Monday, November 26, 2007

I know I haven't been very consistent with my posts lately. It's been a very depressing fall so far for me. The damn Red Sox won it all. The damn Patriots are undefeated. And the damn Celtics are playing entirely too well to date. Things just keep getting worse for Sedition in Red Sox Nation. Now BC is one game away from the first major bowl bid since Harry Truman was an obscure senator from Missouri and FDR was running against Wendell Wilke. Bad times.

In the last year or so, Hollywood has seen fit to release a wave of movies showcasing outnumbered and outmatched forces defending their territory or their interests at all costs. The Spartans stood against the mighty invading army from Persia in 300. Beowulf takes out Grendel and Grendel's mom. And it all ties in nicely with the NFL season to date.

A brave, heroic, disciplined unit met a powerful enemy this past weekend and prevailed in Foxboro. The Pats defended their turf against a very average football team starting its backup quarterback, playing on the road and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the final minutes. It was truly an inspiring sight.

I'm not going to get carried away like many of the commentators who have stated that the Eagles have shown the rest of the NFL how to compete with the Patriot juggernaut. Maybe they have, maybe they haven't, but it's not worth getting overly excited about until some team does what the Eagles did, only slightly better or slightly longer, and the Patriots finally lose a game. After all, the Colts came very close to prevailing a few weeks ago, and there was no talk of a road map after that game.

I will say this. A friend of mine sent me an interesting question via email this afternoon. He offered the suggestion that the Patriot defense might be showing its age and tiring as the season nears completion. It's an interesting point to consider.

The Eagles were moving the ball with considerable success throwing deep ins. The Patriots linebackers are a very old group, particularly when Bruschi and/or Junior Seau are forced to play in space in certain zone coverages. The deep ins are run right into the space behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. It's possible my friend had a point.

Prior to the strange, sloppy game in Pittsburgh tonight, I was intrigued at the prospect of Ricky Williams return to the Dolphins. I remember not feeling tremendously sad when Cedric Benson ran over Junior Seau last season, breaking his arm and looking for all the world like he ended the career of one of the great self-promoting frauds of all time (nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, I must praise Seau for his charitable work in the wake of the Southern California fires this fall).

I was looking forward to seeing a slightly older, slightly slower, slightly weaker Seau take on a well-rested Ricky Williams fresh off his 18 month exile from the NFL due to past marijuana infractions. In general, I try as hard to avoid taking undue amusement from the physical suffering and professional failures of total strangers as the next person. But I hate Seau. Maybe its because of the USC thing, but more likely because I have watched him come up a step slow, a yard short and one or two plays away from succeeding in the biggest moments for the better part of my life now, and still announcers, commentators and reporters rave about him as though he were the reincarnation of Dick Butkus (who is not dead, I realize).

To make a long story short, I think I need to see this phenomenon exploited by the Eagles recur in a game or two before I'll accept that the Patriots are showing their age on defense. I think the problem last night was that the Patriots secondary is overrated. I think they're beatable.

Yes, Samuel picked a pass off and returned it for a TD in the first quarter. That was a very nice play, and quite impressive. His second interception was not at all impressive. I have a four year old niece who could have made that play. Feely threw up a pass that had no business being thrown on a route that had no business being called at that point in the game.

Samuel had been aggressively jumping routes early in the game, like the play that resulted in his first interception and another pass deflection that was very nearly a second TD. That much is true. But the routes he jumped were out cuts. The play the Eagles ran to exploit his aggressiveness was a slant and go. Perhaps a better play to test Samuel's discipline would have been an out and up, if double moves were the order of the day. The Eagles weren't running slants. They weren't completing slants. So why would an experienced player like Assante Samuel take the chance on jumping a slant when he had safety help to his inside? This is football, not rocket science.

If another team can move the ball exploiting a weakness in the Patriots pass coverage, then maybe it is the age factor. Maybe Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau have been at this game too long. Or maybe Harrison might need to get back on the HGH. But if it's not the age thing, maybe it's time to be nervous that James Sanders and Randall Gay might not be ready for prime time. Because prime time is coming, and God knows how I'd hate to see the Pats upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.

In other, unrelated news about which you care very little, my fantasy team is dying. The combination of a team that relies on Mike Shanahan's running backs and an owner that was playing golf at 11AM this Sunday proved disastrous. I left Selvin Young in the lineup, but Shanahan had other ideas. That zero spot killed me.

Cedric Benson getting carted off the field certainly didn't help. And wouldn't you know it was just when he was starting to come on like a house afire. He gained 89 yards on 11 carries against the Seahawks, and only Ron Turner knows why he didn't get that 12th carry or carries 13-20. He was averaging over 5 yards a carry against Denver, and know he's hurt. And I'm not entirely sure how hurt he is. I don't know whether the Bears simply shut him down because they have too many teams ahead of them in the playoff race, or he's really in serious career trouble now.

I do know that I have a team with only two wide receivers now, in Bernard Berrian and TO. I had to cut Santonio Holmes to pick up Adrian Peterson of Chicago, and I couldn't cut Benson because he's locked in the lineup until tomorrow. I now have two Denver backs (Henry and Young), two Kansas City backs (LJ and Kolby Smith) and the two Chicago backs. And I lost two games this year to a woman who watches very little football, studies opera singing and was recently in a recital with a damn harpsichord in the damn 21st century.

There isn't enough depth left at running back for me to fire any of these guys (except Benson) because the bottom of the barrel has been scraped. I know, I scraped it myself. I also have Ricky Williams on my team. I feel like Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China. I am a reasonable guy, but I've just experienced some pretty unreasonable things.

And even if I wanted to cut LJ, and I don't since I'm not convinced Herm Edwards is the type of coach to shut him down and pull the plug on the faint hopes of KC making the playoffs, it's a keeper league. The KC o-line might have turned a corner (even though they were dominating the overrated Raiders), and LJ might just return to form next season. I have no idea what Shanahan will do from one week to the next, so I need Young and Henry. And there is no other RB available in my league that will get 1/2 as many touches from game to game as the non-rookie Adrian Peterson will from here on out.

I general managed myself into a corner. So right now, I need to win next week to make the playoffs. And the only realistic shot to win rests on a huge game for Romo, Owens and Nick Folk (the Dallas kicker). So it's kind of funny that I could resent an innocent woman with an interest in baroque music because I picked a terrible team and I forced myself to depend on a notoriously mercurial person who just might be clinically insane because he's my favorite player in the league. I have become everything I have ever hated, at least for fantasy football purposes.

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