Weekend Bonus Music - Something Good Can Work by Two Door Cinema Club

I could have sworn this was already featured on a Music Tuesday, but apparently not, a fact of which I am ashamed.  So here you are.  Just a solid jam.

NFL 2012 Week 17: We're resting our starters here too.

Not our actual starter, because that would mean Royce or Scott would have to step up, and there's no way that's happening.  So I'm resting my metaphorical starter.  I got some good response from my disgruntled style last week, but I know if I try to recreate that, I'm doomed for failure.  Sometimes I wonder what it would have taken for this blog to take off.  I think the two biggest problems are that the other bloggers we talk to don't care about sports, and we don't show pictures of cheerleaders, WAGs, etc.  To get more outsiders to read my thoughts on football, I either need to show more cleavage or become Bill Simmons.  Seriously, one of the heaviest trafficked (trafficed? red squiggly line says trafficked, just doesn't feel right) NFL blog posts was one where I accidentally chose a picture of a nipple slip of an attractive Chargers fan.  Don't worry, I don't really have any hope either.

This week I will be relying heavily on this simple list of bullet points for my narrative, but my picks will be blindly following my tried-and-maybe-[probably?] method I've used all year, except for the weeks I didn't use it.  And you can bet your hindquarters I'll be using Yahoo's Off(0)...just not for the $ picks.

NFL Week 16: I don't wanna

It's the Friday before a four day Christmas weekend.  The Chargers were officially eliminated with their (what's a worse word than lackluster..embarrassing? humiliating? shaming?) humiliating performance against the Panthers last week.  I didn't even bother calculating the Pythagorean winning % (and it only takes me about five minutes to paste everything into my proprietary Excel spreadsheet).  I'm just going to Football Outsiders picks this week.

Music Tuesdays - Nothing Arrived by Villagers

The Villagers are an Irish band apparently, and this reminds me a bit of the Tom Odell song from the previous Music Tuesday.

NFL Week 15: 0.6%

0.6%.  With the Bengals victory over the Eagles, the odds of the Chargers making the playoffs dropped from 1.5% to 0.6%.  I know, I can't help myself.  If the Chargers win out, the Steelers lose this weekend, then beat the Bengals, then lose week 17, and the Bengals lose their last two games, and the Dolphins, Jets, and Browns don't do anything crazy, the Chargers could still get the 6th seed.  Just kill me now.

NFL Week 14: At it again

So last week I had mentally acknowledged that the Chargers weren't going to the playoffs.  I had come to peace with that.  Then at about 3pm on Sunday, I was sitting in BJ's and they showed a graphic of the playoff situation.  At the time the Ravens were leading the Steelers and the Chargers were leading the Bengals.  If both games held serve, the Chargers would be 5-7, tied with the Jets, Bills and Dolphins and only one game behind the now 6-6 Steelers and Bengals.  And by closing out the Bengals and beating the Roethlisberger-less Steelers the following week, the Chargers would have two very important tiebreakers in the fight for the last AFC playoff spot.  DAMMIT CHARGERS!!  In that, that's been their M.O. this season.  Getting your hopes up before dashing them quite expertly.  The Chargers have led at half time in 9 of their 12 games this season.  75%.  In the three games they trailed at the half, they lost.  In the nine games they led at the half, they have gone 4-5.  The Chargers don't just lose...the lose from ahead in excruciating fashion.  Technically, they are still not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs AND they still have a positive point differential, placing them well ahead of the 8-4 Colts and the three 5-7 teams in the AFC East.  Come on already!! Put me out of my misery.  Just do it already.  I was going to include a link to a Wire scene there...but I decided not to spoil anything for Royce.

NFL 2012 Week 13: Just for fun.

This might be the first Chargers game I will watch this season without thinking about the playoff implications.  It's kind of liberating in a way...and very, very depressing.  Well, not exactly.  Depressing was watching Ray Rice convert 4th and 29, just to get a first down.  The Ravens weren't even in field goal range and the were still down by 3.  Depressing was watching all of these things happen.  4th and 29, another first down to get into field goal range, kick good, overtime, lots of punts, big pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith (when is Quentin Jammer moving to safety?), very strategic clock management by one of the Harbaugh brothers (I want a head coach who impresses me with his strategic decisions), field goal good, DEPRESSED...and...scene!  So should I stick with BJ's Hopstorm IPA or go with the sampler? Nachos, two mini pizzas or the Thai shrimp lettuce wraps?  Lots of fantasy to follow.  I need Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Carolina's defense to have big games, while RGIII, Cam Newton and Calvin Johnson follow Drew Brees' lead this week.

NFL 2012 Week 12: Thanksgiving blackout

I like spending time with friends and family.  I love it.  One of the overwhelming conclusions I have found in various happiness research studies is that spending time with friends and family is one the biggest factors in determining personal enjoyment of life.  Don't spend the extra hour at work, go to happy hour with your friends.  So this Thanksgiving I am back in San Diego with my parents and siblings.  There are two grandparents, three parents, two grandkids, five dogs, a cat, and a fetus in one house for the next five days.  It's going to be awesome.

Since we made these plans I have been looking forward to being able to watch the Chargers as the local team.  So of course, the Chargers lose 5 out of their last 6 and generate no local interest and the game is going to be blacked out on Sunday.  There's still another couple days before the announcement, but I already know that it will be blacked out.  Illegal foreign internet feed, here I come!!

Music Tuesdays: Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen - Good Time

I really liked the other Owl City song...the one about fireflies or lightning bugs...what's it called? Oh, Fireflies.  Violet and I also danced to Carly Rae Jepsen's other song, I can't even remember the title.  It's the one the Harvard baseball team covered.

This combination of Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen feels like a total marketing ploy.  I hadn't heard anything by Owl City since their first huge song and Carly Rae Jepsen initially felt like she was totally capable of being a one hit wonder.  So she partners with a known band to make sure she at least gets that second song and Owl City becomes relevant again by partnering with the current hot single before people forget her.  Total marketing ploy...and I love it.

Finally, because I chose this song, you know it's going to be overplayed in about a month.

NFL 2012 Week 11: Regaining hope?

That question mark in the title is definitely necessary.  I don't know when I gave up hope on the Chargers season, but down by three to the Bucs, driving into the red zone to take the lead or settle for a tying field goal, then Rivers throws an interception that gets returned for a touchdown...that's probably where I would start looking.

I was going to analyze team's playoff hopes at the halfway mark...last week.  But the flu got in the way.  So now I get an extra week (plus one actually relevant Thursday night) of games to make my analysis that much more accurate.  After week 4, I eliminated half the league.  Since Indianapolis and Pittsburgh had only played 3 games, I'm going to use that to cop out of eliminating them too quickly.  Right now, the AFC has 6 teams at 6-3 or better and everyone else is at least two games back.  The Texans, Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, Steelers and Colts are all looking pretty good.  My only tiny hope is that there are only six teams in the AFC with a positive point differential, and the Colts aren't one of them.  The Chargers are the sixth team.  The Chargers have a Pythagorean record of a 5.0-4.0 team.  The Colts are 4.1-4.9.  And Miami and Cincinnati are also better than the Colts.  If the Chargers beat the Broncos on Sunday, I'll say the AFC West is still alive, but I really don't expect it.  I think the 4 AFC Division champs have been determined.  The Steelers and Colts lead Miami, Cincinnati and San Diego for the two wild card spots.  Not very bold, but the only change from a month ago was bringing the Colts back into the fold.

In the NFC, I'm dropping Arizona and adding Seattle and Tampa Bay.  Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and NYG are making the playoffs.  Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Minnesota have 5.7,  5.6, 6.2, and 5.4 wins, respectively (Seattle hasn't had their bye yet).

Overall, I'm giving you 6 AFC teams and 10 NFC teams.

Music Tuesdays - There Might Be Coffee by Deadmau5

Hey Scott, are you a fan of Deadmau5? I can't figure out if this is up your alley nor not.

NFL 2012 Week 10: Sick week

I was sick this week, so all you get is my picks, but not in order of game time.  These picks are in order of confidence.

MIAMI (-6) over Tennessee
Indianapolis (-3) over JACKSONVILLE
Atlanta (-2.5) over NEW ORLEANS
MINNESOTA (-2) over Detroit
CHICAGO (-1) over Houston
Denver (-4) over CAROLINA
SAN FRANCISCO (-11.5) over St. Louis
Kansas City (+12.5) over PITTSBURGH
Nyg (-4) over CINCINNATI
BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Oakland
NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Buffalo
PHILADELPHIA (+1.5) over Dallas
SEATTLE (-6) over Nyj
San Diego (+3) over TAMPA BAY

I am least confident about the Chargers, but my lack of confidence as a Chargers fan is independent of my lack of confidence via statistical analysis.

What the F*WK? "The Ultimate...Renewable Energy?"

Renewable Energy is somewhat of a big thing. It's defined as "Energy that can be replenished at the same rate as it is used." What, then, should we call something that a) generates 10x more energy than is required of it, while b) powering itself? That's precisely what this new technology from researchers at the University of Michigan is proposing to do: they're proposing to 'power your heart'*, with your heart!

Image via TGDaily.

(*Yes, I realize pacemakers don't truly power your heart, but it's more fun to relate this to The Circle of Life)

NFL 2012 Week 9: Informative, if not entertaining

I'm going to wait until after this week when everyone has played 8 games before I update my playoff predictions.  Philip Rivers went 18 for 20 with two touchdowns and a stupid interception.  In fact, assuming someone in the stands caught his throw away, not a single pass touched the ground.  The Chargers have 4 wins, half against the Chiefs.  The Chargers have a +28 point differential overall, and a +35 against the Chiefs.  I'm glad the Chargers got to play them twice, but we're going to need to win against 5 or 6 other teams to make the playoffs.  Losing to the Browns really, really hurt.

NFL Week 8: I lost hope

Two, horrible, HORRIBLE weeks in a row and never hearing anything from the people at Grantland has led me to give up hope with talking about fantasy.  And going straight off my statistical analysis means I don't even get to make fun observations about the game.  I want to enjoy this.  But my daughter is just so cute and fun I don't even start until after she goes to bed.  I'm not going to lie...this is getting hard.  I'll definitely play out this season and maybe reducing the high expectations I have of myself will allow me to enjoy it a little more.  And Royce's best comments are about the funny lines I add, not the Pythgorean lines.

Music Tuesdays - Blak and Blu by Gary Clark Jr

Gary Clark Jr has his new album out today, and I have been anticipating it for a while. Excited to start listening to it!

NFL 2012 Week 7: I got nothing

Last week was hard as a Chargers fan.  I made myself cookies after the game to try and cheer myself up a little bit.  The Chargers losing a division game at home after leading 24-0 at halftime actually made me forget just how bad my picks were last week.  I was 3-5 ATS after the morning games, then went 1-5 ATS for the rest of the week.  I even went 4-10 straight up.  How does that happen?  It's really hard to try and be funny when you're depressed.  It looks like I'm picking a lot of underdogs this week, so hopefully that will cheer me up.

NFL 2012: Week 6 - The AFC West will be decided on Monday

That's right, whoever wins the Monday night game between the Chargers and Broncos will win the AFC West.  A Chargers victory will give them an insurmountable two game lead and a Broncos victory in San Diego gives them the tiebreaker with the second matchup in Denver.  I'll think more about the rest of the NFL next week.  I ended up taking lots of favorites this week...and may have screwed myself in the process.

NFL 2012 Week 5: I need to figure out a title.

In the first five weeks of the season, I think I've used 6 different titles.  I'd like to include 'NFL', the year '2012' and the week.  Do you have any suggestions?

After four games (three by Indianapolis and Pittsburgh), we can eliminate half the teams from playoff contention.  You won't argue with 12 of those teams, but I'll explain why I'm eliminating the other four.  I'm relying primarily on the Pythagorean winning percentage, with a quick double check of team's actual record and Football Outsiders' Playoff Odds Report.  I am eliminating, with no further consideration, Oakland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Carolina, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Miami.  I am also eliminating Dallas and Washington because they won't overcome the Giants or Eagles in their division or the NFC North and West teams for the wild card.  I would also like to eliminate the Eagles with their 1.5-2.5 record, but their actual record of 3-1 keeps them in consideration.

The AFC playoff favorites: Houston, New England, Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, Cincinnati.  It's starting to look like both San Diego and Denver will make the playoffs.  And Cincinnati's current 3-1 record gives them the slightest of edges over Pittsburgh, who I am not going to eliminate.  The teams I am eliminating WITH consideration are Buffalo, and the NY Jets.

NFL Week 4: Maybe they aren't who we think they are.

How many weeks into the season does it take before we adjust our preconceptions to match our actual perception?  3? 4? 12?  Even if you give the Packers a 12-7 victory instead of a 14-12 loss, their point differential goes from +3 to +10, which would be 11th in the league and still less than Seattle's +11 (also adjusted down from +18).  This means that if they were to play again this week in Seattle, with the new old refs, I would still say the Seahawks had a better than 50% chance of winning the game outright.  Maybe the Packers aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the 49ers aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the Saints aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the Cardinals, Bears, and Seahawks are better than we thought they were.  Maybe it's just too soon to tell.

EPL or BPL? Striker watch

Changes have been happening in the EPL (BPL).  The transfer deadline finished and Fulham was the fulcrum for two of the most interesting changes from a fantasy perspective: they sent striker Dembele and midfielder Dempsey to Tottenham, and they picked up Berbatov from Man U to play striker for them.  Additionally, the top teams' striker situations are changing: Aguero and Rooney are coming back from injury, changing the outlook for all of the Man City and Man United strikers.

NFL: 2012 Week 3 - Option A or Option 1?

Right now, Kevin Kolb is the most important player in the NFL.  That's right, you heard me.  I went there.  There are two potential narratives that have played out so far and will continue.  If the 2-0 Cardinals are good, led by an underrated defense and 2009 NFC Player of the Week 3, Kevin Kolb, then maybe the Patriots loss wasn't as harmful.  And the Seahawks could be better than we think.  Which makes the Cowboys loss a little more palatable.   So maybe the Giants are a little better than we thought.  Which could mean that the Bucs lost to a good Panthers team, instead of losing to a slightly less bad Panthers team.  And the Saints and Redskins have some hope.  And the Lions barely beat a good Rams team.  And finally, the 49ers could be the best team in the NFL, but having the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams in the same division could cost them a first round bye.

OR... Option 1, the Cardinals have been bad, but lucky, which means the Patriots inability win when favored by 13.5 points indicates some bigger flaws.  Which could mean the AFC is wide open.  After the Texans, you could argue that the Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos and Chargers all have a chance at a first round bye.  That's 13 teams!  In the NFC you ahve the reverse of everything above.  The Seahawks > Cowboys > Giants > Bucs > Panthers > Saints aren't very good.

The second most important player in the NFL is Robert Griffin III as the Redskins < Rams < Lions < 49ers > Packers > Bears > Colts > Vikings > Jaguars.  You see what I did there?  If not, you need to go study semantic logic and the transitive property.

NFL 2012 - Week 2: Small sample sizes

Welcome to week 2 of the 2012 NFL season.  Where every team that won last week is a proven winner and will maintain their success on their way to 2-0.  And every team that lost has some fundamental flaws that will persist as they tumble once again.  Might was well write them out of the playoffs.  I really thrive later in the season with larger sample sizes and usually struggle in the first few weeks as I try to translate last year's team plus offseason changes to this year's team.  One of these years, I'm just going to take every underdog in week 1 on the idea that no one really has any idea how good these teams are and I might as well take the extra points for every game.  Although that strategy would only have gone 9-7 this year, so there may not be much to it.  Are the 49ers the best team in the NFC or are the Packers a little weaker than we thought?  Did Brandon Marshall turn the Bears into an explosive offense or is Jay Cutler still going to throw four interceptions?  Are the Browns a little better than the past or does God hate Cleveland and the Philadelphia Michael Vicks are the same disappointment they were last year? Is the Buccaneers' defense really that good or has Carolina wasted more money on running backs than the money wasted on JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, and Ryan Leaf combined?  Here we go in our quest for 55%...

NFL 2012: Week 1 Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.

Ok, new plan.  I was very concerned coming into the season that I was getting a little stat heavy.  Basically every week I was telling you what the spread should be based on their point differentials and comparing it to the actual spread and looking for value.  That's right, my entertaining, free, widely-read NFL column degenerated to reading numbers off a spreadsheet.  I didn't like it either.  But alas, Grantland has provided new inspiration.  I applied to be one of their fantasy writers so that I could quit what I am paid to do, to focus on what I actually spend my day doing.  I wasn't accepted.  Then I read their collective Week 1 preview and was sorely disappointed.  So my new goal is to quickly give you the numbers (which will be very inaccurate in the first several weeks), then get to my fantasy analysis for each game.  I will then email this post to grantlandfantasyisland@gmail.com.  Every week.  If Bill Simmons doesn't appreciate the Shawshank Redemption parallel, I wasn't meant to write for Grantland.

Lazy preview of the NFL

I'm not even using a picture, that's how lazy this is going to be.  But, it's going to be finished before the first game, so that has to count for something.  There's a 30% chance that I forget one of the teams, because I am not going to consult any other site.  I used up all my linking ability yesterday.

The Patriots and Packers look like the two best teams in the NFL.  The Giants aren't even close.  I doubt they'll make my personal top 10.  And I usually only drop them one or two spots because I don't really like Eli Manning, more on that later.  Green Bay and New England have two of the top three fantasy quarterbacks and if Sean Payton didn't want to take a break to spend more time with his family, the Saints might be in the discussion a little more.  My top two teams have incredible passing attacks, shaky defenses and questionable running games.  Even three years ago, I would have been concerned about their lack of balance, but the NFL passing game has evolved so much in just the last three years that you need a truly great, elite, potentially Hall of Fame quarterback, a good pass defense and not much else to win.  This evolution has happened so fast that no one is really ready to even consider the idea of making an adjustment.  When you only need ten yards for a first down and quarterbacks are averaging 8-9 yards per pass attempt (not completion, attempt), then you almost start to wonder why teams aren't throwing on every play.  Fantasy football hasn't quite caught up either.  A 4000 yard passing season scores the same number of points as a 1600 yard rushing season.  Off the top of my head, I think there were about ten quarterbacks who threw for 4000 yards and only 1 running back to rush for 1600 yards.  Then you throw in the crazy number of touchdowns quarterbacks are throwing against the rushing touchdowns scored and it starts to feel like two different games.  As I mentioned yesterday, everything I'm going to look at will be the passing offense vs. the passing defense.  First, because it really is that important and second, because it is more predictable and less random.  Finally, I will be focusing on efficiency.  Passing yards per attempt are one of the better indicators of a quarterback's throwing ability, as it tends to favor quarterbacks who are capable of completing downfield passes.  One of the most annoying phrases I have heard sports announcers use has been "When ___ gets 25 carries, this team wins more games, so they need to make sure to feed him the rock early and often."  This is completely ass-backwards and doesn't really seem to have any insight into how actual football games are played, which is surprising, because most of these guys have supposedly played or watched a lot of football.  The team did not win because he got 25 carries.  He got 25 carries, because the team was winning.  Passing yards tend to be inflated by the number of attempts and many times the losing team is throwing late to try to score quickly, while the winning team is running the ball to run out the clock.  At least, this is how it was three years ago and earlier.  Now passing games have become so efficient and completion percentages are so high, that teams can effectively run out the clock despite an occasional incomplete pass.

Patriots and Packers...check.  Next...um...running through all the divisions in my head... AFC & NFC West, no.  The two south divisions?  Maybe the Saints and Texans... North divisions, maybe the Steelers, but they look worse than they have in several years, Lions can't be the third best team...East? Giants, Eagles, Cowboys...hhmmmm.... You know what, I'm don't really think there is a third best team.  I'm going to make one big tier of the Saints, Texans, Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Bears, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys...OH! I almost forgot about the Falcons.  The two West divisions will produce a division champ, but not a wild card, and I already gave you the Packers and Patriots, so of the 10 teams I just listed, 6 or 7 will make the playoffs.  The last one or two playoff spots will come from the Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills, Jets, Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Titans, or Jaguars.   And the Browns, Dolphins, Cardinals, Colts, Raiders, and Rams will not make the playoffs.  That leaves the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs fighting for the AFC West and the 49ers and Seahawks fighting for the NFC West.  So my dirty, non-scientific odds for each team making the playoffs are:
Patriots, Packers: >90%
Falcons, Saints, Texans, Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Bears, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys: 60-70%
49ers, Seahawks: 50%
Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos: 33%
Correction:  Chargers, Broncos: 40%, Chiefs: 20%
Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills, Jets, Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Titans, Jaguars: 11-22%
Browns, Dolphins, Cardinals, Colts, Raiders, Rams: <5 p="p">
I think that adds up to 1200% or so.

You know what is convenient?  Those odds tend to match up pretty well with the talent level of the quarterback.  Every team with odds above 40% has a pretty good quarterback and every team with odds below 40% has a question mark at quarterback.  Either bad, or young.

Discussing the NFL

Football writing is at a crossroads.  We have gotten so used to stories written by crotchety old writers who kept getting cigar ash in their keyboards. Joe Montana is the greatest leader ever because he looked up in the stands and said "Is that John Candy?" Their victory had less to do with all the talent own the field and the play calling and was the result of Montana being the quarterback and the leader and calming his team down so they could execute and wouldn't buckle under the pressure.  These stories are still interesting and fun to read, but we have a better understanding that they don't quite explain wins and losses as well as certain statistics, but statistics are very boring.  I've even noticed this as a writer.  Its a lot more fun to make things up and dive into the complexities of line play, than to read to you the results of my statistical analysis.  Any article trying to used statistics has to use half the words recapping Statistics 101 and how the writer is using them.  I agree with you, it's boring and it sucks.  But to have a better understanding of what leads to wins and losses, you need suck it up and take your medicine.  Trust me it gets better...towards the end, we have to get through our statistics lecture first.

Fun.: Some Nights

This song is what I would expect if the guys from Rise Against wrote a song for The Lion King.

EPL or BPL? An American returns to the other fantasy football

You're not gonna believe this, but the English (Barclays?) Premier League season starts tomorrow, Saturday, the 18th of August. And I thought the NBA season was long. This means it is time to get back into the ESPN Premier Fantasy game that we played last year. I feel much more prepared this time. There are a couple important things to note going into the season.

Music Tuesdays - Knife by Harper Blynn

This is the song I was trying to find an embed for last week. I keep getting it in my head, maybe it's the twice-repeated lines all over the song. Very memorable.

Music Tuesdays - Warrior by Mark Foster, A-Trak and Kimbra

This song is interesting in that it was apparently sponsored by Converse as a marketing effort.  It features Kimbra and Mark "Foster the People" Foster as well as DJ A-Trak. I feel like our friend and 'Real Bullets Branding' marketing guru Caitlin McCabe would find this strategy interesting.

Music Tuesdays - Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

I've never actually heard this song on the radio.  I first saw this video by the Harvard baseball team, who were inspired by Mets second baseman, Justin Turner, using it as his at bat music.  They were then one-upped by the SMU Women's Rowing team.  And now it is the next song that Violet and I dance to.  And I imagine most of the people reading this will find the end amusing.

Bonus Music Friday - Love Interruption by Jack White

For fun, this new song by Jack White which has some of the most entertaining lyrics for a love song I've ever heard. Shades of Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130" if you ask me.

Who are the Chargers going to draft in the first round?

I am extremely excited and I expect to name at least a dozen possibilities throughout this email.  Most of the San Diego writers (and I would agree) that because the Chargers signed 15 offensive free agents (re-signing your own free agents such as Jared Gaither, Jacob Hester, and Randy McMichael counts), including 83 wide receivers (possibly an exaggeration), that the Chargers will be focusing on defense throughout the draft.  I completely agree with this focus.  So what have I been seeing ESPN draft guys Mel Kiper and Todd McShay say in their mocks?  Offensive lineman at the 18th pick.  Guys like OT/G David DeCastro from Stanford and Reilly Reif from Iowa.  Basically they keep saying that Jermoy Clary sucks and we need a RT.  First, he's not that bad, but we could use an improvement, second this has been the exact same issue for 4-8 years.  I don't think our success or failure depends on our right tackle.  I'm guessing AJ loves Gaither at LT anc Hardwick at C.  He likes Tyronne Green at LG and Vasquez at RG.  Clary and Dombrowski will be fine at RT, but I could see AJ looking for another young guy to maybe develop into a starter in the future, but not with the first round pick.  While AJ was sad to see Kris Dielman retire, he was ok, because he feels that Tyronne Green is ready to step into that starters role.  But I don't think we need to address this in the first round.  Would I be upset if we took a starting tackle in the first round?  No, because of the reason below.

Two years ago the Chargers T2 for sacks with 47 as a team, one behind Pittsburgh and tied with Green Bay and Oakland (what?  Oakland?  yep.).  So while the Chargers definitely could target a pass rusher with their first pick (what team in the NFL can't use another pass rusher?), firing Gregg Manusky and hiring Jim Pagano as defensive coordinator could be a bigger boost than a lot of people realize.  Pagano was the LB coach for the last few years and the Chargers really like him, but weren't sure he was ready to be the defensive coordinator last year.  Manusky failed to adjust within games and the Chargers had horrible, HORRIBLE results on third down.  The Chargers are confident that a scheme change can get them back to their 2010 ways.  Which means a pass-rusher is not a SPECIFIC need.  It's always a need, but we don't need to find a starter with our first pick.  Shaun Phillips and Jarret Johnson will be our starting OLB.  Johnson may come off the field on passing downs as he is a great run-stopper, but AJ seems to think he can grow as a pass-rusher.  It's also possible that Larry English stays healthy.  He isn't a bad pass rusher, he's just been injured so much.  So guys like Courtney Upshaw from Alabama, Melvin Ingram from South Carolina, Whitney Mercilus and Shea McClellin from Boise St. are all possibilities with the first pick. 

With the loss of Vincent Jackson, it's possible that Robert Meachem isn't quite the replacement.  A few studies have shown that stud WR really come from the first two rounds.  So Michael Floyd from Notre Dame is a possibility at the 18th pick.

As a Chargers fan, I kind of miss Jamal Williams.  Having a super star at NT in a 3-4 defense makes everyone else look better.  The only guy in this draft considered to be close to that would be Dontari Poe of Memphis.  While I really like Antonio Garay (REALLY glad we re-signed him.  To me, almost as important as re-signing Gaither, did not want to lose him) and Cam Thomas has the size/talent and could develop into a better NT, getting the next Jamal Williams or Haloti Ngata would trump any positional need.

DeCastro, Reif, Upshaw, Ingram, Mercilus, McClellin, Floyd, Poe.  Those are all guys I have seen linked to the Chargers picking at 18.  I'm also going to throw in Quentin Coples of North Carolina and Chandler Jones of Syracuse as other pass rushers who could fall to 18.  Other names that kind of come off the big board around where the Chargers could be drafting, based on my experience watching AJ Smith over the years: Stephen Gilmore CB South Carolina, Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama, Stephen Hill (6'4") WR Georgia Tech, Cordy Glenn G Georgia...

With all of these guys as potential targets, I could see the Chargers trading down a few spots, but I don't feel like that's AJ's style and with his job on the line, I think he's more likely to trade up, mortgage the future for an impact player.  Not saying he's going to trade up, but I wouldn't be shocked.

Which brings me to the biggest craziest trade that wouldn't surprise me at all.  The Chargers trade up and draft Mark Barron, S, Alabama.  Other safeties drafted in the first round over the last few years include Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, LaRon Landry, Michael Griffin, Michael Huff...and further back, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.  Safeties who grade into the first round can be pretty special players.  Strong safety is the only position on the Chargers where we have absolutely no idea who the starter will be.  I don't even know if we have a strong safety on the roster.  While I'm not always crazy about trading up, I would not be surprised or upset about trading up for this guy.

Music Tuesdays: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye (GLEE)

I don't know why I like this song.  But I'm pretty sure I like the Glee version better than the Gotye original.  For those who don't follow Glee, the guy in the tight shirt and red pants is a regular student.  The other guy is his older brother who has left the tiny town and is now a big actor in Hollywood.  Throughout the episode Matt Bomer acts out his very shallow role perfectly.  Ego much bigger than talent, disrespecting his younger brother, a poor role model whose minor Hollywood success has every high school student dreamily hanging on his every word. ("First tip of being a successful actor, turn into your headshots, second RAISE YOUR VOICE TO BE HEARD!!... and the most important tip for being a successful dramatic actor is POINTING!")

I like the Glee version better because I think it works better between brothers rather than a boyfriend/girlfriend.  Different dynamic, but better at evoking how hard a falling out can be.  Boyfriends and girlfriends break up all the time and get forgotten.  But to say that a brother is "just somebody that I used to know" is a pretty powerful statement.

Coachella Week on FIWK - Bright Lights by Gary Clark Jr

To commemorate a the two weekends of Coachella beginning today, we're going to throw up a bunch of songs by artists playing Coachella. We also featured most of them on FIWK already at some point. You may remember another song, When My Train Pulls in by Gary Clark Jr, from a few weeks back. Love this guy.

What the F*WK? "Renewable Energy Randomness"

This Foreign Affairs article somehow captured my imagination this morning. Two completely random - and very likely ludicrous - thoughts on renewable came to me on my commute in this morning:
  1. Can someone please create energy producing workout equipment already?! I'm fairly positive this is technically possible, so can someone do it already? Can you think of a better place to be 'green' than a gym? (If it's not already been done, I'm claiming this as my invention now.)
  2. If solar energy dominates the energy landscape in 20 years, will solar energy be stealing all the Sun's energy? I'm less positive on this issue, but I imagine there to be a finite amount of energy produced by the Sun at any given time. If we start stealing a bunch to power cars and buildings and space exploration, do flora and fauna suffer? If so, that sure would suck to have saved our environment from global warming only to destroy it due to global cooling...

Music Tuesdays - Drive By by Train

This is the next song in the series of "songs to which I dance with my daughter before bath and bed time". I also kind of like the confusion coming from the song title being "Drive By".

Your guide to filling out the bracket without knowing the teams.

So I started planning out my go-to bracket picking strategies. Things like, picking your Final Four first, picking at least one and probably two 1 seeds to make it and not picking any team lower than a 4 seed. When I like the teams, I really try to pick a 1,1,2,(3 or 4), with the 1 seeds on the same side of the bracket. As I was mentally planning what to write, it all sounded really familiar. That's because I laid out most of my ground rules last year. So instead of rehashing it all, just go back and read what I wrote last year. Come back next week and I'll give some thoughts for the actual teams. And my analysis this year will be much better because I won't be biased by the presence of UCLA. :(

Music Tuesdays - When My Train Pulls In by Gary Clark Jr

That is a rocking performance (thanks to KCRW for recording it). Actually what would you say: is this more rock, more blues, or just bluesy rock?

Beer Wednesday: An Ode to the Duchesse

I can't believe that in all our beer reviews on FIWK I have never done one dedicated to one my all-time favorites, Duchesse de Bourgogne by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Belgium. The closest I've come is mentioning it in my review of Ichtegem's Grand Cru, which is also of the "Flemish red ale" style. I absolutely love this beer.

FIWK the NBA: It's raining young guards

In reviewing the FIWK draft primer at the halfway point of the season, I always find it helpful to look at who has achieved expectations and who has underperformed so far. Without question, the standout performers have been mostly young guards. In fact, the overall recommendation to ‘draft young’ has been a winner. Among those listed, here are the young players outperforming draft position:

Ty Lawson (especially before injury); DeMarcus Cousins (still insane though); Mike Conley; Greg Monroe; James Harden; Marcus Thornton; DeAndre Jordan; Jeff Teague; Paul George; Kyle Lowry; Marcin Gortat; Roy Hibbert; Jarrett Jack

And in the interest of fairness, here are the duds from my list:

Tyreke Evans (started slow, playing better now); Serge Ibaka (same as Evans); JaVale McGee (not terrible, but not a big jump); Toney Douglas; JJ Barea; Ty Thomas; Landry Fields … and that’s about it. Seriously, most of the young dudes have been balling.

Tech Thursday: Scorpion Armor and Exploding Bullets

The title of this week's Tech Thursday sounds like science fiction - the topics are unrelated, by the way - but actually they are just two really cool examples of applied science which come to us via The Economist. The first story is that by studying the exoskeleton of scorpions, researchers in China have discovered that a slightly irregular surface partially deflects particles blown at high speed. This helps keep scorpions alive in desert sandstorms, and could potentially reduce the wear on plane engines and helicopter blades. Also, the term 'biomimetics' is really cool.

The second article is about an advancement in military technology which utilizes exploding shrapnel rounds fired from a rifle - given the catchy name XM25 - to explode behind enemy cover. It sounds like a miniature grenade launcher, but actually the shells function more like tiny artillery. First the rifleman uses a laser sight to gauge the distance to an object behind the target's cover, then subtracts a small distance to get to the target's actual range. This programs the exploding shell with a digital 'fuse' basically. When the shell is fired just over (or next to) the target's cover, it flies just past and then the shell's internal computer tells it to explode, blasting the target with shrapnel. Apparently it "is lethal within a radius of several meters", which means it isn't exactly a tiny explosion.

The implications of this are pretty interesting - it seems like it would push opposing ground troops away from engaging in rifle exchanges within the 500m effective range of this gun, as there would be no way to hide unless the opposing gunmen had fully enclosed cover. That range "is nearly double the range of the AK-47", a cheap rifle used by many groups around the world, giving a distinct tactical advantage to technologically advanced ground troops carrying the XM25. Pretty interesting shift in ground combat that this could bring about.

Music Tuesdays - What the Water Gave Me by Florence and the Machine

What the F*WK? "Work/Life Balance"

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I find the reality of work often making it difficult to find a work/life balance. More often than not, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my email. The last thing I do before going to sleep? Yup - check my email. And it's not as if I'm always reading things I need to read; it's just habit. I bring this up because I came across this interesting article from Fast Company - it's about manager's setting expectations for off-hours work/communication. Have any of you had a conversation with your manager's about after-hours work expectations?

Image via Fast Company.

Music Tuesdays - Wildfire by SBTRKT

I am going to say that you pronounce this band 'subtract', but I don't know for sure. What do you think?

FIWK the NFL: Super Bowl

You know what? That picture feels about right. It could be two or three decades old and still perfectly illustrates all the amazing ridiculousness that accompanies the championship game of the NFL. No other championship game gets even close. Everything else feels like an extension of the regular season and playoffs. Even the conference championships feel more like normal games than the Super Bowl. I think it's because of the neutral field and I know it's because of the extra week before the game. Two weeks ago I was looking forward to watching football at home. Now, I'm looking forward to a party that happens to have a football game on at the same time. It's fun and exciting and the commercials are great. It will be good times with friends and squares. I know at one point during the game I will think to myself, "I want this team to settle for a field goal and then the next team to score a touchdown. Then in the next quarter I want them to score 0 or 10 points each." This is a different feeling that does not exist for any other game in any other sport. The Super Bowl is much, much bigger than the championship game of the NFL and yes, that is a very important distinction. I mean, look at the size of that football! And there's a guy with a jet pack!

Music Tuesdays - Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson

Every night for the last week or so Violet and I have been listening and dancing to this song. Love the song. Love the video. Love the energy. Love all the fan videos choreographed to the song. And I especially love the girls dancing underwater. Just all kinds of cool going on there.

FIWK the NBA: Fantasy basketball time!

[note: this article was written before Christmas Day but I was unable to post until now... the strategies herein still apply however]

Drafting a fantasy NBA squad is like trying to assemble a team of Action Movie All-Stars out of the cast of Hollywood actors. Some are better suited for the all-offense role, others are legitimately good actors who aren’t great holding a gun.

If you were drafting the Action Movie All-Stars, Jason Statham would be a top pick. Awesome in Crank, Transporter, etc. Probably not going to carry you to an Oscar as a lead man, however. Bruce Willis gets you a little closer; amazing in Die Hard, has a slightly funny side, can be dramatic in Pulp Fiction for instance. Viggo Mortensen is even more of a good actor/great action guy mix. Denzel Washington: the total package. Great in action movies like Man on Fire and Book of Eli, an amazing all-around actor, he can do it all.

FIWK the NFL: Pro Bowl

For the absolute ridiculousness it is trying to predict a winner in the Pro Bowl, I took ridiculous to a scientific level. I added up all the points scored and allowed in each conference. The NFC scored 6022 points and allowed 5889 points for a Pythagorean winning percentage of 51.3%. The AFC scored 5334 and allowed 5467 for a 48.6%. This means that on a neutral field, the NFC should win 52.7% of the time, which corresponds to a 2.5 point spread. Since the spread is 4, I am taking the AFC +4.

Music Tuesdays - Punching In A Dream by the Naked and Famous

This is another song from the Naked and Famous' same album as 'Young Blood' which was on Music Tuesdays about a year ago. I just heard this song in a car commercial, randomly enough.

FIWK the NFL: Playoffs Conference Championships

As friends of mine, I want Scott and Mik to be happy in general. In fact, I'd like to think I want all my friends and family to be happy. So why would I want the 49ers to lose this weekend? A few years ago my wife and I moved from San Diego (where I grew up) to the San Francisco Bay Area (where she grew up). We already had many friends from UCLA who lived in the area so it was a relatively easy transition. They knew I loved the Chargers and Padres and I knew all my friends and family in the area supported the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants. So in 2010, after I recovered from the Padres' epic collapse and the SF Giants were working their way to the World Series, I didn't support the Giants by any means, but I was happy for my friends and family in the area to see their team doing well. It took a few days or so before I learned of the folly of my emotions. Everyone was wearing "SF Giants 2010 World Series Champs" apparel and asking me something along the lines of "Are the Padres ever going to have clothes like this?" Days turned in to weeks and weeks turned in to months and it was relentless. People going to the parade. Jessica asking me if I would fly down to San Diego for a playoff game or parade. Yim coming over in said apparel saying "I wore this just for you." Now with the 49ers playing so well, and my own analysis concluding that I am going to pick them in every game they play, I feel a sense of dread coming upon me. It's not an impending sense of doom, because I am still uplifted by the thought of my friends and family being happy. It's just a sense of dread...maybe frustration... It's people bringing up all kind of SF vs. SD talk. It's friends blasphemously saying that Violet will want to be a 49ers fan. It's me wondering if I will ever get to cheer for a championship team...

Music Tuesdays: Home - Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros Acoustic Cover (Jorge & Alexa Narvaez)

My daughter is 11 months old and I have so much fun every second I am with her. Either she is playing with me, smiling and laughing, or she is exploring by herself, astounding and amazing me. This video makes me want to get good at music, but I know that will never happen. My daughter and I will create our own beautiful moments.

FIWK the NFL: Playoffs Week 2

What? A picture that isn't the Chargers? Is Aaron feeling ok? Yes. But just in case the Saints emerge victorious this weekend, I wanted Scott and Mik to be a little happy. As for last weekend...that Texans-Bengals game pretty much went exactly as I called it. That was the big news right? I mean, you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing JJ Watt, right? In much more boring news, every home team won. Every home team was the higher seed and they won, meaning there were no upsets. In every game, the victor threw fewer interceptions than the loser (or tied at zero, meaning they weren't a factor). Even in the Denver-Pittsburgh game, the Broncos quarterback played significantly better than his Steelers counterpart and won. But in actually making my predictions, especially against the spread, I did not do so well. When the Saints-Lions was at 24-21, choosing the underdog and all those points seemed like a really good idea. Thirty minutes later at 45-28, not so good. As for the Falcons laying an egg? (Does that even count as a pun?) I guess I was smart not to put $ on them. And if the Saints and Lions were to play again this weekend, I'd probably still pick the Lions and the points. And while I picked the Broncos and the points, I was very, very confident the Steelers would win. In fact, I'm participating in a pool where you get to pick a winner for each of the eleven playoff games straight up and assign it a confidence 1-11, where you can only use each confidence number once. I picked the Steelers with confidence of 11. Now, that I've convinced you just how good I am at predicting the outcome of NFL playoff games, on to the picks...

FIWK the NFL: Playoffs Week 1

This picture is honor of Eric Weddle being named to the All-Pro team. Which is about the only good thing going for the Chargers right now. If you want to know if any 49ers made the All-Pro team, you'll have to ask Scott or Mik. I'm already thinking about next year and fantasy football for next year. I won our keeper league, but we'll have to see how I do without Adrian Peterson next year. I guess I'll just have to console myself with Ray Rice in the 3rd round, Matthew Stafford in the 5th round and Vincent Jackson in the 8th round. I think I'll be ok. As for this weekend, the only good thing I can think of for Royce and myself is that we can make completely objective thoughts and analysis. Before I get to the actual games, a little reminder about how I do things around here. First, I take the team's points scored and points allowed to calculate a Pythagorean winning % that is more accurate than a team's actual winning percentage. Then taking the two winning percentages, I determine how often the favorite is likely to win. Yeah, you learned all of this from Bill Barnwell a couple months ago. Then, using data from Spreadapedia, I determine how often a favorite with a given spread has won historically. Additionally, for the playoffs I take a look at interceptions. It is easy to say that the team that turns the ball over the least is probably going to win. And fumble recoveries tend to be very random. But interceptions are not. So I look how many pass attempts and offense and defense should expect to see before an interception is thrown. I don't have a specific algorithm, but there are only four data points and the sample size is a little small, so I prefer to eyeball this one. Then I check Football Outsiders just because I like their DVOA efficiency stat. And then I just make up the rest. I'll walk you through it, but it's probably easier with an example. That way I don't have to be explaining this for every game, every week.