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Archive for November, 2009

The Caps week ahead

So the Caps once again out-performed my expectations. They blew two 2- goal leads in a week, but still managed 3 points out of those games and they gave one very solid effort and picked up a total of 5 points in 3 games.

Some of the heros of the week include: David Steckel, Brian Pothier, Alex Ovechkin, Brendan Morrison and Mike Green (although he did make a killer mistake in the OT loss to Ottawa). The biggest hero and biggest cause for rejoicing among Caps fans would be our young goaltender Semyon Varlamov who is really coming into his own. His stats place him in the upper-echelon of goal-tenders in the NHL and while it may be a jump to say that he is among the top 10 goalies in the game, his solid, spirited play is certainly a reason to be optimistic of his chances of becoming elite in the near future.

The Caps defense is playing better and better despite the absence of Tom Poti.

We are very, very good 5 on 5.

The penalty kill is still a work in progress and needs to be improved before the playoffs start.

The Caps have a lot of injuries, but are still able to win consistently because of their depth and the consistency the young players experience playing in the same system here in Washington that they play in Hershey.

The emergence of Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleishmann is going to do wonders for the Caps come playoff time and once Alexander Semin returns to the 2nd line, I would be very interested to see a 3rd line composed of Perreault, Fleishmann and Fehr really putting pressure on other teams.

This week has the Caps playing road games against Carolina and Philly surrounding a home game against Florida. There is no reason the Caps can’t pick up at least 5 more points this week, but tonight’s game and the game against Florida have the potential to be traps especially with the Caps looking ahead to the big game against Philly this Saturday night. These two teams really dislike each other which makes this rivalry that much better.

What the hell, I’m gonna say that the Caps pick up 5 more points this week.

What do you all think?

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You know in a high school play or a satire of a bad actor when the character is dying on the stage and he’s wheezing and making soliloquies, and you’re thinking, “Just die already,” and he keeps wheezing and making grand pronouncements and then maybe it looks like he’ll get better for a second before he collapses in a heap and finally and dramatically gives his last breath??

That’s what yesterday’s game was to me. In what has been almost a satire of a football season, a total farce, the Redskins’ season finally, for all competitive purposes, ended with a thud yesterday afternoon.

It was another gut-wrencher featuring inspired performances by certain folks—Jason Campbell, London Fletcher, and Justin Tryon—even more injuries, and the sneaking and sickening certainty in the fourth quarter that the Eagles were going to come back and win the game.

There’s a lot to be discussed from a football standpoint. How did the team lose DeSean Jackson on that long touchdown? Why didn’t Campbell just run for the first down on that last fourth down play? Why can’t the offense from yesterday play with the defense from the Dallas game? What if this team had showed up against the Chiefs and the Lions? And so on.

But sometimes you just have to shake your head and realize that this really and truly is not your year. Beyond all the drama from the early season, now there’s a rash of injuries that’s worst than anything I’ve ever seen. Maybe more of the injured players would be playing if the team was in a more competitive position? Who knows. What I do know is that at the end of the game our cornerbacks were Carlos Rogers, Byron Westbrook and Kevin Barnes.

And I agree with Bowles, and I imagine most Redskins fans, that the hit on Campbell on that last play was ridiculous and should have been fifteen yards. But you know, this just ain’t our year. I mean, it ain’t our decade either, but it really ain’t our year.

It will be curious to see how the team handles the Campbell situation this offseason. Like all of you, I saw the passes he missed to Moss and Randle El and wondered about a few of his decisions. But he threw a nice deep ball down the sideline to Kelly and the touchdown to Fred Davis was inspired.

Is he showing just enough to keep you interested or is he not quite good enough? That’s the perennial question with Campbell. At this point, I’m inclined to say he’s done enough to be the quarterback next season. He’s a known quantity. But who wants to wait two years for Colt McCoy or Jimmy Clausen develop when they may be total busts, which Campbell is not?

I keep wondering when the team is going to quit and they keep not quitting. We’ll see next week against the Saints, especially if our corners continue to be injured. You know Gregg Williams wants to put a hurting on the Skins too. Still, it’s nice to be able to root be proud of the team’s effort, something that couldn’t be said earlier this season.

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Swear to God: I had a dream last night that the Redskins beat the Eagles 28-16. If we had scored a TD, after the Justin Tryon interception in the 4th quarter, that could have ben the score today. But like everything else this year, we’re all left with lots of “if’s” and mind-boggling questions which lead to many restless nights.

My old man asked me as I walked him to his car today after the game: “What’s worse, losing to the Cowboys 7-6 when we outplayed Dallas for most of the game and were ahead by 6 points with 5 minutes left or losing 27-24 to the Eagles when you played evenly with the Philadephia throughout the whole game and gave up an 8 point 4th quarter lead?”

It’s hard to say, but the kick in the gut I felt last week has been replaced by a sinking spirit. So many of the things that Redskins fans in D.C. and around the country had been complaining about for so long were absent in the last two games – this one in particular. Our triplets of Kelly, Thomas and Davis have shown that they are capable of making big plays (although I could stand for not having so many theatrics from Kelly and Thomas). The offensive line did a decent job today against a pretty good pass rush. The play- calling was good. Our defense put pressure on McNabb and Chris Wilson (BBR) roughed up McNabb resulting in Justin Tryon (BBR) getting his first NFL interception. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that a lot of our young guys produced and continue to show that they are capable of being good NFL players.

In some ways, these losses could have been easier to take if we got rolled by the Dallas and Philly because it woud prove what we all thought for so long this season – the Redskins are really bad. But now, we’re fighting toe-to-toe with our division foes and still losing. Maybe it’s just what my old man used to tell me when I was young: “bad teams find new ways to lose all the time”.

Well then, what went wrong? What was bad about today? Well, the secondary looked shaky at times. Fred Smoot and Landry gave up a big play to DeSean Jackson although the same thing happened with Campbell hitting Devin Thomas in the 3rd quarter. I will chalk both of those plays as quarterbacks making something happen on the fly.

The secondary also looked shaky on the Eagles last TD drive with Landry missing a tackle on Jason Avant which allowed him to pick up about 15 more yards. On the last scoring drive, Carlos Rogers gave up a big play to Maclin on a pass that was very well thrown by McNabb. Some of these things are the stuff of broken records that repeart endlessly throughout sports talk radio and blogs, but honestly, neither one of those plays alone was crushing in my opinion.

Offensively once again, Campbell looked pretty good for much of the day (although he missed Moss and Randle-El on two passes which could have been big plays), but he was unable to drive us down late for the 2nd week in a row to put us in position to kick a field-goal and save the game. By the way, Jaqua Parker of the Eagles got away with a really dirty play on Campbell on the Redskins’ last play. It should have been a 15-yard penalty. As I saw Campbell writhing in pain on the ground, I couldn’t help but think about the 15 yard penalty called on Lorenzo Alexander against Matt Ryan of the Falcons which was must less of a hit than the one on Campbell today. It sucked seeing Campbell like that. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but the poor guy has just gotten a raw deal in every way imaginable.

Frankly, we as fans have gotten a raw deal this year as well. Furthermore, the Redskins’ play in the last three games leaves you scratching your heads. Is it just what Walton said earlier that the Redskins play up and down to their opponents? I think he’s right about that, but since so many of the core guys who have defined this team’s character over the years have not playing recently, there may be something else going on.

As all of our big-name players get hurt, the team seems to play with more fire. Now is that because the firestorm around Jim Zorn and all the nonsense with Sherm Lewis has died down and the players can just focus on football? Possibly. Or is there something to the idea that has been mentioned by many that Clinton Portis is a distraction for the locker room? Could it be him alone because no one ever said Cooley, Samuels, Chris Horton or Randy Thomas were distractions?

It all really makes you scratch your head. I’m sure some people are going to criticize the Redskins on being a little conservative on our last possession in the redzone after the Tryon interception. But teams are not going to score a TD everytime they enter the redszone. We were 3 for 4 in scoring TDs today after all. Sure enough, a TD would have come close to putting the game away.

It really eats at me that Philadelphia swept us this year, especially since I still think they are not that good. Of course, none of the NFC East teams are that good which makes swallowing my pride that much harder since we are firmly at the bottom.

I don’t have the energy to start talking about who should stay or who should go. Believe it or not, I’m still excited about next week’s game against the Saints and the home games against Dallas and the Giants.

A few weeks ago when we lost to the Falcons I said that there wasn’t much else to root for except to watch our young guys play with energy and our team play with pride. Well, those things have happened. Secretly, I of course was thinking that if we split these two games with Dallas and Philly that we could get on a run for the playoffs. (Laugh, if you want, but that’s how I function). Now, I have no more secret fantasies that I harbor deep inside about the Redskin playing games in mid- January. All I’ve got is to steel myself after being swept by the Eagles and hope that we don’t suffer the same indignity to the Cowboys and Giants while sitting high in the night sky in late December at Fedex.

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Nothing little about Sean Taylor's crushing hit against the Eagles in Redskins 20-12 win in Philadelphia in Sept. 2007

Just like Nick Young dusted himself off everytime he made a basket on Tuesday night, it’s time for the Redskins to dust themselves off and get a victory over a division foe. Is this the week?

Once again I am at a loss in describing a clear way the Redskins can win this game. Last week I was unfortunately right in thinking that we would lose to the Cowboys, but in a million years, I never would have dreamed the game would go the way it did. It would be easy for me to say well this week the game will be the total opposite and the Eagles will put up a lot of points on us like did they did about a month ago in D.C.

In fact, a lot of people are saying that the Redskins holding the Cowboys down to 7 points was an abberation and that the Eagles will roll over us. In truth, I believe the Redskins defense is as good as inidicated. Yes they gave up big plays against the Eagles, Broncos and Falcons. They did however tighten up last week against the Cowboys.

Let’s further analyze the 5 games in which the Redskins have played against “good teams” this year; the games where we have given up the most points. We gave up 23 points to the Giants, but 7 resulted from a “pick-six”. The Falcons scored 31 against us and 7 were also from a “pick-six”. The Eagles scored 27 on us and 7 came from a “pick-six”. The Broncos of course socred 17 points while the Cowboys only got a TD against us.

So what does all this mean? If you take away the 21 points the Redskins allowed to these team to score when we were on offense, the total points these 5 “good teams” have scored is 85 which means that the Redskins’ defense is allowing 17 points/game against “good teams” with “good offenses”. The reason I’m using “good” in quotation marks is that I don’t think any of these teams we lost to are all that good, which of course means that we are also rather far from being “good”.

All the same, our defense is good and if Haynesworth can play I like our chances of being able to double DeSean Jackson and keep the game close against the Eagles this Sunday.

On offense, which is where the game will be won or lost, Jason Campbell is going to have to make plays ike he did last week against the Cowboys. The Redskins offensive line is improving, but at this point, I think it’s a stretch to say that they are going to be able to consistently give Campbell time. He is going to have make plays. The Eagles’ corners are banged up and I see our receivers being able to make plays. Fred Davis and Yoder will be effective since the Eagles continue to struggle covering tight ends. Of course, we will have to run to keep the Eagles honest, but we will win the game by passing effectively.

Suisham is gonna have to forget about last week and make at least two tough field goals this week and for once this season, let’s see if we can swing the game in our direction maybe with a big Devin Thomas return.

The Eagles are an over-confident bunch and while they desperately need this game, I’m sure that they have already marked themselves as 7-4 in the standings.

The Redskins, for all of their deficiencies as a team, have proven that they are still united in the locker room. They have displayed great effort in all their games of late and I think that will continue this week. After all, while the players are not stupid and realize that 3-7 is pretty damn bad, I’m sure the conversation in the locker room is circling around the idea that if we can get on a roll, the team can still be in the mix for the final playoff spot.

I’m 6-4 this year on my Redskin predictions – not bad for a die-hard optimist. Maybe I’m not using any logic, but I feel like this week will be our last stand as a team. Redskins win 20-16.

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NFL Power Rankings – Week #12

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Our fair-weather fanny has checked in with his holiday power rankings. (To his credit, he got these in to me on Wednesday and I failed to get them up until now. Dallas and the Giants both make the rankings and both performed exactly as one would have thought based on our fair-weather fanny’s week 12 assessment). The only question mark I have about these rankings is how the Eagles are “the class of the NFC East” even though they have a worse record than the Cowboys and were beaten by the Cowboys. Well, the Eagles flirtation with the power rankings will end this week when the ‘Skins upset the Eagles this Sunday.

1. New Orleans Saints (1): Continuing winning ways.

2. Indianapolis Colts (2): Passed Ravens test with help from Flacco.

3. Minnesota Vikings (4): Set to take over top spots if/when Saints/Colts falter.

4. New England Patriots (5): Sweet revenge victory over the Jets.

5. San Diego Chargers (7): On a roll.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (3): Beaten by THE RAIDERS!!!!!?????

7. Arizona Cardinals (8): Will drop quickly if Warner can’t go.

8. Dallas Cowboys (9): Should have lost to the Redskins.

9. Philadelphia Eagles ( ): Still the class of the NFC East

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6): Beaten by THE CHIEFS!!!!!?????

Mention (not really honorable): Atlanta, NY Giants, Green Bay, Miami & Baltimore.

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1923-2009

“The spirit of Mr. Pollin kept that ball out of the basket”. That’s what Eddie Jordan said in his post-game new conference about Lou Williams’ shot at the buzzer which missed, giving the Wizards a badly needed win in front of what seemed from T.V. to be a rather subdued crowd at the Verizon center.

This post should be much, much more about Abe Pollin the man and what he has done for Washington D.C. as well as Abe Pollin the sportsman and what he has done for all of us sportsfans in the area by bringing the Bullets and Capitals to our city. There will be many more profound accounts related about Abe Pollin moving forward from here, but I will just that as I drove home from work yesterday and listened to sports radio, I was amazed at not only how many important people came out to speak about Abe Pollin, but how many people spoke about how profoundly he changed Washington D.C. for the better.

Many people have accused Pollin (myself included) of having been too loyal to certain people within the Bullets/Wizards organization and perhaps some of this criticism is justififed, but when someone dies, I guess it’s much better at the end of day to be accused of being a very good person who placed great value on his personal realtionships, not his business.

That being said, Pollin did want to win another championship very badly and thus, over the years, he put a lot of money into the contracts of many players including Jamison, Arenas, and most recently Flip Saunders, Mike Miller, Randy Foye and even Oberto. I don’t know what will become of this season and I don’t know whether emotion and the memory of a great man can sustain an NBA team for the 69 games the Wizards have remaining on their regular-season schedule, but it would be great indeed if this season became something special.

The season took a turn for the better last night as the Wizards played very good team ball and fought, almost unsuccessfully, to win a close game against a very average 76ers team. Unlike with the Caps, I’m almost happy that the Wizards let their large lead slip in the 4th quarter and thus had to fight and claw to win this game because they had not WON a close game like this yet this year. Now that they have, maybe this will show them that they are capable of winning close games together and they wil take one small step in acheiving the trust necessary to be successful in team sports.

There is no question that Jamison is the emotional leader of this team as his performance yesterday exemplified.

Nick Young, welcome back. Young is the team’s best shooter and one of our most gifted athletes. Like Blatche, he’s not going to score 20 points a night, but if he can become a consistent player like Blache, we’ll be in good shape.

Speaking of Blatche, he played a very good game last night as did Haywood and McGee.

Gilbert played within the offense for the most part and the team focused on moving the ball. We had more assists than the 76ers.

Is anyone else surprised to this point that we are actually are very solid rebounding team? We we are and I am happily surprised.

Arenas has some sort of mental thing going with free-throws. Other than that, the FT shooting was better last night.

For many reasons not having to do with Abe Pollin’s death, this team really needed this win last night. Now, let’s hope in honor of the man who has brought us this team which I, and many, many of us have supported for a long time, let’s see if the team can build on this win for sometime to come.

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Big week for the Wiz. Not only are they now dealing with a soap opera involving press conferences, Beyonce songs, text messages to reporters, and an apparent peace agreement, they are coming off two difficult losses last weekend.

Truth is they have some winnable games starting with tonight in Philly. Me and Bowles were remarking on the phone last night that the Wizards have this strange tendency to either blow out or be blown out. They also seem to get up for certain games and disappear for others.

You would think tonight’s game against the 76ers would be a game they would be excited to win. They are going against their old coach and they’re at home. There are no must wins at this time of year, but this is as close to that as you’ll come.

Now that Mike Miller, arguably the team’s best player along with Haywood is out for awhile, the team needs Randy Foye to step up to his early season form. While I’m intrigued that Nick Young is getting the start again, I can’t help but think that he’ll make some dumb mistake—did anyone else read that he apparently forgot that a play was called for him the other day?—and be taken out for the rest of the game.

I wonder if with Butler’s injury the team will seem more together, as Arenas implied yesterday, or will miss his absence and make their heart grow fonder. We’ll see.

I’m excited for the possibility of seeing Dominic McGuire on the floor a bit. It seems like he’ll provide the types of intangibles Mike Miller provides, without the deadly three-point shooting, of course.

The game against Miami on the road, while more difficult, is still winnable. I don’t want to see the Wiz get in a situation where the Heat just rule over them like they used to. And while Miami is good, the Wizards have proven they can beat good teams on any given night.

The Charlotte game, although the second night of a back-to-back, is at home and certainly could be a W as well.

All in all, I’m hoping for a 2-1 stretch here and the green shoots of recovery for the team.

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