Archive for the ‘Unabated to the Quarterback’ Category

Unabated to the Quarterback: The NFC East

We’re taking a different route with our NFL preview this season. Eschewing typical predictions—those require some form of legitimate knowledge—we’re asking what each NFL team means. An NFL season is a research paper, and each team enters it with a thesis statement.

New York Giants (11-5)

Why Aren’t the Giants Any Better?

“Virtue is nothing but a just temper between propensities any one of which, if indulged to excess, becomes vice.” —Thomas Babington Macaulay

Our introductory question is perhaps a counterintuitive one, given how, you might remember, the Giants won the Super Bowl last season for the second time in five years. But New York was, by the basic measurements, the worst team to ever do so: Its 9-7 record was the worst by an eventual champion, and no team had ever advanced to the Super Bowl after accumulating a negative point differential during the regular season, let alone win one.

It is hard to reconcile, then, these two different Giants teams — the one that was so thoroughly mediocre during the regular season (they lost to the Redskins! Twice!) and the one that steamrolled the 15-1 Packers and edged the Niners and the Patriots in the playoffs. Which team are the Giants really?

The answer, and this has been true for some time, is frustratingly in the middle. The Giants are a flawed team capable of overcoming those flaws in short bursts but not, it seems, for sustained stretches.* They are the modern sports franchise that thrives when it is counted out: the embodiment of every “Nobody believed in us!” cliché. The us-against-the-world mentality seems particularly powerful in football, a sport so built on emotion and where wanting it more might actually mean something.

*The counter-argument you can make here is the first dozen games of 2008, when New York was 11-1.

On the other hand, the Giants would also be better served if the NFL were like the NBA, where mediocre regular seasons were routinely rewarded with playoff berths, so New York could coast from Weeks 1 to 17 and then do its thing each January.

People believe in the Giants again, which is precisely why they shouldn’t. Continue reading

Prior to the Snap: Super Bowl XLVI

So here we are: This is it.

I should have asked earlier; do you want an epigraph? Only one?

Knock yourself out: “It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams.” —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” —Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”

“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.” —Ibid

“This, to use an American term, in which discovery, retribution, torture, death, eternity appear in the shape of a regularly repulsive nutshell, was it.” —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Those last two sound familiar: There are only so many that work that well for a Super Bowl.

Are you at least excited for this one? Obviously. But two weeks is still too long. This game needs to be played the week after the championship games.

But a week’s too short! Play the game on Wednesday!

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Prior to the Snap: Championship Sunday

Let’s dispense of the formalities and get right to it:

#2 BALTIMORE AT #1 NEW ENGLAND

You ready to get Gronked? That sounds disgusting.

What percentage of Patriots fans have worked the verb “Gronk” into their regular vocabulary? I haven’t heard it yet, but I assume 100. “Gronk,” interestingly enough, is almost always modified by the adverb “totally” and takes the direct object “workout.”

Now seriously, can the Ravens stop Rob Gronkowski? I wouldn’t frame the question that way. Stopping the Patriots isn’t about stopping any one of their wide receivers/tight ends (and like, what’s the difference; we can even throw running back into that slash line) so much as it is about stopping Tom Brady. How does one stop Tom Brady? You get pressure on him, obviously.

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Prior to the Snap: Divisional Playoff Sunday

#3 HOUSTON AT #2 BALTIMORE

Does anybody care? Presumably the people in Baltimore and Houston.

And you are? Not there.

So let’s do this one quick: The Texans are the Ravens, just a little worse at everything (except running the ball, I suppose). Combine that with the home-field advantage for Baltimore, plus the fact that the Ravens have already beaten the Texans while playing a below-average game, and it all adds up to a Ravens win, right?

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Prior to the Snap: Divisional Playoff Saturday

Since Divisional Playoff weekend is far and away the best weekend of football every year, we’re splitting up my monstrously digressive predictions into two parts. Here’s my take on Saturday’s showdowns:

#3 NEW ORLEANS AT #2 SAN FRANCISCO

First off, what’s the best thing about this Divisional Playoff weekend? That the #1 seeds didn’t get screwed this year. As Pierre has mentioned before but probably won’t discuss at length this year for lack of relevant examples, the NFL’s second round has been hurt in recent years by improper seeding regulations. Now, as you know, the NFL rewards divisional winners with home games in the first round regardless of record (thus, 8-8 Denver hosting 12-4 Pittsburgh). I’m cool with this. The problem comes in the second round, when the NFL re-seeds (i.e. the top seed plays the worst remaining seed); however, the league does this based on seed instead of record, still for some reason rewarding division winners at the expense of top seeds. So most years, the #1 seed ends up playing a better team in the second round than the #2 seed. Continue reading

Prior to the Snap, SUPER BOWL XLV!

“The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity.”

“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

So, you excited for this Super Bowl? It’s almost exactly like last year to me. Look, when your team is in the Super Bowl, those two weeks are amazing; you think about the game every day. When your team is not in the Super Bowl, you almost forget football season is still going on. I’m watching Saturday night’s SportsCenter as I type this, and the Super Bowl wasn’t mentioned until 20 minutes into the show.

You can’t expect it to be ahead of BYU-UNLV, can you? Fredette is the Mountain West’s all-time leading scorer? Where’s Keith Van Horn at?

So I’m guessing you don’t think the Pro Bowl is a perfect lead-up to the big game? You know what jumped the shark three years ago? “Irrelevance of the Pro Bowl” jokes.

So I’m guessing you don’t think Super Bowl Media Day is a perfect lead-up to the big game? Ugh, Super Bowl Media Day. If you ever want to talk about the media falling in love with itself…

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Prior to the Snap: Championship Sunday

After achieving what I perceived to be metaphysical perfection with my Week 9 Unabated to the Quarterback post on the Oakland Raiders, I decided to take the rest of the season off. But now that we’re down to the NFL’s Final Four, I’m back. And back. And back.

Come on, I write 2,000 words weekly about Pretty Little Liars. The conference championships clearly merit double that. Enjoy.

#6 GREEN BAY PACKERS AT #2 CHICAGO BEARS

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