London Fletcher. Great. I can already hear Chris Berman doing "awoooooooooo, werewolves of London" in my head.

2:57 - Next play, J.P. Losman thrown a pick. Rule of thumb: if your name is J.P., don't be attempting 44-yard bombs.

3:01 - The over/under for the Jet game is 30. Right now it's 9-3. Doug Jolley just made a spectacular drop (really, you had to see it to believe it), trying to do his part to make sure no TD's get scored today. You gotta admire his dedication, especially against his former team.

3:04 - Bruce Almighty on USA. As a backup channel, I give it a C+. Sadly, that's the top grade in the class today.

3:07 - Points coming in boatloads around the league. As I type this, 6 of 8 games have colored boxes around their GameCenters (red = red zone, blue = someone just scored). Steelers went up 21-3, Titans ran back a punt, 10-10 (seriously, if you were trying to lose, as Houston is, isn't allowing the punt return TD the perfect crime?), Carolina finally got on the board with a FG, Pats 21-0, Cincy FINALLY took the lead 20-17, and Indy's now in the red zone again. Of course, in the game on TV, the Jets get to the 4 and settle for another 3. 12-3. In the immortal words of Robbie Hart, somebody kill me please. As bad as I feel, though, Ian Eagle just sounds tortured at this point.

3:14 - John Abraham forces his second QB fumble of the day. Jet fans will miss him next year. Ian points out that a Jets win today really hurts their chances in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. Nothing new there. But then he claims that players don't care, they just want to win. See, I have a hard time buying into that. Players have seen him play; they know any team that gets him is instantly better, especially a team who just lost their very old running back for the season. I know you "play to win the game," but isn't there some part of a player that says, "OK, I don't really like to lose, but why give 100% when a loss isn't that bad after all?"

3:56 - Phone call break. Catching up on the last 40 minutes: Jets and Raiders trade TD's, and in one of the greatest upsets in the 2005 NFL season, they rally to get 30 and reward those who took the over. Steelers beating the Bears handily, Same goes for Pats and Bucs (good call on both of those). Minnesota up 2 TD's. Predictably, the Texans are about to lose their third straight on a last-second game-winning field goal, which will be the second such field goal of the day, Shayne Graham and the Bengals being the first. Great game there, by the way. And Jacksonville made it interesting. Down 26-3, they scored, then recovered an onside kick, then got a TD and a conversion (26-18), but then elected to go deep with the kickoff, gambling that Indy wouldn't get a first down. I'll bet you can guess how that turned out. Backdoor cover by the Jaguars, as thousands of people scream in horror.

4:08 - Giants begin, and I've got to run. I tried to record Cowboys/Chiefs so I can recreate the full "Couch Critic" effect when I get back later, but alas, I don't have enough space on my DVR. I should watch that Baseball Tonight year-end Web Gem Spectacular and delete it already, I know.

8:41 - I'm back. It's 8:41 (see left). All the afternoon games are over. Right now in Green Bay, Patrick, Theismann, and Maguire are saying stupid things. But in the Student Lounge, it's 4:00. The games are going on, and I have no idea what happened. I do know that the Giant game was a good game, because of two indicators: 1) it ended at 7:40, and I know that because 2) my little brother called me at exactly that time only to hear "Don'ttellmewhathappenedItapedthegame" when I picked up the phone, and he'd only call if it was a close win or a close loss. So at least I know I'm not wasting my time. For the record, I said at 12:55, "If it's typical Giants, they'll beat a team they should blow out in edge-of-your seat, 4th-quarter comeback fashion." Kickoff for Giants and Cowboys is now. For simplicity's sake, I'll put down the time at which the events actually occurred, and not the time I'm actually watching them (i.e. 11:40 - Feely wins it with a 51-yard FG.)

4:06 - Buck and Aikman on FOX, Nantz and Simms on CBS. Works for me. Oh, and before I left I deleted enough crap on my DVR to make room for the Cowboys game as well. So to answer the question I posed above, yes, I clearly am that sick.

4:08 - Obviously, due to circumstances, my around the league comments for the late games will be restricted to reacting to scores, stats, and Game Breaks. I know you're all crushed.

4:12 - I didn't realize Eli Manning had such putrid Red Zone numbers. Greeeeeeeeeat. Luke Petigout, with his helmet on, looks a little like Jeremy Shockey. By the way, in the last three weeks Tiki Barber has gotten more praises, acclaims, and media attention than the rest of his career combined. That 3rd down extra effort is an example of why.

4:16 - 7-0. Great to see the Giants take their first posession all the way for a TD, even if took Shaun O'Hara shoving Tiki into the end zone to do it. Meanwhile in Irving, Dante Hall took the opening kick pretty far.

4:22 - Wait, this is not how it's supposed to work. The Giants are supposed to get beaten by backup quarterbacks, not backup running backs. This game belongs to Mike McMahon, not Ryan freaking Moats. Oh, and that 40-yard TD run was the longest run of the year for Philly. I'm not sure if the '86 Giants defense proclaiming the '05 Giants defense not in their league (see today's Daily News) was supposed to inspire them or something, but if that was the intention, it seems to have, shall we say, not worked.

4:28 - I don't know if it's a height thing, but Plaxico Burress draws a lot of pass interference penalties. I'm not complaining. And I know there are people who think I should cross out "draws" and replace it with "commits." Consider yourselves acknowledged.

4:30 - Aikman defends linemen in a roughing the passer discussion. Can't say I saw that coming. Really. Usually the former QB's side with the QB point of view. I see in pic-in-pic a flashback to the last Vermeil/Parcells matchup, a Jets/Rams game from the late '90's. I was thinking 'who cares,' but I guess Parcells and Vermeil were heated rivals in the Giants/Eagles days, so it warrants mentioning. Giants go into FG range, then out of FG range. Punt. Ugh.

4:36 - Petigout hurt. I'm OK with it. Pierce hurt. I'm NOT OK with that.

4:40 - Larry Johnson runs it in for 6. I may have picked the Cowboys to win this game (and cover), but that's because it's what I think will happen, not what I want to happen. 7-0 KC. Excellent. Speaking of picks, I went 4-4 in the early games. Won Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa (great pick), and New England. Lost Tennesse (13 points against Houston?), Oakland (who cares), Indy (backdoor!), and Cincy (should've lost outright).

4:43 - Antonio Pierce is leaving being carted off the sidelines. This is not good at all. 7-7 after first quarter. Against a team coming off a demoralizing 42-0 loss, mind you.

4:47 - Amani Toomer just made his 743rd dragging-the-feet catch of the year. Not as pretty as the one in Seattle, but nice nonetheless. Oh, and Tiki brought it to the 1-yard line. And the only thing more predictable than Brandon Jacobs coming into the game is Troy Aikman ciriticizing Tom Coughlin for bringing Brandon Jacobs into the game. And Jacobs brought it.... close. Here we go again... Giants/Eagles, close game, 1st and goal from the 1, and they can't get it in. Except he seemed to get in on 3rd. Coughlin's gonna challenge, and probably win. Nice second effort by Jacobs, by the way. Wow, no TD. 4th and 6 inches. Manning takes it in, though minus the leap that McMahon used a few weeks back. Aikman continues to bash the Coughlin/Jacobs specialty decision.

4:58 - Now Kareem McKenzie is limping. This is fun, let's guess who gets hurt next. Um..... Carlos Emmons. Why not. Osi Umenyiora is now leading the NFL in sacks. And people are starting to notice. That Seattle game, where he dominated the previously unstoppable Walter Jones, was clearly his "notice me" game.

5:02 - As McKenzie gets carted off and Manning starts to wonder how many sacks are now forthcoming, I'm recalling reading a column in this morning's Daily News in which the columnist mentioned how fortunate the Giants have been to have had a relatively injury-free season thusfar. I don't remember who wrote the column, but I hope bad things are happening to him right now. Cowboys and Chiefs have been trading punts, as far as I can tell, though Dallas is at the 25 right now.

5:07 - Big Play Burress gets it done again on 3rd down. As he made that catch, you could definitely hear a big Giant fan contingent there. Always good. Dallas settles for a field goal. Also good.

5:11 - This Whitfield fella they brought into to play left tackle seems a tad overmatched. Just a tad. Not like that should bother Manning or anything. Don't you love when your team has 3rd and goal from the 14? And now Diehl is limping. This is as frustrating as the Seattle game, except with injuries instead of penalties. The only good news is Tony Gonzalez just broke a Roy Williams tackle at the 43 yard line, and took it inside the 10. If I made an "I love...." Coors commercial, "Roy Williams giving up a big play" would be up there more than once. 14-3, KC.

5:16 - Jay Feely Time. He of the last 4 of 5 missed. If you can't hit this 24-yarder, Jay, leave the stadium. He hit it; 17-7.

5:20 - Big run by Moats, the newest official Giant Killer, and then we have some good old-fashioned fisticuffs. Grabbing, swinging, all the good stuff. Like most football fights, it lasts 10 seconds. The NFL needs hockey-style, one-on-one, 2-minutes-at-a-time brawls. Meanwhile... Bledsoe to Glenn for 71 yards. On a flea-flicker. Those things still work, I guess, because Glenn was pretty open. By the way, Bledsoe had that ball in the air for about 60 yards. Vermeil is dismayed. Yeah, I'd be too. 14-10.

5:24 - At the end of the day, that flea flicker and Ryan Flippin Moats are gonna give the Cowboys the NFC East back. He turned the corner and just bolted down the sideline. Buck: "Boy, he can fly." Westbrook: "Nah, he's not that good." 17-14.

5:30 - Giants trying to put together one more drive before the half. After converting 3rd and 1, a holding penalty from the makeshift O-line brings it back. This is definitely a good sign. And now a false start, for tradition's sake. Punt. And the Eagles fumble it but recover. This is too tight to take. (Then again, I already know this. I'm just trying to convince myself maybe the Giants really did blow them out, and my brother was calling to celebrate a 45-14 win that took until 7:40 to end.)

5:37 - Manning's 1st half: 13/20, 151, TD. Not bad for a historically awful road QB. Of course, the Eagles could tie or take the lead with this last drive. Akers ties it with a 42-yard FG. Arizona has a 10-3 lead over Washington at halftime. Interesting. I switch to Dallas/KC in time to see Green get sacked and fumble inside the 20, and Dallas take it back to the KC 25. My dinner is having trouble staying down. Couple of plays later, Beldsoe to Witten, 17-14. On a flea-flicker and a 14-point swing off a fumble. Words escape me.

5:46 - I don't know why I'm watching the halftime highlights, I really don't. But I am. No halftime score really jumps out at me except the aforementioned 10-3 Arizona lead.

5:57 - It's actually 10:10 in the real world, and I'd like to finish by 11:35 so I can watch Mike Francesa's NBC show (instant Giants analysis plus he has Reggie Bush in studio). I watched the first half pretty quickly; after all, time flies when you're skipping commercials.

6:02 - So close to a 3-and-out, the defense allows a huge gain on the first Philly drive of the 2nd half. Picking up where they left off. (Am I more bitter at night?) And Deloatch commits a questionable PI. And Allen commits holding. 7 penalties, 56 yards. Great. Now the Eagles hold on a play where Strahan gets the sack anyway. Why Coughlin accepts these penalties and allows extra downs, I'll never know. Well, at least this time, they got another sack.

6:07 - Bonnie Bernstein, on CBS, just made fun of former MNF sideline gal Lisa Guerrero for posing in Playboy. Well, not really, but it would be funny if she did.

6:08 - Akers doinks a 49-yarder. They didn't show Feely, but I'm guessing he's smiling. Washington seems to have gotten its act together; they now lead 17-13.

6:14 - Giants moving the ball real well with their first 2nd-half possession. With a makeshift line, Buck reminds us. Good point. Inside the 5 now, but no guarantee they'll get points out of this. Whitfield starts falsely, to help move things along. Toomer saves the drive as KC goes back on top of Dallas (3rd TD for Larry Johnson). Good things and bad things both seem to happen at the same time. I conclude, therefore, that the Giants and Chiefs will either both win or both lose.

6:19 - Fade to Shockey, incomplete. 3rd and goal. Fade to Burress, incomplete. Inspired play-calling by John Hufnagel. This 21-yarder should be in Feely's range, and as he hits it, I begin to wonder if he can hit one outside of 30.

6:30 - I'm starting to grow impatient, so I'm starting to fast forward between plays every so often. Better to do it now than late in the 4th (and overtime?), when I'd rather simulate the tension of game time, when there' s no fast forward.

6:32 - Tiki just turned an 8-yard catch and run into a 32-yard catch and run. You know, it's not that he hasn't been doing everything he's doing this year for years, it's just that nobody seemed to notice until recently. 20-17 Giants after 3. In a game I've yet to mention, the Broncos are leading the Ravens 12-3. Sounds like fun.

6:38 - Defensive holding keeps the Giant drive alive. One Manning scarmble later, 3rd and short. Tiki gets nothing, so Feely's gonna try to be 3 for 3 from inside 30. Got it. 23-17.

6:43 - Patrick Surtain just dropped a 6-point INT in the red zone. Bledsoe and co. are trying to make him pay. They succeed. 24-21, Dallas.

6:47 - Reggie Brown just caught a deflected, wobbly pass he had no business catching. I'm gonna go out and say it: the Giants' secondary sucks. Eagles now inside the 20, and the Giants just missed a pick. Huge 3rd down. Not converted. Akers cuts the lead to 3.

6:59 - Manning finally throws that INT we've all been waiting for, and with 3:30 or so left and the Eagles trailing by 3, this game has overtime written all over it. And yes, I'm probably saying that because I realize there are about 40 real-time minutes left in the game.

7:01 - Reggie Brown almost caught it at the goal line. 2 minute warning. I've barely paid attention to the pic-in-pic, though I just saw Dallas pull the old fake FG/pitch punt move in lieu of attempting a 53-yarder. Net gain: 16 yards. Parcells can't be pleased. Akers from 50, for the tie.... bulls-eye. 23-23. Giants will get the ball with 1:52 and 3 timeouts; they should be able to win it here. Unless it's resting on the foot of Feely. Actually it would be nice if Feely wins it here, especially if it's on a kick of some range.

7:08 - False start. Yeah, that's the way to start a game-winning drive. In happier news, Green bomb to Kennison, 28-24 KC. Maybe good things are in store after all. Shockey hauls in a bad Manning throw, and we're in business.

- 37 ticks left, Giants just barely in Philly territory. Feely must be squirming on the bench. Feely breathes a sigh of relief as Manning overthrows Shockey and hits Michael Lewis in the numbers. They just can't win on the road, though in this case they might not lose. Note the subtle difference between winning and not losing. Eagles continue to drop passes; apparently they lead the league in that prestigious categories. The secondary is getting bailed out. Like I said, they're not winning, they're just not losing. Anyway, 9 seconds left, and it looks like OT to me. It's OK, OT has been good to the Gi- what? Oh, right. Bad loss to the Cowboys, shattering loss to Seattle.

7:15 - Cowboys driving to save their lives, while a Game Break on CBS shows San Diego fighting to stay alive as well: late TD to cut the deficit to 2, onside kick coming up. What an upset that would be. For those forgetful folk, that spread was 13.5 (some places a bit higher, even).

7:17 - Coin toss..... Eagles. Damn. Dallas inside the 10. Damn. Washington held off Arizona. Damn.

7:21 - Question: Do the Giants need a touchdown or safety to win this game? Answer: Not if they get the ball inside the 10, Remember, Feely's unstoppable inside 30 yards. FINAL: Miami 23, San Diego 21. Wow. Gotta pause the Giant game to see 3rd and goal in Dallas.

7:22 - 3rd and goal.... close but no cigar. 4th and goal... close but no cigar! But a flag! Wow. CBS didn't really show the defensive hold, thanks guys. 4 more chances for Dallas. KC needs a huge stand. 1 down, 3 to go. CBS uses the timeout to show the holding, finally. Simms says good call. I agree. 2nd and goal... play-action perfection. Nobody was anywhere near Dan Campbell there. Cowboys 31, Chiefs 28. Helluva game.

7:25 - Back in Philly, close spot after a nice gain for the Eagles on 3rd down. They got it. Strahan and Gibril Wilson get a desperately needed sack. 3rd and long now. Strahan makes it 4th and longer with another huge sack (huge in yards, huge in importance). Giants will get it. Please get inside the 10.... Please get inside the 10....

7:28 - Giants moving the ball well, cameras all over Feely. And then a great sequence: Buck calls Manning "McMahon," and Kearse gets called for a horse-collar tackle. Except he doesn't.

7:32 - KC just completed a long pass to Hall; they're in FG range to tie. Lawrence Tynes misses the 41-yarder wide right. Like I said, helluva game. Cowboys win and the game's a push. Great. Giants need to win. Badly.

7:33 - 3rd and 3, if they don't get it, it's some kick for Feely. They don't get it. 52-yard attempt. Not happening, they're going for it. I'm glad they have so much confidence in their kicker. Deflection, INT. That's 3 since the start of the 4th quarter. Another banner day for Eli Manning. Eagles poised to win this one, if they can find an offense.

7:37 - Eagles have been penalized for 101 yards, 30 more than the Giants. 1st and 20 begets 2nd and 20. 2nd and 20 begets 3rd and 20. 3rd and 20 begets... FUMBLE? or incomplete? For your information, I think Osi was the Greek god of defense.

7:40 - 3rd and 8, at the 21. This kick is inside 40. You HAVE to trust your kicker. If you don't, why is he on the team. Let him win this f---ing game. By the way, if he misses, there's a good chance this game ends in a (gasp!) tie.

7:42 - Andy Reid ices Feely. Couldn't hurt. FOX shows the 4 misses from the last two weeks. Couldn't hurt, either.


7:43 - Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood! The Feely Redemption! That man is smiling like a psychotic serial killer right now, and Giant fan or not, you gotta feel happy for the guy.

7:44 - Pick the back pages tomorrow: "FEEL-ING GOOD"? "FEEL-ING JUST FINE"? For the record, I thought that kick was sailing wide left.

7:44 - Post-game highlight: Pam Oliver having to kick out the reporters from CBS2, NBC4, FOX5, MSG, and News 12 (seriously, there were 5 microphones on camera when they went to Pam), so she can get to Feely. "Excuse me, people." Awesome. 4 of 4 for Feely. Good for him.

7:46/11:55 - As I switch to Mike'd Up, a little perspective. I said it at the start of the day: they should have blown the Eagles out, and they had to squeak it out in OT. Why? Because Eli choked when it mattered, and the secondary continues to be susceptible. The Chiefs are coming to town in six days. They better get healthy, play a clean offensive game, and figure out a way to stop Kennison and Hall, or it's gonna be a long Saturday evening at the Meadowlands.

11:58 - NFC picture: Seattle 1, everyone else... well, it's complicated, just check the standings, I'm too tired to get into all the permutations. Same goes for the AFC. Off the cuff predictions: AFC order: Indy, Cincy, Denver, Pats, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh. NFC order: Seattle, Carolina, Giants, Bears, Bucs, Cowboys. Oh, and speaking of picks, I went 3-1-2 in the afternoon (Dallas and Washington pushed, and Denver won by 2, not 14). And Green Bay didn't cover, either. Final for the day: 7-6-2.

As for next week's edition, there are three possibilities: 1) a special Saturday edition for the Giant game; 2) regular Sunday special; 3) both. Playing it by ear.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tom Brady - Sportsman of the Year

Last year, it was the Boston Red Sox. This year, Tom Brady. Next year, Paul Pierce? Somehow I doubt it. Anyway, this SotY resembles Lance Armstrong's award in 2002, i.e. the editors got together and said, "Well, the choices this year aren't that great, some of our more esteemed writers are suggesting Terrell Owens, Drew Rosenhaus, Jason Giambi, and a freaking horse... Let's just give it to the guy who didn't do anything he didn't do before, but he keeps doing it." Congratulations, Tom. Maybe now you'll feel like you've accomplished something.

The Couch Critic - Week 13

So last week's premiere installment of "The Couch Critic" seemed to be well-received (i.e. nobody had the heart to tell me how bad/useless/moronic the whole thing was), so I decided to give it another go. Yesterday was the reverse of last week: main event at 1, and then dull beyond belief once the late game started. Anyway, here's the first entry; click here to read the whole thing.
12:55 - Back by popular demand (translation: a couple of people told me it helped them pass the time on Monday), The Couch Critic returns for a second installment in Week 13. Main event: Dallas at Giants at 1. Amazingly, the game I happened to be up to in my Madden franchise is Dallas at Giants (year 14). So I played it this morning, hoping to predict how the real game would play out. The fact that the intensity level was down because it was only week 3 was evened out by the fact that it was a Monday night game. I even had them wear the godawful red jerseys (Default uniform 5). Final score: Giants 180, Dallas 7. Eli Manning (the sole remaining player from the original team; Shockey retired after year 13) was 15 of 20 for 604 yards and 10 TDs. And for those who think I turned down the level to produce an extremely favorable result, well, I don't know what you're talking about.

12:57 - As I set things up in the Student Lounge, I see we're getting Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for the next three hours. I actually like them (except when Buck tries to be funny and when Aikman acts like he's auditioning for Brokeback Mountain), but I know there are those who don't. To them I say, at least it's not Stockton/Moose/Goose.

12:59 - That Brokeback Mountian joke works on a few levels. Just go to if you haven't the slightest idea what I'm talking about.

1:00 - Kickoff. There are 10 1:00 games this week (10!), and three of them are great. One of them I'm watching which means I'll keep my eyes on Pittsburgh/Cincy and Atlanta/Carolina whenever possible. I had a legendary week with my picks last week (12-1-1) which means I'm gonna pay for it this week in a big way, especially in a week replete with great games, difficult lines, and bad weather. Some games I picked just because it seems the rest of the world has the other team. Anyway, I have little to no confidence in most of these, but here they are, for no other reason than the sake of picking games: Miami -5, Tampa -3.5, Cincy +3.5, Atlanta +3, Baltimore -8, Chicago -7, Jacksonville -3, Detroit +3, Indy - 16, Washington -3, San Fran +3, New England -10, Kansas City +1, San Diego -11.5, Philly +4. As for the Giants, even though I can't be objective, I really think they're gonna win this game. All things considered, especially remaining schedule and momentum, the winner of this game wins the NFC East. Fortunately for the Giants, they're at home in a playoff atmosphere, off a brutal loss, facing a heated rival, in the snow. This is their game. Giants -3, and it's my lock of the week.

1:08 - Eli Manning is a strange quarterback. On a drive that looked like it could go somewhere, he overthrew an open Tiki Barber while not even seeing an open Shockey, then he gets creamed on 3rd and 8. Yet if this was the 4th quarter, somehow he makes those plays. Go figure.

1:11 - The Giants were basically begging the fans to be loud this week to give their opponent a taste of what they themselves went through last week in Seattle. 1 play in, 1 false start on the Cowboys. Nice start by the crowd, which will never be loud enough because most of them are too old to stand up and cheer. There, I said it.

1:14 - Crowd noise backfires, Robbins called for encroachment. 3rd and 5 becomes 1st and 10. Brilliant. 1 penalty down, 15 to go to catch last week's total.

1:16 - Pass interference on Frank Walker. 2 down, 14 to go. Both penalties extending the drive. This cannot go on. By the way, I wouldn't be surprised if I post every 2 or 3 minutes this game. For one thing, it's helping release the nervous energy that comes with watching the Giants in their most important game in years, and for another thing, I can't imagine many (if any) notable things coming to mind if and when I watch Jets/Pats.

1:20 - OK, so maybe it can go on. Third penalty on 3rd down, each one worse than the previous one. Dallas now on an 8-play, 45 yard drive, with 29 coming from the Giants. Wait, it's 3rd and 11... incomplete... no penalty... it can be done! Nope, they were just waiting to top themselves with a penalty on 4th down. Incredibly, the five yard offsides penalty doesn't give Dallas the first down. This next offsides, however, should. Punt. Fair catch. NO FLAGS. Giants ball. I think.

1:28 - Giants 3 and out. My first glance around the league shows nothing interesting, but our first Game Break shows Brad Johnson to Koren Robinson for 80 yards. Not good for the Giants. Minnesota has the tie-breaker over them, so they sure as hell better finish at least one game better than the Vikings. Oh, and now I see on TV the Bengals just tied the Steelers. OK... over to the GameCenter, I see a long, black bar to the end zone. Hopes up.... Carson Palmer to.... Houshmandzadeh. Oh. I know, I know, it's bad football to want one person to score just to see what he's gonna do to celebrate, but come on? He dropped hints and everything! I know I'm not the only one who wants to know what Chad Johnson + TD + "Iron" equals.

1:34 - Last Cowboys drive ended on a Umenyiora sack. I did not know that was his 11th of the year. He's having a great year.

1:38 - If that's not a horse-collar tackle, what is? Roy Williams is the guy that prompted the rule in the first place! How is that not called? I hope Aikman's right; he just predicted that ther NFL rules committee will will make the no-horse-collar-tackle rule tighter for next year. And by the way, as bad as NFL officiating can be sometimes, I rarely think it skews in favor of one team over another (as opposed to baseball and basketball). Today is one of those days.

1:42 - Giants have 3rd and 6 at the 30. If they don't get the TD on this drive, I'm curious to see/hear fan reaction to Jay Feely coming onto the field. I feel like given the importance of the game, they'll give him an encouraging cheer, and an even louder ovation if he makes the kick. Illegal contact makes that a moot thought, for now at least.

1:46 - Brandon Jacobs. TD or fumble is sure to follow. TD. 7-0. Crowd gives Feely warm hand for PAT. Always good to be ahead 7-0 instead of behind, but plenty of football left.

1:55 - History has proven that Drew Bledsoe plus pressure (in this case I'm talking about literal pressure on the QB during a play, though pressure in the sense of general game pressure applies as well) equals good things for defense. First the wobbly throw, then the fumble. Good times. Front four is playing extremely well.

1:59 - Classic Manning 1st-half INT. Underthrown, placed perfectly for Aaron Glenn. Not very helpful. Defense better make sure Eli doesn't pay for that.

2:01 - Fantastic sequence during what would otherwise be an ordinary situation: Dallas called for holding. During the official's announcement, right when he says "10 yards," Strahan bellows into the ref's mic, "Move 'em back!" causing Joe Buck to explain to us that, yes, Michael Strahan just said that into the ref's mic. As Buck says this, they go to a shot of Parcells reacting to the holding call, and in the words of Keith Olberman, "I can read lips, and he is not praying." He's actually saying, "Motherf----r!" causing Buck, just done talking about Strahan talking, to remark, "and we can't repeat what Bill Parcells just said."

2:04 - During the timeout, I check in with my friend U-Boat, who was planning to scalp tickets to today's game. Typical U-Boat - he went to the game looking to pay for tickets, ended up getting one for free. This only happens to him, and that is why I hate him sometimes. But it sounds like he's having fun at his first NFL game, so good for him. And any ticket that goes to a screaming 20-something instead of a grumpy 70-something is a ticket well used.

2:10 - The media made a lot about Aaron Glenn being a lot shorter than the guy he's covering, Plaxico Burress, but so far it hasn't been too much of a problem. I mention this because somehow Glenn made just enough contact to bring Burress down and save his team 4 points. If Feely...

2:11 - FG good, crowd rejoices. If I could choose a way to win today, I'd like nothing more than Feely to hit a 40+ yarder to win this game.

2:24 - Defense bends but doesn't break. Keyshawn Johnson just made his first catch. Giants should go into the half up 10-0. Now that my computer is back to notmal, time to check around the league... Colts up big, same with Minnesota, Buffalo, and Cleveland. Told you I was due for an historically bad week. Steelers have the ball inside the 20 with under a minute to go in the half. That game could be 21-21 at halftime. Nice.

2:30 - They only got a FG; 21-17, Cincy. While I have some time to kill, a word or two about Tiki Barber. You would think no athlete could be underrated in New York, a town where the smallest things get overhyped, and good athletes are perceived as great ones (my brother insists this applies most to Derek Jeter, but any Met fan that says that knows that he's not exactly impartial). Anyway, somehow Tiki Barber has been having an absolutely stellar career which is only getting noticed recently. Yes, he had the fumbling problem, but it was a blessedly brief period. He does so many things well: makes the long runs, makes catches out of the backfield, and throws clutch blocks whenever neccesary (see: end of this year's Denver game). And he probably makes the improv-cutback better than any running back in football without the initials L.T. The stats over the years back him up, as Peter King showed a few weeks ago in his Monday Morning QB. But like I said, it's starting to get noticed. Like by King. And Joe Buck made a point of all this in the 1st half. I just hope Giant fans appreciate it now, because he will be hard to replace (see: Phil Simms).

2:38 - 2nd half starts with a BANG! Just as Aikman says, "This Giants defense has really made a statement early [sic] in this game," Kendrick Clancy takes the handoff instead of Julius Jones, Pierce recovers, strolls into the end zone, 7 points to start the 2nd half. Buck is speechless, and frankly, so am I. 12 seconds into the 3rd quarter, the Giants are about to kick off again, this time up 17-0. Great feeling.

2:47 - FOX just showed some stat: Cowboys first 29 plays, 33 yards; next 2 plays, 40 yards. Giant defense again bends but doesn't break, so here comes Billy C. for a 34-yard attempt. Missed bad on Thanksgiving, not an easy one here.... made it. Should've expected that from the guy that made 7 in one game here two years ago.

2:59 - Aikman says that after the defensive TD, the Giants D let up a bit, allowing that FG, and now allowing another drive. Couldn't agree more. Then he says this is a huge defensive series. Again, right on. And now Julius Jones takes a screen pass 25 yards. How did a fumble return TD swing momentum the other way, exactly?

3:04 - Bend, don't break. Seems to be the defensive theme of the day. This time it's Strahan getting it done.

3:09 - And as the defense rises to the occasion, the offense fails them as Manning throws a brutal INT, followed by an easy Terry Glenn TD. 17-10. The Giants just can't play a complete game, no matter how hard they try (Washington game excepted). Giants need a score on this drive to get some edge back.

3:15 - Offense continues to annoy: Tim Carter drops long bomb, then Burress commits offensive PI. Not good at all. So much for the edge. And the punt return goes 26 yards to the 40. You can hear the fear in the Meadowlands, and Antonio Pierce lying on the ground isn't helping things much.

3:18 - Nice of FOX to disguise a rerun of "Family Guy" by calling it a "Viewer's Choice Episode." Seriously, did they think we wouldn't notice? Or that we'd be more inclined to watch it despite the fact that it's a repeat? That said, it beats the "Prison Break" promos, which come with broadcasters trying to work the promo into the game somehow.

3:20 - Sack, INT. Does Bill Parcells think Drew Bledsoe can give him a road win in the playoffs? I don't. By the way, since it worked last week, let's try it here: Memo to Giants offense -- Wake up!!!

3:23 - I've been saving this comment for awhile, so I'll just get it out now: if the Giants win this game, they should wear the red jerseys every home game the rest of the year. If they lose, the red should be retired forever. They're ugly enough to begin with, their premise is devious (let's get stupid fans to shell out money for a different color!), and there's a reason the Giants are called "Big Blue." Having said that, if they win today, I'm willing to overlook all that.

3:26 - Hat trick for Manning. Threw it under intense pressure. You know, I take it back. Putting red on a quarterback has to be the dumbest idea ever. The only people that could be liking these jerseys (other than Giants sales staff) are the back-page writers for the local papers. Bet they're just waiting to put "Seeing Red" or "Red Men Walking" or whoknowswhat on the back page. Anyway, penalty takes the INT away. Phew.

3:29 - See my halftime comments about Tiki. 27-yard run, the last bunch on an amazing second effort. Now wait a second. 4th and 6, at the Dallas 29, and they're gonna go for it? If that's not a giant middle finger at Jay Feely, I don't know what is. The closer/kicker analogy comes into play once again: if you have him as your kicker, then don't be afraid to use him. If you're afraid, cut him. Two weeks ago this is a FG attempt. Buck just said that with today's wind, it's outside Feely's FG range (determined pre-game by the special teams coach), but I'm not buying it. Not surprisingly, turnover on downs ensues.

3:34 - I need some around the league to distract me... Colts are 12-0, Chicago and Carolina are winning close, Tampa up 7, Cincy up by 7 in what has to be the game of the day (if it's not this one), Jacksonville redeeming my -3 pick with a 17-point 3rd quarter.

3:38 - Cowboys go 3 and out. Finally. Followed by a 27-yard, ugly punt. As FOX goes to commercial, they show a fuming Parcells, who clear screamed "F-- you!" to nobody in particular. Kind of an odd exclamation to just, you know, exclaim, no? Then again, it's possible he said it to the punter, which may or may not have made him cry.

3:42 - This could be the drive, at last. 10 yards to Burress. Tiki for another 10. Maybe, just maybe they can get their first offensive points of the 2nd half... Jim Finn with a 15-yard catch-and-run. I'll take it.

3:46 - Jay Feely promised his teammates this week he'd hit every FG attempt. Jay Feely just doinked a 33-yarder one off the right upright. Words escape me. They seem to escape Tom Coughlin, too.

3:48 - Pizza's here; maybe this will turn things around.

3:52 - Defense keeps getting it done, Giants have the ball. Wouldn't it be nice if they ran a nice, clock-killing drive, move the ball down the field, maybe even get inside the 2-minute warning, cap it all off with a field goal? You think that can happen? Me neither.

3:56 - Drew Bledsoe is not very good, and for this I am thankful.

4:00 - Colts are 12-0, Tampa beat Baton Rouge, Cincy and Minnesota have small leads late. By the way, this pizza not only is especially good today, it also forced the Bledsoe INT.

4:03 - Jeff Feagles for president. After Manning threw incomplete on 3rd down, Feagles put it inside the 5. Terrific. And Bledsoe/Glenn caused 80,000 hearts to momentarily stop. Booth review, it will still be incomplete.

4:06 - Dolphins making it a game with the Bills. Unfortunately for the rest of the NFC, Detroit fell short in its comeback attempt (imagine that), and Minnesota somehow is now 7-5. Full NFC recap after this game ends. 38 seconds left; it would take Miracle at the Meadowlands II to lose this game. I'm not ruling it out, though.

4:10 - Forgot to pay attrntion to the (real) clock -- Cincy/Pittsburgh has been on CBS for 10 minutes. Pittsburgh is in trouble... but I'll pay attention when the Giants go final. FINAL! Julius Jones' football street smarts (or lack thereof) seal the deal. 8-4, NFC East leaders, without their offense scoring a 2nd-half point. Ugly wins are wins, too, and the defense responded time and time again. Nice job by them.

4:12 - Picture in picture tells me Cincy is kneeling against Pittsburgh. Great win for them, 38-31, on the road, against a quality team. Chad Johnson didn't score. Hopefully he doesn't take it too hard.

4:18 - Jets at Pats. Couple of things compel me to watch this thing: 1) heavy snow in Foxboro - always fun to watch football in snow; 2) .... uh, that's really it. Truth is, this is a good game to watch the Pats play" a 2-9 team with nothing to lose except their standing in the Reggie Bush Sweepstakes. They're at home, in snow, with only a one-game cushion on Buffalo -- er, maybe not... Sage Rosenfels just hit Chambers (why is this game still going on) for 57 yards, down by 6, and now they're inside the Buffalo 10. Anyway, New England should win this game 20-3.

4:24 - Speaking of games that refuse to end, the instant-classic Ravens/Texans game is coming down to the wire. Houston up 15-13, in danger of winning its 2nd game and thereby hurting its status as the favorite to get Reggie Bush. But only the Texans could let Kyle Boller do this with 50 seconds left and no timeouts: 24-yard pass, spike ball, 11-yard pass, spike ball, 35-yard pass, spike ball, field goal. Game set match, Ravens. After last week's 10-points-in-30-seconds loss to the Rams and now this, I really think the NFL needs to investigate if Houston is tanking games for the reason stated above. I am being completely serious about this.

4:28 - Rosenfels completes a 10-play, 73-yard drive in 1:45 with a TD pass to Chambers with 6 seconds left! Miami wins! 2nd place in the AFC East! (At 5-7.)

4:37 - Game Break on CBS shows Dante Hall catching a 41-yard TD pass to tie the Denver/KC game at 7. If you didn't see it, there were no defenders within 15 yards of him. Guess the Broncos secondary is getting ready for the Colts in the AFC championship game.

4:38 - Speaking of the Jets game, allow me to sum up what's transpired so far: punt, punt, missed field goal, punt. I'm putting this in pciture-in-picture and watching Giants post-game on FOX, now paused for a half hour.

4:59 - Watched FOX post-game. Back to the Jets/Pats game. Did I miss any TD's? No. Any field goals? No. What did I miss? Let's check GameCenter... punt, punt. Great football. Believe it or not, I actually have a rooting interest in this game. I'm rooting for this game to go late, and to end around 7:30. Why would I want that? Because 60 Minutes tonight is airing an interview with Howard Stern, whom I always find an interesting interview, and can't wait to see him on a show like that. So 60 Minutes will either be an hour or and hour and a half tonight, depending on the length of the game. ("Cold Case" is a repeat, and CBS will just pull it if neeed be.) Anyway, if they use the 90-minute "60 Minutes," (a bit of irony, I know) they'll show more of the interview with Stern.

5:05 - 3-0, Pats. That field goal just might be the difference.

5:08 - Every week, the CBS commercial with two plays from last year's NCAA tournament - the Deron Williams game-tying 3 against Arizona and the Patrick Sparks rim-banging, overtime-producing 3 against Michigan St. - makes me anxious for March. Today they had a new, more historic one: Sparks again, preceded by NC State '83, Laettner, and Bryce Drew. Bring on the Madness!

5:10 - Giants highlights on WFAN. Does Dick Lynch need to interrupt EVERY SINGLE call by Bob Papa? The man cannot keep his mouth shut during plays. Seriously, "way to go, kid" on the Jacobs TD couldn't wait until after Papa finished his sentence? They haven't played it yet, but 10 bucks says Lynch said "touchdown" before Papa on the fumble TD. Here it comes... well, I lose. But they cut the clip extremely short; I'm guessing Lynch said something right afterwords to ruin the highlight.

5:19 - The Jets/Pats game prodcues a moment for the ages. Bollinger gets sacked, loses the ball, flags fly, Pats recover, Vrabel flips it to Mcginest, flags fly, McGinest tackled. Officials confer. The referee, Jeff Triplette, begins to speak, with a I-can't-even-remember-all-of-this smile on his face, The following is Triplette's soliloquy, word for word: "There are multiple fouls on this play. [Big smile] Prior to the... prior to the... uh... the change of possession, personal foul, face mask, number 93 of the defense. [Big pause, deep breath] After the change in possession, illegal forward pass, number 50 [pause, another smile] of New... of New England. [Pause] At the tackle, personal foul, face mask, 15, of the Jets. [Pause, trying not to laugh] By rule, all those penalties will offset, and we'll repeat 3rd down." Kevin Harlan points out the Jets don't have a #15. Like that matters.

5:45 - Took a break to log that whole Triplette thing, and even posted it to the site already. Just thought it was funny. Halftime, yawn. 6-3, yawn. Ted Johnson honored, yawn. Around the league! Denver/KC 21-21. Nice. Maybe Jets/Pats will end early (sorry, Howard) and we can get the end of this one. Redskins up 3... Niners/Cardinals, yawn.

5:52 - Hey, how did I do with my early picks? Much better than I thought (thank you Jacksonville). 6-4. Lost Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Detroit. Texans couldn't hold on, Lions couldn't come through. Oh well.

6:08 - The game is on, and I'm just not watching. 6-3 Pats, and they're driving. I think. KC just went up by 3. More importantly, 4:50 left in this game, 10:04 in KC. So far, so good.

6:20 - Since this game is quite dull, here's an announcer note that nobody else probably care s about. I noticed a few weeks ago that Kenny Albert has a thing for where players used to play; he kept saying things like, "Antonio Pierce, the former Washington Redskin," or "Mark Brunell, the former Jaguar." He actually does this a lot. Well, Kevin Harlan has a thing, too: colleges. ("Handoff to Faulk, and the back out of LSU picks up a couple.") It's one thing to mention a player's former school when discussing the player, but Harlan has mentioned schools mid-play-by-play at least 7 or 8 times today.

6:25 - 13-3 after 3 quarters. Around the league... KC/Denver tied at 24, 3 minutes left in the 3rd. Come on Belichick and Herm, keep this baby moving.

6:55 - While ignoring the football game, I see the Mets have acquired Paul LoDuca from the Marlins. And I can't figure out why. They have offers to two of the better catchers in baseball - Ramon Hernandez and Benjie Molina - on the table, and instead they settle on a mediocre hitter due 6.25 million a year for the next two years. Like most Mets fans I know, my policy this offseason is to Trust Omar, so I'm hoping Paul LoDuca plays as many games in a Mets uniform as former Marlin and Met catcher Charles Johnson did. Winter meetings start tomorrow; should be entertaining.

7:08 - KC leads Denver by 4, 2:11 to go. Can't CBS switch games? Please? Even Jets fans wouldn't mind at this point.

7:09 - Dumbest NFL story of the day: Seahawks "punished" for the Mike Holmgen's "They-said-they-screwed-up" thing. Right, so Holmgren wrongly said the NFL conceded referee mistakes, now they punished the Seahawks by not reviewing their games for two weeks. So how is this punishment, exactly? Well, say the refs make a huge error in tomorrow's game against the Eagles. Now Holmgren can't send the tapes for review by the league. If the ban wasn't there, he could send the tapes. And if he did, at best, what could happen? From the article: "Each week, the officiating department reviews them and sends a confidential response -- but it's usually nothing more than an apology, because results aren't changed." Wow. Mike Holmgren just blew his chances of being potentially apologized to by the NFL for two weeks. As the great Dr. Perry Cox would say, "Giant who cares."

7:17 - I hear Kevin Harlan reading the credits, so the game must be close to over. Yep, 30 seconds left. Final will be 16-3; if New England had gotten 5 more yards on their last FG drive, they would've had a TD and my 20-3 prediction would've been dead-on. Quick, send us to Kansas City!

7:18 - Well, we're in KC, but it's pretty unlikely we're gonna see anything of interest. KC just ran a play with 50 seconds left on 3rd down; Denver has no timeouts. KC calls time with 8 seconds left. Not much the Broncos can really do at this point. Phil Simms takes some unneccesary jabs at Howard Stern during the promo. Trent Green kills 5 seconds, here comes Jake Plummer with 3 seconds and a prayer.

7:25 - Afternoon picks: won with Washington, Pats, KC, lost on the Niners. But I'm not beating myself up over that one. As Bill Simmons wrote on Friday, "How are we supposed to pick a game like this? Seriously. You tell me." So I'm 9-5 going into the SNF/MNF games. Not bad.

7:33 - As PrimeTime gets rolling and I anxiously await the Curb season finale, some end-of-day thoughts. The Giants' win is especially big because the NFC playoff picture is getting crowded. Seattle is in; only their seeding remains to be seen. The Bears have 9 wins with 4 to play; they should be in as well. Same goes for Carolina. That leaves the Giants, Cowboys, Vikings(!), Bucs, and Falcons - five teams for three spots. The Redskins aren't even dead at 6-6, but they need a lot of help. Anyway, those five teams are now in a four-week dogfight for those last three spots, and the two teams with 8 wins (Giants, Bucs) have a head start. To say nothing of the fact that a division title means the first Giants home playoff game in 5 years. Just a huge win in the standings. Sure, their offense didn't exactly have a banner day, and a half-decent quarterback could've torched the secondary, but a W is a W. And it's the 8th W. AFC? Interesting. Colts are 1, obviously. Denver and Cincy are now tied for 2, and they'll both get in. Pats own the 4. Jacksonville also has 9 wins, and Gerrard showed he can get them into the playoffs, too. But assuming that Indy beats them next week, they'll be 9-4. So it's Jacksonville (9 wins), KC (8 wins), San Diego (8 wins if they take care of Oakland tonight), and Pittsburgh (7 wins) fighting for 2 spots. So both conferences will, in all likelihood, have two teams with winning records going home after 16 games. Should be a great finish.

That's it for Week 13 -- next week, Oakland at Jets, 1:00, then Giants at Philly, 4:00. After today's Jet game, though, I'm thinking of getting myself to a dish for the better 1:00 games. We'll see.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

From the Mouths of Refs

So while logging the day for this week's Couch Critic, I was lucky enough to catch the best referee gem since Week 8's "Delay of game, offense. Performing an unnatural act not common to the game in an attempt to get the offense to false-start," which prompted ESPN's Paul Maugire to remark, "That sounded a little obscene to me." Well, five Sundays later, on the same Gilette Stadium field, we have another contender for referee quote of the year, this one from Jeff Triplette. The play itself was crazy: Bollinger gets sacked, loses the ball, flags fly, Pats recover, Vrabel flips it to Mcginest, flags fly, McGinest tackled, flags fly. Big mess for Triplette to clean up. Here was his soliloquy, word for word:
"There are multiple fouls on this play. [Big smile] Prior to the... prior to the... uh... the change of possession, personal foul, face mask, number 93 of the defense. [Big pause, deep breath] After the change in possession, illegal forward pass, number 50 [pause, another smile] of New... of New England. [Pause] At the tackle, personal foul, face mask, 15, of the Jets. [Pause, trying not to laugh] By rule, all those penalties will offset, and we'll repeat 3rd down."
OK, maybe not as exciting as an "unnatural act," but that was certainly a mouthful. By the way, Kevin Harlan pointed out the Jets don't have a #15. Please don't tell Triplette. He might throw a flag in your eye.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Don't Do Drugs. Except You.

Well, my Sunday morning just got a lot quieter. Michael Irvin won't be appearing on ESPN this weekend. No word on the rest of the season, though if I were a magic 8-ball I'd probaly say "outlook grim."

I don't dislike Michael Irvin at all. I don't. Even though I'm a Giant fan. And if I had a Hall of Fame vote, I'd still put him in. Even with this. I think the motto for all drug-related Hall of Fame debates should be "Well, we put Lawrence Taylor in, so..." But I just can't stand him as a talking head. So I'll be glad if he becomes Countdown's next Rush Limbaugh.

Yankees Sign Amateur Wrestler

Far be it from me to make fun of the Bronx Bombers for having a terrifically uneventful offseason, but I just love this signing. Kyle Farnsworth will eventually inspire a "Bronx Brawlers" back page at some point in 2006, and I personally can't wait till that happens. Previous combatants: Paul Wilson (top) and Jeremy Affeldt. Who will it be this year? Who knows. Oh, apparently the guy pitches, too. In fact, I think I remember him pitching in a big spot - the 2005 Division Series, if I recall. I vaguely remember him allowing a grand slam to Lance Berkman to cut a 5-run lead to 1. And I'm a bit fuzzy, but I seem to have this image of Brad Ausmus taking him deep an inning later to tie the game. But I'm sure he can handle the lower-pressure climate of New York. Should be entertaining, to say the least.

Wait, my bad. They also signed Kelly Stinnett. That'll put more fear in American League pitchers this year.

Seriously, though, with all this talk about that gaping hole in center field, and with almost a year having passed since the Yankees last acquired a big name, can Johnny Damon's press conference (and subsequent ceremonial shaving) be that far off?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Newsflash: They Have the Internet on Computers Now

(For those who didn't get the above reference, click here.)

I've never cared much about the overexposure of Red Sox fans and their "Nation." Yes, the media seem to care more about what Joe Red Sox Fan is doing than what any other team's fans are doing, but since I'm not a Yankees fan, I guess it just never really bothered me. But today's is ridiculous. On the left is what passed for "news" today: A Sox fan started a web site asking Red Sox management to keep Manny Ramirez on the team. No. Freakin. Way. You mean a sports fan started a web site asking people in power to comply with what they want? Get outta here! Seriously, these sites have been around forever, including some of my favorites,,, and, more recently, the petition for Jake Plummer to grow his moustache. To say nothing of the guy who tried to score a date with Natalie Portman via the now-defunct I guess my point is this: the process has been going on forever - People in power have decision to make. Guy wants decision to go his way, starts web site. Other people agree with him, sign petition on web site. Why is this one news? Why is he on Cold Pizza tomorrow? And, most importantly, why does this bother me so much?

Reggie Bush Was Pretty Good in High School, Too

ESPN (among others) is currently airing a series of Nike ads showing highlights from the high school careers of Michael Vick and LaDanian Tomlinson. Nice ads, and it is quite entertaining to see snippets of those guys at the high school level. But neither holds a candle to the Reggie Bush high school highlights, written about today in the New York Times, with the video linked from the article here. Take the time to watch this video; as the article says, "the footage of Bush... can induce dizzy spells, even for a jaded viewer numbed by hours of cable highlight shows." Translation: if it made my jaw drop, it should make yours as well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Billy Wagner Is a Met

Ed Coleman, reporting on WFAN minutes ago, says Billy Wagner is on his way to New York to finalize a deal that has already been agreed upon in principle to bring the market's top closer to Shea. Ken Rosenthal has the numbers: 4 years, 43 million.

Great signing. The only conceivable knocks on signing Billy Wagner are 1) He has blown big saves, and 2) 4 years are too many. Well, first of all, every closer - including the great Mariano - blows big saves. It's part of the job. You just hope that he gets his act together in October. I really believe that sometimes it's just potluck. Brad Lidge lost two games a month ago. You just never no, so better to roll the dice with someone you can have confidence in like Wagner, as opposed to someone you know will choke like Braden Looper or someone unproven like B.J. Ryan. And if giving that fourth year is what it takes, give it. Would any Met fan have been willing to not sign Pedro over that fourth year? Thought so. Great job by Omar again. He was the king of the 2004 Hot Stove Season, and is well on his way to repeating. Now get a catcher and a second baseman. And some bullpen help to get to Wagner. And maybe an outfield upgrade, from Boston....?

First Baseman... Number 21... Carlos Delgado

OK, so one thing that happened during my blogging absence was the Mets trading for Carlos Delgado. Since the press conference is going on right now, I think now's a good time to address the deal. (Tangent: Carlos Delgado gets a press conference. OK, I get it. Though it's not being televised, which says something. Billy Wagner probably gets a press conference. If you get Manny, there is definitely a (televised) press conference. But somehwere, it stops. If they sign Tony Graffanino, I don't think there's a press conference. So I guess my question is this: Where's the line? Who's the least important player that would get to stand at a podium to meet the New York media? And how awkward would it be if someone overvalued himself, thinking he's getting one, only to find out otherwise? Rafael Furcal: "OK, Omar, thanks for everything. What time do you want me at Shea tomorrow?" Omar: "Um.....")

So he gets #21. I think he should be allowed to take #25 from Kaz Matsui. Not buy it, not trade for it, just take it. And Tony Paige got a question in! Good for him.

Anyway, about the deal. I hesitate to call it a "great trade." Mike Piazza for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz is a "great trade." Everything else falls short of that. This is a very good trade, though. Let me explain why. Here's the thing about prospects: you have no idea what they'll turn out to be. Bill Simmons addressed this issue well last week. How many Mets prospects have we heard about for years, and then either they fail with us, or they fail on another team? Alex Escobar, Octavio Dotel, Alex Ochoa, Generation K... shall I go on? Point is, you have to believe in your prospects (see: David Wright), but each one should have a price. Which brings me to Carlos Delgado. 1st baseman, huge power numbers (even in Florida), addresses a major Met need. And his off-the-field "issues" are completely overblown. He didn't want to come to New York? I think he'll find that if they're signing the paychecks, he'll get by. Wouldn't stand for God Bless America? He will on April 3rd, and that will be the last anyone hears about it. Let's face the facts: the Mets have been getting power for 8 years (well, almost 8 years, anyway) from the catcher position, which is pretty unusual. Floyd is on the downswing of his career. They needed power desperately. And it doesn't hurt to get it from a traditional power position. Too much money? Well, they just saved a little bundle on Cameron, Piazza's 13 mil a year is no longer, and the Marlins gave some cash back. So all things considered, Delgado is a good acquisition.

What about the price? Like I said earlier, every prospect should have a price. You want to tell me that the Mets shouldn't give up Lastings Milledge for Delgado? OK, I'll buy that. Don't trade him for Manny Ramirez? Idiocy. Manny Ramirez is still putting up Hall of Fame seasons. Name me the last position player to come out of the Mets system that had Hall of Fame seasons. Answer: Darryl Strawberry. They've still yet to trade a blue-chip minor-league hitter that has made them kick themselves. Not Escobar, not Wilson, not Terrence Long. What about Petit? Well, what about him. From what I've read about him, he's good, but he's no sure thing like Kazmir. And with other top pitchers just drafted (Phillip Humber, Mike Pelfrey), that makes him expendable. So if it takes him to get Delgado, so be it. And as for Mike Jacobs, at best he's going to be a nice player. The outrage over trading this kid is laughable. But he hit 11 home runs in 100 at bats! So did Benny Agbayani. Would you trade him for Delgado? Or Shane Spencer? Remember: Mike Jacobs wasn't such a touted minor leaguer; he happened to be on the bench when Willie asked him to pinch-hit and he hit a 3-run homer, then he went on a tear. That doesn't mean they just traded the next Mark McGwire. At worst, they traded the next Carlos Delgado. And the chances of that are slim. Like I said, very good trade.

What's next? Sounds like Omar is going to make a big run at Manny. Should be entertaining. Wagner, Ramon Hernandez, and Benjie Molina are all getting offers. Should be interesting. The third baseball season of 2005 is well underway.