Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Washington, DC: The Decade's Biggest Loser...Can the Caps Save Us?

About a year ago, our friends at MisterIrrelevant determined that D.C. was, in fact, America's worst professional sports city. The data was pulled mostly from the 2008 calender year but included the beginning portions of the 2007-2008 NHL and NBA seasons.

In a similar fashion, I evaluated America's four-sport cities over the past decade. I began this task with the awareness that my greatest fear - ten years of utterly hopeless fanaticism - might be confirmed. Yet, that feeling didn't overwhelm my curiosity enough to withdraw from the exercise. So on I went.

The results weren't depressing; they were demoralizing.

Notes to consider before reading on:

  • Only the Washington/Montreal baseball franchise was included. Sorry, O's fans.
  • There were nine NHL seasons this decade due to the 2004-2005 strike.
  • For cities in which two teams exist within one sport (e.g. baseball in Chicago), performance was averaged for each particular year.
  • The team with the best year among the 12 cities received a scored of 1. The team with the worst year among the 12 cities received a score of 12.
  • Success was determined by playoff success first. Regular season records were used as tie-breakers.
  • Rankings are only relative to the 12 cities being evaluated.
[Click tables to enlarge]

    For those of you more graphically gifted, the image on the right should provide some insight. For those who aren't, I'll explain. That light blue area? That abnormally large protuberance from the wonderfully average red area? That represents the amount that D.C. sports have sucked over the last 10 years. Notice how it's hilariously close to being about 150% as large as the average, meaning our ineptitude has deemed us about half as bad as average this decade. My head is spinning, but not from the math.

    And here's the breakdown by sport (analysis following):



    Breakdown by Year


    Breakdown by Year

    Breakdown by Year


    Breakdown by Year

    There it is. So next time you're at the water cooler chatting with that choch from Philly who frosts his tips and wears sunglasses at night, your biggest validation as a D.C. sports fan will be that you've rooted for only the 5th worst hockey team out of the 12 major sports cities over the last decade. Gross.

    The implications of this are simple: this year's Capitals team is our only hope to salvage what little dignity we have left as D.C. sports fans this decade. With the Wizards middling well below mediocrity, the Redskins in more disarray than a bag of cockroaches, and the Nationals at least two years away from fielding a major league baseball team, more and more of the town's focus will be centered around the Caps' performance this year. And with that focus comes pressure.

    General Manager George McPhee made a relatively large splash yesterday in trading Captain Cadaver and Juice for a speedy winger and $2 million in cap space. With the extra wiggle room, an even bigger move could be in the works.

    Which may be exactly what this Caps team needs to reach the pinnacle of the sport; which might be this city's one saving grace in a decade beyond the realm of disappointment.

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Wow: Caps trade Captain Clark

    Not the sort of move you expect a team that's currently tops in the league to make, but here goes: Chris Clark's been dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with defenseman Milan Jurcina, in exchange for Jason Chimera.

    [Allen Clark, via Off-Wing Opinion]

    Obviously, Clark's had his struggles the past three seasons in Washington, but he wears the C on his chest, and that means something in the NHL. But if winning's the bottom line, this move is an upgrade. Chimera, 30, has size and grit and plays with an edge the likes of which we haven't seen in Washington since Matt Cooke's departure. We gave him props by calling him a "shit-stirrer" after he knocked Ovi out of the lineup with that upper-body injury a while back.

    Jurcina? Well, he was a spare part, made even more redundant by Karl Alzner's ascent to full-time duty in D.C. He showed signs of playing a more physical game starting in last year's playoffs, but ultimately it was a numbers game and Jurcina -- despite having the hardest shot on the Washington roster -- just couldn't make himself indispensable.

    Chimera's signed through 2011-12 at $1.875; Clark's cap figure stood at $2.5M through next season, while Jurcina will become an unrestricted free agent after earning $1.375 this season.

    The big questions now are twofold: (1) What effect does trading the team captain have on a team that's been dominant of late, and (2) Who gets the C?

    As fans, we aren't privy to the interactions that go on between players behind closed doors, but all indications are that Clark was well-liked by his teammates. How could you not like a guy that shattered his face and still gutted out the rest of his shift? That cadaver bone story never gets old.

    As far as who gets the C, our money's on Brooks Laich.

    In the meantime, farewell Clarkie and Juice.

    Is Bruce Allen Just as Bad as Cerrato?

    Amidst all the excitement that my lamb sacrifices have finally paid off and Vinny Cerrato was mercifully fired, I think we are forgetting that Bruce Allen may not exactly be the savior we envision. I realize that the likely scenario is that Mike Shanahan becomes head coach and the de facto GM, but Bruce Allen will certainly be prominently involved, so I did some research.

    Allen started his career in Oakland in 1995, and was there through the 2003-2004 season. The team was 9-7 the season before he arrived, and here are the records of the team each season of his tenure there, with the Skins record for that year in parentheses:

    1995: 8-8 (6-10)
    1996: 7-9 (9-7)
    1997: 4-12 (8-7-1)
    1998: 8-8 (6-10)
    1999: 8-8 (10-6, lost Divisional round)
    2000: 12-4, lost AFC championship (8-8)
    2001: 10-6, lost Divisional round "tuck rule game" (8-8)
    2002: 11-5, lost Super Bowl, named NFL Executive of the Year (7-9)
    2003: 4-12 (5-11)

    Allen then moved to Tampa Bay in 2004, and was there through the 2007-2008 season. Before he arrived, the Bucs were 7-9.

    2004: 5-11 (6-10)
    2005: 11-5 lost wild card (10-6, lost Divisional round)
    2006: 4-12 (5-11)
    2007: 9-7 (9-7)
    2008: 9-7 (8-8)

    Did you notice the Skins records compared to Allen's teams? Almost identical, save for the not so minor Super Bowl loss and championship seasons. Both were consistently mediocre, and suffered a heartbreaking Divisional round loss. The difference is that Allen was at one point able to help his team continue moving forward, whereas the Skins peaked in 1999. Not coincidentally, this is also the year Vinny Cerrato was hired. Either way though, it is hard to say Allen is significantly better than what we've had.

    There are other factors, so I went through his draft history (BGO also has a thread on this). I realize there are questions about how much input Allen has on each draft, and word is that he relies heavily on his scouts, but the drafts under him are his responsibility, and there is no way around that. With the Raiders, he was okay, but not great, grabbing about one starter per draft from 1995 through 1998, and then adding 2-3 from 1999-2003, except for a poor effort in 2001. Most importantly though, these drafts were a key part of building that dominant Raider team. Just looking at his drafts compared to those of the Skins, the amount of star players looks the same, but the big difference is the depth in these drafts. The problem with the Skins has long been a lack of depth on the roster, generally due to a lack of draft picks. Bruce Allen has not only consistently kept all of his picks, but has used the entire draft to fill his roster.

    In Tampa, his results were not as good, and as of today, the work of Cerrato during the 2004-2008 drafts has been better, which is a big reason why the Bucs are in the position they are today.

    In addition to weak draft classes in Tampa, the other difference between his tenures in Oakland and Tampa was that he had an elite QB in Oakland, and could not find one in Tampa. That elite QB was Rich Gannon, who seemingly came off of the scrap heap to have 4 phenomenal seasons for the Raiders. That is probably the greatest move in Allen's career, but his free agent signings have also been a mixed bag. His most notable mistake has been a propensity for Super Bowl MVPs who were mostly 1 game wonders. He signed both Larry Brown and Desmond Howard after their Super Bowl performances, and both were epic busts.

    So what are we getting? No one can really say, as Allen may have changed with experience, and the people providing input to him will also change from his past jobs. The good news is that he was moderately successful for the entirety of his career, has drafted for depth, and built a Super Bowl team. The bad news? His record is almost identical to that of the Skins over the same period and the team he left behind in Tampa is a complete disaster. If you remember that Cerrato was successful in San Francisco, albeit in a different era in the NFL, looking at Allen's record almost, almost, makes you think Cerrato wasn't a complete disaster in DC.

    The big difference between Cerrato and Allen though, is while Cerrato was never was able to move the Skins beyond mediocrity, Bruce Allen was able to push the Raiders to the brink of winning a Super Bowl. Allen built that Raider Super Bowl team through several years of solid drafting, and then by filling-in holes with some savvy free agent signings. Although he left the Tampa a landfill, we can at least cling to the thought that we have a guy who is at least capable of moving the Skins beyond this mediocre abyss.

    (Images courtesy of media.idahostatesman.com and washingtonpost.com)

    Week 16: Cowboys 17, Redskins 0 - Knee Jerk Reactions

    At least Suisham didn't beat us, right? We laid an egg on the scoreboard by scoring zero points, and really didn't show up for this one. A lot of guys are playing for jobs, and the coaching staff should have some pride in a bad situation, but this is pathetic. The team has checked-out, and there isn't much to say beyond that.

    -The defense deserves some credit for holding Dallas to 17. We defended a particularly short field on the first TD drive thanks to JC's INT, and gave up the 1 big play to Witten; take those 2 plays out, and the Cowboys did nothing on offense.

    -Collinsworth was all over Campbell, and generally rightfully so. I guess the general sentiment has now gone from blaming Campbell to finally seeing that he is not the main culprit, and Collinsworth seemed set to disprove that notion. JC was not good today, but Collinsworth could have at least noted that the happy feet in the pocket are a habit brought on by consistently awful offensive line play.

    -The running game was a joke, although it would obviously have helped to have any form of a passing game. With JC having a bad game, it makes me realize just how reliant this offense is on him. Yes, I know he's a QB and the thus the most important part of the offense, but there are so many QBs out there who can have the type of game JC had tonight, and get enough help to win.

    -Landry was more of the same. A lot of tackles, flying around, but way too many mistakes.

    -Collinsworth pointing out that the Skins play such a conservative defense that can be easy to beat put a huge smile on my face. Blache gets way too much credit for piloting an extremely underachieving unit. Fat Albert was out of line publicly speaking against the coaches, but Blache is no defensive genius and I have a hard time believing he is not a bad defensive coordinator.

    -Miles Austin and Tony Romo being undrafted just about sums up why Cerrato stinks.

    -Rock Cartwright was noticeably upset at JC at the end of the game. I like to think that this is just general frustration that boiled over when Campbell chucked a swing pass 5 yards over his head.

    -Jim Zorn and the other coaches are working for their careers right now, and serving up turd sandwiches. The Zornstar still has a future as a QB coach, but making this team give a crap would put him in line for a better job in the future.

    -The bad vibes from these last 2 games may be so bad that the new regime is forced to clean house more than originally intended.

    -Mercifully, there is only 1 week left in this hell.

    -On the other hand, the Vikings and Saints have come back down to earth, so the Iggles and Cowgirls may well be the 2 best teams in the NFC, so our pain could continue. At least we'll have someone to root against.

    (Image courtesy of Getty Images via espn.com)

    Sunday, December 27, 2009

    Cowgirls @ Skins, Halftime Update

    One photo in a series of photos illustrating a disappointing, sometimes pathetic, often times laughable, young career.

    Excellent job not using your hands, LaRon. Because bringing the ball-carrier down is called "hitting", not "tackling". Right? Right?!


    Bring the (Mouth) Rain to DC!

    News today is that Bill Cowher is looking to coach again next year, and not high school girls soccer. He is my personal clear #1 choice. Not only did he win a Super Bowl, but the rest of his record speaks for itself. Even if the Skins rebuild, it is clear that we will have a weak offensive line and strong defense, which is the exact situation that Cowher had in Steeltown when he won the Super Bowl.

    I know Mike Shanahan sounds likelier by the day, but I think The Mouth is the guy we need. Let the spit fly!

    (Image courtesy of www.midwestsportsfans.com)

    Saturday, December 26, 2009

    Devils @ Caps, 7 ET

    There are people in this world who believe that the 38th game of the NHL regular season is no more or less important than the 1st, 37th, or 82nd.

    I am not one of those people.

    There are people in this world who believe that a game against a doormat counts just as much as a game against a powerhouse.

    I am not one of those people.

    There are people in this world who disregard regular season encounters when dissecting postseason matchups.

    I am not one of those people.

    Fittingly, then, I consider tonight's Caps-Devils tilt at the Verizon Center the biggest game of the season, and one that should provide us with plenty of insight into the legitimacy of the home team's Stanley Cup dreams.

    [Image via Alex Ovetjkin]

    Some questions to consider tonight:

    • Can the Caps shut down a hot team - or, more specifically, the hottest team in the NHL?
    • Will the boys in red have some extra motivation after blowing leads in all three games against the Devils this year, including two 2-0 advantages?
    • Can Michal Neurvirth continue his strong play in goal?
    • Can Martin Brodeur please discontinue his strong play in goal?
    • Will the Devils' trapping brand of hockey ruin the NHL?

    Okay, so maybe those last two are just vented frustrations from past experiences against New Jersey, but still.

    We're not even at the halfway point, but playoff positioning is already at stake. The Devils are 1 point ahead in the Eastern Conference with 2 games in hand.

    We lose this game, that discrepancy grows. We lose this game, it's clear that the Devils are in our heads. We lose this game, and it's pretty conclusive that we don't want to see Marty B and co. in May.

    So I think I speak on behalf of all of Caps Nation with three simple words:

    Get it done.

    Friday, December 25, 2009

    Week 16 Picks: Fat Albert's Awful Christmas Present

    Dallas week, and I can't help but think the Redskins are about to give me a steaming pile of shit for a Christmas present. We are a disaster and everything is looking like an embarrassing loss. Not only did last week expose us, but now Zorn and the rest of the staff are probably even more checked-out, and now Fat Albert sounds like he is checking out. The worst part is that Fat Albert was probably not the only one. Don't they realize they are playing for their jobs? The new coach and Bruce Allen will hopefully want to remove any players who have the awful ways of the past regime ingrained in them. Fat Albert is a veteran leader, and it is the veteran leaders who need to get this team pumped up for what should be our Super Bowl. A Dallas disaster would just be the piss icing on this turd cake season.

    On to the picks..........FO's 'locks of the week' are now 8-10 with 2 'locks' this week, their 'reasonable' picks are 28-36, and their 'stay away' picks are 71-65. Please note that differences in total games picked is a result of us using slightly different spreads.

    The standings (with pushes excluded):
    Sports Guy
    : 7-8 last week 115-104 overall (52.5%)
    FO: 5-8 last week, 107-111 overall (49.1%)
    DCLS: 5-8 last week, 104-114 overall (47.7%)

    As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS).
    1. Buffalo +9 over ATLANTA - FO actually likes the Bills straight up, so this is a home run for them. Matty ice is playing, but FO's certainty is swaying me.
    2. SAN FRANCISCO -12 over Detroit - 12 points is a lot for FO, but SF is tied with Cincy and the Pack as their #1 straight-up pick. I will stick with my theory of picking anyone playing the Lions.
    3. Denver +7 over PHILADELPHIA - The Iggles are only FO's #13 straight-up pick, but guess what? They are now FO's #1 team!
    4. Oakland +3 over CLEVELAND - The QB toilet bowl is ruined! Jamarcus and Derek Anderson didn't make it to week 16. Chaz Frye would be a solid contender, but he and Brady Quinn are at least 18 times better than the guys I was hoping to not watch
    5. San Diego +3 over TENNESSEE - FO has the Bolts straight up, and I agree, roll with the hot hand.
    6. Baltimore +3 over PITTSBURGH - I still don't trust the Steelers. That onside kick was just straight-up manly, I wonder whether Tomlin's granite balls chaffe, or are sanded to a shiny finish to they swish gently by his knees. I also wonder whether Tomlin might actually not be a great coach. He was brought into an incredibly stable situation with a terrific roster and great defensive coach. The Nevermores are FO's #2 team.
    7. Minnesota -7 over CHICAGO - I still don't trust the Vikings, but my dislike of the Bears is a much stronger force. Da Bears are also 4-10 against the spread. The realization that maybe Brett Favre isn't such a great QB is kind of refreshing, right? He also takes the spotlight off of the Skins.
    8. NEW ENGLAND -8 over Jacksonville - This line seems a bit high to me, but then I saw that the Jags are 5-9 against the spread. The Jags are also FO's #22 team by the metrics giving more weight to recent performance, so this is not a good team.
    9. NEW YORK GIANTS -7 over Carolina - Was last week the exception, or the start of a run by the G Men? They could thrash the Panthers and we would still have no idea.
    10. GREEN BAY -14 over Seattle - A team that has been consistently underrated is finally a big favorite against the team that has been consistently underrated. I still like the Pack to bounce-back from last week's tough loss.
    11. Tampa Bay +14 over NEW ORLEANS - Tampa, really?
    12. Dallas -7 over WASHINGTON - Maybe the Swinging Gate will work this time.........or maybe not. Fat Albert being dismissed from practice is also not making me happy. This is our Super Bowl though, so hopefully the team gets it together quickly.
    13. Houston +3 over MIAMI - FO ranks the Texans as slightly better, but has the Fins straight up probably thanks to home-field. I'll take the points here, because I still don't know what to make the Texans.
    14. New York Jets +5.5 over INDIANAPOLIS - Same problem as last week, how long will the Colts starters play. The Jets are still FO's #1 defense, but I think Peyton plays the whole game, and that D still isn't enough to stop him. Oh, and the Sanchize still sucks.
    15. Kansas City +14 over CINCINNATI - The Bungles didn't have a full week of practice because of Chris Henry's funeral, but the Chiefs blow and are 5-9 against the spread; the Chiefs will let you down!
    16. ARIZONA -14 over St. Louis - I realize the Cards can't be trusted, and the Rams are 7-7 against the spread, but I stick with the favorites.
    Maybe we get it together, and maybe I nail my picks to get back over .500. And maybe my dick will grow 4 inches tomorrow.

    (Image courtesy of media.photobucket.com)

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Week 15: Giants 45, Redskins 12 - Knee Jerk Reactions

    Or, my preferred title, Embarrassingly Drunken Texts Between Embarrassingly Drunken Fans.

    First Quarter

    "Only one thing I'm sure about tonight, we'll both be drinking heavily."

    "I'm too drunk to fuck. Why does Landry suck so hard?"

    "This is not pretty. You may win in fantasy on garbage scores."

    Second Quarter

    "This is the closest I've ever been to killing myself. And 90,000 other people."

    "I have Jeff Feagles on my fantasy team, can we at least force a punt?"

    "Bring back Vinny!"

    "Almost as bad as Caps-Pens game 7."

    "That was the single worst play in NFL history."

    Third Quarter

    "This whole game has felt like the end of the Saints game. The 'are you fucking kidding me?!' feeling."


    "Are you still at this embarrassment?"

    "This game is such a piece of shit. Hope the tailgate was fun..."

    Fourth Quarter

    "It's lke they're trying to run out the clock but might score by accident."

    "I was embarrassed to watch that."

    "We control our own destiny for the 10th pick in the draft."

    Saturday, December 19, 2009

    Malcolm Gladwell on Jason Campbell

    Nope, that is not a misprint. In an exchange with Bill Simmons on ESPN.com this past week, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink actually brought JC into the conversation.

    "What we're talking about is what are called capitalization rates, which refers to how efficiently any group makes use of its talent. So, for example, sub-Saharan Africa is radically undercapitalized when it comes to, say, physics: There are a large number of people who live there who have the ability to be physicists but never get the chance to develop that talent. Canada, by contrast, is highly capitalized when it comes to hockey players: If you can play hockey in Canada, trust me, we will find you.......Case in point: Everyone always says what an incredible advantage it has been for Peyton Manning to have had the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system his entire career. Football offenses are so complex now that they take years to master properly, and having one system in place from the beginning has allowed Manning to capitalize on every inch of his talent. On the other hand, someone like Jason Campbell has had a different offensive coordinator in virtually every season of his pro and college career (and I'm guessing he'll get another this offseason). I'm not convinced that it's possible to say, with certainty, that Campbell has less ability than Manning. I'm only sure we can say that Campbell has not been in a situation that has allowed him to exploit his talent the way Manning has. We just don't know how good he is capable of being -- and we may never know."

    With all the good vibes going around DC this week, one cannot forget that we are in for yet another complete overhaul and a lot more uncertainty. We all should know by now to never drink any of the Kool Aid that Snyder is serving.

    (Images courtesy of i.cnn.net and pigskinlovinglady.com)

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Week 15 Picks: All The Pain Just Melts Away

    With the Snyderrato axis of evil broken and defeated by common sense, I can't even describe all the feelings I'm having. Is that what being pregnant is like? Bruce Allen is providing a light amidst darkness in my life, so for this edition of the picks, I will mention the past Redskin pain I feel melting away with the new era beginning. As I go through this, maybe you can understand why I am a constantly disgruntled football fan and human being. Everything I see just reminds me of how frustrating the Skins are. And now? Hope.....

    On to the picks..........FO's 'locks of the week' are now 7-10 with 1 'lock' this week, their 'reasonable' picks are 27-32, and their 'stay away' picks are 68-61. Please note that differences in total games picked is a result of us using slightly different spreads.

    The standings (with pushes excluded):
    Sports Guy: 7-8 last week 108-96 overall (52.9%)
    FO: 9-7 last week, 102-103 overall (49.8%)
    DCLS: 9-7 last week, 99-106 overall (48.3%)

    As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS).
    1. Cincinnati +7 over SAN DIEGO - I know 7 points is a lot, but not sure how you pick against the Bolts right now. Norv Turner having success is hard to stomach, let alone understand, but it is not hard to seem him screwing this up somehow, although maybe some Redskin karma is in play.
    2. KANSAS CITY -2 over Cleveland - KC is FO's #4 straight-up pick, which is baffling for the Browns when you consider that the Chiefs are a pathetic 3-10 and FO's #28 ranked team. The Browns are 2-11 and the #27, so either way, I'd rather drink pure gasoline than watch this game. KC bothers me because Scott Pioli, aka GMing Jesus, was available and Snyder didn't pull out all the stops for him. As much as Bruce Allen has a solid track record and I see no definitively better candidates, Pioli is the one guy who looks like a sure thing great hire. Snyder always gets his man, so why wasn't Pioli his guy?
    3. BUFFALO +7 over New England - Get this, FO has Buffalo as their pick straight-up.......wow, and the system doesn't take into account locker room problems. 7 points is a lot, but I like the Pats to bounce back. I also envy the Pats because they are the model any NFL team needs to follow. They are consistently competitive, and unlike the Colts, built to withstand the loss of any 1 player.
    4. Dallas +7 over NEW ORLEANS - Demarcus Ware being out is enough to tip me towards the seemingly 'touchable' Saints. But this game is about the arch-enemy against man-boobs. I hate them both, and hate seeing both have success. Once again, one has to wonder what happens if man-boobs took the reins instead of Zorn, maybe the continuity is enough to keep this team from imploding.
    5. SEATTLE -7 over Tampa Bay - The Bucs are in a tight race with the Lions for the first pick. The sad thing is I'm not sure anyone wants that pick anymore. The relation to the Skins here is the past team of Bruce Allen and likely next head coach, John Gruden. The problem with that link is that they left an absolute wreck after they were fired, which is a major cause for concern. Such is my anxiety but I am trying to push this aside....
    6. San Francisco +8.5 over PHILADELPHIA - And here is the game with Coaching Jesus, the man who the Skins should have hired. Other than 1 early season slipup, the 49ers have played everyone close, so I like the points and can only wonder what would have happened with Singletary as our coach....maybe the mis-hire was for the best, as we get Cerrato out....
    7. Minnesota -9 over CAROLINA - It's a lot of points, and likely too much for a team with Laron Landry's double-move kryptonite likely to yield at least 2 touchdowns. Oh wait, we drafted him instead of Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings now have an excellent defense anchored by good drafting, free-agent signings, and a trade in addition to an absurd running back.
    8. DENVER -14 over Oakland - Call me crazy, but I like this matchup a little bit for the Raiders. The first reason is Asomugha covering Marshall. I realize Asomugha's questionable, but he should play and take away the biggest part of the offense. The 2nd reason is that this team isn't a complete embarrassment with Gradkowski running the offense. Denver always pisses me off because Josh McDaniels instantly turned them around, and partly with the help of former Skin Champ Bailey. If they can turn it around, how come the Skins haven't been able to do that for about 10 years?!? On the bright side, Oakland's steaming pile of shit always reminds me that things could be worse.
    9. Green Bay +1 over PITTSBURGH - I can't understand how this isn't a homerun pick and much higher on FO's list. The Steelers are not good right now, and unless last week lights a fire under their collective ass, I like the Packers and their now #2 ranked defense. I hate the Steelers as much as I respect them because they are the type of organization the Skins should be, always competitive with amazing fans. On that note, Bill Cowher is my first choice for Skins head coach; maybe I should be happy with what we've got at this point.
    10. NEW YORK JETS -5 over ATLANTA - The team with the #1 D and a potential disaster at QB should probably not be favored if Matt Ryan plays, but he is 50/50 at best. All I can think of here is the Sanchize, and how the Skins almost had him 'leading' the offense. He is a reminder of how stupid this regime has been and the type of thinking that has plagued this franchise.
    11. WASHINGTON +3 over New York Giants - Hell yes, we are back in business and may even have a little jump in our step. The Giants are FO's straight-up pick, but their 2nd worst one......time to play spoiler! I also can't help but mention how awkward it will be for Gruden to call this game. The G-girls are bad enough being from NY, but their fresh approach and sudden rise to success gives me endless anger, let alone the historic win over the Pats - why can't we just have a little bit of that?
    12. Chicago +11 over BALTIMORE - That is a lot of points, but the douchebag needs more than that. The Ravens suck because they showed up just up I-95 a few years ago, with an awful team, and have since been turned around by Ozzie Newsome to the point that they are another consistently competitive team. Just another example of a team passing us by. Da Bears remind me of Cutler, who we almost moronically traded for and gave a huge contract, just a reminder of how idiotic this regime has been.
    13. DETROIT +12 over Arizona - The Lions get routinely smashed by 10+ points, and the Cards just had an unlucky week with 7 turnovers. The Lions are still the worst team in the league by the metrics. The obvious Skins pain is Russ Grimm being part of a staff that quickly turned around a terrible franchise. I doubt it, but Maybe Russ has a role in team Gruden?
    14. Miami +3 over TENNESSEE - The Dolphins play a lot of close games, so the points are tempting, but I still like the Titans here. Random crazy QB fact of the week, VY is the #7 QB on a per-play basis by FO's metrics. The Dolphins piss me off because their coaching staff and FO has managed to maximize their talent by employing this crazy offense that keeps them more competitive than they should be. For all the plaudits of the Skins current staff, they have never seemed to do anything particularly inspirational to win games since Gibbs was here. Why can't we out-coach anyone?!? I'm looking at you Greg Blatche....
    15. ST. LOUIS +10 over Houston - The Texans have been hot, and the Rams have just been the same joke. The pain here is Charley Casserly's work with the Texans, which is depressing because he did a mediocore job with the Skins, but seems to have put the Texans on the cusp of being pretty good for awhile (and yes, I know he isn't there anymore).
    16. Indianapolis -3 over JACKSONVILLE - 1-0 for FO, Sports Guy and me with this pick. It was a close game, but fortunately Peyton and co. played the entire game. Indy represents the type of team we want to build, with a self-sustaining system of bringing coaches and players from within. This is entirely frustrating to watch when the Skins constantly change direction and generally stink. I do question whether the entire system crumbles without Peyton, but the basic formula they have is right.
    The shards of pain are everywhere you look, but I finally feel like a regular team with some hope. Not the misguided blatant homerism hope, but legitimate hope that this team will be able to really build something with a decent GM, deep-pocketed owner, and die-hard fans. It is funny that this is the first game in a while this year where the Skins have a some confidence going into a game against a decent team. Because this is the one week where I should finally care again, but instead, all I can think about is the glorious future.

    (Image courtesy of farm4.static.flickr.com)

    Dreams Really Do Come True!

    Breaking news just came from ESPN 980 that Vinny Cerrato has resigned! This has not been confirmed (UPDATE: it has), but as of this AM, the Skins may finally be free of the man who is the main cause of a run of mediocrity. Skins fans will remember where they were at this moment for the rest of their lives.

    There had been rumor of Vinny being fired at the end of this season, but our recent trend of decent play dampened our hopes. I wonder, why now? Did Snyder and Vinny have some kind of fight? Considering the sole reason Vinny has been able to keep his job this long is that Snyder is having some kind of love affair with him, one has to think they had some kind of juicy girl fight last night.

    What does this mean for Zorn? I have no idea. Vinny staying probably would have meant Zorn stayed, and a new GM is usually bad for the current coach, but I really don't know if the Zornstar has any less job security today than he did yesterday.

    There is a lot more to come on this, as I can't even list all the awful things Vinny did to the Skins and their fans, but the bottom line is that he is finally out of our lives. Given that he was so entrenched, wouldn't you trade going through this 1 terrible season for him to be gone? Snyder may do something stupid/crazy and hire Vinny 2.0 as our GM, but right now, I couldn't be happier and more excited.

    (Image courtesy of the DC Sports Bog)

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Thursday Pick: The Long Wait to Monday Night Begins

    I hate the commercials trying to convince me that I can't wait until Monday night for 'the big game'. Well the big game is now played on Sunday nights, and after an exhausting experience trying to whither the steaming pile of turds the Skins dump on me, I am usually a little footballed-out by the time Monday night rolls around.

    This time though, the Skins battle the Giants in what could (should?) be a close game, and I can't wait. Maybe those ads are just geared to people whose teams don't suck.

    Sports Guy: 7-8 last week 108-96 overall (52.9%)
    FO: 9-7 last week, 102-103 overall (49.8%)
    DCLS: 9-7 last week, 99-106 overall (48.3%)

    Indianapolis -3 over JACKSONVILLE - I have to agree here. This is FO's least certain pick of the week though, and did not have a spread until recently because the Colts may just rest everybody and treat this like a preseason game while Jacksonville is still battling to make the playoffs.

    (Image courtesy of farm4.static.flickr.com)

    Orakpo Snubbed by Peter King

    Found this on page five of Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback and couldn't resist:

    Packers linebacker Clay Matthews makes two significant plays a game.
    Speaking of first-round rookies, there's a heck of a race for defensive rookie of the year. Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd leads the league with nine interceptions, and Houston LB Brian Cushing had another monster game: 10 tackles, a sack, two other tackles for loss, three QB pressures. Matthews. James Laurinaitis of the Rams. Pretty tough call.
    Not even a mention of Orakpo - who received his Defensive Player of the Week award, by the way:

    Who'd have thought Orakpo would have rushed the pass more productively in the first 13 games of his rookie year than Demarcus Ware, Julius Peppers and LaMarr Woodley?
    The DCLS and everyone's mother did.

    Granted, it's one man's opinion, and to be honest, trying to decipher this particular man's rationale has been a fool's errand on a number of occasions throughout the years.

    But that doesn't make his embarrassing oversight any less infuriating.

    [H/t to DCLS correspondent and former Jay Gibbons enthusiast, Plotty]

    Monday, December 14, 2009


    6-0 against a bunch of all-girls schools was expected, even after last year's disaster. But as anyone paying any attention to college basketball this past week would know, the Hoyas just beat 2 of the top 20 or so teams in the country, and are a perfect 8-0 and now ranked #11. Greg Monroe was on the front page of espn.com after dropping 24 and 15 on Butler, and is again on the front page of of the college basketball section of espn.com for being Andy Katz's player of the week.

    The only supposed blemish on the resume thus far is a close win over Temple at home, but the Owls are 8-2, with losses against St. Johns and us, and a win over Nova yesterday. To me, that just looks like a quality win, giving us 3 for the year already.

    The next couple games are against ODU and Harvard, so 10-0 is almost certain entering conference play. That said, I still have my concerns. We are only playing 6 guys, and although we are ranked as the 11th best team in the country, we are only the #4 ranked team in our conference!

    I said in the preseason that Monroe would need to take a huge leap forward for this team to do anything, and right now he might be taking that leap. Too bad this will be the last year we get to watch him.

    (Image courtesy of blog.syracuse.com)

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Week 14: Skins 34, Raiders 13 - Knee Jerk Reactions


    After 3 games of taking a lead into the 4th quarter (and losing), we deserved this. Call me crazy, but after a few weeks of decent football, I kind of expected a win. I was relatively relaxed for the rest of the game after we took the lead early in the 1st quarter; I even snuck a peak at Tony Romo looking like a kid being forced to eat his broccoli.

    Did everyone else also feel extremely relaxed when Jamarcus Russell entered the game? Those 6 sacks in his first 16 dropbacks merely prevented him from overthrowing his receivers by mind boggling distances. The game ended when Jamarcus entered at QB.

    Maybe tomorrow I won't be able to take my eyes away from that 4-9 record (the same as these Raiders), and maybe remember that 7 points separate us from being 7-6 and a playoff team. But right now, I'm just glad that the worst is over, and maybe, just maybe, this team isn't far away from competing next year....

    Other thoughts:
    -The Raiders with Jamarcus are incredibly bad, how can we have the same record as them, ahhh!

    -Tim Tebow wears Brian Orakpo pajamas.

    -Rak locked up the defensive ROY today. 11+ sacks is going to be too much to overlook.

    -Santana Moss lives!

    -Sure, Laron Landry had a pick and a couple nice plays on the line, but he couldn't cover McFadden. The 48 yard pass was all on him and cost us 3 points.

    -Graham Gano > Shawn Suisham.

    -We had our first play action spotting in a long long time.

    -ARE still returning punts......really??

    -Andre Carter, you fall on the ball, don't pick it up and run you greedy bastard.

    -Quinton Ganther was okay, showing some flashes, but that is the best we have right now. Marcus Mason didn't show much. This team needs to get a starting RB this offseason.

    -I can't remember seeing the Skins stack the box like we did in the 1st quarter. I know it's supposedly a big deal that Landry and Doughty switched safety spots, but Doughty was playing at the line most of the game anyway. Monday night against the Giants will be a better example of how this switch can work. I also will note that we have a high draft pick coming, and need a FS, and Eric Berry from Tennessee is going to be tempting.

    -Fred Davis 15 yards for his endzone celebration. A) that dance was pretty mild. B) He definitely didn't get his money's worth - at least do something sweet if you're gonna get a 15 yarder.

    -Our 2 TE set next year is going to be a nightmare for opposing teams.

    -Dick Stockton - it's OraKPO, not OraPKO!! You said this incorrectly for almost the entire game!!!! That is beyond stupid; it's not like his name isn't pronounced phonetically. Rak is probably going to be the defensive rookie of the year so you would think he'd be someone the announcers would prepare to discuss during the game!?! Then, no one else caught this and could tell Stockton that he was screwing up the name he said repeatedly until late in the 4th quarter!?!

    -Dick Stockton - just because Quinton Ganther and Kirk Morrison played in the same conference in college, does not mean they are good friends.

    -JC had another good game, and still didn't have consistent protection. Just imagine what he could do with this protection every game.

    -I am actually excited for next week!

    (Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Week 14 Picks: We are Barely Favored to Win!!!

    We coulda shoulda woulda beat the Saints, and all we give is 1 point to the Raiders!?! Amazing, and either Vegas/the general public knows something, or the Skins are finally being underrated by the point spread. Maybe we play down the competition, but how can you not like our odds tomorrow? Is the pressure on us to win? This is an unfamiliar feeling.......

    The standings (with pushes excluded):
    Sports Guy: 4-12 last week, 108-88 overall
    FO: 7-9 last week, 92-96
    DCLS: 4-12 last week, 90-99 overall

    As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS). Please note that differences in total games picked is a result of us using slightly different spreads.
    1. DALLAS -3 over San Diego
    2. Philadelphia +1 over NEW YORK GIANTS
    3. Buffalo -1 over KANSAS CITY
    4. Washington -1 over OAKLAND
    5. Pittsburgh -10 over CLEVELAND
    6. Seattle +6 over HOUSTON
    7. Green Bay -3 over CHICAGO
    8. Denver +7 over INDIANAPOLIS
    9. BALTIMORE -14 over Detroit
    10. Cincinnati +7 over MINNESOTA
    11. ATLANTA +10 over New Orleans
    12. St. Louis +13 over TENNESSEE
    13. New York Jets -3 over TAMPA BAY
    14. Miami +3 over JACKSONVILLE
    15. NEW ENGLAND +14 Carolina
    16. SAN FRANCISCO +3.5 over Arizona

    (Image courtesy of blogs.westword.com)

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Speaking of our Poll.....

    Quinton Ganther was officially named the starter for Sunday's game against the Raiders.

    As much as everyone loves Rock, he just isn't a very good NFL running back, so this move is welcome for a guy who is putting up great numbers behind a hopeless offensive line. Against the #25 run defense, maybe a breakout game is coming......

    (Image courtesy of www3.pictures.zimbio.com)

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Unbelievably-Super-Awesome Screen Capture

    The Wizards nearing the Quarter Pole: A Pattern I Don't Like

    The Wiz season is following a depressing pattern. I projected the Wiz to win 45 games, that is until we outplayed a 50-win team from last year, on the road, in the season opener. 50 wins definitely looked like a distinct possibility. Eh, not so much..........we then won only 1 of our next 8, and that 1 win was over the Nets, who may end up as the worst team in history. Those 9 games were the ones where we were without Cybertawn.

    The Cybertawn portion of the season commenced with a win over the Cavs in game #10, so all is good again right? As in the season opener, it turned out to just be a tease, because since that win, we have gone 4-5 and currently stand at 7-12. So what's the problem and what does the rest of the season hold?

    Bullets Forever beat me to it with this nice article, but the problem is that the star players aren't performing. Jamison has been good, so has Haywood, Blatche, Miller, but Agent-0 and Tough Juice have not been good enough. Yeah, they've been good, but we need them to be All-Stars. As I wrote in my season preview, "As much as I'd like to talk about X-factors and other improvements, this team will only go as far as Agent Zero will take it." There have been a lot of positives this season, but the poor performance is on the shoulder of Gil and Caron, that's the end of the discussion as to what the problem is. How to fix it or why this problem exists is a different story.

    I think the reason for the struggle is the new coach/system and that these guys have not played together for awhile (remember, Gil has missed almost 2 full seasons). Caron is clearly struggling to find his role in this offense; he understood his job as the #1 guy the past couple years, but is having trouble being as efficient and productive as a #2. Gil, meanwhile, seems to be lacking some of his aggressiveness. I understand that Flip Saunders wants him to be more of a pure PG, and Gil is making an effort to curtail his boyish personality, but I don't like it. A hobo in Chinatown once told me, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Who cares if he is a fun-loving guy with a big mouth? I don't know who told Gil that 'acting mature' would make him a more valuable player, but right now that advice is looking terrible. I want the blogging, aggressive, Hibachi-calling locker room prankster back, and the Wiz are probably thinking the same thing too.

    Gil and Caron have never been great defenders, but it is actually on the offensive end where they are struggling. John Hollinger has us ranked 20th in defensive efficiency, and 24th in offensive efficiency. Although the 20th best defense is nothing to brag about, we are certainly improved on that end of the floor, and enough so that if we had the offensive efficiency of the healthy Hibachi years, we'd be looking at a dangerously good team. As a comparison, Atlanta is ranked 4th in offensive and 17th in defensive efficiency and have been one of the top-5 teams in the league thus far.

    As for the bright spots other than the defense, let's start and end with Young Sushi. After writing him off early in the season, he was given a 2nd chance and has clearly thrust himself back into the rotation. The Wiz are 4-3 with him as a starter, although I will say that the good record probably has more to do with Jamison being back than Young Sushi in the starting lineup. The highlights of these 7 games include 3 20-point performances and, more importantly, great defensive performances. He's held Andre Iguadala to 2-10 from the field, D-Wade to 6-19, and Stephen Jackson to 4-12. The defense is particularly interesting because his metrics have indicated that Nick is an above-average defender, but the 'eyeball test' has said otherwise. Well, maybe our eyeballs are deceiving us; just because he doesn't have a mean streak and isn't pesky like Bruce Bowen does not mean he is not performing at a high level. Nick isn't a defensive stopper by any means, but is proving that the metrics are right.

    Nick still needs to learn to pass a little more often, holding a 10:11 assist to turnover ratio in these 7 games, but Deshawn Stevenson should not leave the bench for anything other than garbage time at this point. I don't think Nick's a versatile defender, but against perimeter shooters and slashers, he can be effective enough to take some of Mike Miller's minutes. The interesting thing now is that with the Wiz needing offensive help more than defensive, Miller may actually be the better fit. Even if Nick does lose some minutes in the near future, he can still provide moments like this:

    So where is this team headed? John Hollinger thinks we will be shedding salary at the trade deadline, but I'm not so sure. After the top-4 teams in the East, the 5th seed in the East is a mere 3.5 games ahead of us, standing at 11-9, and may never be that far ahead of us. That said, we will need to win at least 43 games to get that 5th seed, and we are already 2.5 games under .500. With 63 games left, that means we will need to win at least 36 of those (36-27) to be .500. Even though we look like a .500 team since Jamison's return, and certainly have room for improvement, going 36-27 the rest of the way is not realistic at this point. A more realistic 40-41 wins will likely get us into the playoffs, but just make us first-round cannon fodder for the Celtics, Magic, or Cavs. Ummmm, I'll just pretend I didn't do that math and replay the belt slap video a few times........

    (Image courtesy of media.nowpublic.net/)

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Week 13: Saints 33, Skins 30 (OT) - Knee Jerk Reactions

    For a few hours today, there were positive vibes coming out the wazoo. The team was clicking, points were being scored at an unimaginable rate, and the best team in football looked like they had fallen into a trap.

    But, alas, I was the one who fell into the trap. I got emotionally involved when I promised myself I wouldn't. Again. And my Skinnies let me down. Again.

    I'm not sure at what point a loss ceases to be encouraging, but I am sure that we're close. The last three games have been particularly hard to stomach - seven points separate us from a 6-6 record right now.

    There were three excruciatingly frustrating plays today that stick out in my mind (aside from every significant challenge that the Redskins lost): Shaun Suisham's miss, Kareem Moore's fumble, and Kevin Barnes' muffed punt. It's too painful to talk about each of those in depth so I will defer to the comments section for anyone brave enough to chime in.

    Here are some additional thoughts on the game:

    • The secondary's susceptibility to the double move is an old joke - predictable and no longer funny.
    • LaRon Landry had a decent game, aside from the aforementioned long balls. Yet I can't help but hate him when he mugs for the camera after EVERY SINGLE PLAY, positive or not. After he broke a pass up in the endzone, Byron Westbrook looked to give him a high five, but Landry decided waving to the crowd and mugging for the cameras was more appropriate. He left Westbrook hanging. Dude, you ain't that tight. Shut your mouth and play some football.
    • I just purchased a Devin Thomas hype machine. He was everywhere today and absolutely phenomenal returning kicks, covering kicks, and catching balls from JC17. Add a solid game from Fred Davis and your typical mediocrity from Malcolm Kelly and the 2008 Draft class is making Vinny Cerrato almost look competent. Almost.
    • Offensive line was great in pass protection with their first 0-sack game of the year.
    • I'm very intrigued by the Rock Cartwright/Quinton Ganther duo. They've got a jump in their step that I haven't seen in a while.
    • JC17 was excellent today and will continue to be excellent for many years. Too bad it probably won't be with the Redskins.
    Raiders next week. They beat the Steelers this week. Ain't no such thing as a cupcake in the NFL.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Caps Destroy Sucker-Punchers For 2nd Straight Game

    I was going to post a basic recap, but the Caps just sent a message out to the league so I'll just post it here in case you didn't get it yourself.

    "Dear Rest of NHL:

    You are now on notice. If you continue to try any of this bush-league, sucker-punching stuff on us, we will make you pay.

    They say a fight will really get your team going sometimes. Unfortunately for you, if you fight dirty, you're gonna get the wrong team going. Result: Washington 8 - Philadelphia 2.

    We thought we'd made this clear 2 nights ago against the Panthers, when some guy named Duco jumped Giroux from behind and started wailing on him.

    We thought our thorough 6-2 beating sent the message. I guess it didn't get through.

    We now lead the league in goals and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, a point ahead of Pittsburgh.

    Oh, and Ovechkin returns Monday. And he's pissed. Haters beware.

    Good luck trying to stop us.


    The Caps"

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Week 13 Picks

    Marion's Crackpipe is day-to-day with a router, so I'll be relaying his weekly NFL Picks. Expect a significant decrease in effort and analysis.

    The standings (with pushes excluded):
    -Sport's Guy: 6-8 last week, 96-75 overall (56.1%)
    -Monkey throwing shit at a dart board: 86.5-86.5 overall (50%)
    -DCLS: 8-7 last week, 86-87 overall (49.7%)
    -Football Outsiders: 86-87 overall (49.7%)

    Below are FO's picks listed in order of confidence, and a team is bolded whenever Marion's Crackpipe differs. Their only lock of the week is Buffalo, who is getting 3 points tonight at home against the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!

    1. BUFFALO +3 over New York Jets - I think I just hate 'the Sanchize'.
    2. Philadelphia -5.5 over ATLANTA - No healthy Matt Ryan means no picking the Dirty Birds.
    3. CINCINNATI -13 over Detroit - You think Roger Goodell is cringing at the though of Calvin Johnson picking up marketing tips from Ochocinco?
    4. Tampa Bay +6.5 over CAROLINA - I think the Bucs have moved into the 'frisky' category.
    5. Dallas -1.5 over NEW YORK GIANTS - This is the perfect game for the Giants to turn around their season, against division rival that is inconsistent. That said, I think the Giants just aren't that good, and this turnaround game isn't happening.
    6. TENNESSEE +7 over Indianapolis - The first true test of whether this VY-led version of the Titans is for real. I like Indy to win, but these games always end up being close dogfights, so I'll take the points. I'm intrigued to see how both teams stack-up and have this as my #1 game to watch this week.
    7. Minnesota -4 over ARIZONA - The Vikings look like they're on a collision course to meet the Saints in the NFC Championship. This should be another awesome game to watch.
    8. Denver -5 over KANSAS CITY - FO finally comes back down on KC. The Broncos had a long week of rest, and may be back to their early-season form.
    9. PITTSBURGH -13.5 over Oakland - Even with Dennis Dixon at QB this line should be safe.
    10. CLEVELAND +13 over San Diego - The Bolts have been playing well and are in a fight for their division title, so this looks like a blowout to me.
    11. SEATTLE pick 'em over San Francisco - Turmoil and general suckiness in Seattle is pushing me to coaching Jesus.
    12. Baltimore +3 over GREEN BAY - I see a close defensive game here, so am tempted by the points, but the Ravens struggling against the Dennis Dixon Steelers was not impressive.
    13. WASHINGTON +9.5 over New Orleans - I think this counts as progress, a few weeks ago this line would have been over 12 points. Maybe the Saints will have a bit of a letdown, but even that may not be enough.
    14. JACKSONVILLE pick 'em over Houston - Does this count as a game with big playoff implications, or just a game between mediocre teams?
    15. CHICAGO -9 over St. Louis - Even a douchebag can shred the Rams.
    16. New England +5 over MIAMI - Yeah the Pats were shredded last week, but the Dolphins O isn't going to challenge that weak secondary.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Tiger is...human?

    It truly sucks when someone's dirty laundry is broadcast for the entire world to see, but it's a small price to pay when your celebrity also nets you millions upon millions of dollars.

    When you're the most recognizable athlete on the planet and perhaps one of the greatest of all-time, and are committing indiscretions, it is important to cover your tracks. Which is exactly what Tiger Woods tried to do in this voicemail he left his mistress about a week ago. Which had the exact opposite effect of what he intended. Which only made things way, way worse for Tiger.

    Listen for yourself:

    [Video removed]

    This just...sucks. That's really the only way to describe it.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    DCLS on the Road: Caps vs. Canadiens in Montreal

    Ever wondered what a black hole would sound like if one materialized before you? Here's my guess: it would sound something like the noise emitted by the 20,000 French Canadians at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

    When Eric Fehr scored the game-tying goal in the closing seconds of regulation, the disbelief was palpable; the utter vacuum of sound that swallowed up the seating bowl was pierced only by the screams of the elated Capitals and Washington loyalists scattered throughout, including your DC Landing Strip correspondent.

    The view from section 401 during the anthems.

    The Hockey Night in Canada crowd was 15 seconds away from celebrating a satisfying come-from-behind victory in which they had kept the high-octane Caps to a measly 11 shots on goal through 40 minutes; it was all erased, thanks to some guy named Fehr, who nudged a rebound backhanded through Carey Price's pads. It was a thoroughly undeserved victory for the Caps, and it was friggin' awesome.

    Some additional thoughts on the Bell Centre experience:
    • We know Ovechkin's a league-wide star, but I didn't realize the magnitude of his appeal until I was treated like a returning war hero while wearing my red No. 8 sweater in the upper bowl. "You're from Washington?" a disbelieving, awestruck teen in a white Ovie sweater asked me after we exchanged some pro-Capitals pleasantries. "Yeah," I replied, "what about you?" "I'm from here," he said, "I just love Ovechkin." Similar exchanges happened more than once.
    • "Washington Suck!" Try saying that in your best (worst) Francophone dialect and you'll know how I felt during one or two rare occasions.
    • That being said, I've endured my share of heckling while wearing enemy colors before; I experienced almost none at Bell Centre on Saturday. The fans couldn't have been more knowledgeable, good-natured and welcoming to a visitor.
    • The Montreal faithful still haven't forgiven Jose Theodore.
    • The Habs sure do love their history: their pre-game video began with more than 10 minutes remainging on the center ice scoreboard, and they scrolled the names of each of the more-than 700 players who have donned le bleu, blanc et rouge over the team's 100 seasons.
    • The upper deck is extremely roomy, like sitting in first-class compared to the Verizon Center's coach.
    • The ice surface in Montreal is mic'ed by a series of suspended microphones; even if you're sitting in the second-to-last row of the building, you can hear every scrape, stick tap and tape-to-tape pass like you're sitting on the bench. How about it, Ted?
    • "You'll notice, we don't hang Eastern Conference Champion banners here in Montreal."
    • As for the game-day atmosphere, Centre Bell is no louder during a 0-0 game than Verizon Center, but here's the difference: every scoring chance or key save is met by a sharp, immediate outburst by nearly everyone in the stands. Everyone is paying attention at all times. Number of fans I saw on the BlackBerry during gameplay? Zero.
    • At the same time, I was disappointed to see the Montreal faithful start "The Wave."
    • Three Stars: Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin both skated onto the ice and acknowledged the crowd after being announced as the third and first stars of the game. When was the last time a visiting player took a spin on the ice at VC after getting a star?
    • Concourse clocks indicate how much time remains before the end of intermission. Nice touch.
    All in all, it was a good night for the Capitals in a game they surely did not deserve to win. Regardless of the result, if you have the opportunity to catch the Capitals (or any team) in Canada, you owe it to yourself to see how the nation that invented the sport presents it for the faithful.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Week 12: Eagles 27, Redskins 24 - Knee Jerk Reactions

    Yeah the game hurt, but again, who didn't see this coming? Up 5, I was happy, but once we kicked that FG instead of going for the jugular everyone saw the inevitable.

    At least the Skins are back to not totally sucking. Even with the gimme first TD, we played with the Eagles that whole game. Sure we were outgained, but this was not a case of us just getting lucky.

    Additional thoughts:
    • That interception at the end of the 1st half was beyond awful. Firstly, why are the Skins even attempting to run a play? We know we can't protect our QB, were scared to run any plays once in FG range a week ago, but suddenly want to keep throwing from our own 37 on 3rd and 8 with 1 timeout? Secondly, JC just can't get picked there and he has to know that. The objective at that point is to have a worst-case scenario of maintaining the current lead, giving Philly an easy 3 points is the worst possible thing that could happen and probably cost us the game.

    • That last offensive play was definitely roughing the passer, just an egregious non-call. We would have been on our own 40-yard line with 1:04 left in the game and no timeouts. Suisham stinks, but we would have needed only need about 25 yds for him to have a shot. A point to note, however, is that Campbell blacked-out after that hit, so getting those 25 yards would have been even more difficult than usual.

    • The Zornstar is the king of pained faces. He looks perpetually unhappy, until he throws-in an awkward fist pump. I am all for a Zorn camera.

    • Fred Smoot, I love you, but that was an afternoon I won't soon forget. Carlos Rogers appeared to play well because he never got picked-on, but when the other corners are Tryon and Smooty (aka giant bullseyes), it is easy to look like you are shutting down half the field.
    • Quinton Ganther is good. Rock Cartwright is not good. I am a big fan of letting Ganther get the bulk of carries next week.

    • London Fletcher was terrific, covering sideline to sideline and making several key tackles. Rocky McIntosh also had a solid game.

    • The 2nd round pass catching trio of Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, and Fred Davis definitely had an impact and were a big reason this game was close.

    • Devin Thomas appears to be our best kick returner, so why not have him try returning punts too?

    • Redskins record when Brian Orakpo gets a sack? 2-4, when he doesn't get one (including today)? 1-4. Okay that didn't go anywhere, but he was quiet today in terms of big plays, despite playing a decent game.

    • Funny how Andre Carter and O-Sak-Po suddenly look human without Fat Albert in the game.

    • Yeah the o-line was better than usual, but the performance still stunk. JC was under fire all day despite the lack of sacks. Running lanes were also minimal.

    Call me crazy, but I think we have showed enough the past 3 weeks that we will beat someone other than Oakland before the end of the season. As Fat Albert said earlier this week, these last few weeks are important, and he meant that it is important for us to turn around the losing culture and get back to respectability; one modest step taken in that direction today.

    (Image courtesy of the AP via espn.com)

    Skins @ Eagles, 1 ET

    And so the Redskins begin their second cycle of NFC East games at 0-3 in the division, and with nowhere to go but up.

    If there was ever a time to sack up and adopt the role of playoff spoiler, I'm pretty certain we've reached that point. After all, what other type of joy can this season possibly bring?

    Philadelphia and I don't really get along, but I think the other party deserves the majority of the blame for the conflict. Either way, I enjoy fanning the flames:

    Video courtesy of former Redskin Ryan Clark and the once upon a time #1 WR for the Eagles, Todd Pinkston. You read that correct.

    Friday, November 27, 2009


    Two years ago today, Redskins Nation lost one of its most beloved sons. Big ups to Sean Taylor, who is probably wreaking havoc on opposing wide receivers up in heaven as we speak. RIP brotha.

    Obviously The DCLS is Right

    In their weekend game preview on espn.com, FO reveals that,"Washington's Adjusted Sack Rate on defense is average on first and second down, but a league-high 12 percent on third down." You want to know why? Because our 3rd down pass rush includes this guy:

    O-Sak-Po! We've been saying it since he got drafted and can't say it enough! Let him play DE full-time! How different would our D be if he got a chance to rush the QB on 1st and 2nd down too?

    (Image courtesy of the The Redskins Blog)

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Week 12 Picks: Kicked in the Spleen While We're Down

    Those were dark days when I was picking against the Skins, and may have just inspired us to our 2 best performances of the season, but I'm still not buying-into this team. While the performances improved, our roster got mighty thin. The Skins have to be the most banged-up team in the league. Our starting LT and RG are out, our backup RG is also done for the year, our top-2 RBs are out, our starting QB is banged-up, our starting TE and overall best offensive player is out, and our best player and starting DT is likely out on Sunday. (Editor's note, D****** Hall was just ruled out for Sunday's game as well, giving Double-Move another shot). Not just quantity of injuries, but all of our best guys; the Chad Rinehardt injury was not a big deal, because he is very replaceable (or at least should be). When it rains it pours.......

    But haven't we been just fine without those guys and maybe team chemistry has improved without the big names? So we only lost to the Iggles by 10 last time and are kind of playing better right? The Iggles have been slumping the last 3 games, with 2 losses and an unimpressive win over da Bears, so are ripe for the picking, just like the Broncos right? Color me pessimistic after the 1-2 punch of a surprise win and almost win left me with crushed hopes again. Just when I thought I was at peace with this season, the Skins basically picked me up off the canvas and then kicked me in the spleen.......thanks, but no thanks. I'll keep the bandwagon parked until next season. On the bright side, 2 weeks until we are favored against the Raiders!

    On to the picks..........FO's 'locks of the week' are now 6-8 with 2 'locks' this week, their 'reasonable' picks are 17-25, and their 'stay away' picks are 55-47. The top 3 picks this week are all considered locks. After, posting an apology for their awful picks thusfar, FO rebounded with a strong week. Please note that differences in total games picked is a result of us using slightly different spreads.

    The standings (with pushes excluded):
    Sports Guy: 6-9 last week, 90-67 overall (57.3%)
    Monkey throwing shit at a dartboard: 79-79 overall (50.0%)
    DCLS: 8-7 last week, 78-80 overall (49.4%)
    Football Outsiders: 9-6 last week, 78-80 overall (49.4%)

    As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS).

    1. Kansas City +14 over SAN DIEGO - The Bolts are only FO's #9 straight-up pick, so they must really like the 14 points here. KC is their #27 ranked team, and the Bolts #13, which would be enough to pick SD, but I think KC's recent improvement is the big reason. Interestingly, the only game thusfar in which the Chiefs have lost by over 14 points was to the Chargers, at home, 4 weeks ago. FO's certainty is swaying me here.
    2. Indianapolis -3.5 over HOUSTON - There is something very wrong with this line. Maybe the insanely long injury report is pushing this line down, but I am ready to make this my lock of the week. FO has Indy as their #2 straight-up pick. Fun fact of the week, Matt Schaubb is FO's #3 ranked QB, behind only Brady and Manning.
    3. DALLAS -14 over Oakland - There should not have been much reason for concern because their offense struggled against the league's #1 defense and #11 defense in back-to-back weeks. Nothing like a little Raider-tonic to cure everything.
    4. CINCINNATI -14 over Cleveland - So the Bungles lost to the Raiders and are still giving 14? Looking a little closer, the Bengals outplayed the Raiders and were just a bit unlucky, whereas the Browns were badly outplayed by the Lions (outgained by over 100 yards) and were lucky to only lose by 1 point thanks to a trick play and a 2-0 advantage in turnovers. Cincy is FO's #1 straight-up pick this week.
    5. BUFFALO +3.5 over Miami - I am not sure what FO is seeing in the Bills here, they couldn't even beat the Jags last week, whereas Ricky Williams and co. showed me that they may be just fine without Ronnie Brown. If Williams can continue to perform as he did last week, it will put quite a damper on how good a player Ronnie Brown is perceived to be.
    6. DENVER +7 over New York Giants - Wha, wha, hap, happe...? The Giants embarassed themselves and I am finally convinced that they may not be a good team. FO had them as their #11 team, just ahead of Miami, going into this week, with the #14 offense and #13 defense; sounds perfectly mediocore to me. Not sure what to make of the Broncos after this.
    7. Pittsburgh +3 over BALTIMORE - Interesting that FO has their #10 team over their #6 team, on the road. The Steelers are also 2-3 on the road this year, with those 2 wins over the Lions and slumping Broncos (same ones the Skins beat), and their starting QB is hurt and Dennis Dixon may play, yikes. Sounds like an obvious fools-pick right? Well the the Ravens are 5-5, with those wins over Cleveland (x2), KC (home), slumping Denver (home), and at San Diego. All of their losses have been close to good teams, so this sounds like a close Steelers win, either way I'll take the points in what should be a low-scoring game. If Dennis Dixon does play, I'll probably have the same face Chris Simms did before attempting a winning final drive against the Skins.
    8. New England +3 over NEW ORLEANS - Make no mistake, the Pats are the best team in the league right now. The home-field is a big deal here, but I will still take the points.
    9. Carolina +3 over NEW YORK JETS - Never a good sign when you install a new system to help your QB and explain, "Basically it's helping him manage when he gets out on the field to understand maybe the parameters, maybe the game situations and all that kind of stuff."
    10. DETROIT +11 over Green Bay - Not sure why Sports Guy and FO liked the Lionesses here. Although the game wasn't a total blowout, Detroit was never closer than 2 scores after halftime, so this game lived down to expectations.
    11. Arizona -3 over TENNESSEE - Very interesting in what will be the first test for the VY-led Titans. Their wins under VY have not been against anybody as good as the Cards, so I'll take the favorite here.
    12. SAN FRANCISCO -3.5 over Jacksonville - I am sticking with Coaching Jesus, but did you know the Jags are in the playoffs if the season ended today?
    13. Tampa Bay +12 over ATLANTA - FO already flipped on this pick and I am having trouble with this as well. My general rule is to go with the team I think will win, so I'll take the Falcons to bounce back from 2 losses. I also just noticed that Atlanta is in 2nd place in their division and still 5 games behind the Saints.
    14. Chicago +11 over MINNESOTA - The nation will delight in Cutler learning about the subtle tasting notes of turf.
    15. Seattle -3 over ST. LOUIS - Honestly, who cares?
    16. Washington +9.5 over PHILADELPHIA - So much for picking against the Skins. Not only did we lose the game last week, but I also missed the pick. FO has Philly as their #6 straight-up pick, and as a 'lock' to win.
    I was going through some dark times picking against the Skins the past couple weeks, and am back to taking the good guys. Meanwhile, FO may have revamped their picking system and be back to giving reliable advice. And just like with the Skins, I will follow, but try not to get close enough to get kicked in the spleen.
    (Image courtesy of hogshaven.com)