- “Anonymous” e-mailed me last week: "I read your mid-season analysis on the Falcons. I think your glasses are pretty rosy considering how the team has played this season."
Dear Anonymous: You may be right. But the Falcons are 5-2, need just one more win to become bowl-eligible, and are 3-0 in conference play. I think that’s pretty worthy of a “rosy” analysis. I wrote that I thought the team could get better play at wide receiver and on the defensive line, among other places. But this team is in control of its goals, and that’s about the best thing a team can ask for at this point in the season.
Want to judge for yourself? Click here to read the story.
- “Richie” e-mailed me: "What is your taken on all these bowl announcements by the MAC?"
Dear Richie: Good question. And don’t forget, when the MAC announced the Bahamas Bowl last week it promised another bowl announcement still to come. The whispers I hear is that the announcement will come Thursday.
The idea – and it’s a good one – is to create as many bowl opportunities for MAC teams as possible. The current system, which forces the league to focus on BCS automatic qualifier schools failing to fill their bowl slots and filling in the gaps, is a sure ride to heartache when the AQ schools fill slots -- and leave MAC schools that qualify on the outside of the bowls looking in.
What makes this system especially valuable from a league standpoint is that the bowls are “partnered” with the MAC, meaning the bowls aren’t out looking for greener pastures – and leaving the MAC high and dry. But there’s still one piece of the bowl puzzle MAC schools need to solve: filling seats at a bowl game. It’s a piece that the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl had figured out, and it will be interesting to see if the other bowl games, now located in Montgomery, Ala., and Boca Raton, Fla., solve as well.
- “Rocky” e-mailed me: "Does BG actually believe it can win Saturday’s game?"
Dear Rocky: They sure do.
- “Chris” e-mailed me last week: "If you are looking for new statistics, I would suggest listing first downs by player. Wouldn’t that tell you who is the most valuable player for an offense?"
Dear Chris: I like your idea, but not for the reason you mentioned. On passing first downs, who would get the credit, the quarterback or the receiver? I do think it’s interesting to see what percentage of a player’s “plays” -- whether it is passes thrown or caught, or rushing attempts -- result in first downs, in the same way it would be interesting to see what percentage lead to touchdowns.
Since I had a free weekend, I charted the first downs for the Falcons so far this season. As you would probably suspect, Travis Greene leads the way with 38 rushes for a first down, followed by Matt Johnson with 10, Andre Givens and Fred Coppet with six apiece and William Houston with five. Was anyone else besides me surprised that more than 26 percent of Coppet’s runs (6-of-23) resulted in first downs?
On the receiving side, Shaun Joplin has 29 catches, and 24 have garnered first downs (82.8 percent). By comparison, Chris Gallon has 11 first-down catches among his 24 receptions (45.8 percent), Ryan Burbrink has 12 of 17 catches for first downs (70.6 percent) and Alex Bayer has 10 of 18 for first downs (55.6 percent). Two receivers have been “perfect” in turning catches into first downs: Heath Jackson (4-for-4 in the UMass win) and Chris Pohlman (3-for-3).
- “Matt” sent several tweets: "Look, I love watching [former Falcon] Chris Jones play football, but I don’t get why people are so upset about that pushing penalty."
Dear Matt: To get everyone up to speed in as few words as possible, Jones was called for a penalty in overtime of the Patriots game against the New York Jets. The Jets were trying a LONG field goal (that was no good), but Jones was penalized for “pushing” a teammate on the line in an attempt to break through and block the kick. The first down from the penalty allowed New York to move further down the field and eventually kick a game-winning field goal.
Matt made several other points good along the way: First, it was a good call (I couldn’t see from the replay, but I wouldn’t argue, and New England doesn’t dispute the penalty). And second, the rule was instituted for player safety (hard to argue against that). So he deserves an explanation as to why the ruling was upsetting to me.
Friends know that I really don’t care for the NFL, and this decision frames my problems with the league. First, it’s a tremendously obscure rule that was called at a critical time and basically decided the game. I know I also rail at NHL refs who “swallow their whistle” and don’t call game-deciding penalties, but this is different. “Pushing a teammate” that in no way affected the potential game-winning field goal is a world different, as penalties go, from a trip that keeps a hockey player from a potential game-winning shot.
Also, I’ve seen the tweets about officials getting some type of league memorandum about how the play wasn’t being called – and then looking for it in future games. Why tell us that AFTER the play? That stinks of trying to justify a bad call after it is made.
Listen, long story short (and yes, I apologize, because this hasn’t been a short answer): The NFL is the kingdom of silly rules enforced when it wishes to justify whatever happens on the field. If I am watching some game I want to know the rules involved before the play happens, not have the details of what constitutes a “catch” explained after a play.
One final thing: Did you notice the response Jones had for reporters after the game? "The mistake was mine," he said. "I take it, I put it on my shoulders, it was all my fault and it was nobody else's." No alibis, no excuses. It’s hard not to root for a good guy like this.
- “Drew” e-mailed me: "Which phase of meiosis involves the mitotic spindle moving towards the poles?"
Dear Drew: The anaphase, of course. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
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