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Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to another edition of ST&NO.  After being sick last week, and running an abbreviated version on Wednesday, I am back in full effect this week.  I feel kind of like Stringer Bell in season 2 of The Wire, when Avon Barksdale was locked up, and their supplier cut them off.  Stringer said he needed to put out a smoker to hold the towers, and I feel like a smoker is similarly needed this week with ST&NO.  After all, I can't really do what Stringer actually did, when he couldn't get his raw dope, and change the name.  Nobody is going to read a column called Death Grip, you know?  (Really, I don't know what kind of drug addict would buy dope called Death Grip, but that's neither here nor there.)  Anyway, here comes the high test stuff, with the same name as always.  So fill up your coffee, get comfortable, and let's get right to it.  Ready.... BEGIN!!!

1.            You have to like how the Broncos looked Sunday, even in spite of 3 turnovers by Kyle Orton.  They once again beat down a bad team, which is what good teams have to do.  They shot a hole in the terribly inane thinking that they couldn't win in Kansas City in December, and they strengthened their hold on the 5th seed in the playoffs.  Helping matters, the Steelers and Ravens both lost to fall to 6-6, so their two competitors who beat them head-to-head lost some ground.  I fully expect Jacksonville to choke, and I am starting to think that Miami is going to sneak into the 6th spot, actually.

In any case, the Broncos are in a pretty good place right now.  Peter King declared them to be toast two weeks ago, done, kaput.  On Monday, he called them a psycho team, and ranked them 10th in the Fool 15.  I am still feeling good about this Indianapolis game, and I am sure that the Broncos match up pretty well with the Colts.  Coverage is the only way to beat them, and the Broncos are back to covering as well as anybody.  I fully expect the Broncos to run for 150 yards against the Colts too, if they can keep the score within striking distance.

It's a good Tuesday to be a Broncos fan.  Our team is in in the midst of a season which we can only consider to be a success up until this point.  They've come together as a team, learned how to win close games against good teams, learned how to blow out bad teams, and figured out their brand new schemes.  They've seemingly bought into one of the main Patriots mantras, that Durability is more important than Ability.  Everybody is working hard to Do Their Job.  This is when it's good to be a fan of a team, and when it's good to be a fan of a team, it's great to be alive.

2.            Information From My Eyes - Denver at Kansas City

a.            Kyle Orton had a C+ game, but I felt like all three turnovers he committed were a result of him being somewhat greedy.  He's supposed to be the guy who checks it down when nothing is there, isn't he?  I hope that film provides a good reminder for him to do so.

b.            Knowshon Moreno improves every week, and he's really looking decisive lately.  You can tell that he has had a big dose of Bobby Turner's foot in his backside this year.  For a pick I didn't love when it was made, I have really come to be happy with Knowshon.

c.             I was pretty worried during Kansas City's 20 play first quarter drive, because the tackling and gap discipline looked pretty bad.  The Broncos sure stiffened by the goal line, though, and they set the tone for the rest of the game's defensive performance.

d.            I meant to talk about setting the edge last week, but I forgot to.  My brother Chris felt that Matt Millen made too much of the concept during the Broncos-Giants game, but I disagree, because it's all-important to the way the Broncos run the ball, and the way they defend against the run.  The Broncos have been fanstastic in their own running game with setting the edge the past two games, led by Daniel Graham.  He is getting out and winning his battles outside, and giving the runners a sealed edge to run inside of.  Many of Correll Buckhalter's big runs on Sunday came just inside of Graham.

On defense, the idea is the same, but the defender wants to push the edge man back into the inside, and close off the outside lane.  Mario Haggan has been doing this as well as any LB in the NFL this season.  He has really found his niche as a physical, upfield run player.  Ryan McBean makes a lot of plays in this way, as well.

Winning the physical battles at the edge is the key to everything for the Broncos, and they lost those battles during the losing streak.  Since they've gotten back to winning, it's been no accident that they're winning at the edge on both sides of the ball.

e.            The kick return where Eddie Royal faked a reverse to Brandon Marshall was interesting.  I expect to see them actually hand that off one of these weeks.

f.             Alphonso Smith needs to knock off the sucker penalties.

g.            Spencer Larsen is an appreciably better blocker than Peyton Hillis.  He just thumps guys, and it goes well with the work that Graham and Richard Quinn are doing at TE.

h.            Tony Scheffler had a huge 3rd down drop in 2nd Quarter, and it was exactly the kind of play that has prevented the Broncos from being an elite offense.  You have to make plays when they are available to be made.  At least Scheffler blasted the return man on the ensuing punt.

i.              Tamba Hali is a good fit for the 3-4, as I have been saying since the preseason.  He's aggressive, quick, strong, and as a lifelong down DE, he has very good technique.  The first sack he got on Ryan Clady was all technique.  The Broncos did take advantage of Hali's aggressiveness on both TD passes, though, and also on the 49 yard bubble screen that Brandon Marshall had.

j.             I saw where somebody said we should thank Phildelphia for Brian Dawkins and Correll Buckhalter.  Miami is due a thank you card for Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill, as well.  If Goodman were just a little better tackler, I'd be even happier, but everybody should have noticed by now that the ball just seems to find its way into his hands.

k.            Matt Prater has developed into one of the best kickers in the NFL.  It's time we all realize that, and appreciate his work.

l.              My biggest problem with Mitch Berger is that he takes too long to get the ball off.   He had yet another seeing-eye punt on Sunday, which inexplicably missed a dead-to-rights block.  Upgrading the punter position has to be a huge priority in the offseason.

m.           It was great to see Peyton Hillis running the ball again, and he reminded the world that he can do some damage with it.  Hopefully, the performance will get him some snaps on offense, because he clearly has something to contribute.

n.            I really like Darcel McBath as a matchup safety.  He is always around the ball when he is on the field, and I think his pick was a triumph of player evaluation.  Draftniks considered him a reach, but he was hard to spot on some abysmal Texas Tech defensive units.  He clearly has the goods, though; it jumps off the screen at you.

3.            Information From My Eyes - Other games

a.            I watched most of the San Francisco-Seattle game, and you know that means I will have some Alex Smith thoughts.  He played great on Sunday, and did everything the team needed from him to win, short of missing one open receiver on a deep out in the 4th quarter.  It was the first 300 yard passing game of his career, and it should have been a lot more.  His teammates dropped at least 9 passes in the game, including 3 TDs, by Delanie Walker, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree.

b.            Speaking of Smith, I meant to clear up an uttlerly stupid comment made by the always-brilliant Solomon Wilcots during last week's game.  The head cold I was feeling made me forget to mention it, I guess.  Wilcots noticed that the 49ers were (smartly) using Smith in the shotgun very frequently, and he said (I'm paraphrasing) that Smith was very comfortable, because he had used the exact same offense throughout college. 

That's very interesting, Saruman, except, he didn't.  This gets to my constant annoyance about the term "Spread Offense."  There is no one monolithic spread offense.  There are college teams which do some similar things formationally, with a lot of WRs, and many plays with the QB taking snaps from the shotgun, but the actual plays vary greatly.  The 49ers aren't doing anything that is much like the Urban Meyer offense he played in at Utah.  There are no option plays, and no shovel passes.  The pass routes are actually tending to be much more horizontal and timed than the stuff he did in college.

A bunch of WRs and a shotgun setup does not mean you're playing a "spread offense," and saying that you're playing a "spread offense" doesn't mean the same thing from one place to the next.  Smith is most comfortable in his footwork and reads from the shotgun, and he has time to get the ball out before he gets crushed behind the Niners terrible O-line.  Smith has been sacked only once in the last 2 games.  My only concern is that they've abandoned the run too much, and need to stick to it much more.

c.             I remember thinking that Seattle looked pretty good against the Broncos in the preseason, but as I watched the game today, I was thinking that I really don't like the way their team is constructed.  They have 3 terribly overpaid guys at WR (Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Nate Burleson), and not much talent at RB or on the offensive line.  The only players I really like at all on their defense are Brandon Mebane and Aaron Curry.  They have a lot of money invested in Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill at LB, but I think both guys are just solid players (Tatupu is currently hurt, obviously.)  I think they ought to go to a 3-4, if they can get a good NT in the offseason.  (A few should be available.)  The guy they have, Colin Cole, is more of a backup caliber guy.  They could stand up Patrick Kerney, and use Curry in a blitzing role, which he is best suited for.   Of course, their secondary will still be lousy, unless they address it.

d.            Chad Henne looked really good on Sunday.  I had the Miami-New England game on the smaller TV, during the Broncos game, and just about every time I looked over, he was making a play for his team.  If he keeps it up, he'll be able to easily afford tattoo removal before too long.

e.            ST&NO favorite Sean Smith had an interesting game on Sunday.  He gave up an 81 yard TD to Sam Aiken on a play where he had perfect bump and run coverage but didn't find the ball in the air, and fell down trying.  Later, he got beaten by Aiken on a double move, and Tom Brady overthrew him by about a foot.  He got beat on a perfectly covered play, and got lucky on a busted coverage play.  Such is the nature of being a CB playing a lot of man-to-man.  By the way, Smith continues to look like he'll have a long career as one of the best man coverage players in the NFL.

f.             I really liked what the Giants did on defense Sunday against Dallas, and I picked them based upon some moves I heard about during the week.  For one thing, they moved a good CB, Aaron Ross, to FS, and benched the abysmal C.C. Brown.  For another, they took a big-name guy, Osi Umenyiora, out of the starting lineup, and replaced him with Mathias Kiwanuka.  Osi struggles against the run, and the Broncos continually ran at him on Thanksgiving night.  The Giants correctly identified their top priority as containing the Dallas running game, and made the move to the stouter Kiwanuka.

The effect was that both guys played really well.  Umenyiora was actually used quite a bit in coverage, and he did pretty well.  He's really a lean, athletic guy, and he did well in that role.  He also recovered a key fumble, and returned it for a bunch of yards.  The Giants held the Cowboys to 45 yards rushing on 23 carries, and it's the primary reason they won the game.

g.            Don't give too much credence to this "Tony Romo/Wade Phillips can't win in December" stuff.  Romo, particularly, played pretty well Sunday, and the loss wasn't on him.  It was on a few defensive breakdowns which led to big plays, and the aforementioned lack of an effective running game.

Remember the one about correlation not necessarily reflecting causality?  There is a real danger to putting too much stock in facts which Peter King insists on incorrectly referring to as factoids.  The December record for the Cowboys the past few years is a case in point.  It doesn't necessarily foretell what will happen this year, and even if the Cowboys lose a bunch of games this month, it may have nothing to do with the month.  Remember, a football game is an independent event, which is comprised of many individual independent events.  What happened in the past is meaningless.

h.            Another example of this foolishness with meaningless statistics, while we're at it, was any credence being put into the fact that the Broncos were 1-16 all-time in Kansas City, during the month of December.  Where to begin with this? 

Well, in the most obvious place, of considering the significance of recency.  If no players or coaches (or even owners) remain from the time when a game was played, that game has no meaning.  A game in 1972 was played between the Chiefs and the Broncos, but not THESE Chiefs and Broncos.  A rational person realizes that that game may as well have been between any two teams.

Another idea I had about this, that I wanted to share, harkens back to my days as a Finance major at THE Cleveland State University.  There was a required class, Financial Markets and Institutions, which was really a BS class.  It was taught by a really overweight, smelly, tenured professor who breathed really heavily, and the dude didn't ever teach anything, ever. 

The class met in a computer lab, and consisted of 4 group analysis projects.  We were given a bunch of parameters of a hypothetical economic environment, and we had to choose the 3-year period of the last 30 years, which was most predictive of the behavior of whatever financial instrument we were analyzing.  We then used data from that 3 year period to analyze and project the performance of that instrument, and built a 6 slide PowerPoint discussing quantitative and qualitative reasons for our analysis.  That was a 4 credit class.

Anyway, I was thinking that a reasonable thing to do might be to look into whether there was ever a time in semi-recent history where the two teams profiled like these two do, AND they played a game at Arrowhead in December.  I didn't find any instances where the Broncos were a playoff caliber team, the Chiefs were a complete doormat, and the schedule played out this way.  You could say I was not surprised at all by Sunday's result.

i.              Chris Johnson is very dangerous, but I am not one of these people who is jumping up to call him the best RB in the NFL.  For one thing, I think he makes the Titans a finesse running team.  They do a ton of zone blocking for him, and he runs to the edges all the time, but without the kind of one-cut decisiveness that Broncos runners have always been coached into employing.  Really, Johnson is a bit over-patient, in my opinion, and it's his exceptional burst and speed that let him mostly get away with it.  I also continue to have my doubts about Johnson's ability to handle the heavy workload he gets, over a number of years.  The Titans would be smart to get a legitimate second guy to take one third of the carries, because they apparently don't think LenDale White is that guy.

j.             The Titans blew one on Sunday, and the way they did makes me feel even better about the Broncos' prospects for winning in Indianapolis next week.  At halftime, the Titans had 2 more yards, and 6 more minutes of time of possession than the Colts, and Indianapolis led 24-10.  The Titans also had 2 turnovers.  Nate Washington dropped a perfect deep ball.  There were plays available to be made, and the Titans failed to make them.

k.            I watched the Steelers debacle against the Raiders, and all I can pin their problems on is missing Troy Polamalu. I think their defensive play-calling is less aggressive without Polamalu, and they're letting QBs have more time to throw the ball than the Steelers are known for doing.  Bruce Gradkowski had some real good chances to get the ball downfield at times.  It just gets back to the concept of a defense needing all its parts to be effective.

l.              This stuff about Gradkowski being the answer for the Raiders is silly.  He's a solid backup, and a try-hard guy, but he's not a starter for a winning football team.  He lacks accuracy and arm strength, isn't particularly mobile, and just looks kind of underwhelming when you watch him.

m.           Everybody knows I am generally not the biggest D.J. Williams lover, and I am going to reveal a closely held secret today, since I wanted to make this a smoker.  My main problem with D.J. always has been that he isn't Steven Jackson.  Back in 2004, I was fired up for the Broncos to draft Jackson, and a lot of Mel Kipers thought they would.  They had just traded Clinton Portis, and I wanted a new RB. 

When the Broncos took D.J., I was mad, my brother Chris will tell you.  No matter what he ever does, I may not get over it.  Anyway, I believe that Jackson is having the best season of any RB in the NFL this season, if you consider his circumstances.  He has no QB, no line, not much at WR, and he continues to produce at a very high level.  He's still only 26 years old, and he continues to be a great player.

n.            Cedric Benson was back to his workhorse ways this week, and Larry Johnson was back to sitting on the bench.  I continue to be impressed with the run blocking of Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth.  He was a star at LSU, and was believed to be more of a guard, which is why he went in the second round.  He has been blowing guys off the ball, though, as a LT.  He's been similar to Jake Long, but better this season.

o.            Matthew Stafford is clearly a tremendously tough kid, because he's been getting killed every week for the Lions, and he keeps coming back.  He has a ways to go from a decision-making perspective, but he has to have the respect of his teammates, and you can't minimize the importance of that to a QB.

p.            A lot has been made of the Michael Vick sighting in Atlanta, but the truth of the story is that he played a lot of garbage snaps in a blowout.  The best thing you can say about him is that he showed he still has good run skills, and decent throwing skills.  He completed both of his throws, but the long ball was kind of a duck thrown into a crowd, where Reggie Brown made a play on the ball.  I do think he's going to get a look in a place like Carolina, which has no prospect of drafting a QB early.

q.            Some pundit in the ESPN-o-sphere was recently trying to hypopulate that the Falcons were better off with Chris Redman at QB than Matt Ryan.  As much of a non-fan of Ryan as I am, that's stupid.  There's a good reason Redman was out of the league for more than 3 years, and that it took nepotism from his college coach, Bobby Petrino, to bring him back.  He's been solid in some of his appearances, but there's no team in the NFL right now, for whom he is an upgrade over their starter.

r.             If you remember back to the 2008 Draft, no WR was selected in the first round, and the first one chosen was Donnie Avery by the Rams.  All the draftniks called Devin Thomas the best prospect, and had him going in the first round, and he eventually went one pick after Avery, 34th

He's playing fantastic football lately, and his rise really kind of started in the Denver game.  Thomas is showing the qualities of a number 1 WR, and whoever his coach is next year, he is really going to benefit from it.  Having a big, physical outside player like Thomas opens up the field for a guy like Santana Moss.  Washington's recent offensive improvement has a lot to do with the light bulb going on for Thomas.

s.             Percy Harvin didn't actually play RB at the University of Florida, and as a UF alum, Cris Collinsworth should know that.  Collinsworth was trying to say that Harvin never ran any routes in college, and that couldn't be further from the truth.  He didn't exactly run a full tree, but he ran many crossing routes, slants, and go routes.  He has incredible run skills for an outside player, but he's a natural WR, make no mistake about it.

t.             I hadn't gotten a look at Kurt Warner's wife in awhile, and she seems to have really upgraded her hair-sylist over the years.  Back when Kurt won a Super Bowl, she looked like the kind of mom I would see wearing mom jeans, dragging around a bunch of kids at Wal-Mart, if I shopped at Wal-Mart.  It's okay to wear mom jeans and shop at Wal-Mart, lest I offend anybody who does, but it's different for the MVP's wife.

u.            Do these Gap ads with dancing beautiful people doing cheerleader cadences and wearing plaid make anybody want to go buy plaid clothing?  I am interested in marketing and advertising, so if you're a ST&NO reader who finds those ads effective, I'd appreciate you saying so in the comments.  My hypothesis is that they don't work well for anybody who reads this column. 

v.            My other holiday season advertising analysis is as follows:  I think the Best Buy caroling store clerks suck, but at least people who watch football tend to buy stuff at Best Buy.  I bet they're trying to snag a wife or two with those ads.  The Open Hearts collection at Kay Jewelers is of very little interest to the average male football fan, who tends not to care about Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman's mommy's trite advice.  Kay ought to stick to their ads which say,  "Your wife will give you some incremental action for a couple weeks, if you buy her a diamond.  The bigger th diamond, the more action."  It communicates the needed psychological message to men better.  I do like the Go Forth Levi's ads, and I think they're very effective, vis-à-vis the football watching audience whom they're aired for.

w.           The Cardinals are for real, again, and the main reason they are is that they have legitimate stars at every level of their defense.  Darnell Dockett has been a star, and Calais Campbell is turning into one at DE.  Karlos Dansby is terrific at LB, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Adrian Wilson are both big-time players too.  The underrated guy who I like is Antrel Rolle.  He was kind of a bust as a first round CB, but he's terrific as a matchup safety.  He's very smart, and can match up man-to-man with inside WRs or TEs.  He also has excellent ball skills.  The Cardinals could beat any team in the NFL on a day where both their offense and defense are clicking, because their personnel is definitely good enough on both sides of the ball.

x.            Watching the Packers version of the 3-4 Monday night, I was struck by the difference between what they're doing, and what the Broncos do.  Denver's scheme is much more similar to what the Cardinals, Ravens, and Jets are doing, where the pass rush is fairly conservative, and setting the edge and keeping contain responsibilities is often the main concern.  If you watch what the outside rushers do for the Broncos a lot of times, they're not coming full-steam at the QB.  Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, and Darrell Reid are often asked to do more wrestling with O-Linemen than they are asked to run around people.

The Packers play more like the Steelers, where they're speed rushing off the edge.  The point I am getting to is that Clay Matthews is a great fit for what the Packers are asking him to do, where Ayers is more of a fit for the Broncos scheme, despite his lack of sacks. Ayers has just missed a lot of sacks, and with better technique, he'll get there.  He's doing a lot more than running around people, though.

y.            Jermichael Finley is enormously talented, and is really starting to come into his own for the Packers.  You can see that Aaron Rodgers is really developing a lot of trust in him.

z.             The Packers are really protecting Rodgers a lot better than they were in the early part of the season.  I've been very critical of Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both over the past two years, but they've been an upgrade over the bums they replaced.  Tauscher even caught his first NFL pass on Monday night, off a deflection.

aa.          Rodgers is really starting to remind me of Rich Gannon in his Raiders years.  He's so calm, and he goes to the right place with the ball all the time, with accuracy.  He's playing as well as any QB in the NFL this season if you consider what he is doing independently.

ab.          Lardarius Webb is so dangerous returning kickoffs.  The Ravens, again, found a gem in the Draft

ac.          Everybody knows I am a Joe Flacco fan, but he needs to remember never to throw the ball late down the middle.  The officials tried to give the Ravens the game with all those late pass interference penalties and Flacco blew the game with his late interceptions.

4.            Most regulars know that I am a Florida Gators fan, so I was pretty disappointed in the result of the SEC Championship game.  Alabama deserved to win, because they made every play that was available for them to make.  Florida made plays with very few of their opportunities, and that's what happens. 

Anyway, nobody can deny that that game was a bonanza of future NFL players.  I wanted to share some thoughts on about 10 guys who I think could go in the first 2 rounds in April, from the two schools.

a.            Carlos Dunlap                    DE           Florida                  Top 5

Mel Kiper downgraded Dunlap to 14th on his Big Board after his DUI, but that's not going to mean anything when he compares favorably to Mario Williams in testing and measurements.  His college film is better too, and he can play in any type of front.  He and Ndamukong Suh will be the first two defensive players drafted.

b.            Joe Haden                           CB           Florida                  Top 10

Haden is by far the best CB in the nation.  His play was a lonely bright spot for Florida, as he shut down the extremely talented Julio Jones.  Haden is fast, fluid, smart, strong, and he has excellent ball skills.  He compares as a prospect to Darrelle Revis.

c.             Terrence Cody                  NT          Alabama              Top 20

He's not fat anymore, and he's covering a lot more space laterally than he did a year ago.  His athleticism really flashes for such a huge man, and his strength is terrific.  He punked Florida into not even trying to run their dive series.  I'm a big fan of this guy.

d.            Brandon Spikes                 ILB          Florida                  Top 20

Spikes is not an elite athlete, but he's an elite player.  He's downhill all the time in the running game, and he strikes guys as hard as any college player you'll ever see.  He's also as naturally gifted and instinctive in pass coverage as Ray Lewis, and he's a similar type of emotional leader.  What intrigues me most at the NFL level with Spikes is his natural pass-rushing skills.  He really can get after a QB.  He'll only run a 4.65 or 4.7, but he'll be an every down player, and make a bunch of Pro Bowls, trust me.

e.            Rolando McClain              ILB          Alabama              Top 20

McClain is big, fast, and smart.  He's a bit less of a playmaker than Spikes, and more of a cerebral guy than an emotional one.  He'll be a very good 3-4 ILB for many years in the NFL.

f.             Tim Tebow                          QB          Florida                  Top 25

Scouts don't like him that much, but coaches love him.  Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy, and Bill Belichick are all on record as thinking he'll be a big-time QB in the NFL.  I am pretty sure the Jaguars are going to take him in the first round if he's on the board.  Even Florida Governor Charlie Crist (an FSU guy, actually) was in the media Monday calling for it to happen.  There is no doubt in my mind that he can play at the NFL level, despite his divergence from norms.  He's the second coming of Donovan McNabb to me.

g.            Aaron Hernandez            TE           Florida                  First Round

Hernandez is a junior, and he's not a huge or great in-line blocker.  He's a tremendously gifted receiver though, as good as any who has been draft-eligible in many years.  He is extremely dangerous after the catch, which is rare for a guy his size (6-2, 250.)

h.            Javier Arenas                     CB           Alabama              Second Round

I really like Arenas as a CB, but I love him as a return man.  I think he projects as a solid #2 CB, and a Pro Bowl caliber special teams player.  His short, stout build works against him as a CB, but for him as a ball carrier.

i.              Riley Cooper                      WR         Florida                  Second Round

Who?  He's the tall white guy who has been wearing #11 the past two years.  (He wore #86 the first two, when he was primarily a special teamer.)  He's been called the fastest Gator in a 60 yard dash, and as Gary Danielson noted on Saturday, nobody seems to be able to cover him, especially when they try to press him.  Cooper had his way with Arenas several times, and he dominated Patrick Robinson from Florida State the week before.  He's 6-3, 215 pounds, and very strong, which he puts to use in beating press coverage, and he's a dominant blocker outside.  He projects as an outside-the-numbers deep threat type, and special teams ace, and when he runs a 4.35 at the combine, he's going to shoot up boards.  The only question is if he'd rather play baseball instead (he's part of the Rangers minor league system already.)  I think his future is brighter in football.

j.             Jermaine Cunningham   DE-OLB Florida                  Second Round

Cunningham projects as a starter at the NFL level, probably as an OLB in a 30 front.  He plays much bigger than his size, and takes on blocks well.  He kind of reminds me of Mario Haggan, actually.

k.            Mike Johnson                    G             Alabama              Second Round

This is the type of guy I'd like to see the Broncos take in the second round.  He is a strong and experienced drive blocker.

You can add in a few more Gators too,  who seem less likely to declare at this moment, if they do.  The Pouncey twins, Mike and Maurkice, project as late first or second round picks as interior offensive linemen, and S Major Wright looks like a second rounder to me.

5.            I meant to mention this last week too, and I wanted to make the point.  Matt Millen was a terrible general manager, but he is an outstanding in-game color analyst.  There is nobody on TV who adds more value to a fan's understanding of what is going on than Millen does.

During the Broncos-Giants game, he pointed out how Kyle Orton was calling out the Mike.  The average fan doesn't know what a Mike is, so Millen mentioned that it generally means Middle Linebacker.  He also went on to mention that the reason Orton is calling out a Mike is to communicate to the protection that that player is the fifth player to account for.  A lot of times it was a defensive back, but Orton was communicating who he thought was the most likely fifth rusher.

After the Monday night game, he was talking about how the Packers have shored up their protection, particularly against the double A-gap blitzing that Baltimore loves to do.  It's a little bit hard to separate the man from his art, but you have to.  He's outstanding on TV, and should be listened to. 

My friend Tony from Norwich sent me this link last week, where the Sporting News rated the best sportscasters.  I found it interesting, so I thought I'd share it, since it's germane to this rant.  I think they have some total losers on their list, primarily Al Michaels, Verne Lundquist, Dan Fouts, and Mike Patrick.  Lundquist is the worst play-by-play man ever, if you ask me. 

Just prior to the start of the SEC Championship Debacle, Verne was getting down to business.  Paraphrasing, he said, "I don't know what Alabama is doing, but Javier Arenas isn't on the field to return this kick."  As number 28 warmed up on the TV screen, waiting for the kick to arrive.  I threw my Gator hat across the room, and Tweeted:



 He misidentifies players constantly, and gets a lot of rules-related topics wrong too.  Gary Danielson is excellent, but Verne is a 9,000 ton anchor dragging him down.

6.  I got a reader email which forced to be a little introspective last week, and I need to address something real quick, as a result of it.  The reader didn't sign the message, but the crux of it was that he/she felt like I am really full of myself, and that that was "repugnant."  (Repugnant was his/her actual word.)

I didn't thnk I would ever need to do this, but I am going to explain the central concept of ST&NO, so there's clarity among us all.  The premise of this feature, for which I am sure I have written well over 100,000 words during the past year, is that insightful analysis can be, and should be, combined with humor, personality, and entertaining writing.  Every week, that's what I try to bring to the table, and I work hard to make this a coherent, continuous, unified narrative, which everybody can feel like they're part of.

Now, I am definitely not known for false humility.  What good does it do to pretend to lack self-awareness, for the comfort of insecure people?  I know my work is very good, and if I didn't think it was, I think I'd be an A-clown to spend so much time on it.  Everybody who does this has some ego about their work, believe me. 

Believe it or not, watching 6 games on a Monday night, and then writing for 6 hours after that, after working all day, can get pretty boring and tiresome.  It is work, just like what I do in my office all day.  I choose to do this work because you, my readers, reaffirm that you want to read it every week.  It's not worth the effort to just do it for myself.

Now, understand that I'm not going to change anything, really.  Not being Joe Milquetoast is frankly a subtle part of the humor of ST&NO, and it's a true picture of who I am as a person.  I'm not at all meek, and I'm not looking to inherit the Earth, or any other damn thing.  I'm here to work hard and personally earn what I get.  When I say I am a high-talent, high-work ethic accountant, it's because that is a demonstrable fact.  You'll recall that I said it as part of a larger point about football and the media environment.  I have thought all week about whether I am inappropriately arrogant, and I really think that the answer is no.  I think I land in a reasonable place, really, given the givens.  So, I am going to keep writing, I am going to keep doing work that I am proud of, and I am going to do it to add value for you, and for future readers who aren't even aware of ST&NO yet.  I humbly thank you all for being my readers and commenters, and that was the type of humility that I do value; the genuine kind.

7.  Retired for John Elway.

8.  Okay, I need to end on a good note, and I am going to bed at 1 AM Cleveland time, on Tuesday morning, so I can think and dream on what that note should be.  I'll be back in 5 1/2 hours to finish up, hopefully with a great idea.  Ready..... STOP

Okay, I am back.  Ready.... BEGIN!!!  My alarm wakes me up to the local low-brow morning radio show, Rover's Morning Glory.  Through my adventures with the snooze bar, I got to hear a lot of stilted Tiger Woods chatter, because apparently, his wife split, and he had some other blond woman over who left in an ambulance this morning.

He's being an idiot, from the sound of things.  I don't know who is advising him; maybe T.O.'s publicist who said he had 25 million reasons to live?  Tiger ought to just fess up for everything, like David Letterman.  When you're in the mud, you might as well just get everything out there voluntarily, because there's no more incremental damage he could take.  If you're Wee-Bey, and you're already going to prison for life for six murders, you might trade copping to a few more for a sandwich.  The number ceases to matter, as long as it all comes out now.

Tiger's reputation is fried in this moment, so he might as well say, look, yes, I was out fooling around with a lot of other women.  I am not even sure how many, but it was more than several.  This is a flaw in my character which I am working hard to overcome.  Elin and I appreciate you giving us the benefit of some privacy, as we work through a very hard time in each of our lives.  (Then, you quit having women over for awhile, and even if you don't, you make sure none of them leave your house in an ambulance.)

By not deflating the story with an "it was a lot / I have a problem" blanket statement, Tiger is letting each new revelation, by each self-serving former mistress, hurt him individually.  Duji, the radio chick, was saying there are 10 who have now been identified.  That's really not that many, if you're just a regular guy who is serious about philandering.  A very average man could do that in a couple months, pretty easily.  If you're Tiger Woods, you could have 10 in about 3 days.

Remember the haters?  Well, a lot of people love to hate Tiger.  He's there with Roger Federer, Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, and Jeff Gordon in that way, as guys who are so talented, and so polished that relatively untalented and unpolished people are apt to hate them.  (Gordon ought to have a Gillette commercial, too.  I bet they figure people who like Gordon already use good shaving equipment.)  It's really an ugly trait, to root for the failure of the most talented people, but a lot of people do it.  Let's drag everybody down to our own level.

Tiger needs to go on Oprah or Letterman (probably Letterman is better, given the circumstances.)   If he gets all the way clean, and then disappears off the public radar for a few months, this can be stopped pretty effectively.  The TMZ's and their ilk will still try to keep it going, but it will fade pretty quickly when there is no new news.  Letterman already isn't being actively cast as a philanderer.  Tiger can come back in the spring, with a pre-packaged narrative about how these trying times have caused him to re-invest himself in his golf game, win a few tournaments (people will perceive him to have slipped, even though he was recently playing fine), and turn this into a redemption story.  Americans love redemption stories, after all.

That's all I have for this week, friends.  Have a great one, and as always, tell me what you think in the comments.  ST&NO may be ending for now, but the discussion is just beginning.