Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 7 vs. Chicago Bears

Redskins 17, Bears 14

I feel dirty.

Offense: C

It seems like the Redskins are going backwards when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness on offense. Rather than moving towards crisp passing plays, the team is dropping passes, Donovan McNabb is still throwing balls into the ground, and the offensive line is still inconsistent.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ryan Torain is proving why he drew the affection of Mike Shanahan for all these years. He's a hard runner who, while he'll never break one for 60 yards, looks like he can get hard yards, which is one of the most valuable things for a running back in the NFL. Chris Johnson is obviously great, but there are circumstances in which I'd rather have Marion Barber. I like that "the All-Torain Vehicle" is on Washington.

But two interceptions and SIX FUMBLES (only one lost) don't bode well for the future. You can't put the ball on the turf that frequently and expect to win football games.

Defense: B??

This was the hardest defensive game to grade since I started the Redskins Report Card. They held the Bears to 66 yards rushing...but gave up 4.1 yards per carry. They intercepted Jay Cutler four times (all by DeAngelo Hall)...but allowed four drives of 59 yards or more. This hasn't historically been a "big play defense," so I worry that these were just fortunate circumstances, but hey, who knows. Maybe Jim Haslett has transformed the defense, but it's still got a long way before they can be counted on to win games.

Overall: W

Really, the only grade I can give this team for Sunday's game is a win. They won the game, inexplicably, and that's great, but other than that, I don't think you can take away any information going forward. Most wide receivers aren't going to bail on their routes like Johnny Knox did. Most teams aren't going to ignore a fairly productive running game in a close ballgame. And it's pretty rare that you'll have a pick six by the other team negated by a delay of game penalty.

But our boys are 4-3, and that ain't bad.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 6 vs. Indianapolis Colts

Colts 27, Redskins 24

Offense: C+

It's hard to get too down on the offense, when this was the first time all season we've seen some balance, yardage-wise. Ryan Torain ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and the ground game was effective start to finish. Alleged "MVP candidate" Donovan McNabb passed for 246 yards and a touchdown, but the Colts' defense made two good plays to get interceptions (one in the final seconds) that quelled the Redskins.

Defense: D+

The defense let us down this week. You knew you were going to give up the yards to Peyton Manning. That passing offense is too crisp and too strong to have any notions of stifling them, especially on a warm October evening. But 7.5 yards per carry for Joseph Addai is unacceptable.

All of the talk on local sports radio has been about whether or not Albert Haynesworth, a healthy scratch on Sunday, would have made a difference in this game. Honestly, I don't see how he couldn't have helped. There's a reason he warranted the kind of contract he got from the Redskins two years ago. He's an elite defensive tackle, and I don't care if he's awkward in a 3-4 defense, or if he doesn't have the whole scheme down; he's huge, powerful, and any defense is better with him than without him.

Overall: C-

Honestly, coming into this week, I'd have had no problem with the Redskins losing this game. I've always seen Manning as an outrageous talent, and I've always seen the Redskins as a team that has trouble overcoming outrageous talents (see Steven Jackson, Andre Johnson, and Bill Belichick). The Redskins went into halftime down 17-7, and I was able to accept my favorite team's fate.

Then, of course, the sack/fumble of Manning by Brian Orakpo (who appears to be even better than we could've expected) and subsequent touchdown by Torain got my hopes up. With 2:13 left and the Redskins down just a field goal, starting their drive at their own 38, I was honestly expecting them to at least push the game to overtime. Four inept plays later, I was sour and frustrated, partly at the loss, but mostly at the fact that I had let myself get excited again. I keep forgetting how many times this team has let me down. I guess that's football, though.

Tomorrow is always another day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A New Feature?

As you may remember, I have a distinct sentiment when it comes to Lavar Arrington and his suitability as a radio host. If you don't remember, and choose not to click the link because you're lazy, let me sum it up for you: I think he's terrible.

What's kind of amazing is how frequently he says something irrational, obnoxious, or downright wrong. So amazing, in fact, that I'm debating adding a new feature to our blog here, where I listen to the Lavar Arrington Show for 30-60 minutes a day, and coming on here to offer you my analysis. I could use an outlet for relieving some stress, so I'm going to consider it.

And, at least for right now, I'm going to offer you another of their gems; and yes, I'm lumping in his co-host Chad Dukes, who stood by Arrington's argument that, wait for it...

"...Donovan McNabb deserves consideration as NFL MVP."

I pride myself on having pretty intelligent readers, so I'm sure you don't need me to outline why this is ludicrous, but on the off chance you're unsure, or aren't much of a football fan, or are Lavar Arrington, let me give you all the data you'll need.

The first point Arrington brought up was that McNabb has offered leadership that the Redskins haven't seen in a long time. I agree. That doesn't make a player the league MVP; that can make him the team's MVP. Furthermore, I think you'd be hard-pressed to say LaRon Landry hasn't been at least as important to the Redskins' success as McNabb.

Which brings me to Lavar's second point: the Redskins' "success." The team is 3-2. We're all glad they're 3-2, somewhere between glad and ecstatic, but still, they're a single game above .500, and they haven't played in a game yet that we didn't have to watch to the very end, except for the beating we saw our team get in St. Louis. Let's not talk about McNabb leading the team to the promised land just yet.

I will give Arrington a little bit of credit, though. The one point he was halfway willing to concede was that McNabb's stats aren't the best in football. Well, thanks for almost yielding that point, Lavar, but because it's the strongest evidence out there for why someone else should be the league MVP, let's have another look at those pesky "statistics." And, for kicks, we'll only look at quarterbacks, even though there are players at other positions who warrant more consideration than McNabb.

The quarterbacks whose teams have the best records in the league:
  • T1 - Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (4-1)
  • T1 - Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
  • T1 - Jay Cutler/Todd Collins, Chicago Bears (4-1)
  • T1 - Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, (4-1)
  • T5 - Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
  • T5 - Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
  • T5 - Tom Brady, New England Patriots (3-1)
  • T5 - Ben Roethlisberger/Charlie Batch/Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Then there are ten more teams tied for 9th at 3-2, a group that includes McNabb as well as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, and Vince Young, as well as the two-headed monster of Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb.

The quarterbacks with the highest passer ratings in the NFL:
  1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots - 109.0
  2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - 108.8
  3. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - 105.4
  4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - 102.6
  5. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - 102.2
  6. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills - 99.9
  7. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - 97.8
  8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - 95.7
  9. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans - 95.1
  10. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - 92.7
I could keep going until we got to McNabb, but for two reasons, I won't. First, I'd have to go all the way down to twenty-first, which puts him in the bottom half of eligible quarterbacks. Second, I'd have to put Seneca Wallace on the list ahead of McNabb, and I made a blood oath to never make a list that highlights Seneca Wallace as a good football player.

Is McNabb doing well? I have to say yes. He's opened up the long ball like we haven't seen here since we were dabbling with Jeff freakin' George. Redskins football has become more exciting than it's been in a long time, the team looks like they can play with most other teams, and there's no doubting that McNabb is a valuable locker room and press room guy. But an MVP? God no.

My biggest problem with his performance this year is that the Redskins aren't scoring points. They have the ninth-worst scoring offense and the second worst third down conversion rate in football, despite having the seventh-most prolific passing attack in the league. That means they're never marching down the field (which any fellow Skins fan knows as well as I do just from watching the games); they make a couple big passes downfield each game, and get a touchdown or two off of them. But mostly, they come up short.

Here's some interesting information. As I said, the Redskins have the seventh highest pass output per game in the NFL. The Redskins average 88.6 yards per game on the ground; the six teams ahead of them in passing output average 84.4 rushing yards per game. But here's the remarkable stat: Washington converts just 26.2% of their third down attempts, yet none of the other six teams has a conversion rate below FORTY PERCENT. But sure, that's an offense that deserves an MVP candidate.

To be fair, here are my personal top ten MVP candidates today:
  1. Peyton Manning, Colts - 1609 passing yards, 11 TD, 2 INT
  2. Tom Brady, Patriots - 911 passing yards, 9 TD, 2 INT
  3. Mark Sanchez, Jets - 902 passing yards, 8 TD, 0 INT
  4. Clay Matthews, Packers - 21 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 1 FF
  5. Arian Foster, Texans - 718 total yards, 5 TD
  6. Philip Rivers, Chargers - 1759 passing yards, 11 TD, 4 INT
  7. Osi Umenyiora, Giants - 13 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 5 FF
  8. Kyle Orton, Broncos - 1733 passing yards, 8 TD, 3 INT
  9. Michael Vick, Eagles - 799 passing yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 187 rushing yards, 1 TD
  10. Adrian Peterson, Vikings - 585 total yards, 3 TD
Donovan McNabb would be somewhere around 25.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 5 vs. Green Bay Packers

Redskins 16, Packers 13

I still don't believe it.

Offense: B-

It'd be interesting to see what this offense would look like if it ever got the ground and air attacks synced up. As it is, we still only get to see one or the other on any given Sunday. I'm still not wild about Donovan McNabb's accuracy (which in Sunday's game was at least partially a result of rampant pressure), but 357 yards is indicative of a high-caliber (get it?) passing attack.

The ground game was absolutely nowhere, though. Washington averaged a measly 2.4 yards per carry, with a long run of a whopping eight yards. Graham Gano hit three of four field goals to account for more than half of Washington's scoring, and while he missed a 51-yarder that would've put the Redskins in a position to win the game in regulation, I still like him a lot going forward.

Defense: B

It feels weird to be saying that the defense did better than the offense, but when you look at the numbers, it makes sense. The Redskins allowed a pretty large amount of offense out of the Packers: 293 passing yards, 157 rushing yards, 6.4 yards per play. So how do you hold that kind of offense to only 13 points?

Third downs. Green Bay was just 2 of 13 on third downs, meaning almost every time the Redskins had a chance to make a stop, they did. Partner that with the pair of turnovers that Washington forced, including a beautiful interception by burgeoning superstar LeRon Landry, and you've got a defense that has given your team a chance to win.

One thing I will say is that I don't know why the Redskins' corners play so far off of wide receivers. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must have a lot of faith in his linebackers' ability to close slant gaps and seal off WR screens, because the cushion they gave yesterday was tremendous.

Overall: B+

This was a circumstance where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The Packers were one of the strongest-looking teams coming into 2010, and that hasn't really changed. But the Redskins played smart, physical football, and were able to pull out a win. Next week is a Sunday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, which should offer a window into the rest of the Redskins' season. If they can somehow find a way to win that game, I'll probably have red lips the next time you see me...because I'll be drinking the Kool-Aid.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 4 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Redskins 17, Eagles 12

We all knew Donovan McNabb's return to Philadelphia was going to be a game to watch. We knew it'd be hotly contested, and we knew it would be emotional for the fans and the players. We didn't know if the Redskins could win the game, and it was nice to find out that, yes, in fact, they could.

Offense: C+

The story after the game was about how McNabb went into Philadelphia and beat his old team, but that's not really what happened. Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain combined for 125 yards on 29 carries, and as a team the Redskins averaged 4.8 yards per rush. That was the story for the offense, the sudden emergence of a running game.

McNabb wasn't awful, but he wasn't very good either. He completed just eight passes all game for 125 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The most you can say about the Redskins' offense is that they were much more effective on third down this game than they have been all season, converting five of eleven chances. But overall, not an exciting performance.

Defense: B

Alright, honestly, this was probably destined to be an Eagles win, and a C- rating for the Redskins' defense. But late in the first quarter, when two Redskins defenders sandwiched Michael Vick and put him out of the game, they created an opportunity for success, and they took advantage of Kevin Kolb's inability to get the ball down the field.

Most importantly, they stifled drives when the team really needed stops. Though they gave up 353 total yards, they held a still potent Eagles' offense to only twelve points. DeSean Jackson had just three catches for 19 yards, possibly offering a blueprint for containing his big play ability by jamming him hard at the line. LeSean McCoy was by far the Eagles most effective player, but when Kolb zeroed in on him later in the game, the Redskins were up to the task.

Special Teams: N/A

Talking about special teams is boring. I'm not going to do it anymore.

Overall: B-

Listen, this wasn't a game where the Redskins overmatched their opponents. They fought tooth and nail, they played physical football, and they got a couple of crucial big plays. It was nice to come out with a win, and to be 2-2 at this point, especially after the debacle in St. Louis last week, is completely acceptable. Green Bay next week could make things look a lot bleaker going forward, though.




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 MLB Playoff Predictions

I put out the call to friends and partners of Joe and Joe Sports for MLB playoff predictions, and here are the results. There's always one guy (Beemiller this time) who lets his predictions take on a life of their own, and we're the beneficiaries, because we get to read them.

Enjoy.

Josh Beemiller, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

Rays/Rangers - Cliff Lee shuts down the Rays in game one, but the Rays remember they are good and pound the snot out of the Rangers for the rest of the series. Rays in 4.

Yankees/Twins - Minnesota's groundball-happy pitching staff causes Jeter to hit into an ALDS record 17 double plays. New acquisition Randy Moss, batting cleanup for the concussed Justin Morneau, only has 4 hits in the series, all for homeruns.

Reds/Phils - Joey Votto continues to be awesome, hitting .500 with a pair of homeruns. However, after winning game one, Dusty "Destroyer of Arms" Baker has Volquez start games 2 and 3 as well. Phils in 5.

Braves/Giants - Giants pitch their way to a sweep. Huff, Burrell, and Posey each have a game winning homerun in the trio of 1-0 contests.

ALCS Rays/Twins - Down 3-1 in game 5 (and in the series), Joe Mauer hits a go-ahead 3-run homer. Twins go on to win the series in 7 games.

NLCS Phils/Giants - Giants continue their shutout streak in games 1 and 2. Cole F****** Hamels pitches brilliantly to put his team back in the series, and the Phils remember how to hit. The Giants don't. Phils in 6

World Series Twins/Phils - In one of the best World Series in recent memory, the two teams alternate wins for the first 6 games. In the 5th inning of game 7, with Randy Moss on 3rd, Jason Kubel fails to get the bunt down on the suicide squeeze. It doesn't matter, however, as Moss had just walked off the field. In the postgame press conference, he would later say he figured Kubel would hit a sac fly, so he didn't really need to "hustle" on that play. Later, with the score tied at 4, Ryan Howard hits his first homer of the series. The score remains 5-4 in the top of the ninth, until Joe Mauer hits a game tying shot with 2 outs. Matt Capps comes on to keep the tie in place in the bottom of the 9th, and does so, but not before three balls reach the warning track. In the top of the 11th, Denard span hits a leadoff triple, and later scores on a Mauer sac fly. After exhausting his bullpen, both in the series and in this game, Minnesota is forced to bring in Carl "The Mustach" Pavano to close it out. Phils get two runners on with one out, before Raul Ibanez hits into the series-ending double play.

Twins in 7. Total runs scored in WS - 63.


Alex Hardin, Beltway Braves

Divisional Round

MIN over NYY
TB over TEX
SF over ATL
PHI over CIN

League Championship Series

TB over MIN
SF over PHI

World Series

SF over TB in 6 games


Chip Hart, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

ALDS

Rays over Rangers
Yankees over Twins

NLDS

Phillies over Reds
Giants over Braves

ALCS

Rays over Yankees

NLCS

Phillies over Giants

WORLD SERIES

Phillies over Rays in 6
45 total runs


Joe Mandi, Joe and Joe Sports

AL

Yankees over Twins
Rays over Rangers

Rays over Yankees

NL

Giants over Braves
Phillies over Reds

Giants over Phillies

World Series

Giants over Rays (in 6 games)
42 total runs


Ed Mattingly, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

Twins over Yankees
Rays over Rangers
Phillies over Reds
Braves over Giants

Twins over Rays
Phillies over Braves

Phillies over Twins (5 games)
36 total runs


Joe Mattingly, Joe and Joe Sports

Round 1

Rangers over Rays - Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton will be shaky, but Ian Kinsler and Neftali Feliz will steady the ship.
Yankees over Twins - I wish the Twins would win, and everything I read says the Twins are a bad matchup for the Yankees...but they're the Yankees. Bastards.
Phillies over Reds - I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.
Braves over Giants - Bobby Cox's magic could bring one more playoff series victory to Atlanta.

Round 2

Yankees over Rangers - I just don't see the Rangers in the World Series this year. But I do think they're headed in the right direction.
Phillies over Braves - I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.

World Series

Phillies over Yankees (in 5) - You guessed it. I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.
50 total runs.


Mike Mattingly, Opinionated Truths

Rays over Rangers
Yankees over Twins

Phillies over Reds
Giants over Braves

Rays over Yankees
Phillies over Giants

Phillies over Rays in 6

(43 total runs)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 26

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (.471, 6 R, 5 HR, 10 RBI) - Encarnacion is one of six everyday players in the Blue Jays' 2010 lineup who is a threat to hit 25 homers going forward. Honestly, if they keep this group together and shore up their bullpen, the Jays could be scary next season.
  • NL Hitter: Ben Francisco, OF, Phillies (.412, 4 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB) - I would have liked to have picked Matt Kemp, the longtime Rider who homered in each of the last five games of the season, but the batting average and the power/speed combo from Francisco has a lot of value.
  • AL Pitcher: David Price, SP, Rays (1 W, 9 K, 0.00/0.67) - Price has had a great year, which was not wholly unpredictable, either. The guy has top-tier stuff. Honorable mention for Neftali Feliz, who had a win and two saves in three scoreless innings of relief.
  • NL Pitcher: Nelson Figueroa, SP, Astros (2 W, 13 K, 0.00/1.34) - Kind of a high WHIP, but he's one of only three guys with two wins over the past seven days. And 13 strikeouts is nothing to sneeze at.

Upcoming Posts

Over the next couple of days, I should have a few different posts for you, including:
  • MLB playoff predictions
  • My end-of-season awards ballot
  • This week's Redskins Report Card
So, look forward to that.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...