1.29.2005
 
Saturday Juice

Look around for whomever is offering a line on Saturday's 4:00pm Senior Bowl. The South are favored by 1.5 to 2 points and by everything I've seen this week, they should roll right over the North. Not everyone is offering this game and I think I know why. I would probably take the South even if they were giving eight or nine points. The game is being played in Alabama and the South's roster features former Auburn stars Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Carlos Rogers (if he's able to play after tweaking his hamstring earlier this week). And just by watching the South practice on ESPN Thursday, they hold a huge skill advantage over the North. Check out the rosters for each team here.
South -2
(The Coin likes the South too)

UPDATE: I guess I'm going to count this loss as part of the CFC.

1.28.2005
 
Hockey News

BACKTRACK WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY

Finally, more than just rumors. Bob McKenzie reports:

...now that the NHLPA is in the process of updating its membership on the status of negotiations, there are details filtering out as to specifically what the players don't like about what the NHL proposed on Thursday.

Technically, the NHL did not provide a formal written proposal at the meeting. But it did propose concepts to the NHLPA, concepts that appear not to have been well received.

Read the whole thing. At least it seems as though this will all be over, either way, by Monday.

Also, James Mirtle has a beat on things:

Bob McKenzie is saying the NHLPA membership should have a vote, but I'm not so sure that's going to happen. The only way that would be possible would be through the PA's secure website, which at this point is anything but secure. There are more than 700 players with access to the site; it doesn't take much for a reporter to endear himself to one of those fellows to see what is being said.
UPDATE: My source is out of town for the weekend and he wouldn't let me read his email while he's away. So I'm relying on Hockey Rumors and James Mirtlefor the rest of the inside story.

1.27.2005
 
Hockey News

Track the story from yesterday.

It sounds like the NHL will be submitting a proposal to the NHLPA as early as tonight. The players know what that proposal will detail and they will agree to it over the weekend or on Monday.

I'm officially looking at my bank account to see how many home games I can afford.

UPDATE: I was never near a computer on Thursday night, but I read this from my phone.
"We continue to have significant philosophical differences,'' NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said Thursday night. ``No meetings are scheduled and we will not make further comment at this time."
I no longer understand how these sources can be saying one thing, and the press something completely different. (UPDATE NOTE: Hockey Rumors has a theory).

Despite what the two sides are saying, I still hear that they will meet again on Friday. I also heard that the NHL proposal was salary tax based- and not salary cap based. I find it hard to believe that as well. We're officially back to speculation.

 
Thursday Football

2004-2002 New England Patriots versus 'mobile quarterbacks':

2004 - Conference Playoff - 41-27 at Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger 14/24 226 2-3, sacked 1 time. 5 rushes for 45 yards.

2004 - Week 12 - 20-3 vs Baltimore

Kyle Boller 15/35 93 0-1, sacked 4 times. 2 rushes for 10 yards.

2004 - Week 8 - 20-34 at Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger 18/24 196 2-0, sacked 0 times. 5 rushes for 3 yards.

2004 - Week 5 - 24-10 vs Miami

Jay Fiedler 20/41 251 1-1, sacked 3 times. 3 rushes for 6 yards.

2004 - Week 2 - 23-12 at Arizona

Josh McCown 13/29 160 0-2, sacked 5 times. 3 rushes for 19 yards.

2003 - Super Bowl - 32-29 vs Carolina

Jake Delhomme 16/33 323 3-0, sacked 4 times. No rushes.

2003 - Divisional Playoff - 17-14 vs Tennessee

Steve McNair 18/26 210 1-1, sacked 3 times. 2 rushes for 11 yards.

2003 - Week 14 - 12-0 vs Miami

Jay Fiedler 13/31 111 0-2, sacked 5 times. No rushes.

2003 - Week 11 - 12-0 vs Dallas

Quincy Carter 20/36 210 0-3, sacked 1 time. 6 rushes for 33 yards.

2003 - Week 7 - 19-13 at Miami

Jay Fiedler 20/35 230 1-2, sacked 1 time. 1 rush for 5 yards.

2003 - Week 5 - 38-30 vs Tennessee

Steve McNair 23/45 391 0-1, sacked 2 times. 6 rushes for 18 yards, 2 TDs.

2003 - Week 2 - 31-10 at Philadelphia

Donovan McNabb 18/46 186 0-2, sacked 7 times. 6 rushes for 53 yards.

2002 - Week 17 - 27-24 vs Miami

Jay Fiedler 11/25 110 1-0, sacked 2 times. 2 rushes for 9 yards.

2002 - Week 15 - 7-24 at Tennessee

Steve McNair 11/24 136 0-1, sacked 0 times. 6 rushes for 49 yards, 2 TDs.

2002 - Week 12 - 24-17 vs Minnesota

Daunte Culpepper 24/49 272 2-0, sacked 3 times. 5 rushes for 59 yards.

2002 - Week 11 - 20-27 at Oakland

Rich Gannon 26/38 297 0-1, sacked 1 time. 5 rushes for 15 yards, 1 TD.

2002 - Week 6 - 10-28 vs Green Bay

Brett Favre 17/27 147 3-0, sacked 1 time. 1 rush for 5 yards.

2002 - Week 5 - 13-26 at Miami

Jay Fiedler 17/27 190 2-0, sacked 1 time. 3 rushes for 18 yards, 1 TD.

So, just like from Tuesday's analysis, assuming I compiled these stats correctly, there are some things to be learned from this.

First, I define a 'mobile quarterback' as someone who can escape pressure and still be a threat to throw on the run. Or, in other words, someone the Patriots can't predict where he'll end up at the end of each pass play.

2004 record: 5-0, average points against: 17.2
2003 record: 7-0, average points against: 13.7
2002 record: 2-4, average points against: 24.3
Three year total: 14-4, average points against: 18.2

It's too bad the 2002 Patriots were just an average team, because during that season they faced Culpepper, Gannon, McNair, and Favre. New England's 2003 and 2004 schedule is filled with too many McCown's and Carter's and Boller's. There is one quarterback who the Patriots have faced 3 times in the last 3 years that draws my interest: Steve McNair.

In those three games, McNair's combined numbers are: 52/95 737 1-3, 5 sacks, 14-71, 3 TDs rushing.
Averaged out, his per game performance across those three is: 17.3/31.6 245.6, 1.6 sacks, 4.6-23.6 1 TD rushing.
McNair doesn't have the speed that McNabb does, but Donovan is at a similar point in his career as Steve was when he faced the Patriots in 2003.

Another interesting comparison is to look at Rich Gannon's numbers against the Pats. The Raiders were successful in that 2002 Week 11 game in Oakland and also should have beaten New England in the 2001 Divisional Playoff Game; also known as the 'tuck rule' game. That Oakland team ran a very similar offense to the one the Patriots will see in Jacksonville next Sunday.

UPDATE: I forgot to post this information:

2004-2002 'Mobile QB' per game average versus Patriots:

17.4/33 completions/attempts
207.7 passing yards
1 - 1.1 TD-INT ratio
2.4 times sacked
3.3 rushes for 19.8 yards and .3 TDs
UPDATE UPDATE: Since I have neither the intention nor the time to go through the 36 or so other box scores from this era to gather the stats for 'non-mobile quarterbacks,' I'm just going to reference the overall QB statistics versus New England.

2004-2004 Regular Season QB per game passing averages versus Patriots:

19.9/35.1 completions/attempts
204.4 passing yards
1.1 - 1.4 TD-INT ratio
2.5 times sacked

Note of variance: This average is from the '02-'04 regular season totals, including those games included in the 'mobile QB' average. Also, the 'mobile QB' average is from both regular and post season games.


1.26.2005
 
Hockey News

From a reliable source who has reliable sources in the NHL world:

Bob Goodenow may be on his way out as the players' representative.

Trevor Linden and Ted Saskin are not only working with Bill Daly from the NHL, but Gary Bettman has been brought directly into the discussion as well and they are collectively working on a new agreement that begins with an immediate salary rollback (as previously offered at 24%) and would grandfather a cap system into the NHL over the next few (4?) years.

Nothing on the major news sources yet, but he's a couple of links to keep checking.
Sportsnet.ca
TSN


UPDATE: Hockey Rumors has some stuff on it too.

Read the comments, one reader said that Fan590 in Toronto has the 24% rollback, a 50$ million cap, and a salary tax on payrolls over 40$, but under 50$.

UPDATE UPDATE: I got confirmation from my side on that last news from Toronto, but it's probably just two different people hearing the same original source. Almost 6:00pm EST now, looking to see if anything hits the major sports news shows.

UPDATE: From the HockeyRumors sponsored chat:
*A deal in principle may be announced soon with details worked out later.

*NBC has been very involved

*Lemieux has also been influential as well
FINAL UPDATE TODAY: So it sounds as though we won't hear anything today. ESPN and TSN are reporting that the two sides will meet again either on Thursday or Friday of this week. While I am still skeptical, Hockey Rumors and my source are reporting such similar things that there may just be some truth to it. Hopefully, we'll find out tomorrow. I hate wait.

Also, from Sportsnet:
Sources tell Sportsnet it is expected the NHL and NHLPA will meet again Thursday, with potentially a change of city. Speculation suggests the two sides will meet in New York, however a source inside the discussion says the league has some work to do "internally" before committing to the next meeting.
That last line says to me they need to have the night to sleep on it. And the importance of the possibility of them meeting in New York should not be overlooked either.

THURSDAY UPDATE:

EJ Hradek, who has had a skeptical outlook on this whole situation for quite some time, was on Cold Pizza Thursday morning. He had two quotes that I specifically noted:

"Something happened in that meeting that changed the course"

"I have a feeling we may just get a deal here"

MORE FROM THURSDAY:

Hockey Rumors has this from his source:

"This will absolutely be over by Saturday. Posturing is over. These talks are the final talks. We will know where we are in the next few days. I am convinced this new proposal is a result of what both sides have been working on. There is immense pressure coming from the big teams. The players are going to have a hard time turning down this offer. Word is they already know what it basically is and are holding a vote on their website as we speak. I would be stunned if the season was cancelled. It won't go past the week-end. Not a chance"

1.25.2005
 
Tuesday Football
  • This confirms what I've suspected the Eagles will do with Owens. Assuming he makes it through the next two weeks without a re-injury:
    The highly placed source said he expected Owens would be the team's No. 3 wide receiver on the natural grass surface of AllTel Stadium and play between 30 and 40 plays in the game.
    Ever since the injury happened, I've heard it compared to the one that Steve Smith suffered at the beginning of the season. And while I don't think there is a more hard-working, determined, or better conditioned athlete in all of professional sports, I don't see any way that TO will be much more than a 10-15 yard target. But that's not saying that he won't have an impact on the Super Bowl. In fact, now that the Eagles are without Chad Lewis, Owens' size and reputation could give Philly some help on third downs. But there's just no way I see TO beating anyone deep. Not even Earthwind Moreland.
UPDATE: Sal Paolantonio reported tonight that TO may be allowed to run as early as Wednesday as long as he keeps up his current rehab schedule. The fears of re-injury are that he may break the screw that is holding his ankle in place or that he may widen the joint by applying too much pressure. Ouch.

1.24.2005
 
Monday Football

Some notes on yesterday:

  • First, a welcome back to NFL Pick of the Week. I'm glad that the Divisional Playoffs didn't carry you away to a dark, far off place. I feared otherwise. There doesn't seem to be too many bloggers who are willing to make consistent, smart, detailed picks and also not take themselves too seriously (ie, those who make you pay for their so-called expertise). Nice to see you in action again.

  • From the Boston Herald:
    PITTSBURGH - Several Patriots players credited an emotional pregame speech from coach Bill Belichick for putting them in the right state of mind prior to last night's 41-27 AFC championship win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Belichick made the remarks at the team's hotel following their morning meeting. It was apparently nothing fancy, but from the heart. The theme: Belichick had confidence in his players to do the job because they had always done it before.

    "I felt it came down to a point where he let his emotion out,'' linebacker Roman Phifer said.

    Added Ted Johnson: "He said he had a lot of confidence in this team. It's a simple thing, but that's not always his style. I appreciated that. It was awesome. For us to hear those words meant a lot. He just said it with such assurance and confidence."
  • NY Times (subsc) on Belichick, and a look into his own story. :
    He admits mistakes when his peers make excuses. And this is his greatest strength: self-evaluation. Bill Parcells can recite the "Man in the Mirror," but Belichick lives by the importance of self-reflection.

    Once again, he slipped on his decoder ring last night to make sure that, in his second lap with the Steelers this season, he would not end up twice fooled.

    Where did the Patriots go wrong on Halloween? What did Pittsburgh do so right in that game? By simply dissecting that question, the brainiac applied a chaos theory that put the Patriots in the Super Bowl after a 41-27 victory in the American Football Conference championship game.

    It may sound contradictory, but this genius redux happens all the time. He is 14-0 as Patriots coach when facing a quarterback for the second time in a season, a sign that he is able to confound and confuse the senses of an opposing team, its star and its coach.
  • I hope no one slams Ben Burger for playing 'like a rookie.' Yes, he is a rookie, and that's not his fault. It's simply a fact. Also, he didn't so much 'play like a rookie' yesterday than did he just play like every other quarterback who has faced the Patriots over the last two years.

  • The Falcons, down 0-7, had a first a goal at the 2 yard line when Gregg Knapp called one run and two pass plays. They settled for a field goal. I don't think Knapp called the best game possible, but I can understand the difficulties in trying to beat that Eagles defense yesterday. In hindsight, the best thing Atlanta could have done differently would be spreading the field a couple of times with 4 and 5 WRs. Philly's linebackers were too keyed in on what was happening in the Falcons' backfield and Atlanta didn't do anything down the field to change that. The Falcons had some depth at the receiver position and with Dez White, Brian Finneran, Michael Jenkins, Pearless Price, and Alge Crumpler on the field, I think the Falcons could have softened the Eagles up a bit.

  • The #1 reason the Eagles and the Patriots won their Conference Championship Games is because each of their offenses are versatile enough to go after their opponents' weakness. People talked so much about the 'physical' play of the Steelers and the Falcons and while that is true, it obviously takes more than brawn to win big games. The Colts thought they could beat the Pats by just doing their own thing. Pittsburgh and Atlanta also tried to win by doing what got them there. But for New England and Philadelphia, what got them there is doing what you do best to make your opponent do what they do worst.

  • This is what I'll be looking at this week in anticiaption of the Super Bowl Media Week. I don't like the extra week. I don't know many who do, except maybe for Patriots fans who are loving the fact that Belichick will have an extra week to devise an evil plan. But, if I remember correctly, Andy Reid has a pretty nice record off of bye weeks too and he will probably have something ready for the Pats in Jacksonville. With the early lines that have been posted (7, 48), my early thought is to take the Pats -1, over 42 in a 6 point tease. But I'm hoping that TO doesn't play only because I think the money line on the Eagles when they are +10 or so is a good opportunity.
    NE's defense in big games versus teams they play for the first time (Carolina from last year, Pitt from this year)
    NE's defense versus mobile QBs
    NE's defense versus 1 dimensial teams

    Philly versus 3-4 defenses
    West Coast offenses versus NE
    NE's offense against top defensive secondaries
UPDATE: I love this post from The Corner and even though it's an obvious thought, it's nicely captured here (after you get past the whole Jets crap).
RE: MORE SUPER BOWL [Andy McCarthy]
Rich, as a hardcore football fan who also has trouble remembering from year to year who won the last one, I have two observations -- one personal, one general.

I am a Jet fan (had season tix back in the good old Shea days), so it may be that if your team hasn't won (or even been in the game) since 1969, it's a little hard to keep track of the 36 or so years in between.

But overall, I think it's harder to remember now because it's become -- since the late 80s or so -- less of a game and more of a pageant or a national entertainment. Over the nearly 40 years, the games as a rule have not been that good, so they are not that memorable as games. In the last five or so years, there have been some terrific games (e.g., Rams-Titans, Rams-Patriots, and last year's Patriots-Panthers), but most of the hullabalo people remember turns out to be over Janet Jackson, or Bono, or the Bob Dole commercial, or the 6-hour pregame shows -- and the game just gets lost. And the networks are now going more and more the route that is killing baseball: every year the game starts a little later and with all the commercials takes longer and longer to play. Less kids can hang in there and watch it. I'm a big fan and I have trouble watching it as it drags on for 4+ hours with tons of downtime. It becomes less a father-and-son sports event (which by and large is what served to sear sports events into the national memory). It ends up being like every other over-hyped celebrity drama in America. Who won the last academy award? The last grammy, or emmy? Who knows, and who cares. It's too bad, though -- it used to be a great sports event; like the world series was when they played it in the daytime.
I was thinking about this last night as I putting the Eagles against the Patriots together in my head. There are just so many long breaks in the action that it has to have some affect on the teams at play. I wonder how one could judge the loss in momentum that is experienced during a game like this that features longer, more frequent commercial breaks. It's seems as though the NFL may soon be willing to go to commercial in between incomplete passes.


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