Sunday, August 24, 2008

Previewing 2008

Folks I truly am sorry about the lack of site updates the past handful of days, but it has been a hectic time for me and now that everything appears to have settled down, I should be able to put up more frequent updates on the site.

The two biggest reasons for the lack of updates are 1) I purchased Madden 09 for my Xbox 360, ‘nuff said. And 2) I had to move into my new apartment at Pitt the past few days, and didn’t have my computer hooked, thus making it quite difficult to get much going on the internet. And, because I’m hooked on my Madden game like it’s cocaine and I’m Amy Winehouse I decided to base a column on it. No don’t worry, I’m not going to review it (although it is a truly great game and I recommend you go buy it immediately), instead I decided to sim an entire NFL season (the ‘08/09 season to be exact) and let everyone know what played out, how it played out, and some of the fun moments from the season. Without further ado…

It turns out that the preseason in Madden games is even more useless then the real preseason now that they took away the fun little improve young players feature that most people agreed was a good one. Whatever. The highest rated preseason passer? Billy Volek at a whopping 146.9, Ryan Fitzpatrick was third, JP Losman was fifth (a potential QB controversy looming in Buffalo?), and proving just how easy the preseason is in these games, Rex Grossman was ninth. Joey Galloway was the leading receiver in preseason ball, Brian Westbrook the leading rusher, Montrae Holland the leading pancake blocker, Cooper Carlisle gave up the most sacks, James Farrior nailed down the tackle title with 37, something named Victor Adeyanju led in sacks, and Ellis Hobbs in interceptions.
And of course, as always there were injuries in the preseason. I downloaded Brett Favre’s character to the Jets, and naturally, he tore his ACL in the preseason and is out for the year. Really glad I spent all that time on my Xbox downloading him for this sole purpose. Other season-ending injuries included: Brodie Croyle (Broken Tailbone) and Paul Posluszny (Hip Fracture). Marcus McNeill broke his ankle and is out 10 weeks, same for Correll Buckhalter, which proves once and for all just how incredibly realistic these games truly are. Terrell Suggs will miss 8 weeks, Nick Kaczur 7 weeks, and Darren Sproles will miss 6 weeks. No one is out who is of significance, and so, we advance to the regular season.

Also, just for fun, there are six players who are 99’s in this game. Take a moment and try to pinpoint them. It’s actually a fun game. I’ll discuss it down one paragraph with my thoughts.
By far the worst player in the game is Bills left tackle Demetrius Bell, who has an abysmal 54 rating, when the next lowest (King Dunlap) had a 60. I mean, did they really know enough about Demetrius Bell to make him by far the worst player in the game? That has to hurt his feelings, right? Couldn’t they have made 5 or 6 miserable offensive and defensive linemen all 60 ratings, just so no one is the worst. If I’m Demetrius I’m screaming at the top of my lungs to the Players Union, although I suppose they have more important matters to deal with. Still though, that just bothers me.

Okay, the 99’s: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Bob Sanders, Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, and… Antonio Gates. I mean, those first five are obvious, but Gates? Yeah he’s a great player, but did you ever consider him to be one of the six best players in football? Hell no. And how pissed are the linemen right now? They dominate the 98 category (1 OL and 3 DL), but still. For the record, I guess those first five, figured they would add 1-2 more, so I threw in pre-knee injury Shawne Merriman (who is only a 97!) and figured they would have a lineman somewhere, so tossed in Albert Haynesworth, too (a 98). But I probably would have guessed 10-12 more players before I guessed Gates for a 99. It just doesn’t feel right. Some of the most surprising ratings I noticed: Jason Taylor (a 98! Since when is he still that good?), Tony Gonzalez (also a 98!), Shane Lechler (it just feels icky putting a punter as a 97), Casey Hampton (still chugging at a 96 even though he’s been average the past two seasons), the entire Patriots O-Line (somehow I don’t think Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Michael Strahan would be giving them a 96, two 95s, a 94, and an 86), Matt Birk (nearly was forced to retire due to injury and yet he is still somehow a 95), Zach Thomas (can barely control his motor functions but yet is a 94), and of course, DeAngelo Hall (the most overrated player in football continues that trend with a 93).

Okay, seriously now, onto the regular season:
Some fun notes:
-Tom Brady picked up where left off last season, winning the first two Offensive Player of the Week awards.
-Injuries: Kevin Curtis (Week 2), Ronald Curry (Week 2), Jeff Otah (Week 1), Larry Johnson (Week 2), Aaron Smith (Week 4 meaning the Steelers D should now fall apart), James Harrison (Week 6), Keith Brooking (Week 5), Antonio Cromartie (Week 6), Jerry Porter (Week 7), Rex Grossman (Week 7), Jon Kitna (Week 8), Devin Hester (Week 9), Derrick Johnson (Week 10), and Clinton Portis (Week 11) all suffered injuries that kept them out for at least 6 games or longer.
-Through the first three weeks of the season, 2 of the top 4 receivers in football were Derek Mason and Isaac Bruce. This is Madden ’09 not Madden ’99 right?
-Someone named Cortland Finnegan had 4 picks in one game in Week 2 for the Titans. According to my game, that tied an NFL record.

-Through six weeks, some of the surprises included: Vince Young is 4th in passer rating behind Brady, Roethlisberger, and Manning; Joe Flacco is very good; David Garrard, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, and Carson Palmer all have passer ratings below 75.0; Chester Taylor leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns; Isaac Bruce is still 4th in receptions, Derek Mason is 7th; Alan Branch and Alex Brown (two notorious loafers) lead the league in sacks with 8 apiece; Matt Turk has already punted 42 times for Houston; The Titans and Patriots are the only unbeaten teams left, both at 5-0; our beloved Steelers are 4-1; We had a tie! The Cardinals and Cowboys kissed each other’s sister, or however that works; The Bills and Jets are 0-5; Expected contenders the Vikings, Browns, Redskins, and Cowboys are all under .500. If the playoffs started today we’d have the Titans, Patriots, Chargers, Steelers, Colts, and Jaguars as our AFC seeds, in that order; The NFC would be considerably more surprising: The Cardinals, Eagles, Packers, Panthers, Giants, and Seahawks.

-After 8 weeks, the leading candidates for the awards are: MVP: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Vince Young, Tony Romo. Offensive POY: Brady, Roethlisberger, Fred Taylor, Willie Parker, and Manning. Defensive POY: Roderick Hood (huh?), Cortland Finnegan (double huh?), Sabby Piscitelli (infinite huh?), DJ Williams, and Ronde Barber (needless to say its not a great year for the DPOY award. Offensive Rookie: Joe Flacco, Felix Jones, Malcolm Kelly, Marcus Smith, Matt Forte. Defensive Rookie: Joe Dizon, Leodis McKelvin, Keith Rivers, Curtis Lofton, Mike Jenkins. Coach of the Year: Jeff Fisher, N. Coach (evidently Bill Belicheck was paranoid about being in this game or something so they called him N. Coach instead. What a freakin’ weirdo), Andy Reid, Mike McCarthy, and John Fox.
-Bryant McFadden was the Week 9 defensive player of the week thanks to 2 picks.
-The Patriots lost a regular season game! A week 8 defeat at the hands of… the St. Louis Rams!

-Through 12 weeks, here are some tidbits: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are locked atop the passer rating boards and no one’s that close to them; Brady has 29 TD’s in 11 games; The worst starting QB in football is Damon Huard, the second worst? Donovan McNabb (69.8 rating, 8 TD’s, 15 Int.) if only they had press scrutiny and booing fans calling radio stations in Madden. Now THAT’S a game I want to play; Brian Westbrook leads the league with 1102 yards, Marion Barber is second with 1,044, and third is… Kolby Smith! After LJ went down with an injury that knocked him out for most of the season, Smith has stepped in with 988 yards on 240 carries and 3 TD’s through 11 games; Roderick Hood has 8 interceptions; David Akers had attempted 37 field goals so far; Shane Lechler, Matt Turk, and Brian Moorman are all over 70 punts already this year; The AFC’s playoff picture looks like this: Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chargers, Colts, and Jaguars in, with the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Chiefs just a game out. The NFC is the Saints, Eagles, Bears, Seahawks, Panthers, Rams with the Cowboys, Vikings, and Packers on the cusp; The Falcons and Jets are fighting for the top overall pick

-Heading into Week 17, here’s what’s at stake: The Patriots (12-3) are locked in at 1, the Colts, Steelers, and Chargers all have their divisions clinched at 10-5, so they are competing for the second bye. Not sure about the tiebreakers. The wildcard is still wide open. The Titans (8-7) and Texans (8-7) have it right now, but the Ravens (8-7) and Browns (8-7) also have the same record; The NFC is much more muddied. The Saints (11-4) and Panthers (11-4) have the top two records, but one will be the fifth seed, right now it is Carolina. They both have playoff spots clinched, though. The Cowboys (9-5-1) and Rams (9-6) both lead their divisions but can be caught, and the Bears (9-6) have the only division title in the NFC right now. The Eagles (9-6) would be the sixth team right now, and can catch Dallas, and the Seahawks (8-7) could catch several teams. The Falcons are 2-13, the Jets 3-12 in the fight for the top pick. Some of the surprisingly terrible teams were the Broncos (5-10), the Giants (6-9), the Redskins (6-9), the Buccaneers (6-9), the Vikings (7-8), and the Jaguars (7-8). Perhaps the team that overachieved the most was the Dolphins who are somehow 6-9 despite a heavy dose of Josh McCown this year; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will likely be the only two quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 yards this year, though neither has it yet; Brian Westbrook is trying to hold off Marion Barber for the rushing title. Westbrook has 1,550 yards this year; Willie Parker leads the AFC with 1,288 yards; the most surprising entrant to the 1,000 yard club (besides Kolby Smith) could be Travis Henry who has 1,234 yards for the Lions; Reggie Wayne has the receptions title all but locked up with 101 grabs for 1,336 yards; I’m not sure if this is a lot, but Leonard Davis leads the NFL in pancake blocks (or maybe eats pancakes eaten, not too sure) with 121. It sounds like a lot; Somehow Zach Thomas has overcome severe brain damage to lead the league with 112 tackles; 6 guys lead the league with 11 sacks; Roderick Hood has 9 picks, DeAngelo Hall and Ronde Barber both have 8; the amount of field goals in this game is obscene. 5 kickers have attempted 40+ field goals, another 18 have attempted at least 30; And Matt Turk and Shane Lechler are each at 90 punts.

-After Week 17, here are the playoff teams: AFC: 1) New England (13-3), 2)Indianapolis (11-5), 3) San Diego (11-5), 4) Pittsburgh (10-6), 5) Cleveland (9-7), 6) Baltimore (9-7). Tennessee and Houston both crapped the bed in Week 17 with L’s. NFC: 1) New Orleans (12-4), 2) Chicago (10-6), 3)Philadelphia (10-6), 4) St. Louis (9-7), 5)Carolina (11-5), 6) Dallas (9-6-1). Also, the Falcons get the number one pick with a 3-13 record.

-The Playoff Results:
First Round
San Diego 44 Baltimore 24
Philadelphia 38 Dallas 23
Pittsburgh 27 Cleveland 7 (The Browns are still our bitch!)
St. Louis 16 Carolina 13
That’s right, the home teams won every time. Could this be a trend? Hmm…

Second Round:
New England 21 Pittsburgh 9 (Damn Patriots, we can’t beat these guys anymore)
New Orleans 23 St. Louis 13
Indianapolis 28 San Diego 13
Philadelphia 20 Chicago 12
Uh-oh, another Colts-Patsies AFC Championship game. Talk about predictable.

Conference Championship Round
New England 24 Indianapolis 7 (Peyton chokes with 2 picks, and Moss catches 2 Brady TD passes)
New Orleans 44 Philadelphia 34 (McNabb gets hurt, Philly turns it over 4 times despite outgaining NO)

New England 29 New Orleans 10 (CRAP! Brady wins MVP for 24/34 257 Yards 2 TD)

-Postseason Awards: MVP: Tom Brady, OPOY: Brady, DPOY: Ronde Barber, OROY: Joe Flacco, DROY: Curtis Lofton, Coach of the Year: John Fox.

-Roethlisberger, Parker, Ward, Simmons, Farrior, and Reed all make the Pro Bowl for the Steelers.

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