Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dan's Picks

Somehow it just figures that the NFL would finally cave and I would be forced to get a severe stomach ache from watching the Patriots complete their perfect regular season on "mainstream" television. I take the NFL's side on the argument, mostly because the NFL Network ranks as the most-viewed channel in my house even in July. But then again, I haven't contacted my congressman so maybe I can't complain. Either way, here in Wisconsin where they just don't get the NFL Network at all, football fans will get to wonder with the rest of us why Bryant Gumbel is doing NFL play-by-play.

The Patriots will win tonight. If they were going to lose in the regular season they would not have not gotten 10 chances to make it on 4th down against the Ravens. Plus, I can't really figure out how the Giants won 10 games, so 11 would be a bit ridiculous. Perhaps the Giants' vaunted pass rush will at least put Brady in harm's way and everyone in the world will hate the Pats more when he's still in there underthrowing bombs to Moss when they are up by 10 in the late 4th quarter.

Did I agree with Sllaacs on that game or disagree? I can't quite tell from his post. Clever...

The Chargers are playing for the #3 seed, LT wants to win the rushing title, Lorenzo Neal always appears to be driving a snow plow through the Raiders D, Norv Turner will be seeking vengeance in the Coliseum, the Raiders are coming off a hugely demoralizing loss, Oakland coaches and players are looking over their shoulders, key Raider injuries have stacked up, and a rookie who missed all of training camp and looked terrible in his first extended action is getting the start at QB. So I'm picking the Raiders. There's something odd going on here where they can look terrible on the road and then bounce back at home. Kiffin has put a lot of emphasis on turning things around vs. the AFC West. And I'm going to say that Kiffin will make the adjustments necessary to go 3-0 against teams he's seeing for the second time. The Raiders will truly cash in on this capability in four years when they are matched up against the NFC North and AFC South again.

Although I wanted to avoid using logic related to anything on the field during these picks and say that the 49ers always finish strong and there is no way I can imagine seeing a "10" in the wins column next to the name "Cleveland," this broken back thing will lead the 49ers to a loss and the Patriots to a fine #1 pick. That will also make it such that the AFC once again has a team with 10 wins miss the playoffs.

John's Picks

I was at Trader Joe's today with the Professor and Baby Lily, the one in Westlake, Daly City.
I get of the car, I have the baby on my shoulders, and some asshole sees my Raiders hoodie and actually yelled "BRONCOS!"

For real? You bet. I actually turned around and asked him that. "Really?" And then I just laughed, because it was so absurd. Since I live on this side of the bay, I expect and am used to a fair amount of harassment from 49ers fans. That's perfectly acceptable, since I live less than two miles from Candlestick, and it is after all San Francisco.

But "BRONCOS!?" I hope that guy gets botulism.

Onto the picks. I'm hoping to see most of the game tonight despite going to dinner with my sister-in-law and nephew for his birthday. They're not football fans so they plan these things without regard for the schedule. Anyway, I'm thinking it should be a pretty good game, and that the Giants will play everyone at least a half. Their pass rush should match up pretty well with Brady and them. But still, NE wins by a lot.

Well, Shay-heezy is jacked up. Fractured the transverse processes in three vertebrae. I'm not a doctor so I don't know what the hell that means, but I'm guessing when the words "fracture" and "vertebrae" appear in the same sentence it's not good. Those words appeared in a sentence about Christopher Reeve once. It was all bad. Even worse, Chris Weinke is getting the start. Niners lose, by a lot.

And now JaMarcus meets Norv and the HGH dis-Chargers crew. 2-0 against the AFC West the 2nd time around for Lane Kiffin. Let's make it 3-0. Maybe bring in Pops Kiffin to run the D next year.

I'm in.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

D gets an F

My comments last week: "...this is going to be a great test of Raider progress. It won't be nearly as cold in Jacksonville as it was in Green Bay, so I hope to see the offense hit its stride even with Dominic Rhodes, the defense step up to the challenges of gap assignment and tackling, and JaMarcus to play for an extended period."

Not difficult to label that test failed. Sure, JaMarcus played for an extended period, but the offense did not hit its stride (no, 100+ garbage yards by Rhodes does not count), and the defense most certainly did not step up to any challenge presented. Not gap assignments, not tackling, not scheme matchups, and not even smart-assed refs. But what does it mean?

In terms of things that are different from some of the really good games they've played recently, they seem to fall completely apart against good teams on the road, the defense appears incapable of stopping the power running game, JaMarcus is not ready for prime time, and maybe a couple of these annoying injuries - the top RB, the top special teams guy - actually have made an impact.

Is it a microcosm of the season? No. A microcosm of the past 5 years, maybe, but this season has been far better than past years and not only because I've forgotten what a good season actually is. Is it a harbinger of what is to come in 2008? I don't think so. I prefer to think of the last two AFC West games as a preview of what is in store for 2008, but that's just me.

On the offensive side of the ball it is a little tough to tell what this failed test means with Fargas out and JaMarcus acting like it's Brett Favre's first trip to Texas Stadium. Probably the offensive line needs some additional work despite recent improvement. We still need that deep threat at WR. Kiffin was right to put Fargas at the front of the line.

But on defense...this was a huge disappointment. Something is broken in that the team only matches up well with a few offenses. But is it scheme or personnel? And does it mean the Raiders will turn over as many as 6 defensive positions during the offseason or will they can Rob Ryan? Or both?

In terms of personnel, "QB Killa" is not built to stop the run - especially this slimmed-down year. Sands has been a major disaster. Tommy Kelly got hurt. Burgess is not a run-stopper. There's your front four. That is making Morrison look bad in run support because no one keeps linemen off of him. Add to that the fact that our free safety hasn't tackled well, which turns 8-yard runs into 62-yard runs.

Remember Ryan tried to install a 3-4 when he arrived and he didn't have the personnel, having inherited Sapp and almost no linebackers. On Sunday, Greg Papa noted several times that the Raiders were playing 4 linebackers in addition to the 4 down linemen. It actually led to a classic exchange between Papa and Tom Flores (I'll paraphrase):

Papa - "The Raiders are coming out in the same defense they used to start the game. Four down linemen, four linebackers, and three defensive backs."

Flores - "I hate to correct you, Greg, but they actually started the game with four down linemen, four linebackers, and four defensive backs. They had 12 men on the field!"

At any rate, Sunday's game was a harbinger of great change to come for the defense, no matter what Ryan says in public. The good news is there is a terrific nucleus - if Asomugha is re-signed.

Picks later...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Hangover: Sllaacs' Week 17 Picks.

Santa was very good to me this year. I got an awesome Raiders hoodie, and a Kirk Morrison #52 home black jersey. I'm excited to wear it this weekend during the game, whether I'm watching on TV or at the coliseum.

I'm not sure how I feel about what happened on Sunday. The only word that comes to mind is the one I used then, which is "debacle." It's good that JaMarcus got his nose bloodied. He'll learn from how horribly he played. I like Zach Miller caught Jammy's first TD pass, though. That's going to be a combo for a long time.

Immediately after the game, I went out to buy some groceries for our holiday festivities. I was listening to the Raiders post-game show. When I came out of the store, there was a program on called "The Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show." I guess he's an English Rabbi, judging by his name and his accent. Anyway, his theory was that "God is a Conversative, and Santa Claus is a Liberal." He wanted his callers to discuss. So a guy called in and said, "You're right, because God created the world in 7 Days (sic), and Santa tries to do everything in one night." I got through the good Rabbi actually saying the words, "I guess that's a valid argument..." before changing the channel over to some classic rock.

This is so stupid in so many ways, I don't even know where to begin. Just don't let me hear one more word about secular liberals having a "war on Christmas."

Anyway, after this nice little holiday wrap up, here's Sllaacs' picks for this final week, via email:

Got to say, Dan was right about the Green Bay - Chicago rivalry. The Black and Blue is still the division with the toughest (i.e., Competitiveness + Inclement weather) divisional games in the league. Got ta needle ya though Danny; Your "test" game was right on the money - 49-11 and basically is a microcosm of the entire season. Good call. Seriously. You called it before the game; 'This is a test for the Raiders' - I am paraphrasing. I interpret the final result of the Oak vs Jack game as a failed exam and a harbinger of what is to come in 2008. What do you infer from the outcome of the "test" game?

Poor Raider fan - all your hopes for next season rest on J. Russell making a good or acceptable appearance in the last game of this season. Welcome to the world of the Niner fan for the past two off-seasons - now let's make it three. What do you say Johnnie Boy? Those Russell stats look suspiciously like Alex Smith stats. San Diego has nothing to play for, but L.T. has a habit of putting two game's worth of rushing yards into a half against the Raiders, so even if the starters only play the first half, San Diego might blow this thing open with their first three drives of the game. I'm going to pick Oakland however, since they are at home, and they actually have a reason to play for a win. 20 - 16 - The Raiders.

The Niners should lose to Cleveland. They should - there is no good reason to think that the Browns would lose this game at the Dawg Pound, even if it will take a Titans win over the Colts to keep them out of the Playoffs. Except for the following: Mike Nolan is 6 - 2 in his coaching career over the last three games of the regular season. Also - Shay - Heezy iz tha Hiz-nouse. Cleveland wins - 28 - 17.

So for my third game, I will pick the Cardinals over the Rams... Yeah, right. We'll go with the Patsy's at the Giants. As an NFC fan, I would love to see the hated New York football Giants roll the Patriots and ruin the run for perfection, thereby allowing the stupid Dolphins old-timers to continue to have a reason to live and make the AFC look like collective assholes for continuing to have to hear from these dinosaurs. The Giants are in the playoffs, and offer an awesome pass Rush.

Nice year for us Bay Area Football fans. Nice last couple ofyears. I'd like to thank Al Davis and the Yorks for making all of us fans reminisce about the good old days of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Rich Gannon, Jeff Hostettler, and Tim Brown, among a legion of others. Those were the days when we could score. A friggin'. Touchdown.

Sllaacs



Merry Belated Xmas, people. Hope it was a good one.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Survey Says? Debacle.

I don't know what the hell just happened at the end of the half. Warren was ejected on three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, plus Burgess got one. Then Morrison gets an INT.

But we had JaMarcus get the wind knocked out of him.

This game is making me anxious. This anxiety can only partially be attributed to all of the sinus medication I've taken to battle the head cold I can't seem to shake. Some of it may also be caused by the Professor's assignments to get the house ready for the onslaught of in-laws who will be invading tomorrow on Christmas eve. But a good portion of it is definitely because of what just happened on the football field.

What the fuck were Kiffin and/or Rob Ryan doing during the flag-fest? I don't like this.

Changing of the Guard?

Admittedly, I am doing what Sllaacs might describe as "looking for positives." But from my perspective listening to Greg Papa, Sapp comes completely unglued and Morrison responds with an INT. That's a play made by someone you want to build your defense around.

So what in the world happened out there with Sapp?

At any rate, that's just one sequence in an ugly game. But I think it substantiates Kiffin's handling of JaMarcus this year. If this meltdown had happened mid-season and we would have been blown out in multiple games things could have spiraled out of control.

Time for a gut check. Steve Young predicted a blowout today because the Raiders had already "mailed it in." That sounded pretty ridiculous in the wake of a tight game vs. the Colts last week, but hopefully it will not apply to the second half.

Not Passing

The Raiders are not exactly passing the "test." Nothing like providing the opponent a deep threat with a simple run up the middle. OUCH. So far I agree that the Raiders just match up well with the occasional team but otherwise are incapable of stopping the run.

John's Picks

Okay.

Sllaacs is eating retard samiches if he thinks Miami is beating New England today. It's just not happening. If that happens, I will head straight out and buy all the canned food and bottled water I can fit in my car, and then I'll go to the local Ted Nugent Outlet Store purchase a survival suit and an assault rifle. Because the apocalypse is coming.

Jeff Garcia gets his revenge on the Yorks. Shaun Hill shows why he was third string.

The Raiders? I don't even know. McCown's starting, but they say Jammy might finish. Kiffin may take the training wheels off, leading to start next week against Norv and HGH crew.

Aww, screw it. Raiders win, 21-20, with Jammy leading a two-minute drill, game-winning drive so spectacular he solidifies himself as the franchise, and we don't see McCown again until preseason.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dan Goes Back to Picking the Raiders

This week I awaited Sllaacs' picks as a kid awaits Santa Claus. At long last we would have a true "wildcard" third game to pick with Garcia and Tampa Bay coming to town to play the 49ers. But then I found a lump of coal: New England.

Truth be told I've been anticipating this game for a while as well. It would be a perfect opportunity for the NFL to fix a game to sell more NFL Films videos later. In poetry on a par with a team called the Patriots winning the Super Bowl after 9/11, the 0-14 Dolphins would knock off the 14-0 Patriots, avoiding a winless season while preserving their franchise's place in history. Mercury Morris would throw a block party.

But the Dolphins reduced the drama a notch by winning last week nearly as improbably - but far less suspiciously - than the Patriots had several weeks ago over the Ravens. So I think that's just enough to make this another boring Patriots victory. Maybe Belichick will try to run up the score on Parcells. Brady says the Pats never think about going 16-0, they are focused on reaching the Super Bowl. But they are liars, so the Patriots will rub it in against the Dolphins and make a push to knock off another of their records in the year that Favre surpassed all of Marino's.

While Tampa Bay apparently has nothing to play for, that oddity seems only to strike at random and during Week 17. So the Bucs will win. Score two for the Patriots this week as their #1 draft choice rises.

The suspense regarding my final pick was destroyed by an overly descriptive title. Picking against the Raiders stopped working (except for the part about getting the picks right), so I'm going back on the optimistic side this week. Even though our most productive player (Fargas) is out and the strength of the Jaguars (running the ball) plays right into our greatest weakness, this is going to be a great test of Raider progress. It won't be nearly as cold in Jacksonville as it was in Green Bay, so I hope to see the offense hit its stride even with Dominic Rhodes, the defense step up to the challenges of gap assignment and tackling, and JaMarcus to play for an extended period.

Ah, I meant to say, "I hope to hear." I'll be listening to a tinny Internet feed of Greg Papa, charting drives on Sportsline, and watching one of the finest and longest-running rivalries in all of sports out of the corner of my eye: Packers-Bears. Sllaacs, Favre at Soldier Field is never lame.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Still Asking - Can We Stop the Run?

It was July question #2, which one could argue was answered by the Raiders' current 31st ranking against the run. But then every once in a while the run defense shows up - vs. Chicago, Denver, Indy. Why? Kiffin, Sapp, and others argue that it's a matter of each defensive player "doing his job." Jerry McDonald presents a matchup explanation, that the Raiders stop the run only when offenses operate out of a spread formation.

Jacksonville will be a good test. A game on the road against a playoff team who runs physically and stops the run. JaMarcus will be turned loose. Fargas is out. And with two punt returns for TDs in two weeks, it seems we really miss Coop. If we get another Indy game this brutal end-of-year schedule could turn out to be a great way to enter the offseason by building confidence that the Raiders can hang while figuring out who steps up against competition.

But I've chosen to stay in Wisconsin through the end of the year, which means I'll miss the game on TV. It also means I don't get to watch NFL Network thanks to this stupid feud with Time Warner. That makes Thursday and Saturday nights particularly annoying.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Week 16 Picks: Sllaacs Loses Mind; Still Loves GOOOLLLLD!

While Dan is busy putting the heat on Ira Miller, for continuing to insuate that Lane Kiffin is looking to bail, I'm cleaning out my inbox. Here's what I found:

Pickin' Time, Boys,

Niners vs. Tampa Bay. Jeff Garcia, back in SF - Gruden back in the Bay. Both winners, looking at the playoffs. In our (Niner Fans - Black Holers) collective faces. Tampa has allowed the fewest points in the NFL, (tied with Pittsburgh). However: The Shawn Hill era has begun. #13 - S-Hill. Shay Hizzle. Shay Heez-nil iz in tha hizzin-hoozin-hizzle. Shawn The Thrill Hill, baby... Okay, enough - Bucs win 21 - 14.

Raider vs. Jags. This one is in Jacksonville. The Jags are 10-4, Garrard has Brady-like efficiency, (16 TD's - 2 INT's) and Fred - Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years - Taylor is running as well as any back in the NFL not in a Minnesota uni. No need to mention the Raiders horrible run defense, but that will probably be the determining factor in a Jacksonville victory 24 - 10.

This week's schedule is lame. No one game this week features two playoff-bound teams. In that case I choose to pick the least exciting game on the schedule, (besides Raiders vs. Jaguars) and that is Miami vs. New England. Screw it, I'm picking Miami - they are on a season high winning streak, and I think they are "due". Whatever the hell that means. Miami wins a shocker - and preserves the 1972 Dolphins relevancy to all win-loss records - in Foxboro 17-13. I can dream, can't I? NFL films presents: "In a sports world nearly overcome with the ubiquity of Fantasy Leagues, one man and the entire city of Miami dares to dream in the old fashioned
way..."

Sllaacs


No word on whether or not Jeff Garcia is returning any of Sllaacs' text messages.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Are We Allowed Moral Victories?

The Raiders traditionally have not been. But tonight is the best I've felt after a Raider loss in a long time - particularly considering that this loss was the 10th of the year. The defense played a terrific game, the offense put together some nice drives - including a "masterpiece" - and while special teams were suspect, at least Carr did a nice job with kickoffs.

Kiffin does not share my positive vibe tonight: "We're too far along to feel good because we played the world champs down on the 14-yard line to win the game. Who cares? We lost. We got to start winning these games. Some day we'll be that team that makes the plays and finishes people off like that."

Good point. So on the negative side, the final Colts drive made me think of the unnamed NFL coach frequently quoted by Jerry McDonald regarding last year's highly ranked defense. He basically said that it seemed like any time an offense really needed to score against them, they did. Manning cut it pretty close with a couple of 3rd down conversions, but he did go 7-for-7 and cap it with a TD pass.

Another complaint is our WR depth. Not a new complaint. I couldn't help but wonder whether Doug Gabriel or Travis Taylor might have made the catch that Chris McFoy dropped to end a JaMarcus drive. Jerry points out that Johnnie Lee Higgins was on the bench at that time. So why was he on the field to catch the punt at the end of the first half? His game of possum cost the Raiders a shot at a game-tying FG.

But we only won 2 games last year and I couldn't bear to watch during December, so this feels like real progress. How about the game Howard had? Asomugha shut down everyone who came his way. There was even a brief Sands sighting as he stood up a guard during the second goal line stand. Going back to the situation leading to Johnnie Lee's punt non-return, how is it fathomable that the Colts gain 5 yards on first down with just under a minute to play in the half and MANNING ON THE FIELD...and the Raiders call a timeout! That's confidence. And sorry Lane, that feels good.

Observations

Good to see JaMarcus get some serious playing time to try and get in a rhythm. Only downside is it's giving Manning all sorts of time to hurt the Raiders with all of the 3-and-outs. Thankfully the defense has been terrific.

The pass rush has reappeared, and Gerard Warren is very active. But I'm pretty sure I saw him make a "pay me" gesture after a 1st quarter stop, which might explain why he never hangs on anywhere. Hey - another sack for Clemons! Three sacks on Manning when he'd had 17 all year. I'm impressed.

Part of it must be Asomugha's coverage. Every time I've seen Manning test him deep he's been step-for-step.

McCown's back in to a smattering of boos, but I'll note that his first play is a first down.

Masterpiece

It started when the kept Manning out of the endzone to end the 1st quarter.

Then Josh McCown directed a 20-play, 99-yard touchdown drive that lasted 11:41. It was the most inspiring offensive football I've seen out of this club, not counting when JaMarcus came in against Denver. No matter what happens the rest of this game, that drive has given me faith in Lane Kiffin as a play caller and a coach.

It was magnificent.

10-7 Colts, halftime. Peyton's not really hurting us; the Colts only 6 came on a 90 yard punt return that was a complete debacle by the Raiders special teams.

I'm fired up.

Dan's Picks

I really thought the Bengals would tear the 49ers apart. Wasn't the return of Chris Henry supposed to add that missing dimension to their offense? He caught one 52-yard TD but that was their only one. And Chad Johnson is wearing a little thin on me this year. It seems every time there's a miscommunication he throws a fit and makes it clear to the world that he thinks Palmer screwed up. I didn't see Carson waving his arms after Chad dropped the game-tying TD. But of course I only saw the highlights. At any rate, I'm 0-1 for the week.

Going to have to pick the Colts, but I tend to agree with John that it will be a game. For as much a blowout as the Packer game turned out to be, the Raiders were in it for quite some time and could have been in a strong position were it not for a few untimely penalties. But then again, untimely penalties are nothing new for the Raiders. I haven't figured out why the Raiders' run D shows up every once in a while. I was on a plane while they shut down Denver - did Sands finally play a good game? Someone else step up? Change up the scheme? Obviously Addai is expected to run like mad, but the Wayne-Asomugha and Clark-Huff matchups will be interesting to watch.

As for the Falcons, I think most of the players will be too busy justifying Mike Vick's right to hang dogs to bother showing up for the game. Garcia will yell "Pig Sooie!" as he throws over DeAngelo Hall for another TD en route to a complete Bucs rout.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

John's Picks

I wanted to get this in before the game starts tonight...

The Bengals are going to absolutely smoke the 49ers, with Carson Palmer, who returns to Bubba Malaysia's starting lineup after 8 weeks on the bench, throws 6 touchdown passes.

The Falcons rally around Bernard Petrino's absconding with Art Blank's money and heart. Goldmember plays just well enough for the Bucs to win anyway.

You know, I'm excited to see the Raiders play tomorrow if only because JaMarcus may get some extended playing time. I think we make things closer than people think, losing in the end on a Vinateri field goal.

Speaking of Bernard Petrino, special props to Jerry McDonald for ending his Thursday after-practice blog post with this nugget:

– Kiffin threw a chair through his office window and challenged Al Davis to fight when he found out Norm Chow was interviewing for the UCLA job, according to a non-industry source who made up the story.


He was making fun of a rumor posted on profootballtalk.com that said Kiffin was so pissed about Bernard getting the Arkansas job that he was seen cursing and slamming doors. Nancy Gay also reported that he "desperately" wanted the Arkansas job. Great stuff, Jerry, as always.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going Postal; Sllaacs Week 15 Picks

Sllaacs sent his pics this week by certified letter. I had to go to the post office at Embarcadero Center to pick them up. While I was there I thought I'd send Christmas cards. I asked the lady behind the info desk if she had a Zip Code Book.

"No."

And that's it. Gave me the Heisman. So I look around and see the autmated postal machine, and hit the info button, where I was able to get the Zip code I needed. Trying to be nice, I went back to the woman at the info desk and said to her, "Just so you know, if anyone asks you next time for a zip code, you can look it up on the machine."

"Oh, I know," she said. "You can look it up over there. You didn't ask me how to look up a zip code. You just asked me if I had a book. I don't have a book."

"Why else would I ask you for a zip code book?"

"I don't know, sir. People ask me all kinds of questions. I can't assume anything, you need to be very specific."

"Did you think I needed a boost to see over the counter or something?"

"I don't know sir. You need to be specific." I should point out that this woman is about 5'2" and easily pushing 300lbs. I didn't want to make this an ad hominem attack, but this had to be the stupidest conversation I've ever had.

"Okay, okay,' I said, finally. "Thank you for your help."

So then I had the letter with Sllaacs' picks, and it said:

So some dude jumped off the upper deck at halftime of the 49ers game last week.

Can you blame him? He should have waited to see Shaun Hill in the 2nd half. Which brings me to my picks for this week.

Niners vs. Bengals. 31 - 17 Cincinnati. This game is on a Saturday - So what? Bengals win - 'nuff said.

Colts at Raiders. Hoo. Tough one - I mean predicting the blowout that is - I was pretty close with my Green Bay blowout prediction, but since the Raiders are at home, I think the Colts will win by only 3 touchdowns. 28 - 7 - The Black Hole will be Peyton's Place on Sunday. Wasn't it brutal, Raider Fan - to listen to Charles Woodson talk about your squad, like he had never played in the uniform before?

Finally, I will take an easy one. Tampa Bay over Atlanta. Hey, none of the other games are that compelling either. Patsy's vs. Man-gina? Whack. T.O. vs. McNabb? zzzzzzz. I mean Balty vs, Miami sounds more interesting to me. Tampa wins 24-13. Playoff bound: Jeff Garcia and John Gruden. They should both still be in the Bay Area.

Sllaacs


I bet that dude had to get some help at the Embarcadero Center post office.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Had Fun Anyway

Sunday's game in Green Bay turned out quite similar to the game in 1993 - a blowout. Three positive things I can say:
  1. The Raiders made it a relatively compelling game until about 5 minutes into the 3rd quarter
  2. I wore so many layers (6) that I didn't freeze
  3. Damn those Packer fans are nice people

I'll leave analysis comments off this post and stick to the pictures. We had a blast!


My buddy Mitch hooked us up with the tickets. They don't exactly give away Packer tickets at the local grocery store to beat the blackout rules (I can recall them doing that in Houston when I lived there). In true Wisconsin fashion we got things started at 9:30 am with a very cold Miller Lite. (You can see I went with the away Lester Hayes jersey for luck).

Kristy wore her Bo Jackson jersey, so it was fitting that they were giving away Tecmo Bowl T-shirts at the tailgate.

On our way into Lambeau alongside the Packer faithful.

Lesters were ready for the game (with a few layers of padding around the middle)...and so were the Bos! (Not so much padding around the middle!)
We saw quite a few Raiders fans at the game. Even the Packer fans remarked at how many Raider fans had shown up. We all seemed to enjoy each other - perhaps the lack of a division rivalry helped. And in our informal poll we found the majority of Raiders fans in attendance to be from the LA area. One Packer fan even asked what part of LA we were from! (They were quickly corrected...)
GREAT SEATS - thanks Mitch!
By this time I was getting a lot of sympathy from Packer fans, as well as a number of not particularly clever smart-assed jokes courtesy of the extremely talkative pair seated behind us.
Sapp agreed with Kristy and me that the Packers were getting a lot of home cookin' early in the game.
As we left the game, Mitch was hoping he'd be able to buy tickets to the NFC Championship game, while I was hoping for a mug of hot chocolate.
Until next time!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Time for the Chosen One

The wheels are completely off the season now. We've had some good games, made some real improvements. But at 4-9, it's time for JaMarcus to play.

You can argue that you just didn't want him in there today against a brutal pass rush in brutally cold weather in a hostile environment. But the next three games are Home, @Jax, and Home. No cold weather. If Andrew Walter was part of the plan, we would not have drafted JaMarcus.

Put.

His.

Ass.

In.

Let him take some lumps. If he loses three games, it's only three games. He has a whole offseason and training camp to forget it--or even better to remember it how it felt and make sure it never happens again.

The Wheels Come Off

Well, we were playing okay, hanging in there until this sequence in the third quarter:

Routt mistimes his jump and gives up an 80-yard TD

Seabass misses a field goal

Dwight fumbles a punt, GB recovers in the end zone

McCown is also hurting. Are we gonna see Walter? I'd rather JaMarcus, tell you the truth. There's a lot of time in the ball game, maybe he's got a miracle in him.

Josh McCown is Funny.

I've written and said some pretty hateful things about Josh McCown. But he played his ass off last week, and just now on the pre-game show he was discussing his injuries with Greg Papa:

"I was telling my little brother yesterday, you know how when there's a forest fire and the firefighters burn ahead to keep the fire from spreading? I'm going to punch myself in throat, to keep the injuries from getting any higher, you know because they started at my toe."

I like our chances today.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gearing Up

It's about 14 hours before kickoff at Lambeau, which gives us about the right amount of time to begin the layering process to keep from freezing tomorrow. Actually, it's 15 and snowing now, and should be up over 20 for the game. Not too bad. Certainly not like the 1993 game, which I've learned was the third-coldest game in Lambeau history.

One dilemma I have not yet resolved is whether to wear my white away #37 Lester Hayes jersey or my black home #37 Lester Hayes jersey.

Away jersey: it is an away game and the Raiders are 1-0 when I've worn the away jersey during games this year.

Home jersey: it is more obviously a Raiders jersey and I might need the sun-absorbing properties of black to survive the game.

At any rate we are very excited and plan to be tailgating by 9:30 am.

Regarding Nancy Gay, I just flat out have trouble trusting her when she writes so definitively that the Kiffin-Arkansas rumors have some substance. She was absolutely sure that Moss would not be traded and predicted that Sapp would be cut. Obviously her style is to write with conviction even when she is going out on a bit of a limb.

Nancy Gay's Arkansas Source Revealed; John's Picks



Soon after Steve here was taken into custody, he used his one phone call to call Nancy Gay and tell her how substantive the Lane Kiffin-to-Arkansas rumors were. "I remember that day USC put up a buncha points on my Hogs," Steve told her. "We thought they was just a buncha queers from Los Angeleez, but they put a asswhuppin' on us. My wife was so made she stabbed me in the face. That Lane Kiffin was a helluva play caller that day, tell ya what. If this asshole cop hadn'ta impounded my lawnmower I was on my way out there to personally recruit him."

Now that we've cleared that up, onto the picks.

On the one hand, Pittsburgh has some playmakers on both sides of the ball. On the other hand, they lost to Man-gina nd the Jets. I think they make that one mistake that hands the Patriots the game, 24-21.

Adrian Peterson is running for 230 yards and four touchdowns against the 49ers, helping the Vikings win the game 35-13, and Bubba Malaysia win his fantasy game 142.34 to 97.54.

I still have a lingering feeling of bliss leftover from last Sunday's trip to the Coliseum. I have to give a shout out here to Bill Simmons. He wrote a column last week about taking his two year-old daughter to her first NBA game, and what a great time they had together. I forwarded it to the Professor and she laughed her ass off, and said, "Let's take baby Lily to the Raiders game Sunday." We had planned to get a sitter and have an adult-knucklehead-fun-day, but when that fell through we weren't too disappointed. And if you saw the look of pure Joy on Lily's face in the pictures I posted the other day, you know we did the right thing. She's still talking about going "to the stadium see the Raiders play a football game!" She wants to go back this week, and didn't quite understand that they're playing in Wisconsin, until we explained to her that the Raiders had to fly on an airplane to get there. "Lily flies to Texas and California!" she said and I said "Just like that, only to Wisconsin," and she said, "Raiders fly to Wisconsin!" and then she asked for a cup of chocolate milk and for me to turn on her Thomas video.

So, I think the Raiders keep it going. 23-20.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wisconsin Is Cold

Here in Oshkosh, WI it is 21 degrees and snowing. Last night it dropped to about 3 degrees. Since our arrival late Sunday night I've shoveled so much snow that I am painfully realizing I have a whole portfolio of strange muscles in my arms and back.

In other words, I'm ready for Lambeau!

The last time I was at Lambeau to see the Raiders play, LeRoy Butler invented the Lambeau Leap en route to a 28-0 shellacking. It was one of the coldest NFL games ever played, with a game time temperature of 0 and a wind chill of -30. This one shouldn't be quite so bad, but Kristy has been stocking up on winter gear nevertheless.

Will the Raiders handle the cold? Maybe, and the Packers' QB situation is less than ideal. My guess is Favre will come out a little wild while still recovering from his smashed funny bone. He effectively has no backup, but then again he hasn't really needed a backup since 1992 anyway. Ultimately I'm going to pick the Packers for the simple reason that the Raiders are undefeated since I began picking against them in this blog. And barring an AFC West miracle I'll be pulling for the Pack through the playoffs, so it does not do to my soul the damage that picking the Broncos to beat the Raiders did last week.

Minnesota is really coming on while at least we can say the 49ers are showing some sort of life. Although I'm not really sure what sort of life. Despite being a longtime fan of Dilfer, I guess someone will be Dilfered and the Vikings will run to victory. Some drunk 49ers fans will then get in a Minnesota fan's face and demand to know why he cheered for the Vikings. Minnesota fan will reply, "I grew up in Minnesota." 49er fan will then try to find some other reason to take a swing at Minnesota fan but will fail, and will walk off grumbling.

At least that's what happened about this time last year when I went to the Packers-49ers game with one of my friends from Wisconsin - just replace "Minnesota" with "Wisconsin" or in some cases "Green Bay," and "Vikings" with "Packers." You get the picture...

I choose Pittsburgh over New England. My distaste for the Patriots has gone far beyond healthy standards and I'm really trying not to care anymore. I sat very calmly through the ridiculous finale to Monday night's Baltimore game. What a joke this undefeated season will be in that context. Oh yeah, and in the cheating context. Wait - I'm calmly not caring anymore. Go Pittsburgh.

Week 14 Picks: Sllaacs gets Dilfered

This was waiting for me in the CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY inbox:

Yo,

So the niner fans got kind of Dilfer-ed last week against the Panthers. I mean, we HOPED the Niners would be who they were against the Cards, but... Who cares at this point? No #1 pick for SF, besides the one they got from the Colts last year - and that's not exactly exciting. The Niners will lose to the Vikings, I say by 10.
24-14 Minnesota.

Raiders vs. the Packers. This one is in Green Bay - the fucking Tundra. Forget about it, Fargas may find it hard to run in subzero temperatures, and Oakland may get blown out here. I'm picking the Pack 31 - 13.

Patriots vs. Steelers. Based on the last two weeks, I'm going to pick against the Patsy's here. NE barely won thier last two, and Pitt is better than the Eagles. I think Big Ben gets it done - 35-27.

Go Dilfer, it's ya birf-day, Go Dilfer, It's ya birf-day...


Sllaacs


I'll be back with my picks and a wrap-up from Sunday, which still has me wearing a smile.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Best. Day. Ever.

So I went to the game yesterday. By now, both readers of this blog know what happened: the Raiders won 34-20, JaMarcus got some action and looked good doing it, and Josh McCown looked like an honest-to-God NFL quarterback.

I'm not even really going to write a whole lot. We took some pretty great pictures that I want to share.


This guy set his DJ booth up on the back of a cargo van that was backed right up to where we had parked. He was kicking out the jams all morning. His family or buddies grilled up some bacon-wrapped shrimp that was the best thing I've ever tasted.










Here's the Professor and Baby Lily, who was making her debut at a Raiders game, just like JaMarcus. You can see the flags in the background. Obviously, she's having a good time. Seated in the background, in the Bill Romanowski throwback, is Carl, our designated driver.










Here's the rest of the crew with the DJ setup. The guy in the Michael Huff jersey and the woman in the Jerry Rice hookup were the chefs. I'm sorry I don't remember their names, but everyone in this picture was super nice.














Here's Lily and Me with Gorilla Rilla and his posse.






















The guy next to us was pouring tequila shots down the grooves of this huge Ice Block.











So you know I had to try it. It was good.


























Here's the band Izzy Ozbourne, in the middle of "Mr. Crowley." Lily was really interested to see
Skylar, the girl playing the keyboards.














This our designated driver, Carl, and his sister Suzanna. Yes, she's a Broncos fan. But, she was a good sport. She took a lot of abuse, nothing too vicious. And she took really great care of Lily, who fell asleep in her lap during the fourth quarter.

She also organized the festivities, having Carl pick us up at 6:30 so we could get to the House early and get a prime tailgate spot.





This is probably my favorite picture of the day:

Lily and me watching the band. At one point the Professor thought it might be too loud, I should take Lily away, but she got really pissed and started yelling "Go BACK!"

She's a rocker, just like her mom.

Everyone was really great to her, especially when they found out it was her first game.

We can't wait to go back.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Trying Again

Our Saturday attempt to get the Lambeau tailgating started early was foiled by weather, so that makes today our travel day. So we'll just have to wait for John's in-person account. Faced with the prospect of spending Saturday night in the Kansas City airport - with our dog and our Raiders gear - we chose to roll the dice with today. So far, so good - planes seem to be running, unlike yesterday.

Here's hoping we have a good set of JaMarcus highlights to review when we arrive in Wisconsin tonight! And a 2-0 AFC West streak to celebrate!

Big Day

As I said earlier, I will be in the House today when the Raiders play the Donkeys. As Jerry McDonald wrote yesterday, we just might see JaMarcus. I really, really hope so.

Dan is in Wisconsin, at his childhood home, preparing to represent next Sunday at Lambeau. If he's able to catch the game today I know he'll be doing the in-game updates that both readers of CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY have come to depend on.

I'll be back with a big post including pictures of the tailgating from the Coliseum parking lot.

Get ready for a Donkey Show, because Denver's about to get abused.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dan's Pick(s)

Not a lot of time to blog as I am still stuck in the work day, but...

I picked the Donkeys and Panthers this week in my pool, so I'll stay consistent. Only picked the Broncos because I picked the Chiefs last week and I am superstitious. Now that I've actually written that out it sounds pretty stupid.

As for the Packers-Cowboys, I'm going with the Cowboys because Woodson will be hobbled with the same sort of toe injury he had in Oakland and the Packers will feel the same pain we felt all those years: brilliant for the 6 games he plays each year, and paid over $1.5 million for each of those appearances.

But if I ever get away from my computer, I'll be fully cheering for Favre and the Pack. As for John's comment, I would argue that there are a few other differences, among them about 7 trips around the world in passing yardage, 15 years of consecutive games played, 3 MVPs, a Super Bowl ring, etc. That tongue-in-cheek cameo hardly qualifies as a wild Hollywood lifestyle, even if Favre had his share of fun Appleton-style back in the day. But it is true that you can't compare some 27-year-old's partying after becoming an overnight star to the down-to-earth habits of a 38-year-old who has been a Hall of Fame lock for as long as anyone can remember.

Spend some time in Wisconsin and you'll understand how important Favre is. Berman, Madden, anyone else's man-crushes still can't overstate Favre's greatness. In my mind there's not a better story or greater player in NFL history, and this year's resurgence simply adds a Jordanesque comeback as icing on the cake.

There's Something About Mary Buckheit

Apparently she's never seen this movie. That's what I take from reading this column, anyway. I wanted to find the clip that actually had Brett Favre in it, but this is close enough. The only real difference between Brett Favre and Tony Romo is that Brett Favre is 67 years old and Chris Berman has a massive man-crush on him. Romo might show up in the tabloids, but he hasn't appeared in a major motion picture yet. And he hasn't had been to Betty Ford, either. And I can't help but think that if Brett had starred in a city with a population of more than 30,000 people, he would have been getting lap dances from insane former pop sensations, too.

I fully expect a rebuttal from Dan Hauenstein...

John's Picks

I'm going with the Cowboys tonight. I would like to see a New England/Green Bay matchup in the SuperBowl, though, if only to see Charles Woodson matched up against Randy Moss in a battle of formerly disgruntled Raiders. Remember the game in 2003 when Wood shut him down? That was a serious matchup. But Charles might not play tonight against TO, which is a huge advantage to Romo.



I should also mention that the Professor is a huge Romosexual.

I'm feeling pretty postive about our local teams' chances this week. Carolina Sucks. GreenBalls is like 64 years old. Dilfer has a nice goatee. Niners win, 20-13. Unless someone smack-talks Steve Smith.

As I said before, I will be in the House (somebody REALLY needs to get Britney Spears out of the Flash Player rotation) this Sunday for the first time since 2004. Interestingly enough, that game was also against the Broncos. We got smoked.

Not this time. We're building momentum after the huge win in KC. Raiders 24, Donkeys 20.

I also predict that I will drink a lot of beers in the parking lot Sunday Morning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A tale of Two Blogs

I list a couple of blogs in the Links section over to the right of this column. One is the Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald's "Inside the Oakland Raiders" blog. The other one, which I call the "SFGate Hater Blog," is the San Francisco Chronicle's "Silver&Black" blog.

Jerry's blog is updated daily; on days the practices he might post two or three entries.

SFGate's blog is updated sporadically, mostly by David White.

You can tell by the comments section which blog is read and respected by the Nation. Jerry's blog is filled with passionate comments by passionate fans.

Maybe three people leave comments on the SFGate blog.

A perfect illustration of why Jerry rules and that other blog sucks is today's non-story about Lane Kiffin going to Arkansas.

First read Jerry's.

Then David's.

Tell me, which one is more informative? Which one is more illuminating?

I'm tempted to ask why SFGate even has a Raiders blog. But I guess it doesn't matter as long as the Trib keeps Jerry McDonald employed.

He's my hero.

Week 13 picks: Sllaacs Introduces "integretous" into the Lexicon

So, with the Cowboys playing the Packers tomorrow night, I emailed Sllaacs this morning and suggested we use that game as the third this week. He replied:

Good call. I'm going to go with the 'Boys, 35-24 - even though a) I hate them, 2) they are suckas III) blow me, I hate them. And in conclusion, they are a bunch of assholes. Straight up, you won't find a less integretous group of guys this side of OJ's golfing buddies who rolled on him. Did I mention that I am a Niners fan? You gotta love Favre though. Maybe he can pull one out.


Niners at Carolina. Hard to pick - I mean Carolina sucks, and if the Niners are who they were against the Cardinals, then the Niners should win. Still, I pick the Panthers 23-14.

I got a new term; it's called getting Dilfer-ed. To be Dilfer-ed is to think you knew who you thought they were only to find out that they weren't. The Cardinals thought they knew who the Niners were. They got Dilfer-ed.

On that note, did the Raiders Dilfer the Chiefs last week? Well, they Dilfer-ed the streak, that's for sure. I'm going with Denver in this one, just because they own the Raiders, and seem to find a way to break this teams spirit at least once a year. 24-23 - Sea Bass misses a big one.

It was nice to see last week that the Bay Area does have Professional Football. And let Monday be a lesson; we could all be Dolphin fans. Could you imagine? I mean, rooting for guys who dress like that? C'mon.


There's a lot to talk about this week, and I want to keep them in separate posts...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kiff vs. Herm



Okay, so this is an old clip. But as numerous columnists have pointed out, and Dan and I discussed as it was happening, that 4th and 1 play was retarded. Burning two timeouts and then going for it? Sure, we were absolutely certain that Smith was going to pick up that yard. We hadn't stopped him all day. But when Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard stuffed him, the jubilation in the room almost woke the baby up from her nap.

As Carl Steward writes, Kiffin turned it loose in the fourth quarter. When Miller made that 28 yard catch-and-run, Dan turned and said, "That's exactly what Miller should be doing." And Daunte unleashed that strike to JP, followed by Huggy Jr's TD, and it was on.

And the streak is over. I just hope Cam Inman hasn't jinxed us.

Oh, speaking of jinxes, as Dan wrote yesterday, we both picked the Quiefs to win. We firmly believe this reverse-jinx helped the Raiders get over the hump, mostly because we're insane. But anyway, I'm not sure what to do this week, since I'll actually be in the House. I'm thinking I'll do like Joe Theisman used to do on espn.com, where he'd abstain from picking the Sunday Night game he was calling. Not sure why he did that, like it would influence who his predictable, boring comentary would favor. But I'm feeling good about the Raiders--I mean really, actually positive about them--for the first time in like 4 years. All of Norv's wins (except for the Denver Snow Game) and Art's wins felt like relief more than progress. But this win shows me that Kiffin knows what he's doing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

WE WIN!

I'm thrilled to put up the milestone 100th CLOAK post as we rejoice the Raiders' first win against the AFC West since 2004! Two guys stepped up to make it happen: Morrison and Fargas. Any questions surrounding Kiffin's use of RBs was answered today. Fargas was brilliant against a defense that is actually decent. And that means the offensive line didn't do too badly, either.

Run defense? Not so good. But why dwell on the negative after a win? Culpepper managed things well, the play calling provided enough of a mix to free up Fargas, and the announcers uttered a phrase seldom heard during Raider broadcasts: "Culpepper has all kinds of time back there." Incredible.

Any way you look at it, this is progress. A win on the road in a hostile environment against a division opponent. Although I'm a little sorry it took John and me picking against them for things to turn around.

Kirk Morrison

#52 stuffs Kolby Smith. He wants to step up.

The Professor is doing her best to jinx the Raiders. Stay tuned.

Will Someone Step Up?

We find ourselves in a relatively familiar situation: Clinging to a slim lead in the 4th quarter. What we've lacked is someone stepping up - to force a turnover, make a big sack, extend a drive on offense. It just doesn't happen. So here we sit with 4 minutes left in the game and our defense slowly being shredded again.

Please...somebody...step up and win this game for us!

Signs of Life

Touchdown, Raiders! After being in the doghouse for weeks, and asking for his release, Lamont Jordan comes in and scores on a sweep from six yards out.

Jerry Porter made an unbelievable catch on a third down to keep the drive alive.

Boring

So Dan came over to watch the game. We figured if we united both COI bloggers in the same room, the collective karma would put the Raiders over the top.

So far, it's not really working.

The Huff interception was nice. But our run defense is still abysmal. It must be nice to be a rookie RB getting your first start against the Raiders. Talk about a confidence builder.

The offense isn't horrible so much as it's boring. Fargas looks okay but our receivers are dropping too many balls. There's no speed whatsoever. It almost makes me wish we had Alvis Whitted. He couldn't catch a cold, but at least it was exciting watching the ball float through the air before it bounced off his face mask.

Dan's Picks

As the Raiders take their quest for the mythical third regular season win to Missouri, I'm taking the "show me" approach to picking their games. Kansas City will win 17-16 after LaMont Jordan fumbles while trying to run out the clock, setting up the Chiefs' game-winning drive.

Most years, neutral Bay Area football types say, "At least the Raiders are trying to get better." This year the 49ers' hopelessness comes after an offseason spending spree, and the comments seem to have morphed to, "At least the Raiders might get better." Until Nolan's suggestion box starts paying dividends, I'm going to pick against the 49ers, too. Arizona 24-10.

And while I'm a big fan of Southeast Jerome, I too pine for what might have been had Kiffin been able to lure Gannon - er - Garcia to Oakland. He's pretty good. Probably a little weird, but he does win games. So I have no idea what the score will be. Maybe things go crazy in the ones place and it will be 30-20?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

John's Picks

Happy Thanksgiving. Let's get right to it.

The Raiders are smart not to cut Lamont or Dominic this week, because LJ's out, and Priest is retired. They didn't want one of them running wild on us. I bet they get cut next week after the Denver game. Anyway, we're losing 13-9.

The Niners are losing, too. Only they're losing by a lot more than four points. The Cardinals run them off the field, 27-0.

The other game, Washington vs. Tampa, well, it's coming down to Coach Janky Spanky, Southeast Jerome, and Dolemite Jenkins.



Redskins win, 21-18.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Week 11 Picks

Yo,

My bad, I am a little late. I was going to pick the Pack over Detroit 37-26, but I was, uh late in making the entry. Here are my picks for Sunday:

The Raiders will get rolled for what, thier eighteenth straight division loss? Now that's a Black Hole - a place where wins are just sucked out of you and losses are blasted back in your face like a fine mist of particles, sticking like shit to a jacket made of helpless baby seal skin - seals that literally were clubbed over thier heads much like the Raider fans are figuratively clubbed over thiers by the constant F***ing losing... But I digress. This game will probably be just as frustrating for Oakland fans as the other Raider losses this season - 16 - 10, K.C. Look closely at Culpeppers Numbers, they aren't that bad considering - and I think Oakland could do worse than signing the immobile veteran for next year, and then allowing the mobile interception machine McClown to go about his merry way.

The Niners will lose. Will they get into the end zone though? Hell, I don't know - but I do remember a guy named Pat Barnes ran the Niner offense for about 4 games in 1999, and I think that the sense of futility that permeated the entire franchinse from that horrible period of time has once again reared its' ugly head. 23 - 8, Arizona. The Niners will get a safety and a defensive TD.

Tampa Bay will beat the 'skins. Notice that I keep picking T.B. games? Wonder why that is - could it be because as a Niner fan, I might look at those games and harken - that's right, I harken - back to the days of old when we had a QB that was a legit QB? Yes. That is the reason.

The Redskins bring a good D, and a lame O, while T.B. seems pretty much statistically unimpressive on both sides of the ball, but Jeff Garcia is a winner - and winners win. While losers, well - we all know what losers do. They end sentences with prepositions. 23 - 17, Tampa over Washington.


XOXO
Sllaacs

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Time for Reflection

This rebuilding year under young Lane Kiffin has been at times quite difficult to read. Many befuddling situations seem only to make sense under one of two possibilities:
  1. Al Davis' meddling is at odds with Kiffin's plans
  2. Kiffin is absolutely focused on building for next year and he has to change a deeply damaged locker room culture

Under scenario #1 our recent misery is unlikely to abate anytime soon. But under scenario #2 we will continue to await an inevitable a return to glory, complain about referees, and attend frozen away games. Despite the foregone conclusion, it's worth looking at a few of the current head-scratching situations within this context. I'll start with the running backs.

Jordan is in the doghouse but on the roster. Rhodes has barely touched the field. Fargas is starting. Bush won't play in 2007. Much of the scenario #1 talk has centered on how short-sighted it is to hold onto Jordan/Rhodes to keep him off the Chiefs or Broncos rosters at the expense of critical development/evaluation time for Bush. Clearly, Davis is loathe to let another free agent signing be declared a bust and then watch as he embarrasses him by contributing to a record-extending divisional loss. But it may not be such a bad reason, and activating Bush may not have been such a great idea. The Raiders have to win at least one game against the AFC West this year to take something positive into the offseason. And if Bush were to get injured this year it would be devastating.

The end of this year is going to be about getting JaMarcus' feet wet. Two guys in the backfield who haven't played a down would be tough to digest. The first time Bush missed picking up a blitz could destroy the franchise. Speaking of picking up a blitz, Fargas' block against Minnesota made it clear why he's starting and Jordan has hit the bench. Fargas is running ok, but he's doing all the little things Kiffin wants his RBs to do. After a brilliant start, Jordan has been phased out as too injury-prone, too unwilling to do everything it takes to improve, and yes, too expensive next year. Why not cut him if he's not the kind of guy we are rebuilding around? He's cheap this year, Crash Test Dummy might get hurt, he might have trade value in a trade/restructure deal, maybe he'll get with the program and take another pay cut to stay...and we don't want him replacing Larry Johnson this week or plugging into Shanahan's system on December 2.

So what about Rhodes? The argument for scenario #2 is to label Rhodes a classic Davis Super Bowl star signing that flops. Kiffin is not just going to play him because he was signed, he has to earn it. In his limited - well, extremely limited - reps this season he hasn't exactly impressed. So why keep him? I tend to believe the Jay Glazer rumor that they considered cutting him, and may yet, but didn't for a few reasons: their return game is awful, they were undecided on Bush, and yes, they wanted to keep him off the Denver and Kansas City rosters.

The risk in all of this is that whether you believe in scenario #1 or scenario #2, the same reason for doing something could emerge from either scenario and cause harm in the locker room. For instance, if the Raiders are holding onto Jordan and Rhodes at least partly to keep them out of Denver and KC's hands, is it because Al is a spiteful maniac or because the single most important thing the Raiders can take out of Kiffin's first season would be a win over one or both of those opponents? Either way, you risk holding onto players who become cancers in the locker room, causing other veterans to say, "Moss was right - they don't treat their veterans well."

This will be a big test for Kiffin the rest of the way. Can he build a new locker room culture without entirely purging the locker room? His handling of wide receivers has been far different - they're all gone. The Jordan and Rhodes situation has risk written all over it. A win against Kolby Smith and the Chefs this week would go a long way towards mitigating that risk.

With that, I'm declaring turkey more important than looking at any other odd Raiders situation today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Frustration

While John deals with a fussy baby, I'll recap today's Raider game in one word: AARGH!

So many mistakes, with the offense on track for an all-time record for the most stupid penalties in a single season. Absolutely no run defense. It's as if Morrison is the only guy out there during running plays, and he's making tackles 8 yards down the field because he's got a center and a guard on him with no one up front taking up those blocks. Chester Taylor - granted, not your average backup - averaged over 8 yards per carry. Averaged. The red zone offense went backwards.

What positives came out of this game? Well, they still had a chance to win at the end of the game. Unlike last year, this is a team that should be winning ballgames. They can't get more than one or two dimensions to play well on any given week. But it's always different dimensions. This week the defense forced turnovers and the offense threw the ball.

Sticking with the frustrating theme, "due to NFL rules" CBS cannot show the wild ending of the Cleveland-Baltimore game, so I've had to watch the worst studio team in the business stare at a monitor and explain the play-by-play. Then they go to replays and show the play that just finished. Talk about an archaic rule! I suspect this has to do with Fox owning the doubleheader this week and the 49ers laying an egg on Channel 2.

Amazing - there was 10 seconds of silence while Dan Marino and team stared at the monitor that the TV audience cannot see.

Howdy Dammit*

Thanks to a fussy baby, I am no longer with my friends watching the game at Bufalo Wild Wings. Reading Dan's posts, I see I'm not missing much while trying to wrestle down a two year-old for her nap.

Except they'll probably bring JaMarcus in for a series and I'll miss it.

Good Times.



*this is yet another Aggie slogan, seen in the rear windshield of a Ford F-150.

Obviously Stu Is Back In

Hiram Eugene filled in at safety during the last two Vikings drives, but I see it was Schweigert's noodle-armed tackle that Chester Taylor ran through en route to a 38-yard TD.

Our turnover differential is +3 and we're down 19-13. At least it's a game.

Oh by the way - our answer to the Minnesota TD thus far has been Culpepper tripping on first down and Fargas running for -2 yards on second down...

Flat

This Raiders team just didn't show up for the first quarter. It's embarrassing. To recap:
  • Stu Schweigert runs right past a TE clearly on a go route and gives up an 80+ yard play
  • Stu then badly misses a tackle on a 10-yard rushing TD
  • The offense comes with bad field position thanks to our utter lack of a return game
  • False start on Gallery sets up an insurmountable obstacle for this offense
  • Our best player has a terrible punt to give the Vikings great field position
  • Vikings march with ease to the goal line (at least one terribly missed tackle by Stu)
  • Then - good news! Asomugha gets his first INT of the year!
  • Ugh - bad news! Asomugha inexplicably tries to bring it out of the end zone and we start on the 2
  • As if by clockwork, Daunte intentionally grounds the ball from the end zone - safety

Now Morrison gets the Raiders' first fumble recovery of the year and Culpepper throws deep to Curry. But so far they've really blown their opportunity with a zero-yard run by Fargas followed up by a 10-yard sack of Daunte.

Last year I would have changed the channel after the safety. This year the team has a way of hanging around so they can screw it up with 5 minutes left in the game. I'm still watching, but I'd sure rather see these guys show up ready to play.

Ah - before I could click "post" the Raiders got a hold and a sack. So since they got to the 5 they ended up forcing SeaBass to kick a 42-yard FG. At least we are on the board.

Dan's Picks

The Raiders will relax a bit on the road and will give Daunte another revenge win - 17-10.

49ers are in a free-fall, and I doubt Dilfer can stop it this week. Rams win 27-10.

I have this bad feeling that I'll see a Bucs-Falcons score late tomorrow and say, "Wow, I didn't have a clue about that one." But I'll stick with the Bucs, 28-20.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amarillo Showers

Last night, my host Joe Nate decided we needed to go to the liquor store and get some Disaronno. So we drove over to Western Beverages. We walk into the store and it must have been kind of slow because we got some excellent customer service from the guys working there. "Can we help you find something?" "Yeah," Said Joe Nate. "Do you have Disaronno?" "Sure, right over there," said the other one and went to get it. I grabbed a twelver of Pabst out of the cooler and put in on the counter where the other guy says, "I was at the bar the other night, and this dude was drinking amaretto sours all night. By the end of the night he was asking for 'amarillo showers.' I told him, 'buddy, that's some R. Kelly shit right there.' Because you know, that's just fucked up, amarillo showers."

At first I thought this was just some regional joshing, that maybe people down in this part of Texas like to bust on people from Amarillo. But then I remembered from my 4 semesters of high school Spanish that "amarillo" means "yellow."

R. Kelly, indeed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Idaho

There was a place I always went to when visiting College Station that had really good pizza rolls. Can't recall the name, but it was a local chain and I always had to be rolled out the door. I think the most intimidated I've ever been when visiting a football stadium was walking into Kyle Field as an Aggie whoop went up. Mostly because it was pretty creepy. And loud.

But that's Texas. This post is about Idaho, which is where we all thought our offensive woes had returned to after last season. Yet here we are at 2-7 with an offense featuring Ronald Curry, Jerry Porter, Justin Fargas, Daunte Culpepper, and Zach Miller. With Curry and Fargas the primary threats to score, it feels a little too much like late last year.

The offensive display against Chicago was not good. Throwing out the final Raiders drive as an anomaly, out of 21 first-down plays, 8 were 1-yard runs by Justin Fargas. The Raider O never overcame a sack to gain a first down, and only once overcame a penalty (that was a half-the-distance-to-the-goal false start on our own 2). This offense can't overcome much adversity at all, and defenses are stacking on early downs knowing that 2nd-and-9 might as well be 3rd-and-20.

Why? At the risk of sounding old fashioned, the Raiders do not have a deep passing threat. Last year the offense was built only to throw long. This year that is the one thing it absolutely cannot do. The most terrifying thing about it is that Kiffin bet the house on Johnnie Lee Higgins, and thus far he hasn't delivered. And if you believe all the theories, Kiffin was hired to rebuild this team around his keen eye for talent.

Don't worry, "I'm in." I think Kiffin has found an offense filled with players not quite good enough, and he's cleaning house. But I'm not sure it was the right move for this season to strip the WR cabinet bare, and now the same seems to be happening at RB with Jordan in sweats, Rhodes returning the odd kick, and Bush not yet in the mix.

Culpepper's back in because at least he can get the ball downfield. Now let's see if we can find a WR who can be there to catch it.

Gig 'Em!

So we're in College Station, TX, home of Texas A&M. We ate dinner tonight at a Mexican Restaurant called Los Norteños. Luckily, we made it through dinner without being attacked by Sureños.

So far, we're having a wonderful time here in the Great State of Texas. The last time I was here--in 1999--I spent three days in Galveston at my uncle's house, an antebellum mansion that he and his psycho wife ran as a bed and breakfast.

That was easily the weirdest three days of my life. My uncle's wife introduced me to her daughter by saying "YOU BETTER NOT FUCK HER, JOHN. She's your COUSIN."

I should point out that this was shocking on a couple of levels. First, it was a surprise that she was my cousin, since my uncle was on his third wife and he had a habit of marrying with women with at least three children. There was never any "It's a Girl!" announcement cards, or baptism invitations, or anything like that. Second, she was thirteen.

Anyway, my aunt also pulled an AR-15 on Mike Shepherd, with whom I was traveling. She ranted at me because the rest of the family in California "ignored" them. We went out to dinner at a Benihana-style Japanese restaurant, where my uncle got shit-faced drunk and started saying the only phrase he knew in Japanese, which translated roughly to "Remember the Big One."

Good times.

So anyway, on this trip, people have been nothing but pleasant. The flight was totally smooth, and one of the stewardesses said to me as we were exiting the plane in Houston, "I hope your Raiders start playing better." I told her I was going to hold my breath. The weather's great, we have plenty of beer, and tomorrow we're hooking up with Dan's brother to smoke a brisket and watch some football. Sunday we're going to a sportsbar so we can watch the Raiders, because we're masochists.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Daunte's Revenge, Numero Dos: John's Picks

I'm about to get on a plane for Texas, which is now the official CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY vacation destination of choice.

Anyway, Tampa rolls ATL 20-6, the newly-healthy Rams destroy the 49ers 31-3 after Nolan finally turns his best offensive weapon, Joe Nedney, loose.

I know I said last week I was never picking the Raiders again, but then two things happened: Adrian Peterson and Josh McCown both got hurt--although it looks like Daunte may have been starting anyway. Daunte leads the Raiders to a victory in the Humphrey Dome, only this time instead of pointing to his knee and flashing the OK sign after scoring, he pretends to row a boat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Inaugural CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY Nancy Gay Memorial Hater of the Week Award

I was reading The Sporting Green in the Chronicle this morning while riding BART. Ray Ratto had a clever column asking Roger Goodell to step in and help fix our two struggling Bay Area teams by combining them. Then I got to Dan's Favorite Football Writer's column on the elite teams of the NFL. It was informative; I learned a lot of new things about what's going on around the league. Who knew that Vince Young needed to be defended by his coach? I didn't get that info from ESPN.

Then, in her last item, she took an incredibly cheap shot:

-- Interesting e-mail of the week: I posed this question last weekend to an NFL general manager - why has Steelers rookie coach Mike Tomlin, 35, shown himself to be a more confident, commanding, respected leader than Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, 32?


Talent aside (particularly at the quarterback position), the GM summed up the difference in a surprisingly succinct way: "Because Mike Tomlin was prepared for the Steelers' job and Lane Kiffin was given the Raiders' job."


This general manager has a point. Tomlin had been the Buccaneers' defensive backs coach from 2001 through '05 and the Vikings' defensive coordinator in '06. He had NFL credibility that his players instantly respected.


Kiffin had been USC's offensive coordinator and shared play-calling duties with Trojans assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian - Al Davis' first choice for the job - in 2005-'06. Before that, he was a position coach on offense at Fresno State, Colorado State and USC, where he also had recruiting coordinator responsibilities.

In retrospect, Kiffin's greatest selling point to the beaten-down Raiders' players was that he wasn't Art Shell.



Really? Which GM did she ask? Isiah Thomas?

Talent aside?

Talent aside?

One more time:

TALENT ASIDE?!

Has anyone ever heard the phrase "Making chicken salad out of chicken shit?" Because what Lane Kiffin's been asked to do in the job he's been "given" is make chicken salad out of bat guano.

The Steelers are a team a year removed from winning the SUPER BOWL. The only key contributor not still on that team is locker room-cancer Joey Porter.

The Raiders haven't won more than 5 games in 5 years now. The only player on the team who played there when the Raiders were good is Barry "False Start" Simms.

So how could talent just be pushed aside when asking that question? I'm not saying Lane Kiffin is a better coach than Omar Epps or anything like that. I'm just saying that Vince Lombardi couldn't win more than 6 games with this Raiders team as currently constructed. Hell, Al Davis circa 1963 couldn't win more than 6 games with this team.

Give the kid a break. He's got Mono. He's trying to rebuild not just a team's talent but an entire culture of losing that goes back at least five years. He was "given" the job because Nobody Else Would Touch it with a Ten Foot Pole. At least nobody whose previous job wasn't turning down sheets in a bed and breakfast.

So congratulations, Nancy. The CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY is naming a new award in your honor:

The CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY Nancy Gay Memorial Hater of the Week Award.

This weeks winner of the inaugural CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY Nancy Gay Hater of the Week Award is:

Nancy Gay


Congratulations, Nancy. You've just been named the winner of the CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY Nancy Gay Memorial Hater of the Week Award. Prizes include scorn heaped upon your head by the members of the Raider Nation, Al Davis never ever saying at your funeral, "Time never stops for the great ones, we give them the CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY," and the wishes of hundreds that you get a parking ticket.