Monday, December 05, 2005

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.


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