Thursday, December 06, 2007

#84: No Guarantees

-- Anthony Smith does something dumb.

-- Pitt football fans are sated until September.

-- Pens in last place, but close to first.

-- Adios, Castillo.

-- Random

---Joe Namath, He Ain't---

Anthony Smith may help prove me right, after all.

For the past few weeks, since a couple days before they played the Indianapolis Colts, I've said that the Patriots will be 19-0, and all of the non-New England fans should just be thankful that we're getting to see history being made. It would be easier if it were, say, Buffalo, or Kansas City, or maybe Atlanta making this undefeated run, but, to paraphrase past Steelers coaches: It is what it is.

Statistically, the gap between the Steelers and Patriots has not only closed, but Pittsburgh has eclipsed New England. The most important of these stats, Yards per Pass Average, gives the Steelers a slight edge entering this game. New England does average more yards per pass than the Steelers (8.3 vs. 7.1), but when you factor in what each team allows through the air (the Patriots' 6.2 vs. the Steelers' 4.8), the differential gives the Steelers a +2.3 over New England's +2.1.

On the ground, the Steelers have a +0.5 advantage. Considering that both teams have been struggling with various aspects of their game the past couple of weeks, the fact that the differentials are still positive (NE gives up as many rush yards per attempt as they gain, on average), this should be an awesome match-up to behold.

However, the fact that Smith, a backup safety (starting only due to injury) has now not only disrespected the Patriots by guaranteeing a win, he has disrespected them going into Gillette Stadium. Those elements combined may more than wipe out the statistical advantage.

It would not surprise me to see Tom Brady come out and immediately test the zone where Smith will be patrolling.

If Pittsburgh is to win this game, it is imperitive that New England is kept out of the end zone on its first drive. Even if New England scores on its second possession, the defense will know it can keep the Patriots out.

And the first time Randy Moss touches the ball, they have got to give him a tackle he won't soon forget. At least for the duration of the game.

And somehow, some way, the offensive line has to protect Ben Roethlisberger. Belichick has shown us what he can do with a patchwork secondary over the years (Hank Friggin Poteat was on the 2004 Superbowl XXXIX team). If Big Ben is under the pressure he's been under most of the season, you'll see multiple INTs.

Question to answer in the comments:

What will the result of the Steelers/Patriots game be?

A) New England will win and cover the spread (roundabout 2 touchdowns).

B) New England will win, but not cover.

C) The Steelers will win outright.

---Wanny's Signature---

First, let it be said that I was pulling for the Mountaineers to win a close game. I side with Pitt in the Brawl, but I don't have that "I hate WVU" fervor that Pitt alums seem to possess in limitless supply.

It's just been hard to root for a team that has been as poorly coached as the Panthers since Dave Wannestedt took the helm. This year, it was a little different, because the Panthers have been injured to a ridiculous extent. I don't think Bowden or Paterno could have done more than a win or two better.

Now that that's out there, the Panthers were able to survive egregious calls on the field by the officials and the intimidating crowd and pull an upset that seemed to be very nearly another Appalachain State/Michigan.

The spread was ridiculous. West Virginia had every reason to show up for the game. A victory seemed guaranteed. Even I went on the air on "Saturday Morning Sports Talk" on WMBS during the 9AM hour Saturday and said that Pitt didn't have a chance.

It was just one of those situations that demonstrates why they play the game.

And along with Wannestedt's extention through 2010, which most people greeted with an audible eye-roll, he finally got his signature victory.

Regardless, the Panthers end the regular season without a bowl berth for the third consecutive year and far more questions than there are answers.

Question to answer in the comments:

What will this win do for the Pitt Panthers organization?

A) Nothing significant. The Panthers will continue to underachieve under Wanny.

B) This is the first glimpse of a team that will be a legitimate contender in two years.


---Tight Race---

The Penguins had been in the Atlantic Division basement for a while entering their game with the New York Islanders.

That statement alone would make one think that the Penguins weren't very good.

The fact is that the Penguins are just in the midst of a huge pack in the Eastern Conference. The best team, the Ottawa Senators, leads all comers with 37 points in the standings. The Washington Capitals bring up the rear with 20. The middle 13 teams are all within 8 points of each other (Carolina is 2nd with 33, Florida is in 14th with 25).

Divisionally speaking, the Penguins are ahead of the Islanders in fourth place with 30 points. The Rangers, Devils, and Flyers are all tied for first with 32.

Obviously, a little more than one-third into the season, there are absolutely no guarantees.

Flashing back to my previous post, the Pens have improved their Shots-on-Goal differential since then. They've also gone 7-2-1 over that stretch (and they're currently in overtime against the Flames). The SOGD has improved from -1.3 to -0.2.

Meanwhile, checking on the Philadelphia Flyers, they were dead last with a -9.1 SOGD. They're still dead last, though their differential has improved to -7.7.

The story with the Flyers is that their save percentage has fallen from .930 to .917. They are 4-3-2 over the same stretch. The Pens and Flyers play again on Tuesday in the City of Brotherly Love.

The statistical oddity of the day...remember what I wrote about Ottawa and Washington? Their SOGD are scarily close. Ottawa: 2.4 - Washington: 1.9

Could the Caps be on the verge of making a push to get back in the race?

Question to answer in the comments:

What is the biggest factor that's held the Penguins back this year?

1) Play in goal

2) Defense

3) Too much passing

4) Not accustomed to wearing the proverbial target

---Bucs Toss Castillo Overboard---

Not terribly much has been happening in Pirateland during the MLB Winter Meetings. However, they did jettison a player who, two years ago, looked like he was going to be a valuable second baseman. The Pirates released Jose Castillo on Thursday.

They've also let go a couple of lower-profile players: Brad Eldred, an aging career minor leaguer (with the exception of a couple of stints aboard the mothership...even making the 25-man roster at the beginning of this past season) who got bit by the injury bug; and Brian Rogers, one of the Dave Littlefield disasters of 2006 (traded Sean Casey to the Tigers for this AA player).

I'm not overly concerned with any of these. They were players whose stock was declining (or never really there in the first place) and was not likely to rebound. I'm only disappointed that Castillo allowed himself to fall off after a reasonably successful 2005 campaign.

Apparently, the Astros may be willing to deal either Chris Burke or Luke Scott for Damaso Marte. The offensive help would be awesome. I suspect we'd get Scott if the trigger got pulled one way or the other.

DL would manage to get us Dave Borkowski instead (another middle reliever...who has a career ERA of 5.68).

Let's see if Neal Huntingdon can at least get one of the guys rumored. Marte would be a fair trade. The first step in getting this organization back on its feet is at least making trades that make sense. That are equitable. Establish yourself as a reasonable general manager. Then, maybe you'll get one of those trades that net you more than what you give.

Question to answer in the comments:

Do you agree that Luke Scott or Chris Burke for Damaso Marte would be fair?

1) Yes.

2) More than fair, actually.

3) No. We need reliable middle relief.

4) Seriously, I haven't been paying attention to the Pirates for 5 years.


-- WVU kicker Pat McAfee received a FaceBook death threat and other text messages (hate texts?) for missing two field goals (20 and 32 yards, I believe) during the Backyard Brawl. Do we suddenly live in South America? That's the kind of crap that those nutso soccer fans do near the equator and south.

These kids are not paid to be out there (and if they are, we're not supposed to know about it). Sports are not important enough to even threaten death to someone, even if they're professional. Yeah, it sucks to watch your team fall, especially in a situation where they should win.

I have a hunch that the team that loses feels worse than their fans.

And if the source of the ire is because you placed a heavy bet on a team? That's your own fault. Never bet more than you can afford (or are ready) to lose. A lesson I learned the hard way.

-- ESPN's Stephen A. Smith essentially says that bloggers shouldn't be allowed to reach a mass audience because they're "not professionals".

Just allow the irony of this to sink in.

-- Tim Benz of Fox Sports 970 is no longer going to be partnered with Joe Bendel during the evening drive 3-7PM timeslot. Link here

The article makes it sound like Benz dropped out on his own. I think it's because WBGG is tired of getting beat by (or being tied with) yours truly's own WMBS. Don't believe me? Go here to see what I mean. Look for WBGG (Fox Sports 970's call letters).

Maybe I should send in my demo...

-- In the meantime, you can tune into WMBS (590 AM) just after 9AM on Saturday's for "Saturday Morning Sports Talk" with host Dutch Wydo. I'm his "wingman" on the show. It's the most consistent sports talk I've got going for me.

Question to answer in the comments:

Should I resume podcasting?

1) Definitely

2) If you want to

3) Absolutely not

4) You used to podcast?

5) Only if I can go on with you.


Anonymous emma said...

As resident 'Eer fan (I think?) I feel compelled to comment even though I kind of hate football.

1) The mood in Morgantown before the Brawl was nothing so much as nervously optimistic. The team is awesome, but, well, they're total chokers--South Florida anyone? I talked to a couple people who thought Pitt would win and I was afraid of it. My dad called it outright.

2) Thanks, Pitt fans, for burning couches in Oakland after the game! I had to sit there and take the trashing until I heard about that! Now I get to call you weak two-bit copycats. Thanks! Seriously that's downright Marshallesque. Come on Pitt. You're better than THAT, anyway.

3) The McAfee thing... bleh. That's the dark side (really dark) of WVU being so ridiculous sometimes--the student paper the other day had one of the most hyperbolic, overwritten columns I have EVER seen. If this loss makes you feel "sicker than you ever have in your life" (and that's a quote!), um, you've had a pretty goddamn sweet life up until now. Chill out.

4) At least the basketball team looks better than expected. :D

12/07/2007 1:24 PM  
Anonymous emma said...


12/07/2007 1:26 PM  

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