The Wrath of Von: Super Bowl 50 Recap

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A wild and crazy NFL season has come to a close with the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Sheriff riding off into the sunset, how much dab’ll do ya, the Hall of Fame, the end for Marshawn Lynch, and our inability to win prop bets.


AP Photo/David J. Phillip

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Will: The game itself was not the most aesthetically pleasing contest of the season. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning completed 31 of 66 passes for 406 yards combined. There were 153 penalty yards and 509 offensive yards. There were 12 sacks and 6 turnovers. Did you enjoy your Super Bowl viewing experience, or would you have preferred more points?

Derek: I’d say I enjoyed it more than most. It was ugly, but at least there were a bunch of turnovers and potential turnovers. It would have been worse if there were nothing but three-and-outs, though there were a bunch of those too. There were 15 punts, which is especially notable considering Peyton Manning completed 13 passes and Cam Newton completed 18. Thankfully, the game’s seven total fumbles made up for the lack of offensive productivity. Everybody perks up when the ball is on the ground in a close game, and it was at least close until the very end. There’s a decent chance I’ll completely forget it in a few years, though.

The worst part was watching as a fan of an eliminated playoff team and thinking “these are the best two teams in the league?” Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders has been calling 2015 “the worst NFL season since at least 2002.” After that game, I believe him. Thank goodness the pass rushers came to play. Otherwise, Brandon McManus would have been MVP.

peyton cam

As you know, I’m from North Carolina, and once considered the Panthers my second favorite team and will again when Cam is way different or playing somewhere else. As you can imagine, my Facebook feed is filled with Panther supporters. Among several themes I’ve noticed, one is that the referees affected the outcome of the game, which was something I hadn’t given any thought to until I saw a bunch of them mention it. Do you think that claim has any merit?

Will: I don’t recall thinking about the refs at all. The Panthers had twice as many infractions as the Broncos for twice as many yards, but none of the calls seemed particularly egregious. There was talk about how much Aqib Talib (who somehow did not get ejected) and the Denver secondary were bumping and holding Carolina’s receivers, and I suppose there’s merit to that. But more than that: hey guys, shut up about the refs, you sound like a bunch of sissies.

Without naming any potential examples or leading you in any way, did you find anything about the Super Bowl — from the pregame to the game to halftime to postgame — objectionable? I made the mistake of staying on Twitter in the hour or two after the game ended, subjecting myself to all sorts of outrage and counter-outrage and mock-outrage and counter-mock-mock-counter-outrage. Nothing about the production offended me in any way except for the inclusion of Mike Carey and Phil Simms. How say you?

Derek: No, there wasn’t anything I noticed. I’ve seen lots of people reference whatever Beyonce did during the halftime show, but I didn’t watch at the time and don’t have any particular interest in tracking it down. There are many reasons I watch sports and write about sports, but commenting on the statements famous pop stars make during halftime performances is not one of them. Besides, I’m sure the people who do enjoy discussing that aspect of sports have already made their feelings known, and they didn’t need an engraved invitation. Other than that, nothing struck me other than Simms and Carey (hopefully not dead, but possibly now unemployed) and the level of play. As bad as they were, I’d stop well short of calling them objectionable.

Not too many people object to seeing Peyton Manning finish his career with the Lombardi Trophy. Do you agree that this is it for The Sheriff? Will you miss having him around? Do you buy the rumors that he might play for the Rams next year?

Will: First, I don’t know when we started calling Peyton Manning the Sheriff, but I am not a fan. The last thing he needs is something to make him sound even dorkier than he is. It reminds me of George Bluth, Sr.’s cowboy phase from Arrested Development. But yeah, this has gotta be it for Peyton. He’ll be 40 in a couple months. He just won a Super Bowl and beat Tom Brady in the process. He still can’t feel his fingers. There is no upside to him playing for the Rams or anyone else. Go home, Peyton. And take Papa John with you.

Speaking of the Papa and forced product placement, did any commercials catch your fancy? The Pokemon ad got me super psyched until I realized it was a Pokemon ad; I still liked it, though I don’t understand what Pokemon product is on the way. The Doritos ultrasound ad is getting pilloried, not unjustly, but I enjoyed it for adding some weird to the occasion. Other than that, I don’t have much. Independence Day 2 didn’t do it for me, nor did Helen Mirren telling me not to drink and drive. I thought it was a bit of a down year overall.

Derek: My personal favorite was Anthony Hopkins’ Turbo Tax commercial. I also liked the Pokemon one, and pretty much anything having to do with Batman and Superman. I’m such a DC mark. I even thought that crappy Green Lantern movie was okay.

Most of them came off as preachy, generic, or a bad attempt at humor. I do take issue with your “not impressed with Independence Day 2” comment. That’s not the Will Gibson I know. Snap out of it, man! You may not have liked it, but Captain Steven Hiller taught us to not give up until the fat lady sings.

We’re fighting for our right to live. To exist. Don’t ever forget that. You don’t want to be the one person who didn’t see it coming when Independence Day 2 wins every single Oscar next year.

Speaking of awards, the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was announced. The newest members are: Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace, Tony Dungy, Ken Stabler, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Dick Stanfel. Are you opposed to any of them? Should the likes of Terrell Owens or the immortal Morten Anderson have gone in over any of them? Care to share in my outrage that Don Coryell is somehow still not in the Hall?

Will: I’m not opposed to any of them, though Harrison gives me pause because of the whole he-might’ve-killed-someone thing. But bless the Hall of Fame committee for keeping Terrell Owens, one of the five best receivers ever, out because he was kind of a dick. Favre and Pace were shoo-ins. Greene had ten seasons of 10-plus sacks. I’d have to take someone’s word for it re: Stanfel and DeBartolo, but sure, let ’em in. I suppose Tony Dungy is the only one I take some issue with, but any time you can honor a coach with a 9-10 playoff record, you gotta do it. And yeah, why isn’t Coryell in? If you have an offense named after you, you get to be in the Hall. That’s the rule.

We must interject with the most important tweet the NFC West has seen in quite some time. It seemed that Marshawn was on his way out of Seattle after this season no matter what. Now we know he’ll be retiring instead of playing with another team. How did it all strike you?

Derek: It was a bittersweet announcement. I’m happy that the Seahawks didn’t have to cut him (they would have if he didn’t retire) and I’m happy I won’t have to watch him play for another team. With all due respect to Shaun Alexander, Lynch is the greatest Seahawks running back of all time and one of the players I’ve most enjoyed watching. There are already a handful of Marshawn tribute videos and best-of lists floating around the internet, and it took all I had to not turn this article into a love letter. Marshawn was a unique player and is a unique person, and I look forward to telling strangers in bars why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Now that we’re near the end, let’s have a look at the future. Whats your way-too-early prediction for the SuperBowl 51/LI matchup?

Will: Oh hell if I know. How about Browns-Rams? 

Alright, we’ve waited this long. Go ahead and have fun at Cam Newton’s expense for 10 or 12 paragraphs.

Derek: Man, I don’t even want to anymore. It feels completely unnecessary. All of my criticisms of Cam were so fully on display that pretty much everything has already been said. Besides, Wade Phillips already set the standard for having fun at Cam’s expense, and I know that whatever I come up with won’t be as good.

When I’ve talked about Cam Newton in the past, I gave my opinions and observations. Today, I’m just going to offer up facts. He spent all week saying “if you want to stop me from celebrating, stop me.” He wore golden MVP cleats with his accolades written on them. Then after the Broncos did stop him from celebrating, he shut down and acted like a child because things weren’t going his way.

If that’s the kind of guy you want to root for, that’s fine. Far be it from me to tell you who to cheer for. Just don’t sweep all of that under the rug whenever you call Cam Newton a great role model because he smiles when things are going his way. Don’t say his showboating is fine and then act like everyone else is a jerk when they return the favor after a loss. People who criticize Cam aren’t all racists. People have been rooting against showboats since long before he was born. If you want to laugh and dance and rub it in when you’re on top, don’t expect support and sympathy when you fall off the pedestal.

On that note, let’s give you all the chance to mock us for our prop bet performances. We did not actually put money down on any of these (as far as you know) since gambling is ungentlemanly, but we can still delight in (or weep over) our picks. Results are shown in red. Correct picks feature an asterisk:

Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?

Derek: You win this round, Trebek. At least I think so. My understanding is with the stipulation of “from first note to brave,” the rendition was 2:09. Without that stipulation, it was 2:22. Seeing as we mentioned that stipulation in the original prop, I’d say it’s fair to award you the fake money.

Will*: Thank you, thank you. I will invest it wisely.

Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?

Derek: Curses! Brandon McManus’ field goal came 4:17 into the game. Couldn’t you have waited a minute, Brandon?

Will: During the game I 100% thought that this prop was about scoring a touchdown, not just scoring, and I was all excited because I thought I got it right. Damnit.

Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?

Derek: I’m jumping on the anti-kicker bandwagon now. Ban kickers!

Will: Buncha nerds with their elastic hamstrings. Screw ’em all.

If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?

Derek: We technically weren’t wrong since Cam didn’t score, so we’ll never know. I’ll stand by my original prediction and assume it would have been correct.

Will: Me too.

Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?

Derek: This was a close one, as the shortest field goal was 30 yards and LeBron dropped 27 on the Pelicans. Yet once again, we hang our heads in shame. How was the game? Did LeBron leave any points on the floor? Should I add him to my Hate List next to kickers?

Will: Great prop, oddsmakers. The Cavs won the game comfortably, and LeBron played very well: 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Just one more three would have done it. He should absolutely be on the Hate List.

Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver

Derek*: I got one! Yeah! No shutout for me! I’m going to submit this and hop on my yacht.

later nerds

Will: I will not miss this NFL season even a little bit. Until next year.


MEH: Championship Sunday Recap

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wild and crazy Championship Sunday has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Panthers stomping the Cardinals, Cam Newton having fun, the Brady-Manning rivalry, the amount of fun Cam Newton has, the impending Pro Bowl, the extent to which Cam Newton has fun, the Gentlemen of the Week, a notation on how Cam Newton has so much fun out there, the Most Hungover Fan Bases, and an analysis on the relationship between Cam Newton and fun.


 

Associated Press/Academy of Fun Arts and Sciences

Associated Press/Academy of Fun Arts and Sciences

Will: Does the Panthers’ beatdown of the Cardinals make you feel any better about the Seahawks falling to them like they did? Could Carolina just be that good? What stood out to you about their play?

Derek: No, not really. I didn’t take anything away from that game other than Carson Palmer is either injured or way more terrible than we thought. Quarterbacks have more of an effect on their team’s success than any other position in professional sports other than pitchers. If your starting pitcher gives up 10 runs in the first inning, you’re not going to win. And if your quarterback turns the ball over six times, you’re probably not going to win that one either.

The bad news for Palmer is, in my opinion, he played even worse than the stat line indicated. It’s fair to say that this game didn’t have my absolute undivided attention, but when I checked the box score afterward I was surprised he only threw four interceptions. He was throwing it right to Panther defenders, and as a result the team looked completely demoralized.

So no, I don’t feel any better. The Seahawks would have kicked Arizona’s asses just as badly if Palmer played that kind of game. Most playoff teams would have. Put 21 other Pro Bowlers on the team and they won’t win when the quarterback is consistently giving the ball away. I didn’t turn off that game thinking the Panthers were a runaway freight train, which appears to be the consensus among football pundits.

Am I off-base here? Am I just completely blinded by my dislike of Cam Newton?

Will: Nah, you’re not off-base. Dripping with bitterness, sure, but not too far off-base. I didn’t watch this one too closely either — the Royal Rumble was on, for cryin’ out loud. When the scoreline read 17-0 after the first quarter, whatever degree of interest I had in the game vanished.

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson were already out of the playoffs. With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both aging and struggling in the AFC Championship game (together they completed exactly half of their passes), how much “Cam Newton is the best quarterback in the NFL” talk are we in for over the next couple weeks?

Derek: That’s depressing. Why would you say something like that? Maybe I should just stay off the internet the next two weeks. The impending Newton lovefest could very well drive me to violence. Look at how much fun he’s having! Doesn’t he look like he has fun? He has so much fun! AGREE WITH US THAT HE HAS FUN!

See? It’s happening already.

The only thing that could “save” us is the original media darling: Peyton Manning. The narratives of “Peyton Manning’s last game” and “Peyton Manning could ride off into the sunset” and “old school vs. new school” could deter us from hearing about how much fun Cam Newton is having. Did you know he has fun? Football is fun for him. He has fun. Fun is fun.

Which Super Bowl storyline do you think will be beaten into the ground before the Super Bowl? Will Manning and/or Newton take the crown, or could an underdog like Michael Oher, Thomas Davis, or Poorly Timed Criminal Offender/Drug Test Failer X steal it?

Will: Here’s hoping for the latter, because sweet Christ I want nothing to do with any of it. I’m going to hide in a bunker until April. Super Bowl talk is the worst. The Super Bowl is quietly the worst. Aside from the game itself, I’m out. Good for Thomas Davis for playing with a broken arm. Good for Cam Newton for giving balls to kids. Good for Michael Oher for being in a movie. Good for Peyton Manning for being old.

I don’t know it’s just that they play under helmets or what, but football players are not compelling to me. This is probably unfair and born of my distaste for the NFL, but so be it. I dislike everything about football except for the football.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Did Brady vs. Manning, you know, do anything for you? Do you find their rivalry particularly compelling? They’ve been two of the NFL’s best for some 15 years, going head to head several times during that stretch. So why am I sitting here so underwhelmed? Can we blame it all on Phil Simms?

Derek: Such a negative recap today. The answer is, again, no. I’ve enjoyed their rivalry over the years, but Manning is a shell of his former self. I’m shocked the Broncos made the Super Bowl the way Denver’s quarterbacks have played this year. And that brings us to Mr. Simms, who continually refuses to acknowledge that Manning is at a different stage in his career. He praises Manning like he gets a bonus every time he does it. I can’t enjoy a rivalry between two players when I roll my eyes every time the color commentator mentions one of them. Add in the fact that neither quarterback was particularly impressive, and all of the fun (© Cam Newton) was sucked out of the rivalry. Sadly, it’s not over yet, since Simms will call the Super Bowl. Splendid.

Will: Were there any hidden subplots within the championship games? Aside from whatever Cam’s latest thing is, what are people going to be all mad about? What are the talking points? I was hoping for both Denver and New England to lose and had no rooting interest in Carolina-Arizona, so I wasn’t too absorbed by the proceedings.

Derek: Did you see that Panthers fan fall down?

panther fan fall

That’s about all I’ve got. I wasn’t kidding about my apathy for these football games. I can’t believe I’m reading mock drafts before February. This is stupid.

Let’s talk about something equally pointless: the Pro Bowl! What would it take to make you watch? Would you gamble on it or take part in a Pro Bowl drinking game? Would you require financial compensation? Will it even exist in five years?

Will: If you put a $20 bill in front of me and said that I had to watch the whole game, start to finish, with only limited phone and computer interruption, I don’t think I would do it. I certainly wouldn’t gamble on it, because the only thing worse than losing money is losing money on something so astronomically meaningless.

Drinking game? …Maybe.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Wade Phillips, come on down! The Broncos’ improbable upset was thanks in large part to your defense. Also, there’s this:

Will: That immediately makes Wade wittier than like half the league. I’ll go with that Panthers fan who fell over the barrier. He looked like he had a good time.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’ll say Carson Palmer’s fan base. I’d give it to Cardinals fans, but it looks like they already jumped off the bandwagon.

Will: I’ll go with that Panthers fan who fell over the barrier. He looked like he had a good time.


Hating Everyone: Divisional Recap

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wild and crazy Divisional Weekend has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks’ loss, Hue’s hiring, one man’s hatred of Cam Newton, the ridiculous Packers-Cardinals game, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


 

AP Photo/Mike McCarn

AP Photo/Mike McCarn

Will: How did your emotions fluctuate throughout the Seahawks-Panthers game? What was it like to see everything going Carolina’s way early on? What percentage chance did you give a comeback down 31-0 at the half? Were you resigned to your fate early on, or did you allow yourself some belief in the second half?

Derek: Well, 7-0 didn’t feel good. I wasn’t very fond of 14-0 either. Sadly, 21-0 prompted a trip to the liquor cabinet. It had been a long time since the Seahawks had gotten their asses kicked from start to finish, and I figured this was going to be the one to break the streak. They weren’t showing any energy after three straight road games and two straight 10 a.m. PT starts, and the Panthers certainly looked to have taken advantage of the fact that they got to relax at home while the Seahawks were playing in arctic conditions in Minnesota. It was tough to watch.

I slowly talked myself into the Seahawks making a game out of it during halftime, solely based on team history. Russell Wilson’s Seahawks have been a part of some big comebacks, and the 2015 Panthers blew some big leads. I figured if anyone could do it, it would be them. The feeling was magnified when Russell threw a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse just 90 seconds into the second half. That really got me back in the game, as I could do fan things like yell at the offense to hurry to the line instead of blankly staring at the screen like a hydrogen bomb went off in my brain.

Of course, it wasn’t to be, and it was even rougher considering the opponent. But I’ll get to that later.

What do Hue think of the new head coach in Cleveland? Could he be the one?

Tony Dejak / AP Photo

Tony Dejak / AP Photo

Will: Of course he could! We Browns fans may not have much recent experience when it comes to the playoffs, but we’re grizzled vets when it comes to talking ourselves into new coaches. From Butch Davis to Romeo Crennel to Eric Mangini, every new head coach who has walked through the door in Berea has been the new savior. (Well, maybe not Mike Pettine or Pat Shurmur.) If nothing else, the wordplay has been delightful.

Seriously though, I like Hue. Loathe as I am to admit it, the Bengals have been among the better teams in football for the last several years, and over the past two he kicked their offense into another gear. He has a year of head coaching experience under his belt, and the Raiders have yet to match his 8-8 record since firing him. There are concerns, specifically with penalties and discipline. His Raiders were the most penalized team ever — ever! — and the Bengals ain’t exactly Boy Scouts.

In short, this is how I feel:

I will say — and take this with a Morton factory’s worth of salt — that I have a good feeling about Hue. He has good signs on him. He’s put decades of work into football. He has served under all different types of coaches rather than being trained in the same system his entire career. He’s down with the Browns’ analytics approach. He’s spent nine years in the AFC North. He got his big head coaching break once before, only to have it taken away. He showed hubris and was appropriately humbled. He’s made mistakes. And now, at age 50, he takes the reins of the Cleveland Browns.

So is he the guy? No idea. But I at least feel good about him, and that’s something I haven’t felt about the Browns in quite some time.

At risk of twisting the knife further, you’ve experienced losses on either end of the spectrum in a relatively short period of time. Is there any comparing the Super Bowl loss to this one? How do they compare? Are they close — in terms of loss type rather than stakes; the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl — in terms of unhappy feelings?

Derek: No, I’m not sure that another loss will ever feel quite like last year’s Super Bowl. At least, I hope not. After that game, just the mere thought of football brought me down. It didn’t really wear off until midway through this season. The Panthers loss was “better” in that I got over it fairly quickly. The Seahawks screwed themselves from the beginning, and have no one but themselves to blame for their playoff position after they constantly blew leads this season. It just seemed like this season was doomed from the start with the black cloud of Super Bowl XLIX hanging over everyone. Honestly, making the playoffs and winning a game is probably more than I could have asked for.

I’m already excited for next season, and I think the Seahawks are too. It’s a relief seeing the quotes from players after this game compared to last year. Losing sucks, but at least my love of football didn’t get kicked in the shins. I might even read mock drafts this year.

Let’s talk about the weekend’s wackiest game. Where does Packers-Cardinals rank on the list of weirdest games you’ve ever seen? Did you ever think you’d see two Hail Marys on the same drive, a coin toss controversy, and a fourth quarter ricocheting go-ahead touchdown pass in the same game?

 Rob Schumacher/AZ Central Sports

Rob Schumacher/AZ Central Sports

Will: It was awesome; I still can’t quite figure out what happened. I’ve seen other games end in weird ways — from Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss to the invention of the eponymous Dawson Bar — but never so many wild plays in such a short period of time. The Hail Marys were nuts, though I think the coin not flipping takes the cake in terms of sheer improbability.

My favorite part, far and away, was the Cardinals making damn sure that if they scored the winning touchdown, Larry Fitzgerald was going to be the man to do it. Their first play from the 5-yard line was a fade to him, which Carson Palmer chucked out of play lest he throw a stupid-ass interception. The next play was the game winner, a lovely little shovel pass that allowed Larry the moment in the sun. Loved it.

Do you have any ill feelings toward Cam Newton for the heinous act of throwing down a 12th Man flag? I feel as though the greater Seahawks community is having a bad light shone on it.

Derek: I think it’s fair to say Cam Newton is my least favorite player in the league, and it really doesn’t have that much to do with his healthy self-confidence or his penchant for property theft and destruction. The reason I dislike Cam Newton was on display in this game, though. He strikes me as that sneaky kid in high school who manipulates teachers and other adults with a consistent “yes sir, no sir” attitude but then bullies other kids when no one else is around.

Much has been made of his smiling, prancing, Favre-esque “He’s like a kid out there!” mentality. But he only ever does this stuff when things are going his way. He’s happy to prance and signal and take stuff from opposing fans when his team is winning. When his team isn’t winning, he’s pouting or screaming at other players and coaches. I submit to you, dear Reader, that it doesn’t take an amazing person to be happy and friendly when things are going your way. But everyone acts like he’s some kind of awesome guy because he can smile really big when he has a reason to smile really big, as if that’s some sort of accomplishment. He’s the ultimate front-runner. I’m telling you, if the Panthers had lost that game, he would have thrown the entire organization under the bus. And I’d still probably be subjected to pundits fawning over him like we’re watching two different players.

Rational or not, I can’t stand the guy. I’ve always maintained that the Panthers were my second favorite team after the Seahawks, but I just can’t root for them as long as Newton is on the team. Now I’m almost hoping the Panthers suffer an NFC Championship defeat similar to the one the 49ers suffered two years ago and Newton’s career will swirl down the toilet like Colin Kaepernick’s has. It would mean the dreaded Cardinals would make the Super Bowl, but I would enjoy the NFL more if Cam Newton wasn’t part of it.

Are you looking forward to Panthers-Cardinals more than I am? And are you excited for another Brady-Manning matchup?

Will: In short: No, I don’t think I’m looking forward to Panthers-Cardinals more than you. The potential Newtonian schadenfreude alone puts you on another level. I think it will be a fun game, and I’ll certainly watch, but I have no specific interest in it. I’ll enjoy Larry Fitzgerald’s smile as much as anything.

As for Brady-Manning: Kinda meh, honestly. I don’t particularly like either of them, and I feel like such matchups bring out the worst in the football commentariat. I think I get uneasy watching Peyton because I fear he could get irreparably damaged on any given play. Like, the guy cannot feel his fingers because of a significant neck surgery. I can’t get past that. I just hope no one gets hurt. (God, I’m a pansy.)

Do you care about the rest of the playoffs at this point? Is there any team you really want to see win or lose?

Derek: I’m at a loss. I would hate to see three of the four remaining teams (Arizona, Carolina, New England) win the Super Bowl, and the fourth (Denver) I’m neutral on at best. I’m sure I’ll talk myself into hate-watching the games, but I guess the only thing I’d somewhat enjoy is Denver winning. Unless of course Cam Newton gets a DUI the morning of the Super Bowl and Derek Anderson leads the Panthers to victory. Am I a bad person if I root for that? Let’s just move on.

Lots of coaching vacancies were filled this week. We saw Chip Kelly to the Niners, Adam Gase to the Dolphins, The Immortal Mike Mularkey to the Titans, and of course Hue to the Browns, among other hirings. Which teams do you think made the best and worst hires?

Will: HUE! And I think I actually mean that. Far as I can tell, he and Gase were candidates 1 and 1a. It should be said that I don’t know much of anything about Gase except he’s an offensive coordinator with a generally good reputation, but I suppose that’s all you need to land a top gig. I’m intrigued by Chip in San Francisco, especially with Kaepernick in the fold, but I can’t imagine that ending well. Mike Mularkey is 18-39 and taking over a team that just went 3-13. That should go well.

Are you looking ahead to next year’s Seahawks at all? Is Marshawn definitely a goner, and if so, are you at peace with that? What does the future hold?

Derek: Oh yes, very much. I think it’ll feel like a reset button. It doesn’t look like any of the coaching staff is going to leave this year, and this loss will be so much easier to bounce back from than the last. There are several unrestricted free agents, such as Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Mebane, and Jeremy Lane. Hopefully at least a few of them will be back. And hopefully Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett won’t start complaining about their contracts until the end of next season.

Unfortunately, it looks like Marshawn is as good as gone. Thomas Rawls proved he could handle lead back duties, and even Christine Michael looked good when he rejoined the team. Marshawn is expensive and by all accounts has caused some locker room headaches. I won’t be surprised if there are Percy Harvin-like leaks after Marshawn is gone. It would take a whole lot to get me to turn on him, though. He was so fun to watch, and he was a key part of Seattle’s success since he joined the team in 2010. I’m going to miss him, and I hope he’s happy in Dallas or Oakland or retirement.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Screw it, I’m giving it to every single one of the Seahawks. They were down 31-0 and made a game out of it. Well done, Gentlemen.

Will: I’m going with Larry Fitzgerald. I just like his smile so damn much.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’m giving it to Packers fans, who suffered legendarily terrible playoff losses in back-to-back years. Along with their award, I’ll give them some free advice: in your drunkenness, make sure you stay out of Manitowoc County.

Will: I’m going with the Seahawks. Stay strong, friend.


Reminding a Browns fan what winning feels like: Week 13 Recap

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wild and crazy Week 13 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Seahawks shutting down Minnesota, the Browns reaching a low point, Carolina staying undefeated, more NFC East comedy, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

Will: Please relate to me what it’s like to see your favorite team win a 31-point blowout. Honestly, what is that like? The Browns won two different games by 21 points last season, but by now those feel like distant memories. Cleveland is in dark, dark football times. Regale me, if you would, with tales of glee from the winners’ circle.

Derek: It’s fun! Really glorious. It removes the shameful stress that comes with getting upset watching a bunch of people I’ll probably never meet playing a game. The Vikings just didn’t stand a chance. The only thing that made it stressful was Seattle’s penchant for blowing games in the fourth quarter. Sure, there was no reason to think that would happen based on what was going on on the field, but the Seahawks would be the team to break new ground in fourth quarter failure. But other than that, it’s all smiles and fist pumps.

On a grander scale, this is the first time since Week 1 that I’ve felt like the Seahawks could be Super Bowl contenders. They lost a home primetime game to the Cardinals, gave up approximately 1,200 yards to Ben Roethlisberger last week, and there’s nothing impressive about beating the 49ers twice. But badly beating the previously 8-3 Vikings, in Minnesota, in a dreaded 10 a.m. PT start time, makes me feel good for the first time in a while. The NFC West may be out of reach at this point, but the fifth or sixth seed looks more and more likely.

Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com

Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com

You’ve pointed how rough things are in Cleveland right now. They’re probably worse than usual, and that’s saying something. How are you approaching the rest of the season? Are you trying to buy back in on the re-installed Johnny Manziel? Looking at mock drafts? Making voodoo dolls of various members of Browns management? Skipping the games altogether and dreaming about the Cavs? What’s your method? And are we going to have to fight when Cleveland and Seattle play in Week 15?

Will: I’ll be watching the Browns like a stoned dude staring at a bonfire. I don’t have the patience, energy, or creativity to bother fantasy booking a new front office. I haven’t looked at any mock drafts yet, but I have become increasingly familiar with the top five or so prospects. I’m not going to bother getting mad; it’d be like getting mad at an infant for shitting his pants. You and I aren’t going to fight at all in Week 15. I might be relying on you to tell me what happens after I fall asleep at halftime.

I really can’t overstate how little I’m into this NFL season. It’s a perfect storm of awfulness. The Browns are extra miserable. A bunch of other teams are bad and/or boring. There are FanDuel ads everywhere — not as many lately, or have I just been watching less? Players’ heads are exploding and Will Smith is trying to fix it with an African accent. It’s all too much to bear.

And yet we press on! Is Seattle’s big win a commentary on the Vikings’ overall talent and ability, or is the Seahawks’ defense just a bad matchup for a run-dependent offense like Minnesota’s?

Derek: I think you nailed it with the latter point. The Seahawks were able to focus on Adrian Peterson and the passing attack didn’t really stand a chance at that point. Seattle’s pass defense has been much better since the demotion (and now release) of Cary Williams. And yes, I am aware that the Steelers torched the Seahawks last week. At least there weren’t receivers running completely uncovered through the secondary. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t exactly Ben Roethlisberger, either, and Stefon Diggs and Mike Wallace aren’t Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant.

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings respond when they play the Cardinals on Thursday night. The Seahawks and Cardinals are similar in many ways, and if the Vikings get blown out again, we can safely cross them off the list of contenders.

Speaking of which, are there any contenders you’ve crossed off after this week? Were the performances of teams like the Patriots and Packers at all troubling?

Will: The injuries that led to those performances are more concerning than the performances themselves. Even Rodgers and Brady don’t look the same throwing to the likes of Davante Adams and Brandon LaFell. I’m still not counting either side out, as having the better quarterback is still like 95 percent of football. As for teams I’m willing to cross off in terms of Super Bowl contention: Minnesota (too one-dimensional), Denver (sry Brock), the whole NFC East and AFC South (obvs), and Cincinnati (Dalton? Still pfft.). 

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers, though…I’m coming around on the Panthers. How many quarterbacks would you rather have than Cam Newton right now? How about for the next five years?

Derek: Let’s see … right now, off the top of my head and in no particular order, I’d take Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and probably still Andrew Luck if he were healthy. For the next three years, I’d probably take all of those guys except Palmer and maybe Brady, and I’d consider adding Winston and/or Mariota. Though as I’ve said before, Newton irritates me so I’m a little biased against him. You have to give him credit for what the Panthers have accomplished, though. I thought the Panthers would suck because their receivers aren’t good and Jonathan Stewart is fragile. They would not have been anywhere near the top of my list of teams that could start 12-0. And now that the Falcons are imploding, they’ve got a much easier road to 16-0. They’ll be must-see in the playoffs.

Do you see the Panthers losing any of their remaining games?

Will: Probably, just so Chris Berman can ejaculate when they play the champagne cork sound effect — sources tell me that’s his only get-off of the year. As things stand, however, I probably wouldn’t pick them to lose any single game. They have the free-falling Falcons in Weeks 14 and 16. That leaves at the Giants in Week 15 and home for Tampa to close the season. In order of losing likelihood, I’d say it goes Giants, Bucs, then a canyon, then the Falcons. To hell with the Falcons — they’re my arbitrary least favorite team.

Who is your favorite relatively-out-of-nowhere star this season? Is it your boy Tom Rawls? Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson (or Hurns)? Mighty Gary Barnidge?

Derek: I’ve definitely got to give it to Thomas Rawls. He’s been going Rawls to the wall. Rawls deep. Nobody can put our Rawls in a vice. I follow this team pretty closely, and I thought it would take more than a Lynch injury to get him in the game. I thought the roles would be reversed in the case of a Lynch injury, with Fred Jackson handling the lead back duties and Rawls in a complimentary role. I know some people might bust my Rawls for this pick, but he’s so much better than I thought he would be. How did he not get drafted?

CowboysRedskinsFootball-04565

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The NFC East apocalypse nearly happened! The Eagles won, but the Cowboys took down the Redskins and helped muck up the amusing NFC East race. Do you think it’s better to bottom out, or win a crappy division with almost no shot at winning the Super Bowl (unless it’s the Giants)?

Will: In the NFL, I’d say win a crappy division. Getting in the playoffs is hard enough that it’s still an accomplishment (said the Browns fan), and you never know. Any team can go on a random run. Look at last year’s Browns! My view is a bit warped, as the only bottoming out I know is perpetual. Bottoming out for a year like the Colts did would be nice. Losing that much for just one season would hold novelty value. It isn’t as cute when you’re 15-plus years into it. 

I’m sayin’, man, dark times.

Say, what member of your family would have to be taken hostage in order for you to watch Browns-Niners live next week? The Browns stadium was maybe 60 percent full for the Bengals game, with a substantial chunk comprised of Cincinnati fans. Any estimates for next week’s attendance?

Derek: Funny you should ask! I’m writing all of this over the Pacific Ocean, as I’m going to spend the next week at home in North Carolina. As it happens, someone scheduled a family gathering on Sunday. So, actually, several members of my family are holding me hostage to keep me from watching that game (or any other) live. Naturally, I’ll get to watch more football in Korea when the early games start at 3 a.m. than I will in America.

I’ll say the stadium attendance will fall down to 40%-50% full. I don’t think there are too many Niner fans in Ohio, and if there are, I don’t know that they’d be willing to shell out their hard-earned money to watch this one. If Travis Benjamin is out, there may not even be any fantasy implications other than Gary Barnidge. And I have to think there aren’t many people out there who would actually be willing to gamble on this game. So yeah, the slim chance that I would pay any attention to it have pretty much evaporated. How about you? Are you going to put yourself through that?

Will: I don’t have a ticket, but I’m at least going to be tailgating beforehand. In its own special way, this is the most fun part of the season. There’s also a decent chance a ticket will find me before Sunday. We’re deep into Free Ticket Season — I went each of the last two weeks without giving the franchise a dollar. That’s the kind of support I can believe in right now.

Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.

Gentlemen of the Week

Derek: Am I allowed to give out the Gentlemen of the Week to a woman? Feel free to overrule, but I’m giving our first Lady of the Week award to that woman standing behind the goalpost Antonio Brown assaulted. As I understand it, she’s not pressing charges for the inadvertent hair pull. She’d have every right to after Brown’s completely uncalled-for … well, whatever that was. ESPN.com thought the best word was “gymnastics.” There has to be a better one. Anyway, she was a good sport about being immortalized via GIF on national television. That’s Ladylike in my book.

Will: I’ll allow it. It is about time we award GotW to a woman, isn’t it? Shame on us for not doing so sooner.

I’m going with Johnny Manziel, only because he got the starting job back and I want him to win an award before he does something stupid to lose it again.

Most Hungover Fan Bases

Derek: I’ll say Rams fans, if there are any left. The team might leave the city and they look like they’ve completely quit. Not only that, but they might have the least enviable quarterback situation in the league, and that’s tough to do. It’ll be a while before the Cardinals start playing again, and until then, those masochist still watching the Rams will have plenty of reasons to drink.

Will: Philly. They beat the Pats on the road in the most surprising result of the day. Based on my time there, that isn’t the sort of achievement that’s going to be forgotten without a little celebration.


Wild Card FanDueling

Quick programming note: I’ll be doing Satire Saturday on Sunday (gasp!) and FanDueling on Saturday this week, since the games start on Saturday.

For an explanation of the FanDueling series, click here.


Fanduel-Signup

Before we move on to THE PLAYOFFS, let’s take a look at the results from Week 17:

fanduel17

It was not a great week but, once again, I (barely) finished in the top half of the standings, thus doubling my money again. That means I finished the season doubling my money in each week since Week 12. Despite sucking pretty hard early in the season (both when this feature began and before) I managed to finish the regular season with a net profit of $207. I’m not saying that I’m an expert or anything, but the strategies I’ve settled into were obviously successful at the end of the year, so hopefully I can turn an even bigger profit next year.

A special thanks to Odell Beckham and the Seahawks D for being the main reason I was able to complete the winning streak. I continued to have bad luck at tight end, and my cheap quarterback strategy finally came back to bite me. I also caught a bad break with Arian Foster, who left early in the game with an injury. He already had 9.8 points, so I have to think he would have had a solid game had he stayed in. Alas.

On to the Wild Card games! I can’t say for sure that I’ll continue this feature throughout the playoffs. There are only eight teams playing, and the lack of flexibility makes me uncomfortable. But everyone else is dealing with the same problem, so maybe it won’t matter. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not wagering as much as I normally would, though. Anyway, here’s the team I’m rolling with this week:

QB – Ben Roethlisberger (BAL@PIT) – $8,500

Roethlisberger has been really good at home, and the Ravens’ secondary is atrocious. That theme shall be addressed throughout my FanDuel team this week. Cam Newton was tempting, but Roethlisberger’s ceiling is just too high.

Also considered: Cam Newton ($8,300)

RB – Jeremy Hill (CIN@IND) – $7,400

Hill is on fire. Believe me, I know. He cost me one or two fantasy football championships. He’s a solid bet to do well if Andy Dalton doesn’t have the Bengals playing from behind the whole game.

RB – Daniel Herron (CIN@IND) – $5,400

Herron was cheap, and he has only Trent Richardson standing in his way. I have no problems with betting against Trent Richardson.

Also considered – Josh Harris ($5,600), Kerwynn Williams ($5,200), Stepfan Taylor ($4,800),

WR – Antonio Brown (BAL@PIT) – $9,200

Ravens’ secondary, again. Brown was the first player I picked. There was no way I was leaving him off my team this week.

WR – Kelvin Benjamin (ARI@CAR) – $6,900

I’m not a huge fan, but the pickings were slim. I liked him better than Golden Tate, since he’s been much less productive since the return of Calvin Johnson.

WR – Martavis Bryant (BAL@PIT) – $5,600

Yeah … Ravens’ secondary. Bryant’s value lies with the big play, and there’s a pretty good shot he makes a few of those.

Also considered: Golden Tate ($6,800), Steve Smith ($6,400), Cole Beasley ($5,600)

TE – Greg Olsen (ARI@CAR) – $6,400

The Cardinals have struggled to cover tight ends all year. Olsen burned me last week, but he was really the only legitimate choice at tight end this week.

Also considered: None

K – Dan Bailey (DET@DAL) – $5,000

I didn’t love any kicking matchups this week. It seems feasible that the Cowboys will move the ball but stall in the red zone.

Also considered: Adam Vinatieri ($4,900)

D/ST – Carolina Panthers (ARI@CAR) – $5,300

The Panthers face Ryan Lindley this week. That is all.

Also considered: None

 

TOTAL – $59,700