From Football

This Week in Football + Futbol [Dec 4]

soccer at meadowlands

hiding from world cup draw simulators

What a month it’s been! Between wasting hours on World Cup draw simulators and watching AFC teams do their best to NOT make the playoffs, it’s been quite the emotional rollercoaster for fans of these two sports. But this week is crazier than ever…so GET READY!

World Cup Draw, 11am on Friday
The draw might sound like a glorified Powerball selection, but I promise it’ll be a nail-biter. Everything is on the line, and ending up in the Group of Death can seal a country’s fate an entire six months before kickoff. In true FIFA form, they’ve introduced a mysterious “Pot X” to shake things up and sound dramatic. But in reality it’s nothing drastic – the new rules simply ensure that three European teams can’t end up in the same group. Pot X or not, the teams look absolutely terrifying, and this is one of the toughest fields in a long time. For USA fans, the possibility of a Group of Death with Brazil, Netherlands, and Italy is more depressing than Tim Howard shaving his beard. My advice? Cancel your meetings, hold a paper bag, and pray to Sir Ian Darke – the draw is here!

Fantasy Football Playoffs
As a Jets fan, fantasy football is my only hope for happiness in the NFL. I control my own fate (to an extent), which is a wonderful respite from the never-ending turmoil of following Rex, Geno, and the antics of Gang Green. For most fantasy players, this is the first week of playoffs, where your regular season success goes out the window and you’re at the mercy of injuries, infuriating coaching decisions, and other factors that can result in a dud week for even the most reliable starters. If you don’t play fantasy, I advise you to maintain a ten foot distance from anyone who does during the hours of noon to midnight on Sunday. If you do play and survived into the playoffs – may the odds be ever in your favor.

Colts @ Bengals, 1pm on Sunday
We’re just going to go ahead and ignore the heinous situation that is the AFC sixth seed. If you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole, I recommend the NFL Playoff Machine, partially because I built it and am shamlessly self-promoting, and partially because it’ll kill the next six hours of your life. Anyway, the matchup to watch this week is Colts-Bengals. They’re both pretty much guaranteed to make the playoffs at 8-4, but they’re neck and neck as the third and fourth seeds. Indy wins the tiebreaker currently, and a win over the Bengals would seal that position. Why is the third seed so important? They play the sixth seed in the first round of the playoffs, which is pretty appetizing in the AFC this year (see above).

With only four weeks left in the NFL regular season, and the biggest international soccer event until the World Cup on Friday, you should probably just park yourself on the couch Thursday through Monday. Who needs sunlight anyway?

This Week in Football + Futbol [Oct 22]

soccer at meadowlands

no vuvuzelas at the meadowlands? the nerve!

Welcome back to the second installment of This Week in Football + Futbol! If you’re new and wondering what all this weekly column nonsense is about, you can check out my first attempt here. If you’re back because you loved my scintillating original post, then I shower you with gratitude and unicorns. Enjoy!

NFL Teams Are Hurtin’
Week 7 was painful, literally. We saw a slew of major contributors go down with season-ending injuries – Reggie Wayne (Colts WR) with a torn ACL, Brian Cushing (Texans LB) with a broken leg and torn LCL, Leon Hall (Bengals CB) with an Achilles tear, Sam Bradford (Rams QB) with a torn ACL, and Jermichael Finley (Packers TE) with a terrifying collision that resulted in a severe neck injury. And those are just the season-ending ones. It’ll take a much longer post than this to talk about the larger picture here, but Sunday was yet another jarring day in the saga that is the truth about NFL player safety. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t recommend Frontline’s League of Denial enough, it’s truly eye-opening. Looking forward to Week 8, the array of injuries bring some interesting story lines to matchups that look pretty yawn-worthy on paper. Can the terrible Giants eke out another win over the QB-less Eagles? Will Geno avoid another pick six without Hall suiting up? Will the British become avid football (not futbol!) fans watching the Jags get stomped at Wembley? Yeah that last one was a joke.

UEFA Playoff Draw
In the final round of World Cup qualifying, the UEFA region has some interesting matchups after this week’s playoff draw. Portugal-Sweden, Ukraine-France, Greece-Romania, Iceland-Croatia – the winners punch their ticket to Brazil. By far the best story line here is Ibrahimovic vs. Ronaldo, two star players who have lifted their respective teams to contenders on the international stage. November will be fun.

Cowboys @ Lions, 1pm on Sunday
NFC showdown! Both these teams have a lot riding on this game. The Lions are 4-3 and and right on the heels of the division-leading Packers, and Dallas is also 4-3 on top of the NFC East with the Eagles only one game back. Depending on how their divisions shake out, both these teams could be vying for a playoff wild card spot, where a conference win is crucial. To add to the excitement, the Cowboys are 30th in the league against the pass, so we may be in for another Megatron explosion. Plus, it’s always fun trying to predict which Tony Romo will show up on Sunday. If it’s the Week 5 one we’re in for quite the shootout!

World Cup Draw Simulator Magically Appears on the Internet…
…immediately destroys productivity. Say goodbye to the next two hours (and months) of your life! Here’s the link, you’ve been warned. Other than resulting in total mania for futbol fans, this simulator shows just how competitive this World Cup field is. Any way you shake it, the groups look pretty ridiculous. As if we couldn’t get any more pumped for a World Cup in Brazil, this tournament is going to be a month of incredible futbol and crazy upsets. CAN’T WAIT!

This Week in Football + Futbol [Oct 14]

soccer at meadowlands

futbol in a football stadium – it’s a beautiful thing

I’m trying something new and I need your full support to help me through this journey – a weekly column! Welcome to the first edition of This Week in Football + Futbol, an attempt to bring together my two favorite sports that are traditionally on opposite ends of the sports fan spectrum. I’ll focus on the NFL, for those of us who love devoting 12 hours on Sunday (and Thursday and Monday…) to the most American of sports, and on international soccer, for those of us who love supporting America as an underdog in the world’s biggest sport. Here goes!

Pats @ Jets, 1pm on Sunday
My first one and I already want to hide under my bed and delete this post forever. For us Jets fans, the only thing worse than playing the Pats is playing the Pats a week after Brady throws a beautiful game-winning touchdown and we suffer a devastating loss to the hated Steelers. Really, it doesn’t get much worse than this. The silver lining? Final touchdown aside, Brady is clearly not himself this season. While a lot of the blame lies with his crappy receiving corps, his accuracy has been downright un-Bradylike. Time to bring back the hair? There’s so much hate in this rivalry, and the Jets D is a force to be reckoned with, so tune in on Sunday to see it all go down at the Meadowlands! Wilfork vs. Rex sideline eating contest anyone?

FIFA World Rankings released Thursday
The monthly FIFA Rankings are usually a source of amusement for international soccer fans. Oh you mean the organization that thinks it’s a good idea to move the World Cup to winter can accurately rank teams with no bias whatsoever? Hah. Unfortunately, this Thursday’s release has real life implications for Brazil 2014 – they’ll be used to determine what countries will be seeded in the World Cup draw this December. The US has never been seeded, and the chances are slim this time, but we’ve seen crazier things from Sepp Blatter!

Return of the Backup QBs
Week 6 had Nick Foles, Thad Lewis, and Mike Glennon as top ten fantasy QBs, above Brees and Peyton. Sometimes fantasy makes you want to punch a wall. Sometimes fantasy makes you actually punch that wall. Anyway, keep an eye out to see if any of these guys can sustain those numbers, unless they’re unseated by injuries and/or a returning QB. Foles is making a strong case to keep the reins when Vick comes back, so we might get an always-fun QB controversy as a bonus.

Mexico @ Costa Rica, 9:30pm on Tuesday
International soccer takes rivalries to a new level. Americans aren’t good at accepting inferiority, and Mexico’s historical dominance in CONCACAF has created tension of epic proportions (sharing a border doesn’t help either). I could go on, but to get a real idea you should read accounts of USA vs. Mexico in Estadio Azteca. But for the first time, Mexico has struggled in World Cup qualifying, losing to the US in a repeat of “Dos A Cero!” along the way. Not qualifying for Brazil is a very real possibility for El Tri, and tomorrow’s match is a must-win to stay alive. If their victory over Panama on Friday with this insane bicycle kick goal is any indicator that Chicharito and crew are out for blood, you can’t miss this one.

Check back next week for round two!

It’s here.

One. Hour. I’m all jittery and no it’s totally not from that double-shot latte I had this morning. The worst summer in the history of the NFL is finally over and it’s time for some FOOTBALL! (No people, preseason isn’t real football.) I know how agonizing it is for you all to wait so long for my super-accurate predictions every year, but as I’m sure you’ve learned by now – good things come to those who wait (and that I love my cliches…and sidebars in parentheses).

This season promises to continue on the wonderful warpath of parity. There’s a whole mess of favorites, an even larger mess of teams from which we have no idea what to expect, and surprisingly few guaranteed disasters. Even the Bills are looking to prove that a Harvard man can be a viable fantasy quarterback, and maybe War Damn Cam Newton will eagle his way through the toughest schedule in the NFL (insert groan). So without prolonging your wait any longer, here goes the 2011 season predictions!

Ohhhhh boy. Yeah I just did that. Way to start off with a doozy, eh? Well let’s be honest, the Giants are fading into complete insignificance in the shadow of Gang Green. They made zero offseason moves of note and lost entirely too many players to other teams and injury. 2007 might as well be 1969. The Redskins actually don’t seem that bad…wait did you say Rex Grossman? Isn’t he in the UFL by now?! It really boils down to the Eagles and Boys, and if the Miami Heat have taught us anything this year it’s that you can’t call yourselves a Dream Team before you’ve played a single game. The sporting gods do not approve and you will be doomed. DOOMED! But in all seriousness the Eagles have some serious holes on their team and I don’t see Vick lasting past week 10. Oh and didn’t Tony Romo get married this summer? That’s some pretty serious motivation to keep playing into January, nobody likes the ball and chain.

The NFL needs to take a serious look at adopting the EPL’s relegation system. You could make a strong case for kicking all four of these teams out, they’re a goddamn embarrassment! Neither the Niners nor Seahawks have a strong enough team to make up for their giant question mark at QB, and their tough schedules will only result in massacre. I think the Rams are a better team than the Cardinals, and I like Sam Bradford a lot more than unproven Kevin Kolb. But the Rams have a brutal early season schedule, while the Cards are coasting, and in the NFC West that’s pretty much the only thing that matters.

The defending champs aren’t going anywhere. They have zero major changes in their roster from last year, and they’re only getting healthier and stronger. They won the Superbowl with a battered team, and their explosive offense and stellar defense will coast them to a division title barring any awful injuries. The Lions are the ultimate trendy “sleeper” pick right now, and I can’t say I don’t love the potential there but it’ll be tough to beat out the Pack. Stafford’s shoulder will single-handedly haunt the city of Detroit until he makes it through a season, and if he does I can see this team nabbing a coveted NFC wild card spot. I don’t think the Bears will surprise us again like last year, and the Vikings just aren’t going anywhere with McNabb. Rebuilding time!

As much as I judge the Falcons for trading away everything they had in the draft for Julio Jones, I still really love this team, going three years strong now. If Julio pans out with the way he’s been performing this preseason he’ll be a welcome addition to an already threatening passing game. The Saints will always be in the running under the wonderful Sean Payton, but I think injuries will hold them back just enough to let Atlanta take the division. The Bucs would be my pick for the surprise of the NFC this year, but I think they need one more year to really get there. Carolina won’t be last year’s Carolina, but that’s pretty much the only positive thing we can say.

Finally I’m taking the plunge. I can’t pick the Patriots this year, I just can’t. The Jets are in a position that I love – nobody has aggressively high expectations for us like last year, and we’ve finally settled into the mold of a consistent, solid team. Our offseason was average, especially compared to last year’s upgrades, and I still die a little inside every time I hear Nnamdi’s name, but we made some solid moves to build back weaker areas. The biggest concern here is sheer lack of depth, and any major injuries would completely tank this team. Obviously the Patriots are the favorite for this division, but I think our slightly easier schedule will edge us out over the evil team from the evil state. Oh and you heard it here first – the 2011 Panthers are the one and only Miami Dolphins! (mwauhahaha.)

This team has way too much going for it. Vincent Jackson looks stellar, as does the rest of the passing game, and the defense is solid as always. They’re also in the AFC West which is ALMOST as bad as the NFC West. Almost. The Chiefs could take it again but I think Matt Cassel severely under-performs this year, and last season was most definitely a direct product of a disgustingly easy schedule. The Raiders have somehow managed to make their team worse, but at least all their players have GREAT 40 times! Poor Jason Campbell is going into his second year in Oakland, over/under on how many games til Al Davis the dementor sucks the life out of him? Or how about the over/under on how many games til Denver succumbs to the golden boy and throws Orton to the dogs? No GQ cover for you Kyle.

I hate this team. I hate that they stood in the way of our first Superbowl since 1969. I hate that they have an incredible ownership that leads this franchise to Superbowl after Superbowl, spoiling Pittsburgh fans yet again. It’s just impossible to not pick this team that will only improve from last year’s run. The Ravens look spotty this year and I think they lost their best shot at a Superbowl run last season. Both the Bengals and Browns have the potential to surprise us, but it won’t happen this season with an inexperienced Dalton and an annoying Colt McCoy. This is a great division though and will definitely provide some competitive games this year.

With Peyton out for the season this race will be a close one between the Texans and Titans. Houston is the fan favorite, as always, but the Titans have an incredible offensive line to protect Hasselbeck from his usual injuries. Chris Johnson is signed and ready to roll, and Tennessee has the potential to rival Houston’s explosive offense, whose running game will take a step down without Vonta Leach blocking for Foster.

Get pumped. Get your face on. Game time.

Guess who’s back…back again

Missed me? The feeling’s mutual. Well I’m back and despite the title of this post, I can’t guarantee the revival of my blog will be as epic as this Superbowl commercial. Or as promisingly epic as the Ndamukong Suh-Nick Fairley defensive line. But I will say with absolute certainty that I won’t quit on you in the first half of the AFC Championship game. I won’t leave you sitting in despair, with scenes from the 1969 Superbowl flashing before your eyes as you wonder if that’s the only positive non-memory you’ll ever have of the green and white….and breathe.

Now that I’ve simultaneously praised Detroit twice and had a Jets-related breakdown you must be very confused. Well that makes two of us, but before you hit that back button and return to normalcy, I’ll explain exactly why we pigskin fans have deteriorated into head cases.

This has been the most excruciating NFL offseason of all time. Instead of biding our time over-analyzing free agent signings we were relegated to halfheartedly pursuing replacement candidates for Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and hundreds of fantasy football hours. Hockey? Too many games. European soccer? Too much diving. Aussie rules football? Now we’re talking…oh wait we don’t wake up before noon on weekends. I’m sure with an awkward combination of these sports we could reach some level of enjoyment, but nothing would truly replace the presence that red-blooded American football holds in our hearts.

So what exactly have we missed out on since Aaron Rodgers hoisted his championship belt? Let’s take a look.

What we should have been doing: If you’re a Packers fan, reveling in the greatest fulfillment as a sports fan. If not, hating everyone that stood in your way. (My children will be allowed to say the f word before they can utter the name of the-football-team-from-the-other-town-in-Pennsylvania)
What we were actually doing: Sticking to the above as any *real* football fan would do and blatantly ignoring all signs pointing to an NFL Armageddon. This was the best season in a long time – why would they kill football?!

What we should have been doing: Analyzing the free agent market and furiously telling anyone who will listen (inanimate objects included) why your team needs to add depth at OLB and why shelling out the cash for a veteran is totally worth it. I mean, this is our year right?
What we were actually doing: Stalking Twitter and all media outlets in an attempt to become pseudo legal analysts (Law and Order didn’t air this episode), until BAM. Lockout. What the hell just happened?

What we should have been doing: Jumping on the NBA/NHL bandwagon juuuust in time for playoffs. Boo Miami! Yay for hockey being entertaining! Hold on – WHY did we trade away the pillar of our offensive line? To the Twitterverse!
What we were actually doing: That Nelson woman, we like her. We don’t really get it, but she lifted the lockout so yeah, we like her. So…does this mean we’re good? Or should we be auditioning a permanent NBA and NHL team? Crap.

What we should have been doing: The draft just ended, meaning there’s a whole slew of new players to analyze! Who’s the next Matt Ryan and who’s tanking Leinert-style? Does Atlanta seriously think giving up everything they had for a rookie receiver is the key to a Superbowl? And somehow the Suh-Fairley defensive line is catapulting the Lions into a trendy “sleeper” pick? This season is going to be awesome.
What we were actually doing: Lockout is back and we adopt a full-blown fatalistic mentality. At least our marriages will survive sans fantasy football?

What we should have been doing: Enjoying the sun with a little pigskin on the beach. Hey I could totally be the next Danny Woodhead! When does training camp start again? Oh and now we’re 100% on this NBA/NHL bandwagon. Go underdogs, playoffs baby!
What we were actually doing: We’ve lost track but we think there’s a glimmer of hope. Nothing really makes sense anymore. I guess we’ll watch the Women’s World Cup, maybe this soccer thing won’t be so bad. It has to be better than watching Rog and DeMaurice walk across the street every day.

Now it’s July and the most agonizing week is upon us, but we’re oh…so…close. I can already smell the waves of garbage floating over the Meadowlands. I can hear Fireman Ed leading hair gel-ed masses in the most satisfying chant in sports, J-E-T-S! I can see that first kickoff, the ball spinning through the air as we rise in excitement for a brand new season.

Come on boys, don’t let us down.