Sunday, October 2, 2011

NFL Predictions -- Week 4

Last week was another solid week for straight ups, going 12-4 but only 9-7 against the spread.  For the year, that makes it 36-12 on straight up bets and 28-20 against the spread.

Here we go...

BEARS (-6.5) over Panthers -- CHI 17-6

BENGALS (+2.5) over Bills -- BUF 21-20

Titans (+1.5) over BROWNS -- TEN 17-14

COWBOYS (-2.5) over Lions -- DAL 27-24

Vikings (+1.5) over CHIEFS -- MIN 20-16

Redskins (+0.5) over RAMS -- WAS 21-17

EAGLES (-6.5) over 49ers -- PHI 30-13

Saints (-7.5) over JAGUARS -- NO 23-10

Steelers (+3.5) over TEXANS -- PIT 23-20

CARDINALS (+1.5) over Giants -- NYG 28-27

SEAHAWKS (+4.5) over Falcons -- ATL 20-17

PACKERS (-13.5) over Broncos -- GB 31-14

Patriots (-4.5) over RAIDERS -- NE 38-28

Dolphins (+7.5) over CHARGERS -- SD 24-20

Jets (+3.5) over RAVENS -- NYJ 17-14

BUCS (-9.5) over Colts -- TB 24-13

Loud Music Highlight and Low-light of the Month

In the span of 24 hours, I witnessed two opposite ends of the music spectrum.  While in downtown Greensboro after a night of trivia, I heard an SUV bumping "N*ggas in Paris" ...and it was awesome.  However, the next day while at work in Hillsborough, I heard from across a busy street someone blasting Nickelback with her windows down.

It's really sad that our society has millions of Nickelback fans. I must ask,  "How the hell did we wind up like this?"

September Sports Look-Alike of the Month

With the first month of the NFL season in the books, here is a starter to my sports look-alikes of the month



Not pictured:  Cam as Rob Ryan

As a side note, when watching the "Modern Family" premier last week, I thought to myself that Gloria (played by Sofia Vergara) was the hottest TV show character I've seen riding a horse since Melody from "Hey Dude."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 3 Predictions

Last week was a solid one for straight up bets, going 13-3 in that regard.  As for spreads, I went 10-6.  For the year, that makes me 24-8 on straight up bets and 19-13 against the spread.

On to Week 3...

Patriots (-8.5) over BILLS --  NE 38-27

49ers (+2.5) over BENGALS -- CIN 14-13

BROWNS (-2.5) over Dolphins -- CLE 17-14

TITANS (-6.5) over Broncos -- TEN 24-13

Lions (-3.5) over VIKINGS -- DET 24-20

SAINTS (-3.5) over Texans -- NO 27-21

EAGLES (-7.5) over Giants -- PHI 20-10

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Jaguars -- CAR 17-13

RAIDERS (+3.5) over Jets --- NYJ 17-16

Ravens (-4.5) over RAMS -- BAL 23-14

Chiefs (+14.5) over CHARGERS -- SD 27-14

BEARS (+3.5) over Packers -- GB 20-17

SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Cardinals -- SEA 16-10

BUCS (+1.5) over Falcons -- TB 31-28

Steelers (+10.5) over COLTS -- PIT 20-7

Redskins (+6.5) over COWBOYS -- DAL 24-21

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 2 Predictions

Last week I was 11-5 on the straight up and 9-7 against the spread.  Let's see how this week fares...

REDSKINS (-3.5) over Cards -- WAS 21-17

JETS (-10.5) over Jags -- NYJ 17-6

SAINTS (-6.5) over Bears -- NO 27-17

Bucs (+2.5) over VIKINGS -- TB 17-13

Packers (-10.5) over PANTHERS -- GB 28-10

Raiders (+3.5) over BILLS -- OAK 20-17

TITANS (+5.5) over Ravens -- BAL 17-16

Browns (+2.5) over COLTS -- CLE 19-17

Chiefs (+8.5) over LIONS -- DET 24-16

STEELERS (-14.5) over Seahawks -- PIT 24-3

Cowboys (-3.5) over 49ERS -- DAL 20-10

Texans (-2.5) over DOLPHINS -- HOU 23-20

Chargers (+5.5) over PATRIOTS -- NE 28-24

Bengals (+5.5) over BRONCOS -- DEN 14-10

FALCONS (+3) over Eagles -- ATL 27-24

RAMS (+6.5) over Giants -- STL 20-17

Easy money:  Tampa Bay, Washington, Pittsburgh
Toughest picks: Tennessee, Cleveland, Cincinnati

Week 1 Predictions

I'm going to keep track of how these predictions hold up against the spread as well as straight up.  Due to lack of computer availability, here are Week 1's belated picks.  Week 2 picks will follow this shortly...

Saints (+4.5) over PACKERS - GB 27-24

BROWNS (-6.5) over Bengals - CLE 17-6

Lions (+2.5) over BUCS - DET 24-21

CHIEFS (-6.5) over Bills - KC 17-10

Falcons (-2.5) over BEARS - ATL 17-13

Eagles (-4.5) over RAMS - PHI 24-14

Steelers (+2.5) over RAVENS - PIT 16-13

TEXANS (-1.5) over Colts - HOU 20-10

Titans (+2.5) over JAGS - TEN 16-10

CARDS (-6.5) over Panthers - ARI 17-6

49ERS (-6.5) over Seahawks - SF 13-3

REDSKINS (+2.5) over Giants - WAS 20-16

CHARGERS (-8.5) over Vikings - SD 24-6

JETS (-4.5) over Cowboys - NYJ 20-14

Patriots (-6.5) over DOLPHINS - NE 24-14

Raiders (+2.5) over BRONCOS - OAK 23-16

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NFL Season Predictions

Before it gets too late, here are some notes and predictions I jotted down before Week 1's games.

AFC East

NY Jets   12-4
*Patriots  12-4
Bills          5-11
Dolphins   4-12

Notes:  Before the season, Rex Ryan issued a challenge to the rest of the league if they were tough enough to beat the Patriots, who steamrolled through the regular season last year.  Expect one of the league's top rivalries to continue with the division winner being whoever sweeps through the Bills and Dolphins...The Bills still have a ways to go before being a legitimate contender, but there is hope going forward into 2012...The Dolphins are slowly becoming a laughingstock and a near shoe-in top 5 pick for the 2012 Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.  Between a lame duck head coach, a lame duck quarterback, and a front office committing blunder after blunder, this season reeks of turmoil.

AFC North

Steelers   12-4
*Ravens  11-5
Browns    6-10
Bengals    3-13

Notes:  With 8 games against a weakened AFC South and a dreadful NFC West, a first round bye seems easily attainable for Pittsburgh, who remains a cut above Baltimore...The Ravens are surely a talented team with one of the league's top Front Sevens and the ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  I'm still not sold on Joe Flacco against elite defenses in the playoffs...Colt McCoy flew through the preseason, but I don't buy him as the longterm answer.  The dearth of weapons surrounding him and a mediocre defense does not help either...I for one thought Carson Palmer's abilities were dwindling by the second the past three years, but his situation was poorly handled to say the least.  To say the least, this team is going to struggle this year.

AFC South

Texans   11-5
Titans      8-8
Colts       6-10
Jaguars    5-11

Notes:  To say this division is gift-wrapped for the Texans might be the understatement of the year.  Nobody denies the talent on this team, but for whatever reason Houston could not make the leap year after year.  I would be hardly surprised if the defense finishes in the top 15, and the only thing preventing a division title is Gary Kubiak...Tennessee is tough team to get a read on this year.  Having a new head coach and offensive system during a locked out offseason is difficult, but Matt Hasselbeck, while on his last legs, gives the team some much needed competence that Kerry Collins could not provide the past two seasons....Speaking of Collins, with the Swiss cheese line in front of him in Indianapolis, the statuesque QB is going to fall harder than Humpty Dumpty this year.  The trickle down effect Peyton Manning's absence has on the team rivals the trickle down effect of Reaganomics.  Nobody else hides a team's weaknesses better than #18...Any team putting their hopes behind Luke McCown is not seriously competing for the upcoming season.  Consider this year a rebuilding one with its eyes on building a team around 2011 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert.

AFC West

Chargers   12-4
Chiefs         8-8
Raiders       7-9
Broncos     4-12

Notes:  Much like the Incredible Hulk, nobody wants to see Philip Rivers when he is angry.  He and the rest of the Chargers are out for blood after surprisingly missing the playoffs last year.  The division will be wrapped up shortly after Thanksgiving...Kansas City has to be the 2011 playoff team least likely to return to the playoffs.  I'll eat my hat if Matt Cassel comes anywhere near to his 2010 numbers.  Expect a step back against a tougher schedule...Losing Nnamdi Asomugha certainly hurts, but Oakland is far from the joke it was from 2004-2009.  The team's level of discipline will determine if it wins as low as six games or as high as nine or ten...The biggest question in Denver is if and when Tim Tebow takes over the reins.  With an extremely soft Front Seven, Kyle Orton will do his thing and rack up garbage statistics while his team continuously plays from behind.

NFC East

Eagles      11-5
Cowboys  9-7
Redskins   7-9
Giants       6-10

Notes:  During August, no team was hyped up more than the Eagles, and yet I still do not consider them more talented than Green Bay or New Orleans.  I expect them to win the division, but between a shoddy linebacking corps and an overrated offensive line, the division won't come as easy as hoped...Is any team a bigger mystery than the Cowboys?  Nobody doubts Dallas's talent, but this isn't college football; there is more to winning football games than simply being more talented than the other team...The hate piled on the Redskins this offseason got to be a little ridiculous.  I was a giant fan of their defensive acquisitions and picks in April's draft.  I don't know if they'll be able to hang around late in the season, but there is definitely reason for optimism in Washington...I'll bet my life savings that Tom Coughlin is not the coach in 2012.  Things will spiral out of control pretty quickly for the Giants and this will chalk up as a lost season.

NFC North

Packers   13-3
*Lions     10-6
Bears        8-8
Vikings     5-11

Notes:  Green Bay is going to quickly pick up where they left off last year.  Talented, deep, balanced, and well-coached, this is the best team in the NFL...Detroit will be this year's surprise team.  When healthy, Matthew Stafford will prove to be the best QB drafted in the last five years.  They are ready to take the next step...I usually tend to undersell Chicago, but I find it difficult to see them going back to the playoffs this year.  Teams change drastically over time, but something should be said about the fact that the Bears have only strung together one set of back-to-back winning seasons in the past twenty years...No team has a larger discrepancy between perception and actual ability than the Vikings.  The only thing saving this team is if it invents a time machine to 2008 for all of its players. Doc Brown eagerly awaits.

NFC South

Saints       13-3
*Falcons  11-5
Bucs          8-8
Panthers    5-11

Notes:  I was a big fan of the Saints's offseason pickups of Aubrayo Franklin, Shaun Rogers, and rookie Cameron Jordan.  The defense is far from elite, but for a high scoring offense, the defense complements it pretty well. Expect a bounce-back year for Brees and Co....Atlanta is a team slowly transitioning into a passing offense, so it will be interesting to see if they struggle with their identity from time to time.  I worry about the defense come playoff time, but they are stable enough to at worst win a wild card berth...Tampa Bay has been a popular playoff pick this season, but I'm not buying it.  2010 was certainly a pleasant surprise, but I question Josh Freeman's surrounding talent, most notably LeGarrette Blount, as well as the lack of experience on defense.  As promising as Freeman's progress has been, I cannot see him keeping up with New Orleans and Atlanta in a shootout...I was more than happy to see Ron Rivera name Cam Newton as his QB, who will have his struggles at times but also prove that he is the longterm answer.  However, Rivera has his work cut out for him on the defensive side of the ball.  The offensive line is dangerously thin, and an extended loss of Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil, or fragile Jeff Otah would prove to be indispensable.

NFC West

Rams        9-7
Cardinals  7-9
49ers        5-11
Seahawks 3-13

Notes: The biggest question for this division this year is if the champion will have a winning record.  It won't be pretty, but I think the Rams will take care of business...Acquiring Kevin Kolb was music to Larry Fitzgerald's ears.  They are definitely capable of winning the division, but I question the defense and offensive line to consistently hold up...Even with the presence of head coach and former NFL QB Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith is a total lost cause.  Hesitant in the pocket, inaccurate, and unwilling to throw down the field will prove to be his pitfalls yet again.  Harbaugh cannot wait to groom a new QB...Last year was a pleasant surprise for Seattle, but they are still in the middle of rebuilding.  This year could be ugly, even though I like the team's prospects in future years.


Wild Card Round:  Jets over Ravens; Patriots over Texans; Eagles over Lions; Falcons over Rams

Divisional Round:  Jets over Chargers; Patriots over Steelers; Saints over Eagles; Packers over Falcons

Conference Championship:  Jets over Patriots; Saints over Packers

Super Bowl XLVI:  Saints over Jets


MVP:  Philip Rivers
Defensive MVP:  Clay Matthews
Coach of the Year:  Jim Schwartz
Comeback Player of the Year:  Elvis Dumervil
Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Mark Ingram
Defensive Rookie of the Year:  JJ Watt

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why We'll See a New NFL Agreement by Independence Day

As baseball hits its summer doldrums, all sports eyes are fixated on the NBA Finals.  When we wake up Monday (or Wednesday) morning, a new NBA Champion will be crowned.  Whether the story is Dirk Nowitzki getting redemption five years later or the Big Three defying its doubters, it will be sure to dominate the airwaves for the week.  However, when the confetti in Dallas or Miami settles, all the attention will shift to the NFL Lockout and whether or not a season will be salvaged.

June 20th, the following Monday after the NBA Finals, will mark the 100th day of the NFL Lockout.  This infamous milestone will surely be harped on by our vast media outlets, as the season will be less than three months away and there is still so much uncertainty with OTAs, Minicamps, Free Agency, Training Camp, Preseason, and ultimately the Regular Season.  The general consensus is that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement must be made by roughly July 15th to ensure a (somewhat) normal procession of events.  If not, the NFL and NFLPA's coffers will start to shrink; according to NFL Network's Albert Breer, the loss of one Preseason game would equate to approximately $350MM and the loss of the entire Preseason will mean roughly $1B less to share.

At this point, however, optimism is growing.  Anyone who believes that there will not be an NFL season or that the season will be shortened is either misinformed or simply grabbing for ratings, or both like local sports radio station 99.9 The Fan.  The following is why we'll see a new CBA by the time Joey Chestnut terrorizes the Nathan's in Coney Island:

1) No public mudslinging - When the lockout first began, shots were fired from both sides, as recalcitrance elevated to new heights.  NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith emphatically stated the NFL's lockout was illegal, while the NFL called the NFLPA's decertification as a union (in order to file an antitrust suit) a "sham."  Like in any heated settlement, both sides want to stick to their guns and not lose any leverage.

The tides have changed in recent weeks; instead of the NFLPA vehemently pursuing litigation, both sides have initiated talks on their own.  Part of it can be attributed to the NFLPA's realization that they cannot win outright in court.  The NFL always wanted to settle out of court and form an agreement that would last for years, but the NFLPA was going to take whatever means necessary to ensure the players do not get a bad deal.  While it is only a small step, productive talks in which both sides respect to each other is a vital beginning to framing a new CBA.

2) Talks are hush hush - As a brief aside, the CBA talks this year resemble last year's contract holdout by Darrelle Revis.  In the very beginning, both sides were feeding the media with heated shots.  After a while, both sides realized that hiding behind the media did no good for each other or for the fans.  Serious negotiations did not take place until both sides agreed to a "media freeze," that way talks could be private and nothing would be misconstrued by the public.  The next step of promising news on that front occurred when both sides agreed to issue a joint statement to the public.  It hadn't meant that an agreement was imminent, but  it showed that cooperation was growing.

The CBA talks this past week are eerily similar to those between the Jets and Revis camp in 2010.  On top of the "secret" meetings this week between several owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, and NFLPA player reps, Goodell and Smith reportedly met independently for dinner this past week on Long Island.  Not only that, but both sides are continually in talks, even when they are not meeting face-to-face.  While there hasn't been a "media freeze," both sides are committed to each other and are loath to feed into the media frenzy, hence the secret meetings.  Furthermore, the NFL and NFLPA took a page out of the Jets/Revis book this week by issuing a (predictably bland) joint statement.  While it may seem like nothing, it is a notable step of progress.  And all of this is occurring without the presence of lawyers, quite a leap from the persistence of litigation from the NFLPA's side up until June.

3) NBA Lockout will start June 30th - And you thought the NFL Lockout was ugly.  In a league where two-thirds of its teams struggle to break even, the NBA's impending lockout will also be a long, drawn out process, perhaps more grave than the NFL's. It's one that will commence the Thursday before Independence Day.

Can you imagine the PR nightmare of not one, but two high profile professional sports leagues being in an impasse?  Whether it is fair or not, fans across the country will gripe about millionaires and billionaires struggling to financially agree while the fans themselves are struggling just to afford season tickets.  The last thing both leagues want to see is having the fans turn a blind eye on them.  The NBA Lockout won't cause a new NFL CBA, but it could accelerate the process.

4) Nobody pisses away a $10B industry - If thirty-two owners were shrewd and intelligent enough to construct a league that would one day be worth $10B, there is no way in hell they would throw it all away.  This is not the NBA where most teams are struggling to make money; even the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills of the league are making money.

To take it a step further, those who say that the owners can afford a prolonged lockout are kidding themselves.  Do you think Jerry Jones, who constructed a $1B stadium in 2009, will be happy seeing his place only full three nights in 2011 for a few Keith Urban concerts and one Floyd Mayweather fight in which he is too much of a pansy to fight Pacquiao?  Do you think John Mara and Woody Johnson wanted the New Meadowlands to be used merely for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band?  In a league where roughly a half billion dollars is made each regular season week, everyone is a winner when games are played.

Nobody wins in a lockout.  Both sides know that.  So take a trip to South Carolina, buy some Black Cats and Roman Candles, and be ready to celebrate the looming 2011 NFL season this Fourth of July.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

REX Kiper Jr.'s 1st Round Mock Draft

In the first piece of tangible football activity since Super Bowl XLV, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight with the first round.

Compiling a mock draft is no easy task.  Not only must you sift through heaps of contradictory information from various insiders and assess value and team need, but you must realize that all it takes is one team to value a certain player high enough to pick.  We all saw this last year when in a stunning move the Jacksonville Jaguars selected DT Tyson Alualu, raising eyebrows because so many teams valued him as a second rounder.  The Jags didn't and thus drafted him with the 10th overall pick.  He went on to justify the high selection by having a pretty good rookie year.

Oh yeah, predicting potential trades is an even more impossible task.

Which brings me to this point:  The NFL Draft is a crapshoot.  Mock drafts may seem like a futile attempt at prognostication, but damn it they are fun.  With that being said, it's onto this first round mock.  Note: This does not include trades.

1) Carolina Panthers - QB Cam Newton

2) Denver Broncos - DT Marcell Dareus

3) Buffalo Bills - DE/OLB Von Miller

4) Cincinnati Bengals - WR AJ Green

5) Arizona Cardinals - CB Patrick Peterson

6) Cleveland Browns - WR Julio Jones

7) San Francisco 49ers - QB Blaine Gabbert

8) Tennessee Titans - DT Nick Fairley

9) Dallas Cowboys - DE Cameron Jordan

10) Washington Redskins - QB Jake Locker

11) Houston Texans - DE/OLB Robert Quinn

12) Minnesota Vikings - DE Da'Quan Bowers

13) Detroit Lions - OT Tyron Smith

14) St. Louis Rams - DE Aldon Smith

15) Miami Dolphins - RB Mark Ingram

16) Jacksonville Jaguars - DE Ryan Kerrigan

17) New England Patriots - DE JJ Watt

18) San Diego Chargers - DE Cameron Heyward

19) New York Giants - G/C Mike Pouncey

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CB Prince Amukamara

21) Kansas City Chiefs - OT Anthony Castonzo

22) Indianapolis Colts - OT Gabe Carimi

23) Philadelphia Eagles - DT Corey Liuget

24) New Orleans Saints - DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson

25) Seattle Seahawks - QB Andy Dalton

26) Baltimore Ravens - CB Jimmy Smith

27) Atlanta Falcons - DE Adrian Clayborn

28) New England Patriots - OT Derek Sherrod

29) Chicago Bears - OT Nate Solder

30) New York Jets - DE/OLB Akeem Ayers

31) Pittsburgh Steelers - NT Phil Taylor

32) Green Bay Packers - G Danny Watkins

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DJ Tanner's top music from 2010 (Part II of IV: Songs for the Weekend)

I can't stand the radio.  I used to just not stand the top 40 station and could tolerate the rest, but it's all the same when it comes down to it.  All of them have (what I'll call) a "jukebox" they pick from, and it's the same songs over and over again.  Even oldies or classic rock stations use the same perfunctory method when it comes to playing music.  Listening to the radio at work everyday is like living in the movie "Groundhog Day."  You have a classic rock station and you can pick from tens of thousands of songs, but yet I still hear the same three Rolling Stones, Beatles, or Elton John songs everyday.  It becomes so trite.  And don't even get me started on 90% of what I hear out in social settings.

That rant of a preface was to set the stage for the top 4 songs from 2010 that I wish I heard more in public settings such as a bar, waiting on line at Chipotle, or socializing with friends.  All four of these songs are singles, but only one I have heard out in public and on television.  Without further ado, I present the top 4...

4) "Tell Me Why"
    by M.I.A.

M.I.A. just has a knack for extremely catchy songs.  It's arguably her biggest downfall, too -- that she has a few amazingly memorable songs per album and part of the rest misses the mark.  That being said, Maya, while not complete, is certainly a step in the right direction.  "Tell Me Why" is a standout.

Backed by a heavy military drum beat and a sprinkling of auto tune (which I normally dislike), M.I.A. poses the question "Tell me why / Things change but they feel the same / If life is such a game / How come people all act the same?" in the chorus.  I think what makes her original is her ability to meld relevant social topics in her lyrics with amazingly poppy and enjoyable songwriting.

Perfect evidence of that occurs at the 2:30 mark of the song when a wiggly bass line enters the picture and conjoins with the drum beat.  It also contains my favorite lyrics:

I got roof on my head, I got food in my pot 
And the old ways are dead with the new ones we got 
There's water in my pot and I'm half and half not 
And the old kind is broke with the new kind we bought 
I drink alcohol, know the words to Wonderwall 
I rewrite the code while I do my time on road

Interpreting lyrics is no science and often times is nebulous, but to me I enjoy these lines because it seems to have a theme of tradition versus progression and change over time and how we are all fallible.  Think about it for a second but not too long because you are tossed right back into the addictive chorus as the song concludes.  And that is what makes M.I.A. an extremely fun listen.

3) "Bright Lights, Bigger City"
    by Cee Lo Green
    The Lady Killer

Sometimes when I listen to Cee Lo Green, I wonder if his voice was cryogenically frozen for decades only to be broken out in the present day in order to save the world.  Ya know, kinda like Austin Powers but for music instead of espionage?  Somethin' like that.

Either way, when I first heard this song I was captivated because it is the ultimate "it's Friday and I just got out of work!!!" song.  There is nothing like being in a good mood and having a song to perfectly capture it.  This song accomplishes it to the fullest degree.  Cee Lo agrees.  Here is what he said to MTV News:

This song, I think, just has a broader appeal, because it's just not talking about me, it's talking about us. It's a song about the nightlife and just kinda being out and living for the weekend. It's kinda got that 'working-class hero' quality too; I reference, you know, songs like Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid". So it's a story that's been told before, and it's so true to life. ... We all work pretty hard throughout the week, and Friday and Saturday, you know, will always be special, so this is just a song to commemorate that.

It starts off with some synths and then before you know it, strings, bass, and drums all kick in, giving off a "Billie Jean" meets the Bee Gees vibe.  Turn the clocks back about thirty years and enjoy the next three minutes.  

He starts off by singing, "I've been living for the weekend / But no, not anymore / Cause here comes that familiar feeling / That Friday's famous for."  If you haven't enjoyed the song up until this point, I don't know what to tell you.  Maybe you just don't like Friday.  Cee Lo has the perfect remedy, "Now Friday is cool / But there's something about Saturday night / You can't say what you won't do / Cause you know you just might."

While the rest of the album's roots lie in the 60s and early 70s, "Bright Lights, Bigger City" takes on the challenge of reviving the effervescent Studio 54 days of the late 70s and early 80s.  It passes with flying colors.

2) "Shutterbugg (feat. Cutty)"
     by Big Boi
     Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

As Big Boi himself aptly puts it on another track "General Patton," he is back "As one half of the OutKast return like ghost of Christmas past."  It has been a while since we've heard substantial material from either member of one of hip hop's greatest acts of all time -- OutKast.  On this breakout album, "Shutterbugg" places the listener in the midst of a club where I'd certainly like to be.

Strapped by a memorable hook, a catchy guitar bridge, and excellent change of pace, this song is a delight from start to finish.  Here is the hook:

Now party people in the club it's time to cut a rug
And throw the deuce up in the sky just for the shutterbugs
I'm double-fistin' and if you're empty you can grab a cup
Boy stop, I'm just playing, let me dap you up

Baby baby, you're in my system
Baby baby, tell me you're listening

The bridge then gives a shout out to the guys and girls in the club:

Now this goes out to all my playas in the back
Sippin' 'yac, bendin' 'round corners in the 'lac
Cut a rug, playa, now cut a rug
And throw yo' deuces in the sky for the shutterbug
And this goes out to all my ladies in the front
What you want? You make me wanna breed, girl freeze
Cut a rug, lady, now cut a rug
And throw yo' deuces in the sky for the shutterbug

This is an absolute softball for a DJ to play in a bar or club, and yet I did not hear it once at all the entire year.  Maybe I don't go out as much these days, or maybe I don't live in a legitimate city that plays new or good music out at bars and clubs (Ahem: Reason #13443 to move to New York).  

Either way, any song that can repopularize the term "cut a rug" gets my stamp of approval.

     by Kanye West
    My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The stylization of the title, with it being in all caps, pretty much sums up the entire song best.  Kanye West is damn good, and he damn well knows it.

The combination of two samples, one being the heavy guitar of "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson and the other the backing harmonies of "Afromerica" by funk band Continent Number 6, join forces on a song that packs a bigger punch than any Kanye West single has seen before.  That in itself is incredibly bold and challenging, but it's an easy task for Mr. West.  It might seem like a daring statement, but it is not -- this is his best single to date.  The lyrics that accompany the beat are equally impressive.  I really enjoy how Kanye expresses his disdain for those critical of him and how he acknowledges and embraces his vanity.  There are two parts of the strong that incorporate this theme, and it initially appears in the second verse:

Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic
He know, he so, fuckin gifted
I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind, but couldnt open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being prodded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin up with me
Takin my inner child, I'm fighting for custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece

Then in the breakdown of the song, it gets to a point of narcissistic rage while a delicate piano eventually comes to the forefront:

Lost in translation with a whole fuckin nation
They say I was the abomination of Obama's nation
Well, that's a pretty bad way to start the conversation
At the end of day, goddammit, I'm killin this shit
I know damn well yall feelin this shit
I don't need yo pussy, bitch, I'm on my own dick
I ain't gotta power trip, who you goin home with?

While some hip hop tracks have a predictable verse, hook, rinse, wash, repeat method to it, this is far from it (As I will expound later, it's a noticeable trend on this unique album).  At this moment, however, Dwele provides the final haunting vocals as the song shifts gears.  Dwele was excellent on Graduation's "Flashing Lights" and he fits perfectly in "POWER" as well.  Overall, this is a song that immediately grabs your attention but never lets go over time.  Kind of like Kanye's iron fist over the rap game.

DJ Tanner's top music from 2010 (Part I of IV: Kickin' Things Off)

What up?  It's DJ Tanner on the ones and twos here to give you the top music from the past year.  All in all, it was a pretty great year for music and certainly an upgrade from 2009.  Let's get down to business...

What this music review will contain:
- Honorable Mentions for songs of the year
- The top 4 club/bar songs of the year
- The top 11 songs of the year, regardless of genre
- Previous songs of the year (since 2004)
- Album of the year

Disclaimer:  Ultimately, music is subjective and I do not profess to be an expert; these are merely my observations.  I will, however, do my best to illustrate why these songs deserve such praise.  Furthermore, music is a form of art and as such there will be no censoring of lyrics or themes discussed.  You've been warned!

Here is a taste to start up some of the best music from the past year....

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

"Never Give You Up" - by The Black Keys - off of Brothers

"Shine Blockas (feat. Gucci Mane)" - Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

"Afraid Of Everyone" - The National - High Violet

"Sweetest Kill" - Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

"Siberian Breaks" - MGMT - Congratulations

Monday, February 28, 2011

New York Jets Pre-Combine Mock Offseason I

With the NFL Combine in full swing and the end of the league year coming at 11:59PM EST Thursday night, now is time for the first New York Jets mock offseason.  In it will include players let go and players that will be brought in while being cautious of cap space.  Since the salary cap is yet to be determined, I have done my best to balance the money saved and money spent budget.

Expiring Contracts (Italics indicates player not projected to be retained):

DE  Shaun Ellis - $3.35MM cap value last season
P  Steve Weatherford
S  Brodney Pool 
FB  Tony Richardson - $912,280 cap value last season
WR  Braylon Edwards
OT  Wayne Hunter
DE  Trevor Pryce - $ 387,059 cap value last season
CB  Antonio Cromartie - $1.695MM cap value last season
LB  Lance Laury - $687,280 cap value last season
WR  Santonio Holmes 
S  Eric Smith - $1,183,280 cap value last season
WR/KR  Brad Smith - $1,766,280 cap value last season
CB  Drew Coleman
QB  Kellen Clemens - $700,000 cap value last season
K  Nick Folk
S  James Ihedigbo
C/G  Rob Turner

$10,681,179 in freed up money

The most interesting name here is Antonio Cromartie.  The Jets paid a heavy price for Cromartie – a 3rd rounder that escalated to a 2nd round pick – and will ultimately see him walk.  This one chalks up as one of Tannenbaum’s calculated risks that paid off in the short term but definitely not in the long.  Though he was adequate and an upgrade at the #2 CB position from the 2009 season, the reality is not all of the big names will be able to be kept this offseason.  When it comes down to it, a guy who relies so heavily on athleticism and little on experience and technique might not be one you want to sign to a deal that would keep him until his thirties, especially when you have a 2010 first rounder in Kyle Wilson that you want to see was worth the investment or not.

Brad Smith is going to be a guy that will get overpaid this offseason because one team will think they can make him a larger part of the offense and will thus price themselves out of the Jets range.  That team will be disappointed when they find out that Smith is an excellent role player but not a more central focus.  Furthermore, Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff has groomed a slew of potent kick returners in his eleven seasons, including guys like Craig Yeast, Chad Morton, Justin Miller, and Leon Washington.

Shaun Ellis was one of the first to clean his locker out after the loss to Pittsburgh, and I don’t think the Jets longest tenured man will be brought back to eek out one more year.  I could easily see him in another uniform on a desperate or newly formed 3-4 defense is in need of a veteran five technique end.

Safety Eric Smith has value on special teams and occasionally makes the big hit, but he makes far too many mistakes in space.  James Ihedigbo possesses similar skills and could be used as a cheaper alternative to Smith...  Laury can have his role replaced by ILB Josh Mauga, whose athleticism will at least help on specials...  Based on his feelings during Hard Knocks, Kellen Clemens wants one more training camp battle.  He won’t get that here.

Predicted Cuts:

DE  Vernon Gholston -$6,273,333 cap value including $2.565MM Roster Bonus - $5,806,667 dead money, $466,666 cap savings
OT  Damien Woody - $4.26MM cap value including $400,000 Workout Bonus - $1.02MM dead money, $3.24MM cap savings [UPDATE 2/28: CUT]
OLB  Bryan Thomas - $3.7MM cap value including $500,000 Bonus - $0 dead money, $3.7MM cap savings
TE  Ben Hartsock - $1.65MM cap value including $50,000 Bonus - $0 dead money, $1.65MM cap savings
QB Eric Ainge - $603,530 cap value including $7,280 Bonus - $41,250 dead money, $562,280 cap savings
OLB  Jason Taylor - $2.275MM cap value - $0 dead money, $2.275MM cap savings

$11,893,946 in freed up money

Vernon Gholston has been a monumental bust and the biggest blemish on GM Mike Tannenbaum’s nearly squeaky clean résumé.  The front office will gladly eat the nearly $6MM in dead money to show him the door...  Damien Woody served as an excellent RT for the past three seasons, but an Achilles tear in the Wild Card Round put that to a screeching halt.  It’s the worst injury to endure, and players rarely return to their normal levels.  It’s even possible the 33 year old will retire.  Either way, the Jets will likely move on and have Wayne Hunter serve as the starter with Vladimir Ducasse competing…  Bryan Thomas is a JAG at this point of his career and the combination of cap savings and zero dead money sounds like an appealing cap-saving cut…  Ben Hartsock commands zero respect as a receiving threat and can be cheaply replaced…  Ainge showed little long term promise, and that was even before he went to rehab.  Nuff said…  Jason Taylor has a few playoff victories to add to his career accomplishments, but I’m sure he’d say this year left a sour taste in his mouth.  He’ll be gone, but my respect level for him is infinitely higher than it used to be.


OLB  Jason Taylor
DE  Trevor Pryce
FB  Tony Richardson


QB  Mark Sanchez – 2011 $17,753,125 cap value including $500,000 Bonus - $16,509,375 dead money if cut, $1,243,750 cap savings if cut
New 2011 cap value: $12MM

NT  Kris Jenkins – 2011 $6.4MM cap value including  $1MM Roster Bonus - $1.8MM dead money if cut, $4.6MM cap savings if cut
New 2011 cap value: $2.2MM

$10,123,125 in freed up money

Now that the bust label is pretty much shed from Sanchez, now is a good time to lock him up for the considerable future.  Even more so, his $17+ million cap figure for 2011 is exorbitant.  The best thing for both sides is to lower the 2011 figure while also adding more years and total guaranteed money to his contract.  Adding say three more years to his contract keeps him under Jets rights through the 2016 season.  A $12MM figure for 2011 seems reasonable.

Kris Jenkins is an interesting case.  When healthy, he is a dominating force on the inside and maybe the only defensive lineman on the Jets roster that legitimately commands double teams.  The problem though is health.  If this were any other guy, I could see him easily being cut.  Based on early indications, Jenkins wants to make another go at it this year instead of hanging up the cleats.  If the Jets approach this as “expect nothing, be happy with anything” with regard to his health and not rely on him as a key cog in the 2011 lineup, then they can possibly work out an incentive based deal where Jenkins takes a significant pay cut unless he stays healthy.

Total Players Let Go:  14
Total 2011Cap Space Freed: $32,728,250

In-house Free Agent Signings with 2011 Cap Figures:

WR  Santonio Holmes - $7MM
ILB  David Harris - $6MM
WR  Braylon Edwards - $6MM
OT  Wayne Hunter - $3.1MM
S  Brodney Pool - $1.8MM
C/G  Rob Turner - $750,000
CB  Drew Coleman - $1MM
S  James Ihedigbo - $1MM
P  Steve Weatherford - $750,000
K  Nick Folk - $750,000

$28,150,000 to retain players (10)

By all indications, Santonio Holmes appears to be priority number one, even if it comes at the cost of Braylon Edwards.  I think they keep both in order to surround the young QB with all of the weapons he needs.  Expect Holmes’s contract to have provisions in place in case he does get into trouble again so that the team’s investment is protected. 

David Harris was recently franchised by the team, setting him up to earn roughly $10MM this season.  The tag was used more as a precaution in order to guarantee his rights for another season in hopes of signing an extension.  A member of the team’s “Core Four,” look for the front office to ink Harris for years to come like his fellow teammates D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Darrelle Revis.  Not only will it ensure his place in a Jets uniform for a while, but it will also significantly reduce his cap hit in 2011.  Look for a smaller 2011 cap hit with a big bonus in 2012, however, forcing the front office to restructure with Bart Scott.  Few teams can or should pay to inside linebackers a nearly combined $16MM annually.

According to some sources close to the Jets, the team attempted to extend Wayne Hunter at a lower cost before the season and he and his agent balked at the offer.  Instead, they opted to gamble the 2010 season in an attempt to increase his value.  A swing tackle for the past few years, Hunter earned his chance to start with Damien Woody’s two separate injuries late in the year.  While he was far from All-Pro, he certainly showed his worth as a short-term starter at RT.  According to the same source, the Jets approached Hunter’s agent this past weekend but have yet to break ground on negotiations.  Though four other teams have expressed interest if he hits the open market, he has a stated a desire to remain with the team that groomed him.  Look for a 2-3 year deal with a significant bump from his 2010 pay ($1.233MM).

Brodney Pool showed strides of improvement down the stretch and including the playoffs, exhibiting great technique in run support along with a bit of playmaking ability.  This is one of those miserly positions for the front office, and I don’t see them paying a premium on just an average starter.  If he demands too much, look for a cheaper alternative…  Rob Turner is a fiery guy who will be needed as insurance in case of an injury to Mangold, Matt Slauson, or Brandon Moore…  At times, Drew Coleman can be head-scratchingly bad in coverage; other times, he comes up with a big sack, forced fumble, or interception.  For CB depth, you can really do worse.  He stays if he doesn’t want a significant raise from 2010…  Ihedigbo, or “Dig” as his teammates call him, can fill in under the Eric Smith role for the team as a hybrid safety/linebacker in passing situations as well as on special teams.  Both are big hitters with limited coverage skills, but Dig will be cheaper and is a better blitzer.

Despite a head-scratching decision to fake punt in a low scoring game against the eventual Super Bowl Champs, Steve Weatherford was a pretty effective regular season punter, nearly setting an NFL record for most punts inside the 20; unfortunately, he lost his charm in the playoffs and was nothing short of horrendous.  For a punter, 15 solid games outweighs 4 poor ones so I think he’ll be brought back…  Nick Folk was far from a good kicker last year, but at the same time he didn’t cost the team any games.  His kickoffs did get noticeably worse throughout the season though.  For now, he’ll be back.

Other Free Agent Pickups:

OLB Antwan Barnes - $1.2MM

Barnes was acquired mid-season by the Chargers from the Eagles.  As a part-time player, he notched four sacks in eleven games with San Diego.  He’d likely compete with Jamaal Westerman and a rookie for the starting OLB opposite Calvin Pace.

$29,350,000 total spent
$32,728,250 total saved

$3, 378,250 available to spend on rookies

With at least three more roster spots available, here is the time for rookies.  Approximately $5MM will be needed to sign all rookies.  Since this offseason mock will not include specific rookies, it should be noted that the Jets primary concern in the draft is help in the front seven, most glaringly at DE and OLB. 

There we go.  As the offseason progresses, I will periodically update this.  For now, keep your fingers crossed that this lockout ends ASAP.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Updated Mark Sanchez Career Playoff Numbers

Mark Sanchez

2009: 2-1 record, lost in AFC Championship Game; 4 TD, 2 INT; 60.3% completions; 180 ypg; 7.9 ypa; 92.7 QB rating

2010: 2-1 record, lost in AFC Championship Game; 5 TD, 1 INT; 60.7% completions; 205 ypg; 6.9 ypa; 95.5 QB rating

Total: 6 games, 4-2 record; 9 TD, 3 INT; 60.5% completions; 192.5 ypg; 7.4 ypa; 94.3 QB rating

As for some of the "negative" statistics, in those six games he has been sacked only four times.  He has also lost one fumble.  That being said, perhaps the most amazing statistic is his incredibly low rate of interceptions, with only 1.9% of his attempts going for picks.  Let's see how that, as well as the rest of Mark's numbers, stack up with some of the all-time bests in the playoffs.

Thanks to, here are the 21 highest rated quarterbacks in NFL Playoff History (min: 6 games played or 150 attempts):

Rank                                Rating  Wins  Losses   Comp     Att      TD    INT    Yards    YPA
1   Aaron Rodgers         112.6      4            1            118      174     13      3      1517      8.7
2   Bart Starr                    104.8      9            1           130      213     15       3      1753      8.2
3   Kurt Warner               102.3      9            4            307     462      31     14     3952      8.6
4   Drew Brees               102.0      4            3            189     285      15      2      2052      7.2
5   Joe Montana               95.6     16           7            460      734     45     21     5772      7.9
6   Mark Sanchez             94.3      4            2              95      157       9       3      1155      7.4
7   Ken Anderson            93.5       2            4           110      166       9       6      1321      8.0
8   Joe Theismann         91.4       6            2            128      211     11      7      1782      8.4
9   Peyton Manning         88.4       9          10           435      692     28     19     5164      7.5
10 Troy Aikman               88.3      11           5           320      502      23     17    3849      7.7
11 Brett Favre                  86.3      13         11           481      791     44     30     5855      7.4
12 Steve Young               85.8      12           8           292      471     20     13     3326      7.1
13 Tom Brady                  85.7      14           5           424      682     30     16     4407      6.5
14 Warren Moon             84.9       3            7           259      403      17     14     2870      7.1
15 Rich Gannon             84.6       4            5            154      240     11      9       1691     7.0
16 Ben Roethlisberger  84.5      10           3           226      369     19     16     2861      7.8
17 Matt Hasselbeck       84.4       5            6           237      406      18      9      2741      6.8
18 Ken Stabler                84.2       7            6           203      351      19     13     2641      7.5
19 Bernie Kosar             83.5       4            5           152      270      16     10     1953      7.2
20 Jake Delhomme       83.3      5             3           130      226      12     10     1847      8.2
21 Terry Bradshaw        83.0      14           5            261     456      30     26     3833      8.4

Not too shabby for a guy with two years experience.  Now of course he hasn't been asked to shoulder the load as much as guys like Montana, Manning, Brees, or Young, but Mark has been pretty effective in what he's been asked to do and has shown considerable improvement over his regular season numbers.

Going back to the percentage of attempts intercepted, Sanchez's paltry 1.9% of attempts intercepted would place him fourth on this list, only behind Rodgers, Starr, and Brees.  This is astonishing improvement from his rookie regular season numbers, where a whopping 5.5% of his attempts were intercepted.  While he did make remarkable improvement in that department in his second regular season (only 2.6% where picked off), his tremendous post-season ball security and decision-making is almost unparalleled.

Rather than simply protecting the ball, Sanchez has risen to the occasion when asked to make a play.  5.7% of his playoff passes have resulted in a touchdown, placing him 7th on this list and ahead of names like Brady, Aikman, and Roethlisberger.

What does this all mean for Sanchez?  The regular season Mark Sanchez is still a work in progress, though it is safe to say that he has shaken off any bust labels placed on him.  A lot remains to be seen whether he will be an above-average quarterback or an elite level quarterback.  Year three in the Jets system will go a long way in determining his ceiling.  Accuracy will be of paramount focus for Sanchez since that is his major weakness at this point, and it is what seemed to have triggered his playoff successes thus far.  He probably will not be a guy that will finish top 5 in yards or TDs most years, but he has the makings of a guy you want behind center when the season is on the line.