Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ned the Dead (and other thoughts)

Haven't done a bullet post in a while, but a drizzly day seems like a good day for a drizzle of thoughts. All sports, though - let's give politics a rest for a day.

  • It's increasingly looking like my beloved Milwaukee Brewers are going to choke yet again. They went into the weekend up three games in the wild card race to Philadelphia and are in the process of getting swept by the Phillies while dodging the raindrops that have been falling all over the Eastern Seaboard. When it matters, the Brewers are falling apart. Goodness, it's irritating. This team has more talent than any since the lone World Series team in Brewers history but has had an awful penchant of blowing games in the late innings. It may not be entirely fair to blame this on manager Ned Yost, but it's pretty clear that if the Brewers miss the playoffs again, Ned will be gone. As for the picture, my friends back home in Wisconsin will remember.

  • The football season has been a lot of fun so far, but things will start getting interesting this week. The Badgers passed a major test last night at Fresno, but begin a really nasty stretch after a bye week. They go to Michigan, then entertain Ohio State and Penn State on successive weekends, then face a trip to Iowa, a home game against Illinois and a trip to Michigan State. Can the Badgers run that gauntlet unscathed? If they do, you'll have to look at them as a BCS team for sure. At this point, Penn State looks like the toughest foe they will face but trips to East Lansing and Iowa City are usually highly problematic.

  • Can we now put a rest to all the Favre longing, Packer fans? Aaron Rodgers played a pretty darned good game today in Detroit and it's increasingly clear that he is the best quarterback in the division. If the Packers can beat the Cowboys in Green Bay next weekend, it will set the tone for the rest of the season. And it sure will be nice to have the Cowboys play the Packers someplace other than Dallas for a change.

  • After a Vikings loss, it's often entertaining to listen to the carping on the "Vikings Fan Line" post-game show in KFAN, because it's usually a festival of schadenfreude. I didn't get the chance today but my sense is that the natives are really restless about the Purple being 0-2. If you look at things objectively, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Vikes are where they are. We've heard all summer long about how the Vikings would be vastly improved, but those assertions never made a lot of sense. Jared Allen is an excellent speed rusher, but he can pushed around at the point of attack. Nose tackle Pat Williams has played at a very high level since he's come to Minnesota but he's an old guy by NFL standards playing a very punishing position and it's reasonable to assume that he will wear down. Darren Sharper is getting up there, too. Upshot -- there was reason to suspect that the defense, while generally stout, could be exploited. And it has been. On the offensive side of the ball, T-Jack is still a work in progress and is in danger of moving from prospect to suspect, while the offensive line has only two good players on it right now. Bryant McKinnie will come back eventually but it's doubtful that he'll play at the level needed to make a big difference. This team's ceiling has probably always been 9 wins. I'll say this -- I'd rather be a blogger than Brad Childress round about now.

  • We had a little fun jawing about scheduling patsies on the prediction thread. I chided the Gophers for having lowly Montana State on the schedule, prompting a commenter to also chide the Badgers for having might Cal Poly on the schedule at the end of the season. It's an interesting question - whom should you schedule? I've always thought that the ideal non-conference foe is a second-division school from a BCS conference. Good examples of teams to schedule would be Iowa State, Vanderbilt, Baylor, Arizona, Duke, etc. Teams like Fresno are not good choices because they can beat you. For non-Big 10 conferences, the Gophers and Indiana are excellent choices. I did take a peek ahead to the Badgers non-conference opponents in upcoming seasons (the information is available on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website) and see that the Badgers will be looking at Oregon State and Arizona State in upcoming seasons. These are pretty good foes. If Tim Brewster can get the Gophers to a more competitive level, it will be interesting to see who starts to show up on the Gopher slate.


Anonymous said...

The Badgers won in spite of what was perhaps the best of example of a blown call in the history of instant replay.

A Fresno player caught a pass, took 2 steps, was hit and fumbled the ball, which was then recovered by Wisconin. The play was correctly called on the field. Pat Hill of Fresno State then challenged the call.

After 5 minutes of replays, none which did anything to dispute that the play should stand as called, the WAC conference officials overturned the call and gave Fresno Back the ball.

At the time of the call, Wisconsin was up 13-7, and would have had the ball at the Fresno 30, setting up an opportunity to possibly go ahead 20-7 and win the game going away.

Replay is supposedly only supposed to overturn calls on the field when there is undisputable visual evidence. The only evidence that exists with this call is that the WAC Conference makes 15 Million if a WAC team makes the BCS.

Wisconsin still won the game, so it's highly likely this call won't receive the scrutiny that it deserves. The WAC Conference had better forget about ever having any school of any magnitude ever playing a game on the road against any of their schools. Wisconsin should have won by much more than the final score.

Right Hook said...

The NFC North is wide open in spite of the Vikings management decision to hire an incompetent coach who is sticking with a minimally qualified quarterback. The Packers held on by their fingernails to beat the Vikings and blew a large lead to Detroit, Chicago does not appear to be anything special , and Detroit is Detroit.

New quarterbacks often come out hot (although Rodgers didn't look all that good against the Vikes and game #2 was against the Lions) they often hit the wall once the opposing defensive coordinators get a look at some game footage. He may be eventually be great, but it's a bit early to declare him the best in anything. He is also not, at least in the short term, going to get the benefit of the doubt on close calls that St. Brett gets.

Mark Heuring said...

I'd have to see what happened, anonymous. Wouldn't surprise me and if it did go down that way, you won't see any BCS school show up in Fresno ever again.

RH - I take your point that it's early. But let me ask you - would you rather have Tarvaris Jackson or Kyle Orton or Jon Kitna over Rodgers? I like the Packers' chances in that scenario.

Right Hook said...

I'd probably have go with Rodgers by default given the choices, but right now I'd take my chances with Fran Tarkenton, or even Tommy Kramer, coming out of retirement over Tarvaris Jackson!

Kitna has shown flashes of promise but overall has been mediocre at best - is it Kitna or the aura of the Detroit organization (the world may never know)? Orton looks to be an upgrade over Jackson, but not a whole lot more.

Rodgers is probably the best QB in the division so far who is currently playing, but Rodgers may well turn out to be just another journeyman QB ala Gus Frerotte. Unfortunately for the Vikes Frerotte is not the long term answer, but even a competent QB would make a positive difference this season - the Vikes could well be 2-0 had they fielded even adequate QB play, but even if they were 2-0 I wouldn't be a whole lot more optimistic about the season as a whole. It just would have been easier to watch.

A great QB is almost, but not always, essential for a winning team. Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson have Super Bowl rings...

In any case I don't think the odds are real good that we'll see any team from the NFC North in the Super Bowl this season.

Mark Heuring said...

Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson have Super Bowl rings.

It's a great country, isn't it? As for the Packers - if they beat Dallas this week you have to assume they are a serious contender. So far I like what I'm seeing - Rodgers is managing the game well and he has a lot of weapons at his disposal. Four touchdowns so far to four different receivers, none of them Donald Driver.

Anonymous said...

The Brewers are killing me. Just killing me. Year after year of frustration. Why the hell did Yost pinch hit with Tony Gwynn late in the first game yesterday? We needed a two-run home run, not a bloop single. If the Brewers fail to make the playoffs, time for a major shakeup. Third base is the biggest problem area, though Weeks has failed at second as well. Can CC pitch every day?