Monday, May 30, 2011

Re-Review: Desperate Housewives 1-01: The Pilot

If there was ever a show that had a perfect start, it was Desperate Housewives. Not only was the first season amazing, but the first scene was as well, as we see Mary Alice Young playing the perfect housewife all the way until she pulls out a revolver and caps herself. Mrs. Huber, the woman who hears the blast is first to the scene, which is in a way ironic, as she is the person halfway responsible, and the next person to die. But of course, instead of Huber breaking down in tears, after calling the police, she rips the nametag of "Property of Mary Alice Young" off of the blender she borrowed but intentionally forgot to give back. Thus ended the first scene, something so perfect that it really encapsulated the show. Tragic incidents are met not with grief and with remorse, but with devious morality. Mary Alice Young died to give Desperate Housewives life. Of course, the show would come to bastardize itself in due time, but for one season, all revolving around this woman's suicide and the intricate web that surrounded it, it was great television.

Basing the pilot around the funeral of Mary Alice Young was a great way to introduce all of the main leads one by one. Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) was up first, and in a brief cutaway sequence we meet a woman who was a career-first woman turned into scheming housewife, who shows that she still has her fastball by bribing her kids with a call to Santa (through her connection of "someone who knows someone who knows in elf") so they would behave, which of course, they won't. Next was Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), who was introduced as having a taste for "Rich food and Rich Men", and her husband Carlos was introduced, and other than Rex Van de Kamp, he was the most involved husband in Season 1. Their squabble over Gaby being told to put into conversation the amount Carlos paid for her nacklace perfectly introduced a couple where materialism is on par with love. Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross) was next, with her great basket routine, where she would give a person a basket of muffins, and say at the end that "of course, I will need those baskets back". I also loved the amazing expressions of Rex Van De Kamp behind Bree, gaping at the audacity of his husband to ask for the baskets back. Susan Meyer (Teri Hatcher) was last, and her cutaway quickly went through her marraige to Karl, which ends with him leaving her for his secretary. Julie is also introduced, and she was probably the most used kid in the series. Five minutes, four main characters introduced and characterized perfectly. That's how each show should start their run. We knew the characters, their lives and their personalities before the first ad break.

We return to the show with the first of many talks between the girls around the coffee table, this time with a flashback to when Mary Alice was alive and Susan had just found out Karl was cheating on her. Again, the characters were placed perfectly, Lynette with her head in her hands tired and filled with angst, while Bree was looking like she just returned from a relaxing day at the spa, despite both being tortured souls. When we return to the present, Gaby doesn't buy that Mary Alice had some serious demons, due to her nice family and home, and finishes by saying "No, if she had some problem, we would have known. She lives 50 feet away for God Sakes!" This moment also shows evidence of the only thing that is better today than in Season 1. Back then, Gaby was a really straight character, a person who was materialistic, selfish and naive, and Eva's acting helped pin that characterization down, as she wasn't nearly the comedic actress she is now. The acting feels a bit stiff, but that suited the cold woman Gaby was early on. Anyway, this then cuts to Paul Young, who up till now played the grieving husband, but here he has a pensieve look and slowly sips away at some scotch, a first sign of how deep and dark this suicide will become.

We then meet Mike Delfino, the man who would become the love interest as well as play a central figure in the mystery of the season, which is a tough task for one man to play, but James Denton played well. He basically completes the main cast (with few people yet to be met or focused, such as the Van De Kamp kids and Tom Scavo).

The first sign that this show would not be the ordinary women's drama is the following scene, where Julie pointedly asks Susan "Come on, how long is it since you've had sex?" after Susan scolds her for using tricks to finding information about Mike Delfino. Most shows would have had Susan get mad at her then 14-year old daughter bring up the sex question, but Susan responds "I'm just trying to remember." This show took different angles at sex issues, basically forgoing using that topic as a source of comedy but just as a source of story..... well, except for Edie, who would be introduced at the next scene at Mike's house. Another great example here of how the show used sex just as casually as How I Met Your Mother uses flashbacks, with the narration that Edie Britt 'was the enemy, and she was also a slut."

We then get two straight scenes into the eyes of the two marraiges that were doomed to fail: Carlos and Gaby and Rex and Bree. Carlos and Gaby first, with a beautiful couplet that again explains that while not seeming it from the outside, Carlos is as self centered and blinded by zeroes as his ex-model wife. Gaby claims that Tanka, Carlos' business partner, tries to cop a feel each time he meets Gaby, to which Carlos replies "I made over 200,000 doing business with that man last year. If he wants to grab your ass, you let him." It is amazing that six seasons later, and one divorce and remarraige later, this couple is now by far the strongest on the show, but back then, they were the classic cliche of beautiful woman and rich man multiplied by the fact that they were both increasingly shallow, and then raised a couple powers. After Gaby agrees, only after stating that "she will keep her back against the wall" Carlos leaves satisfied that he has a strong marraige full of compromise. Of course, the next scene is Gaby seducing and then having sex with John Rowland her teenage gardener (one bone to pick, it was almost impossible to imagine the John Rowland character as being 16, or the same age as Bree's daughter).

The next part was the Van De Kamp dinner, where Bree's kids don't appreciate her tireless effort to make them gourmet food for dinner. After a brief back-and-forth with her kids, who would rather have "food not cuisine", Bree calls upon her husband for support, and he gives it in the form of "Pass the salt" when asked to say something. We then go back to Gaby lying post-coitus with John in Bed, claiming that she still loves Carlos, and that basically John is something to keep her sane. Again, we see here the selfishness of Gabrielle.

We return to Rex and Bree going to a Western themed family restaurant for dinner, where Rex admits that he wants a divorce, that "he can't live in this detergent commercial anymore." In great Bree style she swallows her emotions perfectly, and without answering Rex, goes to make his salad, and subconciously puts onions in it, to which Rex has a major allergic reaction. Before the Bree story finishes, we get a scene where Zach Young (Mary Alice and Paul's son) awakens to the sound of Paul digging a hole into his empty pool, in search of "a family secret." Desperate Housewives did a great job in Season 1 of revealing parts of the mystery in slow exacting detail. All we gather in the pilot is that Paul is a shady character, and they were hiding something that Paul is now digging up. The whole mystery goes about ten layers deeper than that, but it is already a great hook.

In my favorite scene of the pilot, Rex and Bree are now in the hospital, where Rex starts of the conversation with "I can't believe you tried to kill me," and Bree almost laughingly replies "Yes, well, I feel sorry about that." Rex then proceeds to lay out all the reasons why he feels that he wants a divorce, basically calling Bree an emotionless, repressed shrew that cares only about the appearance of being perfect. Then of course, in emontionless, repressed, shrew style, Bree leaves without saying a word, before entering the restroom and breaking down, but emerged all smiles again. This scene said so much about the couple. Rex was still attached to what Bree used to be, but Bree felt that her role was now to be the perfect mother, not the perfect partner. This disconnect was later revealed to not be all that was wrong in their marraige, but it was a great start.

We get another scene with the Mike/Susan/Edie triumvarite, where Susan goes over to Mike's to ask him out, but is jarred to see Edie whoring it up there, and in her panic, tells Mike that she has a clog. To make herself, you know, actually have a clog, she stuffs Julie's school project of a popsicle-stick constructed trojan horse down the drain, which Julie defiantly agrees to, which gives us the best glimpse of this actual relationship. Julie is the responsible one, the good one, the real mother, and it is her job to always lend a hand to the mother in her pursuit of love, instead of the normal other way around.

The episode ends with Susan breaking into Edie's house because she thinks she is having Mike over, and knowing Edie's proclivity to bang anything that is attractive and has two legs, she feels scared. She only knows this information because Mrs. Huber told her. Mrs. Huber was also defined well in this pilot as the neighborhood gossip, as she has interactions with every housewife other than Gaby (who would, I don't think, ever share a one-on-one scene with her). Anyway, Susan enters Edie's house to noises of love-making. Then, being the klutzy kid she is, she knocks over some candles and sets fire to the house. It burns down after Susan flees, and then she approaches the group of ladies meeting outside the house after it burns down and plays the worried neighbor role. Thinking it was Mike that she was having sex with, Susan was depressed, until Mike showed up at the fire, and she brightened completely, all together forgetting that she had just burned down a woman's house. Off course, the episode ends with Mike making a shady phone call to an unknown guy, revealing for the first time that he isn't the all-american plumber.

Finally, there is a scene where the ladies drink champagne after sorting through Mary Alice's clothes. After realizing that she was a size 8 after claiming to always have been a size 6, Gaby says "I guess we found the skeleton in her closet." Just then, a letter falls out of the pile of clothes, which Bree reads. It simply states "I Know What You Did. It Makes Me Sick. I'm Going To Tell." The episode ends with Susan saying "Oh Mary Alice, what did you do?" as joyful music comes on and the camera pans away from the street, making parallel the terrors and mysteries of life with the whimsical nature of modern-day suburbia, a line the show would use each week.

The pilot episode was a great one. In a cast this big, it is amazing that each character was developed so much. Other than Tom Scavo (who had one season, and until initial positive testing was supposed to be a really minor character) and the Van De Kamp kids, we spent time with each character and learned quite a bit about them. The pilot also did a lot to set in motion a lot of plots without it seeming crowded. The Rex/Bree path to divorce would join the Mike/Susan/Edie romance and the Mary Alice suicide mystery all season long, and they were all introduced hear. Even the mystery was crafted carefully early, not revealing too much. I don't think anyone originally saw this and thought that Mary Alice's suicide was at all connected to Mike's shady phone call at the end, but they had everything to do with each other. The show was so interconnected in Season 1.

In the rest of the episodes, I'll talk about more of the art and the way of the show than give a rundown of what actually happened like I did with this one, but I felt for the pilot, which was largely an episode where each scene had a specific introductory purpose, it made sense. Plus, in a cast so big, it was good to give a little time to each character. So much on the show has changed since Season 1, and most of it for the worst. However, at that time, the show was a genuinely great hour of entertaining television. It will be a joy to relive it again, and share it with you.


= Bree's character is interesting. I far prefer the post-Rex Bree, where she gave up being an emotionally repressed woman, but her character in Season 1 was more layered and played better. I wouldn't want the old Bree back, but in a way, it was a lot more interesting to see her cope with the problems in her marraige while still portraying a calm serenity.

= It's hard to believe how much Julie grew through the show, or I should probably say Andrea Bowen, the actress that played her. I'm not sure if the Julie character was supposed to end up attractive (by all accounts, the Danielle Van De Kamp character was supposed to be the more attractive daughter of a housewife). If not, then it is another example of the Hermione Theory, where in long-term series involving child actors (or teen actors), a character who is not characterized as being attractive grows into being very attractive. It definitely happened with Emma Watson, and it also happened here with Andrea Bowen, who grew to be really beautiful.

= This show really has a large-picture negative view on marraige. The four main leads on the show have combined to be married 9 times. Five ended in divorce (Mike I, Carlos I, Karl, Victor Lang, Orson Hodge). One is currently separated (as in currently at the end of S7) in Tom. One ended in death (Rex), and the other two at least are there now (Mike II, Carlos II). It is a bit unrealistic, but in S1, all the marraiges were realistic. Bree/Rex was a classic case of growing apart over time. Carlos/Gaby was the aforementioned beauty and rich man. Lynette/Tom was the perfect match. Three different marriages, but all of them worked in their same way.

Next Up: 1-02: Ah, But Underneath.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Come on, Sports Gods, Don't Let the Heat Win!!!

So, I've avoided writing about the Heat all year long, despite my hatred for them and their star, Mr. LeBron James, aka the man who decided that he would be the first superstar to basically say "I give up winning on my own, I need the help of another top-5 player". The reason I have is that I was scared this would happen all along. The whole Heat saga in this first year is interesting. First, right after LeBron James made his announcement that he intended to take his talents to South Beach (that statement becomes more hilariously dickish and self-aggrandizing each day), everyone responded with a sense of "Holy Shit.... the Heat are going to win the next 10 championships, the NBA's ruined". After a couple weeks that turned into a sense of "Everything will be fine, since they can't afford to pay anyone good besides those three". Finally, before the season started, it returned back to a sense of "Oh, Fuck it. Who am I kidding? They'll win the next 10 titles." That's where things got weird.

With the Bulls never leaving 5th gear all season, and the Celtics reinvigorated for the first 6 months, the Heat became basically the 3rd best team in the East. A more funny thing happened after that, they just kept missing game winning shots time after time, especially LeBron, which led to a real fun round of "Why the hell is LeBron - who is a worse one-on-one creator than Wade taking the ball in EVERY last second play?" and the whole poopoo about the Heat crying after losing to I think it was the Bulls. The Heat were in tatters, capped off by a 30 point loss to the Spurs, and even then, when everyone was celebrating that the Heat were flawed and doomed and that Good trumped Evil, I resisted writing about them. Why? Because I was scared this would happen, that they would turn another gear in the playoffs, that they would prove everyone's initial reactions right. And I hope more now than ever, for the NBA's sake, that I am wrong.

It's not about me not wanting LeBron to win a title after he sheepishly decided that he wasn't good enough to go at it alone, or that he was tired of chasing it with mediocre to barely-all star talent around him. It's an impossible task to win that way, just ask Tim Duncan..... who of course won 4 rings with nary a 2nd-team all-NBA around him. Anyway, forget LeBron. This is about the NBA. Everyone rejoiced that the NBA was more relevant than ever this season, and that was largely true, and it was largely true because everyone gathered collectively to hate Miami. Everyone wanted the Heat to lose, to not win 70 games, and when they were vulnerable, and losing games in the regular season, and when it seemed that the Bulls, Celtics and Lakers were all better than the Heat, the NBA was great. Everyone feared the Heat winning the next 8 titles, and we all saw those fears unrealized throughout the regular season. Sadly, there was a postseason.

All of our worst fears might just come true, and probably will come true. The Heat, after all is said and done, are great and just have more talent than anyone else. The Heat have two of the 5 best players in the NBA, and play good defense. The Heat are the best team, and that kills me, and will kill the NBA. The interest came in because we loved to see the Heat lose, but if the Heat win the title this year, when it was year one, and they didn't have the best chemistry, what is to come later. Interest will definitely not be this high next year if the Heat wins the title this year. It will also validate the bastardly way they came together. Let's just remind you. All sources point to Wade, LeBron and Bosh deciding that they should play together sometime around the 2008 Olympics. They then played coy for two years, and finally, when they were all free agents, had teams FLY OUT AND MAKE FUCKING PRESENTATIONS WITH CELEBRITIES TO BALLWASH THEM INTO COMING TO THEIR CITY!!!!!!!!!! That's so fucking ludicrous I can't really describe it. They rigged the NBA, and then sat back and let each team blow them to persuade them to come to their city when they already decided this shit two years earlier. And now this will be seen as the way to go.

This sort of SuperTeam has never been attempted (other than yearly by the Yankees), and in a sport like basketball, where one or two guys can basically win by themselves, it is the most damaging. The NBA brought this upon themselves, and year one, where the Heat looked fallible, and LeBron was missing game winning shots, and Bosh was crying in the locker room, was all fun, but if that year is capped with a Heat title, the NBA is on watch. Parity is more than alive in the MLB, NHL and NFL. The NBA has never been big on parity, but if the Heat succeed in winning a title, this could become the English Premier League.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Breeze

Here's just a quick rundown of the things I'll be doing during the summer here on the blog:

1.) I will still write about sports. I'll probably have something on the NBA and NHL Finals, then transition into maybe something on the Champions League. Like much of the free world, I have no idea what I will do if the NFL is not around come September, but obviously that hampers the amount of what I can write.

2.) I will start doing reviews of my favorite past TV shows. I'll start with reviews of each episode of Season 1 of Desperate Housewives, by far the best season of the show, and arguably one of the more groundbreaking influential seasons on TV in the 2000s, as it was the first show that starred mainly women (in S1, the husbands were far smaller characters than they are now) that drew huge ratings.

3.) After that, I'll move on to either Arrested Development S1 or How I Met Your Mother S1. Depending on how this all works, I might carry this over into the fall, and I definitely will if the lockout is ongoing then.

4.) I will finish my wedding write up (my goal: get it done before their 6 month anniversary) sometime next week.

5.) I am waiting to reveal my #1 Athlete of the 2000s (yes, I know I planned to finish all of them by end of 2010) in July, on a 5th anniversary of a special occassion in the life of that athlete.

I'll check in with something new by the end of today.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Wedding in India

Family, Fun and a City That Does Sleep

(Part 3 of 4)

(Here's Part 1)
(Here's Part 2)

By the time I had to wake up early in the morning and start our day-long jaunt over to Mangalore, I was already feeling a longing for our days in Bangalore as a family, as a counsinhood. I was already nostalgic, feeling regret in my stomach. Or of course, all of those feelings could just be due to the lingering effects of seven straight days of partying, of imbibing, of just living life. That said, by the time we reached Mangalore, we were ready to go through the emotional part of the holiday. It didn't matter that the two days in Mangalore were "dry days" as declared by the government because of impending elections. My sister and I were in no state to complain, as our bodily governments had basically declared "dry days" as well. Mangalore was dry, but by the end, our faces were wet with tears, both sad and happy.

Mangalore was the city that really started everything. It was where both of my parents were born, and all four grandparents. It was where my mother lived for the first 20 years of her life. It was where I spent the Summers or Springs of my 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 11th and 13th years. Outside of my house in Plainsboro, I've probably spent more time in my grandmothers house atop Lighthouse Hill in Mangalore than any other. As someone who's permanent residence has been one home for all but 1.25 years of my life, Mangalore has really been by second hometown, the place where I first walked, and the place where I first ate a mango; both equally important. Mangalore is the Pinto family, it is our home, our origins. And it was a place I hadn't been to in nearly ten years.

Mangalore was a small port-town, home to many things, including the Pinto family tile factories, which my Grandfather, his brothers and parents, owned tile factories and set up camp. When last I visited Mangalore, it was still that, a small port town. I never understood how small it was (as until 2001, the last time I visited I was five and had little recollection of actually going there other than sleeping under mosquito nets) until my Mom told me, my sister and Andy that we had to be on good behavior because the local townies knew we were Harry Pinto's grandchildren. I scoffed at this idea, that us three kids who didn't know a word of Konkani (the local language) nor Kannada (the language of the state of Karnataka) would actually be recognized. However, little did we know that people actually knew that Harry Pinto's grandchildren were in town, and that we were those same people, and that my mother was Harry Pinto's daughter, and a person that every shop owner in the city seemed to know personally. Mangalore was a small town, and it was perfect.

Of course, those warnings from my Mom did little use, as we were joined by three of my cousins from my dad's side of the Family, and with them we basically had a spectacular summer together. The best prank was teh "Dick from Boston" where my two cousins Andy and Robin (my dad's brothers son) went over to a stranger in Mangalore's main Cafe Coffee Day (the Indian Starbucks, until there are actually Indian Starbucks). They pretended to know him as being "Dick from Boston" (where Robin used to live), and basically pretended to be long lost friends, meeting for the first time. The man was stunned, and repeatedly pleaded that he had no idea of Robin, of anyone, of Boston. It was great comedy. Later on in the trip, Robin went up to a metal-head on a date at the bowling alley (back in 2001-2003, Bowling Alleys were all the rage in India), and challenged him to a fight and got himself thrown out of the alley. Needless to say, the Pinto grandchildren were known. That summer was the perfect way for my Mangalore memories to end, and I thought it would, as my Grandmother moved the following year to live with my Uncle in Bangalore up until her death in 2007. Her house in Mangalore laid empty, standing tall on top of Lighthouse Hill. That is, until we all took a trip back, a trip that ended up ruining the memories that "Dick from Boston" was so instrumental in creating.

That house was so amazing. It was the home that my mom and her brothers and sisters grew up in, sure, but it was also the greatest gift to a curious child. There were tunnels and balconies, and spiral staircases, and bath houses, and coops. It was more like a castle to me when I was a child, a never ending series of rooms and alleys. There was everything except for the moat and the dragon. In 2001, I finally was consciously able to use all the house had to offer, with the upstairs reading room and the bath house. God, that bath house, where water was fire-heated in two giant couldrons used to hold bucket-fulls of water. Thankfully the room was really dark, as who knows what horrible creatures crawled the walls of that place (a dark, wet room? That is a recipe for a bug breeding ground), but even if there were cockroaches lining the walls, I would still probably use it. That said, I really had come along way too late, as I missed out on the balconies, the stables, the farms, the cots. I missed out on what that house used to be - a miniature world with chickens and cows and of course, people. In 2001 it was just a house, but an amazing house at that. A place where I played cricket with Andy in the verandah, and played cards in the study, and listened to Mummy (what we called our grandmother) tell stories on her bed. By 2011, I wish the house was just that.

I finally realized why my mom and her siblings were all so hesitant to go to the house (although other than my mom, they had all been there since my grandmother moved out). Having heard stories from Vikram that part of the wall dividing two bedrooms that at one point in time housed all of the sibling had fallen, and the roof in the room that was first occupied by their eldest brother Al had a whole it, none of them were waiting to see it. On the other hand, from the moment that Vinitha gave her wedding dates, I had decided I was making a trip to the house. Seeing what it had become, I might have stayed back. It was not as bad the picture Vik painted (although the walls between the two rooms had crumbled), but seeing that house in its dark state was as bad. The house that was once as lively as bright as any, the one that stood firm under the never-ending Summer monsoons was now broken and beaten.

Broken and beaten could have just as easily been used to describe my mom and her siblings at seeing their home in that state. They remembered the home as a miniature world, their world. I just remembered it as a house. However, just like it was when it was occupied, the house still held treasures behind, as it was mostly still full of furniture and curios. Mummies cabinet was still in her room, and after we unlocked it, what we saw left tears in my eye. Left where different things that mummy felt compelled to keep, all gifts from her grandchildren, my cousins. There was a picture of my sister as a kid. There was a stuffed Gund Bear from Marie. I finally got to my one, which was a leaflet about Leopards that I gave to her after Leopard's were spotted in the compound. In all, it was basically a whole time capsule of our family, of the very same people who I recently drank and partied with the week before. But it was a snapshot of a very different time, back when our grandmother was alive, back when Mangalore was a second home, and when this house was our house and not an abandoned museum of the Pinto family.

My sister and I were the only cousins who made the trip to Mangalore, as we were the only two in college, without the draw of an actual life and job to return to after the wedding in Bangalore, but with all these mementos from the lives of our cousins left in that house, we felt that we were all there together. All the living siblings were there, and that was truly amazing. They all came and went through Mangalore and the house through the years, but this was the first time that they all were in the house together since the 1980's. For the first time since then, the house in some ways was complete, even with the circle of life extending fully as Anthony's kids saw the house in some ways for the first time, as they were either 1 or not born when Mummy left the house behind for Bangalore. It was a moment to cherish, despite the fact that the walls were crumbling and the place was strewn with dust bunnies. Through it all, it was still are house. We all had different memories of the house, different reasons why it was so special, but in that moment, all those reasons came together to reveal the real one. It was a symbol of our family, of us being Pinto's. The only people who will carry on the Pinto name were the three young kids who had never the house as an occupied home. They finally saw the house, finally saw where it all began.

The rest of the trip to Mangalore was actually quite educational as well, in that it was a good look at the life cycle of a city. Mangalore now is where Bangalore was about 10 years ago. It is less crowded, less busy and more enjoyable from a purely aesthetic view. With the sea close by, it is more humid, but at that time of year, the weather was perfect. The infrastructure of the city itself has improved tremendously, and buildings taller than 100 feet are starting to pop up, which is something that would have been thought unimaginable ten years ago. Sadly, as my Mom often pointed out with depressed amazement, most of those tall buildings stand in the same ground that previously held homes of all the Manglorean families. Most of those homes were just like our family one on Lighthouse Hill, all beautiful, but all empty and finally sold to developers. That is the circle of life in Mangalore, and one day it will most likely happen to our house on Lighthouse Hill, the house my Mom grew up in, the house that in many ways all of us cousins grew up in. One day that house will be gone, but knowing that I was able to see it off, steal some momentos and say a family prayer to bless the house makes me at peace with the fact that that second home will one day be land or some tall building. But that is just the circle of life in Mangalore.

Next: Part 4, with the Wedding. (Yes, it will be more light and fun than this part).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Long Live the Lakers & Spurs

In the span of two weeks, the Spurs and Lakers fell out of the 2011 playoffs, and with aging stars, coaching problems, and the rise of other talented teams and the rise of the super team, the days of the Bryant-led Lakers and Duncan-led Spurs have reached their conclusion. It was these two teams that dominated the conference for 12 years, with the Lakers winning the West 7 times (and 5 finals), and the Spurs winning 4 times (and a title each time). The Lakers and Spurs exemplified basketball at its best. One team had the stars, the highlights, the celebrities. The other team played the best team basketball of the new millenium, with great role players surrounding a star the size of hundreds of suns. The Lakers and Spurs also had the best two coaches, two men who combined to win 15 of the last 20 titles (that statistic is staggering). The post-Jordan era took a couple years, but it became the Shaq/Kobe/Duncan era, and while the first has already seen the luster of his star shy away, the Kobe and Duncan eras are now finished, and what an era it was.

It was interesting the way both teams lost. The Spurs somehow went 61-21 this year despite their best player being Manu Ginobili, and them having no great player and 11 average to good ones. Their era, in all honesty, ended in 2008, but they have been able to hang on with the collective brilliance of Popovich, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. They fought and clawed their way against the Grizzlies, the best 8th seed maybe ever and a team that has a legitimate shot at winning the title, and eventually lost in 6 games, but went down swinging with an amazing comeback in Game 5 in San Antonio, not allowing for their era to end on their own court. The Spurs always fought. They won their games with braun, not flash. They won four finals, one in a sweep, one in 5 games, one in 6 games and one in 7 games. They won in every way, winning defensive grudge matches against the defending champions Pistons to outgunning the 62 win "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns one round earlier and then two years later. They just won, and that's all their leader, Duncan, wanted to do.

Quiet man led a quiet team. The 4 title banners behind him were loud enough.

The Lakers were a team of flash and great ability, but always had odd, sometimes combustible chemistry despite having a coach who was fixated on the zen of things. From the Kobe vs Shaq days, where they feuded on and off despite combining for a three-peat. Then Kobe wanted out time and time again, before the Lakers were gift-wrapped Pau Gasol and made it to three more finals and back-to-back championships. It all ended much like the previous Lakers, getting ousted embarrassingly by a team that played more like a TEAM. For the Kobe/Shaq Lakers it was against the underdog Pistons. This time, it was against the underdog Mavericks, who really never should have been underdogs (more on them later this week). The teams may have changed, and the level of total embarrassment may have been different (this was a sweep), but all the elements were the same, and were so very Laker-ian. There was infighting, which this time came out as Bynum said that the team had trust issues. In the end, they quit on their coach and on their legacy.

The Lakers and Spurs are both great, great franchises, but they represent different things. The Lakers have been about the star, the celebrity, as shown by the line of rich, famous people that showed up to Laker games, to the Lakers love of signing tall, big men. The Lakers always wanted that feeling that they were the biggest team in size and in stardom, and most often, they were right. But this always came at a cost, as the Lakers were never the hardest working team, the team that was best at fighting. Everyone wanted everything on the Lakers, everyone wanted what being a winner in Los Angeles offered, and no one was willing to actually fight for it when it wasn't obviously there to be taken. Other than their dramatic, possibly scandalous and definitely lucky win over the Kings in 2002, they were the favorite in every series in their runs to the NBA Finals. They were never further than two games worse than their playoff opponent in their title runs. In fact, after Shaq left (the guy who was responsible for the Lakers not getting the #1 seed from 2001-2004 but turned it on to monstrous size in the playoffs), the Lakers made the finals three straight times but were the #1 seed each time. In years they weren't the #1 seed, they won just one playoff series (this year, against New Orleans who was basically a one man team). The Lakers never wanted to fight, they wanted to win and win with style. And they did, a lot.

At their peak, they were the most dominant 1-2 bunch of the decade.

Obviously, I feel like the Spurs were a team that fought more, but really, that because they had do. They never got that second great player, the way the Lakers did. If you look at the rosters that the Lakers and Spurs had over the last 12 years, three of the four best players to play on those teams were Lakers, with Kobe, Pau and Shaq joining Tim. (Robinson was basically Andrew Bynum level in 1999 and shell of himself in 2003). The Lakers had the better teams. They were the better destination. They didn't fight because they didn't really have to (I should say, this isn't to say they never did. They have won four dramatic 7 games series since 1999, Portland in '99, the Kings in '02, the T-Wolves in '04 and the Celtics in '10 - and didn't have home court in the middle two). The Spurs fought because they did. They were a machine that had to work to run smoothly, but when it did, there was nothing better.

The lasting memory of the Phil/Kobe era shouldn't be Odom elbowing Nowitzki while the team was down 26 with 9 minutes to go, and Bynum thugging JJ Barea just one minute later, but the fact that they were down 26, well maybe that should be the lasting memory. This was the fourth time that a Kobe led team lost spectacularly in a clinching game. Kobe basically took control of the Lakers starting in 2002-03. First, they lost by 28 at home in Game 6 to San Antonio in 2003, then lost by 31 in game 7 to Phoenix in 2006. Then the two real embarrassments, the 39 point loss in Game 6 to Boston, and finally this 36 point loss in a sweep, the first of Phil Jackson's career, much less Kobe's. When they went down, they went down hard. Luckily for them, they barely went down.

Head to head, the Lakers won four of the six playoff series between the two teams, winning in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008, and the Spurs winning in 1999 and 2003. They never had a memorable series, and the only real lasting memory from these meetings was Derek Fisher's shot with .4 seconds left (a shot that gave the Lakers a 3-2 lead instead of San Antonio going up 3-2). Instead of really knocking heads with each other, they did it against the rest of the West. It is amazing that in an era where the Western Conference seemingly got better year after year, two teams were able to win the conference 11 times in 12 (and Dallas needed a lot to get by San Antonio the one year that broke the trend). There were some legitimately great teams in the West over the years, from the 2002 Kings to the 2004 T-Wolves, and 2005 and 2007 Suns. All of them fell to the Spurs and Lakers, all of them had home court, but still couldn't beat the two titans of the West.

Most of their playoff series were really one sided (only two lasted more than 5 games) but there still was one epic moment.

The Spurs were probably the champion that will be more easily forgotten, but they are the most important. At a time in the NBA where everyone is nervous that superteams will take over the NBA (if it hasn't already happened with Miami), and everyone is as nervous that small-market teams will never be able to really compete and never be able to lock up their stars. San Antonio is the answer to both questions. Parker and Ginobili might be borderline hall-of-famers (I would say Ginobili has a better shot than Tony), but there's never been a team that won as many titles in a short period of time with just one true Hall-of-Famer. They were a small market team, and they had success, and they locked up their best player. Not only any best player, but one of the 10 best players in NBA history. The Spurs showed everyone that the small town formula could work, that being housed in a city where free agents don't inspire to be isn't the death knell to title hopes. It takes luck, like getting an all-time coach and all-time player, but these aren't impossible hurdles. It's probably more likely to do that than to ever get players of the level of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to team up again under the new CBA salary cap. The NBA isn't doomed if teams learn the lesson that San Antonio taught us for 10 years.

Age is the greatest equalizer in sports. Age cripples players long before their desire to win goes away (and for everything I wrote about the Lakers never fighting, Kobe learned sometime around 2005 that the hard work had to be there, that winning was everything and although he wasn't always the hardest fighter, if he thought his team had a chance, he would die to win). It is happening to Roger Federer right now. He's at a point where winning one set off of Rafa Nadal when Nadal isn't playing close to 100%, is seen as a great result. It's happening in a way to Tiger Woods, who is seeing all of these twenty-something rise up at once and collectively make his run at Nicklaus exponentially more difficult. Despite their brilliance, it is happening to Duncan and Bryant. Big men decline quicker and more obviously, but in reality, the performance by Duncan and Bryant in 2011 were really similar. Duncan couldn't stop Zach Randolph. Here is a man who averaged a 35-15-5 against Shaq and Dirk in the 2003 playoffs, and he couldn't stop Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol consistently. Then there is Kobe, who destroyed everyone off of the dribble for years, and he got two layups in the entire Mavs series when being guarded primarily by Jason Kidd. The fact that those two had to play extended playoff seasons year after year after year didn't help either. These two all-time great players will be connected by their immense will to win championships, and by them dominating an era that after Jordan left, needed some domination.

The two best players of their generation loved each other... which didn't make for great drama, but did make for a great story.

The Lakers and Spurs were equals. Their coaches were the two best in the game. Their best player were the two greatest of a generation along with Shaq (at least one of those players was in every Finals since 1999). There was amazing respect between those two franchises, and it would have been perfect if they got to meet this year, but life moves on. Kobe Bryant hails Tim Duncan as "the best power forward ever" and "other than Michael, the best player I've ever played against." Tim calls Kobe "the best player of the decade, easily" (although I, and some others, would dispute that). Kobe hasn't always been a Saint (lest us forget that rape case back in 2003), and Tim hasn't ever been someone willing to let people embrace him the way so many would like to, but they are both classy enough to have been the two people to carry the NBA from the Jordan era to the present. There teams have also been able to carry us through the years where we waited for that next Jordan to come. Now we are still waiting, but take a moment and think, when will the next Spurs and Lakers come? Could it be the Bulls and Heat in the 2010's? Possibly, but I doubt two teams own a conference like this again. Even the Colts and Patriots had the Steelers (and Steelers fans would say that the Colts are the "other" team, winning one less AFC Title while being admittedly more year-to-year great). The Mavs always won 50 games, but only once made the Finals and only twice (not including this year) made the Conference Finals. The Lakers and Spurs were not a true rivalry, since there was no hatred, but still they went together perfectly, and it ended in the perfect way, with them both bowing out quickly, in the fashion that defines them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Post-Draft Power Rankings

This is a weird time to do power rankings, and not just because I should use my time to study for Finals (which I mostly am doing - hence the total of zero posts since the draft). It's weird mainly because there is a lockout, and although I am almost sure that no games will be missed (granted, my prediction track record over the past 12 months is piss-poor), with free agency not yet started, the teams as they are constituted today could change in so many ways. For the sake of the power rankings, I am going to assume the following things.

1.) Nnamdi Asomugha does not resign in Oakland - but I will not project him to join a team. The team he does join will get a one spot bump.

2.) Either Carson Palmer/Donovan McNabb/Kevin Kolb are traded to Arizona, and Carson Palmer is not the Bengals starter come Week 1.

3.) Any restricted free agent that has been tendered stays with the current team.

4.) Peyton Manning resigns in Indianapolis (note: I will shave my head for the next year if he doesn't actually resign in Indianapolis)

Anyway, yes, those are a lot of assumptions, especially #3, which in a new CBA could unload a whole bevy of talented players into free agency, but this is the inherent problem in making a power ranking when the future of the NFL is in the hands of the 8th Circuit of Appeals.

The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Division

The Teams that will be fighting for the 1st overall pick

32.) Carolina Panthers

It's been a long time since the same team had the #1 overall pick two years in a row, and despite Carolina probably being better than 2-14 quality, it might happen to them. The weird thing is they are probably the best worst team in recent memory, with widely defined strengths (rush offense, o-line, pass defense), but glaring weaknesses (pass offense, with a raw, overhyped QB that doesn't seem to be able to immediately produce and average to bad WR talent). This team has problems, and their schedule doesn't help (AFC South, NFC North). Tough, tough times for the Cats.

31.) Denver Broncos

I like John Fox, so most of my unrelenting hatred of this team has pretty much died along with the Josh McDaniels' experience. That said, they aren't a team that is going to contend in 2010, especially in a better division. Getting Elvis Dumervil back is nice, and pairing him with Von Miller should be really good, but that offense. My God, that offense. John Fox isn't an offensive coach, and I don't think anyone in the Elway/Xanders/Fox regime actually thinks Tim Tebow is the future.

30.) Jacksonville Jaguars

One of these years, this thing is going to explode. They've gone by with not a lot of talent for years, and although their drafting has been better under Gene Smith than it was during the Shack Harris era, this team still has problems. Their defense was just not good in 2011, and they really were a 5-11 team masquerading at 9-7 somehow. This thing will fall of the rails, especially since Jack Del Rio is still their coach, and that has an expiration date that is quickly approaching.

29.) San Francisco 49ers

Yup, I don't think just because John Harbaugh has been really successful that his brother will be. That team has QB problems, between Alex Smith who really proved that he'll be nothing more than a poor man's Jeff Garcia, and Colin Keapernick, who is not pro-ready at all. Their defense took a large step backwards in 2010, and their o-line also regressed. They have talent deficiencies, and will probably lose a lot more games than they should. That division will help though.

28.) Miami Dolphins

Now I realize why Bill Parcells left Miami so quickly. He doesn't want the blame that will come when this team goes to Holy Hell. I also realize I was an idiot for buying into Chad Henne, who will be a lifelong poor man's Kyle Orton. The Ronnie and Ricky RB Show is past its prime, and their o-line has major problems apart from Jake Long. Brandon Marshall was not a success. This team quietly had a really bad second half of 2010, and I don't think their draft helped much. Tony Sparano should be keeping watch, because I don't think he count on the 2008 Wildcat Fluke team giving him the clout to stay around.

The Team Mired on a Path to Nowhere Division

The teams that aren't bad, but are nowhere near good.

27.) Buffalo Bills

I like Chan Gailey, but he inherited a mess. He's done good work to make it better (in many ways, they were a better team than Miami in 2010. The problem I have is the team is still not addressing the QB position. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a long term answer. Maybe they'll be in the Kolb/McNabb/Palmer sweepstakes. Their running game should be better, but I don't have too much faith. Their defense is good enough to keep the Bills in about half of their games, and they'll do what they always do: go 5-11 or 6-10.

26.) Seattle Seahawks

It's hard to say that the Seahawks will return to reality in 2011, because in reality, the 2010 Seahawks were a 5-11 team that won two extra games and somehow won their division. They have some uncertainty at the QB position, and although Pete Carroll might think that they have the replacement for Hasselbeck there in Whitehurst, the fact that they still are looking for a new QB gives me pause. The Seahaws have a lot of young players, but none of them have seemed to reach their potential, from Kelly Jennings, to Russell Okung to Aaron Curry.

25.) Washington Redskins

Oh, Michael Shanahan. You better hope that this Washington thing turns around, or you might be the next Tom Flores or George Seifert (a two time Super Bowl winner whose horrible run in another city ruined that sheen). They are actually considering going with John Beck as a QB, and that should be sign one that things are going to be horrible. Rex Grossman is their other option, who might be more intriguing due to some odd parallels to Grossman and Jake Plummer who had a really nice run from 2003-2005 with Shanahan, before Shanny inexplicably pulled him for Cutler when the Broncos were 7-4 in 2006. From 2003 until then, the Broncos were 40-19. Since, they are 29-40.

24.) Tennessee Titans

Vince Young might be gone, but that doesn't make them any better. I have no idea who they are planning to play. The current QBs are Rusty Smith, Brett Ratliff and Jake Locker. Good luck winning games with that. Their running game is good, and with Britt and Nate Washington, they have skill position players, so they might be able to drag up the level of the QB. Their defense is still what it always was, a group of talented D-Lineman who makes the rest of the defense play better. Mike Munchak will have a tough task ahead of him, and people may finally realize that Jeff Fisher might have actually been an over-acheiver.

23.) Cincinnati Bengals

I am assuming Carson Palmer is gone, and whether to QB is Andy Dalton (who I like) or Jordan Palmer, or anyone else, they have enough talent to be a frisky bad team. Their defense wasn't as bad as it may have seemed in 2010, and their offense has some potential. Jordan Shipley quietly had a really nice season, and Jermaine Gresham came on late. Jerome Simpson did as well, and AJ Green is a great prospect. Out of all of the teams in this division of teams, they have the most potential, especially if Dalton is the real deal. That said, they are the Bengals.

The Last Year Was a Fluke Division

The Team that won 10 games, and will fall back to reality

22.) Kansas City Chiefs

Yup, this is the only team that qualifies (as Seattle was not playoff-worthy anyway). They rode an insanely east schedule to 10 wins, and proceeded to shit the bed in a playoff performance everyone saw coming. Other than their Week 1 win against San Diego, they didn't beat a single team above .500 other than Jacksonville (one of the few teams more fraudulent than the Chiefs). Matt Cassel was great against Denver and Miami. Their running game might be nice, but the rest of the team inspires no confidence, and Charlie Weis leaving for Florida probably won't help Matt Cassel any.

The Intriguing Wild Card Fodder Division

The teams that if everything break right, might sneak into a wild card spot.

21.) Arizona Cardinals

Again, I am assuming they get either Palmer, Kolb or McNabb, who are all about equal in my book (Palmer being the best, but probably the least likely to actually end up there). This team has everything but a QB. Their defense has a nice array of young players, and older studs like Dockett and Wilson. Their young guys should take a step up in 2011, especially if they have an offense that doesn't put the defense in compromising situations. Their offense's biggest hole is the o-line, but with Max Hall and John Skelton, the pocket presence deficiencies were probably as big of a problem. I like Zona in that division, and they have the pieces. They just need that QB, and they'll get him, since Arizona is an attractive place to go.

20.) Cleveland Browns

Call me a believer in this teams ability to approach .500. I like Colt McCoy. More than that, I like his ability to play in Pat Shurmur's West Coast offense. That team has a lot of players on defense that play well enough to limit opposition. They have a good young secondary. They need more weapons on offense, but Peyton Hillis was no fluke and Mohammad Massaquoi continues to improve. With Carson Palmer gone, I think they will leapfrog the Bengals in that division. If they were in the NFC West, they could challenge for the division.

19.) Minnesota Vikings

I doubt they let Christian Ponder start right away, but I doubt it matters much. This is basically what the Vikings were from 2005-2008, before Favre came in and for one year worked wonders. They are a good team in a lot of areas. Adrian Peterson rebounded to have a great year in 2010, and their defense is still in the better half of the NFL. They should get more out of second year corener Chris Cook, and they need guys like Brian Robison to step up in place of an almost certainly gone Ray Edwards.

The Last Year Wasn't a Fluke Division

The teams that all year people thought were flukes, but really have a solid foundation and will be great come 2013.

18.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Everyone thought the Bucs were a hollow 2-0 team after that start last year, and big blowout losses to the Saints and Steelers early reaffirmed that fact...... until the somehow won 10 games despite never having a winning streak of more than two games all year long (which I don't need Elias Sports Bureau to tell me is something that probably hasn't happened in my lifetime). If not for a hard overtime loss to the Lions in Week 15, they go 11-5, the Packers don't make the playoffs, and Ben Roethlisberger has another Super Bowl ring. And they did all that without either of their first two picks (tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) doing much do to injury. Without any pass rush, they held opponents to under 20 a game. They probably are a year away, but this team is for real. Josh Freeman is for real, and very soon the Bucs will be a power.

17.) St. Louis Rams

Improving to 7-9 isn't a great thing, unless the season before you were 1-15 and were starting a rookie QB. The Rams have all the pieces that are hard to get: franchise QB in Bradford, solid LT in Saffold, mauling defensive front in the resurgent Chris Long among others. They have good corner play. They have a coach who can scheme and coach up that defense like no other. They just need more weapons for Bradford to play with. Well, they attempted to do that, by picking a tight end in round two and two nice slot-type receivers in rounds 3-4, and with the return of Donnie Avery, the Rams might actually have a nice little nucleus of weapons. They, like the Bucs, are set up beautifully.

The Teams That Could Put it Together or Could Bomb Division

The teams that have the talent to have strong seasons and play into mid-January, but also have enough combustible parts to falter into 6-10 territory.

16.) Dallas Cowboys

Ah yes, those Cowboys. Yes, Tony Romo is coming back, but surprisingly, I don't think that makes them that much better. Jon Kitna played rather well in relief of Romo, and the offense wasn't the problem. That defense was utter shit in 2010. They couldn't cover anyone. There is noise they might go after Asomugha, which would help, but it is still a mess. They don't have anyone at safety worth a damn. Mike Jenkins was awful in 2010. Some say it was a fluke, but he was bad in 2008, so maybe him being good in 2009 was the fluke. That said, the offense is still explosive, and they were an 8-8 team that played 5-11 in 2010. They could further implode if Romo is what he normally is and they don't sign Asomugha, but they have a shot to get back in the playoff picture.

15.) Houston Texans

I'm happy they gave Kubiak another year, because the offense was actually better in 2010 than it was in 2009. The defense was atrocious, but that is not really Kubiak's fault. I like the Wade move, because Wade Phillips can coach defense as good as anyone else, but they just aren't built for a 3-4. Mario Williams is a beast as a 4-3 DE, and I'm not sure how he'll be used and how effective he will be. DeMeco Ryans will also have to learn a new position. They still need corner help (Asomugha? Haven't heard his name in connection there but it makes sense). Their defense is a huge question mark. If Wade works, they could threaten for a Wild Card spot. If it doesn't, they might be in trouble, and I don't think Kubiak has one more reappearance act in him.

14.) Oakland Raiders

Yes, I am a believer, but I'm not that crazy enough that I can still say that this team could really dissappoint, or it could go for a Wild Card. They are clearly in my mind the second best team in the AFC West. Jason Campbell really played well at the end of 2010, and Darren McFadden played well throughout 2010. Their draftee running back Taiwan Harris is supposedly as fast as his name is cool. Their receivers were starting to gel. However, the brightest spot is that defense. Sure, Aso might leave, but accross the board, the Raiders got great production from their safeties, and #2 corner Stanford Routt had a great year. Their d-line is among the league's best at rushing the passer, as Tommy Kelly, Trevor Scott, Matt Shuaghnessy, Richard Seymour combine to force a beautiful pass-rush by committee unit that led the team to 47 sacks. The Raiders are really talented. They also have a tough schedule outside the division, but they can do it.

13.) Chicago Bears

I think they could play about where they played last year and go about 9-7. Of course, if the o-line imrpoves as it should, Cutler will get more time and they could get better on offense. Their defense is still very good, but it will be interesting to see if Peppers is as motivated year 2 of his contract, and if Briggs and Urlacher can play as well as they both did in 2010. The big question is can they stay as amazingly healthy again. The Bears were probably the team with the fewest injuries, and that is something that usually doesn't stay constant year to year. Injuries could derail a team that is in a really tough division.

The Young Talented Teams Division

The two teams that have loads of young talent, and are about one year away from putting it all together. They just lack a couple things to make the top 10.

12.) Atlanta Falcons

Nice team, and this trade for Julio Jones will either make them or break them. Sure, they gave up a lot, and sure, if they probably could have traded for Andrew Johnson for all that they gave up, but that is a move that could potentially make this team a true superpower for the next six years. What makes me nervous is that they are a team that does everything average to well, but nothing bad and nothing great. Matt Ryan is a nice player, but he can't take over games the way Rodgers did. Their defense is good, but it will never shut anyone down. They still are a good team, but I think they need more impact players, and Julio Jones could be just that. They need one for that defense though.

11.) Detroit Lions

The only thing they really need is for Matthew Stafford to stay healthy. Everything else is there. Their defense got immensely better in year two under Jim Schwartz, who not only coached up Ndamukong Suh, but got something out of former 1st round pick Lawrence Jackson and journeyman Cliff Avril. They have a beast d-line that will only get better with Nick Fairley. Their offense is loaded with skill players, and if rookie Titus Young comes in and contributes, they actually have a really nice group of weapons, which gets better if Mikel LeShoure is as good as he can be. Matthew Stafford just HAS to stay healthy.

The Just-One-Level Behind Division

The two teams that look great on paper, and have track records of success, but I just possibly cannot see holding that Silver Lombardi trophy come February.

10.) New York Jets

Their defense was incredible in the playoffs, but regressed in the regular season in 2010 from its amazing level of play in 2009. Their pass defense is what fell, as their pass rush deteriorated even more. That area needs to improve in 2011. Their offense is fine, but they have days where they can't do anything. Mark Sanchez should get better, but even then, they are a level behind the other major AFC teams.

9.) Philadelphia Eagles

I just can't see a team led by Mike Vick actually winning a Super Bowl. They have an explosive offense, which rivals anything the McNabb era did. Vick possibly can't throw as few interceptions as he did in 2010, but even then, his ability to read defenses and be accurate has greatly improved in the second life of his career. Their defense is still living on the memory and reputation of Jim Johnson, as it has been just average for two straight seasons. Their defense just isn't championship ready, and they aren't doing too much in the draft to really fix that.

The Super Bowl Contender Division

The teams that have it all together, and if a couple things break their way will be holding that Silver Lombardi come February.

8.) New York Giants

Their running game needs to get back to 2009, 2008 levels if they want to make a real run. Just by their injuries returning back to league average and Manning not having so many tipped interceptions, they should be a playoff team. They honestly were better than the Eagles in 2010, but just lost a fluke game against them. Their o-line has regressed a bit, but that is more with age. Their young guys have played well. Their defense needs better play out of their linebackers, and secondary, but that should be fixed with fewer injuries.

7.) New England Patriots

Yup, I'm still the same Patriots hater. Most Patriots fans use the logic that they went 14-2 with a young team last year, and they should stand to just get better, but that has a serious problem. They overacheived a shit load in 2010. Their offense cannot possibly play that well again. Tom Brady cannot possibly go 300+ passes in a row without a pick. The team cannot possibly have just 10 turnovers next year. And if their offense does fall off as it almost has to, there will be problems, as that defense showed it really didn't make any real improvement. Other than the Jets game, the Patriots supposed defensive improvement was built on playing bad teams (Miami and Buffalo to finish the season). They still gave up 26 to Pittsburgh, 28 to the Colts, 24 to the Lions and 27 to a Rodgers-less Packers team in their long winning streak. They are still a good team, but there is no way they go 14-2 again.

6.) Pittsburgh Steelers

Runner ups recently have done better than defending champions. In that a runner up has actually won a playoff game in the last 5 years (while the last Super Bowl Champion to win a playoff game the next year was the 2005 Pats, who won their Wild Card game). That defense is still great, but they didn't really get any help for their corners. Their ability to play still great defense despite not having great corners was amazing, but it can't last. Troy also looked really old and a step slower late in 2010. Their offense should get better, but I still worry about that o-line, as their best player in an unrestricted free agent.

5.) Indianapolis Colts

Here's my thinking. They had a great offense in 2010 with Manning having an off year (although apart from that horrendous three game stretch he had a good year), and them missing Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez for long stretches of time, and with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown rotating in and out of the ER. Their defense struggled a lot, but they had as much injuries, as by the playoffs the #1, #2 corners were both out and they were down to their fifth string SS. They cannot be that injured again, and with the o-line draft picks, the o-line should be better. Their offense should be great. Their defense should be a bit better. I think the Colts defense will be their downfall, but it should be a fun ride.

4.) New Orleans Saints

I love this team heading into 2010. Drew Brees threw way too many picks, which probably won't happen again, and their receivers and backs were shuffling in and out of the lineup. Unlike the Colts, their offense fell off a bit, but also unlike the Colts, the Saints defense took a huge step up. The Saints defense was legitimately really good in 2010, and didn't get all the lucky turnovers they got in 2009. Their run defense was great. Their pass defense was great. The addition of Cameron Jordan should only help this. The Saints have a team that is perfectly set up to return to the level of the bye-teams in 2011.

The Super Bowl Favorites Division

The two best challengers to the Green Bay throne, and the teams that have it all together and can easily go 13-3 or 14-2.

3.) Baltimore Ravens

I shouldn't like them this much. They are aging on defense. Their offense fell a bit in 2010. Joe Flacco has never really done anything to earn the credit he gets. That said, I still love this team. They play so well, never getting blown out, staying in every game. Their defense is still really good, and they get the additional addition of Sergio Kindle, and new first round pick Jimmy Smith, who has immense talent but needs the right direction. Well, Ray Lewis will put him in the right direction. Getting Jared Gaither back healthy also will help a run game that lagged a bit in 2010. I also think that the addition of Torrey Smith, and the return of Donte Stallworth makes their offense better, as does the improvement of their two young tight ends. I just like this team.

2.) San Diego Chargers

On the other hand, I hate this team, mainly because I fear them to all hell. Philip Rivers is amazing, although he's yet to play great in the playoffs except for one half game against the Colts in 2007. Their offense was great in 2010 despite missing Vincent Jackson for little time and Rivers' throwing to guys like Seyi Ajiratutu and Patrick Crayton. Just unbelievable. I don't think Ryan Mathews is any good, but he should be better. The amazing thing is how good that defense was in 2010, and without any real name players except for the resurgent Shaun Phillips. If Bob Sanders gives them anything, then look out. They should have been 12-4 in 2010. Their special teams cannot possibly be as bad again. They are loaded. Again. In previous years they probably shouldn't have earned the title of most talented team in the league. I don't know if they do now, but they certainly earn the title of scariest.

The Defending Champ Who Won't Get Knocked Off Until he Loses Division

The Champs..... 'Nuff Said

1.) Green Bay Packers

They are the champs. They get the crown for now. Aaron Rodgers is sensational. That defense probably won't get that level from Charles Woodson again, and the loss of Cullen Jenkins will be felt, but they are still loaded everywhere except for o-line, and even that is servicable. The Packers are the champs, and until they lose, or until Aaron Rodgers has some massive injury, they will be the top ranked team.

'Till Next Time

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.