Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - YEAR OF THE GAG?

Looking back at the 2008 NFL regular season, I think the one theme that stands out is the fact that a lot of teams blew a lot of chances this year. Sure, there were teams that pounced on opportunity: the Arizona Cardinals took advantage of being in the worst division in football to win said division, the Miami Dolphins took advantage of their schedule to be good enough to win the AFC East, and the San Diego Chargers took care of their business to put themselves in a position to win and get in in the final week of the season.

But the Chargers were only able to do that because the Denver Broncos wasted their (very good) chance. And the Dolphins wouldn't have won had the Jets held their ground. And they were joined by the likes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears, who at one point controlled their destiny, only to let those opportunities slip away. Throw in teams like the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, and it seems like there was an inordinate amount of teams this year who had a chance to make things happen for themselves, and blew it. (Teams like the Bills don't count - though they got off to a really hot start, they faded too far too fast.)

I noticed a couple of patterns with these teams - the Jets, Broncos, Bucs, Redskins, and Cowboys. The first is, other than the Jets, who lost too many games to beatable teams, the teams really beat up on their weaker opponents - meaning maybe they didn't really deserve to be in the positions they were in because they didn't have the most difficult schedules. (I noted how easy the Broncos' schedule was way back in August.)

But the other thing is a lot of these teams had a big win, followed by a big collapse. Look:

1) The Jets beat the Patriots and Titans in back-to-back weeks on the road, improving to 8-3, then went 1-4 the rest of the way.

2) The Broncos started the Jets on that downward spiral, but that was their high water mark - after beating the Jets, Denver beat Kansas City, then lost their final three, all with an opportunity to clinch the division.

3) The Buccaneers were 9-3, coming off a win that pretty much buried the Saints, then lost to Carolina in a big divisional matchup as part of their 0-4 finish to the season.

4) The Redskins started hot, became everyone's favorite darkhorse, were sitting pretty at 7-4, and then finished 1-4 - including a loss to Cincinnati - to finish the season.

5) The Cowboys' chokes have been well-documented, but they fit this pattern, too - after regaining some hope by beating the Giants, they lost their final two games of the season with everything on the line.


I guess this is all just to point out that as horrible as the Jets season was, they had plenty of company this year. It's just hard to notice that other teams and their fans are sharing your plight in the heat of the moment.

ON THE OTHER HAND, MY YEAR WAS PRETTY GOOD: I have to admit, on this last day of 2008, that I got really caught up in my number of posts this year. When I changed format sometime last year, the new page kept track of posts per month and year. And I decided I wanted to try to post as much as I could in 2008, watching those numbers very closely.

I ended up posting a record 284 times in 2008. Of course, it was a leap year, so you have to subtract from 366 to see how many days I missed instead of 365, but still...I'm impressed.


April and May were tough - a busy time at school. October, a month into having the new baby, was also sporadic. But I wrote this year more days than ever before - by a long shot.

And the reason I did it was because people were reading. I was picked up a couple of times this summer by other blogs, which was a first. And I have my small, small circle of loyal readers, who I really appreciate taking a couple of minutes out of their day to read what I have to say, and either comment on it in writing or in person. Thank you, because I'd like to think I'd do this in a vacuum, but I'm not sure I'd continue if no one read it.

I'm proud of the fact that I was able to keep the writing up this year. And I doubt that I'll be able to match that output in 2009. But I'll try. And I'll have help. I'm excited to announce that in 2009, as I floated out as a possibility in early August, the Southern Bureau will become a regular contributor - I've officially handed over a set of keys. Maybe I can get The Wife to do some more contributing in 2009 as well.

But just like a year ago, there's a lot to look forward to in the coming year. And I will write about it. And who knows, it might just turn out to be more often than in 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WORTH IT?

The time has come to ask the question that has been on the mind of Jets fans since August - Was it worth it to get Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers for the 2008 NFL season?
Favre ended up costing the Jets:

1) A conditional fourth round pick.
1a) Since he played in 50 percent of the plays this season, the pick jumped to a third-round selection.
(Had the Jets made the playoffs, since Favre played in 70 percent of the Jets plays, it would have become a second-rounder, a first-rounder if Favre took the Jets to the Super Bowl.)
-And since it is now a third-round selection, the Jets get a Packers seventh-round pick in 2010.

2) A head coach.

3) Probably at least one season once Favre decides to retire, since the Jets have no one ready to take the reins.

The Favre trade won't go down in history as one of the worst trades of all time - the Jets only gave up a third-round pick (if I have the correct info) for a future Hall of Famer.

It's the more intangible stuff surrounding Favre that makes one really question this trade.

I'm willing to bet the rumors that Favre didn't like playing for Eric Mangini (he named his son for Brett Favre - what more would Favre want?) were a big factor in Mangini being fired a day after the season ended. I bet it rubbed Favre the wrong way that he was made to run a lap for a transgression (I forget what it was - but I remember that it was lead-story news, that Favre had to run a punishment lap in Jets camp) when he first arrived. And now the Jets are without a coach, and entering a transition stage. Mangini could very well be looking for a job anyway had he not had Favre at quarterback this year - but with the firing of the coach seeming to link so closely to Favre's ineffectiveness this past month, this is a strike against trading for Favre.

Then comes the question always surrounding Favre - when will he retire? People close to the Jets seem to want him to come back (and perhaps that's why Mangini is no longer the coach), because the Jets have no one to take over at quarterback if Favre goes. So a lot depends on this MRI that Favre had the day after the season ended - if he's healthy enough, I have to believe he'll be back next year. So really, the Jets will be getting two years out of Favre, hopefully a better year, in which case the jury remains out on the Favre trade.

If Favre decides to retire, comes back with a shoulder injury, or in any way strings the Jets along in his retirement decision, it becomes a terrible, terrible trade, which sets the Jets back a couple of years in both the quarterback and head coaching positions.

Where do I stand right now? Well, I want to make this clear - I do not think the Jets would have had the kind of success the Dolphins did this year, or even that they did (9-7 is still a rare Jets winning season), had Chad Pennington been the Jets quarterback. Pennington probably would have been hurt again. The one big difference between Pennington this year and last is that he had adequate protection - something that Favre did not have at the beginning of this year. Favre is tougher than Pennington - he absorbed the hits better (or maybe not - the MRI results may let us know that). So while I love Pennington, I'm not going to sit here and say that the Jets came up short on this Favre deal because look at what Pennington did with Miami. I said it at the time - it was best for both parties to part ways when they did.

And I'll add this - I was excited when Brett Favre came to the Jets. I wasn't looking forward to the NFL season with my usual zeal this year, until the Favre trade happened. And he came through for 3 months, giving Jets fans a lot of excitement. Problem is, the season is four months long. Five if your team is one that makes the playoffs, and the bottom line is that the Jets did not do that.

So I'm not ready to say the Favre trade was a disaster. But it certainly hasn't been a success. And depending on what happens this off-season, it could head towards disaster more quickly than it emerges as a success.

Monday, December 29, 2008

NFL WEEK 17 RECAP

The 2008 NFL season is over.

Congratulations to Chad Pennington on winning the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins. I was reminded watching the game of the Jets' last division championship, which they clinched on the final day of the 2002 season, when Pennington beat the Packers (led by quarterback Brett Favre) at the Meadowlands. I thought that was kind of funny. Anyway, it couldn't happen to a better guy. Of course, Pennington handled it with class...though I wouldn't have blamed him if he had flipped off the crowd on his way off the field. I hope he wins the Super Bowl.

Before we get to the playoffs this week, though, a look at the week's final season:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 17: A couple of games came down to a final field goal - but all involved teams that had most everything wrapped up. I guess the Panthers-Saints goes as the best, because the Panthers earned themselves a bye with the win, after the Saints came back in a huge way in the game, and Carolina still managed to pull off a last-second win.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 17: The Ravens went out and took care of business - I'll give the nod to either Joe Flacco or Le'Ron McClain - Flacco had 297 yards passing, McClain had 70 yards rushing and scored twice.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 17: The Dallas Cowboys laid an absolute egg against the Eagles with everything on the line. (The Broncos didn't play much better controlling their own destiny, nor did the Buccaneers, but the Cowboys were the worst.) The Eagles did a nice job, but the Cowboys did worse than the Eagles did well.

BEST GAME IN PLAYOFFS: Next week I think the best matchup might be Eagles-Vikings, though there's something intriguing about that Chargers-Colts game too. I think the Chargers have the potential to be the Colts of two years ago - a very average regular season, getting hot at the right time and making their championship run. This is the same team, after all, that has been a playoff threat then disappointment in recent years - maybe this is the year they turn it around. Not that I want them to...but it might happen.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN PLAYOFFS: There's not much here to predict - this prediction stuff is all over (though I will pick playoff games again starting Friday/Saturday). I will say this though - I'm in a playoff player pool, where you pick players with the hope that they get lots of points and go deep into the playoffs. My friend who I'm doing it with and I were talking about who would be a good quarterback pick, because there's really no obvious choice, the way Kurt Warner has fallen apart and with no other clear cut great quarterback out there this year. It occurred to me this weekend that Matt Ryan might be the choice - because I bet Atlanta upsets Arizona next week, and he puts up good numbers.
-Last Week: I said a 24-10 win by the Dolphins (off by 7 points there), on a 19-23, 279-yard day, 1 throwing, 1 rushing touchdown for Chad Pennington. He was 22-30 for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Just another solid Pennington day...and my prediction was close enough for me.

**UPDATE** - Eric Mangini has just been fired by the Jets. I would have fired him last week, after the Seahawks loss, but that was totally reactive. After what I read about Woody Johnson (Jets owner) this morning, I suspect that this was a reactionary move. Maybe they should have taken a week to cool off. I don't love the idea of starting over with a new coach. I just hope a replacement is named quickly...and I hope the other reports recently that Brett Favre did not like playing for Mangini did not factor into this decision.

So here we are again, the Jets looking for another head coach. Same old Jets.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

HERE'S HOW IT IS TODAY

OK. So I'm rooting for Chad Pennington today. For one lonely NFL week out of my 30 years on this earth, I'm rooting against the Jets. Strangely, that means I'm rooting for the team I've had a burning hatred for every other year - the Miami Dolphins.

Now, with the strong winds in Buffalo today, anything could happen, and the Bills might beat the Patriots...and if that happens, and a Jets win puts them into the playoffs as a division champ, maybe I'll root for the Jets. But I can't say right now - I need to see what I decide when and if that situation presents itself.

I'm less angry with the Jets now than I was a week ago. I'm very angry, though, with Jets fans. That's much of the reason I want Pennington to win on the Jets' home field, to stick it to the people who cheered when he was hurt a year ago. And that's part of the reason I'm not going to be there - first of all because I'm not going through that hassle of attending a Jets game in New Jersey with zero parking for a team that will most likely lose (though I will do it next week for the playoffs if they win the division), but mostly because I don't want to be around more people booing Pennington.

A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS:
-I apologize for the lack of images the past few days - I'm not at the home computer, so I'm going sans pictures.

-I thought it was funny the other day that the Southern Bureau suggested I root for the Panthers. Funny because here I am this week rooting for the Dolphins, who the Southern Bureau, if he rooted for any NFL team his entire life it was Miami, and he's suggesting I go to Carolina. For the record, I'm not looking for a new team. But I do enjoy occasionally rooting for Carolina anyway.

-I'm actually rooting against them today, now that I bring it up, because I want Atlanta to win the NFC South. One of my favorite stats in sports right now is that the team that finishes last in the NFC South one year wins the division the following year. And if Atlanta wins and Carolina loses, that will happen again.

Enjoy the final regular season week of the 2008 NFL season. And good luck, Chad Pennington.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A WII LITTLE CHRISTMAS

My sister bought Wii recently. So, naturally, I told her to host Christmas so we could all come over and play it. I dubbed it a "Wii Little Christmas", a bit redundant, but we had mini cookies, little hot dogs (Wii-ners), and my brother and his girlfriend got me a mini deck of cards as a gift. It was fun.

And the Wii is awesome.

Afterwards, the Wife confided that for a long time she thought about getting me a Wii for Christmas. But she couldn't justify the cost, what with two children and all, and the time we'd need to play it. I can't argue with her - we barely have time to watch a half-hour sitcom a week, let alone play video games in our spare time (though, somehow, I manage to watch about 20 hours of football a week.....). So I'm not upset with her.

But it is something I'm thinking we should do down the road. Because it's great. We played Wii Sport, but that was all I really needed to see.

I played a few rounds of Wii Tennis with my brother, and I handled him pretty well. Then we (Wii) played some bowling - my brother and his girlfriend, the Wife, and I - my brother kept rolling strikes - I think he might have broken 200 in one game. Can't figure out how he was so successful. But he whooped us pretty good. I came in second place in two games - I think my high was 159.

I hit a home run off my brother's girlfriend in baseball, then knocked her out in boxing in a tense 3-round match. I then knocked out the Wife in the first round - she barely had time to pick up the controller before she was on the ground.

So a Wii Little Christmas was a hit. I over-ate (ironic, maybe, considering it was supposed to be small), had a great video game experience, and got to spend some time with the family. It's a Wii-nderful Life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

HYPOCRITICAL

I am not cut out of the cloth you need to be cut out of to be a coach in the NFL. I'm also not cut out of the cloth you need to be cut out of to be coached by the people who coach in the NFL.

So maybe I'm not the best person in the world to comment on this situation. But it's kind of got me riled up, so I'm going to.

In today's New York Daily News, Eric Mangini is quoted a few times criticizing Jets TE Dustin Keller. His slowdown in production has coincided with the Jets' tailspin the past month. So, yes, Keller could be in a position to be criticized...but that seems unfair to me.

At least Keller has showed up for most of this season. Jerricho Cotchery hasn't been a factor since Week 3. Laveranues Coles hasn't done much all year either. And none of those people can be any kind of a factor without production from their quarterback, Brett Favre.

So sure, criticize the rookie. Say that this isn't bowl season he's prepping for, that the NFL is 17 weeks long...longer, if you make the playoffs. But spread the criticism around to others who deserve it. And don't forget to look in the mirror. Because this entire team was not prepared to play 17 weeks - they played a 12-week season. And that begins and ends with the head coach - not a rookie tight end.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

TOP TEN STORIES OF 2008

All around the blogging world this time of year you see the rundown of the top stories of the year. Only rarely do the stories that have an impact on my life come up. So, my space, my place to put my stories - here are the top 10 stories (in reverse order) of 2008 from '200 Miles From the Citi', with a link to my initial reaction, and some reasoning:

(#11 - Just missed the countdown - Mets Fire Willie Randolph. The way they did it was really the story, not so much that they did it. Meanwhile, that whole thing seems like a lifetime ago, let alone that it happened this past year.)

#10 - GARY CARTER
A year ago I dubbed 2008 ('08) the year of Gary Carter, who wore number 8. He certainly kept himself in the news. On January 2nd I wrote about his appointment as manager of the Orange County Flyers - a return to his hometown (or close to it). He proceeded to win a championship with Orange County, then he took a job managing the Long Island Ducks, returning to my hometown (or close to it). I suspect we'll be hearing some more from the Hall of Famer in 2009.

#9 - PHILLIES WIN WORLD SERIES
This is probably on a number of year-end highlight countdowns, but it probably doesn't sting as bad on some of the other ones. I actually ended up wanting the Phillies to win (kind of), though I picked against them. I certainly didn't enjoy it when they ended up winning.

#8 - GIANTS END PATRIOTS' UNBEATEN SEASON
The 2008 playoffs were weird for a Jets fan - the Giants got hot, and the Patriots were riding their perfect season...two teams Jets fans don't necessarily love to see be successful. But I've never had a hard time rooting for the Giants, and I like Eli Manning. I picked the Giants to win, which put me in a minority...and I probably did so more with heart than head. When they won, I wasn't as shocked as most, but I was relieved. I haven't written about this much, but it's funny that when the Jets were good this year, the Giants were still much better. The teams I root for always have trouble getting the whole city behind them.

#7 - HELLO, JOHAN SANTANA
You might think I'm ranking this pretty low, but I think it belongs at number 7. Santana could only pitch once every five days, and clearly the move didn't bring about a championship. Still, it was a huge deal - and I was taken by surprise when it happened. Santana had a great season individually, and was fun to watch, but the Mets fell short, so this ended up being kind of bittersweet.

#6 - GOOD-BYE, CHAD
Had you asked me a year ago at this time, I would have told you that I didn't expect Chad Pennington to be back with the Jets for the 2008 season....thought it became more and more likely that he would as the off-season progressed. It wasn't until early August that things fell into place with Brett Favre and Pennington was let go. Of course, the disappointing thing about this story was that he had to go to the Dolphins, and I was forced to root for Miami in a season in which they were right behind the Jets in the standings all season long...until the final week, when they were atop the standings. In retrospect, this might have been the first time since Gary Carter that a favorite athlete of mine left my favorite team with some years left in the tank and I had to root for them in another uniform.

#5 - SHEA'S FINAL DAYS
Early in the season it seemed like the Mets would make the final year at Shea Stadium a waste of everyone's time, a disappointment. Then they made their run and it looked like some of the old magic was back, until the ghosts of 2007 came out. And in the end, Shea closed its doors to a disappointing season. But 2008 still allowed for a year of reflections and memories of a place that I'll miss.

#4 - THE JETS' 2008 SEASON
It's still not over, but the off-season moves, and the cherry on top - Brett Favre - came together to make 2008 a mostly successful season. Something I saw coming just as the 2007 season was coming to its conclusion, I might add. Of course, that NFC West thing didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped....but let's remember - the Jets "backed in" to the playoffs in 2004 when they lost to St. Louis on the final day of the season, but got the help they needed. Maybe they'll get the repeat situation in 2008 - they need to win, coupled with either a Patriots loss or a Ravens loss (I'm not necessarily rooting for them...but I will root for them if they end up in the playoffs).

#3 - JETS ACQUIRE BRETT FAVRE
One of my all-time favorite football players comes to my favorite team. There were mixed feelings about how everything went down, and the fact that it meant saying goodbye to Pennington, but it was a very exciting time, turning around my otherwise lackluster feelings toward the start of the football season.

#2 - THE LAST PLAY AT SHEA
Had it not been for the birth of my second child, this would have easily been the highlight of 2008 for me. My brother got the tickets, and my last visit to Shea was a memorable one. Not only was it a special moment as a fan of both the Mets and Billy Joel, it was the best concert I've been to, capped off by a dramatic appearance by Paul McCartney. I guess, all told, I'd rather have my last event at Shea have been a playoff game, but this was a tremendous night, great memories, and it far exceeded my expectations. A playoff game could have ended with disappointment.

#1 - METS MISS PLAYOFFS (AGAIN)
I hate to end on a down note, but this was definitely the defining moment of 2008 at '200 Miles From the Citi'. I don't spend my summer writing about the Mets expecting them to fall short come September. But that's what's happened two years running now. And I don't think my expectations for 2009 are going to get too high. A year ago, on New Year's, I wrote this:

I'm not here to offer predictions for the baseball season - it's too early for that. I will say that 2008 is looking to me like a must-win season for the Mets. If they don't win this year, I think it might be a while. If they do win this year, I think they might be able to defend a title in their new park.

They didn't win in 2008. I don't think I'm going to argue with myself. I'm afraid I may have been right.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I SUPPOSE IT COULD BE WORSE...

The NFL certainly provides plenty of fodder for someone looking to put in perspective their team failing to make the playoffs (I am aware it isn't official that the Jets aren't in...but it might as well be...). So I present to you a list:

At Least:


1) Laveranues Coles didn't shoot himself in the leg and then have David Harris try to cover the whole thing up.

2) Then later find out that Coles was uninsured when he had a traffic accident in the off-season.

3) Shaun Ellis didn't punch Brett Favre in the weight room.

4) There is no such thing around the Jets as "Mustache Monday".

5) Eric Mangini's children are too young to have columnists question their decisions about who they married.

6) A slew of Jets wasn't suspended for using a banned substance hidden in another substance. Of course...there was that one instance.

7) They're not the Oakland Raiders.


The Jets do have their own problems, coaching and off-the-field (both involving one Shaun Ellis). But looking at the landscape of the league, those are a little more run-of-the-mill than the things going on elsewhere.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NFL WEEK 16 RECAP

One more week - and there are some good games to watch next week. But first, the recap of the penultimate week of the season:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 16: The Chiefs-Dolphins game was pretty good - lots of scoring in tough conditions. The Giants-Panthers was also very good (though due to the circumstances of the Jets game I didn't really enjoy it) with a lot on the line. Games like the Colts-Jaguars, Bears-Packers, and Bills-Broncos weren't bad either.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 16: I'm going to avoid talking about all the teams who had a chance to do something to help themselves when it came to the playoffs in Week 16 and failed - there are a lot of them (Jets first and foremost). Instead, I'm going to highlight the Atlanta Falcons, who no one expected anything out of, and came into Week 16 needing a win for the playoffs, and got it. That makes them the best performance of the week.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 16: I don't care that it was snowing, I don't care that it was another east coast one o'clock game. The Arizona Cardinals don't deserve the playoffs any more than the Jets do. Throw Kurt Warner's 30-yard effort in with the big-picture 47-7 loss to the Patriots.

BEST GAME IN WEEK 17: With lots on the line it can either be Jets-Dolphins or Chargers-Broncos. So help me if the Broncos lose and the Chargers get into the playoffs. That would upset me as a Jets fan. The Patriots-Bills game will probably intense too.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN WEEK 17: I'm going to go with my heart again, and predict a huge playoff-entering performance from Chad Pennington. I say 19-23 for 279 yards and 1 throwing TD, 1 rushing. Dolphins, 24-10.
-Last Week: Way off with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I THINK I MAY HATE THE JETS

I'm so mad right now. Problem is, I don't know who I'm mad at.

I don't know if I'm mad at myself because I saw this coming for weeks, and I didn't let myself believe the Jets would take a page from the Mets' end-of-season playbook and take a nosedive. I knew for a long time everything would come down to that last game of the season against Miami, but I'm mad for never thinking that it would be Miami who would be in the driver's seat when that game came along.

I'm mad at Eric Mangini for playing for field position early in the fourth quarter when he could have kicked a field goal and for doing the exact opposite later in the game, playing with awful field position. And for letting his team imitate the 1994 Jets in terms of collapses.

I'm mad at Brett Favre for being so old and wearing down as the season has gone on. It's no coincidence that he's questioning his ability to stay in the game and whether he's too old and the Jets look like a team that's out there sleepwalking through their final month.

Most of all, though, I'm mad at the franchise. I feel like a little kid - I just want to kick them in the shins and yell, "I hate you I hate you I hate you". I feel like I'm wasting so much energy on these teams for nothing in return.

I hate that the Jets are taking 10+ years off of my dad's priority on their season ticket list.

I hate that the Jets have never had their own stadium.

I hate that the Jets turned their back on one of their most successful quarterbacks ever and he's going to lead his new team to the playoffs on the field against the Jets.

I'm feeling very angry right now, and I don't want to write anything I may regret. It's hard to say that after 30 years I'm just going to stop rooting for the Jets forever.

So it's not a permanent divorce...yet. But we're taking a break. Next week, I'm a Chad Pennington fan. I'm flat-out rooting against the Jets. I'm not proud of it, but I feel like I have to do it.

First of all, I want to see Pennington do well.

Secondly, the Jets don't deserve the playoffs.

And lastly, if they made the playoffs, they wouldn't win anyway. At least with Pennington, a team has a chance.

When the season is over and I've had a chance to cool down, we'll see where things stand. But I'll tell you this - I'm not looking forward to an off-season of Brett Favre stringing the Jets along, only to look like he's washed up when the season gets into its late stages. I feel like he's already set the franchise back a couple of years. If he hangs around any longer they'll be going backwards even more.

I know this - I don't think I could make it through an NFL season without a team to root for. So I don't think I'll be totally jumping ship on the Jets. But we're certainly cooling things down for a while. Starting in Week 17.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WEEK 16 LIVE BLOG

11:48am - I've just decided the conditions today are right for a live blog. There are some interesting situations in today's Jets game (a 4 o'clock start...ugh) - Brett Favre vs. Mike Holmgren, Thomas Jones vs. Julius Jones - and then there's the looming playoff situation. The Jets will be playing in snowy conditions in Seattle, most likely, and the Patriots will be doing the same against the Cardinals in Foxboro. And I hear it will be extremely cold in Kansas City where the Chiefs will be hosting the Dolphins. So it will be an eventful day. I'll watch it all. And I'll write about it. After I get in from my first round of shoveling for the day.

12:10pm - Wow. That's a lot of snow. There's going to be a lot more shoveling today than I thought. Maybe I'll give you a picture later.

I'll set another scene here without a picture...but I'll still paint the image for you. All season I had been wearing a Jets t-shirt with my Jets fleece pants on Sundays for Jets games. After the two losses to San Francisco and Denver, though, I was going to switch things up, and with guests coming over last week I wasn't going to wear the fleece pants anyway. So I went with the t-shirt, jeans, and a Jets hat. That worked out, barely. I'm sticking with that outfit today - hopefully it's still lucky. I can't invite the guests back - they're back in New York. I've also been wearing my Jets sweatshirt for shoveling, so if things aren't going so well maybe I'll switch to that in the second half.

12:25pm - Here's your almost-live picture of the snow, still falling heavily:
Should be similar conditions for the Patriots-Cardinals game...at least the start of it. I think by the end of the game this will be freezing rain and everything will ice over.

1:15pm - I've fed the baby, so at least I'm not totally neglecting my parental duties today. And so much for the Jets getting any help - the Patriots are already up 7-0, and it took the Dolphins all of 18 seconds to go up 7-0 versus the Chiefs. They followed quickly with a turnover, then they had a turnover negated by a penalty. The Cardinals look terrible in the snow...looks like the Jets are going to just have to win their final two games no matter what.

1:41pm - Kansas City is showing signs of life. But to be honest, I don't think any of that matters. The Jets can't clinch this week. So I guess it'll look nice if the Jets are 10-5 while the Pats and Dolphins are 9-6, but the truth of the matter is the Jets need to win their final two games. Period. It doesn't matter what happens with the Dolphins and Patriots.

2:00pm - So a Dolphins win hurts the Patriots, does nothing for the Jets. A Dolphins loss helps the Patriots, does nothing for the Jets. What a weird week.

2:33pm - Update on the wardrobe - I'm really cold in just a t-shirt, so I'm going with the sweatshirt. Hope I don't cost the Jets a win.

Here's something good I just thought of - it's going to be bad weather in Seattle, but Brett Favre played his entire career in Green Bay, so he's got to be unaffected by it, no?

2:45pm - Out to shovel the next foot of snow that's fallen since I last shoveled three hours ago.

3:18pm - I hope the Jets are seeing what the Patriots are doing to the Cardinals (similar to what the Jets did to Arizona the last time I live-blogged, incidentally), and go out and do the same thing to the Seahawks in about an hour. There's no reason the Jets should lose today.

3:55pm - I am enjoying this Dolphins-Chiefs game. And I think since the Jets control their fate by playing the Dolphins next week, I'd rather see the Dolphins win, putting the Patriots in the tougher spot. And I need a fantasy touchdown from Ronnie Brown. So go Miami!

4:16pm - The Jets got three on their opening drive. Came close to getting a touchdown...but I'm encouraged by how they've moved the ball. The thing that scares me is that the Jets have done that on opening drives most of the season, then they go flat. So they need to keep it up.

The weather in Seattle, by the way, doesn't look all that terrible.

4:30pm - The weather is getting worse. That Seattle crowd is loud, even when the Seahawks are terrible. Good for them.

4:37pm - Through one quarter, 3-0, Jets. And I'm not feeling any less nervous.

5:01pm - My daughter may be a lucky charm. Twice I've had her yell 'Defense' at the TV, and twice it's resulted in the Seahawks fumbling (the last two drives). This last fumble came inside the 5. I will definitely be using this to my advantage.

5:22pm - I'm so friggin' angry. 7-3 Seahawks at halftime. The Jets haven't been able to move the ball since the opening drive. And the Seahawks are moving the ball pretty well. This game scares me a lot.

5:44pm - Another round of shoveling under my belt. Haven't even begun to try to dig out the cars (still coming down pretty steadily, by the way). This will be good therapy after the game, though - win or lose. I will need a distraction from the way the Jets make me crazy.

6:05pm - It's the end of the 3rd quarter, Seahawks up 10-3. I feel like I'm going to throw up...and now it's time for dinner.

6:19pm - A delay of game on a field goal...the Jets are lucky to still be down 7 right now with the ball. But they need a touchdown on this drive.

6:24pm - 6:48 to go in the game, and the Seahawks are playing like they're trying to wrap up a playoff spot. The Jets look awful. Like they have the past month. I'm so disappointed.

6:32pm - This is it - 3:06 left, the Jets have it at about their own 10. If the Jets don't get a touchdown, they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. And I just might root for Chad Pennington to beat them and make the playoffs next week.

6:37pm - It's not fun being a Jets fan. Disappointment after disappointment. I hope Pennington embarrasses them next week.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

GOING BOWLING

There's a lot of negative press surrounding the college bowl season. But as I get ready to veg out in front of four meaningless (for most) bowl games today (my excuse is that it's still snowing out and there's really nothing else I could be doing), I'm here to tell you that I look forward to these next couple of weeks more than many other parts of the sports year.

Some sports I enjoy for the pure sport. Others I need a bit of rooting interest. College football is one, and the bowl pool I participate in each year provides me with plenty of rooting interest. This year there are 34 bowl games, and I've picked the winner of each one, ranking them from 1-34 in confidence rankings.

The bowl pool is one of my top 3 favorite pools of the year that I participate in - and though I never do particularly well in it, it at least keeps me interested in something in that slow few weeks between my elimination from fantasy football and the NFL playoffs.

You might argue that the bowl season takes away from the fact that college football has no playoff system - well, when they do get those playoffs, I have a strong suspicion it won't change much of the bowl format - and I'll still be able to do this bowl pool in the same fashion.

So be careful when you say no one cares about the Papajohns.com Bowl between Rutgers and NC State. Because I'll be watching, and I'll care.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A COUPLE OF CLICKS YOU MIGHT ENJOY

So maybe you're snowbound today, looking for something to do. Here are two things I've enjoyed lately that I'll plug:

1) I got an e-mail from a guy saying he enjoyed the site, and asking would I throw some info out there about an NFL campaign going on. Warning him that I probably don't have as many readers as he might think, I said sure. And it looks like it's for a good cause and everything is on the up and up, so here it is:

Chunky Soup is sending soup to the hungry through a campaign on their website. And all you have to do is click over to their site, and vote for your favorite team to win their weekly matchup. The top 8 teams then make the 'playoffs', and winners have food donated to their local food banks. Food being lots of cans of Chunky Soup.

I only wish I had known about this sooner, because the Jets look like they're going to comfortably beat the Seahawks this week (you can only vote once a day), but they're in sixth place in the AFC. I could have made a difference earlier in the season...maybe they'd be undefeated like the Bills currently are. So there's one option for you.

2) My second option is more dependent on your knowledge of sports. For a couple of months now I've been addicted to ESPN's Streak for the Cash game. You may have heard of this recently, because this month someone finally built a 25-game winning streak and won $1 million. I didn't find out about the game until October-ish, and didn't play regularly until November.

They give you a number of options for games each day - hockey, NBA, college sports, prop bets - and all you have to do is pick correctly. Your two options are to play for the longest streak or to play for the highest monthly total. Some people go nuts picking multiple games a day (you can pick your next game right after the previous one ends), going with every European soccer game, in hopes of getting an overwhelming amount of wins in a month. There's a bunch of different strategies you can employ.

Anyway, for me it's like mlb.com's 'Beat the Streak' all year long. If you play your picks right you can have some sort of rooting interest every night of the year. I bring this all up because they're starting new, with a new $1 million prize, on January 1st. I recommend you play.

You can find the game at espn.com, usually in the upper right-hand corner of the front page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MOSTLY WELL-DESERVED

Seven Jets made it to the Pro Bowl. For a game no one cares about, that's pretty significant and worth mentioning.

It's also pretty heady stuff - most teams that get 5 or more players to the Pro Bowl are championship-caliber teams. The strange thing about it is that the Jets are precariously perched when it comes to playoff position. For the most part, though, the nods were well-deserved.
Let's look at the selections:

QB - Brett Favre - The Pro Bowl shouldn't be a legacy award, but we all know this happens sometimes. Favre is the least deserving of the Jets named, and might be so banged up that he gives up his spot. Maybe then someone more deserving like Matt Cassel or Chad Pennington will get in. It's not like this is unprecedented....but that doesn't make it right.

RB - Thomas Jones - What a year he's had. Jets records for touchdowns (rushing and overall). He hasn't looked like one of the best in the game at times this year, but with the Jets' struggles in the passing game for most of this year, he's probably the team MVP (at least offensively).

OL - Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold - Another significant piece of the Jets' success this year, especially the veteran Faneca, who is probably directly responsible for the younger Mangold getting to the Pro Bowl. Well-deserved on both counts.

DT - Kris Jenkins - OK. At times he has been dominant this year, but others he's been near-invisible. I'd say this is probably deserved...but only mostly, not 100%.

CB - Darrelle Revis - Definitely deserved. Might make an argument here for Kerry Rhodes as well. They've been the strength of the Jets' secondary. Good for Revis. He was a good draft pick.

KR - Leon Washington - For the first time since Chad Morton's heyday, the Jets have a legit threat on kickoffs. Washington has become a threat to score every time he touches the ball...moreso on special teams than offense, but you still can't relax when he's in the backfield because he might break one.

So all of this is to say that it may look weird for the Jets to have 7 Pro Bowlers, but 5 of them definitely deserve the nod. The other 2 sort of raise expectations for themselves over the final two games of the season.

Because here's the other thing - there's only one Bowl I care about come February. And it isn't the one in Hawaii.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NFL WEEK 15 RECAP

Another week of NFL action in the books - and only two more of these before we get some playoff action:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 15: Another group of tight games, but none worth really shouting about. A couple shouldn't have turned out the way they did, either. The Jets-Bills was exciting for a neutral observer, I guess, but infuriating in ways, too. Same thing for Titans-Texans and Chargers-Chiefs. All had pretty good endings, but lacked greatness in some form.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 15: I can't believe I'm about to write this, but Tarvaris Jackson and the Vikings proved me wrong - they came out and handled the Cardinals, showing they belong in the playoffs, which they will now inevitably make. (I haven't been a believer in them at all.) Jackson, filling in for the injured Gus Frerotte, outshone MVP-candidate Kurt Warner, throwing for 4 touchdowns (on just 163 yards....but he still cashed them in, so good for him).

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 15: Could be the Cardinals for coming out so flat, and it could be a number of coaches for their poor decision-making that cost them some games. But maybe we'll go with Washington, with everything setting up for them nicely, choking one away against Cincinnati. The Bengals only have nothing to play for, while the Redskins are fighting (and losing) for a playoff spot.

BEST GAME IN WEEK 16: Weird, this. Both the top two teams in the AFC and NFC face off with the winner controlling the number one seed. Steelers-Titans and Giants-Panthers in Week 16. That's really amazing.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN WEEK 16: I'm going to let my heart get in the way of my head here, and predict a big week from the Arizona Cardinals. Nothing about them playing in the east should lead me to believe anything good from them this week, but I'm looking at what they did last week, and if they want to be considered a legit playoff threat, they need to come back and make a statement this weekend against the Patriots. So I'm calling for it. They get the upset, 28-24 in New England, with Kurt Warner coming back with 338 yards and 3 TD's against the weak New England secondary.
-Last Week: I said 33o yards and 3 TD for Peyton Manning (hmm...sounds familiar). He had 318 with just one passing TD.

Monday, December 15, 2008

LOOMING....LOOMING...

Things that scare the dickens out of me between now and the end of 2008:

1) Clowns
2) The off-chance I'll run into Santa Claus (Christmas is sometimes like Halloween to me)
3) That December 28th game with the Dolphins


The first two are my own little issues. But that last one, I know I'm not alone on. And there are a lot of people jumping on that bandwagon. But I'm no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to that December 28th game. I've been banging that drum for a while.

And don't say I'm falling into the Seattle trap. I know my Jets. They very well could lose Week 16 in Seattle. But I'm a Jets historian - they're more likely to win in Seattle and then lose to the Dolphins in Week 17.

Of course, I'm hoping they don't....but I can't get too excited.

And here's the number one reason this Dolphins game scares me - seems lately they've gotten away from the Wildcat formation, the one that helped them upset the Patriots in Week 3 of the season. The one they didn't really start employing until then. Meaning that the Jets haven't seen it yet (they played the Dolphins in Week 1). And since the Dolphins have gone away from it recently, it might come as a surprise when they start using it again...Week 17....against the Jets.

If the Jets had trouble stopping the run against Buffalo, and against Denver, and against San Francisco, with the back coming out of his traditional spot in the backfield, what chance do they have against the Wildcat?

So that's what scares me most about the Dolphins. Not to mention the fact that when I first mentioned the Dolphins game scaring me, I envisioned a spoiler scenario for Chad Pennington and Miami. Not a situation where they would actually stand to win the division by beating the Jets.

So I'll be wearing out the Sunday Ticket this Sunday. Miami-Kansas City. New England-Arizona. And Jets-Seahawks at 4. I never count on the Jets making it easy...but I never thought just a month ago that it would become this hard.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

STILL IN CONTROL....BARELY

The Jets should not have lost to San Francisco. They should not have lost to Oakland. The way they were playing at the time, they shouldn't have laid an egg against Denver. But they did.

And they shouldn't have beaten Buffalo the way they played on defense today. But they did.

In a game in which breaks went both ways (the Bills had a field goal bound in off the goal post, the Jets had a Bills' touchdown called back by a [legit] holding call; the Bills intercepted Brett Favre off a ball deflected by a player on the ground, the Jets got the fumble at a key time that they needed), the Jets got the biggest break.

With the Bills running every which way on the Jets (making me severely doubt their chances in the playoffs if they can hold on and make the post-season), they decided to throw the ball on second and five while they were running out the clock. It turned into the minor miracle at the Meadowlands, as Abram Elam blitzed (the first Jets blitz of the afternoon that I could remember), sacked J.P. Losman, and after someone fell on the ball and it squirted out, Shaun Ellis picked it up and dodged a tackle for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Jets actually picked off Losman again, but gave the ball back and had to hold on for dear life. That was one of the Jets' biggest problems in this game - failure to run out the clock. Granted, the first time they were pinned to their one, but instead of running the ball the Jets went to three passes - all incomplete, took no time off the clock, then punted, and proceeded to give up the Bills' go-ahead touchdown.

The other big problem was their inability to stop the run. Marshawn Lynch looked like the old Willis McGahee - the Bills back the Jets just couldn't bring down. Lynch had 21 carries for 127 yards. Their tackling, and really their defensive line against the Bills' O-Line, was atrocious.

But an ugly win is still a win. And there were some positives - Brett Favre found Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles again, connections the Jets will need to have post-season success. And they came out firing, scoring two touchdowns on their first two possessions, looking great doing so.

The Jets got no help from their two west coast foils from earlier this year (Oakland is getting smoked by New England and Miami beat the 49ers). But a couple of good things might have happened. One is that Seattle won, coming back from a deficit to beat the (similarly awful) Rams. Perhaps that sates the Seahawks, coming off a tough loss last week to the Patriots, heading into next week against the Jets, and the Jets can pounce on a falsely-confident team next week. Just a thought. The other thing is that the Bills showed they still have some life. Perhaps they can give the Patriots a run in Week 17 - which might just be what the Jets need, if they're not able to take care of themselves.

And that's the most important thing - the Jets still control their own destiny. They just need to keep winning - and help from Arizona (at New England) and Kansas City (versus Miami) next week wouldn't hurt. It might even result in a division championship before the last week of the season.

Friday, December 12, 2008

OVERHAUL UNDERWAY

Quite an eventful winter meetings for the Mets. Clearly, the bullpen needed to be re-worked, and that's what the Mets did.

Gone are Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Billy Wagner (though he'll still be paid...a LOT of money), and now Scott Schoeneweis. Even Endy Chavez off the bench.

In are Francisco Rodriguez*, J.J. Putz, Sean Green, and now Connor Robertson. Even Jeremy Reed on the bench.

It's a good shakeup. As they stood, the Mets were not built to win - obvious the past two seasons, when not enough was done to shake things up between 2007 and 2008.

But there's still work to be done. Now the Mets have to address the starting rotation. I'm a little envious of what the Yankees have done - they played the initial game, too - getting C.C. and A.J. (The Mets only landed J. J.) I would have loved Burnett as a Met. I have no idea which direction the Mets will go - but I'm kind of hoping the Mets don't go for the 'big-name' starter (Derek Lowe) and go more towards the middle...I'm just not sure Lowe's the guy.

I like the direction the Mets are going this off-season...though I'm not going to go overboard until the Mets make it through September intact.

I'm just afraid now that with all the addressing of the bullpen needs the Mets have done this off-season they haven't left themselves with a 2009 rotation that will remind us of the 2008 bullpen.

THE SOUTHERN BUREAU WOULD WANT ME TO MENTION THIS: News out of Atlanta is that the Braves will not offer a 2009 contract to Chuck James, who will miss the season recovering from shoulder surgery.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

AND YOU THOUGHT THERE WAS A PUTZ IN THE METS BULLPEN LAST YEAR

So the Mets should be coming out of the winter meetings looking pretty good.

They got a closer. And after they did that, I thought to myself, they should still try to get someone else, like Brian Fuentes, because you can never have enough arms in the bullpen.

And they made a trade to get J.J. Putz. Which isn't bad. Another closer-type who will become a set-up guy. And they unloaded Aaron Heilman, who no one could possibly have anymore confidence in, not to mention he was unhappy. They also lost Endy Chavez and Joe Smith, but got back formerly-highly-rated outfielder Jeremy Reed. (Might be a bust, but if he's filling a bench role, he might be OK.)

But none of these moves mean anything until the Mets get into the post-season.

You would also think they're in great shape because Cole Hamels went on New York radio today and called the Mets "choke artists". You would think that's the type of thing that would fire the Mets up.

But he's not wrong until the Mets unseat the now-World Champion team Cole Hamels plays for.

And Francisco Rodriguez and J. J. Putz might help with that. But we won't know until the games happen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NFL WEEK 14 RECAP

I think this is the second time this year I've done the recap on a Wednesday - the first time with the next week starting tomorrow already. But I refuse to allow the week to go by unrecapped. So here it is:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 14: It was Dallas-Pittsburgh, and a close second was Tampa Bay-Carolina, which I called for as the best games a week ago. Add to that the huge backdoor cover by Pittsburgh - favored by 3, trailing by 10 with 7 minutes left, they not only tie the score, but avoid the push by an interception returned for a touchdown in the final two minutes. Woo!

BEST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 14: It meant very little in the standings, but reminded many of why he was valued so highly not too long ago - Matt Schaub came back from injury to lead Houston to a road win in Green Bay, throwing for 414 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 14: How about Buffalo, trying to showcase the game (somewhat) internationally in Canada, losing 16-3. They've just fallen apart. Credit Miami's defense, I guess, holding Marshawn Lynch to just 31 rushing yards (QB J.P. Losman outrushed him by 22), but the Bills have been flat-out terrible. Of course, all that goes by the boards when they face the Jets on Sunday.

BEST GAME IN WEEK 15: Look no further than the Steelers for another great week - this week it's Pittsburgh-Baltimore, with first place in the AFC North on the line. I hate that the Ravens are good.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN WEEK 17: Peyton Manning gets his turn against the Detroit Lions. How about 330 yards, 3 TD.
-Last Week: I said Drew Brees would have 4 TD, with 400 passing yards in a bounceback game. Not quite. He had 230, with 2 TD.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

METS SIGN K-ROD

So, what tragic ending to his career will befall Francisco Rodriguez? Will it be:
1) A career-ending arm injury?
2) From record-setting greatness to record-setting pitifulness?
3) Premature oldness?

That last one I feel I need to explain a bit. He's just 26 years old, but I feel like there's been a lot of wear and tear on that 26-year-old arm.

I am nowhere near as enthusiastic about this signing as I should be. The Mets could have signed an explosive closer, who will slam the door of every game he'll appear in. Francisco Rodriguez could be the Mets' answer to Brad Lidge of the Phillies - just a perfect season in store.

But this is the Mets, signing a free agent, and a closer no less. Things just don't work out that way for them. So K-Rod gets the *. And it will take a lot of convincing for me to ever get rid of it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

NO MORE CUSHION

It doesn't matter who the head coach is, it doesn't matter who the quarterback is. It doesn't matter, really, who any of the players are. Year in and year out, the Jets are so frustrating to root for.

They looked like they were sleepwalking out in San Francisco on Sunday...not a good sign considering they have a similar trip to Seattle coming up in two weeks. (And that Seattle game looms threateningly [as do all of the Jets' remaining games], because I thought they'd beat either the Patriots or the Jets. They barely didn't beat New England, so I don't think that bodes too well for the Jets. Seattle is just a tough place to play...I don't know that both New England and the Jets go there and win. Uh-oh.)

As I mentioned last week, I have a bad feeling about all of the Jets' remaining games. And with Sunday's game a 4 o'clock start, I had too much time to dread the game. And I got to reading and thinking. And in the Sunday paper it said the game was the first for the Jets at San Francisco since 1998. And I remember that game like it was yesterday. It was the season opener - Glenn Foley was quarterback for that game and one more before he got injured and lost the job to Vinny Testaverde. It was a shootout - tied at 30 going into overtime. I think Foley threw for 400 yards.

The Jets backed up the Niners in OT, before Garrison Hearst ripped off the longest overtime touchdown run in history - what was it, 96 yards? So thinking about that made me feel even worse about this game, even though there's really no connection at all.

The past two weeks have just been terrible. Bad penalties (Eric Barton last week against Denver...he's in my doghouse. I still hold a playoff 4th down roughing the passer penalty against San Diego against him.). This week Kris Jenkins jumped offsides on a 4th and 1. That's something the Niners should be doing against Brett Favre - not the Jets against Shaun Hill.

And what the Jets have done is stretch themselves to the limit of this tiebreaker they own. With the Patriots and Dolphins winning, the three teams sit at 8-5. The Jets, by virtue of their division record, have the advantage over both teams.

But all that does is put them at the top of the standings for now. The reality is, the Jets have no wiggle room. They control their own destiny, but they have to take advantage, and the only way to do that is to win their final three games. They can't rely on external help - they just have to win.

I can't believe I even mentioned the possibility of a first-round bye. The Jets are starting to look like they'll need to win three playoff games if they are going to make it to the Super Bowl....if they make the playoffs at all.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I'D RATHER THAT THEY PLAY AT ONE

I do not like 4 o'clock games,
They make me wait and wait.
Today's makes two weeks in a row,
The Jets game starts so late.

It's different than the 8 o'clock
Or Monday night affair,
Those games are the centerpiece
In which everyone can share.

The playoffs, too, are different
It's a different level of game
I can wait until four or Saturday night
But regular season's not the same.

My routine has me ready at 1 pm,
That's when I'm psyched the most,
To wait three hours from that time
Is tough for someone on the East Coast.

So today with the Jets in San Francisco
I'll be as patient as I can
I'll postpone dinner and children's baths
I'll be less dad than fan.

Because that's what 4 o'clock starts do
They turn everything on its head
And the worst thing is when the game's over,
I feel like it's time for bed.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A LONG, SLOW DEATH

I guess I assumed by now Shea Stadium would be torn down. But it's still standing.

The Daily News has some great pictures of Citi Field, taken earlier this week, I think, on a tour. What I found most striking, though, was this:
I took the liberty of putting the last two pictures from that photo gallery together to show Shea, with the entire field level of seats removed (the one on the right was taken from a slightly different angle than the left. But it gets the point across). It's sad. And sad-looking.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

WEIRD

On the scale of weirdest things ever, this doesn't rank very high. Perhaps it just reflects how little attention I've been giving these types of things lately.

I thought Opening Day of Citi Field was:

1) Tuesday, April 13, 2009
2) in the afternoon
3) against the Phillies.

It is:
1) Monday, April 13, 2009
2) at 7pm
3) against the Padres.

I'm not sure why I thought the first set, but I do know that it's a lot more appealing than the second set.

A Monday nighter makes it more difficult for me to attend, though I'll try to find a way. It also will probably be a lot colder. But I'll deal with that too.

Just thought I'd bring that up. I was quite surprised when I finally got the facts straight tonight.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

HOLY CRAP I CAN'T BELIEVE IT

I don't believe it. If I can work out my work schedule, I'm going to be at the first game ever at Citi Field.

I'm having trouble categorizing the part I don't really believe:

A) That I have a ticket to this game.

B) That my dad was able to successfully navigate the internet and get these tickets this morning.

C) That my mom didn't squirrel the tickets away and present them to me at Christmas. (FYI - This would have been totally acceptable. I'm just surprised she didn't do it. True story - Once, I entered a New York Daily News contest - must have been 1993, when 'River of Dreams' came out. Grand prize was tickets to a Billy Joel concert. Next came about 100 t-shirts. The contest was in the fall. I gave up when I heard nothing by late October or so. Christmas morning I unwrapped a...what do you know....Billy Joel t-shirt. I said, "Wow! I entered a contest for something like this!" My mom said, "I know, that's where it came from!" So basically, I got jobbed on a Christmas gift, because I won that for myself. Again, this ticket situation is different. I'm just saying, this is where I'm coming from, and why (C) is the surprise.)

Now, (B) didn't come without incident. My dad said he had tickets in Row 1 of the section he was buying tickets for, got himself booted out of the online room, and then had to go back in. Knowing him, his temper probably flared, but he held it together and ended up with Row 2 in, I think, the Promenade Box section. Which I think is one of the red circled areas (it's a totally new and weird experience for me not to know the names of the seating areas in my team's home ballpark):

I don't even care where the seats are. As long as I'm in that building. And the tickets were part of a plan...so I think I'll be exploring Citi Field a lot this season. And I couldn't be more thrilled about it. I can't believe it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

NFL WEEK 13 RECAP

A disappointing week for the Jets, but besides losing the game to the Steelers in the AFC standings, the Jets didn't suffer much damage. The rest of the week:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 13: I'm surprised to say it was the Panthers-Packers. Just didn't expect that. I also didn't see the game, so it could have been a clunker of a 35-31 game, but it seems like it was back and forth, with the winning touchdown coming late. So I think it earns this title. I'm also surprised that the winning team in that game was the road team.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 13: It came on Thursday, but that doesn't diminish the impressiveness. Brian Westbrook's four touchdowns and 110 yards rushing were pretty dominant. I also thought he and Jason Witten would be too hurt to do much this week - Witten also turned in a good game. I can't figure out NFL injuries.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 13: The Colts played pretty poorly at Cleveland, but still managed to improve their record to 8-4. Winning ugly is still winning, and the thing about Indianapolis is that their schedule shapes up quite favorably the final four weeks (starting with Cincinnati and Detroit in the next two weeks). So they are looking like a Jacksonville-type 12-4, where you wonder how they got there. Anyway, the way they played Sunday in Cleveland I suspect they have a clunker in the next couple of weeks, because they looked terrible (which tells you a little bit about how terrible the Browns were).

BEST GAME IN WEEK 14: Well, it certainly isn't Thursday night's Chargers-Raiders matchup. Yikes. Dallas-Pittsburgh on Sunday and Tampa Bay-Carolina are the ones that catch my eye coming up.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN WEEK 14: There are two NFC South matchups. New Orleans hosts Atlanta and Carolina hosts Tampa Bay. I'm going to predict two wins for the home teams in those games, as I've learned that the home team in the NFC South meetings comes out on top most of the time, and I'm going to say a week after throwing 2 touchdowns (and 3 INT's) and 296 yards in rough weather in Tampa, Drew Brees comes back with 400 yards passing and 4 TD's at home in the dome.
-Last Week: I was way off picking the Lions to upset the Titans. Boy, are they terrible.

Monday, December 01, 2008

JETS-BRONCOS RECAP

I never really felt good about this Jets game. Perhaps it was the 4 o'clock start, knowing that when the game was over my Thanksgiving break was also over. Perhaps it was the Jets futility against the Broncos in recent years...or at least the fact that Denver gives them problems, even the games the Jets win. Perhaps it's the fact that every remaining game on the Jets schedule makes me feel this way...no exceptions.

But I'll tell you one thing - I will not feel the same way if the Jets end up playing the Broncos again this year.

The Broncos are going to win the AFC West. No question about that. And their win over the Jets on Sunday might have cost the Jets a first-round bye. But the Jets are still in a position where they control their destiny, and they are still in position to win the AFC East. So it's a long shot that these two teams would meet in anything but the AFC Championship game (the Broncos would most likely get the number one seed if they advance to the second round) - but give me the Jets in that matchup.

For some reason, the Jets from the first quarter of the season showed up to play this game. Not sure what exactly caused that. My bet is it was because they were playing from behind. That just hasn't been happening lately, and that's why the Jets had won five in a row.

But it wasn't just the turnovers, or the trouble in the passing game - the Jets were still able to keep it close considering all that. It was the defense.

This was not the same defense that shut down the Tennessee running game last week. This was the defense that gives receivers way too much room to catch throws and lets a running back cut through them. This was the defense that let Cincinnati and Kansas City play close games against them, and the defense that couldn't beat Oakland.

And it can't continue.

You can tell me that had Jerricho Cotchery held onto that reverse and gone all the way (he had a wide open field in front of him, but fumbled, and that was returned for a touchdown) the game would have played out very differently, and I'll believe you. That's why I say I take the Jets in a rematch. But the fact is, the Jets fell behind and couldn't come back. That's what they kept doing early in the season. And it's not a recipe for success the rest of 2008.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

IN PRAISE OF MIKE TOMLIN

I think I have my NFL equivalent of Terry Francona - a favorite manager/head coach who I just can't root against, because I think they go about things the right way - and it again comes from an unlikely source.

I can't root for the Steelers - they give the Jets fits, knocked them out of the playoffs in 2004 - but I also can't root against them. I really like Mike Tomlin, and when I compile my list of NFL "Players I Like" (which I'm working on), he's the head coach.

First of all, I caught an episode of "Wired Up" on the NFL Network (I think that's what the show was called), and he was mini-featured. Nothing really personal or earth-shattering, just some sound of how he interacts with players. He seems real. Down-to-earth. Makes players want to go out and win for him. And most of all he seems genuine.

I've been bitten by that 'genuine' thing before - I thought Herman Edwards was genuine before he turned into a lying back-stabber. But this seems different.

He has an energy - he's young, and can closely relate to his players. So all that makes him someone you want your players playing for - because they want to play for him. But the reason I like him goes beyond that.

You watch any NFL game on any given week, and you see coaches who are constantly scowling and complaining. It doesn't look like anyone is having any fun.

Mike Tomlin seems different. He's not out there having a grand old time, but he also doesn't look like he's having the worst time of his life, like the other guys.

There's no constant complaining to the refs. There's a face, maybe, and he punches the air - kind of like I think I would do. But then it's back to business. He jumps around and looks excited when good things happen.

And most of all - he smiles a lot. Not just at the end of the game when the win is in hand. During the game. That's a big thing to me.

It's not like I see Mike Tomlin every week, so maybe my observations are way off base. And it just so happens that the day this is posted, the Steelers are playing the Patriots. That's not why I'm writing this - in fact, I think it's again better for the Jets if the Patriots win this week.

Mike Tomlin just seems like a good guy who is easy to root for. Even if he's hard to root for.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

THE BASEBALL NETWORK

If you saw any of the Major League Baseball playoffs this year, you are aware that the MLB Network will begin on January 1, 2009. The advertisements were all over FOX's coverage of the playoffs, and all over the ballparks involved in the post-season.

Needless to say, I'm psyched. But I have high expectations. Here is an example of what I'd want to see on a typical day on MLBTV:

5-8am - 1-hour highlight show of the action from the night before, looped. (See midnight)

8:00am - Random Baseball Game - Every day a random baseball game from any year is shown from 8-11am. The entire library of baseball games would be available to be shown. Might be an important game, might just be the Pirates-Reds game from June 2, 1993. I don't know. Just like putting your iPod on shuffle. Just watch what comes up. And there would never be a repeat...so you'd better set your TiVo, just in case.

11am - Profile - A one-hour special profiling some baseball player - any era, any time. Again, no repeats.

12pm - Baseball Today - A one-hour preview show, previewing the night's (or afternoon's) games. In the off-season, this becomes hot-stove talk.

1pm - Baseball Classics - Different from the Random Baseball Game, this would be a dramatic playoff game or no-hitter from the regular season - a special game like the kind you occasionally catch on ESPN Classic nowadays. There's a one-in-a-million chance that you'd be airing the same game twice in a day between the Classic and Random game - but if it's a Classic, I think that's a chance you want to take.

4pm - College/World Baseball - A show that takes you into the other leagues, to get an idea of who might be the Major Leaguers of tomorrow.

5pm - Who Wants To Be A Season Ticket Holder? - Everyone's favorite baseball trivia game show. Grand Prize is season tickets to the team of your choice.

5:30pm - Fantasy Baseball Today - Must-starts, must-haves, for your baseball league.

6pm - Pre-Game. Similar to the noon show, but leading right up to the evening games.

7pm - Baseball!!! Every night one game should be picked up by the Baseball Network. They don't have to send a crew to every game...though they should do a live broadcast of their own once a week...they just have to pick up a team's feed. They should be able to do it at the last minute, too, to give viewers around the country the best game available on any given night.

10pm - Post-Game - A highlight/recap show, like the old Baseball Tonight. With full box scores on every game.

11pm - The Locker Room - The best post-game reactions/sound from around the league (maybe another one at 2am that includes the West coast games).

12am - Classic 'This Week in Baseball' - episodes from the vault, while we wait for the West Coast games to go final.

Once the West Coast games do go final, the final highlight show of the night is taped, to be replayed through 8am.

And of course, the MLB Draft, the winter meetings, and all MLB-related events would get full coverage.

That's my dream. I'd watch it all day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

TICKET INFO

I'm always proud to say that my dad has had Jets season tickets for more than 40 years. I always thought it might be worth something - impress someone.

Apparently it's worth nothing, and doesn't impress the Jets. And I fear my days of being able to say my dad has been a season ticket holder for the Jets for more than 40 years may be coming to an end.
When the new stadium opens the season after next, there are all sorts of issues. My dad's seats in the current stadium are in the upper deck (they were in the upper deck at Shea Stadium too, and were moved further back when the Jets went to Giants Stadium), so they won't be hit with the Personal Seat Licenses (which declare that you own a seat for every event at a stadium....except when the other team that shares the stadium with you is home....and when there is another event that goes up for grabs between the ticket-holders who share the same seat, I guess).

The fact that you would pay thousands of dollars for this PSL to not have complete ownership of a seat is a crock, in my opinion. Then there's this:

After being told seniority would be honored when it came to seat preferences, and thinking my dad could move his seats towards the front of the upper deck as a result, the Jets have recently come out with paperwork that says seniority would only be considered from 1977 on.

I have a feeling they're not going to go giving my dad his money back from 1965-1977. Way to reward loyalty. It really makes me mad. 1977? Why? The Jets didn't move to Giants Stadium until 1984. This makes no sense to me.

They're probably trying to force people out of long-held season tickets, especially in the upper bowl, where no money is to be made off of bogus PSL's. Then they can knock some people off the waiting list, advertise the fact that they have a shorter waiting list, and then make more money off of charging people an annual fee to get onto the waiting list.

It's disheartening, really. And it's another reason I try to avoid thinking about the business side of sports. And it's another reason I'm rooting so hard for this to be 'the year' - at least this year I have a shot at Super Bowl tickets....in future years I don't know that I'll even have a chance at playoff tickets.

ON A RELATED NOTE: Since my dad has had part of a Mets season-ticket plan in recent years (most recently a Tuesday & Friday deal), the Mets contacted him about the release of ticket plans for next year at Citi Field. Partial plans include 40-game and 15-game packages.

I haven't gotten down for Mets games as often as I wish I could in the past few years, so I told my dad that 15 games would even be too much, unless he could make use of them. And only one of the 15-game packages has Opening Day, which is just about the only game next year that means anything to me right now. If he can somehow get that package (which I'm sure, by virture of its inclusion of Opening Day, will be the most popular of the ticket packages), that would be it for me. That would make my 2009.

Because next year, there's Opening Day at Citi Field, and there's every other game at Citi Field. If I don't make the first game, any other game is just another game at the Mets' new ballpark. Somehow I have to get tickets to that game and I have to get the day off from school. The ticket sale for season-ticket holders starts this week. I have my fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I have a ton I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving, mostly the personal stuff. But you don't come here to read about my wife and daughters - I assume you come to read about the Mets and the Jets. So I'll keep this to the foolish stuff.

And tell you that this year, as a sports fan, I am extremely thankful for the 2008 Jets.

At the very least, if the Jets didn't go any further than the 8-3 at which they now stand, they've taken the bad taste of the end of the Mets' season out of my mouth. At most, they'll give me some playoff football, and I'd be disappointed if it isn't multiple playoff games for the first time in four years.

I'm thankful for Brett Favre. I think it begins and ends with him. The Jets line finally seems to be coming together, and I think it's no coincidence that the less Favre is pressured, the less he makes mistakes. I maintain that Chad Pennington wouldn't be having this same amount of success with the Jets this year because he would have been crushed (physically) by Week 3. Favre is tougher, and battled through some injuries, I think, and now he's not getting hit as much. Put Pennington behind the Jets' line in Week 13, and yes, I think he and Favre would be on equal footing. But not from early in the season...and that's part of the reason he's doing so well in Miami - I don't think he's been touched all year. (I'm also thankful that to this point, rooting for the team I despise to see Pennington succeed hasn't bitten me in the behind.) And I love the youthful joy Favre brings to the team -he makes it fun to root for the team.

And there's one last thing I'm thankful for regarding Brett Favre. I'm thankful he's a Jet. I don't like the way he went about things this off-season, that's for sure. And I slightly dread the fact that the Jets might be the Packers of the past couple of years in the coming off-seasons, the difference being they don't have a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings....but I'm afraid from now on Favre will hold them hostage the way he held Green Bay hostage the past few years. But maybe that's the price you pay for this kind of success.

Point is - I really like Brett Favre. I've rooted for him for a very long time. Remember, I've always had a soft spot for the Packers - maybe it was the yellow in their uniform, maybe it was that they were a playoff team when the Jets were awful. So it was very easy for me to root for him as a Jet - it's like a dream come true for me. Remember a couple of years ago when I mused that Mike Sherman could become the new Jets coach and lure Favre over? It happened, in a different way than I expected, and I'm happy about it. It's not like a guy like John Elway or Dan Marino, both of whom I could never stand, is now quarterbacking my team - it's a guy I've always rooted for.

I know losing seasons. Baseball, football, you name it - I've seen the worst of it. So I think that makes me appreciate the good times even more. And this is a good time. And for that, I'm thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PERHAPS A LITTLE TOO CONFIDENT

The following message was e-mailed to my dad the other day, from the Jets, under the heading "Playoff Ticket News" (and which he forwarded to me with his message, "They sound confident".):

It has come to our attention that there is some confusion with this years Playoff invoices. This week you will be receiving Playoff invoices in the mail. The invoice is also available online. The invoice will contain prices for the Wildcard, Divisional, and Championship games. As a season ticket holder you should ONLY pay for the Divisional and Championship events. These events are 08DIVIS, 08CHAMP, 08DPK, 08CPK. Full payment is due on or before December 15, 2008 in order to secure your playoff ticket request. If you are paying by check your playoff payment should include 2 games, the divisional game and the championship game, and any associated parking. If you are paying by credit card the invoiced amount is correct. If the first game is a wildcard game instead of a divisional game, a credit will be issued to your season ticket account for the difference.

"If the first game is a wildcard game instead of a divisional game....." I understand there's a business aspect here, and it's better to collect more money (for a more expensive divisional game, I guess) than less (for the first round wildcard game), and better to pay people out than to go collecting again...but I'm not entirely comfortable with this.

I'm secretly hoping the Jets host two playoff games. Every time I write about it, though, I couch it with the words like, "If the Jets do what they are supposed to do the rest of the way, and win the games they should....." Because the Jets don't always do what they're supposed to do.

I think mostly of 1993, when at halftime of a Jets-Dolphins game we were at I had the stupid idea of saying to my dad, "How do we get Super Bowl tickets? This is awesome!" I brought it up because the Jets were leading 24-6, in a game there was no way they were going to lose that would put them alone in first place in the division. Then Dan Marino brought the Dolphins back, culminating with the fake spike that ruined the Jets season. They went from 6-4 to 6-10.

All I'm saying is that these things happen to the Jets. And don't think someone like devious Bill Belichick hasn't gone and gotten a copy of this letter and secretly mailed it out to the Jets' remaining opponents, especially the Bills and Dolphins.

I hope, hope, hope I'll be sitting at a divisional playoff game at the Meadowlands in January, and dare I say it, an AFC Championship Game...but I'm not going to talk about it. I hope the Jets' business office doesn't say much about it anymore either.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NFL WEEK 12 RECAP

Another week in the books, and another quick turnaround, with Week 13 starting on Thursday:

BEST GAME OF WEEK 12: I'm not sure there was a best game in Week 12 - the Colts and Chargers might have been the best of the bunch. Giants-Cardinals was good, too - and would have been better had the Cardinals guy caught the onside kick. And Patriots-Dolphins was pretty good...but this week was a bit short on a best game.

BEST PERFORMANCE WEEK 12: You'd think there would be a clear cut favorite in a week where two teams scored 50+ points, but I'll go with the guy whose team scored 48. Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards for the second straight week (415), had three touchdowns versus 1 interception, and also rushed for a TD. He's creating quite a payday for himself for next year.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF WEEK 12: More candidates here than, say, the best game of the week. While I'd like to give it to the Eagles' offense for not being able to tackle Ed Reed (whose record-setting 108-yard interception return was not only bogus because he should have been tackled but which also gave my fantasy opponent a 5-point win rather than a 1-point win for me, costing me any shot at the playoffs...whew, it felt good to get that off my chest), there are other more deserving candidates. Such as the entire Rams team, who never showed up to play the Bears, or the Jaguars, who were down 14-0 before I even had the remote in my hand. But for individual performance, I'll go with Brady Quinn, who went 8-for-18 with just 94 yards and 2 interceptions, losing a winnable game.

BEST GAME IN WEEK 13: Steelers-Patriots
is intriguing to get another guage of where those two teams are at, especially from the standpoint of a Jets fan. But I think of all the NFL games, Carolina-Green Bay is an interesting NFC matchup, as well as Giants-Redskins. The Giants are amazing each week - a division matchup is a good test for them and this is also a huge measuring stick for Washington.

BEST PERFORMANCE PREDICTED IN WEEK 13: I'm going way out on a limb here, and I'm going to serve up a Thanksgiving surprise. Something in my gut (I always listen to my gut when Thanksgiving rolls around) tells me Detroit is going to play Tennessee tough on Thursday. And I think I'm going to pick them to win. They're desperate to get a win, this is their annual show-off game, and they're not going to want to embarrass themselves. Plus, they started out strong against Tampa Bay on Sunday before folding. Maybe this week they play a full game. It's a tall order against Tennessee, but I bet there's a letdown for them after they lost their first game. So I'm going to say Lions 27, Titans 24, as the best performance in Week 13.
-Last Week: I said Tony Romo for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Usually I overestimate, this time I was under. But I was right about him having a big bounceback week, so I'll take credit there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

REFLECTIONS ON WEEK 12

This is not to be confused with the recap of Week 12, which will come tomorrow. But rather, it's a quick touch-base, based on what I wrote last week, about the teams the Jets (and Jets fans) need to worry about.

Titans: Well, the Titans just aren't very good. They're good, but they're not your typical 10-0 type of team. They're kind of like the Jaguars have been the past couple of years, where you see them in the playoffs, and you wonder how they went 12-4...a solid team, but they're not going to win the Super Bowl. Not sure they'll win a playoff game. They might still get the number-one seed in the AFC, though.

Steelers: The Steelers have a tiebreaker over the Jets, so they're still the number two seed right now. And they're kind of up and down - because their quarterback is so up and down. They're the playoff-tried team that probably poses the biggest threat to the Jets the rest of the way (assuming, as I will throughout this entry, that the Jets do what they need to do).

Broncos: I'll still worry about them until I see the Jets beat them next Sunday with my own two eyes (the Jets do not have a history of success against Denver), but I'm not too scared of them. I wrote about them earlier in the year as having one of the seemingly easier schedules in the league, and they haven't done much better than .500 with that schedule. So I think that pretty much sums things up about the Broncos.

Ravens: Until proven otherwise, I'm going to maintain that the Ravens' big win was more a reflection of the disaster that the Eagles have become than an accurate portrait of Baltimore. I think the Ravens are more the team that led 10-7 at the half (good, but not great), than the team that outscored their opponent 26-0 in the second half. But that win has them sitting pretty this week.

Patriots/Dolphins: A big win for New England, beating Miami. The Patriots also helped out the Jets by handing the Dolphins their second division loss. The Patriots moved themselves a notch ahead of Miami, but that can change back next week.

Colts: I think the Colts may have finished off San Diego Sunday night, and they're certainly playing themselves back into contention the past couple of weeks. Still, they're not looking like they used to look.

Bills: The Bills won a game they had to have, but they might have sealed their fate by losing to Cleveland last week.

RIP: Jaguars, Chargers: The Chargers, sadly, might still have a shot at their division, but I think they're done. The Jaguars are no longer a team to worry about - just playing out the string of a very disappointing season.