Posts Tagged ‘Unabated to the Quarterback’

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: 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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Unabated to the QB, Week 9: The Autumn Wind Is a Raider

“Our task as men is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks men take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.”

—Albert Camus, “The Almond Trees”

We have to be moderate here. The Raiders are not back.

The Raiders’ odds of making the playoffs this season are not very good. They have a killer schedule the rest of the way, having to go to Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and San Diego, not to mention tough home dates with Miami and Indianapolis. I don’t see them winning more than one of those games.

But we also have to understand how low Oakland had fallen these last seven years. Not only were the Raiders never in the playoffs, they were never in playoff contention. They hadn’t won three in a row since 2002, hadn’t been over .500 in November since 2002. As bad as the Bills and Lions have been in that stretch, they’ve at least had years that looked promising. Buffalo was 4-0 two years ago; Detroit was 6-2 three seasons ago.

Not the Raiders. Here are Oakland’s records through nine games in each of the last seven seasons: 2-7, 2-7, 2-7, 2-7, 3-6, 3-6, 2-7. So when we say they haven’t been over .500 in November since 2002, we also have to point out that they haven’t been .500 in November since 2002. They haven’t been within a game of being .500 in November since 2002.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 8: The Rolling Stone


“A man’s works often retrace the story of his nostalgias or his temptations, practically never his own history especially when they claim to be autobiographical. No man has ever dared describe himself as he is.”

—Albert Camus, “The Enigma”

How exactly will we remember Randy Moss?

Figuring out the legacies of football players is difficult. Just ask the NFL Network, which recently released its compilation of the 100 greatest players in NFL history to much criticism. Football isn’t baseball, where individual stats are fairly reliable. Football isn’t basketball, where a star player can and should take over almost every game. How do you judge a quarterback such as Joe Montana who played in a revolutionary offense with the receiver who NFL Network called the greatest player in the league’s history? Steve Young didn’t do too badly himself behind Montana, but does that take away from Joe or just mean that Steve was also really, really good?

These kinds of questions are ubiquitous in thinking retroactively about football players, and the topic of legacy is particularly problematic when it comes to wide receivers. At the receiver position, there is Jerry Rice, and there is everyone else. I’m not sure if Rice is indeed the greatest player in the history of the sport, but I am sure that the gap between him and the next-best receiver is wider than the gap between the best and second-best at any other position.

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Unabated to the QB, Week 7: Ending the Fantasy

“So it was with me as I peacefully died of my cure.”

—Albert Camus

This weekend finally sealed it. At season’s end, I am officially retiring from fantasy football.

I have made this threat before. In fact, it’s been kind of a mid-aughts Favrian period from me along these lines, where I consider retirement without ever making the leap (thus the distinction between mid-aughts Favre and late-aughts Favre).

I have long deplored the aesthetics of fantasy sports. In fact, I’ve already explained this earlier in the season. To wit:

“Now, I despise the idea behind fantasy football. To me, it’s a compensatory hobby designed to manufacture allegiances when you don’t otherwise have one. I don’t care who wins this game, so I will root for Aaron Rodgers to throw a touchdown pass to Donald Driver for Green Bay, and for LeSean McCoy to have a nice performance for the Eagles. This will make me happy. Fantasy football, then, is something I patently don’t need. I love the Giants, and therefore I have a strong rooting interest in almost any game that includes an NFC team. Over time, I have developed a hierarchy of affection in the AFC, and so I have mild rooting interests in its games as well. I cannot think of a single time I have watched an NFL game completely indifferent to its outcome. Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Week 1: The NATIONAL Football League

“Everything that exalts life at the same time increases its absurdity.”

–Albert Camus

“Even I kinda like football, and I hate football.”

–John S

A couple of weeks ago, as the NFL preseason started getting underway with its accompanying Hosannas and Alleluias and Football’s Back!s, John started complaining to me about the sport’s apparent uber-relevance. Indeed, since the end of last football season, Sports Illustrated has devoted seven covers to baseball and six to football — despite the fact that only 16 football games have been played while roughly 2,160 baseball games have been contested.* There were four off-season football covers for SI; baseball had one off-season cover between 2009 and 2010, and that was for Derek Jeter earning Sportsman of the Year. Sigh.

*For the record, those covers are of Brady, the preview issue,** Chris Johnson, Miles Austin, Ben Roethlisberger, and Sam Bradford for football. For baseball, they’re Joey Votto, the Year of the Pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Braden, the Yankees’ Core Four, Roy Halladay, and Matt Wieters.***

**It should also be noted that SI’s baseball preview issue is not split into regional covers the way the football issue is. This goes against my eventual point (that football is vastly more prominent on a national scale), which is just another reason why I hate regional covers (that post is forthcoming, btw).

***Matt Wieters? Matt Wieters. Continue reading

Unabated to the Quarterback: The Last Judgment in the Preseason, AFC

In case you missed yesterday’s Part I, discussing the NFC, here’s a helping hand.

16. Buffalo Bills (3-13)

If any team is going 0-16 this season, it is the Buffalo Bills. Aside from C.J. Spiller, they have little discernible talent, and they just made arguably the least inspired coaching hire in the history of the NFL.* They play in a division with three strong to quite strong playoff contenders, and they will almost certainly lose five of their six division games. And they still have the ugliest uniforms in football.

*Chan Gailey? Really? I know multiple Bills fans who were more depressed by the Gailey hiring than they are by living in and around Buffalo.

As for Spiller, though, that guy is going to be GOOD.

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