What I Hate About Watching Football
Besides the action on the screen (no matter how much I will it otherwise) not conforming to the needs of my fantasy teams, my real life team, my picks against the spread, my survivor pick, my FFL guru picks, the advice I gave all week or my side of the arguments with Mike Salfino, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don, Jeff Erickson and many others, some of whom I've never met, there are some things I really hate about watching football every Sunday.
In no particular order, they are:
The commercials: They're not merely an unwelcome break from a game in which most of the clock elapses between rather than during plays, but they're also at best grating and at worst offensive. Consider the Nyquil commercial where NFL players (at substantially raised volume) snore into my living room. I don't care about your product, and I definitely don't want to hear their snot or maybe their uvula swishing around against their larynx, or whatever it is that makes the snoring sound.
How about those Coors commercials with the Cowboy-sounding voice-over? "When you're set in your ways, you stay true to yourself?" WHAT?!?! You mean if you're the type of imbecile that feels no need whatsoever to adapt to changing circumstances, then you should drink Coors? I'll drink Coors Light when I want something that tastes like club soda with 2 percent alcohol in it, but I do so knowing it barely qualifies as beer, and there's no reason whatsoever to drink Coors "Banquet" beer. What does that even mean? And let's not get started on Bud Light which requires an ongoing multimillion dollar ad campaign designed to create associations with football and hot chicks. If Bud Light stopped advertising even for one week, and those links in people's brains faded, causing them actually to taste the product they were ingesting, that would be the end of Bud Light.
The other problem is ads are rarely funny (though they try so hard to be), and they repeat endlessly on every channel. The only ones I can stand are the bizarre Ray Lewis Old Spice ones. Whoever came up with those is obviously insane and deserves credit.
The announcers: Whether it's the Thursday crew servilely praising every player on the Ravens and Falcons, or trotting out cliches so hackneyed, you thought even the very worst knew by now to avoid them: "Anquan Boldin's not a wide receiver - he's a football player," or Troy Aikman insisting Tom Coughlin had "no choice" but to punt on 4th-and-short at midfield down 13 points in the 4th quarter to the Cowboys, it makes you want to defenestrate your TV. And while I can see the argument for punting in that situation (though I disagree with it), Aikman's mind is closed even to the possibility of going for it. Moreover, he justified the punt by saying Coughlin couldn't trust his defense if they didn't convert. But it's exactly the opposite. If you don't trust your defense, you *must* go for it because that's the only chance you have. If you punt down 13 with 11 minutes left, and your defense can't get stops, you'll never have time for two scoring possessions. The argument for the punt is that you trust your defense to get you the ball back.
Curt Menafee and James Brown. And Andrew Siciliano, too: First off, they cut in with highlights that are 10-15 minutes old and that we've already seen, so they serve no purpose. But far worse is that transparently fake cheerful tone they both have all the time. Are you covering the NFL or auditioning to be Santa Claus? And perhaps worse still are the cloyingly bad segues - Menafee yesterday said: "It is windy, and right now the Bears are beginning to blow it open!" Get it. "Windy" and "Blow" - they go together. Siciliano isn't quite as bad, but his cheerfulness usually gets me off the red-zone channel and back to manually flipping during commercials. Which brings me to...
Direct TV's blacked out channels: It's extremely annoying, especially given the delay between pressing the remote and the channel changing that two of the games are on CBS and Fox, and are not accessible on the Sunday Ticket channels. We're paying for DirecTV, paying for the Sunday Ticket AND watching ads. Just give us the damn channels consecutively so it's easy to switch.
The referees: How did Roddy White get away with shoving a defender to the ground before getting wide open on the game's winning touchdown? How does Terrell Suggs get called for a 15-yard facemask when he was the one getting facemasked? I get that the refs are human, and no one's perfect, but there are game-changing terrible calls around the league every single week.
Hank Williams, Jr.: Does anyone actually get psyched up for the Monday Night game due to that soulless jingle? Because that's what it's for, right? It couldn't possibly be there to insult our intelligence and musical taste.
What I Love About Watching Football
The action on the field. It's the best, most compelling sport we have. Even if it makes me insane 90 percent of the time I'm watching it.
Things to Take Away from Week 10
• Peyton Hillis (19 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD, 4 catches 27 yards against the Jets) is matchup proof. Benjarvus Green-Ellis (18 carries, 87 yards, 4 catches, 36 yards against the Steelers) might be matchup-neutral, though he's not reliable enough to be "matchup proof."
• Jahvid Best (at least for now) is "matchup irrelevant." I don't know whether it's the turf toe, or poor run blocking, but 17 for 35 against the Bills is damning.
• Despite being financially set for life and married to arguably the hottest woman in the world, Tom Brady seems as hungry as ever. He still needs a reliable deep threat to be a top-5 QB, though.
• Unless Mike Singletary wants to get run out of town, there can be no quarterback controversy in San Francisco - Troy Smith (356 yards, 12.7 YPA, no picks) is the guy. Same with Colt McCoy in Cleveland.
• The Dolphins are possibly the only team in history who can downgrade to third-string QB and break even.
• Except for the Panthers, the Cardinals are probably the worst team in the NFL.
• The Bears defense is a top-five real-life unit.
• Ahmad Bradshaw is a factor (6 catches, 62 yards) in the passing game when the Giants play from behind. Brandon Jacobs (5 carries 17 yards) is a nonfactor in that case.
• With Steve Smith out, Kevin Boss will see more targets and should be a viable starter at tight end (7 targets, 5 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD Sunday).
• Shonn Greene had 20 carries to LaDainian Tomlinson's 18, though Tomlinson caught 6 passes to Greene's 3.
• The fantasy Gods do not discriminate between contested games and garbage time. If you went against Matt Cassel, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe or Jamaal Charles, you probably know that.
• If the Eagles win the NFC East, Michael Vick should be on the short list for NFL MVP. I'm not sure any quarterback in the league can play as well as Vick did on Monday night - either in fantasy or reality.
Things to Watch for in Week 11
• The Giants traveling to Philly to face Michael Vick's Eagles
• Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in New England.
• The division-leading Raiders in Pittsburgh.
• The Packers heading to Minnesota to snuff out Brett Favre's presumable last hope of making the playoffs.
Beating the Book
Packers -3 at Vikings
I know the Packers are the better team right now, but laying three in Minnesota is a lot to ask. There's so much baggage between these two teams, season records and past performance are almost irrelevant. I think the Vikings will stick around. Back Minnesota.
Packers 22 - 21
We lost with the Redskins last week to go 6-4 in this forum and 67-72-5 on the season. We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Wednesday night.
Surviving Week 11
Having used the Giants and Colts already, I picked the Niners in this space, and I wish I had stuck with them. I wound up switching to the Steelers and going down in my last pool on Sunday night.
I specifically steered away from the Bucs because 55 percent of all pools were on them, and hence the payout was poor, even relative to their greater likelihood of winning. While I'm convinced using both variables (win likelihood AND expected payout) is the best strategy for winning your pool, I'm also sure it'll cause me to lose earlier rather than later, and also more frequently (in the column at least).
I accept that completely in my own pools because I know I have a better chance to win it all doing it this way, so if I lose Week 2 or Week 6, no big deal. But in writing the column, frankly it looks bad. It looks better to win for 12 weeks and lose in Week 13, than it does to gamble in Week 2, lose, gamble again in subsequent weeks, lose and keep gambling. Even though *when* you lose doesn't change how much you owe to the pool.
So I have a dilemma here. On the one hand, I can't not pick the teams which give you the best chance to win the whole thing based on pot equity just for cosmetic reasons. On the other, even if I'm 100 percent right, the odds of winning your pool are slim, no matter what method you use. So picking the uglier and riskier one - even if it doubles your chances of winning from say 1 to 2 percent - is likely never to be vindicated - unless I do this for 20-30 more years, and we compare results over a much larger sample.
So I think the answer is to keep doing it this way, but to note even more clearly which team I'd pick if I didn't care about the payout. I don't want to have two teams, so the expected equity pick is always going to be my real one, but for those who just want to play it one week at a time, I'll highlight that separately. (I already do put the percentage in the percentage chance to win for each team, but it seems people are missing that. Yes, I had Tampa ahead of Pittsburgh and San Francisco as a 1-week propositon. But my pick was Pittsburgh based on the expected equity.
As for this week, let's take a look at the numbers:
Among these teams, I'd probably go with the Ravens first, the Chargers second, and the Saints third. I think the Ravens will be focused off a loss to the Falcons, and they face arguably the worst team in the league offensively. The Chargers and Saints have more dangerous opponents, so they slot behind Baltimore. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Wednesday night.