Have you noticed? The NFL has been tweaking the Pro Bowl every year, it seems.
Once upon a time, it was held after the Super Bowl, and in those days, the Super Bowl contenders were able to play. No one watched it. We were done with football by then.
Even before that, they played the Pro Bowl somewhere besides Hawaii. No one cared where it was. We weren't watching it.
In 1980 (and with some exceptions), the Pro Bowl was moved to Hawaii so fans could see beautiful tropical scenery in the dead of winter. The NFL might have claimed a different reason, but ratings were the true culprit.
And they put it smack dab between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl in 2009, hoping we fans would still be deeply entrenched in "football mode." But as is happened, we weren't. Not enough, anyway. We still weren't watching.
This year, the NFL has done it again. A new tweak. They've "un-conferenced" the Pro Bowl. They even had a draft. In the excitement of fantasy football, who doesn't love a draft?
Apparently, we don't. We still aren't watching.
It's the same with the all star games in other sports. When I was in high school, I was such a big baseball fan, that I tried to watch the all-star game. I put it on TV and went about my business, coming into the room when Dykstra or Ozzie Smith were up to bat. But to sit down and watch the game? Well...
There's a reason for that. Rarely do you find a true fan of "the game." Because once a sport finds our heart, we need to pick someone to cheer for. There's no point in watching unless you are watching someone do something amazing, something you can't do. You see one or two people perform spectacular feats, and you are hooked. Those athletes are really something. Let's watch them beat everyone else.
You say you love the sport, but really, you love winning. If you watch a game, you have to pick someone to win. It's not exciting if you don't. The more that team wins, the more exciting it gets, because you can keep watching them in the post-season. We're hooked on the winning adrenaline.
That's why pre-season games aren't that exciting if it's not your team you're watching. It's too early to tell who's going to be important later in the season when it really counts. But that's a different rant. Let's get back to the point.
Once the Pro Bowl is over... yea. OK, what now? There's nowhere to go after you win the Pro Bowl.
Or, there's the other reason you're hooked on a team. It's the home team. That's all everyone at work talks about on Monday morning, and you want to know what they're talking about. (This explains how the Browns, Bucs, and Jags have fans.) You watch the home team, you get to know them, and suddenly you're part of the team. You're the 12th man.
So, if you rip our team apart, if you take our favorite players and mix them in with players we hate the other 364 days of the year, we don't really know what to do. We don't go in to work the next day and say, "How 'bout that AFC?" So why bother?
So here we go:
You can move the Pro Bowl to the most beautiful place on earth (you did that), you can interrupt our cheering season (you did that too), and you can even give us a draft (sorry, I missed it, but I know there was one.) But we're just not going to watch the Pro Bowl.
An Eagles fan
Everything else aside, here's what I see. What wins games? The following:
1. To be a contender, you cannot make mistakes. I don't have the stats here that I would like to have, but in years past, as I have followed the Eagles, I noticed that the team that wins an evenly-matched game is almost ALWAYS the team that is called on the least number of penalties. Other than some well-played forced offsides you see a lot fewer penalties in the post season than you do in the regular season.
As another example, going back to my friends, the Eagles, and good buddy Desean Jackson, we have possibly lost many a game - or at least contention - because of that wonderful 15- yarder known as the "personal foul."
2. A BETTER team will capitalize on the mistakes of their opponent.
When a team is doing badly, it is not the time to sit on your hunches and coast through the game. This is where you need to have good coaching. A good coach will see the whole picture and know that any team can rebound after a few bad plays. You never know when or if that will happen, but a good coach is always keeping his team at the highest level.
3. The BEST team FORCES mistakes from their opponent.
Give this one to the Bears so far this year, who have an amazing 11 forced fumbles and 6 INTs. Although the Bills only have 1 FF, they do lead the league in INTs with 9, and also have 13 sack on the year. (Chiefs win for sacks with 18).
Let's note that Denver has a decent number of INTs so far this year, with 6.
Also, when a team is pushed back 10 yards on an offsides, the best defense shows their stuff and keeps them back there. (Also providing a great chance for better field position, should the downs not convert.)
4. It isn't always a team that has an elite QB that wins. (Case in point from most recent games: Joe Flacco, Eli Manning.) But all other matters being equal, it sure helps.
When you have a QB who has stats like these, how can you worry?
*As I write this, Peyton Manning has 16 TD passes for the year. The next closest is Drew Brees with 10. And 10 is record-worthy. The season record is 50 in 2007 by Tom Brady (who is on pace for 30 this year). Peyton is on pace to hit 65 this year.
* 0 interceptions, 1 sack. So far for the whole season. (See above about "mistakes.") Brady, Brees, and Rodgers have 8 interceptions between them all. (And just because I really don't like the other Manning brother, I will point out that Eli has 9 already this year.)
* Yardage: (Because yardage converts to TDs.) Drew Brees has all kinds of passing records. But right now, he is behind both Rodgers and Manning. Manning is on pace to finish the regular season with 5,880.
Wait, you're thinking... and yes, you are correct. The record is 5,084 yards by Dan Marino in 1984. What's that crashing noise you hear? Records crumbling.
If you've ever watched Peyton at the line, you have an idea of the machine he has created of his offense. I have never seen a QB organize every single person on his line like he does. His audibles are his own language. The Trekkies have Klingon; the jocks have Peytonese.
Here is my listing of how I see QBs ranking in status (this year):
Elite: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees
Very Good: Russell Wilson, RGIII
Good: Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler
Forgettable: Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Ben Rothlesberger (would have been ranked higher before this year). Everyone else. I'm not going to waste your time by listing, because, hey, they're forgettable.
5. Your offensive weapons obtain yardage which give you touchdowns.
Last year, the Broncos had Knowshon Moreno. Fantastic player who was consistent throughout the year. This year, so far, he's only carried 42 times for 200 and change. But that's because Peyton is a passer. And Knowshon's carries have been split with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
Brees has also been very accurate with his passes, but that is all the Saints have - a passing game. The Broncos also have an incredible running game. They don't use it as much, but when they do, it works.
So, as far as those passes, we have Decker with 340 yards (29 rec), Wes Welker (26 rec), and let's not forget our buddy Damaryius Thomas, who has nearly 400 yards with his 29 receptions. These men have put Denver in the #1 spot in total offense and passing yardage. (And just because I'm an Eagles fan, let's point out that the Eagles are #1 in rushing thanks to Shady McCoy.)
6. Your offensive line allows you to win.
The fact that Peyton has only been sacked one time and has made the number of completions speaks for his offensive line. I bet Big Ben would agree.
7. Defense does what?
The saying goes, "Offense gets the fans, defense gets the wins." Or something like that. Boloney. You don't score, you don't win. That being said, in order to win, you must score MORE than your opponent. So defense needs to beat up the other teams offense enough to keep them out of the red zone.
The Broncos are only # 1 in one aspect of defense - Least amount of yards allowed per game. And remember? You need yards to reach the end zone. Denver's defense is doing all they need to. (See #5)
8. Special Teams -
Holliday. Do I need to expound?
9. Fear Factor -
No one isn't worried about facing Peyton Manning. I don't even have to be in a single locker room to know that. Fear leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to turn overs, turn overs lead to the Dark Side... wait, sorry. Wrong movie.
10. I read a status from either NFL or ESPN that said, "One day, we'll tell our grandchildren that we watched Peyton Manning play football." Are we going to say that he only won one Super Bowl? I don't think so.
Bonus: Drive. History shows Peyton Manning to remain consistent. He is on the move and clearly wants nothing more than everything he can get. Everything I read shows that the man is football in human form. I'm not sure why he does Buick commercials or owns a Papa John's. His pizza can't be as good his passes.
I'm welcome to rebuttal. Let's discuss!
If Andy Reid takes him first, I may just hop a plane to K.C. and slap him. He had all those years in Philly to build a successful offensive line, and instead just counted on a quick QB. He failed, the our QB's have the wounds to show it. So, if he goes to K.C. and does what he should have been doing in Philly all along, I am going to feel quite used, as a fan.
If however, Andy takes Matt Barkley, I am heading to the VF outlet to buy my Chiefs shirt, and becoming a fan. I DO like Alex Smith, and I want to see good things from him. But I see Barkley as the next Peyton Manning, and therefore want a good seat on the bandwagon. Barkley fits so well with Reid's pass-aholic offense, he's going to be hard to pass up.
However, Andy would go with Geno Smith first, I believe, because he misses Donovan McNabb so much.
However, they HAVE Alex Smith, so a QB is not their first priority. Andy Reid has been known to buck the system, and I don't think he feels any pressure to take a QB with the first pick. This means Geno won't be around for him later. The question is then, will Andy pick up what he really needs? Does he know what they really need? His head is not often wrapped up in anything defense/protective.
Back to Chip Kelly. Rumor has it, he is willing to move away from college type football. He WILL need a QB, as I predict Vick will be out for the season by Game 5. But, let's build up that O-line, first, shall we? Is Jason Peters coming back? And who does he have to help him? Step one is to get the best we can get up front. All our talent lies in run, with McCoy and the new Bryce Brown, so, we need coverage to get them through as well. A great new center would be exactly what we need, but let's start with power.
Last year, despite only winning 4 games all season, the Eagles did manage to keep most opponents usually to 3 or less TD's in the first 3 quarters of the game (until they totally gave up and threw away the 4th quarters). Defense isn't too old or hurt at this point, so I personally think we are safe there maybe the first two rounds.
What do you think? Who's getting picked up where?
So, Jim Harbaugh (my good pal, you know) must have seen my post on FB earlier this week that said I would not be writing Woman on Sports this week due to a completely boring week in sports, and said, "Hmm. I wonder if she can resist..."
Alex Smith is going to the Chiefs. I am happy about this. Not because I dislike Alex and want him to suffer on a team that only had two wins last season. And not because I don't like the 49ers, who really had their deck stacked as far as talent in the area of QB. I am happy because we finally got a chance to see someone do the right thing.
Alex Smith had every right to take his job back when he was cleared from his concussion mid-season. He led the 49ers to the play-offs last season, and the beginning of the 2012 season was also looking good under his command. Harbaugh did the right thing for the team by keeping a hot Kaepernick in the start, even though he probably would have had a winning team either way.
Smith could have whined, but instead he did what he could to help. I bet even at that point, he was working on an image that would market well to other teams, despite being under contract. Teams are hard-pressed to pick up players who are only looking out for themselves (*cough* Revis). But a team player? With a decent arm, winning record, and a good QB rating? Pretty enticing. By being the "good boy," Smith did himself a favor.
What about the Niners? Good for them? Well, they will need a back-up QB. But with 12 draft picks, I'm sure they will be able to find someone moldable. Kaepernick is young and remarkably immune to injury at this point, so they should have some time to work with a newbie. (Matt Barkley would fit in great here, if you ask me.) And also, by letting Smith go from his contract, they have made a peaceable decision, which I think will come around in the end. I'm no believer in Karma, but I do believe when you make an altruistically good decision, you will benefit one way or another.
And the Chiefs. Andy Reid was apparently drooling over Alex like the BBQ that brought him to KC in the first place. So it's all on Andy now. He doesn't need to do much to improve the team's record. And with all the talk of the talent on KC's roster, it's his position to lose. Bringing in a good QB is his testing ground. On NFL AM, when asked if Smith will be successful in KC, Eric Davis said, (and I paraphrase), It's up to Andy Reid. If Reid is the great coach everyone says he is, Smith will succeed.
So, as usual, the time's yours, Mr. Reid. Use it wisely, for the sake of Alex Smith.
Limbo Week. Or Month. The time between the Super Bowl and the date pitchers and catcher report for spring training. Although, the number of football games in a week has been dwindling since January, and spring training games don't start for a while yet.
And really, Football, I'm trying! But I just can't get totally into the NFL Combine. Watching muscular guys run a 40 yard dash in 4.4 seconds does motivate my interval training, but waiting to see if they can jump 11 feet or not? Not terribly exciting. Maybe if I knew these guys (I don't follow college football. I think you only do that if you have a team.) or knew who they would turn out to be, it might grab my attention. Even still. Where's the drama?
I can only imagine how difficult the reporters on NFL or MLB Networks have it. Asking pitcher how their arm felt after practice today or coaches who might get a franchise tag is all they've got.
Some people suffer from SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I say, "Which season? Football or baseball?" Sure there's basketball, but I never really got into that once the Dream Team retired and Allen Iverson packed his bags. Not much of a hockey fan either, especially with the season cut dramatically short from the strike. That leaves me in SWS - Sports Withdrawal Syndrome.
While I was at the gym the other day, I realized another reason for this depression. (And there my be more to it than what I made up.) Running on the treadmill at the gym, I had been used to watching the games on TV, or watching the analysis the next day. I never had to focus on my own performance. I was too busy judging someone else's. (As if I had the right!) I could tell you who messed up and why the game was lost. (In my own opinion, of course.)
Here we are on the off season, with the combine predictions the biggest news on NFL Network. Try as I might, I just can't get all that pumped up about it. With no other athletes to watch and analyze, I am down to one. Me. How is the speed on my runs? What resistance am I putting on the bike? I'll tell you. The runs could be a lot faster. And bike resistance could be higher. As a matter of fact, those guys I was criticizing last week on the gridiron could do much better.
I'm realizing how average (or even below average) I am athletically. When I am watching TV, I am ignoring my performance. With the TV off, I have no choice.
So the moral of this story is that you might want to take in consideration what time of year it is when your favorite sports fan is grumpy. Be gentle with us because we are sometimes too hard on ourselves.
You knew I'd be posting about this. Eagles news in the offseason? Yeah.
Many were surprised the other day to hear Chip Kelly, former head coach for Oregon State University, and new head coach for Philadelphia Eagles signed MIchael Vick to a new contract with the Eagles.
Shocking because one might expect a new guy with his only experience in football at the colligate level to put all his money in a new kid, not an old dog.
So, let's get into Chip's head, shall we?
First, as always, let's remember that, as a woman, I am just guessing I know what he thinks. I'm inserting thoughts and plans that may or may not have anything to do with football, and certainly have not been confirmed by Chip himself. I just think sometimes we women know what men are thinking more than men think we do sometimes.
So looks like Chip's going with Vick for QB. Are we going back to the Andy Reid, "Pass Every Play" style of offensive? Didn't we hire someone to be DIFFERENT from Reid? What's he trying to give us on offense? Vick is a shotgun passer.
Here's what I think. Kelly's no dummy. He knows he's new. This is his year to check out the NFL and see what's going on. This is the year with no pressure. They aren't going to fire him in his first year. This is the time to see what he's got and see what works. Go from there, change only what doesn't work. Because the players have all been in the system longer than he has at this point.
If he gets the right offensive line going, things could look promising with a little old-style Philly ball. Of course, sadly, part of that O-line training will have to be keeping eyes open to cover the fumbles too...
Vick is respected by his teammates. He knows how to pump up a team, and there's no denying the boy's got heart. I think that is what Kelly is counting on for the moment. Signing Vick gave him energy. And the rest of the team is used to looking to him to make things happen.
The season will start, likely with Vick, and honestly it is just a matter of time before he gets hurt. But that time will be a good interview for the rest of the season. See what works, and who's still got it. Let Bryce Brown work out some nerves so he can become a big player. For heaven's sake, we have to run the ball more than Andy did.
What will the Chip Kelly offense be? He can't mirror the Pat's offense if he doesn't have Tom Brady. But I think he is smart enough to figure out what's going to work. It won't be all the new college ball tricks, but rather a mix of old and new to find what works.
And remember too, it's defense that wins games. You can win a game without a single TD if your defense and special teams are with it. (But don't get me started on special teams.)
No one is picking the Eagles to take the NFC East. As a matter of fact, the last clip I saw of sportscasters ranking QBs in the NFC East actually ranked the other teams' BACK UPs higher than our starters. Great time to lay low and get things figured out on the side stage before we work out the kinks for the main show.
I will wear my Eagles gear this fall, with a little embarrassment, but I'm not giving up hope for the future. Go Eagles!
Notice I only put two dollar signs in my title.
That's not to say the Super Bowl MVP doesn't deserve a lot of credit. (But you can't take credit to the bank). Obviously, he does something I could never do. Heck, he does something a lot of other NFL QB's can't really do. You can break down the Super Bowl play by play and find a lot of things that made the difference. When I watch football, it seems to me it is always the teams that makes the fewest mistakes that wins the game. (Mistakes being turnovers and penalties. You can include things like missed coverage and the like, but those are harder to pinpoint. Sending 12 men onto the field, jumping offsides, or throwing a ball to the wrong team are easy to pinpoint.) The teams that make it to the Super Bowl should be making the fewest mistakes.
If you break down the game into turnovers, you can see that the team that lost had one interception, to the other team's zero. Removing that interception would have changed the score. So, saying that Joe Flacco threw 0 interceptions was huge. But, so was the offense's 0 fumbles, wouldn't you say? Or how about Jacoby Jones' kickoff return TD?
Is Jacoby Jones asking for $20M/ year?
He can't. The salary cap for 2013 is not changing from $121M. If every player on the team who did something great asked for that much, you would have 6 guys on the team. The math isn't hard. Joe Flacco wants 1/6 of the team's entire spending limit.
That means, he gets paid a lot, and the rest of the team doesn't. So, anyone you have worth a lot of money who is able to do so, has to go elsewhere. (Ed Reed). You are left with either, a lot of new guys that could require a huge learning curve, or a bunch of teammates who know exactly why they are not getting paid what they want (and who to thank for that).
If you ask me, that's a lot of pressure.
Offense brings the crowds, defense wins the games. Or something like that. I know I promised no stats here, but I did hear something interesting about Flacco's QB rating being under 80 (!) in games where he did not have his complete defense. (For those who don't know, 80 is sub-par). So, really it is not that wise of Joe to ask to take away from his teammates.
It is in your best interest, Ravens, not to pay Joe 20M. But of course, there are a lot of other teams I would like to see win next season, so if you DO decide to pay out, I guess maybe it would be in my best interest. (And the 49ers, and the Broncos, and so forth). So do what you will, and thank you.
Coming Soon! My thoughts on sports. This should be a fascinating blog. For men, it is a way to look at the game outside of the stats. For women a way to look at the game without having to think about the stats.
Stay tuned for the first post of the NFL post-season... who's going to have a great 2013 season!
T.C. Slonaker, Eagles fan
Sports Made Simple!