Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League: Championship Week

Worldwide Leaders got an early 15.8-point head start after the Thursday night game, with some production from Donald Brown but mostly 11 points from kicker Neil Rackers. Ray Rice, however, scored a big touchdown in the first half of his game with the Browns to give College Busters a slim lead. Jabar Gaffney picked up a receiving touchdown of his own to help College Busters pull away to a fairly comfortable lead heading into the late games, 62.7-40.8, as Worldwide Leaders failed to get double-digit production out of anybody. No one scored any touchdowns, and Mike Wallace was the most productive at 82 yards.

When Alex Smith proved to have a disappointing day, with no touchdowns and less than 200 all-purpose yards, the writing appeared to be on the wall for ESPN, cursing themselves for not shoring up their quarterback position, even with one more player still to play in the primetime games than College Busters. Matthew Stafford had a 378-yard, 3-touchdown day, good for nearly 28 points and giving YHOO a lead of over 56 points. Worldwide Leaders would need Jordy Nelson and Jimmy Graham to average 28 points and have Michael Turner basically be shut out, which would basically be a miracle. Nelson would do his part, scoring two touchdowns and 23.5 points, and Turner only scored 7.5 points, but Graham only put up 10.2 points of his own, well short of what was necessary.

Although College Busters snuck into the playoffs as a 4 seed, perhaps it’s fitting for the title to go to Yahoo, who was at the forefront of the fantasy phenomenon, rode fantasy to a position of being the most popular sports site, more so even than ESPN, and remains the most popular fantasy site of them all. A little poetic justice, perhaps.

Meanwhile, Ron Burgundy All-Stars pulled off another upset of Swimsuit Issues in the third-place game, thanks in large part to big days from Cam Newton and Victor Cruz, while SI once again got disappointing performaces, with Drew Brees the only touchdown-scoring starter. Commissioner’s Favorite got stung by the Tony Romo injury and Team Infograph rolled over them, while Inside Information and The SportsLine had the game of the weekend, with FLEA winning by less than two points with depth across the board (Michael Vick, Marshaun Lynch, and four others in double digits) over two or three great performances (Arian Foster and Brandon Marshall scored over twenty, while Matt Moore came close) and some good ones (Malcom Floyd and the Bengals defense scored over ten points, while Michael Bush scored 9.4). Finally, Indy Tea Party and Wisdom of Crowds had the two highest-scoring performances of the week to knock off Takedown Glaze and Politically Incorrect.

So, is there any particular reason the dialogue balloons cover up the doctor’s face?

(From PVP. Click for full-sized waiting room suspense.)

When I first pulled up this comic, the screen cut off right below the two-week-old headline, “Yes, We’re Serious”, making me wonder if this storyline was the PVP equivalent of what’s been happening over at xkcd, with both creators writing real-life medical scares into the comic. But no, it turns out it’s just another Scott Kurtz rant about how stupid newspapers are and how he’s the Certified Webcomics Genius(tm).

In any case, this storyline has been treated nothing like what xkcd‘s been doing (although xkcd has hardly been above making light of the situation). This storyline spun out of a bit where Brent was unable to cope with beating his dad arm-wrestling (a match Brent challenged him to after his dad opened a pickle jar for him and said he had “artist’s hands”, suggesting Kurtz flip-flopped a little here), hugged him, then saw him have a heart attack. The preceding comic to this one involved Brent blaming himself and worrying that he’d killed his father… and a little devil walking by and walloping him with a chain. If Brent’s worries prove founded – especially if it’s in Friday’s comic – I wouldn’t be surprised if people start having flashbacks to another webcomic medical scare: Lilah’s miscarriage.

That said, in this comic, I do think the slowly darkening panels and Brent’s visible regression in age is a nice, if subtle, touch.

To be honest? The only reason I’m reviewing this comic at all is to continue a new streak of posts every weekday.

(From Penny Arcade. Click for full-sized vampire feeding habits.)

I have no idea what this comic is talking about, even after reading the news post. Maybe it would make more sense if I were reading the comics leading up to it, or the prior newsposts. I don’t know.

All I know is, reading it out of context like this? Makes it resemble some sort of surreal, horrifying Dadaist experience. And the expression on Gabe’s face throughout the strip isn’t helping.

(Wait, Gabe is referred to, within the strip, as “Mike”? I don’t even know what to make of that…)

Fixing Jim Rome is Burning

One thing that I started doing during the past year was listen to Jim Rome’s nationally-syndicated radio show. I was hooked immediately. While Rome may have lost some firepower over the years, his show is still the best show in sports radio. The entertainment value of the radio show stands in marked contrast to his ESPN show, Jim Rome is Burning. Earlier this year, JRIB was bumped to ESPN2 full-time, the victim of ratings that couldn’t even hold up from its NFL Live lead-in, let alone carry them to Around the Horn, and it’s easy for me to see why. It feels like it’s simply going through the motions each day, going through the same cookie-cutter pattern, like it doesn’t really care anymore. It’s a far cry not only from the radio show, but from its very earliest days, when it was launched as an hour-long show, Rome is Burning, with considerable fanfare.

What makes matters worse is that, strangely enough, many if not all of the takes on JRIB are essentially regurgitated from the radio show, which means if you listened to the radio show earlier, you have zero reason to watch JRIB to listen to the same takes again, only made worse somehow. How could the exact same takes that are so entertaining on the radio show be so boring on JRIB? Here are some modest suggestions for revitalizing JRIB and making it a more worthwhile watch each day, bringing it up to, or at least close to, the level of the radio show:

Overhaul the opening segment. While Rome is always known for his rapid-fire style, when reading takes on JRIB he seems to be on a complete 5-Hour Energy buzz and reading his takes off a teleprompter almost in monotone. Instead of being a talking head staring into a camera, perhaps in the opening segment Rome should be sitting in the easy chair he uses for the “Alone with Rome” and “The Forum” segments. It might help him seem less robotic. What should also help is ditching the music playing in the background during his takes, which comes off as distracting; ditching the music might help the takes feel more naturalistic, the segment less artificial. Ditching the music could also allow Rome to make smoother transitions between takes, rather than have different pieces play for each take. More radically, Rome could adopt a new style for JRIB and write entirely separate takes just for that show. Whatever he goes with, Rome should feel like he’s simply shooting the breeze about sports with us, not rattling off a script as fast as he can.

Get a helper cohost. Perhaps part of the problem is that, while both introducing the story and giving a take on it works on the radio, it causes everything to blur together on TV. Since moving to ESPN2, JRIB has arguably been put to shame by the program airing before it, the new show Dan LeBatard is Highly Questionable. One key element that helps DLHQ work is the character (and ultimately, he is a character) of Papi, who serves as LeBatard’s foil and, more importantly, sets him up by introducing the topic for him to riff on. All of ESPN’s other talk shows use multiple people in similar fashion. Perhaps JRIB would flow better if he brought in one of the people who help run his radio show to introduce each topic and set him up to give his take on each one.

Tie the segments closer together, and give Rome more of a presence in each one. Currently the sequence of a typical episode of JRIB goes like this: Rome’s takes on the day’s sports stories, an interview segment, shooting the breeze with another personality, a once-a-week “correspondent” piece from an athlete, and one to three “final burn” takes. These segments have little connection with each other other than sports and Jim Rome himself, and the Correspondent piece seems particularly superflouous and its purpose should be rethought. Part of the problem is that during Alone with Rome, The Forum, and the Correspondents, Rome is ultimately a cypher who stays in the background while the guest is the star of the show.

While Rome tries to get topical guests on his radio show, his guests on JRIB are often whoever he can get who’s available, which isn’t the case on PTI. DLHQ manages to get away with getting the “best available guest” by giving the interview segment its own gimmick, but Alone with Rome is more of a straight-up interview segment, so Rome needs to make getting better guests for it a higher priority. Rome occasionally gives his own opinions during the Forum segment, but the focus there is clearly on the guest’s opinions, not his own, and the two are largely superfluous to one another. Perhaps the opening segment is so bad at providing a backbone for the show that simply fixing its issues could go far in tying the rest of the show together, but if not Rome needs to consider what he can do to make himself more of the star of the show, possibly including…

Consider ditching the Forum, or make it an occasional segment replacing Alone with Rome. If I recall correctly, when JRIB started the Forum was a full-fledged roundtable of panelists debating the day’s sports stories. Now, with the Forum taking up an entire segment on a half-hour program devoted to one guy giving a second opinion often on the same topics Rome covered in the opening segment, it seems like more of a waste of valuable time. Consider freeing the time up for another segment like the first one on two or three topics, allowing the opening segment to breathe more and allowing Rome to slow down his takes. Alternately, save some topics to be covered only in the Forum and give Rome closer to equal billing in that segment; the topic taken from Twitter in each Forum in the ESPN2 era may be a step in this direction.

Rome should take his show’s move to ESPN2 as a wake-up call that JRIB is broken and needs fixing. Wikipedia claims that Rome has, in the past, threatened to abandon his radio show entirely and do only a TV show. If so, I hope that JRIB as it exists today is not what such a show would look like. The best thing that could probably happen to JRIB would probably be going back to an hour-long show, which probably can’t be had without leaving ESPN. Short of that, Rome needs to find a way to get the show to work within the time that he has.

The SNF Week 17 Situations

I’ve realized I’ve had reason to link to this post from last year, just to back up how narrow NBC’s choices for Week 17 really were. Hence, this post, to explain that with the NFL’s all-divisional lineup Week 17, there aren’t that many scenarios that produce a game guaranteed to remain a win-and-in, lose-and-out game after all the other games are played, which is what the NFL likes to plug in to the Sunday night timeslot. Namely, two teams in the same division competing for the same single playoff spot, either division or wild card, and playing each other.

Consider, for a second, two tied teams in the same division that don’t play each other. If the team with the tiebreaker wins, the team without it has nothing to play for. If you put the team with the tiebreaker in primetime, then if the team without the tiebreaker loses, the team with it also has nothing to play for. Putting the two teams a game apart just makes it worse. You need the two teams to be tied AND you need the tiebreaker situation if both teams win to be different from the tiebreaker situation if both teams lose. But the first three tiebreakers are: division games, common games, and conference games, and the NFL has made sure both teams are playing a game that’s all three. Remember, we needed both teams to have the same result, so all three tiebreakers will move in the same direction as well. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, which you can’t count on.

The situation for the wild card, when competing against teams in other divisions, isn’t much better. The same constraints as in the first half of the last paragraph apply. The first tiebreaker (after head-to-head) is conference games, which both teams are playing. The next tiebreaker is common games, where an opening appears, since common games among teams in different divisions are rare, unless the teams’ divisions played each other. It’s conceivable for one team to play a common game while the other doesn’t… but then the best case scenario is that the two teams finish tied in the common games. And what’s the next tiebreaker? Why, strength of victory, of course.

However, the other reason I wanted to make this post was a post on Pro Football Talk suggesting Broncos-Chiefs might have been selected if the Chargers had lost. While I had said the result that needed to be different was the Chiefs beating the Raiders, and so far as I know that’s still correct, I realized there really isn’t anything going against that scenario. So that provides a loophole that broadens things out a little: if a team would lose a tiebreaker against two other teams in the same division a game back and playing each other, or would win a tiebreaker against two other teams in the same division also tied with them and playing each other, that team has an SNF-Week-17 ready game.

So Bengals-Jets two years ago might have happened, if two of the other wild card contenders were also playing each other. But I suspect the NFL would prefer that sort of game, where one team has nothing to play for, not happen – though it’s far better if it’s a team out of the playoffs, like the Chiefs, than one in the playoffs and resting up for it, like the Bengals two years ago.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 17 Picks

Week 17 (January 1):

  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Cowboys (8-7)-Giants (8-7), Broncos (8-7)-Chiefs (6-9).
  • Impact of Sunday and Monday Night Football: None, though announcement will be made before either game is over anyway.
  • Analysis: NBC breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Giants won (and then started hyperventilating again when Tony Romo got injured). The Cowboys and Giants will enter their Week 17 showdown tied for the division lead. The Broncos did get shockingly blown out by the lowly Bills (shades of the pre-Tebow era), and the Lions finished off the Chargers, but the Chiefs couldn’t do their part.
  • Final prediction: Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants.

We’re learning far too much about the bad guys’ plans for them to be remotely successful.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized family affair.)

When I predicted that Nale and Tarquin might make up and form one side in the battle for the Gates, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Although Tarquin seems willing to accept his son’s direction, as at least one person on the forum points out, he’s also equally willing to let someone else hold the official position of leader of the Empire of Blood, so he could be just as willing to try to manipulate Nale similarly. But that might actually turn out to be a far more interesting outcome than if he just let Nale run the show, and not necessarily because Tarquin would be entirely successful.

Tarquin knows a lot, but he’s not omniscient, and so far as we know, Sabine is the only person in that room who knows what the real power behind the Linear Guild is. The IFCC might be willing to put up with Tarquin joining the group and even calling the shots so long as it results in more conflict for Girard’s Gate, but it’s very easy to see a scenario where Tarquin takes the Linear Guild in a direction they don’t want it to go, or raises them beyond the level of “incompetent buffoons”. That could result in much of the comic’s conflict occuring within the Linear Guild, especially between Sabine and Tarquin with Nale caught in the middle. It’s been speculated that Nale might find out about and rebel against the IFCC at some point; we may be seeing the groundwork being laid for that.

At any rate, after spending so long inside the Empire of Blood, the comic is moving everything straight towards what’s shaping up to be an epic, multi-way conflagration at Girard’s Gate, one that’ll make the Linear Guild encounter we just had look like child’s play.

Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League: Semifinals Recap

College Busters was the only playoff team with a player in the Thursday Night game, getting their matchup off to a roaring start with 12.5 points from Michael Turner. Ron Burgundy All-Stars and Worldwide Leaders each had a player in the Saturday Night game between the Bucs and Cowboys, but LeGarrette Blount had a disappointing day for KFFL, and ESPN took the lead on the back of the Cowboys defense 13-2.1.

Drew Brees only slowly caught fire to propel Swimsuit Issues in the lead by halftime of the early games, while KFFL and ESPN traded paint despite ESPN’s early lead and ESPN having more players in play. Cam Newton and the Dolphins defense helped KFFL stay competitive, while Jordy Nelson, Hakeem Nicks, and Neil Rackers had no score for ESPN after the first half. Brees eventually had an incredibly productive day (nearly 35 points), giving Swimsuit Issues an over 35-point lead heading into the late games, while Donald Brown keyed Worldwide Leaders to an eventual huge lead, thanks to his 80-yard touchdown run.

College Busters roared into the lead when the Eagles started their game out strong with two sacks, an interception, and a touchdown return. Suddenly Swimsuit Issues, which had been the dominant team all season, looked like it might very well miss the title game. Following the late games, Swimsuit Issues had a .04 lead over College Busters, and that mostly because LeSean McCoy managed to get a long run for a touchdown late. It would come down to Antonio Brown and the Ravens defense for Swimsuit Issues against Ray Rice and Michael Crabtree for College Busters.

The first round was Ray Rice against the Ravens defense, and it was an unmitigated disaster for Swimsuit Issues. Rice did pretty well, putting up 11 points, but the Ravens defense let Phillip Rivers march up and down on them. SI would need Brown to score 17 more points than Crabtree to move on to the championship game. Luckily, Crabtree had only 35 receiving yards on the day. But Brown only mustered 59, with neither making the end zone, and just like that Swimsuit Issues was out.

A strong day for Brent Celek pulled Ron Burgundy All-Stars into the lead, but not by much. All Worldwide Leaders needed was eight points from Alex Smith, a relatively trivial number for a quarterback, to make the championship game. Smith would end up going for 187 yards and a touchdown, setting up Worldwide Leaders for a championship game showdown with the surprising College Busters.

Worldwide Leaders will put out an impressive lineup: Chris Johnson and Donald Brown (fresh off a breakout 22-point performance) at running back, Steve Smith, Jordy Nelson, and Mike Wallace at wideout, Jimmy Graham at tight end, and Neil Rackers at kicker. The main weak spots, if you can call them that, are Alex Smith at quarterback and the Cowboys defense, and the latter is the only starter on ESPN’s roster not projected to score in double digits by Fleaflicker – and even then they’re off a double-digit performance.

But Fleaflicker also still projects College Busters to come out on top. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and running backs Ray Rice and Michael Turner are some of the best in the game, and Shonn Greene and tight end Aaron Hernandez aren’t slouches either. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and the Eagles defense (interestingly, playing the Cowboys defense) are strong as well. YHOO’s weak spot is at wideout with Jabar Gaffney and Michael Crabtree. Will Worldwide Leaders’ wideouts win the day, or will College Busters get enough production from their studs to finish their Cinderella run? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Swimsuit Issues isn’t expected to have too much of a problem with Ron Burgundy All-Stars in the third-place game. Commissioner’s Favorite managed to upset The SportsLine to set up a fifth-place showdown with Team Infograph, while Takedown Glaze managed to crush the higher-seeded Politically Incorrect to set up a showdown with an Indy Tea Party team that similarly demolished Wisdom of Crowds. Outside the championship game, the closest contest could be CBS’ seventh-place showdown with Inside Information, where both sides are actually expected to score more than either title game participant, with Arian Foster and Michael Bush keying The SportsLine (and Malcom Floyd the only starter not projected to crack double digits) and Michael Vick expected to have a big day alongside Calvin Johnson for Inside Information.

We gon’ party like it’s your blog-day.

Boy, has it been a wild, up-and-down Year Five in the history of Da Blog. One year ago at this time, Da Blog had hit a low point, with me writing the annual blog-day post in similar conditions to when I wrote the first post in the history of Da Blog – the last time I will probably ever write a post in such conditions. I had just finished the least productive year in the history of Da Blog, one in which I failed to crack 100 posts, thanks in large part to a decision to scale back posting to focus on schoolwork.

That wasn’t entirely successful. The winter quarter was marred by the Bracket Ladder project, then the spring quarter was marred by Mom getting talked into something that proved to be bad for my schoolwork but fantastic for Da Blog: an internet connection for our home. That sequence of events convinced me that the best thing to do for Da Blog was to refocus on it and try to recover the posting frequency that characterized late Year Two and early Year Three.

However, things went back down again for Da Blog over the summer, as I only managed to get a fraction of what I intended done, thanks in large part to getting derailed by another project. Then the school year hit and I stupidly added new football projects (the SEFL and NFL Schedule), resulting in a miserable end of November and early December as my laptop stopped working and I struggled with a late blitz to actually pass both of my classes for once… a quest that ultimately proved successful. (And, of course, all that was wrapped around the move to a new house.)

Now, at the end of the year, I feel like Da Blog is very much on its way back up. On Tuesday I posted on the 100 Greatest Movies Project for the first time in a long time – and I tried to time it so that it went up shortly after the SNF Flex Schedule Watch post, trying to nab that traffic influx. I also raised a question there that could help accelerate getting it done one way or the other. I’ve also been working on trying to further other projects to supplement everything the site already has going on. is not that different than it was when it launched back in 2009. I’m trying to break it out of that inertia.

More to the point, I feel like I’ve been pointed in a direction that promises to break me out of my inertia. A number of events have taken place in recent weeks and months that could do much to turn my life around. I feel like late 2011 may prove to be a turning point in my life, one that focuses me on the track that will take me to where I want to go, and 2012 will tell the story of how I get there. Da Blog had about 140 posts over the past year, but nearly 100 of them have come in the second half of the year. Passing my classes may provide me with needed money, which may resolve a problem that was fast approaching in June: my Hostmonster account expires then, and if I couldn’t come up with the money (over a hundred dollars) to renew it, I’d have to move the site to Freehostia or worse. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I feel like I have some breathing room.

I promised two site upheavals back in August, neither of which has happened. The web design course didn’t teach me anything that I felt I could apply to the site; as a beginner’s class, the stuff it taught was either stuff I already knew or that I didn’t feel was applicable to a personal site like mine. I gave the design of this site a lot of thought when I created it, so in retrospect there wasn’t much that I needed to improve on. The first one I intended to do, though, I intend to get done before the end of the year.

I feel good about Year Six on Da Blog. I’ve felt good about Da Blog before, but I have a really good feeling that this is going to be the year we turn the corner. And I intend to hit the ground running with it right after Christmas.

NFL Schedule: Week 16

The Pats, Ravens, Steelers, and Texans are 10-4 or better, despite the inconsistency some of them have shown. No AFC team is 9-5. The Packers are 13-1; the Saints and Niners are 11-3. No NFC team is 10-4. Who wants to bet that your Super Bowl teams will come from that group? Dark horses: Broncos, Lions, Falcons.

Had trouble finding consistent numbers for Rams-Steelers, and no wonder, with a new record low MXS for St. Louis that could be as low as 10¼.

What is the Median Expected Score?

Away MXS Home Time (ET) TV DTV Announcers NTR SIRIUS Notes
Away Home
#7(10-4) 23-17 #32(1-13) Thu 8:20 PM Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan WW1 92 93 Now that the Colts have won, can they keep it up? Not against the division champs on a short week.
#23(5-9) 19½-29 #2(11-3) Sat 1:00 PM 705 Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts USA 125 92 Division? Check. First-round bye and #1 seed? Still some work to do, but the Fins will help.
#27(4-10) 16¼-23¾ #20(7-7) Sat 1:00 PM 707 Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker 127 117 Tennessee is trying to keep hope alive for a playoff berth and hopes a win over a division foe will help.
#29(4-10) 20¼-27¾ #24(5-9) Sat 1:00 PM 711 Sam Rosen, Chad Pennington 136 112 Cam Newton’s escapades have resulted in wins recently – and passing the Bucs for third in the division.
#28(4-10) 12¾-25¾ #5(10-4) Sat 1:00 PM 706 Spero Dedes, Rich Gannon 106 93 Surely the Ravens won’t look nearly as bad playing the Browns?
#T17(7-7) 18-22½ #13(8-6) Sat 1:00 PM 712 Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin 139 113 Two teams trying to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs.
#30(2-12) 18¾-25¼ #25(5-9) Sat 1:00 PM 710 Chris Myers, Tim Ryan 128 134 Adrian Peterson says he’s playing for fantasy owners, so people who win their titles because of him, send him a thank-you card.
#10(8-6) 22¼-19¼ #26(5-9) Sat 1:00 PM 704 Jim Nantz, Phil Simms CMP 91 104 The Broncos look to lock down the division against a team in freefall.
#31(2-12) 11-25 #6(10-4) Sat 1:00 PM 713 Dick Stockton, John Lynch 138 85 Rams still very much alive in the Luck Sweepstakes, and an angry Steelers team should help.
#T17(7-7) 20-22 #22(6-8) Sat 1:00 PM 708 Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots 94 137 Fresh off their upset of the Pack, can the Chiefs keep their slim division hopes alive against one of their foes for the crown?
#15(7-7) 21½-24½ #12(8-6) Sat 1:00 PM 709 Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa WW1 132 86 Battle of New York will determine whether Giants-Cowboys is a division title game on Sunday night.
#14(7-7) 24¾-27¼ #9(9-5) Sat 4:05 PM 714 Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf WW1 86 135 Lions look to lock down a playoff spot, while the Bolts look to keep their slim hopes alive.
#19(6-8) 24¼-26¼ #11(8-6) Sat 4:15 PM 715 Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver CMP 92 93 Eagles look to keep their not-as-slim-as-you-think playoff hopes alive against the division leaders.
#4(11-3) 20¼-17¾ #16(7-7) Sat 4:15 PM 716 Ron Pitts, Charles Davis USA 85 94 Can the Hawks’ magical comeback continue against the class of the division?
#21(7-7) 15¾-28¾ #1(13-1) Sun 8:20 PM Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya WW1 92 93 The Pack either seek to bounce back and lock down the #1 seed, or start resting starters, against a division rival.
#8(9-5) 23¼-29¾ #3(11-3) Mon 8:30 PM Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber WW1 92 93 Game of the week sees Falcons trying to steal division from Saints.