I was one of the people during the preseason who said the new rule moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line would essentially ruin kickoff returns forever. Bill Belichick himself said that the league created the rule specifically to neuter returns. But we're four weeks into the season now and the numbers show that the move hasn't ruined kickoff returns. In some ways, they've actually made kickoff returns a lot more enjoyable.
You can look at the raw numbers for yourself (HT to Florio for the Blog and Tackle link). Touchbacks are up nearly 30 percent with the new rule, but half of all kickoffs still get returned. And those returns are BETTER than they were a year ago, by nearly a yard on average (24.4 yards in 2011 to 23.6 yards in 2010). There are four players averaging 30 or more yards per kickoff return this year. There were none in 2010. Furthermore, the increase in leaguewide scoring has caused the sheer number of kickoffs to increase dramatically (657 this year to 568 last year). Then there's this:
There have been four kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the first four weeks. Interestingly, all four were over 100 yards (108, 102, 103 and 107 yards) for an average of 105 yards per kickoff return TD. A year ago, there were eight kickoffs brought back for touchdowns to this point (97, 89, 95, 99, 101, 102, 98 and 103 yards). Those eight averaged 98 yards, 7 yards less than this year's to date.
So even though there are fewer kickoff return touchdowns this season, the ones you do end up getting are AWESOME. There's no hard explanation as to why, despite having to field deeper kickoffs, returners are getting more yardage and longer return TDs. One theory is that the rule has made returners smarter about when they decide to take the ball out of the end zone and when they decide to kneel. Coverage teams could also be caught off guard by the rule, assuming returners will kneel, only to be unprepared when they decide to rocket out of the end zone and ruin their shit.
Anecdotally, how many times have you seen a kickoff returner botch fielding the kick, pick up the ball, and then suddenly break off a huge return? I feel like that's happened on more than a few occasions, and the reason why could be that the time spent dithering with the ball could help the returner see the running lanes better. If you field the kick later, the coverage is closer to you and the gaps are more apparent. Like a baseball player who can defer his decision to swing at a pitch a split second longer than another player, a returner who gets a closer look at the coverage can better exploit it. And once he gets behind that first wave of defenders, there's no one to stop him from housing it.
And the new kickoff rule hasn't hurt scoring at all. The leaguewide scoring average is up from 19.7 last season to 22.1 this season. Despite having a poorer average starting field position, offenses are still managing to score more points and rack up more yards. Think of how you used to play Madden or Bill Walsh College Football back in the '90s, back when those games were awesomely unrealistic. You'd purposely field your kickoff and run out of bounds at the one so you could rip off a 99-yard sweep play. That's kind of what has happened here. The longer field has given passing offenses more room to rack up gargantuan stats. And that's fun to watch, unless you're playing against Tom Brady. Then it's ass.
So hats off to the new kickoff rule. If anything, they should move that shit up to midfield.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Packers at Falcons: I want to join a fantasy league where you can bench players in the middle of the game. I know part of the whole fantasy strategy is figuring out who to start and who to sit, but it's bullshit. If you're a real football coach and you have an underperforming player, you can bench his ass in the middle of a game. You can't do that in fantasy football. You set your lineup, and then the player you started eats shit while one of your bench players blows up and you have to sit there and TAKE IT UP THE ASS, like a dipshit.
I find this unpleasant. I want to be REAL pretend football coach. I'd much rather be able to have a league where I can bench a player in favor of another player. The key thing would be to mark those benchings in real time. So if I bench Michael Turner after the first quarter in favor of Ryan Torain or something like that, I still get Turner's 1Q stats and Torain's stats from the 2Q on. Then, if Torain gets hurt (NOTE: will actually happen sometime in Week 6), I can put Turner back in the game. It would reward you for paying attention, and it would be fun to see a player get benched and then score two touchdowns in the span of three minutes before you frantically put him back in the lineup. Fantasy will always find a way to torture you like that.
Jets at Patriots: Nick Mangold looks like Layne Staley if Layne Staley were still alive and was addicted to Hostess apple pies instead of heroin.
Bears at Lions: Did you hear Buck and Aikman at the end of Lions/Cowboys last week, when they didn't realize it was fourth down when Felix Jones ran out of bounds? How do you fuck that up? It says it's 4th down right on the screen. And then someone finally told them it was a change of possession and Buck was like, "Oh hey, it was 4th down. Whatever." Can you at least TRY to give a shit? Stop writing Pearl Jam fanboy stories and pay attention, you dick. At least we get the next three weeks off from Buck because of baseball.
Titans at Steelers: I was at the airport last week when I had to go take a piss, so I go to the men's room and I start pissing at the urinal. There's a little counter above the urinal where you can put stuff, and someone had left a Starbucks coffee cup on the shelf above my urinal. So I'm sitting there taking a piss when some asshole barges into the bathroom frantically, runs up to the row of urinals, reaches in front of me while my dick is in my hand, and grabs the cup. And he's like, "Sorry, forgot my coffee." HOLD THE FUCK UP, PETER KING. Okay? Your coffee isn't that important. You can jolly well sit there and wait for me to do my business before interjecting yourself into my piss session. TOTAL FUCKING BREACH OF ETIQUETTE. There was a dude next to me pissing as well and both of us were so stunned by the intruder that, like a couple of bitches, we said nothing. I need a time machine so that I can go back and give that fellow a piece of my mind. Why, I'd give him the what-for, let me tell you! Anyway, if you left your eggnog cuntjuice latte in front of someone actively urinating, LET THEM FINISH. The gall of this man... THE GALL!
Bucs at 49ers: Why does Cleatus have a shield now? He's a robot. He's made of metal. Why does a giant metal robot need a giant metal shield to protect him? He's MADE of shields. I fucking hate that robot. I hope he gets robot AIDS. A reader wrote in a while back to note that the dude who invented Cleatus is worshipped around the FOX offices for coming up with him, and that makes me want to become an Amish person.
Raiders at Texans: There's nothing particularly awful about the new LeBron James McDonald's ad. And yet, when you saw LBJ appear on your TV this weekend with that shit-eating grin, didn't you want to punch him in the nuts? What the fuck do you have to be so happy about, cocksucker? You're a choking dog and America hopes your Monopoly pieces don't match and you end up POOR and DISEASED.
Eagles at Bills: It's a six-team bye week! NOOOOOOOOOO! Oh God, six-team bye weeks are awful, and now we've got four of them in a row coming up. It's like playing fantasy football with no legs and partial blindness. I really wish every team took a bye at midseason. Just get it all out of the way in one painful weekend. Don't parcel out the agony like this. Knowing I can't see the Dolphins or the Rams play this week... it's just too much to take.
Panthers at Saints: I took my kid to the circus on Saturday and I spent the entire show trying to figure out what the private lives of all the performers were like. There were sixteen tiny little Chinese dudes dressed in Day-Glo outfits jumping around and doing pyramids and all that crazy shit, and all I could think about was their hourly wages. I bet they made three bucks a show. These guys have to do two shows a day, and they're contorting and jumping around and almost certainly causing lasting damage to their joints that they will cripple them in old age. I pictured some shady circusmaster with a twirly mustache backstage laughing over a pile of cash and then throwing nickels at all the trapeze artists. There's just no way your life ends well if you're a circus performer. Either you end up destitute, or you end up being Steve-O.
They also had a little girl planted in the audience who turned out to be one of the trapeze artists. She was, like, eight. There's no way that's legal. I also watched the rope lady climb up and down the big rope and spin around and it was obvious to me that every other male performer in the circus had made a pass at her at some point. She was definitely the hottest carny of them all. Circuses are shadyass places.
Chiefs at Colts: I swear to God, Todd Haley looked like he didn't even bother to shower last week. It looked like he got up at 11AM, hopped in his Camaro, drove to Arrowhead, told the parking attendant to fuck off, smoked a pack of unfiltered Camels, and picked a fight with Matt Cassel just because he was in a shitty mood. He even had the asshole beard going. It was a quintessential Haley performance.
Cardinals at Vikings: Former U-Minnesota coach Tim Brewster was the sideline reporter for FOX during last week's Vikings game, but "reporter" wasn't really the right word. Gus Johnson would throw it down to "Coach Brew" and then Brewster would just start yelling for no reason. It was one of those things where a TV network hires an ex-coach to talk as if he's coaching one of the teams on the field, and delivering a motivational speech to that team, and it was awful. Mike Rand took down some of the worst quotes, like this one:
In Arrowhead on an NFL Sunday, are you hungry or are you starving?
What the fuck? Hey shithead, I'm not playing in this game. Just because your sorry ass can't find a new coaching job doesn't mean you get to take it out on me. I hate analysts like this.
Bengals at Jaguars
Seahawks at Giants
Chargers at Broncos: Because I am a shitty fantasy owner, I do a lot of waiver wire trolling, and I always go to the waiver wire hoping that some superstar was left there by accident. It's like checking the fridge repeatedly when you know there's nothing to eat in the house. I keep hoping I'll open up the free agent list and be like HOLY SHIT! SOMEONE DROPPED CALVIN JOHNSON! MINE MINE MINE!
Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
"Nowhere Again," by the Secret Machines. I left at my iPod at the gym last week and when I called to ask if it had turned up in the Lost & Found, they said yes. And the fact that it turned up there without being stolen or urinated on made me ecstatic. My faith in humanity was completely and utterly restored. I want to lose something valuable one more time just to see if the world can pleasantly surprise me all over again.
So I go to the gym to pick up my iPod and the dude behind the counter finds it in a drawer.
ME: That's the one. That's mine.
HIM: (looks at me suspiciously) Okay, in that case... (turns on iPod, looks at song currently being displayed) Who sings the song "Now You're Gone"?
ME: (excited to know the answer) The Secret Machines!
HIM: (hands the iPod to me) Here you go.
AW SHIT YEAH! I totally aced his exam and proved to the man that I wasn't some perverted looter. I pictured myself as a Russian double agent when he asked me that question, knowing if I got it wrong that the microfiche would fall into the wrong hands and the world would be blown to shit. It was thrilling. I wish people would spring pop quizzes on me all the time. You seventh graders don't know how good you have it.
Embarrassing iTunes Library Track I Own That Will Not Fire You Up
"Get Together," by Madonna. Madonna was chosen to be the musical guest at halftime of the Super Bowl, to which reader Bob Majoras had this reaction:
Not like there was anyone like John Mellencamp from Indiana with music to please the masses.
No shit! Or they could have chosen fat Axl Rose who's also an Indiana native. These halftimes have gotten so bad lately that they may as well aim to have the most disastrous one possible. Axl would show up six hours late and ask Sebastian Bach to sing all the high parts.
Gregg Easterbrook Is A Haughty Dipshit
Were you a Cowboys fan who was upset that your team "blew the lead" against Detroit? Gregg Easterbrook laughs at your small-mindedness.
Comebacks are sheer excitement. But please don't say they happen because the vanquished team "blew the lead." A football game lasts 60 minutes. Who's ahead early, and by how much, is irrelevant to the outcome.
So true, unless you actually care about the narrative arc of a football game. Were the Cowboys ahead 27-3? Totally unimportant, and you clearly studied at a state school if you think otherwise.
Saying a team that lost after mounting a nice margin "blew the lead" is among the dumbest clichés in sports, failing to grant fair notice to the comeback side. Just because you're ahead early, even if by 20 points, does not confer some kind of mystical right to victory.
This is true, but it makes the idea of winning a whole lot more tangible to the winning side. No one who has watched their team blow a 24-point lead has sat back and been like, "Well, that sucked, BUT MY VERY SMALL BRAIN SHOULD KNOW THAT THINGS CAN OCCASIONALLY EVEN OUT DURING THE COURSE OF A GAME." Thinking that your team "blew the lead" requires you to be a normal human being, instead of acclaimed Brooking Institution Thoughtbot.
Tony Romo threw three interceptions after the Cowboys built their big lead, two returned for touchdowns... He should have handed off — and that's on the coach. In the second half, Jason Garrett was outcoached by Jim Schwartz.
Oh, so Jason Garrett blew the lead by not handing off. I mean really, isn't that what you're saying? A team that had a lead failed to secure it because they did something stupid. That's blowing a lead. SO FUCK OFF. And now let's allow Easterbrook to refer to himself in the third person handle a couple of times...
Tuesday Morning Quarterback would be happy if every football game was a last-second comeback win, there's nothing more exciting in sports. Just don't say the loser "blew the lead..."
As someone who touts undrafted, low-drafted or waived players, TMQ loved Monday Night Football's 59-yard touchdown screen pass from sixth-round choice Curtis Painter to sixth-round choice Pierre Garcon of Division III Mount Union, with undrafted tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach making the key pull block.
Jamboroo loves it when TMQ refers to himself in the third person. What an ass.
Suicide Picks Of The Week
Last week's picks of San Diego, Tampa Bay, and Green Bay went 3-0 (11-1 on the year). Time to pick three potential teams for your suicide pool and something that makes you WANT to commit suicide. This week's picks? Cincinnati, the Giants, Houston and any craft project that uses beads. Every kid has a craft set that includes a barrel filled with 67,000 tiny plastic beads that will inevitably end up on the goddamn floor. DAMN YOU, BEADS!!!!
Postmortal ComicCon News
Did you know there's a New York edition of Comic Con? There is! And I'll be there, moderating the Zombies, Fallen Angels, and Other Paranormals panel at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 14. Come on by and we can shoot the shit afterward. Also, there's going to be another Brooklyn event, this one sponsored by Gelf magazine, sometime in November. I'll give out details as we get closer.
Nazi Shark's Vegas Lock Of The Week
Lots of sports sites, to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of gambling, like to have animals like monkeys pick games to see if they can outwit their human counterparts. There's no reason we at Deadspin can't also get in on the fun. So we've asked National Socialist German Workers' Party member Rolf, who also happens to be a shark, to pick one game a week. Take it away, Nazi shark.
"This week, I like the Bills getting 3 points at home against the Eagles. I am sickened that Hank Williams Jr. compared President Obama to Hitler. How many Jews has Obama killed? ZERO. Pathetic. Obama WISHES he were as effective as Hitler. I am tired of people comparing other people to Hitler when they don't have the championship numbers to BACK IT UP. It's like when people say some shithead basketball player is the 'next Jordan.' There will NEVER be another Fuhrer, and that's what made him so special."
2011 Nazi Shark Record: 3-1
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Neil sends in this poop story I call THE LAND OF MILK AND POOPY:
I work at a catering company who uses a milk company to deliver about a hundred gallons of milk and juice 3 times a week. We start work each morning at 5am. Our milk and juice would get delivered in the winter around 4:30am and the driver would just stack up the cases outside in our parking lot because it was cold enough to keep the milk and juice outside for a little while until we arrived to put it away in the fridge. So, 3 times a week we would have cases and cases waiting for us.
Each Monday morning, and only on Monday mornings, there would be a pile of shit near the cases. At first I just thought it had to be a dog, or skunk, or raccoon or some other type of shitting animal. Surely not a human. Well after two Mondays of this happening, napkins with shit on them appeared on the 3rd Monday. Could it be? Was a human shitting outside our place of work and then wiping his ass? A place that handles food no less? Can't be. Who would do that? Fourth Monday comes: shit pile, shit stained napkins. So after a coworker tells me she has some surveillance equipment we get to work. We hid a camera in a stack of bread racks and hit record. Lo and behold the next Monday morning we hook up the camera and viola! We see the milk truck back up, a dude weighing no less that 3 and a half bills gets out, drops trou, and proceeds to take a monster shit right there in the parking lot, feet away from the entrance to our building. Nailed him!
So I call the milk company and explain the situation to his superior. The response, "Ok sir, we will talk to the driver and ask him to take less time when he is in your bathroom". "Oh no no no, you're not understanding me", I say. "He is shitting outside the building on the ground and I have a hidden camera tape to prove it". I kid you not, there was 15-20 seconds of awkward, "let that shit story sink in" silence. I honestly think the guy threw up in his mouth a little. To wrap it up, the boss told me that the driver will be suspended and his route will changed so that he does not deliver to our location any more. Sadly, he did not wish to view our surveillance tape.
But I wish to! Nothing finer than a heavy man shitting outdoors.
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we'll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year's end or sooner. And now, your potential 2011 chopping block:
• Tony Sparano**********
• Jim Caldwell
• John Fox
• Pete Carroll
• Jack Del Rio
• Todd Haley
• Steve Spagnuolo
• Ken Whisenhunt
• Andy Reid
• Leslie Frazier
• Jason Garrett
(********** - Could happen any moment!)
I have to include Jason Garrett on here after last week's Derpfest. God, that was fun to watch.
Fantasy Player That Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death
Frank Gore. Oh, you have got some nerve, you PIECE OF VAGINA. Not only did Gore fuck over his owners, he fucked them over twice by ruining the Kendall Hunter handcuff. And the worst part about is it that Gore probably won't have a better game all season. YOU CRUEL, CRUEL BASTARD. The next time it's been announced that you aren't starting, DON'T GAIN 100 YARDS AND SCORE A TOUCHDOWN. It really upsets people.
I'd also like to issue a FUCK YOU to Aaron Rodgers, who I played against last week. You could have been content with four TDs and moseyed over to the bench, but noooooo. You had to keep scoring and scoring. TMQ SAYS YOU AREN'T SPORTSMANLIKE.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
The brisket at Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas, where I ate last week. And I'm quite sure I'll never eat anything that good ever again. I waited in line for an hour to eat this brisket and holy shit, it delivered. The man cutting the brisket even held up my piece to ask me if I found it satisfactory. I DID. Then I sat down with my friend and gave the brisket oral pleasure for half an hour. It was goodness.
I always thought that Anthony Bourdain had the dream life, going around the world and eating the very best food and snorting the very best cocaine. But then I realized that Bourdain must wake up at 3AM in his apartment craving some Chinese fried pig heart that he can only get at some restaurant he went to in Melbourne, Australia two years ago. That must be TORTURE, to pine for various foods you know are so far out of reach. If I crave a burger, I can go to Five Guys. But if I crave Franklin BBQ brisket now, I'm fucked. SUCH IS THE DOWNSIDE OF EXPERIENCING IMPOSSIBLY LUXURIOUS FLAVORS.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Wildschwein! Reader Todd sends in this Swiss delicacy:
This Wildschwein Bier just popped up at the grocery store here in Switzerland... I have no idea why it is named after wild boars, but I think it's better that way - I just hope it is pork flavored. It comes in at around 10 Francs for 10-pack, which qualifies as cheap by crazy Swiss standards.
No shit. I went to Switzerland that is the most expensive boring country in the universe. Anyway, I'm game for any beer that features a bunch of feral pigs on its packaging. It lets me know that beer was produced by, like, nature and shit. I MUST HAVE IT.
Robert Evans' MVP Watch!
Time to start thinking about who the leaders are for the NFL's MVP award. So every week, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans will join us to give us his assessment. Take it away, Mr. Evans.
"Baby, my favorite for the NFL's MVP this year is Aaron Rodgers of the Packers! And congratulations to my favorite 85-year-old crooner, Tony Bennett, on becoming the oldest man to ever reach the Billboard Hot 100! Italian? YOU BET! Still got it? YOU KNOW IT. A lot of people think that Tony was the inspiration for Johnny Fontaine's character in The Godfather, and he was! I remember Tony asking if he could stay at Woodland for a month while he was recovering from coke addiction. At first I said no, and then one morning I woke up and found a dolphin's head in my bed! And I thought to myself, 'God, that's weird. ANOTHER dolphin head? I gotta lay off the quaaludes!' But it turns out that was actually a threat! Anyway, we used that story in the movie, only the dolphin's head was changed to a horse's head because it looked better on camera. We decapitated sixty different species to figure out which one looked best in the picture. Sawing off a giraffe's head is hard work! I'm glad it was my assistant Caesar who did it and not me!"
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Dolphins Fans
Copycat, which is itself a copycat movie, produced specifically to take advantage of the popularity of The Silence of the Lambs. It's not the greatest movie ever (Sigourney Weaver's character is agoraphobic!), but it does have one scene where the killer (a seemingly normal fellow) is hanging out with his mom, then goes down into the basement, and we discover that his basement is actually an underground torture chamber where he keeps his victims. So now any time I walk into someone else's house, the first thing I wonder is if they're keeping a drifter strapped to a surgical table in their basement. Because you never know now, do you? Bob across the street could be a closet sadist. Don't put it past him.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
"I am loathe to interrupt your meditation, sir, but the time has come for money to change hands."
Enjoy the games, everyone.