In case you were busy finding a new locker room from which to ban stat sheets, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Kobe Bryant returned to action after rehabbing from last year's Achilles tear, but his Lakers suffered a rare home defeat to the Toronto Raptors 106-94. "It's OK that we lost," Bryant said after the game while sitting in the locker room. "Fear can be a very powerful motivator." Suddenly the lights in the locker room went out, and horrifying screams echoed through the facility. The lights flickered on briefly, and a young girl was standing with her back to Lakers guard Nick Young, singing, "Do you want to play with me?" in a sweet tone. Then the lights cut out again before quickly coming back on. The girl had turned around, and instead of a child's face, she had the face of Popeye Jones. "Do you want to play with me?" the little girl with Popeye Jones's face sang in a scratch baritone to a terrified Nick Young. The lights cut out again, before coming back on to reveal everything back to normal. As Nick Young curled into a ball on the locker-room floor, Bryant chuckled to himself by his locker, and said, "Yes, things will be all right. Fear is a very powerful motivator."
I'm losing. It's happening in increments, but it's unmistakable. It's only Sunday and the week is slipping from my grasp. And I feel fine about it.
The Lords Disick are playing a team called the Waterfront Based Acolytes in fantasyland and the Waterfront Based Acolytes are slow-cooking us. The Waterfront Based Acolytes are Wolfgang Pauli's team. I've never met Wolfgang Pauli but it's pretty clear he's a trained fantasy assassin sent here by my enemies to for some reason shatter the Lords Disick's one-game winning streak. It's a bye week for both the Bengals (my usual defensive line) and Marshawn Lynch. Ryan Kuhlman told me to check the waiver wire. The waiver wire was all human driftwood. I tried every possible permutation of my starting lineup. No scenario ended with anything but me going down.
Week 12: +37,000 jermajesties
Season Total: +15,500 jermajesties
On to Week 13 …
(Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this series. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)
Raiders will score over 18.5 points vs. Cowboys
As a devout Cowboys fan, I am more than familiar with this team’s pattern: disappoint, stun, disappoint stunningly. We’re unfortunately up to the third leg of that equation. Mark my words: Dallas will struggle with the Raiders. This Cowboys defense has given up 38, 19, and 30 points in their last three Thanksgiving games. If you look, you’ll see each of those is more than 18.5 points. Matt McGloin’s best game (three TD passes) came on the road against a Texans defense that’s superior to the one he’ll be facing Thursday. I'm hoping for another Dan Bailey bailout. 20,000 jermajesties
There's actually an exciting slate of Thanksgiving Day football games this year! Well, sorta. Lions-Packers would be a monumental tilt, but with Aaron Rodgers almost surely out with his broken collarbone, the Packers will have to turn to Matt Flynn for a spot start against the Lions, who seem to find new ways to beat themselves on a weekly basis. The Raiders will bring Matt McGloin, roughly the football equivalent of a student film with potential, to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, who are starring in the big-screen adaptation of the story of the Lions. And then, at night, we get a game that should have playoff energy between two teams that shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the playoffs in their current shape, the Steelers and Ravens. Squint and you can see five — maybe even six if you're a McGloinomaniac — teams with legitimate playoff hopes. Put your glasses on and you see six teams capable of playing brutally ugly football.
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. We're blessed to have three football games to break up the monotony of talking to family members and eating. So let's not come here and bury six football teams whose games leave us wanting; let's celebrate them. Here's a whole list of things to watch for and enjoy during tomorrow's Turkey Day action.
As we near the halfway point of the 2013 NFL season, the teams and lineups we expected to see trotted out on the field this season are now shells of their former selves. The Falcons are already down seven starters from the guys they would have expected to be in the starting 22 in July. Of the 32 quarterbacks who were expected to start on the opening day of training camp, 12 have been benched or suffered an injury that has caused them or will cause them to miss time. If you can start the same guys who you were expecting to suit up over the summer, you're the exception, not the rule.
Every team has some veterans that they can plug in as competent backups, but every team also has a few spots where they're absolutely, positively screwed if their starter was to go down with an injury or suffer a dramatic decline in his performance. Others have found a diamond in the rough who has come out of nowhere to emerge as a viable starter at their position. In either scenario, there are now players on virtually every team who have risen out of professional obscurity to get meaningful NFL reps.
In case yinz were busy getting to Pittsburgh to wait, yinz? Who the hell are yinz? Anyway, here's what you may have missed in sports on Tuesday:
Oh my goodness, hockey's back? Hockey's back! And with it came a barrage of goals from defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, 6-4, in its season opener. "Ten goals?" yelled 58-year-old Blackhawks fan Gary Habermeyer. "What the hell is this garbage? Polo? What happened to hockey?" When his son-in-law Dan Nielson tried to explain that there were a number of offseason rule changes put in place by the NHL to increase scoring, Habermeyer slammed down the legs of his Barcalounger and shoved a finger in Nielson's face. "I'll tell you what the problem is," Habermeyer shot back. "It's your generation. A bunch of showboaters. No one willing to do the hard work. No one willing to play defense. Patrick Kane? That's just a child wearing skates carrying around a big stick. When things get hard he'll just shut down the government. Not like Bobby Hull. Now there was a real man. Don't look at your phone when we're having a heart-to heart conversation!" But Nielson didn't look up from his phone, as he was texting his wife, Bridget, to say that she owed him more than one for spending the evening bonding with her father, and also to ask what Patrick Kane had to do with the government shutdown.
Pittsburgh's battery of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin made sure the Pirates' first postseason trip in 21 years would not be a one-game affair, as they topped the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the NL wild-card playoff. "I just keep thinking, What could I have done differently?" said Reds manager Dusty Baker after the game. Baker then took a moment to think back over the events of the game, during which he managed to use seven pitchers without deploying superstar closer Aroldis Chapman, before adding, "And the answer is nothing."
In case you were busy trying to shake off seeing the Raider Rusher, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
For the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be playing postseason baseball after clinching at least a wild-card berth with their 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. "Congratulations, I'm so happy for you guys," Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle after the game, "we're doing great too, really, really, really great. Me and Theo, and everyone here. We're really happy." Hurdle opened his mouth to talk, but Sveum continued to speak, "and we're happy for you. But really we're just happy, so, so happy. And sure, we don't have everything you have. Who does? I mean, Andrew, what a kid. What a kid. We know all about Andrew and his exploits. I mean, our Anthony is great, but he's no Andrew. No, no he isn't." Hurdle nodded sympathetically as Sveum briefly lost his train of thought. "I'm sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, how happy we are here as Cubs. That's the important thing; that we're happy. And you're happy. Everyone is happy." Sveum smiled, content with his self-presentation, and Hurdle didn't have the heart to tell him that his jersey had been tucked into his underwear the entire time.
Peyton Manning led the Broncos to their 14th straight regular-season win as they easily beat the Oakland Raiders 37-21 at home. Things got even worse for the Raiders as quarterback Terrelle Pryor was knocked out of the game with a concussion, or as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell referred to it, "Terrelle who? What are you talking about? Never heard of the guy in my life, have you, Mark? Terrelle Pryor?" to which NCAA president Mark Emmert responded, "Nope, Roger. Me neither. Never heard of this 'Terrelle Pryor' before. Weird."
In case you were busy getting so jacked for football that you passed out at 1:30, here's what you missed in sports last night:
Peyton Manning was at his best, throwing for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns in the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Baltimore Ravens. "Yeah, but who has the biggest yacht?" asked monocle-and–top hat–wearing Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed an NFL-record $120.6 million contract in the offseason, while snacking out of a bucket of caviar. Flacco then blinked, allowing his monocle to fall to the ground, where it shattered. "Aww, crap, that was my dress monocle," whined Flacco, while bending over, which caused the top hat on his head to fall into a puddle of mud. "Gadzooks, my top hat," exclaimed Flacco before confessing, "guys, I don't even like caviar. And my yacht's hardly even a yacht. It's really just a big boat. Money isn't everything; why didn't anyone tell me?"
Stanislas Wawrinka dominated a woeful Andy Murray in a surprising 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 straight-set win over the tournament's reigning champion. A disheveled Murray, whose second serve was occasionally topping out at only 75 mph, asked after the match, "Does this mean I didn't win Wimbledon?" When told that of course it didn't, Murray smiled broadly, and added, "I thought not," before cranking up Van Halen's "Panama" on an old Sony boom box.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next few weeks providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
Before you say anything, no, 101 days into this countdown, I’m not losing my mind (OK, losing, probably — but it’s not totally gone). I know that we’ve already brought up Luke Kuechly as a reason to be excited about this football season. Being the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season was enough. But did you see what this guy did last night?
You know what the true benefit of having a Super Bowl ring is? You get a hall pass to life. People can't tell you nothing. Personally, I have always liked Joe Flacco, his outrageous Delawurr/Jersey accent, and the way he has shrugged off all the spittle-flecked "he can't lead the Ravens to the promised land" garbage. Now he has a time share in the promised land, and he can give people that M.I.A. middle finger with a Super Bowl ring on it. All this leads us to this fantastic quote from Kevin Van Valkenburg's awesome ESPN The Magazine profile of the Ravens QB:
And finally, we get to the champs. Well ... sort of, as Barnwell points out early on. The Ravens rode a highly improbable playoff run to their second Super Bowl win in franchise history last season, but these are preview podcasts. Taking stock of this year’s Ravens means evaluating a different group.
After rehashing Baltimore’s 2012 postseason, we get into all the changes Baltimore has made since winning the Super Bowl (7:09). Gone are Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, replaced (hopefully) by Baltimore’s first- and second-round picks from April’s draft. Playoff heroes Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, and Anquan Boldin are also gone, and although Barnwell has some concerns about how quickly all the new defensive pieces can come together, I chose to put my faith in Ozzie Newsome & Co. (OK, so did Barnwell; he just doesn’t think it happens this year).
One topic on which we’re a little further part is Joe Flacco (15:05). You can read our Flacco conversation in full below, but where Barnwell thinks the playoff Flacco is closer to the real Flacco, I still have my doubts:
In case you were busy going another year without winning a major, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Despite Mariano Rivera's third consecutive blown save, the Yankees, powered by Alex Rodriguez's first home run of the season and Brett Gardner's walk-off, were able to beat the Tigers, 5-4, and salvage a series win. "I'm glad the team bailed me out. I just — I have no idea what's wrong with me," Rivera said as he stared into his locker, in which he had hung the parting gift he received earlier from Detroit, a case containing two airtight vials with dirt from the pitcher's mounds at Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park. Rivera then coughed deeply: "I feel weak, like I've been breathing wrong. Like somehow over these past few days poisonous vapors have leaked into my system, like another team wants me to be sick right now. I don't know, I'm probably just being crazy."
Jason Dufner won the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, outpacing veteran Jim Furyk and finishing 10-under for the tournament. "Some people argue the PGA Championship is the Jason Dufner of majors," Dufner said as he held the Wanamaker Trophy limply in front of him with a dead expression on his face. "To them I say, 'Yeah, you're kind of right, I guess.'"