Sunday, February 12, 2006

International Investing

With the Olympics on, it's a great time to bring up international investing. Sorry but I cannot watch the snowboarding events and take them seriously as an Olympic sport. I think snowboarding was added to keep young viewers watching (X-Games crowd) and to help the US medal count. A lot of laypeople have been concerned with the market attitude of the last year. Some people have thought a contraction would have hit the US markets by now, and others are upset over ho-hum returns. This has lead a lot of small time investors to seek foreign exposure through new vehicles of investing (ETFs) or look for specific multinational corporation stocks (example: BP).

A really quick and easy way to get foreign exposure to your portfolio is to buy broad based ETFs or mutual funds. A super easy, lazy man's portfolio of foreign exposure could include two ETFs (EFA and EEM), and nothing else. EFA is an index ETF, which contains large cap growth and value stocks. EEM is an index ETF of emerging markets holdings. If you are not a fan of indexing and seek an actively managed account, DODFX is a decent mutual fund with strong leadership. One advantage of an index fund over an actively managed fund is that because of it's link to an index, you always know what you hold in an index fund. You do not know what an actively managed fund will shed for risk and pick up with the next deal.

A major reason for investing in foreign markets is to increase diversification. One concern an investor should have is that the foreign exposure it adds has similar cycles as the American market and is closely linked. It might be better to add foreign exposure through EFA and EEM, but also to add exposure from economies that are not linked strongly to the US or are commodity based economies. Some ETFs to look at that are not closely linked and have commodity exposure are EWA, EWC, or EZA. These ETFs follow Australia, Canada, and South Africa respectively. Those ETFs all offer a decent exposure to natural resources and precious metals. If investing in one country worries you, check out EPP which is very similar to EWA but has holdings based in other countries.

Diversity and opportunity for gains greater than US markets are your goals here, and these funds offer that. Several of these ETFs also have good dividends, which if they allow for automatic reinvestment with ETFs soon will become a nice way to build on your investment without thinking about it. Maybe you are worried about the amount of oil exposure in the ETFs. A key thing to think about is that cheap oil (oil <$40) isn't coming back. If oil drops to $50, all of those oil companies will still be making tons of cash and new oil exploration opportunities will become profitable (oil sands in Canada, oil shale in the US). With every investment comes some risk, so choose wisely.

Wedding Crashers and the NFL Wrap Up

I was talking with a friend on the phone and we were discussing how the Boston Sports Guy has not done a gimmicky movie quotes to season comparison in a long time. This is an homage to his good old days. I thought long and hard about it and decided to take quotes from the movie Wedding Crashers, which blew away audiences to gross $200+ mil, and apply them to this highly underrated season. A lot of people have been down on this NFL season, but I have enjoyed this year. Almost every week gave us an awesome game, and the playoffs did have the best teams in the league playing. There was no 8-8 division winner or 8-8 wild card team. Sure, a lot of teams had double digit loss totals, but look at their QBs/Head Coaches. In the NFL, the difference between winning and losing can comes down to good coaching and good play from the QB (ask the Vikings).

"Tattoo on the lower back, might as well be a bullseye."

Vince Vaughn was in full Swingers mode with that line. It was on. There were several great teams this year who had to love the schedule makers. Of the teams to choose, I'll give this to the Seahawks. They played 6 games against the pitiful NFC west, 4 games against the AFC South (with the Colts not playing starters), the Giants & Cowboys at home, the injured Eagles, the terrible Packers, and the Falcons at home. That has to be the sweetest schedule ever. The fortuitous breaks all went their way with the schedule, and they had to be the least intimidating #1 seed of recent memory.

"Mrs. Cleary"
"Call me Kat"
"Okay, Kat"
"Call me Kitty Kat" (hisssss)
"Okay, "Kitty Kat" this feel borderline inappropriate"

To the Top Cat cheerleaders who were rumored to have gotten it on in the bathroom of a night club. Who are we to judge when two girls want to get down on their free time? They have to be in Maxim soon, and if not Maxim, maybe Stuff (Maxim Lite). As long as the brunette gets a nose job.

"She took me below deck for 45 minutes. I have no bodily fluids left in me."

I can't avoid the best sports sex scandal of the decade. This tops even Marv Alberts weird stuff. The Vikings cruise was really enjoyable to read about in the Minnesota papers. Going to the Minnesota websites the following 2 weeks was great. The toys and equipment involved could make a sailor blush. Two things are really wrong with this:
1. The Vikings made aggressive advances on female crew members thinking all women on that boat were part of some sex buffet. I guess they forgot that the naked women and strippers from Georgia were the intended targets. That is wrong. Shame on them.
2. The entire country taking a holier than thou routine with this scandal. Did this really surprise anyone that during down time athletes engage in wild sex parties? Did we forget the Gold Club Trial? Don't claim to be shocked, and don't hold athletes to a higher bar when CEOs spend $200K at Scores. Point out they made a dumb move, and move on.

"Your brother, he's down again."

Any doubt? This has to be Eli Manning in reference to his bro. Peyton plays a flawless season where even in the loss to the Chargers he had them storming back. He gets to the playoffs with homefield advantage, and his line forgets how to pick up a blitz and the Edge can't run at all. Last year his receivers and backs forgot how to hold onto the ball in NE. While his throws were high all game against the Steelers, he brought them back and watched as his idiot kicker badly shanked a FG. He was left to win the game on his own, and he couldn't.

"What are you doing? It's a game of touch football, every time I look over you're on your @ss again."

To David Carr. After making some progress last year, the Texans started off 0-fer and then tanked the season to get the number 1 pick. Carr took serious abuse. On the Sunday night telecast versus the Chiefs, ESPN showed at least 5 drop back passes where Carr had 1.5 seconds or less to throw before a defender was in his face. Oddly enough, when the Texans let Carr call the plays in the huddle, the Texans scored more. I'd like to see Carr elsewhere and he'd flourish.

"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'm just swinging the jib for your dad, starboard."

Owen Wilson was lost with the nautical duties. Aaron Brooks was lost at QB for the Saints. While New Orleans was flooded, it did not excuse Brooks from playing like a retard. They have the weapons for him (Deuce tearing his knee hurt) but he still makes terrible decisions and can't run a 2 minute drill. He'll be backing up elsewhere. He's setting up either Vince Young or Matt Leinart to take over and make him look bad. Can you imagine Leinart's decision making with Stallworth, Horn, Deuce and Co? Weak schedule, new coach, smarter QB all have me thinking .500 next year.

"So how's my protégé"
"Jeremy, believe it or not, is getting married"
"What?! What an idiot? Good Good, More for you and me"

Eric Mangini going to the Jets to become head coach. Belicheck's disciples are starting to get the same treatment anyone associated with Bill Walsh received after the run they had in the '80s. Mangini is taking over for a team that has a damaged goods QB, a decrepit RB, an old offensive line, a so-so defense, and no cap room. Maybe Mangini knows that the NFL is going to rig the trade of the Jets pick package for the number 1 overall pick and get Reggie Bush.

"I'm not perfect, but who are we kidding, neither are you"

Jake Delhomme and the Panthers. Everyone likes to pile on Jake, sometimes even me, but the guy hits big throws in big games. He takes care of business and wins when it really matters. The guy has a knack of avoiding pressure and making a throw on the run. He's a perfect fit for the Panthers who seem to play to the level of their competition. They lost the occasional bonehead game like the opener to the Saints or the home game to the Cowboys (he killed them), but then they pull it together to beat the defending champs at home or on the road versus the Giants & Bears in the playoffs. He was atrocious vs. the Seahawks, but I can forgive him one game because nobody besides Smith came to play that day.

"That brings us to the question of frequent flyer miles"
"I want them"
"I earned them"
"Yeah, you earned them flying to Denver to meet your whore"

The funny exchange over the stupid haggling over money has to go to the Seahawks and Shaun Alexander. First off, I like Shaun Alexander a lot. The Seahawks are stupid to make such a fuss about signing Alexander to a long term deal, which they did last year, and even dumber not to resign him this year to get some of that money to hit this year's cap in the midst of his MVP season. The Seahawks have one strong point in the argument. Alexander is running behind the best or 2nd best line in the NFL in a weak division all the while running up huge numbers and TDs untouched. He also disappears in big games, example: the Giants and Cowboys games. Tiki outplayed him & the Cowboys stuffed him. Example number 2: look at his playoff stats. It is reasonable that the Seahawks could find a cheaper replacement on the free agent market or draft a quick, younger runner and get adequate yardage for much less. They could save $20 mil and use the money to get defensive help.

"A hot older woman made you feel her cans? Stop crying like a little girl"
"I wasn't crying like a little girl"
"Why don't you try getting jacked off under the table in front of the whole damn family and have some real problems, jack@ss"

To the Patriots and Chargers. The Patriots cried about a tough schedule because they started off against some of the stiffest competition in the league, and then eased the second half against the pathetic AFC L-East, a Vick-less Falcons squad, and home games against the warm weather Bucs and hurricane battered Saints. Tough but boo hoo, they're the defending champs. The Chargers, on the other hand, played the brutal AFC West and NFC East which each had 3 teams over .500. They made 5 cross country trips. They managed to go 9-7 with maybe 4 gimmie games.

"Why don't you go enjoy yourself while I go ice my b@lls and spit up blood"

This one goes to the Cowboys as they were the team on the outside looking in as the Skins and G-men made the playoffs. The Cowboys watched the G-men put up a goose egg on a team they beat on the road 2 weeks earlier. They also watched the Skins run on fumes in the playoffs and still be 2 plays away from the NFC Championship game. This is after a season of close game after close game. Had the 'Boys drafted the Nugent kid from OSU, they would have been 12-4 as they lost 3 games due to missed, makeable FGs; none were longer than 40 yards (Skins MNF, Seahawks, Broncos).

"I think I'm ready to take this relationship, our relationship to the next level"
"Jeremy I am so ready to take it to the next level"
"Yeah. Do you want to watch me with another girl? How about those Brazilian twins we met at the ball game?"

This exchange of mixed intentions and the pure shock of what one person considers the next level would have to go to Tom Brady. As odd of a year he has had quote wise (the bizarre 60 mins, the disrespect, and tantrum after the loss to the Colts), he has had an amazing season as a QB. When he first started for the Pats, he was a game manager and made maybe 15-20 throws a game. He was not a QB. Last year he finally made the leap to full fledged QB who made all types of throws. This year, with no running game, he took it to another level. He made deep throws, took vicious hits, and made due with an injured corps of receivers/backs. I respect his playing ability, what a QB. Oh yeah, let's stop the Montana comparisons. The Jacksonville and Denver playoff games explained enough.

"Would you say you're completely full of sh*t or just 50%?"
"I hope just 50 but who knows."

Brian Billick. This guy was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings during their Moss/Carter/Smith years. He gets hired by the Ravens, has an outstanding defense, has the ball bounce his team's way in the playoffs, wins the Super Bowl, then they run to mediocrity and he is safe in his job for 5 years? If he was so good as an offensive mind, how come he can't turn Kyle Boller into a decent QB? The Ravens have no air attack, and he was known for a great air attack in Minnesota.

"Throw an INT to Claire, get her feeling good about herself. You think you could do that?"
"John, I was 1st team All State, I can put the ball anywhere I want to. I'll make it rain out here."

I loved this exchange because how many times in real life do you play a pick up game and someone makes a difficult request only to be answered by a cocky reference to high school sports? All of the time. This goes to Ben Rothlisberger. The guy was the Man at Miami (OH), stepped in for Tommy "Gun" Maddox and blasted the league. He hit the wall and stumbled in the playoffs. Could he match that rookie season? He's Big Ben. He follows up his amazing rookie year with another season with a QB rating of 98+. He then goes on the road for two straight playoff games and knocks off the #1-3 seeds with a QB rating north of 100. He has the body of Bledsoe, elusiveness in the pocket, and great awareness of his receivers and the pass rush. He's also only 23! The shaky Super Bowl can be forgiven after the 2 year run he has had in the NFL.

"Who the *fu-k* are you?"

The great threatening line from a demented man who lives with his mom has to go to the New England Patriots in week 9. The Pats seriously thought that they could still beat the Colts with a depleted front 7, a RB on fumes, and backups to the backups in the secondary. All because of mystique, emotion and they 'owned' them. This is what happens when you think that teams win because of mystique & aura and believe in silly superstitions, then again, this is a New England team. Few fans recognized for the last few years, the Pats had an outstanding defense, great play from their O-line, took care of the ball, played great special teams, and when they needed to, ran the ball well. They didn't have that this year. This cameo was amazing by Will Ferrell, and the name Chazz Reinhold cemented his list of great movie role names…. Chazz, Ron Burgundy, Frank the Tank, Big Earl, Mugatu, Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly, Lance DeLune, Mustafa.

"Polling shows most americans would empathize with our situation."
"What is our situation dad?"
"You're a homo."

Just a tense family moment with Gramma coming in to smack down the grandson. This has to go to the Detroit Lions and Joey Harrington. Everyone in America did not blame Steve Mariucci. Everyone has wondered why Matt Millen has drafted 3 WRs with their first pick in 3 straight drafts. Everyone wonders why Joey Harrington can't pass for 150+ yards on a consistent basis. Most Americans would axe Millen first, Harrington next, and then Mariucci. What does it all come down to? Harrington isn't producing? Sure the defense could be better, but once they are down two scores, you can count them out. They have no vertical game or explosiveness despite their talent at the skill positions. I think if you switched Carr and Harrington, Carr would be more successful in Detroit that Joey has been.

"I got a Stage 5. Virgin Clinger!"

This award goes to the Kansas City Chiefs and Priest Holmes. The Chiefs were dumb enough in 2003 to sign a 30 year old RB to a 4 year contract extension after signing him to a 5 year deal in 2001. This means that they had him signed to age 36. Holmes is not Walter Payton. Payton and to some degree Emmitt Smith have been the exceptions to the rule about consistent production after age 30. No one else has really done this (not even Faulk), especially a 'speed back'. Holmes has been selfish enough to say he wanted a 2000 yard season rather than take a reduced role, save his legs for the playoffs, and make a run for the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are now in a position where they have Holmes locked up with decent hits to their cap, but they have a better option with Larry Johnson.

"I'm hanging by a thread. I'm reading don't kill myself books"
"But you said those books weren't yours"
"Don't worry about the books. It's not mine but I glanced at it"

Brett Favre please retire. I know a lot of your failures this year were because you had to carry the team, but please do not go out in a Namath with the Rams fashion. Retire this off-season and let the Packers try the Rodgers kid. Please do it for the team's salary cap, do it for the fans, do it for yourself. If not, please demand a trade.

"You and I both know I'm a phenomenal dancer"

A funny line from the bear of a guy who you would never expect to have any dancing ability goes to Samkon Gado. The Packers lost 3 RBs and had to turn to a practice squad-training camp-early cut guy named Samkon Gado. The former med student turned halfback burst onto the scene with some big performances before suffering a season ending injury. I really enjoyed his time in the backfield for the Packers. Gado's season combined with Rudi Johnson's blossoming has to be a reminder to GMs around the league that a premier RB can be picked in the 5th round just as much as he can be the overall 5th pick.

"What Happened?"
"I think he's on steroids. It's like trying to cover a phucking race horse."

Who else but Steve Smith???? He was drafted as an undersized but fast returner/wide receiver. He's developed into a big playmaker who can murder secondaries by himself. Some small, fast receivers started out the season with even better numbers than he did but could not sustain the production. Smith took his game to another level and bounced back from the sprained/broken ankle very well. He made defenses look foolish on a regular basis, and maintained his intensity in the playoffs. He single handedly massacred the Bears. The season Smith had, if you combined the playoffs, would be the first year one could argue that the MVP was a WR since the glory days of Jerry Rice in San Fran. A similarity to Rice, and I am not comparing him to Rice to say he is even in the same league, is that Smith has great playoff stats: 8 TDs and 44 receptions in his first 7 games. Here's the scary part: He's 26 and WRs stay in their prime longer than RBs. Carolina is sitting very pretty with him and the illegal contact rules.

"jeremy tried to seduce me. I want my painting back."
"the painting was a gift, todd. I'm taking it with me."

TO and the Eagles. The Eagles and Owens twisted the arm of the NFL so that Owens went to the Eagles and not the Ravens. Then they had one glorious year together with a run to the Super Bowl. Sadly enough, haha, it ended poorly with TO sabotaging the entire season all for a few dollars more. While I think that Drew Rosenhaus completely screwed up by promising him a new contract worth more guaranteed money, it was still Owens' mental issues at the root of the tension. He has problems and seeks out conflict. He might be the first female NFL player. Who in their right mind would pick a fight on a team favored to go to the SB again in a weak conference? It's like a girl who finds things wrong with Mr. Right just because she is used to dating a-holes. The guaranteed money they gave him might as well be monopoly money, because he hasn't lived up to his contract and does not deserve to get his money.

"I felt like Jodie Foster in 'The Accused' last night"

Great reference after the midnight bizarro bedroom scene. I'm going to reserve this one for Donovan McNabb. The guy has to deal with TO in the off-season. He has to take a shot to his chest which messed him up for the whole season in the opener. He has to lead the team without TO. Then he blows the Monday Night game by throwing an INT to Roy Williams and is planted by Bradie James on the same play, putting him out for the season. After all of that sh*t, he gets flak from the NAACP leader in Philly for trying to hard to be a pocket passer and shunning his scrambling ways, which is his black identity. (I guess white scramblers like Elway, Young and Staubach don't count) First Rush Limbaugh, now this. Look, McNabb can go to his feet if he needs to, but he knows that to win the Super Bowl, he needs to be a great passer when he drops back. Check out Steve Young's career. When the speed is gone, the decision making, arm and footwork must be there. Kudos to him.

"Rule #15: give me an up to date family tree, you just made me look like an idiot"
"Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!"

To the NY Giants. Manning, Rothlisberger, Rivers to choose from and they didn't need a QB that year. Sure you got bit by the Manning family curse on wild card weekend. No need to start pointing fingers at each other. You all collectively screwed up and came unprepared for a home playoff game. Manning had a pretty good season if you look at how he finished off games. He had a knack for bringing them back and running a great 2 minute drill. He also looked like a rookie, which he pretty much was this year. He still needs to work on his short passing accuracy, needs to work with Shockey more on timing, and needs to look off receivers. Just because he has a bad first playoff start doesn't mean the whole team needs to give up, which is what they did.

"I went with Chazz, who you forgot to tell me is totally insane. Although he may actually be a genius because it really does work, he's cleaning up"

For 11 of the last 14 years Bill Cowher has coached the Steelers to a winning record. He's crazy, looks strange and spits a lot, but he gets the job done. Look at his QBs, Tomczak, Stewart, O'Donnell (who threw the Super Bowl) and now Big Ben. I'd take Big Ben, and that's it. He's always found O-Lineman and defensive players to fit his system and produce. How many times has he had to overhaul his defensive roster, yet they've always had a tough defense? Their record in AFC championships is not the best, but they get there. Where does he find these RBs? Willie Parker, Barry Foster, Verron Haynes, Amos Zereoue??? With Parker, Big Ben and the youth on the defensive side, they are set up pretty well for the next few years. My big problem with Cowher is that he doesn't go for the jugular and destroy a team when he has the opportunity. The Steelers were up 14-3 in the second half and they went into run-run-run mode. The Colts knew it was coming, why not run a play action pass deep to Randle El and hope for the completion or pass interference call. Big Ben was money all game, why not unleash him and put the game out of reach. Why stop blitzing when it worked all game? The offensive gameplan for the Super Bowl was also idiotic, but when they needed it, it worked.

"Share that with the Dalai Lama, jack @ss"

The punch that knocks out Sack Lodge comes with that sweet line. The audience had been waiting 45 minutes for that smug a-hole to get put in his place and Vince takes him down. This has to go to Patriots fans. Not 'real' Pats fans, but the Pats fans who just became Pats fans in 2001. The fans who used to be Giants fans and switched over silently to shock friends. The Pats fans who know nothing about football and only watch the Pats games against the Colts or the playoffs. Look, New England is a baseball crazy area. It always will be. Football was 4th on the ladder for sports in New England until Feb-2002. The Sox, Celtics, Bruins all came ahead of them and there are no "rich in tradition" college football teams in the area (BC is getting there). High school football isn't big in New England like it is in PA, Ohio, Texas or Florida. The fans didn't even believe in the Pats until the win over the Rams in the SB. They suddenly came out of the woodwork and acted as if they were the smartest fans in the world. Combine this with a healthy dose of 'disgruntled red sox fan syndrome' and you had the worst fans in the world. They became that which they hated the most... smug, bandwagon Yankees fans with little knowledge of the sport. The worst regional bandwagon since Chicago Bulls fans in the '90s. They then complained after the Broncos game about being the better team but losing the game. Hello….this is what the Titans/Colts/Rams have said through the years as the Pats caught every break and played mistake free football. It took them only 1 day to stop mentioning the Pats and begin obsessing over the Sox.

"Don't ever leave me"
"Good… 'cause I'd find you"

The scary Fatal Attraction "what have I gotten into" moment goes to the NY Jets for the Chad Pennington situation. They just signed him to a huge contract extension and his shoulder tears again. He already had questionable arm strength. Don't you think some mobsters aren't thinking about whacking Pennington so he gets off their cap numbers? I can't put Carson Palmer's injury here, as a USC fan, and as a believer that 2 knee ligaments on the non-planting knee for a pocket passer aren't serious when Culpepper tore every knee ligament and is going to come back as a scrambler.

"I almost numchucked you, you don't even realize!"

Completely random and a bullet dodging moment. Cedric Benson spraining his knee rather than tearing a ligament. Two reasons. 1. The Bears have had no success with 1st round RBs and this would have been crushing in a Kijana Carter way. 2. It prevented any RB controversy as Thomas Jones ran for 1300+ yards. The Bears now have a difficult decision as Benson was a number 4 pick, but Jones is 27 and finally producing. I say trade Jones right now while his stock is high and let Benson run behind that zone blocking scheme. The Pats & Jets would take Jones right now. The Lions might take him to replace their bad Jones or the Packers, but that's intradivision. The Titans might want a back instead of the two headed pussycat they have in Chris Brown (injuries) and Travis Henry (mental).

"I can't take anymore of this phucking sh*t"

Drew Brees. He had a very nice franchise tag payout last year of 8-9 mil, but got screwed over with the shoulder injury in the last game which was meaningless for the Chargers because they were eliminated. He now may not get a long term deal. The Chargers jerked him around all year after his outstanding 2004 season. This after they gave him a whopping 3 years to develop before they drafted a QB to replace him. Aikman and Elway finally made the move to primetime in their 4th year, not everyone is Big Ben or Brady or Manning in development. Did they not see that magic throw he did from his 5 yard line vs. the Colts which won them the game? Is it his fault LT got hurt and was limited down the stretch? Is it his fault management stupidly kept Gates out of the first game? He deserved a long term deal prior to the shoulder injury, and I hope he bounces back. If he is permanently damaged, he can point to Marty and blame him for a phucked up career.

"No, overtime, yeah well what about the Chang wedding 3 years ago. 2am, you drag me to watch you and some chick play Mahh-Jong with her grandmother…in a retirement home?"
"Completely different situation, she was a very family oriented girl"
"That was my first Asian!"

The depths a Crasher would go for a score has to go to the Houston Texans for tanking the second half of the season. Starting off 0 for the first 2 months put them in the driver seat, and then the emergence of Reggie Bush solidified their desire to get the number 1 pick and 'first dibs' on Bush. I don't need to get into why Bush is in high demand but here's some extra juice. He's going to be 21 as a rookie. The three 1st rd RBs last year where 23, 23, and 24 as rookies. That's 2-3 extra years of fresh legs a team will get out of him compared to last year's top 3 RBs. Let's get back to Houston. The shanks by their kicker in the Titans game were fishy, and the substitution of Tony Banks in the final game was a dive. Is this going to be a Watergate thing where 3 years from now we find emails back and forth from management to Dom Capers? My opinion on what they should do is lead with what they are saying "We're taking Bush". Then, wait for the pressure to build on the Jets. When draft day comes, let the Jets bowl you over like the Giants did for Manning. Get some good LBs and O-lineman in the draft. It's going to happen with the NY Post & NY Daily News writing about Bush rumors everyday in March/April. I am a sane, intelligent person, not a GM so this won't happen. Watch as the Texans draft Vince Young, cut Carr, and be destroyed for 3 more years.

"Watch me take this (*smack*) on down the road"

Since we're on the subject of number 1 picks, this goes to Alex Smith. The absolute wrong pick for the team at the wrong time. They got rid of Tim Rattay, who was complemented by TO for the quality of his deep ball. Does TO ever compliment his current QB? Dumb. They could have picked up Braylon Edwards and solidifed their receivers for Rattay or traded down for even less than the pick is usually worth. Instead they bought the hype of one agent (phenomenal job to get the $$ and pick for Smith) about a scrambling, smart QB who had 1 great season. Now they have doubts about Smith, including his hand size, and talk of letting him go early. If Drew Brees has taught us anything, it is that you give young QBs time to develop. If he has the skill, it will happen. Big Ben type of growth and skill at age 22 is so rare. Plus, Alex Smith is only 21. If you cut him loose now, he's going to take that bonus money and the potential with him elsewhere.

"That's interesting John, that glass looks half full to me"

This has to go to the teams at the top of this year's draft. Last year's draft had some good choices near the top but no true number 1. This year, you could argue for 3 different guys to be number 1. Heck, had Leinart left early he would have been number 1 last year and this year he could go 3. The teams at the top of the draft had to think that they can grab some difference makers in this draft or trade the picks for some depth. I think that you're going to see some special things from the top 10 of this draft. Good luck Draft Class of '06.

"you better lock it up" "no, you lock it up" "you lock it up" "you lock it up!"

Great exchange when the guys are looking to close the deal and forcing the other to pick it up. This goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers for their win at Super Bowl XL. It seemed no one on the team really wanted to close the deal with the victory. The offense looked terrible and relied on gadget and/or broken plays. The defense let Seattle march down the field at will and watched as they would shoot themselves in the foot. Still, they can savor the moment. They are the Super Bowl champs and there is nothing you can take away from them. They defeated the #1-3 seeds on the road and then the #1 team from the other conference. The 2 faces of the team Bettis and Roethlisberger exchanged the torch it seemed this playoffs. Big Ben carried the team like the Bus used to. They have the elusive 5th Super Bowl victory, and a young core to build around. That's what dreams… are made of.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

NFL Awards

Here's some year end awards for this NFL Season. I have a special NFL post to put up this weekend. Peace.

Awards Defensive Player of the Year: Osi Umenyiora When the Chargers swapped Manning for Rivers, they asked for Osi in the trade. They settled for a pick. Imagine their D this year with Osi. I went against the grain and picked a guy who had an amazing year and suddenly got the double teams that Strahan used to get (when teams doubled him). He's breathed life into Strahan's career to keep him around maybe an extra year or two. 14.5 sacks and no cheapies. He literally changed that defense by himself.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tiki Barber Sorry, I can't give the award to Shaun Alexander or Larry Johnson. They run behind the two best lines in the NFL. Those lines compete with the mid-90s Cowboys lines for best in the modern era. Tiki ran behind a decent line for 1860 yards, a 5.2 ave, and 530 yards receiving. His TD count is low because the Giants are dumb and don't think he can get 1 yard plunges. On top of all of this, he's done it with team's keying on him and in big games. He had one fumble all year, which he recovered. He's playing great football at a later age for RBs (because he rarely touched the ball his first few years). This goes against my Priest Holmes argument, but different because Barber saw so few touches early in his career. His workout regimen is almost on par with Jerry Rice's; I guess conditioning matters. I still wonder when it (age) is going to hit him, next year or the year after.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Lofa Tatupu Great crop of defensive rookies to choose from with Merriman, Ware, Thurman, and even the late development of Carlos Rogers. I go with Tatupu because of his (great name) ability to run the entire defense, read plays well and make game changing plays. He is decent as a coverage back, and despite being undersized, fights through blocks well. I think the ceiling is higher for Merriman and Ware, but Tatupu had a better all around rookie year.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cadillac Williams Great nickname, great season. I nearly picked Heath Miller from the Steelers, but the Cadillac was impressive. Jon Gruden beat him into the ground in the first few weeks and he had to take time off, but wow, what a pounding back for being labeled a slasher. I think he has great agility and his ability to pop guys as he is being tackled is impressive. Gruden has a nice set up with Simms-Williams-Clayton set in place for the future.

Anti-Defensive POY: Fred Smoot He had lackluster play after signing that huge contract. He also was involved with the Vikings Cruise scandal. This was just not the year they expected from a big free agent signing.

Anti-Offensive POY: Jamal Lewis I guess the lesson is, don't deal drugs or facilitate drug deals. He'll get an ok deal from a RB hungry team (Patriots/Jets), but he messed up his giant pay day. After his last 2 years, he just needed another 1300+ yard season and he was home free with millions upon millions. Agents say that NFL players get one big contract in their career. Jamal's big contract is going to be far less than what he should have earned. Combine his poor play with his terrible sound bites and you have the AOPOY.

Anti-Defensive ROY: Pacman Jones He has a cooler nickname than Cadillac Williams but is a mental case who needs serious coaching up for the NFL. He also needs to tackle. It's a basic thing in football "you carry the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, tackle the guy". He is worse than even Deion Sanders at tackling.

Anti-offensive ROY: J.J. Arrington This was tough because Alex Smith was pretty bad, but QB is the toughest position to jump into (besides NHL goalie). Arrington was considered a sleeper/bargain/steal by some draft experts and his 3.3 ypc were awful. I know Arizona is awful, but that's weaker than a 34 year old Emmitt Smith would have put up.

Coach of the Year: Lovie Smith Lovie Smith saw his 'good' QB go down early. He then had a rookie with a bad beard at QB, a holdout and a question mark at RB, and a very good defense. Smith handled it great by playing Ravens 2000 football. Play monster D, run run run, and make the occasional 3rd down conversion through the air or play action pass inside the 10. It's like playing 5 card draw, holding two aces and drawing 3 other cards, getting no help and betting your way to victory.

Anti-Coach of the Year: Marty Schottenheimer Blew a golden opportunity. Don't give me talk about a tough schedule; they had the talent for 12 wins. They did have the anti-Seahawks schedule, but lost a ton of close games. Marty also couldn't talk the GM into letting Gates play opening weekend. He also forgot LT was his RB in some games they lost, and played not to lose in other games. He couldn't get his boys up for the Dolphins at home. Marty also made the huge blunder of playing his QB, one of the top 5 in the NFL, in a meaningless game as he got injured possibly career altering.

GM of the Year: Jerry Jones, Cowboys GM I'm not being a homer here, but look at the off-season signings, Bledsoe, Henry, Rivera, and Jason Ferguson. All were upgrades over last year's versions. The draft was phenomenal. Ware, Spears, Canty, Burnett, and Barber were all contributors to the team and in big ways. They are under the cap and competitive. The defense is set up for the long run, it's just the O-line's future I am worried about, and the #1-2 WRs are both over 30.

Anti-GM of the Year: Tom Heckert, Eagles GM I wanted to give this to the GM of the Chargers, but his draft was just too good. The Eagles have tons of cap space, similar to my Madden franchise, but a split clubhouse. They also rewarded McNabb to the tune of $100 mil while they have let quality guys go and not paid off their defensive stars. They removed the franchise tag from Corey Simon and gave him to the Colts. They also let the NFL leader in sacks leave in the off-season (Burgess). The GM did not find a way to get rid of TO and get something in return for him (I loved the Ricky Williams/Chris Chambers for TO rumor). Now they will cut him, get nothing, and he will torch them. The GM also has flubbed up the WR position for years which forced them to go after a TO style receiver. On top of all of this, they have no running back to go between the tackles, and they signed their super-3rd down back Brian Westbrook to a 5 year $25 mil extension. He responded by breaking a bone in his foot. People knock Reggie Bush for not going over 20 carries much, but Westbrook is an even worse sinner. Westbrook doesn't run between the tackles, which Bush can do. They have cap space but do they have any pieces in place offensively to help them score? McNabb and the midget Westbrook are all they have.

Least Valuable Player: Brett Favre He had an INT in every single week after week 7. I can't believe I am typing this. Favre hurt his team in plenty of big spots, and was a liability in tight games. He's chewing up cap space (retirement = $7.6 Mil gain), and forcing the Packers to make their first round draft pick of '05 wait longer to be given a shot at the starting job. I'd politely ask him to retire, if he doesn't threaten him with a trade. He's my offensive coordinator right now for my Madden franchise.

Most Valuable Player: Steve Smith I think there were three candidates who stood out for their worth: Brady, Smith, and Tiki. Peyton Manning is at that point in his career where he will continue to put up huge numbers and win a lot of games in an astonishing fashion (almost Favrian, Marino-ish). Alexander had an outstanding season production wise. Value to a team goes back to those three guys. Brady played like a QB finally (not a game manager) and carried the Pats to victory. Brady kind of had to act like Manning did in '03 (no defense, banged up RB). The similarities are scary. Tiki, as I stated before, did everything asked of him and more. If the Giants work more screens and outlet passes to him they could really help Eli Manning's rhythm and get serious yardage. Above all others, Steve Smith was just worth more to his team than anyone else. Smith returned punts, caught bombs, caught WR screens that became 60 yard TDs, and posed a riddle to opposing defenses. Jake Delhomme's stats to every other receiver besides Smith look terrible, and when Smith scored they won. In the playoffs, he picked it up a notch and destroyed the Giants and Bears. The Seahawks played a defense that was geared solely towards him (a 5 foot 9 WR). They played linebackers in a zone and a CB on man coverage to contain him. The Panthers had no real running game, and Delhomme played inconsistent all season. Smith was the straw that stirred the drink. Smith started strong and didn't slow up, carrying the team along the way. He even ran back a punt in the NFC Championship game when nothing was working. That is the definition of an MVP.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Aftermath

Whirlwind finish to a decent game. Sloppy play, but the momentum swings and big plays were entertaining. It was a really underwhelming performance by both QBs who had rolled into the Super Bowl with great passing performances. Roethlisberger's first INT was an underthrown bomb, but the second one was awful. The kind of mistake he doesn't usually make. With how few passes he had after that, you have to wonder if something was wrong with his hand.

The Steelers played just good enough to win, and the Seahawks self destructed. The pick thrown by Hasselbeck was terrible. The stupid penalties were mental mistakes which you would not expect from a 13-3 #1 seed. The Seahawks' decision making and behavior at the end of halves was odd. It was eerily reminiscent of the Eagles 4 minute hurry up offense from the last Super Bowl. The end of the half was indefensible, and the end of the game was even worse. They should have kicked the FG and then gone for the onside kic. It makes me wonder if Josh Brown was having problems with kicking as he missed one makeable kick and then just pushed left a 50 yarder. Get points while you can especially with no timeouts. Hasselbeck's decision making with his throws was a little off as well, as he worked the middle of the field and would throw dump passes when an incompletion would have served him better.

Where does this leave both teams? The Steelers have almost their entire defensive backfield up for free agency, so they need to decide who stays and who goes. Chris Hope could be the only player to come back. Antwaan Randle El is a free agent, and their only big offensive piece that will be up for free agency. If the Steelers let Plaxico Burress go last year, they sure as hell will let Antwaan go. The trick passes can be thrown by Hines Ward next year. Wide Receivers are easier to pick up in the draft, and the Steelers can always grab a suitable #2 in the draft. The Bus is leaving, but it might not be terrible given his salary cap hit and lack of real input to their offense. With Willie Parker, Heath Miller and Big Ben, they have a nice, super-young trio to build on. They also have one of the best posession receivers in the game, Super Bowl XL MVP, Hines Ward. The defense is in good shape and young. The future looks bright.

The Seahawks have a huge decision to make with Shaun Alexander. They franchised him last year,a nd stalled in contract talks during the season. They now have to decide on signing him to 5 years. They need to make a strong offer, and hope that no one gets stupid in free agency. I don't think it will happen with a 28 year old RB, but the Cardinals could get desperate enough. They should have signed him during the season and take some of the salary hit this year. They stalled, and now might lose him when they are the top dog in the weaker conference. The flip side is that they could save $20 mil and find a suitable replacement. They could also spend a little less and get the Edge. I think he'd be a great fit (for any team) and his pass catching ability would help make the Seahawks formations less predictable. Besides Alexander, the Seahawks don't have anything really tough to do. They get Ken Hamlin back from his stabbing, which will help the defense. Can they win the NFC West again even without Alexander? As it is right now, yes.

See you football fanatics during the combine, as I will watch it and take notes. I'll now shift my sports viewing time to college basketball and the NBA.

Super Bowl Halftime thoughts

Steelers can't run at all, yet still run and forget how well Big Ben played in the previous 3 games. The Seahawks aren't running well. Big Ben is making plays on his own after the shaky start. Seahawks are eating up the Steelers zone and picking up their pass rush. For some reason the Steelers aren't blitzing, which might be a halftime adjustment with how well the Seahawks are finding gaps in the zone. The seahawks' formations are indicative of their play calls. One good play action pass and Seattle has 6. The Steelers know it's a run with Alexander in there with a FB. The reviewed play was going to stand either way it was called. No way a Ref is going to overturn a close call unless there is indisputable proof.

Steelers need to get something on the ground as Big Ben calms down. They also need to call him some plays with easy outlets to build a rythmn. Where is Heath Miller in the playbook? They have to feel a little off that they aren't clicking, and the 'Hawks are moving on them consistently. The Seahawks have to feel good, they played great, had the breaks go against them but are within 1 TD. They need to get Alexander moving and mix up formations/play calling. I think the opening drive will determine everything. If the Hawks shut down Pittsburgh and then score, well, it will be all downhill because I don't like the Steelers having to come from behind as well as I like them with a lead to protect. If the Steelers can score a TD on the opening drive, sayonara Seattle. It would be 14-3 and the Steelers could start their lead protect scheme (which I dislike).

Enjoy the game!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Super Bowl Prediction

The Super Bowl is upon us and time to make wagers. Did you know that half of all money wagered during the NFL season is wagered on Super Bowl Sunday? I remember as a kid, my uncle Rog the bookie, would bring the Super Bowl football cards to my Gramma's house and I'd laugh at the things you could bet on: first team to score, first player to score, coin flip. As I grew older, I figured out that you could make some good money on long shot bets to cover a significant wage on the actual game. They say only fools play prop bets, but it paid off for me with Super Bowl XXVII. Before we get to this year's match up, player props and team prop bets, let's go over some history.

In recent years, my favorite Super Bowl gambling wise was the Titans/Rams Super Bowl. Bookies always make money, but that Super Bowl was a bad one for bookies. The spread started out with the Rams as favorites by more than 7 points. What happened was that so much action was placed on the Titans that the spread came down to 7 points. The Rams won by 7 meaning all of the early Titans wagers won and the late wagers were a push. Last minute wagers make up a majority of the bets placed for Super Bowl Sunday. That's bad for Gambling business. Super Bowl XIII was even worse for Vegas and the Mob. Quick History: The 11/10 vig for wagers usually ensures a small profit margin. Prior to Super Bowl XIII, Pittsburgh was favored over Dallas, the defending champions of the NFL. Due to heavy action on both sides, the line on the game went as low as -3 ½ (Pittsburgh wagers pushed it up) and as high as -4 ½ (Dallas Wagers then pushed it down to 4 points). Pittsburgh won the game by four points, creating a push on wagers, and the Stardust lost $1 million by getting 'middled' on the game. That's $1 mil in '79. The point spread for Super Bowls now always settle on a half.

Because of my acquaintance with one bookie, I can tell you that the last two Super Bowls have been extremely profitable for the gambling industry. The Pats have not covered a Super Bowl as a favorite, and in the case of the Pats/Panthers Super Bowl, 75% of day of the game wagers went to the under and the game blew away the over/under. Since Super Bowl XXXV, I've nailed my bets on the Super Bowl. I've successfully wagered on the winner for 5 straight Super Bowls, and the last two years have called the elusive gap bet. There was a gap of scoring differential that would mean I would win both payouts. The last two years, I have wagered on the Pats to win the SB but not cover, this has been the case for both SBs and has been highly profitable. Last year, I was nervous as Philly needed a late score to cover (every 1/2 point counts). My crowning achievement might be Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay was the underdog, but I had no doubt that the Bucs would shut down the Raiders. Great defenses shut down great offenses, especially when a coach is playing his old team. Successful calls were made on the game, the Tampa defense scoring a TD, and Derrick Brooks scoring a TD. The Derrick Brooks TD was a great wager as the payout was decent enough that if you only wagered on the game and that one proposition (Brooks TD 12/1), the prop bet would cover your game wager even if you bet as low as 1/12th your game wager on Brooks. Student loans were paid off early.

Why do I bring this all up? Because Super Bowl XL offers an entertaining match up of the #1 NFC seed vs. the #6 AFC seed, and Vegas opened the line with Pittsburgh favored by 4. Do I think the Steelers can cover? Yes. The degree of difficulty rationale will come in, as the Steelers went 14-5 in the AFC. They beat the #1-3 seeds all on the road, and have a healthy team. This team was 11-5 this year and only one year removed from 15-1. They have shut down the Colts and stuffed the Broncos run game, while putting up points early on two good defenses. The health issue is a big one, as they now have Big Ben, Farrior and Porter 100% healthy. The Steelers that struggled in the middle of the year were banged up, and using Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox at QB.

Have not the Seahwaks won 13 games straight? Yes they have. They have won 15 games against one of the easiest schedules in years, with the defeat over Carolina as their best win over a good team all year. This was Carolina using their 5th string RB, a banged up D-line and an offensive playbook which only had plays designed for Steve Smith. I think Seattle's defense is going to have to step up, because their ground game should be able to rack up some yards. While the Steelers played the Broncos' run game excellent, I think that Seattle is slightly better on the ground and will force Pitts to bring their safety up for help. Can Seattle's WRs make plays? I'm not sure. Can Seattle's defense handle the multi-threat offense the Steelers have? I don't think so. I also think that Seattle will have to improve their 3rd down defense, as this has been a huge boon for the Steelers in the playoffs. They are converting 3rd downs at will, and Seattle needs to improve their 3rd down defense and force some 3 & outs.

What does the 2 week layoff mean and who will it help/hurt? I think both teams can gain something from the 2 week break, but I think there is one big problem for each team. The problem for the Steelers isn't as bad. The Seahawks get to rest Shaun Alexander for an extra week, and it will help him rest after nearly 400 carries this year and the concussion in the divisional round. The downside is that they have a week off after synching up offensively last week. The week off before the divisional round put some rust on the offense. When you look at the Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday, in the last 6 weeks, they will have played 2 meaningful games with a full two week break before and after those 2 games. It's a nice rest for lineman, but can cause some rust for the skill positions, which their WRs already exhibit. The two week break gives 2 weeks for overemphasis on Jerome Bettis. He'll be pulled in 10 directions at all times. That's the downside. Does the Bus really matter that much? Ummmm, I don't think so. He calls himself the closer, but can't the Steelers chew up clock giving the ball to Larry, Moe or Curly? I'd go with Verron Haynes and Willie Parker, and isn't the Bus going to be pumped up for this final game? The 2 week rest is going to help the Steelers lineman a ton because they never got a bye week for the playoffs. The rest is going to help save some of those defensive legs which have been in overdrive. The last 7-8 weeks have been win or go home for the Steelers, so the week off is going to help rest their bodies and minds.

My final pick this year is Steelers -3.5 over Seahawks

Prop Bet wagers: (Ones I feel confident about)

First player to score a TD - The two favorites are Jerome Bettis and Shaun Alexander with 6-1 and 5-1 odds respectively. It's a safer prop bet to lay money down on one of them, as the Seahawks will try to pound the ball and establish their running game early and the Bus will get every opportunity to score at "home".

Team with the most rushing yards - Seahwaks are getting 9.5 yards and have the better running game. This one seems like a no brainer.

Heath Miller - His prop bets are all set very low. Receptions O/U = 2.5, Yards Receiving O/U = 35.5 yards. I would play the over on both of these and watch as Miller hits blows those numbers away in the first quarter.

No matter what you do and what you bet on Super Bowl Sunday, enjoy the game.