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14 Jan 2009

Scramble for the Ball: Championship Preview

by Vince Verhei and Ben Riley

With only three weeks left in the 2008 football season, the Scramble team has taken to heavy drinking and pork rind eating (and possibly ingesting Salvador Dali-grade hallucinogenic drugs). With that in mind, Vince and Ben offer their Dada-ist predictions for this weekend's championship round.


For the first time since August, Sunday arrives with no football until noon on the West Coast. Vince and Ben awake 1,000 miles apart bright and early at 11:30 a.m., extremely hungover and reeking of cigarette smoke and/or stripper perfume. They promptly begin to chase away said hangovers with greasy food (Vince) and more alcohol (Ben) (and Vince, to a lesser degree).

Ben flips away from NFL Countdown after Keyshawn Johnson declares that Anquan Boldin "needs to be less selfish." Meanwhile, a screaming Brian Dawkins pregame speech induces a Bret Easton Ellis-like passionate blood lust in kicker David Akers, who silently vows to spear every returner with his helmet.

Philadelphia at Arizona

First quarter: Neil Lomax and Ron Jaworski, faces grim, shake hands and agree that this game will settle things once and for all. Arizona becomes the first team in playoff history to finish the first quarter without a single rushing attempt. Andy Reid, his beard causing him to look like a midnight green-and-white Santa Claus, counters with 3-yard curl routes -- nothing but 3-yard curl routes. Larry Fitzgerald catches four footballs and five frisbees, thus robbing a local German Shepherd of his halftime glory. In San Francisco, Ben pours himself a Bloody Mary. In Seattle, Vince starts his day with multiple doughnuts.

Second quarter: Working through his early afternoon shots of tequila, Ben ill-advisedly decides to taunt Mike Tanier by arguing that "McNabb should really feed L.J. Smith the ball more -- he's a playmaker!" Tanier immediately begins diagramming the Roethlisberger "touchdown" from Super Bowl XL to run in the next Walkthrough. After watching Tim Hightower fall forward for yet another two-yard gain, Bill Barnwell gleefully rubs his hands together and begins mentally composing his "Least Valuable Running Back" Quick Read for the week.

Halftime: Howie Long, impressed by the physical domination of the Eagles' defensive line, compares them to a fleet of Chevrolet Silverados. Michael Strahan reminisces about Kurt Warner's days with the Giants, and is bleeped 15 times in the process. Jimmy Johnson wears a ridiculous pinstripe suit and a shirt with french cuffs, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they went out of style circa the crash of 1987. Terry Bradshaw laughs uproariously for no apparent reason. In Seattle, Vince eats an entire pig's worth of pork rinds, and washes them down with a delicious bottle of Pete's Wanderlust Cream Ale. Ben starts experimenting with wood-grain alcohol.

Third quarter: Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, known for his creative schemes, goes one step too far after he calls for an 11-man blitz on McNabb. Somewhere in Maryland, Gregg Easterbook's head explodes. Joe Buck cuts to commercial while stating, "Andy Reid -- a big cuddly bear you just want to pet, don't you Troy? -- Eagles lead by 10 -- back after this." Aikman squirms uncomfortably. The 4,678th Howie Long commercial prompts Ben to play clips of the bisexual nymphettes who "star" in MTV's "A Double Shot of Love" and ponder the impending apocalypse.

Fourth quarter: After watching Fitzgerald catch 22 passes for 380 yards, normally aggressive Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson chooses to rush zero, putting nine defenders on Fitzgerald with two safeties playing deep behind them. Kurt Warner is somehow sacked and fumbles on the play. The game is decided when Neil Rackers or David Akers kicks a last-second field goal and is known forever as "clutch." After the game, Donovan McNabb says repeatedly that he loves Eagles fans, especially those who live in Chicago or Minnesota. Aaron Schatz attempts to compute Fitzgerald's DYAR; the resulting fire takes down six homes. Vince digs into a bag of Oreos.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

First quarter: The Ravens rush the ball 12 times, each of which gains precisely 3.3 yards. Joe Flacco throws one pass, which goes through Todd Heap's hands and deep into his torso. Heap is rushed to the hospital, but the play results in a first down. Approximately 100 percent of the commercials aired thus far feature Howie Long or Peyton Manning.

Second quarter: Taking a page out of San Diego's playbook, the Ravens find the easiest way to neutralize James Harrison is simply to hold him on every play. Phil Simms immediately praises the Baltimore offensive line for "playing at a playoff level." Meanwhile, for the second week in a row, referee Bill Leavy is assigned to the Steelers game, causing a noticeable jump in violent in crime in King County, Washington, that may or may not be attributed to Football Outsiders staff. Working on his second Bloody Mary, Ben hears the voice of Jim Nantz haunting him as Nantz declares "The Super Bowl with the Steelers -- a tradition unlike any other!"

Halftime: Viewers are treated to a new "What is H?" commercial featuring six versions of Howie Long at various stages of his career, as narrated by Howie Long.

What is H?

It's the heart of the hustle.

It's the soul of a 'hampion, if you have a harelip.

It's howie do it.

It's half of Boss Hog.

H is the letter that comes after G.


In the studio, Bill Cowher denies interest in coaching the Jets, the Lions, the Rams, the Memphis Maniax, or the Minnesota State Screamin' Eagles. Dan Marino intently studies a list of the Saints' 2009 opponents. Shannon Sharpe breaks down the first half and eats a five-, five-dollar, five-dollar foot-looooong sub (meatball, to be precise) at the same time. Meanwhile, Vince's MeatZZa Feast arrives from Domino's.

Third quarter: After spending the entire first half fighting off a flock of Ravens defenders, Ben Roethlisberger opens the second half atop his motorcycle. The results are less than optimal. Somewhere, Brian Billick insists that the Ravens' best chance to win is to go with Kyle Boller at quarterback. The Ravens open the first half with three straight LeRon McClain runs and become the first team in this game to cross midfield. On the fourth play, McClain fumbles.

Fourth Quarter: Complete pandemonium within the Football Outsiders' Audibles discussion after Ben -- now working on his 14th drink of the afternoon -- suggests that "Willie Parker is the best back in football!" after he gains 64 yards on one run (as opposed to his previous 14 runs of 0, 1, -1, 2, 0, 0, 1, -3, 2, 2, 0, 1, 0, -1 yards). Vince opens a tub of Ben & Jerry's knowing he'll regret this decision in the very near future. Somewhere in New Jersey, Peter King puts the finishing touches on his next MMQB column ("g. I think these iPods things are here to stay. I just listened downloaded my entire audio file of my conversations with Brett Favre over the last 15 years. Bravo, Mr. Jobs.") Inside Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas, a young woman named "Velvet" takes the stage to dance to "November Rain," oblivious to the identity of the young man wearing a Cowboys hat and holding fistful of dollars in one hand, the empty promise of his squandered potential in the other.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Keep Choppin' Wood

Jake Delhomme. Fail. At home, a 10-point spread, and facing the weakest of the eight teams to play last Sunday, Jake Delhomme managed to turn into Rex Grossman-cum-Brett Favre -- that is to say, idiot and gunslinger. Just avert-your-eyes awful (much like that garish "Panthers" font that Carolina uses in its end zone).

Colbert Award

An easy choice this week. Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers called a remarkably aggressive game, considering his team was a heavy favorite against San Diego. But there was Pittsburgh, running a fake punt in a tie game in the second quarter. The gamble failed, and San Diego exploited the field position, driving only 32 yards and kicking a field goal. But Tomlin wasn't done. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh had a fourth-and-goal on the 1-yard line, up 21-10. Rather than kick a field goal that would have left San Diego in position to tie the game with a pair of touchdowns, Tomlin went for the jugular and tried for the touchdown. Carey Davis was stuffed, but like the fake punt, the decision showed major huevos on Tomlin's part.

FO Playoff Fantasy Standings

It's Bill Barnwell's world, we're all just living in it.

FO Playoff Fantasy Standings
Rank Player Points Players Remaining
1 Bill Barnwell 143 K.Warner, D.Jackson, N.Rackers, BAL D
2 Doug Farrar 105 L.McClain, D.Akers
3 Aaron Schatz 98 D.McNabb, B.Westbrook, D.Mason
4 Jason Beattie 91 PHI D
5 Ned Macey 82 L.Fitzgerald, H.Ward, PIT D
6 Vince Verhei 75 A.Boldin, H.Miller

How dominant has Barnwell been? His Week 1 total (thanks to Warner, Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Wayne, and the Baltimore defense) was 94 points, which would be good for third place in the standings by itself. The only player with any kind of chance to catch Bill is Aaron Schatz, and that's only possible if the next two games are the greatest sporting events in the lives of every sports fan in Philadelphia. As for Scramble, well, the "all Giants and Titans" strategy proved to be a poor, poor decision.

In fact, one Best of the Rest team has a better chance of catching Barnwell than do any of the FO squads. BigCheese has 121 points and six players remaining, including Joe Flacco and Willie Parker. This race could be a close one. The second-place BotR team, SeanD., has just 97 points and only three players remaining.

Posted by: Vince Verhei and Ben Riley on 14 Jan 2009

26 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2010, 9:01am by uggs online


by andrew :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:38pm

11-man blitz on McNabb.

I used to do this all thie time in Madden (a few years back).

I'd set up "punt block" as an audible and try to surprise my opponent. It could work a couple times. Actually it was a 10-man rush with one man back to catch the punt, but I'd take control of him and move him up. If the play went wrong he'd be the guy I'd count on to prevent a TD...

by Theo :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:57pm

Man coverage on the receivers, spy on the QB, the rest rushes through a gap.
Works in real life. Don't know if it does in madden. (it's called the gap mirror defense)

by Yaguar :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:40pm

This column, especially the Philly at Arizona section, was hilarious. Well done, guys.

by Stoughton (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:43pm

"Jim Johnson chooses to rush zero, putting nine defenders on Fitzgerald with two safeties playing deep behind them. Kurt Warner is somehow sacked and fumbles on the play."


by Telamon :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 2:00pm

If you have 4 or 5 guys surround a player and lock arms so that he can't get out of the circle, is that a penalty? Also, would Fitzgerald somehow make the catch anyway?

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:52pm

Excellent Coach reference.

by Clark (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:53pm

Absolutely fantastic. Due to the massive amount of out loud laughter I had to contain, I regret reading this at work.

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 12:58pm

The Philly/Arizona description literally made me laugh so hard a tear rolled down my cheek. Well done gentlemen. Well done.

by NHRevsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:13pm

If he coaches the Screamin' Eagles, does he get Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants as an assistant?

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:55pm

When I see some of Spongebob (airs right before my favorite show) I just can't stop thinking of Brad Childress...

by Mike W :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:38pm

Hey, fellas, funny and all, but where's the analysis? We cna get jokes anywhere, but if you guys don't supply coherent football thinking, who will? Come on, enough with the humor.

I'm kidding. That was great, guys.

by pouringlizards (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 2:56pm

"a young woman named "Velvet" takes the stage to dance to "November Rain," oblivious to the identity of the young man wearing a Cowboys hat and holding fistful of dollars in one hand, the empty promise of his squandered potential in the other."

Pure poetry.

by Billy-Boy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 3:01pm

The next Jets head coach should be forced to wear Captain Jet's outfit. In fact, I suggest all head coaches should wear WWE-style uniforms on the sidelines and have catchy nicknames and entourages of whore managers.

by Matt W (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 3:11pm

You guys seem a little stressed. Perhaps you would enjoy this Rick Astley video?


by Yaguar :: Thu, 01/15/2009 - 12:46pm

Well played, sir.

Also - my god, it's so obviously a touchdown. Seahawks fans are such a bunch of whiners.

by Matt W (not verified) :: Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:05pm

Thanks -- it's very rare that I get the chance to do a reverse Rickroll.

I can just see the argument that the camera angle might give the ball the extra couple of inches it needs to break the planes, but based on that video I'd have to give it like an 80% chance that the ball broke the plane.

by starzero :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 3:14pm

i think jason found raiderjoe.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:39pm

I thought he sounded familiar.

Nice call...

by SeahawkPo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 3:37pm

Jake sure chopped an awful lot of wood, he must be building a log cabin or something....

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:21pm

If nothing else, I have to thank you for pointing me in the direction of "A Double Shot at Love," which I am sorry to say I didn't know existed.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:41pm

Based on the supplied quotation...I am Lars Vikingmaster. Who apparently serves double-duty as a Chargers fan.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:49pm

Go Shatz!! If you lose, I hope it's only because DeSean Jackson out points Westbrook with 5 TDs to 4.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 4:58pm

Minor quibble. Since there are no 200-Tera-Byte-Ipods your Peter King anecdote must be false...

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 10:05pm

On the plus side - with improved muscle memory technology and Peter King's long-term participation, I hear Google Maps is forming a comprehensive, accurate map of Favre's arse.

by NEinDC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/16/2009 - 10:30am

Love the Jason Beattie cartoon!

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