Bloggerhood Etc. 1/6/14

Hope anchors the soul - Hebrews 6:19

Image via Natalie Trust

Check it out! I wrote “14” instead of “13.” Guess I’m more than ready for the New Year. 2013 is gone—and good riddance—here’s hoping for a better 2014.

Best Lessons.20 Things I Learned in Twenty-Thirteen” by Addie Zierman at How to Talk Evangelical.

Best Confession.A Kitchen Confession: I’m Broken” by Natalie Trust.

Best Letter.For Anyone Who’s Still Standing” by Evelyn Shoop at Momsicle.

Best New Beginning.Hopeful for the New Year” by Alice Callahan at Science of Mom.

Best Parody.What Do Y’all, Yinz, and Yinx Call Stretchy Office Supplies?” by Sarah Larson in The New Yorker.

Best Personal Essay.A Complicated Homecoming” by Robert Rummel-Hudson at Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords.

Best Intersection of Theological and Coffee Nerdness.Coffeedoxy and Heterodoxy” by Fr. Andrew Stephen Demick at Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.

Best Profile.Who Am I to Judge? A Radical Pope’s First Year” by James Carroll at The New Yorker.

Most Ridiculous.Andrew Luck’s Amazing Fumble Recovery Touchdown” by James Dator at SB Nation (includes animated gif).

And the replay (via YouTube) …

Let the Luck puns commence.

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NFL Playoff Predictions

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Met Life Stadium, site of SuperBowl XLVIII (Photo: Gabriel Argudo Jr. (CC BY-SA 2.0))

The regular season is over and it’s time for the NFL’s second season: the playoffs.

In the AFC, I am tempted to pick the Chargers to go all the way. Like the Ravens in 2012, Giants in 2011, and Packers in 2012, the Chargers played the Eagles in Philly’s home opener and lost to the Redskins. It seems like fate. But my gut still tells me that this is Denver’s year.

Wildcard games
Chargers (6) at Bengals (3): Chargers
Chiefs (5) at Colts (4): Colts

Divisional games
Colts (4) at Patriots (2): Colts
Chargers (6) at Broncos (1): Broncos

AFC Championship
Colts (4) at Broncos (1): Broncos

In the NFC, home-field advantage for Seattle isn’t quite as lock-solid as it seemed before their home loss to Arizona in Week 16. But I don’t see them losing another home game in the playoffs. Their first game against San Francisco will be a close one, but I think they’ll pull it out and then roll from there.

Wildcard games
Saints (6) at Eagles (3): Eagles
49ers (5) at Packers (4): 49ers

Divisional games
Eagles (3) at Panthers (2): Panthers
49ers (5) at Seahawks (1): Seahawks

NFC Championship
Panthers (2) at Seahawks (1): Seahawks

Which brings us to Super Bowl XLVIII at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey.

(New … Fricking … Jersey?! I can’t get past this.)

With a rare match-up of number-one playoff seeds.

The Seattle Seahawks vs. The Denver Broncos.

And the winner is.

Denver_Broncos_logo.svg
Peyton Manning gets his long awaited second Super Bowl ring and goes out on top.

That’s my prediction. And since I’m always wrong, I expect the Chargers to go all the way.

San Diego SOOP-er Chargers!!!

NFL 2013: Midseason Predictions

MetLife Stadium Exterior

Met Life Stadium, site of SuperBowl XLVIII (Photo: Gabriel Argudo Jr. (CC BY-SA 2.0))

It’s midseason–give or take–and here are my updated projections, served with a side of crow to be enjoyed later, as always.

(Key: #1 SEED, Division Champion, Wildcard.)

AFC Standings

East
New England 12-4
NY Jets 10-6
Buffalo 5-11
Miami 4-12

What the hell is happening in New York (Part One)? Rex Ryan looks to save his job for another year and some team out there loses a great defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, the circus moves to Miami and another “Dream Team” bites the dust

North
Cincinnati 11-5
Cleveland 8-8
Baltimore 7-9
Pittsburgh 4-12

The factory of sadness temporarily moves to Pittsburgh, and life in Cleveland is just a little bit less hopeless.

South
Indianapolis 12-4
Tennessee 8-8
Houston 6-10
Jacksonville 1-15

Andrew Luck and the Colts are for real. Matt Shaub and the Texas are not. (And get well soon, Coach Kubiak.)

West
DENVER 14-2
Kansas City 12-4
San Diego 9-7
Oakland 4-12

I knew KC would get better. I did not expect them to get 9-0 better. But they still have to play Denver twice and we’re talking Peyton Manning vs. Alex Smith here. Reality check time.

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NFL 2013: My Predictions

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Met Life Stadium, site of SuperBowl XLVIII (Photo: Gabriel Argudo Jr. (CC BY-SA 2.0))

For the second year, I am making a futile attempt to predict the totally unpredictable NFL season. Given the mostly lousy job I did last year, I am changing my approach a little. First, I’ve not wasted my time trying to predict the winner of each game. That took far too long and didn’t really work all that well. Instead, the records are my own estimation of about how good (or bad) each team is this year. Second, while I have attempted to be realistic in my regular season predictions—for example, I don’t have the Redskins going 14-2 and clinching the number one seed—once I get to the playoffs I’ve thrown out any illusion of objectivity and instead played out what I would like to happen.

So first, my predictions for the regular season.

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NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend

NFL Logo

It’s a weird feeling, missing the Redskins in the playoffs. It shows just how quickly expectations can change. But here we are, the first week since the Redskins were eliminated. The games were entertaining, frustrating, and ultimately depressing.

Game 1: Ravens 38, Broncos 35

Well there goes my AFC Superbowl pick. Once the Broncos got on that tear, and Peyton Manning got himself into the thick of the MVP discussion, I figured no one could stop them, especially at home in the playoffs. Maybe I underestimated the Ravens. Maybe the team wanted one more shot at the AFC Championship after coming so close next year. Maybe Ray Lewis’ farewell tour carried more weight in the end than Peyton Manning’s comeback tour. Whatever it was, the Broncos lost a game in overtime that they could have won in regulation. But it was damn fun to watch them slug it out.

Game 2: 49ers 45, Packers 31

A meaningless touchdown with 1:07 left made this game look closer than it was. San Francisco owned Green Bay, and Jim Harbaugh looks like a genius now for switching from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick at mid-season. This was the most depressing game for a Redskins fan to watch. Kaepernick looked like a healthy RGIII behind a far better offensive line, and it was painful to see the “what if” scenario displayed so dramatically on TV. The good news, my NFC Super Bowl pick is on a roll.

Game 3: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

Seattle almost pulled another come-from-behind road win Sunday, but at the end they could quite pull it off. As tough a loss as it was, there was no shame in it. The Seahawks will be back next year. Along with the resurgent Rams, the Niners, and the Hawks, the NFC West may be the toughest division in football next year. As for Atlanta, they finally got the playoff win they’ve been waiting for since 2004, and get a home game against the hottest offense in the league as a reward. The Falcons were my mid-season Super Bowl pick, but I’m liking the Niners more right now.

Game 4: Patriots 41, Texans 28

In the other depressing game this weekend, well . . . they’re back. What would an AFC Championship game be without the New England Patriots. It’s become the third certainty in life, right after death and taxes. Poor Houston never stood a chance. So will the Pats make yet another Super Bowl appearance? Or will a change in kickers be enough to finally get the Ravens back to the big game as a bookend to Ray Lewis’s storied career?

I’m done making predictions. I’m just going to enjoy the games next week with no emotional investment, and keep praying for RGIII’s recovery.

The Future On Hold

Photo: L. Todd Spencer/AP

Photo: L. Todd Spencer/AP

“If he can stay healthy.” That’s the caveat I’ve used every time I’ve written about the promising career of Robert Griffin III. In the last few days, my caveat has become a question: “Can he stay healthy?”

For his sake, and the sake of the Washington Redskins, every step must be taken to ensure that the answer will be “yes.”

I’m not going to review the events leading up to his injury in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Wildcard playoff game against Seattle. Like every fan, I’ve done that in my head non-stop since. I’m not going to place blame. I’m not going to debate about what could be done differently. Instead, I’m going to look forward—to what can be done from here on out—based upon the diagnosis released by Dr. James Andrews after Griffin’s surgery yesterday morning:

Robert Griffin III had successful knee surgery early this morning. He had a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of his previous ACL reconstruction. We expect a full recovery and it is everybody’s hope and belief that due to Robert’s high motivation, he will be ready for the 2013 season.

The goal of his treatment is to give him the best opportunity for a long professional career.

The last sentence should be engraved on bronze plaques and hung on every wall at Redskins Park.

The goal—the only goal—is to give him the best opportunity for a long professional career. It’s best for the team, best for the fans, and most of all best for him.

If that means he doesn’t take a single snap for the whole 2013 season, so be it.

Now I’m not saying “sit him” at this point, like some are, but I’m also not expecting him to return for Week One. What I’m saying is what so many others won’t admit. I don’t know when he’ll be ready, but I don’t want him playing until he is.

100 percent. Nothing less than that. I am willing to put the future on hold for as long as it takes to give him the best shot at a long professional career and I’m just a fan. The team has to be willing and so does he.

Will next season be the same without him? Of course not. Kirk Cousins is a young, talented quarterback, but he’s a step down and everyone knows it. But he’s still good enough to start for at least half the teams in the NFL, and the Redskins will do fine with him, whether it’s for part or all of the season.This is a good young team moving in the right direction that will only get better with another year of draft picks. Whether or not we can repeat as division champions or even make the playoffs doesn’t matter as much as much as ensuring a long professional career for the franchise quarterback, and a long run of success for the franchise.

The future is on hold, but it’s still bright.

Hail!

NFL Postseason Predictions

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

The Superdome, site of Super Bowl XLVII (Photo: Nicholas Williamson. CC BY-SA 3.0)

The regular season is over and it’s time for the NFL’s second season: the playoffs.

In the AFC, I’m going with the top seeds except for the Texans, who are currently in free fall. Otherwise, I think the home teams will win, and the Broncos will extend their winning streak all the way to New Orleans:

Week 1
Bengals (6) at Texans (3): Bengals
Colts (5) at Ravens (4): Ravens

Week 2
Ravens (4) at Patriots (3): Patriots
Bengals (6) at Broncos (1): Broncos

Championship
Patriots (2) at Broncos (1): Broncos

The NFC is trickier as the two hottest teams—Washington and Seattle—play each other this Sunday. One of them has to lose. In contrast with my midseason prediction, I’m expecting Atlanta to go one and out. Either the Redskins or the Seahawks should play them close on the turf in a dome, and Atlanta still needs to prove that they can win the big game. But once we get to the Conference Championship, unless the Vikings can pull an upset at Lambeau, the winner of the Packers-Niners game will host and probably win the NFC title. Here’s how I see it going (and I’m a lot less confident on this side):

Week 1
Vikings (6) at Packers (3): Packers
Seahawks (5) at Redskins (4): Redskins

Week 2
Packers (3) at 49ers (2): 49ers
Redskins (4) at Falcons (1): Redskins

Championship
Redskins (4) at 49ers (2): 49ers

Which brings us to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, LA, and a rematch of Super Bowl XXIV guaranteed to be a closer and far better game.

And the winner is:

Denver_Broncos_logo.svg

The Denver Broncos, with Peyton Manning winning his second Super Bowl MVP and second ring.

A confession: I am having a hard time not picking the Redskins to go all the way. They’re on a seven-game winning streak—longest in the NFC—and could just keep rolling until they run out of game to win. That said, the Redskins have exceeded my “optimistic” expectations all year. I picked them to go 8-8 at the beginning of the season when many “experts” thought they’d only win two or three games. Now the same experts think Seattle will win handily on Sunday. I hope they’re just as wrong this time as they were before.

So I could give in and go with the team I want to win over the safer and saner choice, but why jinx it now? I’ll stick with my cautious optimism and hope they exceed it again. Hail!