Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Bullet Points = Pulitzer

  • The Ninth understands that many of you ran to your computer screens Monday morning like so many children to the Christmas tree, eager to hear tell, as we had promised, of our visit to the MLB MVP awards. But alas, dear souls, there was no tell. That's because, sadly, there was no visit. As it turns out, the good people at Major League Baseball wish all guests and spectators to attend their award receptions in full black tie, and as The Ninth is wildly cheap, that wasn't happening. But worry not, a good friend (who already owns a tux) was in the proverbial house, and has Fantastic stories. Capital F. It's what we in the business of unpaid internet sports blogs call a "pocket column". Something that is not timely in nature, so you can save it in your "pocket" for when sports news is slow. So then, after the Bowl that is Super, we'll discuss the MVP awards. Just to wet your whistle, Roger Clemens is heavily involved. (Pun Intended).

  • Carolina has more passing plays for over 20 yards than the Indianapolis Colts. Shocking, but true. If, as The Ninth previously suggested, the way to beat to New England is with the unexpected, you might see Delhomme go deep a couple times early. If it works, the Pats could be in trouble. The one thing even the most devout Patriot believer is quietly afraid of is New England falling behind fast.

  • If you think New England will entirely abandon the run because of Carolina's stout d-line, you're insane in the membrane. Insane the brain. Remember the book on Tampa Bay, when they were good? Run right at that defense, no matter how tough it looks. And it worked. (The book now: Show up with complete uniform, Step on field, Receive victory.) On top of this, New England was 30th in the league in yards per carry this year, but ran it anyway. They played no game with less than 21 rushes, and finished 12th overall in rushing attempts. So even though their runs didn't succeed, Weis and Belichick realized it was important to keep trying. The Patriots will not flee to the air in Houston, even when they get stuffed. Sounds crazy, but it's the only way to keep the defense honest.

  • What do you think Ken Watanabe said when saw he was nominated for an Oscar? My guess: "Ken Watan.... -- who the f is that? Oh it's...., oh God. Please kill me."

  • It would seem that Carolina's game plan is to go after Tom Brady. One place that the Patriot QB has not spent much time is on the ground, and the Panthers are talking like they're going to change that. It's a nice idea, and I suppose it's worth giving a try, but maybe John Fox should ask his mentor Bill Parcells about it first. Dallas, you see, is blitz-obsessed, and Week 11 against New England was no different. They went after Brady over and over, and they got burned almost every time. In typical blitz situations New England would load up the pocket with every tight end and running back they could find, and were able to buy Tommy Smiles some time. They then sent one or two of their speed receivers deep, and because Dallas was blitzing at least one of their safeties, he only had to beat one man. Branch open, Brady with time, 50 yards please. There's nothing a prepared offense would rather see than a blitz, because if blocked, it can mean big yards. Pressuring Brady is certainly a valuable goal, but if they try it on usual blitz situations, Carolina will get burned just as bad as Dallas did.

  • It is approaching the point where it is hard to think specifically about the Super Bowl. Sure you discuss football theory or possible game plans, but the potential of the game actually taking place inspires a giddiness not seen since TiVo was installed in The Ninth Home Apartment. Combine the week lay off with the solid possibility of two Super Bowl wins in three years and Patriot Nation recklessly cowboys up. But the big question is, will it be the same? Will it be better, worse, or just as good as 2001? No matter how lovely the victory over the Rams was, it felt a little flukish. Admit it. Yes, New England beat them soundly, in a totally not-cheap manner, but if, say, a functioning human were coaching St. Louis instead of Mike Martz, there might have been a different result. The Pats won, and a win is a win, but no one is confusing that team with the 85 Bears. This squad though, is whicked different. It's alarmingly good, and in all likelihood, it will stop the Panthers without the need of last minute heroics. This then could be a more convincing championship, if that's possible. But the first time is the first time. And how do you beat the first time? There's a dirty joke in here somewhere....

  • Wanna know how many good teams the Panthers beat this year? I'll give you a hint, it's 1. One team. Did I ruin that? The Indianapolis Colts. And it was in Indy, so that is a legitimate feat. The rest of their victories however, are over the following: Jacksonville (by 1 point), Tampa Bay and New Orleans (both twice), Washington, a Vick-less Atlanta, Detroit, Arizona (pee-yoo), and the "Giants". That's it. There is the litany of success. Does anyone else take their impressive running game somewhat less seriously now that you see what it was running against? We're talking about Stephen Davis here folks. A good back, but no Clinton Portis. Stephen Davis is a useful version of Antowain Smith; strong, somewhat fast, drives through the holes. He has borderline pro bowl talent, but to run all over the Pats, you need a bit more than that.

  • The Ninth feels strongly that Larry Centers will have a big day. Chip block, check down receiver, dump pass, 10 yards. Over and over. Two sentences, no verbs. The word is also that Rodney Harrison will be spending a lot of time in the box, both blitzing and playing the run, so he could really add up some tackles. Unless John Fox is a far more creative and aggressive coach that the Ninth expects, New England should win without a war. Because Carolina would have to do things that are essentially not in their nature, it is very difficult to pick them to win. Not saying they couldn't, but it's unreasonable to expect them to. The final pick then, is New England 17, Carolina 9. Giddy up.
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