Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's Fantasy Football Draft Season!!!

Very few things get the three exclamation points from me. At most, I usually give a sarcastic single exclamation point for things that aren't really exciting. But let me tell you--fantasy football draft season deserves three exclamation points!!!

I like to compile my own rankings with statistics from various internet sources. So far I've had trouble actually doing the kicker and defense rankings. I figure it's in kickers and defense that FFB mags make their money. Most of us can figure out which skill position players to draft, even the obscure late-rounders. But good fantasy kickers and defenses are often not those that you'd think. But I am ready to tackle my rankings.

I'm also ready to make outrageous claims about who I'll be drafting (my poor finish last season netted me the #2 pick this season--so far, I've claimed I'll be drafting a Viking QB with that pick. I've got a little over two months to space out the rest of my ridiculous claims).

Once my rankings are done, all that's left is to try to glean information from the other acquaintances in the fantasy league (they're actually my friends, but you don't want to be too close during this subterfuge period) beforehand, and try to fake people out with crazy claims that sound half-way reasonable so that people might actually think they're true ("I'm really high on David Givens. I like the potential of what he could do in Norm Chow's offense"). I also try to mix in some real claims with the ridiculous ones so that people will think that the real claims are mixed in with the ridiculous ("I like Aaron Brooks, Peyton Manning, and Charlie Frye at QB this year"), then you have to confuse people further, wondering if you were trying to give truths as lies mixed in lies ("At least one Jets' WR has to step up." "I can't wait to find out who is starting at RB for the Colts, because he'll put up the same numbers as Edge." "What do you think of Byron Leftwich as a starting QB option?")

I'm glad the months preceding the Fantasy Football Draft include little else to focus on--it's a sports season in and of itself that requires full dedication and concentration. That's what my mind is on now. It's the best time of the year.

(By the way, I figure this is the year that T.J. Duckett really steps up into a dominant goal-line back. I'm also excited about what Donte Stallworth can do with Drew Brees throwing to him. I'm not sure Larry Johnson can live up to expectations--there's a new offensive system, Richardson is gone, and that line is getting old.)

In the past, I've been suckered into drafting Viking players too high (or paying too much when we do the auction). During Randy Moss's golden years, that didn't hurt me. Last year, it crashed bigtime. I leave it to the rubes to wonder whether I'll stick with the Vikes in FFB or avoid them until the later rounds.

(Though it will be hard to avoid Travis Taylor--I think he's the WR who will benefit from Childress's offense the most).

How do I love Maury? Let me count the ways.

Allow me to diverge from my usual remarks on sports to take on a different subject. As readers here know, my summer is technology depraved. I can check the internet once a week, only the upstairs of the house is air-conditioned, and the antenna picks up 9 channels (with various degrees of clarity). Recently I actually instinctively pressed "22" on the remote expecting to see ESPN only to get the white noise.

This means I have more time for activities like reading and working around the house. But it also means another thing:


There's nothing to distract me from the beauty that is Maury.

Where would I be without him? How many ways can I express my appreciation for his stance of moral superiority as he exploits promiscuous women trying to find the biological source of their children, or the promiscuous teenage girls and their clearly traumatized mothers? Why, I wonder as I sit transfixed in front of the TV with Maury's show, am I watching? And why, dear God, am I laughing?

Yesterday Maury brought some women on for paternity testing who had been on the show multiple times. The most hilarious part was when they began with a montage of the previous episodes--over and over again, men jump up with joy while the women react in exactly the same way. One women went straight to the ground 4-5 times in a row in the exact same limp position. Every other woman stormed "backstage." All the while, Maury somehow fascilitated this madness with stern judgment, yet kindly understanding.

The other day a bunch of teenage girls came out and acted like they were doing a parody of Cartman's "Whatever! I do what I want!" Maury brings them out dressed like hookers to berate them in front of their crying mothers while the girls talk about how badly they want to have babies and they do what they want. The strange thing is, when they bring the next girl out, the other girls are just sitting there next to their mothers watching dumbly. At the end, instead of boot camp, an ex-prostitute came to lecture them. Apparently, if they keep having sex, they'll be living in boxes.

Would I take any time to watch Maury if I had internet? No. Would I take more than a few minutes to watch Maury if I had cable? No. Should I even be taking any time to watch it now? No. Actually, I'm embarrassed to watch the show with the windows open, lest my new neighbors or the mailman here it and judge me. Yet the richness and color of Maury continues to draw me back.

I don't have classes to teach, I don't have football to watch, so I barely even feel guilty for setting myself down for the glory and wonder that is Maury.

Steve Van Buren (and rants about NFL history)

When people discuss the all-time great RBs, usually there's Jim Brown, then a bunch of players from the 1970s and later. I'd like to add a player to the conversation: Steve Van Buren.

Just look at his numbers. In a much different era, he won rushing titles, cracked 1,000 twice, had a career 4.4 average (including a season of 5.8). He was the best offensive player on an Eagles team that won two championships. In one of those championship games, he rushed for 90+ yards and a TD. In the other, he rushed for 196 yards.

By the way, check out the Eagles' playoff record in 1947, 1948, and 1949. They played 4 playoff games and pitched 3 shutouts. The 1949 Eagles could make an argument for being one of the all-time great teams.

However, in discussions of all-time greatness, a lot of commentators refuse to go back that far. There are different checkpoints for different people: some go back to the first Super Bowl, or to Lombardi's Packers, some go back to the 1958 NFL Championship game, some go back to Otto Graham and the Browns. But you don't hear of too many players from the '20s, '30s, and '40s talked about in all-time great discussions. They get some credit, but it's talked about as if it wasn't even the same sport or league. However, the '30s and '40s featured two of the true all-time great QBs (Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman) and a legitimate contender for all-time greatest WR (Don Hutson). It's hard to talk about people who we certainly didn't see play, and who clearly played in a league with different style and rules than the game we know and love today. But when we have discussions of the all-time great players at different positions, let's not pretend that pro football started with Johnny U and Jim Brown.

My favorite NBA reactions to "bad" calls

The wide-eyed shock
The player looks about with gigantic eyes, in utter shock, as if in total disbelief that anybody could make such an outrageous call. Sometimes the player adds a little smirk. Worst culprit: Tim Duncan

The clown
The player just laughs or smiles or smirks, as if to say that a given call is so ridiculous that is is funny. The call brings humor, but is so stupid one cannot even attempt to dispute it. Worst culprit: Rasheed Wallace

The wave away
Different players and coaches use halfway variations of this. My favorite is when the coach raises both hands above his head, bends the elbows, and thrusts his forearms out quickly while waving his hands. It is as if to say, "take that garbage back! I don't want anything to do with that ridiculousness!" Worse culprit: coaches

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The further adventures of a technology-deprived sports fan

No internet, no cable, no idea about anything.

This is happening at the right time of the year. The NBA Finals will be on ABC, so I can watch all those games. Since I don't watch baseball, I don't really NEED to see anything in the summer. And then autumn comes, where even with the 9 channels I get, I should be able to watch 3-4 NFL games a week (and in autumn it's back to school and back to office internet access too).

I have not been able to see a single NBA highlight since I quit watching the Pistons-Cavs in the 4th quarter on Sunday. I keep hearing what happened the night before on the next day's radio shows, and have been able to piece events together based on commentary. I get whatever Viking news I can from local news, though local news is pretty focused on stadiums right now (no stadium for the most popular team in the state. Yay for democracy). Evidently we traded an undrafted free agent for somebody by the name of Billy McMullen or something. Now we've got 3 former Eagle offensive players: Mike McMahon, Artis Hicks, and Billy McMullen. Maybe McMullen returns kicks. Let's just say McMahon to McMullen doesn't fill me with Super Bowl fantasies (though I won the Super Bowl with the Vikes on Madden last night. Whenever that happens, I always watch the post-game celebration of purple-wearing players hugging each other around a giant trophy).

I'm hoping for a Dallas-Miami NBA Finals, because those teams are pretty fun to watch, and I wouldn't mind if either of them won the title.

Is the NBA missing something by giving so many playoff games to TNT and ESPN? The NFL is the most popular sports league and by far the most popular TV sport in America. They've built up popularity by putting the overwhelming majority of their games, including all playoff games, on broadcast channels. I realize those of us trying to save money by skipping cable aren't exactly the big spenders a sports league is trying to appeal to, but that wide appeal means something for long-term success. Ce la vie.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Ill-informed

I'm making a transition to a poorly informed sports fan. I'm going to go without cable for a while and see how that treats me (for NBA playoffs, that treats me pretty lousy), and my internet access is at this library less than a mile from my house, where I'm limited to 60 minutes at a time (until September, anyway). I can follow local sports alright this way, but all I really know right now is that Cleveland is up on the Pistons 3-2 and that Dallas was up 3-1 over the Spurs and I don't know if that series is over yet (I guess I'll be checking that next).

Following sports is a different world when you decide to skip expensive technology. If I weren't in a library with 27 minutes left, I would think out and write a brilliant Marxist essay about sports fans who are without cable for economic reasons and thus don't get to watch the NBA playoffs on TNT and will miss Monday Night Football when it moves to ESPN and how most people pretend that such people don't exist (even though I'm going without cable, and two dedicated sports fan friends of mine, Rob and Justin, also go without cable) and what it means to pretend that such people don't exist or are making their own choices yada yada yada, and it would be developed and I would attempt to refute objections and all that, but I'm having trouble formulating it all right now in this library, plus my brain is fried from moving, thus this run-on sentence continues.

Anyway, did you ever notice the halftime show on Tecmo Super Bowl? It's all scantily clad ladies, and then this one brunette cheerleader jumps in the air and her skirt flips up. So you see, the games we played when we were kids were just as bad as Grand Theft Auto.

Friday, May 12, 2006

To everything there is a season

Is modern, urban man disconnected from the patterns of nature? Rural people had (and have) a close connection to the cyclical nature of the earth. Modern urban man in an industrialized society does not have need for these patterns and cycles (symbolized in the digital clock--instead of a meaningful, whole circle, time is fragmented and segmented) Certainly in Minnesota, where the weather experiences harsh changes and over 100 degrees of difference, we're not completely disconnected from nature's cycle.

But as a football fan, my life maintains a regular pattern that alters every aspect of my life. There's alteration from year to year, but my overall life experience seems to be settling into a predictable overall pattern. Oh, yes, mixed in there is an interest in UCLA basketball and the NBA playoffs (and the contemporary basketball elite's relationship to the basketball elite of history). And mixed into all of this is work (after 8 years of university scheduling, life takes on entirely different patterns, and academic life has its own all-consuming elements). But football is the motor that makes the pattern run.

September-December: Madness. Sheer madness. There is no other way to describe the all-consuming nature of the NFL regular season. My wife won a portable DVD player in a radio station "football widows" promotion. I don't think I'm exaggerating.

January: Weening. Playoff football is exciting, but with less teams and games, it does not take over the totality of my life.

February-May: Enjoying the world. Following sports and thinking of football, of course, but not with an all-consuming passion. This is a time for walks, for reading, for culture, for quality time to lead an authentic life.

June-July: Still enjoying the world; no school means I have time to read more of what I want. But anticipation of Fantasy Football starts to suck up more and more of existence. A separate madness of football card collecting takes hold, too.

August: Last chances for a quality life, with intense anticipation of what is to come. Football cards are at peak time. The berserk begins to re-emerge.

September-December: the Berserk madness returns.

I can't exaggerate how different my life, mind, emotions, and entire attitude changes in the cyclical pattern over this time.

Luckily, my academic/work patterns are matching my football patterns, as the next few months I will have less access to the internet (most of these blog entries are made in my office between classes) and less football content to write about, anyway. So in the summer, you'll hear less from me at this sports blog, but the content you'll miss out on would have been lousy, anyway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Everything's coming up Milhouse!"

Beards seem to be in fashion. Around campus I seem to notice them more. There's been some commentary about bearded basketballers in the NBA playoffs. Jake Plummer transcended the concept of a sports beard, and now superstars like LeBron James are even sporting old-school facial hair.

Since I've let laziness at shaving evolve into a full-fledged beard, I am very happy with this development. I expect to be mistaken for a professional athlete any time now. I'm a little bit afraid to go to the grocery store, for fear of being mobbed by screaming hordes demanding my autograph. I might have to get a shirt that says "I had a beard before having a beard was cool."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why Favre sucks

Favre sucks because Favre refuses to adapt his game for any reason. That's it. According to Bob McGinn (via PFT):

Telling his story for the first time since deciding April 25 to play another year, Favre was even more defiant than usual Saturday when the subject of his 29 interceptions was brought up in a non-accusatory fashion.

"I don't regret the way I play or the way I approach it," Favre said during a 30-minute session with reporters at the Packers' minicamp. "I don't feel like I should change. For me to change now, it would be time for me to leave."

According to Favre, his career-low passer rating of 70.9 (58.0 in the last 10 games), which ranked 31st in the National Football League, was more a reflection of circumstances and the personnel around him than slippage in his own level of performance.

"Throwing 20 touchdowns and 29 interceptions, all the experts out there have their opinions and theories," Favre said. "To be honest with you, I don't think I played any differently than any other year. When you're down, I'm not going to sit there and throw 3-yard check-downs and let the clock run out. I'm going to take chances.

"There will be people that agree with that and people who don't agree with that. I really don't care."

That's the problem. Great QBs are able to adjust their games for different circumstances. Maybe those circumstances are diminished arm strenght. Maybe those circumstances are an unwillingness to take a hit in later age. And maybe the circumstances are less talent around the QB. Either way, it is a total refusal to adjust and adapt that leads to a 29 interception season.

In the past, because of his immense talent, the immense talent of players around him, and good coaching, Favre was mostly successful playing his way. Now, he's not. In my opinion, that's a combination of his own diminished talent, the diminished talent around him, and poor coaches that are unwilling to do anything about Favre's erratic decision making.

When you play absolutely terrible in every way, then come out and defiantly claim that you will not be changing the way you play at all, well, then you deserve to go down as the guy who breaks the all-time interception record.

And if you watched the Packers last season, you know that it was a lot of terrible decision making that cost the Packers games and Favre interceptions. It's not the talent around a QB that makes him throw into double coverage in the end zone. It's not the talent around him that forces him to repeatedly hurl the ball deep to the end zone no matter what with time left for a sustained drive (ala Philly last season).

Personally, I'm glad we can expect more of the same from Shitdick next season.

Is Tim Duncan a forward, or a center?

Tim Duncan is listed as a power forward (Basketball-reference lists him as a F-C, but most people talk about him as a forward). He is, by any standard, one of the best basketball players of all-time, but his position often gives him the status of greatest ever at his position.

But I don't think Duncan is a forward. I think he's a center.

When Duncan came into the league, there were about 5 teams on which he would have been assigned to play forward; on any other, he'd be a center. Well, he got drafted by one of those 5 teams, so he "became" a forward.

But on Sunday against the Mavs, Duncan was often on the court with four other guards or swingmen. Some of the time the second tallest player on the floor was Michael Finley. He was the only player posting up. He was the only player with his back to the basket. He was the only Spur getting any production near the basket, with rebounds and with strong to-the-basket postup moves.

Much of the time, there is no way to call any other Spur on the court a center.

It could be that in the current evolutionary state of basketball, there is no real "center." That's fine--then call Duncan a forward. But when comparing him to all-time forwards, keep that in mind. If we called Duncan a center, we would consider him a top-10 player at his position. At the highest, I'd rank him 6th (behind Kareem, Wilt, Russell, Shaq, and Hakeem). There's also Mikan, Reed, and Cowens to consider. Moses Malone, too, though I've always thought of him as a forward, not a center (I'm probably completely wrong on that. Basketball-reference lists him as C-F).

Duncan's game, though, is a center's game.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A pox on ALL your houses

You know when somebody goes through something really bad, and he/she says something like "I wouldn't wish this on anybody," or even "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy"?

Well, I've been through the Viking "Love Boat" fiasco. And I wish this on fans of every single other one of the NFL's 31 teams. I also wish it on fans of every other sports team. Then, THEN, you'll know what it is to suffer. Then you'll know terminal agony. Then you'll know what it is to have a chip on your shoulder about everything, and to flare up in hatred at anybody.

Because the love boat isn't going away. Deadspin uses just about any excuse to bring it up. The only sportswriters who don't bring up something related to a boat every time they mention the Vikings for any reason are those who have already done so repeatedly and have worn out anything they can say.

For years, fans of the Vikings will be tormented by lousy puns, stupid jokes, and vapid sarcasm. Seriously, at what point will Viking boat jokes seem no longer appropriate? Does everbody who was on the 2005 roster have to be gone? Will we ever shake this?

So, as you other fans occasionally feel miserable, imagine never being able to read anything about your favorite team without a terrible punchline being involved.

NBA: My favorite non-MVP seasons

1996-97: Glen Rice
I always thought Glen Rice was a fun player to watch, and in 96-97, he burst out with an incredible season. Take away '97, and his career high ppg was 22.3, which he achieved 3 times. In '97, he averaged 26.8 ppg for the Charlotte Hornets. He was an outside shooter and dynamic scorer that, for one season, seemed unstoppable. He was willing the Hornets to victory that season--he was unguardable in the regular season. I personally got to see him destroy the Wolves that year. He just single-handedly dominated.

1993-94: Scottie Pippen
After Jordan retired the first time, I don't think there were a lot of high hopes for the Bulls. Pippen led the Bulls to 55 wins, and only fell in 7 games against the Knicks in the playoffs. Pippen is without a doubt one of the most versatile basketball players to ever step on the hardwood, and he did it all that year: 22 ppg, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals. The Triangle Offense was perfect for his skills--Pippen more than anybody I've seen was a Point Forward for that team.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fran Foley is out

I haven't really paid much attention to the Fran Foley resume debacle. All I really care about is that the Vikings win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. Lying on your resume is bad, but I didn't figure that the the Vice President of Player Personnel doing so would be anything that would hold the Vikes back from otherwise winning a championship.

Still, it's good that he's out. What sports organization has been made fun of more over the previous 4 years? Is any other franchise even close? So there's no reason to keep a guy around who can bring further embarrassment to the franchise.

Texan fans: it's not worth it to coax you off the ledge. You're probably making the right decision.

Just about everything that can be said about the Texans drafting Mario Williams has been said. But a moment ago a memory, a revelation, sparked by this.

Remember in November and December when fans of teams like the Texans were opening rooting for their team to lose games so that they could get the #1 pick? Have you ever rooted against your team for reasons of draft, coach firings, or anything else? I have. It kind of sucks. But it REALLY sucks to just be watching a terrible team and feeling only despair. So you cling to any sort of hope.

So in December, Texan fans must have been despairing but living on the fumes of "We could get Reggie Bush." And then, of course, the Rose Bowl, and fantasies of Vince Young running around in a Texan uniform gave these miserable fans something to smile about.

Can you imagine the utter horror these fans would have felt at the time, miserable watching their 2-14 team, actually rooting for their team to lose more games, if they had known that it would all lead not to Bush, or Young, or even Leinart? Had they known no obvious savior would rise up from the rubble to lead them to future glory?

When things happen in our lives, they usually take on a sense of reality--not always easily, but they do. But when we try imagine terrible things happening in the future, it all seems surreal and dreamy. Texan fans today may be unhappy--but get Doc Brown and Marty to loan you the DeLorean go back to December and tell Houston fans they'd get the #1 pick and use it on a DE from NC State, and watch the despair sink in. In Thomas Harris's novels, Hannibal Lecter collects stories of church roofs collapsing, because he enjoyed the loss of faith. Wouldn't it take a Lecter-like sadism to have to share this with a Texan fan at the time?

By the way, I've begun searching for Houston Texan fan blogs. I just HAVE TO read these throughout 2006. So if you know of any blogs specific to the Texans, pass them my way.

A quibble with my hero, Dr. Z (and the problem of draft grading)

In Dr. Z's draft report card, he writes:

Do you know what's the most unfair tactic used by we journalistas? Ripping some team's draft choice about five years after the fact by going down the roster of Pro Bowlers who were drafted later and saying, "Look who they could have had." A trick like that takes no brains and no work. All you need is a roster. Everybody does it. And I'm here to put a stop to it, do you hear?

No, folks. You rate the draft at the time and then you keep your trap shut. None of that hindsight stuff.

Now I'm a teacher; I grade students. As a teacher, I attempt to be as objective as possible, and I attempt to give grades with as much material for evaluation as I can reasonable acquire.

In fact, it is much more reasonable to give draft grades 5 years later. At that point, players have built up material for evaluation. Grading is supposed to be as objective as possible--to give the grades immediately after the draft is a subjective assessment, not an objective assessment.

What if I walked into class on the first day, asked each student to give me some sample writing assignments from high school, then gave each student a grade for the semester? That would be UTTERLY INSANE, right? I can't grade students on the first day; I must wait to give a graded assessment until they have built up a reasonable body of work.

So if you're going to call something your draft "grade" or "report card," you should wait 3-5 years. If you want to assess it right now, call it something else. And don't insult those who attempt to make objective evaluations of drafts after there's reasonable data.

The other sports

Believe it or not, I occasionally think about sports other than football. I love basketball, and approximately 5 times a year I deem it worthwhile to pay attention to baseball.

I've developed an odd quirk--I can't watch a basketball game if I can't see it from beginning to end. This means I don't watch too much basketball anymore--I want to, then I keep catching games after the first quarter begins. At that point, I feel I've already missed the necessary development of the game, and I can't quite get into watching it. I feel if I miss the tip, I'll never get into the flow of the game. Sunday I was looking forward to watching the Suns and Lakers--but then ABC's coverage started when the game was already at 6-4, and I couldn't get into it and stopped watching it (thus missing the fantastic ending).

In round two, I'll start looking closer at schedules and prime myself to be sitting in front of the television before tipoff. Because I love basketball, and I really want to watch some games. And for some OCD reason, I won't watch if I miss the beginning.

I'm sick of Johnny Damon being called Judas and all that. The only group to whom Damon is a traitor is Red Sox fans. To other baseball fans, he goes from one big market, big payroll team to a bigger market, bigger payroll team. He's no traitor. Johnny Damon the man owes nothing to Boston or the fans. He can go where he wants, even if its for the money. Betrayal? What did he do besides leave? Benedict Arnold tried to help the British defeat the American colonists. Judas turned Jesus over to be killed. Did Damon do anything overt to hurt the Red Sox or Red Sox fans? No. He just went to another team. And unless he grew up in either New England or New York rooting for one or the other team, what is the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to him? Not much. Nothing at all when millions of dollars are concerned. There's no ideological betrayal involved. He didn't actively bring any harm to his former team.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A man after my own heart.

Chad "Free Love on the Free Love" Greenway to residents of his hometown of Mount Vernon, SD:

"I know we got some Packer fans around here, but you're going to have to switch over. To be honest with you, you're all going to have to get rid of that Packer crap."

Sports Fan Character Traits

Being fans of sports often reveals our unique character traits. For example, before each of the previous 7 NFL seasons, I believed the Vikings were preparing for a Super Bowl run. The Vikes were last in a Super Bowl three years before I was born, but I continue to believe.

There are other Viking fans (especially the older ones, witnesses of four Super Bowl defeats, Drew Pearson, and 45 years without a title) who fail to share my optimism. Even a sports optimist like me has shared their feelings: waiting for failure to come, questioning the validity of every move the team makes, feeling quite certain that they won't win a Super Bowl...ever.

Some fans are insanely optimistic, always filled with hope and excitement, always thinking that redemption lies just over the horizon.

Other fans are filled with bitterness, heartache, anger, and staunch pessimism, believing the bums running the team will never do anything but make us miserable.

And so it goes with the draft. At the draft, we see fans of teams at each pole--excitedly screaming, sometimes with joy and excitement, sometimes with anger and perplexity.

Pointless May Predictions

Now that most important free agents have been signed and the draft is in the books, I have time to make pointless May predictions about the NFL. In truth, I've got an hour before class and I'm unmotivated to do much else.

My predictions are simple--I will look at each NFL team and guess whether they will be better, worse, or the same as they were in 2005. Of course, it's easier for bad teams to get better and good teams to get worse.

Pittsburgh Steelers (15-5, Super Bowl champs) WORSE
I don't think they'll repeat as champions, so it stands to reason that they will be worse. They will probably still win 10 or more games, but they've lost some offensive sparks and I just don't see a repeat.

Cincinnati Bengals (11-6) WORSE

When will Carson Palmer play at the same level he played at last season? If the answer is week one, I see them winning around 9 games. If the answer is mid-season, significantly less than that.

Cleveland Browns (6-10) BETTER

I believe Romeo Crennel knows what he is doing, and is the kind of coach that can will his team to improvement. That's it. When I think of Charlie Frye starting in 2006, I think SAME.

Baltimore Raves (6-10) BETTER

This team always ends up worse than I think they'll be. But if they do acquire Steve McNair, as looks likely, they suddenly have a playmaking QB. If McNair manages to play 10-12 games, the Raves should improve

Indianapolis Colts (14-3) SAME

I'm not saying they'll win 14 games. But they'll probably tear through the regular season with a dominating offense and then end up losing in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-5) WORSE
Actually, the 2006 Jags should be better than the 2005 Jags, but will probably not be able to win 12 games again. The exciting thing will be to see how Bruins Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Drew are able to contribute. They should contend for the playoffs.

Tennessee Titans (4-12) BETTER
Though not by much. I really thought they'd be a playoff team last season, and they really stunk. How much better are they now, really? I figure Vince Young wills them to some late-season victories after the season is already lost.

Houston Texans (2-14) BETTER

They could have passed on the #1 pick and they'd have won more than 2 games in 2006. It's freaking hard to lose 14 games two years in a row. They have some talent on offense--maybe it comes together and they win 8-9 games, maybe it doesn't and they win 4-5.

New England Patriots (11-7) BETTER
The Pats continue their transition into an offensive juggernaut in the draft. I just can't see Brady, at this point in his career, missing the playoffs. They'll be back in contention for another championship in 2006.

Miami Dolphins (9-7) WORSE
They overachieved with a great finish last year. They don't follow that up in 2006. I don't think Daunte plays until week 8 if at all. Saban is a good coach, but this team doesn't seem ready to go over the hump yet.

Buffalo Bills (5-11) WORSE
Name me a Buffalo Bill that excites you outside of Willis McGahee. This team will be tuurrable.

New York Jets (4-12) BETTER
I expect the Jets to double last seasons' win total. I figure either Pennington or Ramsey is twice as good as Bollinger.

Denver Broncos (14-4) SAME
They should be a playoff team; Shanahan always has them ready to compete, and they've got a lot of good players. I don't know that they'll go to the AFC Championship game again, but they should win their division and have a chance to make a playoff run.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) WORSE
Larry Johnson may transcend fantasy football, making it obsolete. However, it's about time for the juggernaut offense to show its age (and loss of offensive coaches).

San Diego Chargers (9-7) SAME
For some reason, I think Rivers should be fine. He's not a rookie. I see the Chargers being competitive again, and missing the playoffs by a game or two again.

Oakland Raiders (4-12) BETTER
Adding Aaron Brooks to the Raiders just screams 6-10 to me.

Carolina Panthers (13-6) SAME
I expect a John Fox coached team to be winning 10-11 games a year for a long time.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-6) WORSE
They got a good start last year. In 2006, their best QB will be Chris Simms for the entire year. 8-8.

Atlanta Falcons (8-8) BETTER
I figure either the Falcons win 10-11 games, or they completely lose it and win 4. I bet on the former.

New Orleans Saints (3-13) BETTER
If the Saints made no roster changes but played their entire 2006 season in N.O., they could double this win total. But they added a Pro Bowl QB and drafted a transcendent RB. What's the ceiling for this team?

Chicago Bears (11-6) WORSE
Remember 2001? And remember 2002?

Minnesota Vikings (9-7) BETTER
A real NFL coach, a good defense, some solid offensive players, an improved offensive line. I've got high hopes.

Detroit Lions (5-11) SAME
If Josh McCown gets to play the whole year, the Lions might reach 8 wins. But I don't see that happening. I just can't picture the Lions winning anything. It's been too long.

Green Bay Packers (4-12) SAME
A lot of great QBs have a year where it all falls apart, and everybody recognizes they are finished. For many, that was 2005 for Favre. For everybody else, it will be 2006.

New York Giants (11-6) SAME
I don't know that they'll improve, but I don't see a great deal of decline. They are what they are.

Washington Organization (11-7) WORSE
Everything went right for this team last season, and they managed 10 wins. Brunell is finished. I see a tailspin for this team in 2006.

Dallas Cowboys (9-7) SAME
This team might have 12 wins in them. I see them losing a lot of games they shouldn't lose, for some reason. Oh wait--that reason is Bledsoe.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10) BETTER
They'll be back on top of their division at the end of the year.

Seattle Seahawks (15-4) SAME
I don't see any sign of decline; they should be competing to go to another Super Bowl. Their division still sucks.

St. Louis Rams (5-11) SAME
5-11, 6-10, it's all the same, this team isn't good. Jackson and Holt could elevate them to some 30+ point games and they might be better.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11) BETTER
Their 2006 ceiling, in my opinion, is 10 wins. I think it will be 8 or 9. Part of me feels a great improvement, part of me remembers they are the Cardinals and they never improve.

San Francisco 49ers (4-12) SAME
Nolan will get them a few 13-10 wins that they shouldn't have. The offense will be dreadful.

There. There's my pointlessness. Now I'll try some work.

PV's Draft Comments

A Fantasy Football Correlative
When I participate in Fantasy Football Snake Drafts, I now have one rule above all others:

Draft the player, not the value.

That means that if you are really excited about a player, and you don't think he'll be available the next time you pick, you should take him. The converse is true: if a highly projected player falls to you but you aren't excited about him, you shouldn't feel obligated to take him.

Maybe the Vikings reached on Ryan Cook. And maybe they badly wanted him and didn't think he'd be there the next time they picked.

Tarvaris Jackson
A few reports say he has the strongest arm in the draft. A strong arm is like height--there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do to teach it. It becomes very clear now that Brad Johnson will be the 2006 starter. But the Vikes didn't just fall upon Jackson. According to Fran Foley on KFAN this morning, they did a lot of work with him that included a private workout. They traded up to get him. He was the QB they wanted badly, so they made the necessary moves to get him.

Filling needs
The Vikes filled a desperate need with first-round OLB Chad Greenway. They filled another big need of nickel CB with second-round DB Cedric Griffin. In the off-season, the Vikes have now brought in 4 different interior offensive linemen, filling another huge need. I'm having trouble seeing why a team that was 9-7 in 2005 shouldn't be better in 2006. The real problems of last season appear to have been dealt with. Now if the WRs and RBs can fulfill their potential (that means Chester Taylor is as good as the Vikings think, that Koren Robinson becomes the #1 WR and Troy Williamson doubles his production from last season), and Brad Johnson holds up, the Vikings should be able to win the NFC North. Though the Vikes' draft was a bit defense-heavy, wasn't it?

On New Years Eve, I was the one running around the party reminding everybody how big the universe is and saying, "It's all bullshit." My friend Abe says I'm the most pessimistic person he knows, yet I get overly optimistic about the Vikings. It's all true.

Houston Texan fans should be barricading the streets.
Count me among those who believe selecting Mario Williams ahead of Reggie Bush will go down as one of the epic mistakes in the draft history of any sport.

But then the Texans wait until the 3rd and 4th round to pick offensive linemen? They basically wasted a pick on David Carr by putting him behind atrocious offensive lines for four seasons. Will their offensive line be any better in 2006 than it has been in their history? I doubt it. Kubiak better be a smart, smart coach.

Jets fans should be cheering in the streets
It's not often you go into a draft knowing your offensive line is utterly terrible, then get two offensive linemen in the first round.

Good for the Packers; they drafted 12 players this weekend. In 2005, they drafted 11 players. Maybe they'll play them all. I'm extremely hopeful now that Favre can indeed break the all-time INT record while failing to break the all-time TD record.