Monday, August 31, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: AFC North

I need to go ahead and let you all know that if you're not following Chad Ochocinco's Twitter feed, you're missing some of the most hilarious stuff on the internet. Onto the AFC North preview...

4. Cleveland - In theory, the Browns have a lot of good pieces. But that's only if everyone is playing the part of what they should be rather than what they are. Edwards, Anderson(or even Quinn, failing that), Jackson, Rodgers, and Lewis are all names that should push Cleveland into some serious football discussions. They're not. This team isn't going places. Their one win this season won't even put them into Detroit's 0-16 club.

3. Cincinnati - Hilarity aside, Ochocinco is in a lot of trouble. TJ Houshmanzada isn't on the other side of the field, I don't have any faith in the run game, and Carson Palmer looks like he's going to end up joining Grant Hill in the "how great would have have been if not for the being injured all the time?" hall of fame. Carson might put together a full season, and the Bengals have a young defense that could make a difference and give the Bengals a good finish to the season, but I don't like their chances on the whole.

2. Baltimore - Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan can't both have the kind of season they did last year, and my money is on Ryan repeating before Flacco. That said, this is still Baltimore. The Ravens are another year older on that defense, but that's still a defense that can get things done (and it still has Terrell Suggs...and that man is frightening). I like McGahee even if he can't finish a season, and I hear good things about Rice. They'll be in the playoff discussion, either as the last team in or the first team out.

1. Pittsburgh - Put simply, all the parts of a team that was big and scary and awesome last year have returned. Well, at least, a defense that was big and scary and awesome last year. If the offense can improve itself at all, there's a better than average chance that we'll follow the blueprint this season. We'll jump on a team that gets hot or has a flashy offense or makes a sexy highlight reel until the next thing you know, Pittsburgh is the runaway favorite to win the AFC.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: AFC West

From what might be the most competitive division in the AFC to the least...

4. Oakland - Even in this from this league of losers, the Raiders stand out. They've got coaches (probably) breaking each others' jaws, players having to tell other players that you might want to go to sleep at a reasonable hour before game day, and the culture of futility that's been brewing ever since Tampa Bay chased them out of the Super Bowl however many years ago. It doesn't look good.

3. Kansas City - The Chiefs weren't going to be good before the next Derek Anderson went down with an injury. Now? Well, at least their coaches aren't punching each other.

2. Denver - I've been told by television commentators that we have yet to see Kyle Orton throw the ball down field, as if it's going to happen at any moment. I saw him play in Chicago and also "have yet" to see it. There are pieces of this team that just aren't there, but I'm mostly happy that I no longer have to sell myself on Kyle Orton.

1. San Diego - Default winners of the AFC West. The interesting thing is going to be that we won't really know what the Chargers are made of for sure until we're well into the season because of the rest of the West will be so lousy. But if Tomlinson is as healthy as he claims (or even close), Rivers has another great year, and the defense does their job (and, honestly, there's not very many reasons to think they won't); the sky's the limit for this team. Still, they'll have to make it happen come playoff time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: AFC South

Alright, political discussions are important. But so is the way I distract myself from the need for political discussion. Football is coming back soon, and I'm here to handicap the upcoming NFL season for you division-by-division just so a record of how little I actually know exists. They're talking about the NFC North on ESPN as I type this, and I hate the idea of letting them color my opinion, so I'll go complete opposite today: The AFC South.

I expect a seriously competitive division, possibly even the closest one week-in-and-week-out in football. We've got two teams coming off of playoff appearances and strong seasons, a team that I like a lot as a football team, and another one that's almost universally been touted as a team that will have arrived by the time it's all said and done. But something is going to have to give somewhere.

4. Jacksonville - I wanted to like Jacksonville more than this. On paper, they have a serviceable quarterback who can maneuver himself and Torry Holt, who gives them the kind of receiver I don't remember them having on top of being a smart player that will come back to the ball when Garrard gets to scrambling. Add to that one of the best running backs in the game in Jones-Drew, and I could maybe even talk myself into calling the Jaguars a playoff team. But the window seems to have shut on what was once an intimidating defense, even with Del Rio's mind behind them. And that offense is good, but not the kind of good that puts you in a position to win shootout-style games. Jacksonville could surprise, but I don't see it.

3. Tennessee - They had a helluva season last season. And Jeff Fisher is a great coach. But I still think that last season was a flash-in-the-pan sort of season that's going to only serve to unfairly raise expectations. No Albert Haynesworth means that the defense lacks not only their biggest difference-maker but also their biggest distraction when opposing teams map out the offense. I don't think Collins-to-nobody makes for an especially dangerous passing threat, meaning that other teams can put the world in the box to stop the run.

2. Houston - A lot of people have been declaring this to be the year that The Texans break through and see the playoffs. And they're certainly going to do a lot of things very well. Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson should be one of the biggest connections in the game this year, they'll have a reliable if not surprisingly good rushing game, and they have a beast of a defensive line headlined by Mario Williams. They could even win this division. Could. But I don't think they will quite yet.

1. Indianapolis - They don't have the offense they used to. The receivers aren't as sexy (football sexy, not sexy sexy) and running game doesn't appear as dominant. They have a guy whose name might as well be "Not Tony Dungy" as their coach. What they do have is a defense that was very quietly among the best last season. What they do have is Peyton Manning. They won't be the Colts like we're used to seeing the Colts, but they're still contenders until they prove they aren't.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

we lost one of the good ones, and there weren't that many of them left

Ted Kennedy is gone. He did the good fight proud more often than anyone else who's been elected to national office in my lifetime. He didn't get to see a United States where everyone had access to health care. And that's sad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

what would Jesus damand as a co-pay?

I had wanted my glorious return to semi-regular blogging to be ushered in with football predictions, but I have something else on my mind at the moment and it won't go away until I share it with a wide and largely anonymous audience. There's this little debate going on around these here United States of America where health care is concerned. I'm certainly not going to be the first person in access to the internet to weigh in on this, so there are a few things I'm going to skip over for your sake.

The misdirection, misinformation, and outright lies coming from the right, for example, are documented by my heroes over at Media Matters in a far more thorough fashion than I'd be able to muster all by my lonesome.* I'll also skip my rallying cry to do whatever it takes to get the "blue dogs" out of office via their next primaries if they don't feel like health care should be accessible to everyone. For good measure, I'll even move on past the part where I lay out the reasons that anything less than the single-payer, universal health care we're all supposed to be afraid of is a cop out.

No, what's annoying me the most in this debate is the silence. A deafening silence coming from the Church. Now, to be fair, there is some good stuff being done quietly. There's The 10:10 Challenge, for example, which I think is fantastic. However, there isn't one loud voice coming from the big, honkin', capitol "C" Church.

This wouldn't be such a big deal, but apparently the Christian faith has pockets that can get bent out of shape over the need for legislation to remove the rights of gay folks. Heck, there's even a very vocal group of Christians who scream and contort their faces in front of anyone with a camera because they hate the idea that evolution is being taught in science classes. These two issues are things that the Church is divided on, though, as we disagree over the interpretation and study of the surrounding scripture.

So certainly on this issue, where there is absolutely no reading of any scripture that would translate to Jesus being of the opinion that there are people who don't deserve access to health care, the Church should easily rise up and in one unison voice demand that health care be treated as a human right. On this issue, shouldn't the side the Church takes on this issue - and we're talking the entire Church, lunatic fringe and all - be a slam dunk? Shouldn't this be the modern Church's finest hour, where we put aside the issues that divide our faith and rally behind the teachings that tell us, unequvically, to take care of those who need it?

Apparently, the Church is afraid of what compassion would look like on our pay stubs underneath Social Security. Apparently, the Church is too busy letting Dobson scream bloody murder over fictional "death panels." Apparently the Church, after being told for so long that only one political party has any of our interests in mind and seeing that party work so hard to deny people the right to proper care, is just too confused to get together and push the government to do the right thing in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets (only probably without the pillars of least, I'd hope so).

The Church in America has its share of failings. This silence, especially relative to some of the noise parts of it have been allowed to make at other times, is probably our biggest.

*For example much of their information gathering comes from folks who, bless their hearts, can watch far more Fox News and listen to far more talk radio than I could stomach.

Friday, August 14, 2009

the stick from which all future sticks shall be judged

I just want you to know that this is going to change my life for the better. Details soonish. Blog posts also to follow in a relatively soonish fashion.