Palm-sweating and excitement

Masha

Today is a bit bittersweet for me. Usually, we find ourselves sitting on the couch yelling at the TV, involved in mystery-named bowl games where we don’t really know any of the athletes. But we still yell and wonder about the state of BCS football. We wonder aloud when college will admit that they are the minor leagues for the NFL. We religiously watch the Rose Parade and the “big bowls” and argue the merits of who made the NFL playoffs. It is a week of sports overload, one game leading into another, a banquet of delights and amazement, with the spice of poor officiating.

But today is different. Today I just finished the final touches on packing for a vacation where there will be no internet, no TV, no wi-fi. Instead I have more insect repellant than I’ve ever owned at one time. I have moleskin for blisters I’m sure will form. I have hats, and sunscreen, and masks and fins and did I mention an excessive amount of insect repellant? And I’m excited for a wonderful vacation.

And I’m terrified. I’ve never been away from my smartphone/computer for more than 36 hours (yes, yes, I know, it’s good to unplug, no nagging here…). My palms are sweating at the thought of no internet connectivity. My internet sports addiction pokes at me with the glee of an apocalyptic zombie, tasting fresh meat already and knowing it can torture me before finally finishing me off. What? No ‘I’ll just google that guy,’ or ‘how many yards did he have last week?’ No NFL Mobile. No Sportscenter. I’m hyperventilating just thinking about this.

So Happy Chrismahanukwanzikah dear followers, and Happy New Year 2014. Next Sunday I’ll have my 49ers t-shirt on, coated in insect repellant. Pat will have his Arizona Cardinals Fitzgerald jersey on and we’ll be cheering to the sports gods that somehow we’ll learn a score or two before we return to the US.

See you all in January!

NFL Coaches – The Purple Testament

Masha

There’s an episode of Twilight Zone from the first season called “The Purple Testament.” In it, a man sees a “flash of light” across the person’s face when they are going to die. For whatever reason, it was one of those episodes that played repeatedly during my childhood (much like the Star Trek ‘OK Corral’ episode) and is something that has stayed with me over the years. The mystical power of being able to predict someone’s death has always intrigued me.

Today, I’m going to provide my own ‘Purple Testament’ predicting the NFL coaches I believe are not long for this world. I don’t think anyone is getting fired before the end of the season but I believe each of these guys has the glowing face of coaching ‘death’ upon him. Leashes in the NFL are getting shorter and some of these guys haven’t been in the position long, but I don’t see owners living with losing records for long. I think at the end of the season, it’s going to be a blood fest of firings, some reasonable, some obvious, some just for a change. Whatever the reason, I think it’s going to be an apocalypse.

Jason Garrett – Jason doesn’t have just a ‘flash’ of light on his face, he positively shines with a steady, eerie glow. The Cowboys have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory so many times this year that it’s become a bit of a joke on our couch. We have a friend in Texas we imagine we can hear screaming from our distant (and safer) position outside of the state, often with the refrain of “ROOMOO!”

Mike Shanahan and his little dog Kyle – I don’t think there’s a single soul who believes Shanahan will come out on top in the Shanahan/RGIII battle. It amazes me that Dan Snyder hasn’t fired him already. The Kirk Cousins move is working well, but I don’t believe it buys the pair additional time with the Redskins.

Mike Tomlin – Mike has dug a hole for himself with a losing record the last two years. (I know, I know, 500 is not technically ‘losing’ in 2012, but for the Steelers, it was not a stellar year). Although he has an ownership group that tends to be loyal and 5 years of success, I think he’s done in PIttsburgh. I think he still has a long coaching career in front of him, but it’s not going to be with the Steelers. The team doesn’t seem to perform for him and it’s time for someone else to give it a shot. Maybe Whisenhunt will come back…

Leslie Frazier – I like Mr. Frazier. I like how he coaches and I think he’s a good solid manner with his players. But I don’t think he can succeed with the Vikings right now. The team, and therefore Leslie, was adversely impacted by the revolving door at QB, but there are performance issues at more positions than just QB. He has only one winning year of the 4 as head coach. The Vikings looked as bad as any NFL team possibly could this morning and I think today’s game was the final nail.

Mike Munchak – Mike’s only been in position for 3 years, but has a losing record. Oddly enough, I think the death of Bud Adams in October may buy Munchak an additional year, because no one has really stepped into the decision-maker role or consolidated the role enough to fire Munchak. With that said, the team has been a disappointment and nothing breeds leadership confidence like someone taking charge and firing the head coach. Might be a good power play for someone in the organization….

And of course, Gary Kubiak has already joined the crowd invisible, no doubt surfacing somewhere as an OC next year.

Forgive him, Pat can’t work on the blog right now, he’s doing an Arizona Cardinal dance around the house and I can’t predict how long that might last.

NFL Week 16 Picks

Picks get easier as the end of the season approaches, if only because our picks trend toward each other instead of away. Once again we have very similar picks, especially if you remove our ‘automatic’ picks of the Cardinals for Pat and the 49ers for me. Fingers crossed for some amazing games this weekend – some of the losing teams have to be gunning for the playoff-aspiring opponents…

Week 16
Miami Pat Masha Bills
NO Pat Panthers Masha
Vikings Bengals Pat Masha
Broncos Pat Masha Texans
Titans Pat Masha Jaguars
Colts KC Pat Masha
Cowboys Pat Masha Redskins
Browns Pat Masha Jets
TB Rams Pat Masha
AZ Pat Seattle Masha
Giants Lions Pat Masha
NE Pat Masha Ravens
Raiders SD Pat Masha
Steelers GB Pat Masha
Bears Masha Eagles Pat
ATL 49ers Pat Masha

Week – 16 – WOW!

Pat

The second to the last week of the NFL season is upon us. The cool thing is that at least 10 games this week have playoff ramifications and only one division title has been decided.  The Colts have clinched because their division is terrible. I don’t think too many people expect much out of them in the playoffs. I think New England will take their division and the Broncos will take the West  just due to the tiebreaker against K.C. Lastly, I think Cincinnati will take the division and Baltimore may miss out on the playoffs completely due to playing New England and the Bengals the last two games.

In the NFC, it’s even crazier. I think Philly will win the East due to lack of competition in that division. Who knows who will win the North, there are three teams still in the mix there. In the West, Seattle seems to have control of the division with the 49ers having the first wild card. Arizona will be playing for their playoff life at the Seahawks, a very tall order.

They will all be competitive, compelling football games with a lot on the line.  I for one can’t wait to see how it comes out and how much will still be on the line in Week 17.

Masha

Love this part of the NFL season, and this year has proven to be a great guessing game for division winners. But, today I’m focused on tennis. Novak Djokovic has hired Boris Becker to be his ‘head coach’ with Marion Vajda still on the team, but with “more time for his family.” So my question is how do athletes know when they’ve peaked or when they’ve reached their optimal performance level? Novak and Marion are both saying that Becker will be able to help Novak continue improving “certain parts of his game.” Wow – what could that possibly be?

I understand that Djokovic dropped out of number one in the ATP World rankings, but it’s difficult to imagine that his game will be dramatically impacted by Boris. Now, if Becker has joined the team to give Djoker a mental boost and share some of that German mind-steel Becker was famous for, then I’m all for this. But is seems a bit disingenuous to focus on his physical performance, when, based on what I’ve seen in the last two years, he is at his own personal peak. Can Djokovic improve in the mental strength area, yes, although he has made leaps and bounds in this area from the days when he used to withdraw on a regular basis. I’m looking forward to seeing if Becker can have the same immediate impact on his player that Ivan Lendl did for Andy Murray. Should be a great Australian Open on January 13!

Dallas Cowboys – what’s going on here?

Pat

So I said in the coming days I would look at the underachieving NFL teams and the overachieving ones as well and try to figure out what’s gone wrong and/or right with these teams. Everybody seems to love to analyze the Dallas Cowboys, so I will get this one out of the way. I’ve looked at the roster and depth chart to see who’s doing what statistically. I’ve analyzed the coaching staff, specifically the Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator, and of course the General Manager to see if he has hired the right people in these jobs and brought those coaches the players to get the job done. The big failing grade here goes to them all. At a 7 and 7 record, this has to be considered another lost year for the Cowboys. The first one that has to go here is the General Manager and Owner Jerry Jones. Jerry has stuck by Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan, Monte Kiffin and Quarterback Tony Romo because when he fires them it will be admitting that he has continually hired the wrong people and that he is easily one of the worst five General Managers in the NFL.  Philosophically, this team is terrible. They have no balance on offense, even though he has a talented running back, so he puts all the pressure on Romo, who folds under that pressure time and again.  Because he is offensively minded as a GM, he spends all his money on offense and does not have enough talent on the defense to get the job done. The Jerry Jones team philosophy for this team is a big loser and he needs to fire himself as GM and hire a good one.  He says he will never do this, but I believe that when the fed up fans finally quit coming, he will have to make a sensible change to improve his team.

Masha

I agree with Pat that the primary responsibility for the Dallas Cowboys’ performance failures ultimately lies with Jerry Jones. Jerry Jones as the Owner/GM is the worst case scenario. It’s like a physician treating himself for cancer. He’s so close to the situation that he can’t see the problems and instead sticks “loyally” with combinations that are not successful. No one has enough power at this point to challenge his decisions, and those that seem to have tried to challenge him have been dismissed from the organization. Until Mr. Jones steps back from the GM role and allows another viewpoint to enter into discussions, the Cowboys will continue to default to their pass-oriented, “seizing defeat from the jaws of victory” pattern they have languished in for years. I don’t believe for a second that Mr. Jones’ ego will allow him, declining fan base or not, sensible decision or not, to allow an actual GM to make decisions for the Cowboys organization.

NFL Week 15 picks

Masha

We’ve been picking NFL games for a long time and betting our favorite things as a reward. This year, we changed the format a bit and went to a season-long total, rather than a week to week total. Here’s our Week 15 picks, and, to the best of my swiss-cheese memory, it is the only time we’ve selected only one game differently from each other. Thanks Romo, for making my pick the best ever…

Week 15
Chargers     Broncos Pat Masha
Redskins     ATL Pat Masha
49ers Pat Masha    TB
Seattle Pat Masha    Giants
Eagles Pat Masha    Vikings
NE Pat Masha     Miami
Bills    Jaguars Pat Masha
Texans    Colts Pat Masha
Bears Pat Masha      Browns
KC Pat Masha     Raiders
Jets      Panthers Pat Masha
GB Pat      Cowboys Masha
AZ Pat Masha   Titans
NO Pat Masha   Rams
Bengals Pat Masha    Steelers
Ravens   Lions Pat Masha
After tonight’s game, we’ll add the wins/losses into our total. Through Week 14, Pat = 124-83-1, Masha = 120-87-1. Oh, and a special thanks to Jerry Jones for being the best GM ever. (Wish there was a special font for sarcasm…)

Friday soapbox spouting

Pat

Once in while I just have to get on my soapbox.  “According to sources,” the Media says, “Mack Brown will be fired Friday,” they said yesterday.  When it did not happen, there are no consequences for the reporter.  “According to sources,” says a reporter, “Saban is going to be the next head coach at Texas.”  When it doesn’t happen there are no consequences.  We have no idea if there are sources or if this reporter just wants this to happen.  This would be unethical and illegal!  It happens every day.  The only way to stop this is for the affected party to sue the media.  This practically never happens because it is almost impossible to win and the coach or player bringing the suit is accused of being against free speech.  The media can effectively say anything they want to about anybody, true or false, with no ramifications.  This needs to change. There needs to be somebody reviewing these practices and bringing the guilty parties to justice.  OK, off soapbox.

As for Thursday Night Football, San Diego upsetting the Broncos at home really muddies up the AFC playoff picture.  The Chargers are back in contention for a wild card birth and the Chiefs are back in the AFC West divisional race. This makes many games important this week.  But especially Monday night’s Baltimore vs. Detroit, which will have playoff implications.  I will enjoy watching the games!

Masha

I will agree that there seems to be much more speculation in the sports media than there used to be. Most of it is done without the addition of an “in my opinion” statement. Now, I’m not against speculation – that’s precisely what this blog is about. However, sports media in general seems to be driving the Mack Brown/Nick Saban truck much more than the viewing public. We just returned from a trip in Austin and no one was discussing Mack Brown’s job, they were talking more about the team’s performance. Unfortunately, the 24/7 media cycle drives some of this speculation – they’d have nothing to talk about if they stayed with “just the facts, ma’am.” So while I understand this drives you crazy, honey, I think this style of reporting is here to stay… I’ll just bring you a vodka when it really gets to you.

Pat
As the winter meetings wind down, there have been a lot of signings and trades that will make an impact.  There will be more in the next couple of weeks. What I like to do this time of year is let the dust settle and then look at everyone’s rosters and see who I think will contend for the coming season. I will do that over the next couple of months.
 
But now the real fun is what’s happening in the NFL. With three games left, we are seeing what teams are really contending for the playoffs and which are not. The big surprises for me are on the negative side. Pittsburgh and Houston are big disappointments in the AFC. The Giants, Redskins and Falcons have had very disappointing seasons in the NFC. These teams have gone from major contenders to bottom rung in one season.
 
On the positive side of the ledger, the Chiefs have totally turned it around in the AFC and the Cardinals and Panthers are much improved in the NFC. In the coming days, I will look really closely at all these teams and try to figure out why the turn around. I like to try to find reasons for negative and positive changes in teams, so I can figure out what they need to do stop the bleeding or what they can do to keep improvements going in the right direction.  
 
Masha
What a crazy NFL season so far. Pat’s right, there are some big surprises in performance this year and the teams who had been struggling several years ago are really coming on. Could be new coaching (KC), could be younger players growing into their position (Carolina). One of the things I believe directly impacts team performance is the NFL draft. You can see the bottom rung team making big moves when one or more of their rookies or second year guys starts to perform. Carolina Panthers are a great example of this.
 
The team in the news this week is the Redskins. Who knows if Mike Shanahan (and probably Kyle too) will be around next year, but RGIII will be. He performed so well in his rookie year, until the knee injury, and now it seems like the Shanahan/Griffin sniping has impacted the rest of the team’s performance. All I know is the Redskins look like a hot mess on the field and the Hogs can’t love that. The Falcons and the Giants are the mystery to me. The Falcons look like they’re playing in cement and Eli looks uncertain of himself and his passing ability. Both teams are going to have to take some hard looks at their personnel and figure out what’s going wrong this year.
 
Houston has already addressed what they perceive to be part of their problem (sorry, Gary) and I’m concerned Mike Tomlin will be looking for a job at the end of the season. Maybe Whisenhunt will come back to the Steelers…

MLB Winter Meetings

We’ve spent years talking about sports on our couch and now we’re looking to share these discussions (read: arguments) to the web. That’s what this blog will be about – our current ideas and what we’re talking about. We’ll also share our ongoing sports bets (we only bet with each other…) and our predictions, made from the fan’s view distilled from the media stream that is sports announcing today.

Masha

Baseball winter meetings give us a chance to make some predictions and argue about money. This was an interesting year since so much activity happened prior to the winter meetings; several big deals hinted toward big movers for next year.

The Mariners are tired of languishing in the AL, trapped in a time zone that captures a narrow base of MLB fans. The Cano deal was huge for them and I think they will make a couple of additional moves to bolster their strong pitching.

This year, several free agents in the mix have the steroids specter haunting them. The teams they’re on are eager to share with the desperate teams who just need something, anything to help them win. Nelson Cruz will not be with the Rangers next year, despite being a big hitter they rely on in a pinch. Nellie served his 50 game penalty and so in theory has no other issues outstanding (that we know of…), but Ron Washington needs a successful year and Cruz doesn’t look to be in that lineup.

I think Nellie is going to the Mariners, a strong bat to protect Cano and give them an outfield option.

Pat

This is my favorite time of year for the MLB.  It’s fascinating to see who’s looking to make big moves to contend next year, and what they believe they need to accomplish it.

It’s fun to see the Yankees in a big mess.  Though they have lost some big players and signed a couple also, until the A-rod situation is sorted out, nobody knows what they will look like next year.  Good look Yankees!

It’s good to see teams like the Mariners make big moves to contend in the AL West.  I agree with Masha that Cruz will probably end up there too.  Choo would be the best move for the Rangers, which could make the AL West a very tight race next year.

Some of the smaller moves can also make big improvements for some teams.  Trumbo to the D-backs could help their offense a lot.  The Rockies are working on pitching and depth.  I predict the NL West will be much improved and much more competitive next year.

Stay tuned for more as the Winter meetings progress and finish, many more big and small deals will be made and Masha and I will try to figure out who did well and who did not.