Tags: sports

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Marv Albert and Reggie Miller are Gold

The pair were announcing Lakers-Jazz Game 2 last night.  Reggie Miller is a smart guy, by ball-player standards, and had occasion to use the words "plethora" and "cordial."

Marv Albert, of course, was sort of amused by the whole thing, and did his Marv-Albert-reacts thing in that great voice: "Plethora!"  "Cordial!"  It was as if he was commentating Reggie's performance as well as the game.
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Santonio was awesome

My Week 12 pick to win the super bowl won!  Yay!  And what a classic game.

Santonio Holmes was awesome, while Hines Ward served mostly as a decoy. 

Sure, Holmes's impossible catch in the end zone FTW was amazing, but perhaps cooler was his touchdown celebration.  He impersonated LeBron James's pregame ritual of putting powder on his hands and then throwing a cloud of it up into the air.

People who don't watch basketball probably didn't pick up on that, so I figured I'd let you know.

Very classy, as far as TD celebrations go.
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Pats out

The Patriots (11-5) are out of the playoffs this year since  both the Dolphins and Ravens won their games!  They've had bad luck this year, I must admit, but I'm not complaining.

Meanwhile, the Colts at 12-4 will be matched up at either the Broncos or the Chargers, who are sitting at 8-7 and 7-8 right now and had easy  schedules this year.

The bad news: Dungy rested his starters in the game against Tennessee.  The only year they won the super bowl was the year Dungy didn't rest the starters.

At least this year they have to play in a wild card game, which means they won't have 3-4 weeks without starters playing in real games as they have in some years past.  My only worry is that all their last 4 opponents were weak teams, including Tennessee without 8 of its starters.  Will they be in for a shock even against a mediocre team like Denver or SD?

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Pacers vs. Lakers

W00t!
1 2 3 4 T
LAL (14-2) 30 36 35 16 117
IND (7-10) 28 33 25 32 118

They are now the only team to have beaten Boston and LA, who both have only lost twice.

This kicks off what perhaps may be the most brutal week in the history of the NBA:
Lakers (14-1), @Boston (17-2), @Cleveland (14-3), Boston (17-2)
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Strength-of-Schedule and average Margin of Victory.

The only sports media person I know who pays close attention to these numbers is John Hollinger, who accounts for that heavily in his excellent basketball power rankings.  For example, the Pacers are currently ranked 9th of 30 teams in his rankings, despite their 5-7 record, because of their SoS and average margin of victory.  On Marc Stein's more fun but less accurate power rankings, they are 22nd of 30 teams.  I suspect their actual quality is somewhere in between, but I put far more stock into Hollinger's formula.

Let's apply that philosophy to the NFL, essentially ignoring win-loss.

Here are the teams with the toughest schedules so far in the NFL, and their opponents' collective records thus far.
Steelers .598
Colts       .594
Jaguars  .559
Vikings    .551
Ravens   .551
Titans      .551
Bengals  .547
Texans    .547
Browns   .543

You'll note that most of the top teams are clustered into the AFC South and AFC North - due to the way those divisions were paired with other divisions.  I interpret this to mean that the Colts, who have scored only three more points than they allowed, are playing 10-6 ball, since they're playing .600 opponents about even.  The Steelers have outscored their opponents by 76 points and have to be considered the scariest team in the AFC, except for perhaps for the Titans, who are 92 up on their opponents.

Even more interesting is to see who's inhabiting the bottom of the strength of schedule.
Saints .449
Broncos .445
Raiders  .438
Chargers .422
Patriots   .387

The Patriots are sitting at 7-4 and have outscored their opponents by 45 this year, but one could argue, (and I, as a Colts fan, will) that they are in for a rude awakening as their schedule heats up.  Mainstream media is just assuming that they're good because they're the Patriots.  The Jets are 8-3 and their opponents have played .457 ball, so it looks like the Pats won't be taking home the division this year.

Of course, there's a second-order flaw in all of this.  If we're ignoring win-loss in these rankings, why are we considering opponents' win-loss?  The Colts are getting credit for beating the 7-4 Pats and the 8-3 Terrible Towelettes, but one could argue that their win over the former is overvalued and their win over the latter is undervalued.  What we really should be doing is making the 'power' of a team a recursive function of itself.  Compute a team's Power based on opponents' win-loss, and then recompute based on opponents' power.  Repeat until you reach a fixed point.

I would be interested to see how Hollinger's NBA rankings would shake out differently if he applied this technique.  I suspect there would be a small but noticeable difference.
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NFL rules changes

There's a certain geeky pleasure in coaches exploiting loopholes in the rules, but the level of absurdity is pretty high for a multi-billion dollar powerhouse sports league.

1) Let's dispense with calling timeout before a kick to 'ice' the kicker. I seriously doubt there is any decrease in field goal accuracy on the second kick. In fact, often times the timeout is late enough that the kicker gets a 'practice kick.' Surely, accuracy increases after a practice kick.

It's rare that something so petty routinely and simultaneously wastes millions of peoples' time. Thank goodness for DVRs.

Now, one would hope that natural market forces would dispense with this practice, but it seems to be thriving. Coaches take forever to change their practices. Coaches like to feel like they have control over whether the opposing kicker makes a field goal.

Since the coaches won't stop, I think we need a rules change to prevent this silliness.

2) Can we please stop with the "too many men on the field" penalty? The basic scenario is this: team randomly picks one or two plays during the game to sprint up to the line of scrimmage while the other team is trying to substitute players. The replaced player is running off the field and is a couple of yards away from the sideline when the ball is snapped. The offense doesn't have a play in mind, they are just being opportunistic.

This adds no value or even drama to the game. Allowing a player to be "exiting" the field on a snap seems reasonable. One would need to allow them to be "5 yards from the sideline and exiting" or something similarly finicky and, admittedly, hard to measure. Of course, the NFL rulebook is filled with rules that are as ambiguous or more than this rule.

Seems like there should be some good solution here. Allowing the defense at least X seconds to get set also seems reasonable, though that would end up being another one of those "not in the last two minutes of a half" types of rules.
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Pats-Colts

It's been a relatively tough season for a Colts fan, but it's officially not a loss, with a 18-15 win over the Evil Team last night.

Hard to say which team was actually better. The Patriots gained about 40 more yards on offense but made more mistakes. They thoroughly dominated the running game, whereas the Colts thoroughly dominated the passing game. It was good to see Harrison, Wayne, Clark, and Gonzalez all get involved in the offense. I would not be surprised if Harrison is fourth in number of yards gained this year - it's clear he's lost some speed.

Belichick did a couple of very stupid things. He pretended to go for it on fourth-and-1, in field goal range and down by 3, and then called a timeout just before the play. The Patriots would surely have converted it, they had been dominating the line of scrimmage. Instead, he kicked the field goal to tie, and it cost him a timeout.

On a Pats running play for a loss, the Evil Overlord also challenged a failure to call too many men on the field and lost a timeout for his efforts. Amusingly, the Colts *eleventh* man had been leaving the field, not the twelfth. They stopped the Patriots for a loss with only ten defenders on the field!

On the ensuing drive, the Colts maneuvered their way to a field goal, stopped the patriots on the next posession, and basically ran out the clock. This was possible due to Belichick's mismanagement of his timeouts.
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Goobye J.O., we'll miss you.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3461029

It's tough how frustration with a team can make you not-so-disappointed that your favorite player got moved.  I get so frustrated with the Pacers' health problems that the swap for a slightly-less-injury-prone T.J. Ford seems like an upgrade.

The exciting thing is that Ford is really quick and had an impressive PER of around 20 last year - at 8 million a year, he seems like a good deal, and certainly a better one than Jermaine at 21 and then 23 million.  The unexciting thing is that he's only 6' and probably has a hard time defending taller guards.
 
The other exciting thing is that the Pacers may actually have cap space next summer!  I believe they will need to sign Danny Granger to a long term deal, but should still have some space for another big name.

Now that Walsh and O'Neal are gone, the only remaining connections with the Reggie era are Larry Bird and Jamaal Tinsley.  Let's hope Dunleavy, Granger, and Ford can make me forget all about it.

I hope O'Neal plays well this year... I will root for him, even though, if he's back at an all-star level, it could mean the Pacers may have made an unlucky trade.