Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seahawks 24 Points, Bengals 21 Points

The biggest complaint about fantasy football is that people no longer care for their favorite NFL team. I always hated that argument. I mean, why does anyone care if I don't root as hard for my childhood team?

Either way, fantasy football interest never interfered with my psychotic passion for the Bengals. Sure, it's approached a fine line before, but it's never surpassed it. I only bring this up because Sunday has left me pondering suicide, and it's only partially due to the Bengals' most recent loss.

Here's why:

Saturday night, as I was drinking college football and watching cheap vodka, I decided to give a final look to the starting lineup of my fantasy football team, the Florida Marlins. My WR corps is shaky because I drafted Kitna in the 5th (even though I already had Peyton Manning), and also because I wanted an elite TE, so I drafted Vernon Davis when other capable No. 3 WRs were out there. You could argue that the Kitna move was brilliant, but Vernon Davis...not so much. Or at least not yet.

As it stands, my WRs are Houshmandzadeh, Santonio Holmes, Brandon Jones, Devery Henderson and...

Kevin freaking Curtis.

Do I even need to tell you the rest of the story?

As I drunkenly looked over my lineup and pondered player matchups, I decided to take Curtis--who had been plugged in since Tuesday--out of the lineup in favor of Brandon Jones. I thought they had similar matchups (Curtis vs. Detroit; Jones vs. New Orleans) so I gave Jones the edge because of the "I want to watch my player on Monday night" factor, which is almost always a bad idea. Regardless, I never would have thought that Curtis vs. Jones would cost me a win. I am now trailing my brother's team by 24 points, meaning that if Brandon Jones posts career bests of 8 catches for 140 yards and a TD...I'll still lose by a point.

Now that's rage, my friend.

If there was no such thing as fantasy football, I would direct 100 percent of my anger at Glenn Holt. Now, thanks to Kevin Curtis (or I guess, me), my anger towards the fumbling moron is only 50.1 percent--approaching but not crossing the line.

You see, fantasy football is a good thing. And it's the reason Glenn Holt will live to see another day. If, back in 1994, there was a leisure activity known as Fantasy World Cup Soccer, Andres' Escobar would still be alive.

Jesus, I'm rambling.

The game...

I somehow forgot about the Bengals game as I watched the ending of Arizona-Baltimore (did Kurt Warner just start a QB controversy?) and San Diego-Green Bay (I told you Favre would play his best ball in five years). Luckily, at about 4:18, my buddy shouted "HOLY SHIT! THE BENGALS GAME STARTED!" Actually, he just said "Spice, the Bengals game is underway." but it's more expressive to use capital letters and exclamation points and whatnot. Either way, the second I turned on the game I saw Matt Hasselbeck drop back and loft a TD to Robert Q. Engram. 7-0 Seahawks, and I hadn't even blinked. This was a bad sign. Or so I thought.

What followed was the Bengals taking control of the game. It wasn't always pretty (four false starts, two INTs and two lost fumbles), and it wasn't necessarily dominant (nonexistent running game), but the Bengals had control. Even when they were losing, it felt like they were in control. Until Holt pissed away a shot at victory, I was sure that Palmer would engineer a game-winning drive. At the very worst I thought the game was headed for a fifth quarter. Never did I imagine a scenario where the Bengals wouldn't even get to fire their weapon.

This isn't a good trend.

Last week, I complained that a lousy spot by the officials--and Marvin's mindless choice against challenging the play--stripped Palmer of an opportunity to lead a comeback. This week, it was a Glenn Holt fumble.

(Don't the football gods know that Carson Palmer can't become John Elway until he has a few miraculous comebacks in the vault? He needs moments, dammit. Do you realize that, as great as Palmer is, his most memorable moment as a professional was when he blew out his knee? I'm not sure why this matters at the moment, but it does matter. At least to me it does.)

Back to issues that don't involve my man crush for Carson Edward Palmer VI...

It's safe to say that Marvin Lewis has never dealt with as much scrutiny as he has this season. And although it's mostly warranted, the criticism has kept him from receiving the occasional compliment, even when he deserves it. I guess this is because nobody wants to kind of hate someone, they want to hate to the fullest. For some reason, the latter disposition makes sense to me, but it certainly isn't right. Take Sunday's loss to Seattle, for instance. Do you realize that Lemar Marshall (picked up in mid-August, after training camp), Anthony Schlegel (picked up a few weeks ago) and Dhani Jones (picked up this week) were on the field all day Sunday?

And how does this come back to Marvin Lewis?

If things were going well this season, the head coach would draw praise for "coaching up" the new linebackers and putting them in a position to help the team win. As it stands now, the bang-up job by the LB corps is just a blip on the radar. Seems unfair, don't it?

Even though it needed to be mentioned, I didn't bring that up to shed positive light on Marvin (I'm typically a 'hate to the fullest' guy). I really just brought it up as a way to talk about the truly amazing (yes, amazing) work of the aforementioned vagabond LBs. Actually, that's a lie. I didn't so much want to write about Anthony Schlegel (who every OSU fan knows is terrible) as much as I wanted to write about the wasted performance of these mammals.

A lot of Bengals fans will spend their week talking themselves into the Lemar Marshall or Dhani Jones era. And I appreciate their optimism, I really do, but it doesn't change the fact that they're stupid. I mean, there's a reason the Bengals were able to pick these guys up off the street, you know? And it wasn't because they're talented playmakers in the middle of their respective primes--it's because they were either washed-up (Jones), old (Marshall) and crappy (Schlegel). And somehow they weren't exposed by a perennial playoff team! I could praise the coaching staff for this, or I could be optimistic...but I'd rather just be bummed. Because if you think Anthony Schlegel won't be exposed by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, you obviously have your Bengals blinders on a little too tight. And you probably sleep in your Anthony Munoz jersey.

Game thoughts in no particular order (and the ban on bullet points is still in effect)...

1. Carson was great Sunday, but not great enough. Not to imply that he didn't do his part, but he was careless at times Sunday. The last time I remember him throwing that many long-balls into double coverage was 2004, his first season as a starter.

2. Well before Rudi injured his hamstring, he looked like me out there, and I was a pretty terrible NFL RB. Now, this obviously reflects on the O-Line, and the holes they didn't open, but Rudi's ability to make something out of nothing, not one of his strengths. And since he doesn't possess any speed, meaning he's ineffective on sweeps and stretch plays, he's often quite screwed. Think about it, when was the last time Rudi made a positive play after moving laterally? I have your answer: when he was playing Pop Warner ball.

Really though, I know the Bengals have had horrible luck with injuries to Chris Perry and Kenny Irons, but they need to keep drafting speed backs until they have a guy to steal carries and eventually become Rudi's replacement. Because you're lying to yourself if you think he's one of the top twenty backs in the NFL. I can't shout this loud enough...RUDI JOHNSON IS PREVENTING THIS OFFENSE FROM REACHING ITS POTENTIAL!

That said, the team can't afford a serious (or even nagging) injury to Rudi. Kenny Watson played his finest game as a Bengal Sunday, and yet he's just another guy. The offensive equivalent to Dhani Jones, if you will.

3. TJ's fumble and Chad's drops were inexcusable. I realize how crazy it is to criticize guys who combined for 21 receptions, 279 yards and 1 TD, but, similar to Palmer, they needed to be perfect. And that doesn't just apply for the Seattle needs to be that way all season.

If the offense is going to reach its full potential (and that's the only way this team can go 9-7), then TJ can't fumble the ball away, and Chad can't drop consecutive balls in the two-minute offense. Those plays kill drives...and keep points off the board...and allow the other team to hang around...and greatly contribute to losses.

4. As dumb as Bratkowski was with his persistence in trying to run Rudi on toss sweeps, he deserves some love for a few things. The mid-2nd quarter screen pass to Rudi, against an all-out blitz, when they were buried in their own territory, was a thing of beauty. Had it been Irons or Perry back there it might have gone the distance (94 yards), but still, it netted 33 yards. Also, the 4th quarter quick-hitters to Kenny Watson (including his TD) were surprisingly effective.

5. I was going to write something nice about Daniel Coats, but who gives a shit? He's Daniel Coats, you know?

6. I was happy to see Levi at LT, and I was happy to see Whitworth at LG. If I had a nickel for every time Dave Lapham has expressed his feelings for putting the best five available lineman on the field, regardless of position, I'd have a shitload of nickels. And the best five available lineman Sunday were Levi, Whitworth, Stepanovich, Andrews and Big Willie. Which reminds me...

7. I have a bad feeling about Willie's feet/foot/knee/leg/body issues. It was encouraging to see him walk off, but, as stated in previous columns, he appears to be fatter than Freddie Childress. Freddie Childress with a bum wheel, that is. Regardless of his similarities to Fat Fred (and/or Big Pun), the thought of him blocking Adalius Thomas next Monday is terrifying. The bye week can't come soon enough for employee No. 71.

8. I think Madeiu Williams is a pretty good player. Not great, but pretty good. The kind of guy who might be a Pro Bowl alternate someday. (Did you like my best Peter King impersonation?)

9. I spent the majority of time between 8p-10p arguing with Craig (of podcasting fame) about the possibility that there's ever been a legitimate putt for double eagle. I say yes, and he disagrees. We're still looking for definitive proof either way.

10. Jonathan Joseph has been awful this season. And awful isn't good. Seriously, when did he become the guy that every QB picks on? Remember how good he was last year? For the sake of the team's potential to win football contests, I hope he isn't hurt. For the sake of him avoiding being called a gigantic suckbag (and other mean things that kids say), I hope he's still recovering.

(By the way, it always makes me laugh when I write a word like "suckbag," and the spell check reminds me that it's not an actual word.)

11. Did I jinx Glenn Holt? The answer is quite possibly YES. Not only did I slurp him during the week, but I freaking picked him up in one of my fantasy leagues. Jesus, I hate myself.

12. Cigarettes taste terrible. Or perhaps more accurately, cigarettes are the shittiest tasting thing in the history of taste and/or things. But I can at least understand how someone would try them and get hooked. They're cool, you know?

As for smokeless tobacco, somebody needs to explain this one to me. With cigs, you can go through the motions (i.e., not inhaling) and gradually build up a tolerance. Even though you would hate every puff along the way, you could at least pretend to enjoy each three-minute session. With smokeless tobacco, there's no such thing as faking enjoyment. You have to stick a wad of horrible brown shit in your mouth and leave it there for a long time. Everything about the process makes you want to die, and you need to repeat the "wanting to die" process for awhile before it starts to taste good. Plus, and this is a big's not cool. Nothing about dipping or chewing smokeless tobacco is cool. And I don't mean this in a "say no to drugs" kind of way, I mean it in a "girls won't want to have sex with you because your dipping or chewing tobacco" kind of way. It makes you look like a hillbilly, and hillbillies aren't remotely cool. Why else do you think Hannah Montana doesn't use her real last name?

(Note: I only brought up the tobacco topic because I've been watching and rewatching Thank You For Smoking every night for the last 1.3 weeks, and it's quite possibly the most underrated moving since The Life Aquatic. Plus, I feel like you need to know these things about me.)

12. I wonder how the desperate Bengals would fair against the Browns if they played them this week. Three TD victory...easy. Which is why you it's usually a bad idea to overlook your opponent.

13. I doesn't know why I've neglected mentioning one of the game's most critical plays to this point, but better late than never, right? And that play is...Hasselbeck's obvious completion to himself, which somehow was ruled an incomplete pass and thus, unreviewable, effectively screwing the Bengals out of 8 yards and a running clock (which would have run down to the two minute warning). Similar to Justin Smith's bullshit roughing the passer penalty against Tampa last season, this didn't cost the Bengals the victory, regardless of how fans choose to remember it. But it did hinder their chances of winning, and every little bit counts.

But some things about this ruling still don't make sense--perhaps a reader can help me out.

Let's go through this, one step at a time...

Hasselbeck caught the ball and took a few steps before being tackled. As he was taken to the turf, the ball squirted out, and it was recovered by a large human wearing a Bengals uniform...but the fumble was clearly caused by the ground. This is where things get tricky. After a good three seconds (although it felt like an eternity), two referees convened and determined that it was an incomplete pass, giving the Seahawks a 2nd & 10 with 2:02 on the clock (as opposed to a 2nd & 18 and 2:00). Wait, what?

Hasselbeck wasn't in traffic--the play was out in the open. And he's the goddamn QB, dammit, he has more eyes on him than anyone. To me, only one ruling was possible: the receiver was down by contact, and the ground caused the fumble. Regardless, Marvin correctly challenged the play, and as it went to a commercial break, we all assumed our friend, Mr. Instant Replay, would straighten things out. However...

When it came time for the official to enhance the Bengals' chances of winning, he announced this to the world (try to forgive his incomplete sentences): "By rule, we stay with the ruling on the field of the incomplete pass. It is not a play that can be challenged, because the defense recovered the ball after the ruling of incomplete. Therefore it's second down, the ruling of incomplete stands."

Let me get this straight...the Bengals weren't allowed to challenge the play because they recovered a fumble that wasn't even a fumble? What if the Seahawks would have recovered the fumble that wasn't a fumble? Could the Bengals have challenged in that scenario? I don't quite understand this. Regardless of who recovered the fumble that wasn't a fumble, that replay clearly showed Hasselbeck catching his own pass and getting tackled. Since that was the end of the play, how does it matter who recovered the fumble that wasn't a fumble?

Seriously, somebody get back to me with a better explanation of the rule.

That's all for now, boys and girls...more Bengal goodness to be posted sometime Monday. In fact, from this point forward, I plan to post a 'game reaction' blog Sunday night/early Monday morning, followed by a 'what does it all mean' blog sometime Monday. Besides that...

I'll also take a look around the NFL, discuss gambling and country music, and I promise to write several words about Ohio State football.

And unless Craig is a lying liar, new podcasts will be on the site before MNF kicks off.

One other thing: I'm trying to compile a list of the best fantasy football team names you've ever heard. Whether they're R rated or PG, send them my way. And if they warrant a quick back story to help me better understand the meaning, have at it. (I'm having problems linking my email address. Deal with it.)

-Brad Spieser