Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
14 Nov 2012
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Well, Mike, we have the second-half slate of Loser League Names to discuss. As a reminder for the audience, we have prizes to give out, two copies of Gary Myers' new book Coaching Confidential. Based on the excerpt in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback, it looks very good. I'm interested in reading my review copy and should have a report up on FO in the not-too-distant future. I also engaged in a rare bit of foresight and planning, saving the names from the first half. If you repeated a name, we will look down on you for it.
Mike: Wow. That is impressive.
Tom: You can see the full list of names in the weekly standings, available here.
Mike: Right off the bat, I want to point out Blame it on the Blaine. Please tell me that isn't a repeat.
Tom: Not a repeat!
Mike: Hooray! I can't believe nobody has done that yet. Bravo.
Tom: Well, nobody has done it this year. I didn't save last year's names.
Mike: That's all I ask for. Dishonorable mention goes to someone just trying too hard with Jive Turkey Gabberters. I understand where you're going with that, and I'm sure you put a lot of thought into it. The problem being that nobody actually uses the phrase 'jive turkey' non-ironically anymore (exception: NFL head coaches), and Gabbert really, really does not sound like gobble.
Tom: Continuing with the Jaguars theme, we also have Bryan Anger Management. We have an evolution of names out in Arizona: In the first half, we had Skelten-tor. This half, we have Skelton and the Masters of the University of Phoenix. I don't know if that's the same person, but bravo.
Mike: See, that is much better. Not that Skeltentor was bad, just that extra touch makes it brilliant.
Tom: I appreciate is clearly ranked because . is way better than this. > and the attempt to duplicate the zlionsfan madlibs template. Sadly, it just doesn't do it for me as a Loser League name.
Mike: It is also unreadable. We use Drupal, ladies and gents. Keep that in mind when putting text in boxes. There are a few rather topical ones, as I'm sure no-one is surprised. Binders Full of Losers is probably my favorite of that lot.
Mike: I am rather averse to 'x experience' just because it's been so overblown. I would go for Marcus Vick if it had some sort of allusion or other clever turn of phrase, like naming him for a smaller, less significant Central American county, like the Bob Panama Twitter Experience.
Tom: Marcus's Twitter rant might have been good fodder for a team name, but that's not it.
Mike: I think you could get more mileage out of that. Is Rock Me Amendola new?
Mike: I prefer Rock Me Amendola, for the reference to a mediocre song and a mediocre player.
Tom: He's like the Rams' entire passing offense!
Tom: Fine, go hate on the Rams.
Mike: There are a few confusing ones, like one I'm not sure we caught last time: The Pele of Football. First, Pele is a guy. Not a whole team. Second, I'm pretty sure Pele was the Pele of football.
Tom: That's a reference to something. By the way, iPadded Stats is precisely not what you want your Loser League team to do.
Mike I like the unintended statement of mikepbuffalo, which I can only assume is a team run by a guy named Mike P, from Buffalo.
Tom: It is!
Mike: But it also makes the claim that not only is the actual Buffalo football team terrible, but any team associated with Buffalo, regardless of management, will be terrible. The only one that is completely mystifying to me is Jerome Boger Ate My Nachos.
Tom: I hope there's an actual story behind that one, like Andrew Luck's Non-accredited Architecture Degree from last season's second half. Searching Google for "Jerome Boger ate my nachos" (without quotes) yields no further information, though, tantalizingly, there was one result removed pursuant to a complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Sadly, that complaint is not yet available.
Mike: How about that for topical!
Tom: Reid it and weip is one of those that's close but not quite. Playing on notorious Philly sports talk station WIP and Andy Reid's job security was a good idea, but that execution just doesn't do it for me. Another timely name: Expensive Cheesecake Factory Habit. I'm sure this is a reference to Vince Young's spending habits. Also, Muscle Hamster Stew. Not saying it's a great name, but with Doug Martin having a couple good weeks, using his nickname isn't a bad idea. Aside from his nickname being kind of polarizing and hard to form a good Loser League team name out of, that is.
Mike: A pretty exceptional group of Losers all around this half-season. Kudos to everyone, although my trophy goes to Skelton and the Masters of the University of Phoenix.
Tom: Darnit, that was going to be my trophy pick.
(Mike cackles roguishly.)
Tom: Now I have to decide between Blame it on the Blaines and The Sproletariat Uprising. Which means I have to decide how much I want to nickpit. The much more common usage is the adjectival "proletarian" rather than the "proletariat" uprising. Do I punish the unknown LL contestant for using "Sproletariat" rather than the more technically correct "Sproletarian"?
Mike: This is a decision only you could make. Because you are the only person who would care.
Tom: And the answer is, even though it's probably wrong or at least could be better, I like that better. Congratulations, The Sproletariat Uprising, you win our other trophy.
Mike: I just know the Steelers game sank me.
Tom: The Steelers game actually sank my opponent.
Mike: You lucky dog.
Tom: He needed 15.4 points from Ben Roethlisberger to win. He didn't get them. That means Autodrafted Second Round Quarterback Matthew Stafford's 25 points powered my still underachieving team to a win. Like the Titans, I am now 4-6 with a technically legitimate but still extremely small chance to make the postseason.
Mike: Fan's fantasy team imitates fan's actual team.
Tom: Hey, it happens sometimes.
Mike: Seven points. Seven %#!$%*$ points. And that's my season over.
Tom: Ben's injury meant you lost by that much?
Mike: Basically. In one league, I finally picked the correct week to play Philip Rivers. This week was largely about dominant players who finally played up to their names, with Baltimore's DST putting up a very nice 16.0, and Jimmy Graham roaring back with 30.1. Also strangely present was Jeremy Maclin, with 19.3.
Tom: Hey, it still worked out.
Mike: It did! I won by 19 points, and kept my spot in second place. In my other league ... guess who lost by seven points! Ben Roethlisberger had 10.76 points by my league's scoring before leaving the game.
Tom: How many did Byron Leftwich have?
Mike: In a rather quarterback-friendly set of rules, against a weak defense, even with last night's sub-standard production, he gets another 7. Leftwich basically did nothing and had three. Of course, this is the league where I regularly use my W/T flex on Jermaine Gresham over Maclin. Most weeks this is a pretty good deal. This week? Let's just say I would like those 12 points back. I'm second-to-last place now, and my season is basically done. A very sad run for the reigning champion.
Tom: I was just wondering if in the alternate world where you started team positions instead of individual players if you'd have won.
Mike: So, Pepsi's big marketing push (well, one of their big pushes) this year has been to rope in big-name music stars and have then record "fan anthems." By far the most played is the Cowboys theme, which is actually probably the best of the lot.
Tom: Are there others?
Mike: There is supposedly one for each team. I do not know if they have all been revealed.
Tom: Aerosmith-Pats, Lenny Kravitz-Jets, Travie McCoy-Giants, Kid Rock-Lions, Ice Cube-Raiders, and Whiz Khalifa-Steelers, per PepsiAnthems.com. I do not believe I have ever heard of Travie McCoy.
Mike: Travis McCoy?
Mike: Interesting. Anyway, that is an incredible wealth of talent, requiring what I am certain is an absurd amount of money to entice into an ad campaign.
Tom: Kelly Clarkson is the only one I've seen in commercial. It's modern pop music, which I've more or less learned to tune out.
Mike: And by and large, the artists do a workmanlike job. But there's a big problem to all of these. They're all packaged marketing material, and as a sports anthem, that makes them feel cheap. Ironically, the slick production and big names serve to dissociate the songs from the teams, the precise opposite of the campaign's intentions. The Clarkson one is strangely enough my favorite of the bunch, despite really disliking that kind of music.
Tom: Perhaps it's because I'm an overall terrible person, but beyond the fact that I think Ice Cube might be a Raiders fan, I have no idea if the others actually support the team whose song they do.
Mike: It's a strange situation to be in, because I live in Chicago and am regularly subjected to Go Cubs Go and Bear Down, Chicago Bears.
Tom: Ugh, Bear Down.
Mike: Both of these are known to cause ear cancer in all age groups. But there's an earnestness and a simplicity that belie camaraderie to both of them; everyone knows the words, they're upbeat, fun, and simple. And you can do a decent job shouting them if you're drunk. Which, as every soccer hooligan can tell you, is 75 percent of the battle.
Tom: "Skål, Vikings, run up the score!"
Mike: Indeed. So while the music may be more clever, and more well-produced, and generally just better, I'll take a bunch of slobs screaming incoherently about their beloved team in a song that was hokey 50 years ago over these anthems any day.
Tom: Yes, but do these songs have any cachet, or are they just in commercials? I'm trying to decide if these are kind of annoying but relatively benign or a true force of evil against which we must engage in an unrelenting struggle.
Mike: They don't, but I'm certain the hope is some of these songs stick to their teams and get some play on broadcasts and on gameday radio.
Tom: In terms of impact, then, these songs remind me of the list of celebrities who root for each team the NFL included in their kickoff information guide. Per the 2010 Kickoff Guide, Samuel L. Jackson is a fan of the Tennessee Titans. Which, I presume, is why it was only a couple weeks later I saw something else that described him as a Falcons fan instead in a much more concrete way, perhaps by wearing a jersey or attending a game. I can only assume these manufactured Fan Anthems will be as eternal as the purported celebrity allegiances.
QUARTERBACK: Sorry to add insult to injury, but before leaving Sunday night's game with a concussion, Jay Cutler threw two interceptions to go with 40 yards passing. Only 37 yards on the ground kept him in the black at 1 point.
RUNNING BACK: We told you last week Michael Turner would have been a good pick for your Loser League team, and he repaid our faith by putting up only 1 point. Matching him there thanks to a fumble that helped give the Chiefs a surprising advantage was Isaac Redman.
WIDE RECEIVER: If you listened to Mike and not Tom last week, you might have chosen Devin Hester and gotten 0 points for your efforts. Also with the goose egg was Rueben Randle.
KICKER: Two kickers put up 0 this week, neither by the simple method of "playing for a team that does not cross midfield." Justin Medlock made two extra points but missed a field goal in the Panthers' loss, while Alex Henery made a field goal and two extra points but missed an extra point.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The St. Louis Rams came away with an unexpected result against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, but it was a tie rather than the win it very likely would have been. First, Brandon Gibson lined up off the line on the first play from scrimmage, resulting in an illegal formation penalty that wiped out an 80-yard gain by Danny Amendola. From there, the Rams very likely win the game. The Rams had another chance to win, but a delay of game negated Greg Zuerlein's 53-yard field goal as holder Johnny Hekker lost track of time getting lined up properly.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Of course, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher could easily have avoided that whole delay of game by calling a timeout. Fisher has been a good and savvy game manager in the past, but that was his second screwup that game, after unnecessarily calling a timeout before first-and-goal late in the fourth quarter, a call that gave the 49ers enough time to tie after the Rams took the lead. Still, this week’s honor goes to Mike Smith, for his decision first to kick the extra point down 28-23 in the fourth quarter, then to kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the two. WHY DID YOU DO THIS? WHY? WHY? WHY?
Justin H.: Can I trust Reggie Bush and start him as a flex against in a great match up with Buffalo Thursday? I have Roddy White starting at one WR, so I need to fill my WR2 and Flex with Bush, Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, Miles Austin, or Mike Wallace. Thanks.
Tom: Bush had a terribly ill-timed fumble against the Titans that saw him benched until the game was non-competitive.
Mike: Wow, that flex slot is like a ballot for the All-Should-Be-Studs team
Tom: He's still clearly the Dolphins' most productive back. Unfortunately, he's been very much in a timeshare since after the Jets game.
Mike: The real problem with this list is that you can't trust any of those guys. Bush is, honestly, the most reliable, I think, with Austin coming in second. Despite my own reservations about Bush and Miami, I think it's hard to bench him.
Tom: I concur with Mike. The Bills' run defense is just that bad. Mike, how seriously do you think about playing Cobb going against a terrible Lions secondary instead of Austin?
Mike: Not very seriously. The Lions may have a bad secondary, but they have a good pass rush, which makes marginal receivers far too great a risk.
Tom: The Lions are surprisingly only 30th in Adjusted Sack Rate on defense. Obviously, sacks are an imperfect measure of pass rush, as our column a couple weeks ago got into, but I think Cobb may be a better play than you think. Still, I agree Austin is your other good bet.
Tom: Well, Mike, another week where we picked different games, and another week where we both were right. You picked the Texans to win (or tie) and cover in Chicago. They did. I picked the Saints and the points, and they came away with the victory. After some early season struggles, you are now 6-3 and I am 5-4.
Mike: I think we have a much better grasp of these teams, now.
Tom: That, or we may just be getting lucky. As a reminder, all picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.
Mike: The game that really intrigues me is the aforementioned game between the Dolphins and Bills. While I think Miami is a better team, Buffalo is at least theoretically capable of throwing up a decent number of points, which I don't really trust Miami to do.
Tom: That's not a line that really stands out a lot to me.
Mike: I think Chargers +8 at Broncos is a trap, honestly.
Tom: A trap? How so? The Chargers have a decent record, but have been mediocre this year. The Broncos are playing like one of the NFL's best teams lately.
Mike: I think San Diego is significantly underperforming, but I think they can keep up in a shootout. Denver's secondary is decent but nothing to write home about. The Broncos are all about Peyton Manning, and while he will likely hang a ton of points on the Chargers' defense, he still starts games off slowly and his favorite target was dinged last week.
Mike: I'd like them at 6.5. Not 8.
Tom: My rule of them thinks this line might be a point or two too favorable to San Diego. Like you, though, lines just a little bit above a touchdown bother me, because teams play to win, not to beat the spread. I don't know if that's a real phenomenon, if teams favored between 7.5 and 9 fail to cover at a greater rate, but the idea of it bothers me. (Yes, it's obvious, I'm not an experienced football bettor.)
Mike: I think I'm going to regret it, but considering how they let Baltimore have their way with them, I think the Raiders are a great team to pick against if the spread us under seven. I don't like the Saints that much, but I'll take New Orleans Saints -5.5 at Oakland Raiders.
Tom: On the road, that one would be a tough call for me. There are a couple lines that interest me. One of them is the Buccaneers favored by two at Carolina. Tampa Bay is the better team, but DVOA indicates Carolina is not as bad as a normal 2-7 team. The Colts are not as good as their record indicates. The Patriots are very, very good. Taking the Patriots and laying nine points is another option that intrigues me. I will instead, however, go with St. Louis Rams -3.5 vs. New York Jets. Both teams are defense-oriented. I like the Rams' defense better, though. And their quarterback. And their running backs. And their wide receivers. They're the better team, and they're playing at home.
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35 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2012, 3:22am by BigCheese