Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The buzz word.

This past Sunday I was sitting watching the Pats destroy the Jaguars when I received a text message from my buddy Burke. It said, "I honestly would not be surprised if they lost in the first round or won a 4th championship." I responded, "I think they may be peaking, unlike the 2007 team."

That exchange led to me seeing a lot of this buzz word "peaking." Brett Favre used it after the Vikings loss on Monday Night, their thir
d loss in the past four games....excellent. Favre said he would love for the Vikings to be peaking, but that they are not. This led me to look back at the last few Super Bowl Champs. Here is how each of them finished the last six games of the regular season:

Steelers: 5-1 (12-4)
Giants: 3-3 (10-6)
Colts: 3-3 (12-4)
Steelers: 4-2 (11-5) Finished year with 4 straight wins.
Patriots: 5-1 (14-2)
Patriots: 6-0 (14-2)
Bucs: 4-2 (12-4)

Total: 30-12

In the past seven years the Super Bowl Champs have gone 30-12 in their last six games. Now this does not include teams sitting players in the last game or two (cough...Colts...cough). It also does not put into play any intangibles. An improving defense, an offense beginning to click, or quarterback making a deal with the devil (Cough...Eli Manning...cough).

Of these teams the one that struck me the most was the Giants. They sputtered through the whole season. They started 0-2. Then ran off six straight wins before their bye week. Then they lost two of three, putting them at 7-4. People were calling for Coughlin's head, he was finished and his players had quit on him. They finished the last five weeks 3-2, but the biggest game for them? The Patriots loss at the end of the regular season. It can't be measured how motivating that battle was, and it is now the rallying cry for anyone who thinks players should not be rested nearing the end of the season.

Peaking is important, and I have decided to make a peak-o-meter for the teams remaining in the playoff hunt, starting with the NFC...The rating is out of a 10 and is taking into consideration how the team has played over the past 5 weeks (with the next week rounding out my six week trial.)

New Orleans Saints:
Peak-o-meter: 3
Record: 3-2
Streak: 2 losses

This team is struggling, and they have not been struggling for just the past two weeks. A month ago this team decimated the Patriots. It was an embarrassment. It made all Pats fans cash in their chips, in the words of my buddy Burke in an angry voicemail, "Over! The season is over." The Saints since have defeated the Redskins in overtime (a lucky win), the Falcons by three, and lost to the Cowboys and the Bucs (who are 3-12).
The catch phrase from 2007: "blueprint" comes to mind when figuring out this team's recent struggles. Teams have found a way to beat them, even in the Superdome. Run the ball and attack a somewhat disjointed secondary. This team produced oodles of points until the last 2 weeks. Scoring 17 in both losses. That reminds me of a team I rooted for in 2007. Anyone know who I am talking about?

If by "your terms" you mean throwing a stupid INT. Then I hope you are
right Brett.

Minnesota Vikings:
Peak-o-meter: -2
Streak: 2 losses

Its amazing how the media can portray Favre to be such an outstanding teammate and person, but as soon as anything bad happens to his team we see him pouting and creating trouble. Favre is a huge fair-weather fan, the only problem is he has to play for the team he is complaining about. On NFL Live today some said that "turning the ball over is in Adrian Petersen and Brett Favre's DNA." Uh oh... are they going to need a blood transfusion before the playoffs?
The Vikings are in a position to lose their first round bye if they lose and the Eagles win this Sunday. Personally, I love watching Favre "unpeak" in December.

Philadelphia Eagles:
Peak-o-meter: 9.75
Record: 5-0
Streak: six wins

Philadelphia's success this decade has been amazing. Sure teams every decade are successful without winning a Super Bowl (Bills in the 90's). But how many teams have a quarterback and a coach who have thought "should I pack my bags and stick a for sale sign in my yard?" more than Andy Reid and McNabb. It is amazing that these two guys have survived as long as they have. Philly fans seem to hate both, but they have brought a great deal of success to the city.
I hope these guys can make it deep into the playoffs. A win and a Vikings loss locks up a bye, but it begs the question. Do they NEED it? They are on a roll right now, would a bye hurt them? Maybe. But they have to play to win, because a loss to the Cowboy could mean they are travelling for wildcard weekend.

Dallas Cowboys:
Peak-o-meter: 6.5
Record: 3-2 Including a win over the Saints....
Streak: 2 wins

What is there to write about the Cowboys? They are so poorly coached and Romo is simply not a good quarterback when he needs to be. This game on Sunday with the Eagles will be huge in their peak rating. They have been playing better, but they are always a team who just does not make me nervous. Another disappointing playoff exit is on the horizon for Cowboy fans I fear.

Are you ready Dallas?

Arizona Cardinals:
Peak-o-meter: 7.25
Record: 4-1
Streak: 2 wins

The defending NFC Champs are just starting to heat up. The one big strike against them, they have played some really really bad teams in the last 2 months. Check out their opponents starting November 8: @CHI, SEA, @St. Louis, @TENN, MINN, @SAN FRAN, @DET, St. LOU. That is astounding. Now, they are beating those teams, but they suck. The only big test was the Vikings game. They went in there and handled their business.

We are left to wonder a few things about this team. Are they road tested now? Can they draw from their massive success last year in the playoffs? Will Kurt Warner stay healthy throughout the entire playoffs?

Sidenote: Will a successful playoff run lock Kurt Warner into the Hall of Fame. It was a debated point last year, but would it be again this year if he took his team to the NFC Championship game or Super Bowl with some big numbers? Just a thought...

Green Bay Packers:
Peak-o-meter: 7.75
Record: 3-1 (6-1 in last 7 though...)
Streak: 1 win

This team is peaking, no doubt. Their defense is a little beat up and they are torched by the Steelers last week in that classic. However, that is their only loss since November 8. They are playing good football and Aaron Rodgers seems to be gaining some steam every week. This is a team that might get lucky with a first round home game in fridgid Green Bay. But they can play anywhere. Ryan Grant could be a ticket to a deep run. Only time will tell...

AFC rankings coming on Thursday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Child Star...

So, I avoided writing about this for as long as possible, but I guess it's time. Tiger Woods is a man-whore, there a said it. A few years back in college I wrote an article when another one of my sports idols, Barry Bonds, was going through his denial of steroids. Unfortunately I cannot share that article with you because The Crusader (Holy Cross' paper) is out of order right now.

When I wrote that article I talked about how disappointed I was, how mad I was that the 10 year old inside of me who sat in the seats of Candlestick freezing his butt off was lied to.

I can't wait for this again, whenever he decides its time....

Now I am left thinking the same thing about Tiger. My first memory of Tiger was when he was a 20 year old, he was in full fist pump mode hitting a 45 foot putt catapulting him to his record third straight US Amateur Championship. He was captivating, talented, and down right nerdy. Just watch this clip after he won that event. He is an awkward 20 year old. However, in his interview after he win he says "Tonight I am gonna party like hell." It resonates just a tad differently.

Comparing Tiger Woods to Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens or any other athlete who has fallen prey to any sort of vice might not quite be an accurate comparison.

I think we have to put Tiger into the category of Cory Feldman and Drew Barrymore. Tiger was like them, a child star. A prodigy whose life was controlled from the moment he stepped onto Mike Douglas' stage. A prodigy whose father, although loving, was also a little bit crazy.

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity." That is something Earl said right when Tiger turned pro, talk about some pressure, good God.

Tiger's life was molded and crafted to be exactly where it was, until that November night. It was publicly perfect. He starred in many great moments, winning and losing. Hitting great shots and making all his opponents better (see: Y.E. Yang). He had the gorgeous wife (is she a sad-sack in the sack??), the cute kids, the money, the smile, the children's center, and the yatcht.

Tiger's childhood was robbed from him. He spent it playing golf, sure he loved it, he loved the competition, but clearly there were some things that he missed: causing trouble, dating, experimenting, and whatever it is that cool kids do. Tiger was not a cool kid, Tiger was the golfing geek who was 1-iron thin and very bright. He probably didn't go to parties, he was too busy hitting 9-irons while his dad sat in the cart with that annoying reverse sound buzzing to increase Tiger's concentration.

Where am I going with this? Tiger's life was always golf. Tiger's life took him away from anything fun. He loved to play golf, but he must have craved the ability to do other things. He must have craved some sort of freedom. When Tiger turned Pro he immediately fell into millions of dollars. He was surrounded by people who would help him. He had older Pros around like Mark O'Meara to help. He had his dad looming over him.

As time passed Tiger began to earn more freedom from his father. Earl's health began to keep him away from Tiger's daily happenings. Tiger's new found freedom took him to new places, places that a curious teenager would have learned were probably not the best places to go.

Tiger fell into the world of bad decisions. He believed his mistakes would effect no one, including himself. His childhood, like those of Drew Barrymore and Cory Feldman and others, was driven by a desire to be successful and make money. They might have been driven by outside forces and once they had chances to make their own decisions they went crazy.

Tiger Woods went crazy, how long has he been going crazy? I don't know. Is this just the beginning? I don't know. But part of me thinks I have nothing more to be surprised about anymore. Although everytime I say that I find myself surprised by someone else...

Tiger Links:
Maybe Tiger thought he could walk on water....

Charles Pierce in Esquire about Tiger....

If you have not read Charles Pierce's article on Tiger Woods from 1997 you have to. Tiger's arrogance comes out. Which he was burned for and is part of the reason he went into his bubble, not to come out again until this whole affair thing came out. The belief that people around Tiger had in him made him seemingly infaliable. Clearly this is not true. Reading the article in the light of what has recently happened makes a lot of it make some sort of sense. It also brings about the question, did he think he was carrying a torch for golfers everywhere by sleeping with the woman the baseball and basketball players were landing? Enjoy...

Do you think they might be related to Tiger Woods??

"Tiger, you will never meet anyone in the world who is a mentally tough as you. He hasn't yet, and he never will." Earl Woods. This is a great video and I think that quote from it really brings up an interesting point...

Tiger is so mentally tough on the golf course. It is his major strength over all his competitors. How does his moral-compass direct him in a completely different way when he is off the course... it is a tough thing for me to wrap my head around.

Tiger + steroids = uh oh....

This was one of my favorite Tiger clips. It was the longest time I got to see Tiger interact with normal people...its too bad that no one will have that response again.