Implied Dissent

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Ok, here comes my Super Bowl analysis:
Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots, Patriots favored by 7. I have a strong inclination to just say the Pats are a far superior team and will handle Carolina easily, but I’ll break it down a bit more than that. Let’s start off with the Patriots offense against the Carolina D. I am of the opinion that the Carolina D is overrated somewhat, though the recent improvement is somewhat legit. They were missing some guys at first and they moved Ricky Manning into the lineup, so I think we have to take their D seriously. Based on the stats over at, the Panther’s defense has gone from average to among the best over the last few weeks. Some of that is luck, such as when Eagles receivers run the wrong routes and cause interceptions that make Carolina look good, but not all of it. Take out the good fortune factor, and I’d say we’re looking at a good to very good pass defense and a good to very good run defense. As for the Patriots, they have basically had a reliable if unspectacular passing game and a reliably unproductive running game this season. However, recently this has changed a bit as well, as Antowain Smith is playing very well right now, giving the Pats a pretty balanced offense. Probably not as good as the Carolina D, but it’s not a big mismatch. Except that the Pats’ offense has been pretty shaky on the road this season, principally because all of Brady’s interceptions came on the road. This could very well be the key to the game: turnovers. If the Pats don’t turn the ball over, or only do so once, they should be in great shape. If they turn it over multiple times, then we could be looking at a loss. So the question is, should we consider this a road game since it’s in Houston, or not because no one will be up against a rowdy enemy crowd? I’m not sure, but maybe it’s a good sign that the Pats are considered the home team this year….
On the other side of the ball the Patriots have a pretty big advantage. Carolina has a mediocre passing game and an overrated running game, while the Pats have a good and improving run defense and a great passing defense. Arguably, the Pats have the best defense in the league. While Delhomme has done better than any of us expected (if we even expected anything), there is no way he is ready to face this Belichick defense. They will give him so many different looks and come at him in so many ways he won’t know what hit him. When the Panthers try to run, don’t expect much to happen. Stephen Davis is a good but not great back, and Foster is a bad not good back. Sure he had that phenomenal touchdown where he pulled about four guys along with him, but generally on grass he sucks. If Davis were fully healthy and capable of running 30+ times I’d be concerned, but he isn’t, so I’m not. As for the road aspect of the game, that probably does help Carolina a bit, as their offense doesn’t seem to be particular about where it plays overall and the Pats aren’t as dominant on the road, but the edge still goes to the Pats. So right now we’re probably calling it a tossup or even a slight edge to Carolina, but of course there’s more.
Special teams favor the Pats by a lot. The Patriots are better in three of the aspects of kick returns (kickoff vs. punt, kicking vs. returning), with a tossup when they are punting. This will give them a big advantage in field position. As for field goals, the stats suggest that Carolina has a large edge here that neutralizes the Pats special teams advantages, except that it’s based on Vinatieri’s bad season. As Adam Ice is basically healthy now, I don’t expect this to be an issue. Advantage New England. So at this point we’re saying the Patriots have a small overall advantage.
Now we come to the harder to define aspects of the game. Coaching, chemistry, experience and the like. John Fox is a fine coach, but I’ll take Belichick and his staff any day of the week. Give them two weeks to prepare for an opponent, and the other guys don’t have much of a chance. Chemistry doesn’t seem to favor either team, as both sides seem to have this in spades; players for both teams are more concerned with winning games than personal stats or fame, so there isn’t really much to say here. On a related subject, Carolina is the sentimental favorite, as everyone loves an underdog. The crowd is more likely to support them than the Pats, so that may be a small edge their way. The last thing I’m looking at is experience, and the Patriots are all over this. About half the current team was there when they won it all two years ago. They know what going to the Super Bowl is all about, what to expect in terms of distractions, how to deal with the pressure, and all those sorts of things. Experience isn’t necessary, but it helps.
So my final prediction is that the experience factor plus the two weeks to prepare by the superior coaching staff factor are decisive for New England. Brady probably will turn the ball over once, but it’s unlikely it’ll be more than that, and the defense will keep Carolina down. PATRIOTS 20, PANTHERS 10. (And if the Pats go up quickly, it could be a lot wider margin than that, as that means Delhomme will have to pass to a waiting secondary. Excellent.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Good news about pennies from heaven, so to speak.
Here's a nice review of Big Fish that complements Penny's review of it from two weeks ago. Most critics have been giving the film poor reviews, but I liked it, I thought it was a good story that was well told. I guess there's no accounting for taste, mine and other people's.
ESPN has sent Sports Guy to Houston to blog on Super Bowl Week. So far so good. What I found interesting is his idea at the end of today's entry about the NBA Finals, what is very similar to an idea of mine. He thinks they should play the first three games at a neutral site, while I was thinking it should be the last three games. Either way would be interesting.
So, Jim O'Brien stepped down as Celtics' coach, due to philosophical differences with Danny Ainge. While this isn't really a shock, as there have been rumors about this sort of thing happening at least since training camp, I am disappointed. I really hoped that O'Brien would stick it out, I think he's a very good coach and that he and Ainge could have worked their problems out. Of course, I'm saying this from the outside looking in, so, as Sports Guy sometimes says, I have no point. Except that I don't like it.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Happy Chinese New Year.
Your gift? Dancing robots.
More seriously, Gary Hart wrote a piece on Libya's efforts at normalization. Contrary to what is usually told to us, Libya has been trying to get on our good side for a while, it's not a recent development caused by our actions in Iraq.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I found this piece on Ronald Reagan and the Iowa caucus pretty interesting. Not sure how it applies to what happened last night in Iowa, but it's still worth reading.
It's the generic rap song. Go P-Unit!
The thing about this piece is that I would not be surprised at all to find out it's true.
Nicholas Kristof looks into globalization, trade and the horrors of the third-world from first-hand experience. Like anyone else, I want to see people living in deep poverty better off and would not want to work in the kinds of conditions that usually exist in factories overseas, but we need to ask ourselves what the alternatives are. What would happen if Nike, for example, stopped manufacturing shoes in Southeast Asia? Obviously no one can say for certain, but most likely the people they employ would go back to the even worse jobs they had before. The current situation is far from ideal, but progress is being made, and most is being made through the voluntary actions of individuals and companies, not by people taking actions to make themselves feel better about the situation but do not help the poor abroad. (I realize that came off a bit bitchy, but I think most activists on the issue are just trying to feel morally superior. Not all of them, but most).

Friday, January 16, 2004

Onto championship weekend! 2-2 picking winners last week, 1-3 against the spread. Bringing me to 3-5 picking winners, and 1-6-1 against the spread for the playoffs so far. Maybe you should bet against my picks.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots, Patriots favored by 3. The Colts’ offense is extremely hot right now. No punts in two playoff games is kind of amazing. But they’ve done it at home against a defense that didn’t show up, and against one of the worst defenses in the league. New England has arguably the best defense, the game will be in Foxboro, and the weather should favor defenses in general. So anything can happen on that side of the ball. The key will be long plays vs. red zone performance: The Colts have a big advantage on long pass plays, especially out of their side of the field, so keeping those from turning into touchdowns is the key for the Pats, and the Pats have a big advantage inside of the red zone, so taking advantage of scoring opportunities there will be very important for the Colts. I expect both squads to look great at times and horrible at times. When the Pats have the ball could actually be more important. The last time the teams played, the Pats went through the Colts D almost like it wasn’t there for half the game, and looked like a high school team in the second half. What sort of result should we expect from this matchup? I’m thinking the Colts will be able to keep the Pats from dominating them, but the New England will generally outperform the Colts’ D. One key is for the Pats to be able to run the ball and keep the clock running, which I think they’ll be able to do, as Smith has been running much better recently and despite their overall weakness running the ball, the Pats are rarely stuffed on their runs. As for special teams, the Pats are better on kick returns on both sides of the ball, but Indy has the top field goal kicker in the game, so it should be a wash, though if Vinatieri is healthy the Pats will control this aspect of the game. So, while a Colts’ win wouldn’t be shocking, I’m sticking with my hometown team. Patriots 30, Colts 26.
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles, Eagles favored by 4.5. I tried convincing myself the Panthers would win this game, but I don’t think I can do it. I don’t want to call them a fraud, but they aren’t this good. And now that it looks like Stephen Davis won’t play I think the Eagles will handle this game easily. Admittedly the Eagles are banged up a bit too, but going back to the first rule of picking playoff games, don’t pick lousy QBs on the road. And the last rule, look at those QBs again. Well, Delhomme is probably a better QB than I’ve given him credit for, but I still don’t trust him in back-to-back playoff road games. Plus, one of the reasons he’s been effective is that Stephen Davis has provided a good running game behind him. Well, Foster is no Davis, and it’s going to hurt the Panthers a lot. On the other side of the ball, McNabb ain’t great, but he is very good, and the Panthers D is overrated. On special teams Philly is generally better on kick returns, and FG kicking is about equal, maybe a slight advantage to the Panthers. I don’t think the Eagles offense will be great, but they will put up a lot of points due to very good field position. Eagles 34, Panthers 10.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I am going to abuse this site as a place to vent. Winter driving is hard enough, why can't people use common sense? (1) in a snowstorm or rainstorm - your headlights may not help you see better, but they sure as hell help me see you better; (2) turn signals, turn signals, turn signals - if you are going to my lane in front of me when there isn;t actually a space - use of the turn signal will let me know what the hell you are doing so I don't inadvertently slam into you; (3) when the road is slippery don't follow so close.

There, I feel better.

In response to Bob's pointed note below, I will take a moment to fill you in on a movie that I loved: Big Fish. Directed by Tim Burton and based on the book "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions" by Daniel Wallace, the film does not easily fit into any genre. I have described it to others as "mystical realism" along the lines of "Like Water for Chocolate" and "House of the Spirits," but that isn't really accurate. It can also be compared to "The Princess Bride," but that isn't exactly a good fit either. We have come to expect mold-breaking films from Time Burton, who brought us "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman" and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" among other films (he has also announced plans to direct a remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but this film is his most category-defying work yet.

The story is a simple one, an estranged son returns home to make peace with his father before he dies. What made Big Fish work for me was the contrast between this realistic story the myths and fantasies that take the place of what in another movie would be flashbacks. Not wanting to ruin the movie for anyone who may be reading this, I'll just say that the father (played by Ewan MacGregor and Albert Finney) has a talent for telling stories, epitomized by his favorite story about the biggest fish that got away. The fish theme is carried throughout - playing on the concepts of "fish out of water," "big fish in a small pond" and others. The stories are fantastic, and presented by the father as absolute truth - causing his son (played by Billy Crudup) to feel betrayed and angry years later as he comes to believe that his father has lied to him. His main complaint is, however, not having been deceived but that he he feels that he doesn't know his father at all.

I will easily admit to crying at the end. The film hit home for me in many ways - having recently lost my own father who was not the easiest person to know. The story is told without any apology for the fantastic - the mythic is portrayed with the same depth and honesty as the realistic, and the acting is so powerful that you are easily swept up in the lives of these characters.

A word about the art direction: the rich colors and expressive sets and costumes envelop the viewer without overwhelming or stealing the focus from the story. In my opinion that is the goal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Lots of links today while waiting for Penny to review Big Fish. More medicore-at-best playoff picks later.
Robert Samuelson with a good piece on trade. Despite what people tell you, imports are good for us. Really, they are. Also, here's a solid Michael Kinsley piece on the same subject. And another from The Vodka Pundit.
Here's the best plan I've seen so far on how to rebuild Iraq.
For anyone who's either a Cubs fan or into IP law.
An interesting piece breaking down the Colts' bread-and-butter offensive plays.
This makes me kind of sick.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Here I go again:
Carolina Panthers at Saint Louis Rams, Rams favored by 7. Don't be fooled by the numbers, the Rams' defense is one of the best in the league. Combine this with Sports Guy's rule about sucky QBs on the road, and it looks like Saint Louis is the easy pick. Carolina's special teams are better, but the real wild card is all the turnovers by the Saint Louis offense, which is the reason their defense gives up many more points than it should. I still think the Carolina D is a bit overrated, so I'm still going with the Rams, but a couple of bad interceptions could definitely turn things around. Rams 27, Panthers 16.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, Patriots favored by 6. Let's see, the home team almost always wins in this round, Eddie George has a dislocated shoulder, and Steve McNair looked atrocious last week. This might be a Costanza Theory pick (all instincts say go one way, so go the other), except the Titans have the revenge factor going for them, and I don't believe the Pats will take any game lightly, let alone one where the MVP is running the opposing offense. Patriots 27, Titans 10.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs, Chiefs favored by 3. The Colts are a great passing team, the Chiefs defend the pass ok, the Colts are an ok running team, the Chiefs are awful against the run. So Indianapolis will score a lot. Kansas City's passing is also great against a good Colts pass defense, while KC's running is top-notch and Indy's run D is really, really bad. So KC will score a lot. KC has been very inconsistent lately, and Peyton Manning has never lost in the playoffs to a team that doesn't show up (nice job last week, Denver). On the other hand KC's special teams are much better than Indy's and the game is in KC. I wouldn't be shocked if the Colts pull it off, but I'm going with the home team again. Chiefs 33, Colts 27.
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles, Eagles favored by 5.5. Green Bay should be able to put up some points on a mediocre Eagles D, with the running game doing particularly well. Philly has the better special teams situation. Normally I'd say the Packers' D matches up pretty evenly with the Eagles' offense, but they looked awful last week; if the Seahawks' receivers hadn't dropped so many balls, it would have been a really embarassing day for the Packers' D. While they could turn it around, I'm not counting on it. So I'm sticking with the home team again to win, but the Packers will cover. Eagles 24, Packers 20.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Well, those picks sucked. But I did mention earlier that they would. 0-3-1 against the spread, 1-3 picking winners....I'll try to do a little better. Also, I look back at what I wrote and some of it probably looks like I don't know what I'm talking about because it goes against conventional wisdom, but I can back it up if you want. Not that you care at this point, since I clearly suck. Oh well, new picks later this week, on to other things for now.
Is media consolidation a big problem? Not really.
Remember, oy is just yo backwards.
You know how in Lost in Translation Bill Murray's character is doing ads in Japan for big bucks? Here are some real-life examples of those kinds of ads. Some great stuff. No, some amazing stuff. Hell, just go to the Arnold ads.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Quick review of pre-season NFL predictions (+/- one win considered a success)
AFC East: Two successes, two misses
AFC North: Four misses
AFC South: One success, three misses
AFC West: One success, three misses
NFC East: One success, three misses
NFC North: Three successes, one miss
NFC South: One success, three misses
NFC West: Four misses
Add it all up, and I had 9 good calls, and 23 bad ones. Some of the misses were easily explained, like Atlanta because of Vick missing more time than expected, but some were just total whiffs. I did get Denver exactly right and called some trends right just not as far as they went, but a pretty pitiful performance on records. However, I did get four of the AFC's six playoff participants right, and three of the NFC's, so that's something.
Onto playoff game predictions:
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens, Titans favored by 1. The Titans have one of the worst running games in the league, and probably the best passing game. The Ravens have the worst passing in the league and the second leading single-season rusher ever. The Titans defense is pretty good, but only average against the run. The Ravens probably have both the best pass and run defenses this year. Baltimore's special teams are generally better than Tennessee's. Baltimore plays much better at home, and has dominated Tennessee the last few years. It looks to me like Baltimore wins fairly easily, though turnovers by the Ravens sucky QB or fumble-prone RBs could play a big role. Baltimore 23, Tennessee 14.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers, Panthers favored by 3: Neither team passes the ball well. Dallas doesn't run well, and Carolina's running isn't as good as perceived. On the other side of the ball, the Panther D isn't much better than average, while Dallas' is one of the best. The Panthers have a pretty good special teams squad. Combine all these factors with the game being played in Carolina, and it looks like a close one. I'd say the advantage goes to Dallas due to Parcells, maybe the best football coach ever. Dallas 17, Panthers 13.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, Packers favored by 7. Seattle has a very good, balanced offense, while Green Bay has a merely good, balanced offense. Green Bay complements their offense with a good, balanced defense, while Seattle is excellent against the run and medicore against the pass. Special teams shouldn't be a factor, but do slightly favor the Packers. Seattle has struggled a bit on the road this year, and the game is in Lambeau, where the home team has only lost once. Look for Favre to take apart the Seattle secondary. Green Bay 31, Seattle 17.
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favored by 3. The Colts have one of the best offenses in the league, though their running game is only about average. Peyton Manning has never won a postseason game, and Dungy doesn't have a good reputation for these kinds of games either. The Colts' D is good against the pass, but awful against the run. The Broncos, meanwhile, have a great running game, plus good passing ability. Their defense is good all-around. Special teams don't figure to be a big factor. I resisted people predicting an Indy loss for a while, but more and more it's looking like a Broncos blowout. Denver 34, Indianaplis 17.