Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Today, I’m thankful for being on vacation, which basically has amounted to two different vacations. My girlfriend and I flew into Las Vegas Friday afternoon, stayed there through Monday morning, and then drove over to Los Angeles, which is about a 4.5-hour drive. My brother Chris lives in LA, and he and his wife recently welcomed a new Broncos fan to the world, so we’re doing Turkey Day in SoCal.
Today, I wanted to focus on the Vegas part, because it relates to football. Really, I want to talk about gambling. I would say that I’m a reasonably smart guy, and I hold two bachelors degrees and just finished my MBA. My first degree was in finance, and that’s a fairly math-centric discipline, but the math isn’t difficult. It’s algebra-based, and it mostly revolves around probability.
From that book learnin’, one thing I know is that over a long enough time period, sports betting is a surefire loser. The reason why that’s the case is that on straight bets, sports books get you into asymmetric bets, where what you stand to win (if you win) is less than what you stand to lose (when you lose).
Happy Thursday, friends. In typical salaried-employee fashion, as I prepare to go on vacation Friday, I’m scrambling to do eight days of work in four days this week. As such, my writing time has been a bit limited, but I want to share some quick thoughts today about team expectations and the stupidity of reporters.
One of my favorite drums to beat is that the NFL is a complex and dynamic system, where the facts of yesterday become the “not so much” of today. I laugh every year as the John Claytons of the world, and also his imitators, attempt to forecast the NFL in the preseason.
Usually, this takes two forms: the dumber ones, like Clayton himself, will tend to predict that about 10 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs the year before will do so again, and that two other teams which had hyped draft or free agent classes will also get into the mix. The smarter ones will note that on average, only 7 of 12 teams tend to make the playoffs in back-to-back years, and they’ll try to find the 10 teams that they think are mostly likely to move up and down in class.
Happy Football Sunday, friends. I want to run through some thoughts relating to today’s Broncos-Panthers game in Charlotte. I watched the Carolina-Washington game from last week, and I came away feeling like the Panthers have a good amount of talent, certainly more than I'd thought. They’re not a proficient team, though, and their execution comes and goes.
1. I think this is a great test for the Broncos, because it’s a second consecutive early road game in the Eastern time zone, and because with the talent the Panthers have, they’re definitely capable of winning the game.
I frequently talk about proficiency, and I believe that the Broncos are becoming a proficient team, one which expects to execute consistently. Proficient teams show up at 1pm in downtown Charlotte and handle their business against less proficient teams. In so doing, they ensure that they’ll win their division, and they stay in the mix for byes and homefield advantage in the playoffs. This is what the Patriots and Colts did throughout the 2000s, and I’ll be looking for Peyton Manning to preside over a businesslike victory today.
Happy Wednesday, friends. Today, since we’re at the halfway point of the season, I want to revisit the series of articles I wrote in March and April about the Manning offense, and update them. If they’re going to live on as strong reference material, they deserve an update.
In advance, let me say that you shouldn’t take this as a victory lap, although I was right about a lot of stuff. And don’t even get me started on how right I was about the results of the Presidential election. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Here is a set of links to the whole series of articles:
Happy Thursday, friends. I have a few minutes to cook up a bite-size nugget, so open up. I had occasion to watch the Saints-Bucs game on Wednesday night, and the most noticeable thing is that the Saints defense is atrocious.
To that end, they’re 32nd in total defense, 30th against the pass, 31st against the run, and 29th in scoring defense. It’s a complete horror show.
I don’t think too highly of Steve Spagnuolo as a coach, because I think his defenses have tended to be very good when his talent is great. It’s easy to have a team with a great pass rush when you have Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. I don’t think he’s ever elevated marginal talent through excellent scheming, like, say, Mike Nolan or Rex Ryan.
Coming out of college, I had the impression that Cam Newton had impressive mental toughness. It came out in the middle of Auburn's season that his dad had tried to get paid for sending him to a college, and Cam seemed to ignore it, and just keep dominating.
Last year, he flashed really impressive talent, and some huge plays as a rookie. It seemed like he was the next big thing in NFL Quarterbacking.
The 2012 season is going terribly for Cam, though, and for the Panthers, who just fired their longtime GM Marty Hurney.
Happy Friday, friends. For years, even when it seemed like I was the only guy out in the wilderness, I’ve maintained that Alex Smith can play QB well enough to win a Super Bowl.
The last two seasons, as he’s had some consistency in coaching for the first time in his career, he’s looked a lot like I was right. Now, all of a sudden, after his only bad game in two seasons last week, and one ill-advised throw last night, people are starting to say it’s time to dump him in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
It’s a bye week for the Broncos, so I just decided to run with this topic, because I think it’s absurd. If you watched the game between Seattle and San Francisco last night, I’d question your grasp on reality if your takeaway was that Smith struggled. If you didn’t see the game, and you just looked at the numbers- sure, they’re pretty average looking.
When it comes to football, and other activities conducted by public figures, it’s easy to think that you know better, or would do better, than the people who are doing the actual jobs. I live in an upscale apartment complex in Tallahassee, and I always laugh when I see maybe the worst-looking truck in the whole 300-unit place, and it’s got a sticker on the back window that says INCOMPETENT, with the familiar Obama "O."
You may not agree with things that the President does, or says, or believes, but if you’re driving that broke-ass truck, I’m pretty sure you’re not qualified to judge a president’s competence. Your personal worldview isn’t, and can’t possibly be, a reasonable litmus test for competence, which simply means ability to complete a specific task.
It was really easy for people of my worldview to perceive George W. Bush as being stupid, due to the way he spoke, and to conflate that perceived stupidity with incompetence. The evidence was that he did a lot of things we didn’t like, okay? I know that I am smart, and I wouldn't do what he did, so he must not be smart. Only smart people can be competent. Therefore, George Bush isn't competent. It was easy for liberals, with their highfalutin college degrees, and ability to correctly pronounce polysyllabic words (such as polysyllabic) to make this logical leap.
Happy Football Monday, friends. For the first time ever, in five seasons of writing about football, I have two posts in the same calendar day. I’ve come a long way from writing one 8,000-word ST&NO every week. Today, briefly, I want to cover a few things that I think will be important in tonight’s game.
1. Sam Monson of PFF wrote a good article for ESPN Insider today that talked about Philip Rivers’s struggles against pressure this season. Per Monson:
Since the start of the 2011 season, though, his completion percentage has dropped to 45.3 percent and he has thrown almost twice the number of interceptions (nine) to touchdowns (five). His throws under pressure have also been graded negatively overall by Pro Football Focus for the first seasons since we started grading (2008).
The Broncos have some horses in the pass rush game, and the Chargers are looking like they’re going to be personnel-challenged at OT tonight. Jared Gaither really solidified the left side for San Diego last season, but he’s expected to miss the game. Jeromey Clary is pretty terrible on the right side.
On Friday, I wrote that the Patriots' alleged "blueprint" for beating the Broncos was really a blueprint for beating any defense in the NFL. I didn't think it all the way through, though, and an important point was left out.
The one-word fast running game only works when it's quiet enough for Tom Brady to call out that one word. At Seattle yesterday, the Patriots couldn't play as fast, because Brady had no ability to communicate the play as quickly as he could at home.
CenturyLink Field is the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL, and Brady may have an easier time in stadiums with less noise. But for the moment, I'm going to say that the one-word run game is only something New England can consistently rely upon at home.